By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Orlando, Florida at Capitol Wrestling Center (WWE Performance Center)
Aired February 17, 2021 on USA Network
[Hour One] This week’s intro cold-open focused on highlights from NXT Takeover Vengence Day…
Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix were on commentary…
The commentary team was cut off by Kyle O’Reilly making an entrance for an in-ring promo. O’Reilly talked about how he was emotional, pissed off, and disappointed over the past few days. O’Reilly said Cole ruined something special “for all of us”. O’Reilly said Cole stabbed him in the back. O’Reilly said despite all that, “Adam, you’re still my brother”. O’Reilly called out for Cole to come out and explain himself. O’Reilly said he’ll probably end up punching Cole in the face in the end, but he wants to at least hear Cole out.
The Undisputed Era theme played, but Roderick Strong made his entrance to the stage. Strong said Cole only superkicked O’Reilly out of emotion, not hate. O’Reilly cut off Strong and said that Strong is wasting his time on a peacekeeping mission when it should be Cole that explains himself. O’Reilly told Strong to not enter the ring. O’Reilly said he can’t trust Strong or anyone. O’Reilly was censored for a bit, but ultimately he asked for Adam Cole to get his ass out here.
Instead of Cole, Finn Balor made his entrance. O’Reilly continued to act pissed at anyone but Cole showing up. Balor said O’Reilly needs to get behind Balor in line to see Adam Cole. Balor talked about how he shouldn’t have accepted O’Reilly’s handshake and it led to him getting stabbed in the back. Strong interrupted Balor and tried to explain that Balor getting kicked was Cole’s fault and not O’Reilly’s. Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch showed up and beat down all three babyfaces. Referees ran out to break apart the brawl. Dunne broke away from the refs and put more boots to Balor. The segment ended with Balor selling his knee and jaw while Pete Dunne’s entrance theme played…
Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix checked in from the commentary table. Joseph sent it to William Regal via Skype. Regal played a Santos Escobar video. Escobar told Karrion Kross to “go home” and said that his match against Kross isn’t going to happen and it’ll only happen on Escobar’s time. Regal said that he’s postponing the match until next week and if Escobar doesn’t show up he’ll be stripped of the Cruiserweight title. Regal booked Dunne, Burch, and Lorcan vs. Balor, Strong, and O’Reilly for this week’s show…
John’s Thoughts: A strong opening segment to really sell O’Reilly’s emotion over being backstabbed by Adam Cole. Strong was also very good in trying to be the neutral peacekeeper trying to maintain the status quo. Ultimately, I assume O’Reilly will be set off into a feud with Cole. I wonder where Balor goes from here? I hope he moves away from Pete Dunne because Dunne is in need of being rebuilt. Is NXT teasing the return of Walter weekly in order to put Balor in a match against Walter? Right before the pandemic took hold of the world, they were building towards a Walter vs. Balor match for the UK title.
Candice LeRae, Indi Hartwell, and Johnny Gargano made their entrance. They were passing around missing child flyers for Austin Theory, who was chloroformed and kidnapped by Dexter Lumis…
1. “The Way” Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell (w/Johnny Gargano) vs. Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon. Blackheart hit LeRae with a shotgun dropkick to start the match. Moon and Blackheart traded quick tags to quickly trap LeRae in their corner. Blackheart knocked LeRae off the apron with a wrecking ball kick. The show went to Picture-in-picture.[c]
Gargano was ranting on commentary over Hartwell and LeRae being eliminated last week from the Dusty Cup. Blackheart and Moon dominated Hartwell in their corner. Hartwell escaped the corner after hitting Moon with a big boot. Gargano literally called Hartwell “[his] daughter”. Suddenly, a creepy white van was shown on the big screen driving up to the Performance Center. LeRae and Hartwell traded tags to isolate Moon. Gargano said he’s the “heart and soul” of NXT while the missing Theory is the “bicep of NXT”.
LeRae and Hartwell continued to work on Moon with isolation offense. Gargano said today is “revengeance” day. Johnny Gargano left the commentary table to go check on the creepy white van that showed up in the parking lot. The show cut to regular commercial.[c]
Blackheart locked Hartwell in Cattle Mutilation. LeRae broke up the submission with a running senton. All four women hit each other with moves to leave everyone lying. The camera cut to the parking lot where Gargano was banging on the creepy white van, assuming that Austin Theory was inside. Barrett said he remembers that van as Dexter Lumis’s van from Halloween Havoc. Ember Moon hit LeRae with a Detonation Kick for a two count. LeRae tripped Moon off the top rope to prevent an Eclipse.
