By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Taped in Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE Performance Center)
Aired December 30, 2020 on USA Network
[Hour One] Before the WWE Signature graphic, they aired a “In memory of…” graphic for the late Brodie Lee…
Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were on commentary…
1. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. “The Colossal” Bronson Reed. Reed dragged Scott down during the initial chain wrestling sequence. Scott escaped, but Reed rolled on him with a judo roll. Reed hit Scott with a diving shoulder block from the apron to ringside. Barrett noted that the block reminded him of Stan Hansen. Scott ended up getting Reed to a knee with a chop block and then followed up with a House Call kick. Scott got a one count off Reed. Joseph noted that the End of the Year winners will be announced on this show.
Scott tackled Reed to the corner. Scott hit Reed with a uppercut and a dropkick to Reed’s left knee. Scott hit Reed with Paydirt for a two count. Reed no sold Scott’s right hands and kicks. Reed reversed Scott’s sunset flip by sitting on Scott for a Banzai Drop. Scott kicked out at two. Reed caught Scott with a lariat and twisting chokeslam for a two count. Scott fought Reed back with a headbutt. Reed came back with a front tackle and senton. Reed hit Scott with a Tsunami Splash for the win.
Bronson Reed defeated Isaiah Scott via pinfall in 6:18.
Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett checked in from the commentary table. Joseph sent the show over to William Regal who announced the NXT Breakout Star of the Year. Shotzi Blackheart won the 2020 NXT Breakout Star of the Year award…
They cut to Shotzi Blackheart sitting in front of a bonfire. Blackheart talked about this being a dream of a year for her. She said her dad taught her to be a badass and take care of things. Blackheart ended her promo with her signature wolf howl…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A fun opener with NXT continuing to put momentum on Reed, who will definitely be someone to look out for in 2021. The only thing I found a bit odd was feeding the newly turned Isaiah Scott to Reed. I have no problem with the result, I just thought that NXT was starting to really turn the corner with Scott with the heel turn. Hopefully they haven’t given up on Scott yet. As for Blackheart, I’m happy that people are recognizing how much upside she has. She’s been someone I’ve been hyping up for years (almost as much as I hype up Karrion Kross), and I’m happy to see the Bay Area local make it in WWE.
Leon Ruff was shown entering the Performance Center. He was chatting with Jake Atlas. Johnny Gargano and The Way were also shown entering the PC. Johnny Gargano freaked out when he walked past a black cat in the hallway…
2. “Breezango” Tyler Breeze and Fandango vs. “The Grizzled Young Veterans” James Drake and Zack Gibson. Breeze and Drake started off the match with chain wrestling. Dango and Gibson tagged in. Gibson went for an armdrag, but Dango reversed it into a side headlock. Vic Joseph announced the return of the Dusty Tag Team Classic in two weeks. Breeze tagged in. Drake hit Breeze with a body slam for a two count. Drake went into methodical offense. Dango cleaned house after a hot tag.
Dango got a two count after a Sunset Flip. Breeze and Dango hit Gibson with stereo boots. Gibson knocked Dango off the apron and got a two count off a rollup on Breeze. Dango dove on Drake and Gibson from the scaffolding. Dango sold a left leg injury.[c]
The GYVs hit Dango with a tandem Atomic Drop and Plancha. Barrett noted that the GYVs were targeting Dango’s knee which was hurt before the break. Gibson used a Dragon Screw to take Dango off the top rope. Dango crawled under Gibson’s legs to get Breeze in for the hot tag. Breeze hit both opponents with running elbows and a running dropkick. Breeze tossed both opponents to ringside. Breeze missed a Plancha. GYVs hit Breeze with stereo elbows. Dango dove into Gibson.
Gibson tossed Dango into the steps. Drake got a two count off a rollup on Breeze. Gibson tagged in and the GYVs hit Breeze with Ticket to Mayhem for the victory.
The Grizzled Young Veterans defeated Breezango via pinfall in 9:02 of on-air time.
Barrett noted that the win makes the Grizzled Young Veterans potential favorites for the Dusty Classic. Ever Rise showed up to the top of the stage acting like arrogant dorks. The Referee yelled at them and then gave up. Ever Rise cowered to the back when Gibson and Drake confronted them…
Undisputed Era won the 2020 NXT Tag Team of the Year…
O’Reilly, Fish, Cole, and Strong all accepted the award. Cole said he had an announcement. Cole announced that Roderick Strong and Cole would be representing UE in the Dusty Classic. Cole then joked that NXT needs to give UE four trophies when they win awards…
John’s Thoughts: An okay match, but it kinda felt like filler. Breeze and Dango are better now that they’re toning down the male stripper act, but I feel like both men need a character overhaul. Dango in particular has shown that he has a lot of range when he’s playing a weird stalker, drunk color commentator (Southpaw), and wholesome Johnny Curtis. Every time Dango gets injured, Breeze has excelled as the “NXT veteran” character when he’s the gatekeeper. As for Grizzled Young Veterans, why aren’t they letting Zack Gibson cut promos, because that guy is really good at drawing heat? Hopefully the Dusty Classic can help rejuvinate NXT’s budding tag team division. I say that, but if you remember correctly, usually makeshift teams end up winning that tournament.
