By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Taped in Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE Performance Center)
Aired November 25, 2020 on USA Network
[Hour One] Highlights from last week’s NXT aired…
Vic Joseph and Beth Phoenix were on commentary. Kevin Owens was filling in for Wade Barrett this week…
1. Candice LeRae (w/Indi Hartwell) vs. Ember Moon. LeRae stalled against the ropes to start the match. Moon gave LeRae a dropkick and backdrop after LeRae tried to call a time out to talk with Indi Hartwell. Hartwell ducked a lariat from Moon but Moon ended up hitting Candice with a wheelbarrow slam on the table. Moon caught LeRae with a fallaway slam in the center of the ring. Candice tried to retreat to the back, but Moon caught up with Candice and tossed Candice back in the ring.
When Moon reentered the ring, Candice hit Ember with a running senton for a two count. LeRae slowed things down by locking Moon in a cravate. Moon and LeRae traded rollup attempts. Moon hit LeRae with a kick for a two count. LeRae took down Moon with a clothesline for a nearfall. LeRae slammed Moon’s head on the mat for another nearfall. Vic Joseph announced Pete Dunne vs. an Undisputed Era member in a ladder match for War Games advantage. Moon hit LeRae with a backdrop and running basement roundhouse for a two count.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez walked to ringside to confront Moon. The show cut to Picture-in-Picture.[c]
LeRae worked on Moon with a cravate back from break. Moon got out and hit LeRae with a huracanrana and armdrag. LeRae hit Moon with a La Mistica into the GargaNo Escape. Moon got a two count off a counter, but LeRae kept hold after the kickout, locking Moon in a sleeper hold. Moon escaped with an Atomic Drop slam. Moon hit LeRae with a series of kick and back hip attack. Moon hit LeRae with a front and back suplex combo. Gonzalez and Kai got on the apron. Hartwell took the bullet for LeRae by taking Moon’s dive. LeRae quickly slammed Moon to the mat and hit her with the Wicked Stepsister for the win.
Candice LeRae defeated Ember Moon via pinfall in 12:59.
Ember moon rolled to ringside when the heels tried to surround her in the ring. Toni Storm walked down the ramp to help Moon up. Storm and Moon were about to storm the ring. Storm ended up betraying Moon and tossing moon into the steel steps. Storm tossed Moon back in the ring to get beat up by Gonzalez, Kai, and LeRae. Storm was laughing at ringside, making crazed faces…
Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, and Bobby Fish were shown entering the Performance Center from the parking lot…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Interesting twist, I actually like this development in the short run as it adds storyline importance in the War Games match as opposed to this being an impromptu battle between heels and faces. It made sense when they planted the seed in Storm and Moon’s interview last week. What I am a bit weary of in the long run is Toni Storm’s long-term potential as a heel. She has natural babyface charisma, similar to Jeff Hardy, to the point where I question her ability to garner hate from the crowd. I’m afraid that it could end up being more apathy, than heat. I want Toni to prove me wrong, because she’s immensely talented and has top of the card potential. On a commentary note, so far, Kevin Owens has been a bit underwhelming on the headset. I expected more snark from him and instead he’s pretty subdued.
Legado Del Fantasma were shown having a roundtable meeting, shot in a cinematic style similar to Lucha Underground. Escobar talked about how they have had a great year and have taken out everyone in the Cruiserweight Division. Mendoza joked that he thinks that that Swerve retired. Escobar talked about how Curt Stallion (newer WWE signee and former EVOLVE standout) is next on their list…
Undisputed Era made their entrance. They cut to footage from the Pat McAfee show where Pat McAfee was hyping up Pete Dunne. All four men had mics with Adam Cole taking lead. Cole talked about how many people over the years have claimed to have taken out the Undisputed Era, only to fail in the end. Cole called McAfee a coward for not being here this week. Cole reminded viewers about how he punted McAfee last week and how he’s going to take Pat to the match UE made famous, War Games. Cole then moved on to talking about the War Games advantage match.