Austin Theory showed up at the top of the ramp to reveal that he saved his “son” Austin Theory. Theory was in a white t-shirt and underpants. LeRae ran to Theory to hug him. Moon rolled up Hartwell for the victory.
Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart defeated Indi Hartwell and Candice LeRae via pinfall in 13:02 of on-air time.
Indi Hartwell ran to the top of the ramp to hug Austin Theory. Vic Joseph noted that it looked like finding Theory was more important than the victory…
The show cut to Pat McAfee cutting a promo from a private jet. McAfee was bragging about calling Adam Cole a scumbag and being correct. McAfee said the IWC needs to apologize to McAfee. McAfee said they can tweet #PatWasRight. McAfee said he’s off to his vacation…[c]
John’s Thoughts: The highlight of the last match was Johnny Gargano on commentary, who is now labeling Hartwell and Theory as his daughter and son. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the length of that entire segment. Adding commercial and entrance time, it went about 20 minutes and I felt like it could have taken less, especially since it ended with a wonky finish. Aside from the long length, Gargano still did a good job getting his character over as usual. What was a bigger plus was Pat McAfee showing up on NXT again. He was just reiterating what he’s been saying on Twitter recently, but it’s still good to keep him in the minds of viewers, especially if he’ll be showing up on NXT down the road.
McKenzie Mitchell interviewed Kushida in the trainer’s room about his match with Gargano. Kushida said he’s not done with Johnny. Bronson Reed showed up and asked Kushida if Kushida was doing Daijoubu (fine). Reed said he hopes Kushida gets better and he hopes he will get a shot against Johnny too. Reed and Kushida fist bumped with Reed leaving. Malcolm Bivens then showed up and said he wants Kushida to wrestle in a match against an opponent of his choosing (presumably Tyler Rust). Bivens asked the trainer if Kushida was medically cleared and the trainer said Kushida was…
Isaiah Scott made his entrance with Leon Ruff already in the ring…
2. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Leon Ruff. Ruff used some quick moves and an armdrag to lock Scott in a armbar. Scott recovered and power bombed Ruff on Scott’s knee. Scott hit Ruff with a pump kick from the apron. Scott got a two count off Ruff. Ruff used a back elbow to escape a Full Nelson. Ruff hit Scott with a series of flying lariats. Barrett noted that Ruff’s biggest strength is his opponents underestimating him. Ruff hit Scott with a corkscrew RKO for a two count.
Scott fended off Ruff with gut punches. Scott used a scissors kick to feint out Ruff. Scott came back with a kick of his own. Scott retaliated with a lariat. Scott was about to hit Ruff with a slam from the Fireman Carry, but Ruff reversed Scott into the Crucifix Driver for the pin.
Leon Ruff defeated Isaiah Scott via pinfall in 5:26.
Barrett noted that Ruff used that move to beat Johnny Gargano for the North American title. Scott gave Ruff a handshake and used that to catch Ruff off guard with a right hand. Scott beat up Ruff and then tossed him into the turnbuckle. Scott told Ruff that he’s tired of Ruff being handed everything and that this is Swerve’s house. Scott continued to rant about not getting opportunities as the show cut to commercial…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Scott continues to take losses, but at least they’re telling a story now with his losses. NXT continues to do a stellar job in building up Leon Ruff as a credible underdog that can pull out wins out of nowhere despite being an underdog in every single match he’s in. They’ve successfully turned Ruff into the modern-day 1-2-3 Kid Sean Waltman. I’m curious as to what they’re doing with Scott though. He’s still playing that bratty heel that he played at the end of his Lucha Underground run when he would beat up LU’s 1-2-3 kid in Matt Cross. What I do find odd is that they’re essentially having Leon Ruff replace Jake Atlas who disappeared all of a sudden. Maybe Atlas is out with an injury?
