1/20 NXT TV results: Moore’s review of Tommaso Ciampa vs. Timothy Thatcher in the NXT Fight Pit, Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter vs. Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm, Kushida and Leon Ruff vs. The Way, and LHP vs. Imperium in Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic matches

By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)

NXT TV 
Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE Performance Center)
Aired January 20, 2021 on USA Network

[Hour One] Highlights from last week’s NXT and 205 Live Dusty Classic matches aired. They then aired a teaser for this week’s NXT show featuring Dusty Classic matches and the NXT Fight Pit…

Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were the commentary team. During the opening match entrances, Vic Joseph introduced the return of Beth Phoenix as an on-site commentator. Wade shot off party poppers in celebration of Beth returning to the table…

1. “The Way” Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory vs. Leon Ruff and Kushida in a first round match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Theory blocked Ruff’s snapmare attempts and grounded Ruff with a shoulder block. Theory and Ruff then traded counters with Ruff landing the dropkick on Theory for a two count. Kushida tagged in and worked on Theory’s shoulders with a shoulder breaker and a PK to the shoulder. Kushida hit Theory with a Butterfly Snap. Kushida then worked on Theory with armbars. Theory escaped and slammed Kushida to the mat.

Gargano worked on Kushida with ground elbows and knees. Kushida came back with forearms. Theory tagged in and caught Kushida with a rolling Shotgun Dropkick for a two count. Beth recapped when Shotzi Blackheart shot Theory in the “man marbles”. Theory and Gargano traded tags to isolate Kushida in their corner. Kushida slipped out of Theory’s suplex to fall into a tag to Ruff. Ruff caught Theory with quick moves. Ruff punched Gargano off the apron. Ruff tried to go for a dive but he fell right into Theory’s Torture Rack. Theory hit Ruff with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count. The show cut to picture-in-picture.[c]

Ruff was trying to catch Kushida for a hot tag, but Gargano tripped Kushida off the apron. Theory hit Ruff with a backbreaker. Gargano hit Ruff with a basement neckbreaker for a two count. Ruff surprised Theory with a springboard corkscrew cutter (Theory messed up on the timing a bit). Kushida tagged in along with Gargano. Kushida hit Gargano with ground and pound. Kushida caught Theory with a handspring boot. Kushida knocked Gargano of the apron. Kushida did a dive on Gargano at ringside.

Gargano dodged a PK and gave Kushida a Listo kick. Kushida Falcon Arrow’d Gargano right into a Juji Gatame. Theory broke up the submission. Theory hit Kushida with an arm-trap Ushigoroshi. Gargano gave Kushida a superkick. Kushida kicked out of Theory’s pin at two. Ruff cleared Theory from the ring and hit Theory with a top rope cannonball. Gargano got a small package on Kushida for a two count. Kushida caught Gargano with a few of his signature moves. Kushida hit Gargano with a Bridged Northern Lights Suplex for the victory.

Kushida and Leon Ruff defeated The Way via pinfall in 14:46 to advance to the next round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

The updated graphic showed that Ruff and Kushida will be facing the Grizzled Young Veterans in the next round…

John’s Thoughts: Gargano and Theory showed a lot of automatic chemistry despite being a makeshift team. Gargano’s star power helps make that team come off as a bigger deal compared to the other makeshift teams of the NXT tag division (and a majority of NXT’s teams are makeshift and slapped together). It’s a shame that Gargano and Theory couldn’t move to the next round because they did show good chemistry, but I’m assuming this leads to The Way costing Leon Ruff a pin in the next round or so (they also continue to make Kushida come off as invincible). Speaking of makeshift, if he wasn’t signed to Impact Wrestling, I’m pretty sure this match would be even better if it were Alex Shelley teaming with his old tag partner Kushida instead of makeshift ruff…

Pete Dunne cut a cinematic promo where he talked about how he and Balor come from similar upbringings. Dunne said that Balor left NXT and Dunne just gets compared to Balor. Dunne talked about having to face Balor one day. Dunne said in the end the tables will turn and Balor will be forced to live in Dunne’s legacy…

The commentary team checked in from the table with Vic Joseph saying that Kyle O’Reilly is medically cleared to compete even though he aggravated the jaw injury last week. Karrion Kross was advertised to appear after the commercial…[c]

John’s Thoughts: A solid promo by Pete Dunne and the cinematic style covered up his on-the-mic weaknesses. Dunne can come off as a bit dull on the mic, but the dark cinematic style really enhanced him a bit. We have seen Dunne look good without the cinematic treatment though when he was being a heel in the WWE UK Tournament.