Cole talked about how UE is undefeated in these “advantage” matches (probably because they were heels during the other matches). The rest of UE was joking until O’Reilly changed to a serious tone, saying he NEEDS to face Pete Dunne. Adam Cole said he likes the angry Kyle O’Reilly, the same man that took out the NXT Champion and the same man Pete Dunne hit in the back with a chair. Cole said they usually fight for respect and championships, but this time they are dragging McAfee and crew through hell. Cole said they are going to take McAfee to hell and make sure he’s never the same, and that is Undisputed. UE’s theme played to end the segment…
McKenzie Mitchell caught up with Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, and Raquel Gonzalez backstage asking about what just happened at the end of LeRae’s match. After a bit of deliveration, LeRae revealed that Kai, Gonzalez, and Storm were all now a part of her War Games team…
“Timothy Thatcher’s Students” (WWE PC trainees) were shown watching a monitor backstage. Vic Joseph noted they were excited to see Timothy Thatcher vs. Kushida after the break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A great and efficient promo from Adam Cole to build up towards the War Games match. The UE were their usual confident selves, but I did like Kyle O’Reilly turning on the serious switch to add importance to his match with Pete Dunne later in the show. Toni Storm being added to the women’s War Games match on the heel side is a huge upgrade over Indi Hartwell. It also has me intrigued as to who the hell is going to be on the babyface side? I can guess that Io Shirai might end up being on that team due to not having any feuds at the moment? I hope it’s not Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter because, nahhhhhh.
A WWE Shop ad aired with Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano shilling merch. Gargano even bragged about Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart merch by saying that LeRae destroyed Blackheart’s tank and destroyed Nox’s ACL…
Vic Joseph thanked Black Sabbath for providing the song War Pigs as the theme for the War Games show…
Timothy Thatcher made his entrance first. His opponent was Kushida, still coming to the ring in his Marty McFly gear and jeans. Tommaso Ciampa dragged a steel chair to ringside so he could sit down and watch the match. This caused Thatcher to raise an eyebrow…
2. Kushida vs. Timothy Thatcher. Thatcher fended off Thatcher from the Octopus position. Thatcher gained a bit of momentum after a Belly-to-belly Suplex. Thatcher and Kushida traded position. Kushida locked Thatcher in a Muta Lock. Thatcher escaped and countered right into a Cravate. Thatcher and Kushida no-sold shots in the center of the ring. Kushida used an armdrag to hit Thatcher with a cartwheel dropkick. Thatcher worked on Kushida’s leg with an illegal Half Crab against the ropes. Thatcher broke the hold heading into commercial.[c]
Kushida hit Thatcher with a flurry of strikes. Thatcher regained momentum after a few power strikes. Kushida went for a Kimura Lock, but Thatcher grounded himself to prevent Kushida from getting hold. Kushida and Thatcher traded ground counters. When standing, Kushida hit Thatcher with a Haymaker. Kushida hit Thatcher with shortarm mudhole stomps. Thatcher kept his hands clasped to block Kushida’s Hoverboard Lock attempt. Thatcher rolled right into a double wrist lock. Kushida shifted his momentum into Juji Gatame position. Kushida and Thatcher continued to trade submissions.
Kushida got a two count after a Jackknife pin. Thatcher countered into a Rear Naked Choke, but couldn’t get the body scissors. Both men traded more counters and submissions. Kushida managed to dump Thatcher to ringside. Thatcher was distracted a bit by the sitting Ciampa. Thatcher accidentally tackled ringpost due to the distraction. Kushida slammed Thatcher’s shoulder on the floor. Kushida continued to attack Thatcher’s left arm.
Thatcher managed to suplex Kushida which caused Ciampa to get to his feet. Ciampa slamming the chair to the floor caused Thatcher to be distracted again. That allowed Kushida to lock in the Hoverboard Lock on Thatcher for the submission win.
Kushida defeated Timothy Thatcher via submission in 9:01 of on-air time.
Ciampa walked to the camera saying, “maybe he has a problem with me now?”. Ciampa left. The commentators cut to an Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley highlight package. Ripley gave her thoughts on the finish of the match. Ripley said she doesn’t like Io Shirai “but I respect Io Shirai”. Ripley then asked “where do I go from here?”…
Beth Phoenix hyped Rhea Ripley appearing later in the show to address her NXT future. The commentators also hyped Leon Ruff appearing on the KO Show later in the show…[c]
John’s Thoughts: You would think that they would protect Thatcher more than they have been doing, but he tends to take more losses than you would expect someone who gets as much TV time as he does would take. And he’s presented as a MMA badass, which is why I don’t expect him to lose so much. At least he tapped out to a submission specialist in Kushida this time instead of weird-ass Dexter Lumis. Looking forward to Ciampa and Thatcher though.