WWE’s Black History Month video aired…
Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro made their entrance. A replay aired of last week’s Mei Ying (Tian Sha) segment…
3. Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro vs. Jessi Kamea and Aliyah (w/Robert Stone). Carter and Catanzaro used quick tags to keep the advantage over Kamea. Kacy hit Jessi with a nice delayed slingshot double boot. Boa showed up at the top of the ramp which distracted Carter enough for ALiyah and Kamea to take advantage. Kamea got a two count after a neckbreaker. Aliyah and Kacy tagged in. Kacy hit Aliyah with a lariat and Koppu Kick. Carter and Catanzaro hit Aliyah with a double team splash and neckbreaker combo to give Carter the win over Aliyah.
Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro defeated Jessi Kamea and Aliyah via pinfall in 2:34.
Boa and Xia Li walked down from the top of the stage. Kacy Catanzaro talked to Li and said she’s just trying to be a good friend. Li used her fingers to write a symbol on Kacy’s hand. Li told Catanzaro that Catanzaro will be purged next week…
Malcolm Bivens and Tyler Rust were shown backstage. Bivens hyped up Rust. Bivens said he knows that Kushida isn’t at 100% and that Tyler Rust will take care of him. Bivens ended his promo by saying that Tyler is a “Diamond in the Rust”…
Wes Lee, Nash Carter, Dakota Kai, and Raquel Gonzalez were shown heading to the ring from backstage. The commentators noted that the Dusty Cup trophy ceremony would happen after the break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Carter and Catanzaro continue to look good every week since their surprise victory. Catanzaro is finally putting the in-ring all together and is bringing offense similar to what we saw from John Morrison back in the day once he put things together. Sadly, NXT doesn’t have an established tag team division and it looks like Catanzaro and Carter are going to be fed to Li. With talent like Taya Valkyrie and Priscilla Kelly coming in, it wouldn’t hurt if NXT introduced tag team titles for their brand (and it would help if WWE doesn’t do any callups, just to bury the women with no tv time).
[Hour Two] Beth Phoenix was in the ring and introduced a video package which spotlighted the Dusty Classic winners. Beth introduced Wes Lee and Nash Carter, MSK, first. Carter and Lee came out with mics and acted excited for their victory. Both men gave Beth a hug. Lee talked about how they are the 2021 Dusty Classic Winners as the camera showed that their names were engraved in the Dusty trophy. Carter hyped up having a future title shot against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. Lee then led a chant in saying that they will be the new NXT Tag Team Champions. Beth then interrupted and told Lee and Carter to help her welcome the women winners of the Dusty Cup.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez made their entrance. Lee and Carter held open the ropes for Kai and Gonzalez. Kai and Gonzalez were all smiles in the ring as the crowd gave them a “you deserve it” chant. Kai said the win was awesome. Kai then bragged about being the best tag team in the tournament. Kai was cut off by Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax making their entrance. Lee and Carter held open the ropes for Baszler and Jax. Baszler said that Kai and Gonzalez were on the right side of history this past Sunday, but will be on the wrong side of history when they face the tag team champions.
Kai introduced Jax and Baszler. Kai noted that Baszler ran away from NXT after Rhea Ripley beat her ass. Gonzalez said that it was the same Ripley that Gonzalez sent packing. Baszler said that Kai is the same Kai that runs around scared, just like the time Baszler broke her arm. Kai said she’s not the same before and this time she’s going to end up kicking the head off of Baszler. Gonzalez called Baszler a chiquita and said that Kai and Gonzalez run things around here now. Gonzalez said she and Kai are going to take the belt off Jax and Baszler.
Jax interrupted and said she’s here to honor Dusty Rhodes. Jax said she remembers when Dusty called Nia a badass bitch. Jax said that Dusty was right and that Jax is the biggest and baddest bitch. Gonzelez told Jax that Dusty Rhodes never met Gonzalez though. Baszler interrupted and said that in a few weeks they will humiliate Kai and Gonzalez and Kai. Baszler and Jax were leaving. Gonzalez told Jax that in a few weeks she’s going to take her boot and stick it far up Nia Jax’s hole to the point where the boot will go missing. Lee and Carter were rolling on the ground with popcorn buckets…
Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly were shown arguing in the parking lot…[c]
John’s Thoughts: So it looks like WWE’s solution to the heel vs. heel dilemma in the women’s tag picture is to make Gonzalez and Kai the de facto babyface team. They did a solid job as babyfaces in that segment. It was refreshing to see Shayna Baszler given meaningful mic time for the first time in a long time because the main roster doesn’t do a good job at showcasing Baszler as a badass. Jax wasn’t bad either and she cut one of her better promos of her career in the last segment (she was never the best talker in the world).