McKenzie Mitchell caught up with Malcolm Bivens who continued to hail the praises of Tyler Rust. Rust walked out of Regal’s office saying he took the initiative and got himself booked in a match against Bronson Reed. Bivens acted nervous and thought that Rust might be biting off more than he could chew. Bivens then tried to look optimistic about this as he walked away…

Karrion Kross and Scarlett [Bordeaux] made their entrance. Scarlett was wearing her usual catsuit, but she also was wearing some sort of Lovecraftian looking vine headdress…

2. Karrion Kross vs. Ashanti The Adonis. Kross seamlessly transitioned a Fisherman Suplex right into a Doomsday Saito. Kross followed up with another Saito Suplex. Kross pinned Adonis after a Northern Forearm.

Karrion Kross defeated Ashanti The Adonis via pinfall in 1:16. 

Kross and Scarlett were walking away. Ashanti’s tag partner Desmond Troy went to check on Ashanti. Kross ended up making Troy pass out to the Kross Jacket.

John’s Thoughts: Same solid formula with Kross as they rebuild him back to the main event. Jason Powell references it via Kross’s match at Bloodsport and I keep talking about the many matches I’ve watched from him off National Television, you guy’s haven’t seen the best of Kross yet. Kross comes off way better when he’s utilizing his MMA style and coming off as aggressively violent. I trust that NXT is building up to this so I’m not to afraid.

The show cut to a MSK promo vignette for the duo of Wes Lee and Nash Carter. Lee talked about both of them being like family. Carter and Lee goofed around a bit. Lee said they’ve fought for this for a long time. Carter said he’s shedding a tear just thinking about winning the Dusty Cup. MSK talked about how they are going to win the Dusty Classic…

John’s Thoughts: We still don’t know what MSK stands for yet, but a simple and effective promo to introduce the formal Rascal duo. I was never a fan of Impact defining these two as the “That 70s Show skit guys”. This is Pro Wrestling and not Saturday Night Live. The focus is supposed to be on the talent and not the skits (and skits should be used to showcase the talent). Looking forward to see what Wes and Nash can do now that they are free from Impact’s oddball comedy booking.

Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm cut a promo backstage about how they are going to win their first round match in the Dusty Classic…

3. “Imperium” Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner vs. “Lucha House Party” Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado in a first round match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Lucha House Party got the “already in the ring” treatment and Barrett noted that he sees Imperium as his favorites to win the tournament. After a even exchange, Lucha House Party gained control after doing a splash off the shoulders of Dorado. Barthel tagged in. Aichner tagged in and tossed around Metalik. Dorado tagged in and LHP cleared Imperium from the ring. Dorado tried to Tope Aichner, but Aichner caught him and smashed his back into the apron.

Barthel put Dorado in the Tree of Woe and his head was sandwiched by Imperium doing stereo basement dropkicks. The show cut to regular commercial.[c]

Wade Barrett showed home country pride in supporting his fellow Europeans. Barthel and Aichner traded tags to keep Dorado isolated away from his tag partner. Dorado ended up getting a window of opportunity for the hot tag after nailing Barthel with a tornado DDT. Metalik and Aichner tagged in. Metalik dominated Aichner with quick moves. Metalik caught Aichner with a tightrope rana and a tightrope moonsault for a two count.

Barthel caught Metalik into a wheelbarrow which allowed Aichner to catch Metalik with a springboard DDT. Metalik kicked out of Barthel’s pin at two. Metalik escaped Aichner’s suplex. LHP hit Aichner with a nice looking stereo Missile Dropkick-Code Red for a two count after Barthel broke up Dorado’s pin. Imperium hit LHP with stereo suplex moves for the two count. Dorado used an X Factor to escape Aichner’s European Bomb attempt.

Dorado tossed Metalik on Aichner at ringside. Barthel rolled up Dorado with a two count. Dorado caught Barthel with a Shooting Star Press for the win.

