By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Taped in Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE PC)
Aired October 28, 2020 on USA Network
[Hour One] Vic Joseph welcomed viewers to Halloween Havoc. Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were on commentary. Shotzi Blackheart was the host of the show. She was sitting next to the spinning wheel wearing a cool green monster costume. Damian Priest had a live band play his entrance to the ring. Johnny Gargano cut and deflated a giant pumpkin on his way to the ring. Shotzi spun the wheel and it landed on “Devil’s Playground Match”…
1. Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano in a Devil’s Playground Match for the NXT North American Championship. Priest dominated early on and got a two count on Johnny after a spinning heel kick. Johnny went for a slingshot spear but he dove right into the arms of Priest. Gargano escaped a Reckoning attempt. Johnny dragged Priest to ringside and tossed him into the ring steps. Johnny took his time bringing a Kendo stick into play. Priest revealed that he had his retractable baton in his pocket. Priest and Gargano had a bit of a sword fight heading into the picture-in-picture commercial.[c]
Gargano took out Priest right next to the steps with a cannonball off the stage. Priest blocked a Gargano enzuigiri with his police baton. Priest hit Gargano with a sitout chokeslam for a two count. Gargano dodged a kick and ended up hitting Priest with an enzuigiri. Priest caught Gargano during a Tope attempt, but Gargano countered it back into a STO into the barricade. Gargano hit Priest with a sick looking Sliced Bread #2 on the ring steps.
Priest recovered and hit Gargano with a release front suplex. It was at this point where we could see Vic Joseph dressed up as Waldo from Where’s Waldo. Gargano dragged Priest to a cemetery set which was set up at ringside. Gargano got spooked after opening the casket at ringside and seeing a fake ghoul inside of it. Gargano ended up dominating Priest in the processing area of the Performance Center, by using a Fire Extinguisher spray. Gargano dumped trash on Priest. Gargano rammed a trash bucket at Priest to get a two count. The show cut to picture-in-picture.[c]
Gargano climbed up to the spinning wheel set to escape Priest, but not before Priest chucked and nailed him with a tossed trash can. Gargano ended up sliding under Priest once Priest got to the top. Gargano grounded Priest with a superkick. Gargano walloped Priest with a trash can several times. Gargano also yelled at the wheel and told the wheel that it was stupid. Priest caught Gargano with a thrust and cyclone kick to regain momentum. Priest let out a guttural roar and was about to hit Johnny with a Reckoning. Suddenly a person in a Scream costume showed up and hit Priest with a kendo stick.
This distraction allowed Gargano to nail Priest with a Tornado DDT off the spinning wheel. The Scream guy then handed Gargano a tombstone. Gargano rammed and shattered the tombstone on Priest, sending Priest off the elevated platform, to the ground. Gargano ended up pinning Priest to pick up the win.
Johnny Gargano defeated Damian Priest via pinfall in 21:05 to become the new NXT North American Champion.
Beth Phoenix noted that Gargano should be thankful for the hooded man and that this attack might have been premeditated…
Wade Barrett berated Vic Joseph for looking like a dork and moron. Vic was dressed up as Waldo. Barrett was dressed up as Bad News Barrett, complete with his gavel…
They showed Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch walking to the ring from backstage. They also showed highlights from last week’s main event where Pat McAfee helped Lorcan and Burch pick up the titles. Joseph noted that we’d be hearing from Pat McAfee after the break…
John’s Thoughts: I’m actually a bit surprised that Gargano picked up the title here, given how hot Priest as been as champ and this being a holiday stipulation match. A nice surprise though and I wonder if they’d be going towards the husband and wife duo as champions by the end of the night. My guess is that the hooded man in the Scream mask is Austin Theory, who “quit” last week. We might see some more interference in the LeRae vs. Shirai match and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Indi Hartwell getting involved there.
