By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Mercedes Martinez attacks Io Shirai: Martinez was lucky enough to escape the awful Retribution faction and returned to NXT with a good beatdown on the NXT Women’s Champion. Shirai vs. Martinez should be great.
Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan vs. Killian Dain and Drake Maverick in a Street Fight for the NXT Tag Titles: NXT didn’t waste any time, as they went right to the entrances of this match to open the show. I suspect some fans view Burch and Lorcan as vulnerable champions due to their history of losing more matches than they won prior to their heel turn. Now if only they had more babyface teams to work with. Enter The Rascalz?
A Very Gargano Christmas: The usual Johnny Gargano and Candice LaRae fun. Austin Theory is still playing a dim character, but at least he regained a few IQ points after being too dumb to be charming during his initial appearance with The Way. Gargano had a rocky start to his heel run, but he’s closing out the year as one of the most entertaining acts in the business.
Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai: A good match involving two of my NXT favorites. Ripley is a star who is going to bounce back from poor booking in 2020, and Kai is a reliable roll player who can get heat and always makes her opponents look good. The post match pull apart with Ripley and Raquel Gonzalez was strong and did a nice job of building up to their showdown match. By the way, I mentioned in the Raw Hit List that I’d like to see Charlotte Flair and Asuka show up in NXT to defend the WWE Women’s Tag Titles against Ripley and Io Shirai. Add Kai and Gonzalez to the list of potential NXT challengers. Better yet, how about booking an NXT team to win the titles since they have stronger women’s tag teams than both main rosters combined.
Isaiah Scott vs. Jake Atlas: A clever followup to their previous encounter with Scott taking the win and arrogantly offering a handshake, which Atlas understandably rejected given that Scott rejected his handshake offer last week. Going into their first match, it felt like it could have been just a random match to fill time, but the creative team has done a nice job of quickly making this a compelling feud.
Bronson Reed vs. Ashanti Adonis: A quick squash win for Reed in his return match. Simple and effective.
Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream: This was a Takeover main event earlier this year, but Dream’s stock has plummeted. His out of ring issues don’t help his cause, but even if you put that aside, the character feels ice cold. His recent time away from television didn’t end up helping, and at this point I’m not really sure what it will take to breathe new life into his act. Meanwhile, Cole feels like he’s in a holding pattern, though that could certainly change if creative pulls the trigger on an Undisputed Era split or there’s some major development at New Year’s Evil.
Timothy Thatcher vs. Leon Ruff: Thatcher lost to NXT’s Cheeseburger-like underdog and then took Ciampa’s finisher afterward. I love the idea of Thatcher vs. Ciampa in the NXT Fight Pit. I just wish the creative forces would stop booking Thatcher to lose so often. I get that Ruff needed a win on this show to get to his title match with Johnny Gargano next week, but did it really need to come at the expense of Thatcher?
Tyler Rust vs. Ariya Daivari: A soft Miss. The match quality was not the problem, and it was nice to see Daivari somewhere other than 205 Live. My issue with the match is that I didn’t really know how they wanted viewers to feel about Rust. Malcolm Bivens strikes me as a heel, but Rust isn’t really doing anything heelish. That said, I’m sure the dynamic will become more clear as time goes on.