[Hour Two] Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan,and Danny Burch were interviewed by McKenzie Mitchell backstage where all three were talking about how they were going to win the main event and get war games advantage…
Kevin Owens was in the ring to host the KO talk show. Owens talked about how he’ll show up to NXT any time he’s invited. He then introduced Leon Ruff as his guest. Owens talked about how he was on this show to just be a commentator, but he was inspired to give Leon Ruff the floor to tell his story after being inspired by Ruff. Ruff talked about wanting to be a WWE star his entire life. He said he only signed 7 weeks ago and all of a sudden won the championship. Owens then put footage of Leon Ruff winning the title from a few weeks ago, where he was fumbling with the belt on his thighs.
Ruff talked about how that video was a bit embarassing. Owens said not to worry because he fumbled with his belt when he won the NXT title back in the day. Both men shared a laugh. Ruff then talked about how he wants to be an inspiration. Owens told Ruff to be proud of himself. The crowd gave Ruff a “you deserve it” champ. Ruff said anything is possible and you should never give up on your dreams. Owens said that Ruff is speaking a bit too calmly and nervous. Owens then fired up Ruff, who tossed around the chair and let out a loud “yeahhhh!”. Ruff bragged about beating Gargano twice. Owens joked that usually when you mention a name, they show up. On queue, Johnny Gargano showed up.
Gargano ranted and asked if he was on Punk’d. Gargano said Ruff probably doesn’t know what Punk’d is because Ruff is a child. Owens offered Gargano a chair and Gargano said he doesn’t want a stupid chair. Gargano tossed the chair to ringside. Owens then set up another chair and said not to worry about it. Gargano then continued to rant, talking about how he was being trolled by Damian Priest. Owens then joked that Priest is about to pop up because his name was mentioned. Priest made his entrance as expected. Priest said that Gargano needs to face reality, and the reality is the “lil’ homie” Leon Ruff is better than Gargano.
Gargano got in Ruff’s face and said he’s going to beat up Ruff and prove Ruff is a joke. Gargano then shoved Ruff to the ropes. Priest then brought up how he never got his North American Championship rematch. Owens then got up and joked that Teddy Long needs to show up to make a triple threat match. William Regal then showed up to book the Leon Ruff vs. Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship at War Games. Regal even threw in a “Playa” at the end of the promo. The match graphic flashed on the LED to show the match was confirmed.
They cut to a Finn Balor smoke room promo. He talked about how people are going to fight in a war in a few weeks. He said the cat is back and people should stop playing in his kitty litter. Balor said the Champion is Back and he works Wednesdays…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Not the best of segments in my opinion, but I’d be lying if I didn’t get a laugh out of William Regal dropping the “playa” line at the end of the promo. Regal’s comic timing is great. Who was way off on his comic timing was Kevin Owens. The content he was delivering seemed like it should have clicked, but he didn’t deliver it really well and meandered throughout that segment. This seems very uncharacteristic of Kevin Owens, who seems to be off, both in his comedy and on commentary. It’s uncharacteristic, because a few years ago when he was doing his stuff with Chris Jericho, he was way on point. Take Owens out of that segment, and I thought it was solid again. Ruff continues to make the most of his TV time. Gargano is one of the best pest heels in WWE now. Priest is coming off as a star and very affable. Looking forward to more of them.
The NXT War Games commercial aired, where Shotzi Blackheart was in an auto garage. Vic Joseph then wondered who Shotzi will choose for her War Games team…
3. Cameron Grimes vs. Jake Atlas. Grimes got a televised entrance. Atlas landed an arndrag on Grimes. Grimes hit Atlas with a nice German Suplex. Owens talked about wrestling Grimes before WWE. Grimes and Atlas traded punches. Atlas slammed Grimes on the mat and got a two count. Atlas gave Grimes a boot but Grimes came back with his signature Spanish Fly power slam. Grimes yelled “To the Moon!” and then hit Atlas with the Cave-in Stomp for the win.
Cameron Grimes defeated Jake Atlas via pinfall in 2:47.