Lucha House Party defeated Imperium via pinfall in 9:54  of on-air time to advance to the next round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

Barrett yelled that the number 1 team (in his mind) has been eliminated! Alexander Wolfe showed up at the top of the stage to lead Imperium in doing their Imperium pose, making Aichner and Barthel come to attention.

John’s Thoughts: Surprising win, but I’m ok with this given that Barthel and Aichner, as talented as they are in the ring, have been charismatically challenged ever since they were separated from the more charismatic members of Imperium, Alexander Wolfe and WALTER (that’s a bit ironic, given that Barthel used to be WALTER’s mouthpiece back in PROGRESS). It looks like they are taking a step towards adding more charisma to the Imperium duo by getting Wolfe back in the states. I’m assuming the talented German wrestler was overseas due to travel restrictions.

The commentary team cut to a weigh-in between Ciampa and Thatcher. Ciampa clocked in at 201 pounds. Thatcher clocked in at 225 pounds. Regal wished Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa the best of luck. Ciampa shoved Thatcher and the referees prevented a pull apart brawl by quickly getting in between. A Tale of the Tape graphic aired…

Beth Phoenix hyped the women’s Dusty Classic starting after the break…[c]

[Hour Two] William Regal introduced Beth Phoenix on the stage who was standing next to the Dusty Rhodes cup. Beth talked about all the great NXT Women’s Champions in NXT. Beth then ran through a roll call of a handful of the notable women to come through NXT. Beth talked about how the NXT Women’s division is prepared to make history again. Beth introduced the Women’s Dusty Classic with all the women in the tournament showing up on the stage behind Beth. Beth and William introduced the first match which would happen at that moment…

4. Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez vs. Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro in a first round match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Carter and Storm started the match off with chain wrestling. Martinez tagged in and the heel team worked on Carter with elbow drops. Catanzaro tagged in and the face team did tandem offense. Kacy hit Mercedes with a slingshot swanton for a two count. Martinez hit Kacy with a few strong strikes to quickly regain control. Mercedes dominated Kacy for a stretch heading into commercial.[c]

Toni and Mercedes continued to trade tags to keep Kacy under control. Vic Joseph noted that Bayley has been campaigning on Social Media to tag team with Beth Phoenix in the Dusty Classic, but there wasn’t enough room for that team. Catanzaro escaped a Super Air Raid Crash and hit Martinez with a Frankensteiner. Carter and Storm tagged in with Kayden cleaning house. Carter hit Storm with a roll into a superkick. Carter then hit Storm with a draped Face Wash.

Carter hit Storm with a springboard dropkick with a few rollup attempts weaved in. Catanzaro hit Martinez with a corkscrew plancha for a two count. Storm locked Carter in a single leg liontamer. Io Shirai ran out and tossed Martinez on the announce table. This distracted Storm, Carter kicked Storm to the mat. Catanzaro tagged in. Carter put Storm in a reverse Figure Four. Catanzaro hit reverse Red Arrow (corkscrew coffin drop) for the surprise win

Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter defeated Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez via pinfall in 9:27 of on-air time to advance to the next round the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. 

Finn Balor barged into William Regal’s office. Balor said he wants Pete Dunne but he understands that Dunne is playing from the Balor playbook. Balor asked for Lorcan and Burch. Regal said Balor needs to find a partner. Balor said the old him had friends and he now has enemies. Regal told Balor the old idiom of “keep your enemies closer”…

Bronson Reed was shown heading to the ring from the hallways. He was chatting with Isaiah Scott off the mic…[c]

John’s Thoughts: While the outcome was surprising, they protected Toni and Mercedes by having Io Shirai being the reason they lost. The interference made sense given how long Shirai has been off TV to sell attacks from both Storm and Martinez. Catanzaro and Carter are really coming together as plucky babyface underdogs. I wonder if WWE will try to rehash Catanzaro’s past star power when she was the star of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior show. Speaking of the Ninja Warrior, that reverse Red Arrow was SICK! (at the same time, it looks like it could be dangerous if not done by the right person. Catanzaro is a ninja so it should be okay. Neville/PAC has been doing a similar move for years and hasn’t screwed up right?)