William Regal was shown backstage chatting with Cameron Grimes who as freaking out. Regal was acting creepy himself. He told Grimes to follow him to the parking lot…
Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch were in the ring. McAfee bragged about having the world raving about his pro wrestling debut. McAfee said even the stooges in the crowd could agree that McAfee’s debut was amazing. McAfee berated the fans and internet wrestling community. McAfee called Adam Cole a scumbag who flexed on McAfee when Cole won. McAfee said after his match with Cole he couldn’t help but think of how much of a bum Cole is.
McAfee then bragged about his other shows and business ventures. McAfee then revealed that he paid off Ridge Holland with a big ass Mercedes Benz to attack Adam Cole. McAfee talked about how he had to watch his investment to destroy UE end up shattering his ankle. McAfee then talked about how he tried to pay off Lorcan and Burch, but Lorcan and Burch were honorable and didn’t want to be paid off, but then they accepted the offer after Lorcan and Burch lost to UE.
Lorcan and Burch were about to talk, but then Kyle O’Reilly made his entrance to confront the heel trio. O’Reilly teased going by himself, but all of a sudden Pete Dunne made his return to WWE, carrying two steel chair with him. Lorcan, Burch, and McAfee then retreated to behind hte ropes. All of a sudden, Pete Dunne hit O’Reilly in the back with a steel chair. Dunne, Lorcan, Burch, and McAfee put the boots to O’Reilly. Dunne did hit signature reverse curbstomps on O’Reilly. Dunne then hit O’Reilly with his signature elbow stomp. Lorcan and Burch hit O’Reilly with their assisted DDT finisher. McAfee stood tall over O’Reilly and told O’Reilly that McAfee’s crew are the kings of this brand, and that is Undisputed…
Regal then led Cameron Grimes to a random white van outside. Grimes was freaked out by the creepy man in the front. Suddenly Michael Hayes emerged from the back of the van. Hayes convinced Grimes to jump in the back of the van and the van drove off…[c]
John’s Thoughts: More nice surprises from this show with Pete Dunne turning heel on Kyle O’Reilly and joining Pat McAfee’s new faction. They really had me there because it looked like Dunne and O’Reilly were going to run off the heels. Ultimately this puts Dunne in a spot I thought we never got to see him really sink his teeth into, and that’s as a heel. Looking forward to Dunne potentially being one of the strongest heels in WWE if given a chance to do so. He exhibited that ability during the WWE UK Tournament which he was runner up to Tyler Bate. Let’s also not discount McAfee’s strong promo before the surprise, that was nice.
Jake Atlas was already in the ring.
2. NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar (w/Joaquin Wilde, Raul Mendoza) vs. Jake Atlas. Santos Escobar was wearing Rey Mysterio Halloween Havoc inspired gear. Escobar manhandled Atlas to start the match. After taking a bit of trash talk, Atlas made a comeback with ugly punches and a few slams. Atlas hit Escobar with a German Suplex and forearm smash. Atlas hit Escobar with the Rainbow DDT. Joaquin Wilde put Escobar’s leg on the bottom rope for the break. Atlas took out Wilde and Mendoza with a Tope Con Hilo. Escobar distracted the referee so Mendoza could hit Atlas with a loaded lucha mask headbutt. Escobar hit Atlas with a double underhook driver into the knee for the victory.
Santos Escobar defeated Jake Atlas via pinfall in 3:28.
An Ember Moon promo vignette aired where she addressed being attacked by Dakota Kai. Moon talked about Kai being very timid the last time Moon was in NXT and how she has a lot more confidence now. Moon said Kai isn’t going to like the receipt she’s going to get from Moon…
Shotzi continued to hype up Halloween Havoc, complete with a costume change. The commentators hyped Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis in a haunted house match for after the break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A good establishing win for Escobar that came off as tactful in addition to being dirty. The dirty aspect protects Atlas. Here’s hoping we get more characterization from Atlas who is just coming off like Isaiah Scott’s little buddy. The same goes for Ashanti Adonis. What I’m looking for with those two is similar to what we saw with Ember Moon right after that match. Moon is getting these pre-tape segments and she’s doing a solid job defining herself as badass in those. Now if only she’d stop wearing that floofy white tail to the ring before her matches. I’d be ok with a dirty or flat tail, but the floofy white makes her look like an Easter bunny or something.