They cut to the latest Xia Li, Boa, Shi Fu, and mystery woman training vignette. Lee and Boa were looking well trained and ready to fight. They were shown bowing on their knees in front of the Shi Fu. The mystery woman walked up to them and drew a line of ink from their forehead town their noses. She then held a smokey torch on them to baptize them. Li, Boa, Shi Fu, and the mystery woman walked into the lights. The vignette said they are returning to NXT next week…
3.Mercedes Martinez vs. Valentina Feroz. Valentina, the jobber, wore gear that looked like it came straight from GLOW. Valentina tried to use her quickness to avoid Martinez but Martinez hit her with a chokebomb. Valentina tried to go for a sleeper, but Martinez slammed Valentina into the buckle. Martinez trash talked Valentina and hit Valentina with a spinebuster. Martinez hit Valentina with an Overhead Suplex. Martinez hit Valentina with an Air Raid Crash for the win.
Mercedes Martinez defeated Valentina Feroz via pinfall in 2:09.
Martinez yelled at the camera and said all the women in the division are on her radar. She held out her hand like a gun and said “click, click”…
Io Shirai won the 2020 NXT Female Competitor of the Year. Shirai cut a selfie promo and thanked everyone for voting her the best of the best…
Adam Cole won the NXT Male Competitor of the Year. Vic Joseph noted that you can now vote between Cole and Shirai for “Overall Competitor of the Year”…
Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne were shown at different parts of the PC heading to the ring…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Mercedes Martinez is the luckiest person in WWE. She was inserted in the lame-ass Retribution faction and looked to be set for that sinking ship. As a christmas present, she gets to return to NXT and back to looking like a badass instead of a dork (and It’s WWE creative’s fault that Mia Yim, Brennan Williams, and Dominik Dijakovic look like dorks now, not their fault). Not only does Martinez dodge a bullet, but she picked up right where she left off, like a gangsta badass. In fact, I would argue that Martinez is the most badass woman in WWE across all three rosters, and this is when taking her run before Retribution into account.
4. Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong. Strong started the match with a double leg takedown and ground and pound. Dunne took control and worked on Strong with Joint Manipulation. Dunne tossed Strong to ringside when Strong went for a comeback. Dunne hit Strong with a low running boot. Strong hit Dunne with signature backbreaker, followed by a wrecking ball kick. The show cut to Picture-in-picture.[c]
[Hour Two] Dunne whipped Strong throat first into the top buckle. Dunne locked Strong in a modified Rings of Saturn. Dunne hit Strong with a standing diving knee. Barrett noted that Dunne moved to the US recently after a long time away from the ring. Strong caught Dunne with a dropkick for a bit of recovery time. Strong caught Dunne with a high knee in the corner. Strong hit Dunne with his signature consecutive drive by elbows. Strong hit Dunne with a back suplex for a two count.
Dunne avoided a wrecking ball kick and then tossed Strong into the steel steps. Strong reversed a Bitter End into a Half Nelson Slam on the apron. Dunne reversed a Dragon Bomb into a Crossarmbreaker. Strong deadlifted Dunne into a deadlift backbreaker bomb. Dunne stomped on Strong with shortarm boots. Strong reversed an armbreaker, but Dunne fended off Strong with boots from the grounded position. Dunne escaped the Stronghold with the Wishbone finger break. Dunne hit Strong with the Bitter End for the win.
Pete Dunne defeated Roderick Strong via pinfall in 13:36.
Finn Balor vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship at Takeover was voted as Match of the Year. Regal awarded Finn Balor the award. Balor told Regal that Regal can keep it and he’ll take Kyle’s. Dunne took O’Reilly’s award and walked to the ring. Balor faced off with Pete Dunne at the Gorilla Position. Balor told Dunne if he wants to face the champ, then to get in line. Finn Balor then made his entrance with his title belt and O’Reilly’s NXT award…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A good match that didn’t overstay it’s welcome. This was also good in getting Pete Dunne a win under his belt since Dunne has been taking more losses recently. The dude should be winning, especially since WWE protected him for about two years when he was undefeated as NXT UK Champion. Dunne needs some character work and hopefully he gets a chance to look like an absolute a-hole as a heel. So far, Dunne has just been an enforcer for Pat McAfee who shrugs, but we did see some good work from him as a heel when he first showed up in that WWE UK Tournament.
