By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Halloween Havoc Hits
Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae in a Tables, Ladders, and Scares match for the NXT Women’s Championship: The Spin The Wheel, Make The Deal approach worked in part because NXT delivered satisfying gimmick matches. The ladder match approach was an especially pleasant surprise and the wrestlers made the most of it. With Gargano winning the North American Title in the opener, I thought there was a chance of LeRae winning this match to set up husband and wife with title belts. But no complaints about Shirai retaining her title, as she is doing tremendous work as the women’s champion.
Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano in a Devil’s Playground Match for the NXT North American Championship: A hot opener that started with the cool live band introduction for Priest. The Ghostface from Scream costume wearing mystery attacker was a fun touch, and the spot with Gargano slamming the tombstone into Priest, who then took a big stunt bump that led to the finish looked great. As much as I enjoyed the match, my favorite moment was actually Gargano superkicking the Halloween decoration that scared him. It took an adjustment period after his great babyface run, but Gargano is killing it with his heel act.
Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Danny Burch, and Oney Lorcan: This definitely feels like a rush job because NXT has WarGames on the schedule for next month, but McAfee is such a strong heel that it’s working out. McAfee’s mic work is outstanding and being obnoxious and unlikable clearly comes natural to him. While I wish Ridge Holland well in his recovery, Pete Dunne is a big upgrade as his replacement with the group. The only thing I didn’t care for was that it was obvious to everyone other than Kyle O’Reilly that Dunne was going to turn on him to become the fourth member of the group.
Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez: A really good battle of the powerhouses of the women’s division. I was legitimately surprised to see a clean finish, but it’s not like they won’t be able to find their way back to a rematch at some point. This was a big test for Gonzalez and she passed with flying colors.
Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis in a Haunted House of Terror match: I’ve grumbled about Grimes playing an over the top pest heel, but his false bravado actually worked perfectly in this cinematic match. As much as the haunted house theme works for the Lumis character, Grimes made this work with his petrified performance. I enjoyed the haunted house portion of the match more than the second half where they returned to the Capitol Wrestling Center, but the entire presentation was well done. While this type of match won’t appeal to everyone, I found it to be good over the top fun.
Random Michael Hayes cameo: Why the hell not? I’ll never complain about getting an unexpected dose of “Badstreet USA”.
NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar vs. Jake Atlas: A fun match while it lasted with Atlas getting the majority of the offense before Escobar got help from Raul Mendoza, Joaquin Wilde, and the loaded mask to steal the win. Atlas gained something in defeat.
NXT Halloween Havoc Misses
None: NXT made great use of the Halloween Havoc theme and put together an entertaining night of television. AEW Dynamite was solid, but NXT gets my vote for being the stronger show this time around. While I don’t have many fond memories of WCW Halloween Havoc events, the NXT version was a blast.