[Hour Two] Shotzi Blackheart introduced the Haunted House of Terror match. She was now wearing a black dress with her hair all out…
The show cut to the Cinematic camera, Broken Universe style…
3. Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis in a Haunted House of Horrors match – Part 1 (Cinematic). Grimes was looking and yelling for Lumis to show up. Grimes wandered into a random open house where things like a Deer trophy and a tricycle scared him. Grimes then wandered into a dark room where he ran into a random referee who did a creepy jump scare to Grimes. All Grimes wanted to know was if the match was by pinfall or submission. Grimes was then attacked by Dexter Lumis, who was wearing his old Sam Shaw Patrick Bateman gear. Grimes then wandered into a restroom to hide from Lumis. Grimes then got horny when he saw the silhoutte of a woman in the shower. Grimes tried to join the lady in the shower, but found out that it was the lady from the Grudge taking a shower.
Grimes then wandered out of the restroom and was attacked by Lumis again. Grimes managed to slam Lumis to the floor. Grimes was about to attack Lumis wiht a pipe, but then he was attacked by random zombie women wrestlers. Grimes tossed one zombie off a bridge but was chased by more zombies. Grimes tried to drive away but Lumis was in the driver’s seat. Grimes then sprinted into the darkness and the show said it was to be continued.
Dexter Lumis vs. Cameron Grimes, to be continued. This segment lasted about 5 minutes.
Wade Barrett said that was one of the strangest matches he’s been witness to. A tale of the tape aired for Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez. Rhea Ripley made her entrance to the Performance Center heading into break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Now, given the cinematic shift, I was totally ready to hate the haunted house segment. Jeremy Borash and crew won me over again. For me at least, that was a fun and entertaining cinematic match involving Grimes and Lumis. Part of it was Grimes throughout the cinematic. He had me when he asked the zombie ref if this match was decided via pinfall or submission? This had a broken universe feel to it, which was probably the case if Borash put this thing together. It was solid, not for everyone, but I liked it at least. I do wonder though, maybe I also like this a bit more after watching Impact Wrestling do so many low-budget and crappy cinematics in recent months.
4. Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez. Gonzalez dominated Ripley early on. Ripley landed a nice headbutt on Gonzalez. Gonzalez came back with a wrap around and forearm to the back of the neck. Ripley and Gonzalez then had a shoving and slapping strong style fight. Gonzalez took down Ripley and then hit Ripley with a elbow drop and boot. Ripley ended up flipping out of a Gonzalez suplex. Gonzalez no sold some of Ripley’s lariats. Ripley used her speed to land a shotgun dropkick on Gonzalez. Ripley caught Gonzalez at ringside with a wrecking bomb dropkick.
Gonzalez caught Ripley off a cannonball attempt. Gonzalez hit Ripley with a power bomb into the chain link fence. The show cut to picture-in-picture.[c]
Gonzalez had Ripley locked in a butterfly Gory Special. Ripley escaped the move. Gonzalez took Ripley right back down with a forearm smash. Ripley fended off Gonzalez with back elbows. Gonzalez took Ripley down with a lariat. Ripley got a moment to recover after hitting Gonzalez with a backdrop. Ripley took down Gonzalez with a Cravate Knee and trip combo. Ripley got a two count on Gonzalez. Ripley hit Gonzalez with standing Banzai Drops. Ripley then hit Gonzalez with nice looking boots.