A vignette aired to hype up the NXT Fight Pit match, featuring Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa…
John’s Thoughts: Timothy Thatcher talking with broken teeth really helped that vignette and made Thatcher look like a gritty badass. Can we give this guy a win for once? Thatcher is a badass, yet he keeps getting punked out by everyone. Everyone includes Leon Ruff and his enhancement students.
Finn Balor was standing in the ring with O’Reilly’s Match of the Year trophy on the ground in front of him. Balor recapped his last match with O’Reilly winning match of the year. Balor said O’Reilly surprised a lot of people, but didn’t surprise Balor. Balor said O’Reilly deserves the award. Kyle O’Reilly made his entrance to interrupt Balor. Balor said O’Reilly deserves the award, but Balor doesn’t need a trophy because he has the NXT Belt.
Balor said Balor has three plates in his jaw to remind him of the match. Balor said the Trophy is just there to collect dust. O’Reilly said he really respects the trophy because it reminds him that he belongs in NXT. O’Reilly said he doesn’t really need it either because it’s more like a participation trophy. O’Reilly said he respects Balor, but he’s leaving respect at home next week. O’Reilly said the title says that the last 15 years have been worth a damn and next week the title comes home with O’Reilly.
Balor said he’s going to do everything in his power to make O’Reilly suffer. Balor reminded O’Reilly that O’Reilly broke his jaw. Balor said next time they wrestle he’s going to make O’Reilly pay and drag him around the canvas. Balor’s next sentence was censored. Scarlett [Bordeaux] and Karrion Kross made their entrance. Scarlett said something in a foreign language. Scarlett said it doesn’t matter who wins in 7 days, because O’Reilly’s and Balor’s fates are sealed. Kross said “Doomsday is coming, tick tock…”.
Damian Priest showed up to face Karrion Kross. Priest told Kross this was how you face someone like a man. Priest and Kross then brawled. Priest tackled Kross through the Plexiglass and the men continued to brawl to the production area. Kross tried to hit Priest with a Doomsday Saito, but Priest reversed it into a crossbody, sending both men into a table. Scarlett was sitting on top of a production crate, while laughing…[c]
John’s Thoughts: A good usage of TV time to forward the two spotlight matches of the New Years Evil show. O’Reilly has a lot of range on the mic, similar to Daniel Bryan in that he can either be a witty goofball or fierce warrior whenever he wants to. Balor’s simple, effective, and badass. Speaking of badasses, Kross and Priest did well in their short time on screen. These two matches next week should be really stellar, just hopefully noone gets injured this time because three of the four guys in those matches have come out of Takeovers with big injuries.
A Rhea Ripley promo aired where Ripley talked about how Raquel Gonzalez was her best friend and travel-sister in NXT. Ripley talked about how they were so close that they got matching R & R (Rhea and Raquel) tattoos. They showed clips of a young Rhea and Raquel. Ripley said people change and Raquel is not the same person she knew before. Ripley said Raquel used to be there for her, but Raquel got jealous of Rhea. More clips were shown of Rhea and Raquel in the past with Rhea being emotional over Raquel throwing away their friendship…
John’s Thoughts: A bit out of the blue, bringing up their real-life friendship, but it adds a nice personal layer to the match at New Years Evil to the show. The video production was also top notch.
Santos Escobar, Joaquin Wilde, and Raul Mendoza were in the ring. Mendoza told his boys to look around and see where they are. Escobar said the NXT voting is a sham. Escobar said he’s not here to be popular, but he’s here to dominate. Escobar noted that nobody can touch him and the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. Escobar said Regal won’t find anyone who belongs in the ring with him. After dragging on a bit, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado made their entrance.
Lince joked about being in a place where they don’t have to chase champions (R-Truth). Lince told Escobar that Lucha Libre is for everyone. Raul Mendoza yelled something in spanish. Lince and Metalik ran into the ring to dump Wilde and Mendoza out of the ring. Drake Younger showed up and noted that Regal booked a tag team match out of this…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Not the best promo for Escobar, who wasn’t given a lot to work with here. I hope they really put some creative forces behind Escobar because this guy has WWE Championship main event potential with his in-ring and mic ability. I’ve seen this guy cut very intricate and thought provoking promos in English and Spanish. The fact that he’s fluent in English is what should put him over the top, plus this guy can wrestle like Dean Malenko. His promo tonight was very basic, and it was just to set up what looks like a filler match. I’m guessing Dorado and Metalik were just at the PC and got TV time just for being on-hand.
5. “Legado Del Fantasma” Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza vs. “Lucha House Party” Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik. Wilde and Mendoza cut the ring in half on Dorado. Dorado got the tag after giving Wilde a crossbody. Metalik hit Mendoza with a reverse slingblade and springboard rana for a two count. Metalik and Dorado hit Wilde with dives to ringside. Gran Metalik hit Mendoza with a tightrope elbow drop for the victory.