The Lonely Island-esque music video about the now rich Cameron Grimes aired. This was the the music video from Takeover where Grimes was throwing his money around and running around in his underwear. The video ended with Grimes in a car accident, but he was still laughing because he said he could just buy another car with his fortune…
The commentators cut to still shots of Io Shirai getting attacked by Toni Storm during a photoshoot after Takeover. Kushida made his entrance, he was wearing a black tank top this week…
4. Kushida vs. Tyler Rust (w/Malcolm Bivens). Barrett noted that Bivens is trying to take advantage of a potentially softer opponent in Kushida who wrestled a big match against Johnny Gargano on Sunday. Kushida dominated the early stretch. Rust ended up reversing Kushida’s mount with a wristhold. Rust put Kushida in a hammerlock. Kushida used the ropes to reverse the hammerlock. Kushida caught Rust with his signature double boots. Kushida got a two count off a innovative jackknife pin.
Rust clocked Kushida with a right hand. Kushida caught Rust with a gamengiri and then slammed Rust’s elbow on the top rope. Rust tripped Kushida off the top rope for an awkward landing. Rust locked Kushida in a sleeper, but Kushida got his foot on the bottom rope. The show cut to regular commercial.[c]
An ad aired for NBC’s Young Rock show…
Kushida slammed Rust to the mat with his signature shoulder bulldog. Rust escaped a Guillotine Choke with a backdrop. Rust hit Kushida with a snap suplex. Rust hit Kushida with a Bicycle Kick for a two count. Rust hit Kushida with two Question Mark kicks for a two count. Kushida tried to roll Kushida into a jackknife pin, but Rust reversed it into a Rear Naked Choke. Rust then converted the move to a half bow-and-arrow submission. Rust kicked out when Kushida got Rust’s shoulders to the mat.
Kushida punted Rust in the shoulder. Kushida reversed a fireman carry into an armbar. Kushida put Rust in the Hoverboard Lock. Malcolm Bivens ran to the referee to submit on behalf of Rust.
Kushida defeated Tyler Rust via submission in 7:57 of on-air time.
Bivens told Rust that he protected Rust to fight another day…
A hype vignette aired for new NXT wrestler Zoey Stark (Lacey Ryan) debuting after the break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Another good showing for Rust in another loss. These losses are fine until they flip the switch on him, which they can take their time on because he’s being presented as a blue chip “rookie”. I’m not sure where they go with Kushida though because Kushida looks to be back in wheel-spinning mode. Are we going to get Kushida winning all his matches for a year again with zero storyline development?
Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix checked in from the commentary table. They cut to the pre-show footage from Sunday where Eli Drake, now known as LA Knight, interrupted the pre-show for a promo. The show then cut to LA Knight cutting a promo from his front porch. Knight said when he showed up people are already saying that Knight is the greatest NXT star of all time. Knight said everyone else calls themself the hottest free agent, but they have the wrong story. Knight said that NXT belongs to LA Knight. Knight ended the promo with his “that’s not an insult, that is just a fact of life” catchphrase…
Zoey Stark made her entrance with her opponent already in the ring…
5. Zoey Stark vs. Valentina Feroz. Barrett said Stark looks like Shakira if Shakira was a badass. Stark used her power to easy toss around the smaller Feroz. Feroz went for a headlock and sunset flip. Feroz hit Stark with a shotgun dropkick. Feroz got a two count after an armdrag. Stark kicked out and showed a mean streak by pummeling Feroz. Feroz reversed a suplex, but Stark caught Feroz and hit her with Snake Eyes. Stark hit Feroz with a back kick. Stark then hit Feroz with a Half and Half Suplex. Stark hit Feroz with a basement knee strike. Stark hit Feroz with a tilt-a-whirl GTS for the victory.
Zoey Stark defeated Valentina Feroz via pinfall in 2:30.
John’s Thoughts: Stark looked a little rough at points in that squash, but she did manage to make up for the rough points with good aggression. Stark does have good size and has the potential to be a strong monster heel if that’s the direction they want to put her in.