Gonzalez rolled through a Prism Lock. Gonzalez hit Ripley with a spinning power slam for the two count. Ripley held on to the ropes to prevent a Superplex. Gonzalez fought her way out of Ripley’s super Rip Tide attempt. After trading a few blows. Gonzalez hit Ripley with a Super Release Suplex for a two count. Ripley used a headscissors to escape a power bomb attempt. Ripley hit Gonzalez with the Rip Tide for the victory.
Rhea Ripley defeated Raquel Gonzalez via pinfall in 13:02.
Cameron Grimes was shown sprinting down the street. Vic Joseph wondered if Grimes was sprinting back to the WWE Performance Center…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A great women’s match between two bruising badasses. I can’t remember seeing an entertaining women’s match with this much physicality and power moves in a long time. It’s just a rare sight to have two wrestlers with a nice mix of power, athleticism, and wrestling ability end up clashing with each other. This was nice and I wouldn’t have minded seeing this on a Takeover show without a commercial break. The match also could have used 3 or 5 more minutes to get to another level, but it’s good they ended at around 13 solid minutes here. One to not overstay it’s welcome on Television. Two, to leave them more to dig into if they want to go back to this match.
An ad aired for Walter vs. Ilja Dragonov on NXT UK tomorrow…
McKenzie Mitchell tried to interview Drake Maverick, who was in Hulk Hogan cosplay mode. For some reason, he got sandwiched between two giant men. Killian Dain then showed up dressed up as the Shockmaster. Maverick yelled at Dain for not tripping like Shockmaster did. Dain didn’t care much for the jokes. Maverick said he should wear the mask.
Barrett and Joseph did some plugs for the insurance company sponsor of the show…
Cameron Grimes then stumbled back into the Performance Center arena area. Grimes stumbled onto the graveyard set…
5. Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis in a haunted house of horrors match – Part 2. Grimes was backed into a ring by some female zombies. Lumis then showed up and beat up Lumis Lumis was wearing his Patrick Bateman ring gear. Lumis hit Grimes with a spinebuster. A bunch of zombie wrestlers then showed up in the ring. A female zombie then crawled onto the shoulders of Lumis. Wade Barrett went “That’s Dexter Lumis’s sister!”. Lumis took the female zombie and tossed him on Grimes. Lumis hit Grimes with a sitout Uranage. Lumis then made Grimes pass out to the Kata Gatame.
Dexter Lumis defeated Cameron Grimes via TKO. I think?
Zombies then crawled into the ring. Wade Barrett wondered if the smoke had some sort of poison in it. He also wanted Vic to get his hand off his leg. The words “The End” then flashed on the screen…
A hype video aired for Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae aired..
Shotzi Blackheart was dressed up as a sexy satan this time. She hyped up spinning the wheel for the Shirai and Lerae match…[c]
John’s Thoughts: So the second part wasn’t a cinematic, and it it involved hokey ass zombies; but for some reason I was okay with this. In fact, I thought this was fun usage of being outside of the box. I’m ok with this as long as they don’t run it into the ground, which NXT does a solid job of not doing with gimmicks. It was fun for a Holiday thing. I’ll leave it at that.
A graphic noted that the first Halloween Havoc was in 1989 and this was the 13th edition of the show…
The show cut to Tommaso Ciampa cutting a promo backstage. Ciampa talked about how NXT is different these days with people feeling entitled for opportunities. Ciampa talked about how people backstage are blaming others. Ciampa talked about how he didn’t have to do anything like tweet or create buzz. Ciampa said he proved that he was the best sports entertainer in the company. Ciampa said fate took away his success and it’s time to take that success back. Ciampa said he’s going to start off with Velveteen Dream. Ciampa said the first time you hit Ciampa with a cast, shame on Ciampa, but the second time you do it, you become a dead man.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream and Dakota Kai vs. Ember Moon vas announced for next week…
Entrances for the main event women’s match took place with about 10 minutes left at the top of the hour. LeRae made her entrance looking like she was inspired by Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Internet star Poppy, who I think was dressed as Yumeko Jabami from Kakegurui (?), sung Io Shirai’s entrance live. Shirai wore her usual Kamen Rider themed gear.