Grimes continued to gloat about going to the moon. Dexter Lumis then showed up on the apron to scare Grimes to ringside. Lumis then pointed at the LED video wall, which played a highlight vignette of all of Cameron’s goofy moments the past few weeks. The video also had a caricature drawing of Grimes. Lumis dumped a strap out of a bag he was holding. Grimes then got the message, but refused to accept Lumis’s challenge to a strap match. Grimes walked to the back…
Rhea Ripley was shown heading to the ring…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Grimes is making the best out of this, but I think they’re dragging out this program a bit past it’s expiration date. The tricky part with this feud is Lumis being a babyface serial killer. How does that work? And it’s not in the deep “Dexter” way, it’s in a Scooby Doo way.
William Regal caught up with Cameron Grimes backstage, who was telling the cameraman that he’s not afraid of Dexter Lumis. Regal then booked Grimes in a strap match against Lumis at Takeover. Grimes asked Regal why Regal hates Grimes so much. Regal said it might be Grimes’s personality…
Rhea Ripley then made her entrance and cut a promo in the ring. She brought up how the hug from last week was nothing but respect, not a sendoff or anything like that. Candice LeRae and Toni Storm then interrupted Ripley’s promo. LeRae mocked Ripley for losing her title opportunity. LeRae said that the difference between LeRae’s losses and Ripley’s loss was Shirai had help to beat LeRae, but Shirai beat Rhea by herself. LeRae then talked about how Ripley can’t back up her words while LeRae can talk the talk and walk the walk.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez then dragged a unconscious Io Shirai to the stage. Ripley then made a beeline to attack Kai and Gonzalez first, but the numbers advantage got the upper hand over Ripley. The four heels put the boots to Ripley in the center of the ring. Gonzalez left Ripley lying after tossing her into the ringposts. LeRae, Gonzalez, Kai, and Storm then stood tall over the unconscious Io Shirai while Rhea Ripley was writhing in pain in the ring…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Ah, now I see. Nice twist, and I like that War Games makes more sense now as opposed to a few weeks ago when they were just looking like they were putting random babyfaces and heels together. I mentioned how Storm was a huge upgrade on the heel side, but Rhea Ripley (I assume) is the huge upgrade in the overall match. Ripley looked amazing in last year’s War Games match (only second to Dakota Kai’s amazing heel turn) and her being in this match brings up the star level. As we can assume now, it looks like the babyface team is Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon, Rhea Ripley, and Io Shirai. All that said? I still assume Rhea Ripley is heading up to the main roster a month or so from now, and War Games is just something for her to do until they figure out where to slot her on one of the main brands. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ripley end up on Fox’s Smackdown because I think there’s a less of a chance of them screwing up her push.
They cut to the back of a car, where it looked like Boa and Xia Li have not slept in weeks. They had bags under their eyes and looked like zombies. They were driven to a random warehouse where they were greeted by their Shi Fu (master). They then were taken into a dark room where a hooded figure in a robe sat in front of them. Li and Boa were crying and saying words like “Dui Bu Qi” (I’m sorry) and other pleas for mercy. The segment ended with their Shi Fu drawing more characters on their hands…
John’s Thoughts: Well? That was kinda goofy? But it was goofy in an intriguing way! I don’t know why? Someone give Xia and Boa some melatonin! My guess is still Karen Q being the mystery female, simply because she has Chinese background. I’ve always thought Karen was kinda generic, and if she is the mystery person, I’m intrigued to see her look upgrade. Maybe I’m totally wrong on this.
Ever Rise were in the ring for their next match, but they were beaten up by James Drake and Zack Gibson. Gibson cut his usual “Soon to be recognized” promo about becoming the best tag team in WWE. GYV hit one of the Ever Rise guys with their finisher.
John’s Thoughts: There we go! The NXT Tag Team Division was not only hurt by the string of callups, but having their UK wrestlers taken away from them. The Grizzled Young Vets are really good in the ring and have the added edge of Zack Gibson being a strong and irritating heel promo. This is a huge upgraded for the NXT Tag Division that is in recovery. Moustache Mountain would be another upgrade. Maybe even throw in Trey Miguel, Dezmond Xavier, and Zach Wentz?