Lucha House Party defeated Legado Del Fantasma via pinfall in 3:49.
John’s Thoughts: An okay win, I guess, but I see more money in pushing Legado as opposed to the heavily-damaged Raw enhancement team. Hopefully Lucha House Party are moved over to NXT, but even if they are they need to be repackaged. Maybe they’re here for the Tag Classic? Even so, there’s more money in Legado Del Fantasma to the point where this loss kinda hurts them a bit.
Austin Theory won the 2020 Future Star of the Year. Regal awarded Theory the award. Theory was with the rest of the Way and he was holding his Gargano Whey Protein. Candice LeRae told Theory to share the trophy with Indi. Theory tried to hype up Gargano for his title defense. Gargano then got paranoid and tossed Theory’s whey protein across the room. Gargano freaked out when he saw he broke a mirror (due to bad luck)…[c]
Regal awarded Io Shirai as the Overall Competitor of the Year…
Alicia Taylor handled the formal in-ring introductions for the North American Championship match…
6. Johnny Gargano (w/Candice LeRae, Austin Theory, Indi Hartwell) vs. Leon Ruff for the NXT North American Championship. Wade Barrett bragged about ending his own personal curse of losing Fantasy Football every year and this is a sign that curses can be broken. Gargano took down Ruff with a side headlock. Gargano kicked out of a few rollups from Ruff. Gargano went to ringside for a time out. Gargano missed a slingshot spear after Theory went for a distraction. Gargano kicked out at two for a great nearfall.
Ruff nailed Gargano with a rolling kick. Ruff clocked Gargano with a pump kick. Gargano shoved Ruff off the top rope to ringside. Ruff did some spiderman climbing around the chain fence. Ruff hit Gargano with a dive. The Way distracted Ruff, which allowed Gargano to kick Ruff and hit Ruff with a draping neckbreaker. Gargano hit Ruff with a suicide dive. The show then cut to Picture-in-picture.[c]
Gargano had Ruff locked in a side headlock back from break. Gargano turned it into a backbreaker to keep Ruff under control. Gargano hit Ruff with a bow-and-elbow stretch. Barrett compared his slump after Nexus to Gargano’s curse. Gargano blocked a backslide. Ruff hit Gargano with a single leg dropkick.
[Overrun] Ruff hit Gargano with a back kick combination. Ruff rallied with a few armdrags. Ruff hit Gargano with a neckbreaker. Ruff planted Gargano with a German Suplex. Ruff hit Gargano with a corkscrew cannonball for a two count. Gargano hit Ruff with a Northern Lariat. Ruff rebounded with a Rebound Lariat. Gargano caught Ruff with a superkick. Gargano tossed Ruff like a lawn dart into the second buckle. Gargano did a fakeout into an actual superkick after Ruff flinched. Ruff kicked out at two.
Gargano used his core to block a slingshot crucifix bomb. Gargano hit Ruff with a lariat and power bomb. Ruff kicked out at two. Gargano went right into the GargaNo Escape. Ruff got a foot on the bottom rope for the break. Ruff escaped being lawn darted into the steel post at ringside. Ruff hit Gargano with a diving RKO from the apron. Ruff hit Gargano with a Frog Splash for a good nearfall. Ruff and Gargano brawled to the top rope.
Ruff was slammed into the top buckle after he went for a Frankensteiner (It was a little tough to see what happened). Gargano hit Ruff with the One Final Beat DDT for the win.
Johnny Gargano defeated Leon Ruff via pinfall in 14:12 to retain the NXT North American Championship.
Highlights from the match aired. The Way posed in the ring with Gargano’s belt and their trophies. The camera then cut to Dexter Lumis, who was standing on a podium. Caricature pictures aired to run down next week’s New Years Evil card. They added Santos Escobar vs. Gran Metalik for the Cruiserweight Championship to the card. Vic Joseph handled the outro to close the show…
John’s Thoughts: Not the most epic matches in terms of workrate, but the match was still compelling during all the nearfalls given Gargano’s “curse” that the match was built around. Ruff has gained a lot from working with the top stars in NXT to the point where he really fit in in terms of credibility. He’s NXT’s 1-2-3 Kid and I’m intrigued to see where he goes now that he’s potentially concluded his feud with Johnny.
A solid end of the year episode of NXT that sure beats the “Best of…” shows we used to see years ago. Not quite as noteworthy as last year’s show that ended with Rhea Ripley beating the unstoppable Shayna Baszler, but it’s still had the hook of the compelling nearfalls in the end. This show also featured great hype for what should be a Takeover-like show in the New Years Evil show next week.