McKenzie Mitchell announced that Ashanti the Adonis and Desmond Troy aren’t medically cleared to wrestle in the Dusty Classic on 205 Live this week. She was cut off by Carter and Catanzaro jumping for joy over their surprise win earlier…

The camera cut to show what Scott told Reed off-mic. Scott wished Reed a condescending “good luck” and told Reed to not get involved in Scott’s business. Reed now wears a jacket with a toy Godzilla as the hood…

5. “The Colossal” Bronson Reed vs. Tyler Rust (w/Malcolm Bivens). Barrett berated Rust for not following the advise of his adviser Bivens. Reed dominated Rust to start the match. Bivens helped Rust to his feet when he was dumped to ringside. Reed continued to toss Rust around, dumping him out the ring with a Reverse Fallaway Slam. Rust dragged Reed’s shoulder on the rope and followed up with an elbow drop. The camera cut to picture-in-picture to show a pull apart brawl between Toni Storm and Io Shirai. As usual, Steve Corino and the referees broke up the two women.

Reed continued to keep this match one-sided. Reed hit Rust with a swinging chokeslam for a two count. Rust went for a key lock on the top rope, but reed escaped. Rust caught Reed with a Yakuza kick followed by a rope assisted Samoan Drop for a two count. Reed got up and slammed Rust to the mat. Reed hit Rust with a running Senton and Tsunami Splash for the win.

Bronson Reed defeated Tyler Rust via pinfall in 4:50. 

Bivens held his head down in disappointment after the match. The camera then zoomed into him and rust. Bivens said Rust needs to know to pick the right battles next time. Bivens said it was all fine and this was just a stumbling block.

McKenzie Mitchell told Balor that Balor has his match with Lorcan and Burch next week if Balor can find a partner. Balor told McKenzie that a few people owe him favors and it was now time to have a chat…[c]

John’s Thoughts: It looks like Reed might be set for a push as the big-man babyface of the brand now that NXT seemingly doesn’t have Damian Priest and others in that spot after the recent set of callups. I see Tyler Rust as someone who can be a big-man main eventer down the road too, but they can take their time with him. I hope they also keep Bivens looking credible because Bivens is way too talent as a manager to not utilize (I know a guy in Impact Wrestling named Quinn Ojinaka who could really use Bivens as a manager to elevate to the main event). I just hope that Bivens doesn’t end up going the way of Robert Stone who we’ve havent seen in months. Stone was a comedy goof, so I understand why there’s no rush to put him back on TV for now.

An ad aired for NXT UK on the WWE Network…

Drake Wuertz was shown telling Timothy Thatcher the rules of the Fight Pit…

Finn Balor barged into the Undisputed Era locker room. Cole said “look at what the cat dragged in”. Balor said the “cat is looking for his payback… you know why I’m here Kyle”. Balor asked O’Reilly if he was in or if he’s still sucking meals through a straw. O’Reilly glared at Balor. After about 10 cold seconds, O’Reilly said “I’m in”….

Santos Escobar was in the ring for a promo segment. He had Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza with him. Mendoza called himself a “champion of champions”. He said he’s not cursed like Johnny Gargano or have a glass jaw like Finn Balor. Escobar then mocked Karrion Kross as NXT champion because Kross had all the pomp and circumstance, yet couldn’t make it to his first title defense. Escobar said he has beaten every person in his path. Escobar said Dorado and Metalik tried to destroy Escobar’s empire and Escobar sent them packing. Escobar hyped Mendoza and Wilde winning their first round match last week and taking the first step in being Tag Champions.

Escobar said they can eventually join Escobar in the ring as champions. Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado’s entrance interrupted Escobar’s promo. The LHP duo were overwhelmed by the Legado trio. Suddenly some random blonde guy ran out and helped to clear the heels from the ring. The blonde guy was Curt Stallion…

John’s Thoughts: NXT finally gave Escobar some promo time and he showcased that he’s one of the more eloquent speakers, English or Spanish, on the WWE roster. Interesting to see Escobar lay it on so thick on Karrion Kross given that they’re evil heels. I wouldn’t mind seeing that match down the road given their history in Lucha Underground and AAA. Kross and Escobar also are good at working more of a “technical” style. Who I don’t care about is this “Curt Stallion” guy , everyone seems to keep bringing up on commentary and promos, yet we don’t know anything about this guy other than he wrestles on 205 Live sometimes.

McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Killian Dain and Drake Maverick over advancing in the Dusty Classic and will face MSK in the next round. Drake Maverick cut a promo about how he’s inspired and how he and Dain will win the tag team tournament. Dain said the promo was good. Dain then slapped Maverick in the back with Dain walking off. Maverick sold the pain from the slap…

Alicia Taylor exaggeratedly said “Welcome to the Fight Pit!” to introduce the Fight Pit match. Vic Joseph said the match was happening after the break…[c]

McKenzie Mitchell tried to interview Curt Stallion and Lucha House Party. Legado Del Fantasma interrupted. Escobar said he was going to teach Stallion a lesson and beat Stallion next week in a Title defense…

The commentary team advertised matches for next week’s show…

Entrances for the fight pit too place. Timothy Thatcher has new theme music. Alicia Taylor handled the formal in-ring introductions and match rules for the NXT Fight Pit Match…

6. Timothy Thatcher vs. Tommaso Ciampa in a Fight Pit Match.Thatcher backtracked as he was stalked by a slow walking Ciampa. Thatcher and Ciampa then brawled on the upper platform area. Thatcher gave Ciampa a suplex on the wooden platform with the commentators pointing out how hard the floor sounds. Ciampa escaped a heel hook and then caught Thatcher with a running boot to the face. Ciampa put the boots to Thatcher at ringside. Both men continued to brawl on the elevated platform area. The show cut to picture-in-picture with Ciampa having the upper hand.[c]

Ciampa was tossing Thatcher against the chain link fence. Thatcher broke up a ten count. Thatcher reversed a Fairy Tale Ending and then tossed Thatcher into the corner of the fence. Beth Phoenix went through the history of this match, which started off as the “Lion’s Den” match (which was Ken Shamrock’s signature match in WWE). Thatcher locked Ciampa in a double wrist hold. Thatcher converted to full mount for some forearms. Thatcher went back to the wrist lock and then went to the hand slam on the mat.

Ciampa got a breather by slamming Thatcher into the cage. Ciampa catapulted Thatcher into the fence. Ciampa booted Thatcher in the kidney after locking in a half crab for a bit. Thatcher fended off Ciampa by booting him into the fence.

[Overrun] Thatcher locked Ciampa in a sleeper. Ciampa hit Thatcher with a low blow to escape the sleeper hold. Thatcher crawled over Drake Wuertz, but Wuertz served as the Fulcrum for the Willow’s Bell DDT. Thatcher beat the 10 count for a great nearfall. Thatcher reversed the Fairy Tale Ending with a European Uppercut. Thatcher and Ciampa then had a slugfest. Ciampa slammed Thatcher’s head into the steel bars holding up the fence.

Ciampa hit Thatcher with the Fairy Tale ending. Thatcher then deadlifted Ciampa when Ciampa locked in the Rear Naked Choke. Thatcher tangled Ciampa in the gap in the corner of the cage. Thatcher locked Ciampa in a cage-assisted Stretch Muffler. Tommaso Ciampa tapped out.

Timothy Thatcher defeated Tommaso Ciampa via submission in 14:00 to win the Fight Pit Match.

Vic Joseph called this the biggest win in Thatcher’s career. Ciampa was in the corner selling his knee. Thatcher knelt before Ciampa (Thatcher’s shoulder looking a bit swollen). Barrett said it looks like Thatcher has won Ciampa’s respect. The show closed…

John’s Thoughts: While not as dynamic start-to-finish as the Riddle vs. Thatcher Fight Pit, this was still a fun and brutal spectacle match between two solid brawlers. Riddle is better with the practical strikes which made his match superior, but we’re comparing apples and oranges when comparing Riddle’s style to Ciampa’s. The real positive here was Thatcher overcoming Ciampa’s finishing moves and making the babyface main eventer tap out. Thatcher is made, but we’ve been at this point with him before where he dominates the top legit badass of the company only to take losses to every single person on the roster (from Leon Ruff to Cameron Grimes).

The key to moving forward with Thatcher is to push him strong from here on out, but we’ve seen this before and they for some reason buried the guy (even though they give him weekly promo and vignette time). As usual, NXT continues to be a reliable solid two hours of television. If I were to criticize one thing, and it’s just nitpicking, I think a few of the Dusty tag matches went a bit too long (specifically the matches that had commercial breaks in between). That time could have been used for some interview packages or in-ring angles. I’ll be by tomorrow with my NXT audio review and Jason Powell will be by with his hit list of the show.

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