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Candice LeRae at the parking lot. LeRae talked about winning War Games and beating up anyone stupid enough to team with Shotzi’s team. Johnny Gargano then interrupted and talked about how he’s going to win at War Games. Gargano then got in his car and revealed that there was a second Ghostface person (as expected). Gargano, LeRae, Hartwell, and Ghostface drove off…
Entrances for the main event match took place. Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Roderick Strong were shown at a Crow’s Nest area in the stands. There was a second Crow’s Nest with Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch on it. Pete Dunne and Kyle O’Reilly brawled before the bell heading into commercial…[c]
4. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne in a Ladder Match for the advantage at War Games. Kevin Owens joked that O’Reilly is a Kevin Owens fan because he has the initials KO on his kneepads. O’Reilly and Dunne tossed each other into plexiglass. O’Reilly gave Dunne a catapult into the Plexiglass. O’Reilly tried to quickly climb for the briefcase, but Dunne shoved the ladder to give O’Reilly a nasty looking fall. Beth noted that O’Reilly spun like a helicopter. Dunne used the ladder to invoke his joint manipulation moves on O’Reilly.
After a bit of brawling and going for the briefcase, Dunne gave O’Reilly shortarm mudhole stomps into the ladder bridged at ringside. O’Reilly then twisted Dunne’s leg into the second rope with a Dragon Screw. Dunne ended up suplexing O’Reilly through the ladder at ringside. The show cut to picture-in-picture. [c]
Dunne stomped on O’Reilly’s hand into the ladder. O’Reilly blocked a chair shot with his hand. O’Reilly countered a Bitter End into a Guillotine Choke. Dunne passed out. O’Reilly broke the hold due to a hand injury. O’Reilly suplexed Dunne on a ladder. Kyle ended up taking himself out by missing a knee drop on Dunne and hitting only ladder. O’Reilly dragged Dunne off the ladder with an ankle lock. Dunne hurt his own leg by giving the ladder an enzuigiri after O’Reilly ducked. Owens noted that Pete Dunne may be done.
O’Reilly and Dunne traded their rapid fire DBZ punches. Both men brawled between the rungs of the ladder. Both men yanked each other into the ladder like Tug-o-war. Both men then rebounded a ladder off each other to knock both of them on the mat. Joseph noted that Dunne got the worst of it because the ladder fell on Dunne’s knee. Dunne and O’Reilly had a slugfest at the top of the ladder. Dunne got the higher ground and was forcing O’Reilly down with boots. Dunne got a hand on the briefcase, but O’Reilly managed to hyper extend Dunne’s shoulder.
O’Reilly had a hand on the briefcase, but Dunne did the wishbone fingers on O’Reilly. O’Reilly dragged Dunne to the ring and then turned Dunne inside-out with a lariat. O’Reilly tried to climb to the top but he was hit in the knee with a steel chair. Dunne gave O’Reilly an X-Plex onto the ringside barricade. O’Reilly dumped Dunne off the ladder onto another ladder. O’Reilly almost made it to the top, but a man in a golden mask ran out and dumped O’Reilly off. This allowed Pete Dunne to climb the ladder and get the man advantage.
Pete Dunne defeated Kyle O’Reilly in 15:52 to earn Pat McAfee’s team the advantage in the War Games match.
Lorcan and Burch celebrated from the crow’s nest area. Dunne held up the briefcase which gives his team advantage in the War Games match. Lorcan, Burch, and Dunne then celebrated up the ramp with Dunne doing a sadistic chuckle. NXT closed…
John’s Thoughts: This was a very strong and Takeover-quality match in the main event of the weekly television show. It’s so cool having Kyle O’Reilly as a singles competitor and NXT viewers are starting to see what have made him an international singles-wrestler standout over the years (which tends to get overlooked due to O’Reilly and Fish also being a top tier tag team). This was a very brutal and very creative match with plenty of violent spots. This has me looking forward to Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne after War Games when they can have more of these type of matches with a plethora of opponents. The mystery man? They can always say it was Pat McAfee (who wasn’t available this week). They can also turn that into a future mystery down the road if they want to? Maybe that’s Austin Theory? I don’t know. We have too many mystery people roaming around these days.
A very strong episode of NXT. Last week we got the hot women’s championship match and this week we get an unadvertised gem in Pete Dunne and Kyle O’Reilly. The most disappointing part of the show was actually Kevin Owens. Owens did actually get better on the headset after the KO show, but it was a bit too little too late after coming off as very lethargic early on. I’ll just chalk it up to KO having an off day. The rest of the show was solid though. They even made the women’s War Games match way more intriguing by injecting Rhea Ripley (presumably) and heel-Toni Storm into the mix. I’ll have more thoughts on this show in my Dot Net Audio Review for the Dot Net Members.