They cut to Shotzi Blackheart spinning the wheel for the final deal. The wheel landed on Tables, Ladders, and “Scares” match…
6. Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae in a Tables, Ladders, and “Scares” match for the NXT Women’s Championship. LeRae dominated Shirai early on. LeRae then looked like she was about to throw up when she emptied a bag which contained a bunch of rubber body parts in it. Shirai attacked LeRae with the prop arm. LeRae regained control after hitting Shirai with a drop toehold onto the ladder at ringside. Shirai got some time to recover after tossing LeRae over the table.
LeRae picked up a laptop at ringside and hit Shirai over the head with it. LeRae set up a ladder bridge between the ring and table. Shirai recovered and took out LeRae by chucking a chair at her. Shirai gave LeRae a suplex at ringside heading into the picture in picture.[c]
[Overrun] Shirai was dominating LeRae back from the break. Shirai and LeRae then went for the title on the top of the ladder. LeRae took down Shirai with a wheelbarrow slam. Shirai yanked LeRae off the ladder and hit LeRae with a rising palm strike. Shirai hit LeRae with a double underhook backbreaker. Shirai went for a moonsault, but then crashed and burned into a pile of chairs. LeRae hit Shirai several times in the back with a steel chair.
Shirai hit LeRae with a sick looking suplex onto an open chair. LeRae recovered and pulled Shirai off the ladder. Shirai slapped LeRae. LeRae stumbled into the corner on top of a ladder. LeRae sidestepped Shirai, causing Shirai to give a meteora to a ladder. Shirai opened up some chairs to superplex LeRae on, but LeRae shoved Shirai off the corner. Shirai then trapped LeRae’s knee in a chair and used a chair assisted Dragon Screw on the knee of LeRae.
LeRae ended up recovering on the apron and hitting LeRae with a butterfly neckbreaker, through the tables at ringside. A person in a Scream Mask showed up to drag Candice LeRae to the top of the ladder. Shotzi Blackheart suplexed the hooded person and they brawled to ringside. Shirai set up an adjacent ladder next to LeRae. LeRae shoved Shirai off the ladder, but Shirai landed on her feet. Shirai then shoved LeRae’s ladder, dumping LeRae from the top of the ladder to the ladder bridge at the announce table. Shirai’s face sold “yeah? I did that!” with a nod of approval. Io Shirai grabbed the title belt to retain the title.
Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae in a Tables, Ladders, and “Scares” match in 16:30 to retain the NXT Women’s Championship.
Io Shirai posed at the top of the ladder to close the show about ten minutes after the top of the hour…
John’s Thoughts: Heading into commercial I thought that this match would have been a bit redundant given the similar style of the Gargano and Priest match, but then both of these women pulled out all the risks and big spots for a big women’s title stunt match. This was scary and entertaining, which both women putting in a hell of an effort in this hardcore match. This match reminded me of some of Candice LeRae’s matches that she used to have in the california indies, except she didn’t leave the match in a pool of blood because WWE doesn’t have blood these days. This was a fun and scary entertaining match. The only thing that got on my nerves a little bit was the no-selling of big moves. Like how LeRae would be totally recovered after big moves. I’m assuming they didn’t have time to sell given that they are crunched for time, even with an overrrun.
This was a very fun episode of NXT top to bottom. I understand this not being a Takeover Show, especially with the goofy Halloween stuff. While it had goofy halloween stuff, it was weaved well into the show. NXT usually does a solid job with their holiday shows. There was cheese, but there wasn’t camp and it is usually too much camp that kills wrestling shows. I wouldn’t mind a Christmas show like this if WWE can pull one off. I’m not confident in their ability to do a Thanksgiving show because that might involve a food fight (or a lame Turkey Suit in the case of TNA sometimes). I’ll have more thoughts on this show in my member’s exclusive audio review.