The show cut to a Karrion Kross and Scarlett promo. Scarlett continued to address Santos Escobar as the “Heirophant”. Scarlett said that Escobar has no power now and he’s about to witness his nightmare. Kross said Escobar’s fate has been decided. Kross said he’s giving Escobar two options: a) he shows up next week to get a punch through the head, or b) he doesn’t show up and Kross has to find Escobar. Kross then ended his promo with the “tick tock” catchphrase…
Entrances for the six man tag team match took place. Vic Joseph hyped Finn appearing on Corey Grave’s podcast tomorrow as well as Balor having his index and middle fingers taped up due to his match against Dunne. O’Reilly and Strong came out together wearing Undisputed Era shirts. O’Reilly ended up walking past Strong and not doing their UE pose to sell that he was still pissed off at the Adam Cole situation…[c]
6. Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch vs. Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, and Pete Dunne. O’Reilly went right at Lorcan with right hands and a running knee to the gut. Strong wanted the tag, but O’Reilly purposely tagged in Balor in front of Strong. O’Reilly and Balor traded tags for tandem moves while Strong kept begging to be tagged in by his regular teammate. Burch tagged in and Balor worked on Burch’s shoulder. Strong blind tagged his way in and worked on Burch’s shoulder. Burch tackled Strong to his corner and tagged in Dunne.
Dunne worked on Strong with his signature joint manipulation. Joseph reminded viewers of the long history between Strong and Dunne when Strong betrayed Pete Dunne to join Undipsuted Era. Dunne tossed Strong to ringside. Strong fended off Lorcan and Burch. Strong dragged Dunne’s head on the top rope. Strong reversed an X-Plex into a backbreaker. Strong tagged in O’Reilly. O’Reilly hit Lorcan with leg lariats. O’Reilly hit Burch with a CQC combo.
O’Reilly gave Dunne and Lorcan dragon screws on the bottom rope. Dunne gave O’Reilly a few kicks heading into picture-in-picture commercial.[c]
O’Reilly gave Dunne a Dragon Screw. Burch interrupted the tag to O’Reilly’s corner. Burch dragged O’Reilly back to his corner to tag in Dunne for more isolation. O’Reilly took down Burch with a running lariat for a breather. Dunne tagged in and put O’Reilly in an ankle lock. O’Reill escaped and got Strong in for the hot tag. Strong cleared Lorcan and Burch from the ring. Dunne and Balor were left in the ring. Balor and Dunne traded counters.
[Overrun] Balor caught Dunne with Sling Blade. Burch distracted the referee in the corner. Balor gave Dunne a shotgun dropkick which sent him into the referee. REF BUMP!!!. Balor went for a Coup De Grace. Adam Cole showed up and knocked Balor off the top rope, onto the referee. REF BUMP!!!. Adam Cole grabbed Kyle O’Reilly and Suplexed him on the steel steps. Adam Cole left up the ramp.
Roderick Strong gave Lorcan a knee. Strong tried to help Balor to his feet, but Balor gave Strong a Pele Kick because he didn’t know it was Strong that grabbed him. In the confusion, Pete Dunne hit Finn Balor with the Bitter End for the victory.
Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch defeated Finn Balor, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong via pinfall in 11:52.
Adam Cole appeared from the other side of the ring to surprise Finn Balor with a superkick. Drake Wuertz called for someone to come out to check on Kyle O’Reilly. Adam Cole posed over Finn Balor’s knocked out body with the NXT Championship. Vic Joseph closed the show by saying that “Adam Cole has single handedly ended an era”…
John’s Thoughts: A really good television main event that pushed forward a lot of character angles in a positive direction. Adam Cole is definitely full-on heel again, which is a good thing. I still want to see Adam Cole given a chance to be a spotlight babyface (and I think he definitely has it in him to be a wholesome babyface, especially if you see him under his “The Chugs” persona on Twitch), but we know that he can be a reliable top tier heel in any company. The ending scene teased Cole going after the world title, but he’ll probably end up feuding with his former teammate in O’Reilly for the latest iteration of their Future Shock feud that has spanned several companies.
The main event also did a good job telling periphery stories too like Roderick Strong being conflicted or Finn Balor out to take out those who wronged him. I thought the best piece of business was NXT finally giving Pete Dunne a meaningful pinfall win against the NXT Champion. It’s felt like it has been a hot minute since he had a meaningful win against a credible opponent (and this is coming off Dunne not losing a singles match in two years when he was UK Champion). As for the rest of the show, standard NXT fare. Not too much in terms of over-the-top excitement, but it was still a gratifying and productive show that pushed forward characters and storylines.