Hi, and welcome to the last live NXT of 2019 and what a way to end it. After last week, Cameron Grimes took a loss to Raul Mendoza due to interference by KUSHIDA, this week the Carolina Caveman takes on the Timesplitter again. On top of that, both of NXT’s top singles titles are on the line in our opening and closing matches. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

The Undercard

Damian Priest def. Killian Dain // Priest pinned Dain off a Twisting DDT. Dain continues to struggle to maintain intensity but Priest looked very good here shifting to more of an anti-hero role.

Pete Dunne def. Travis Banks // Dunne pinned Banks off the Bitter End pump-handle lifting STO. A fun, slight match that didn’t come close to being their best work together but never felt dull. Going into World’s Collide, NXT are now 2:1 up against NXT UK.

Io Shirai def. Santana Garrett // Shirai pinned Garrett off a Moonsault. This was a great, little sprint making both women look very strong.

NXT Championship: Finn Bálor vs Adam Cole (c)

I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this one. Cole and Bálor are two performers who I don’t always love, finding that they can sometimes play the hits a little too much with story going at the expense of cool moments, especially in an instance where both men are trying (and often failing) to draw boos, it’s hard to know who to root for.  But to his credit, Cole performed one of his purest villainous performances in a while here, resisting the urge to do too much in the way of crowd-popping moves and focussing in on working over Finn’s knee after superkicking it off the apron so as to avoid the Coup de Grace double stomp.

If I had to state an issue with this match, it’s that as focused as a lot of the early work was, when it hit the home stretch it never quite felt as tense as it should, though that may be down to a small, technical error leading to my recording cutting out partway through and coming back just as Cole hit a low blow and the Last Shot reverse shining wizard for the pin. If any of you know what happened in between Finn rolling Cole back into the ring and that, answers on a postcard, please. After the match, Johnny Gargano who was probably part of that finish came down to the ring and hit some chair shots on Finn to send him packing. This was a good bit of surprise comeuppance and should lead to renewed hostilities between the two. Now put the damn strap on Keith Lee already.

Winner: Adam Cole

Cameron Grimes vs KUSHIDA

Sometimes, all you need from a mid-card match is a Japanese Jr legend and a hairy man from Carolina who’s annoyed because his hat was stolen. Seriously, I’ve seen people look more relaxed over their families being threatened than Grimes did about his hat. It recalled for me when Tyson Kidd and Yoshi Tatsu had a MOTY contender over Kidd being angry at Tastu having an action figure. It was plain and simple one angry man getting outwrestled and that making him increasingly angrier till he manages to get an opening and hit a flash stomp for a pin. I worried going into this would it be too early for KUSHIDA to take a loss, especially when his big return win was a fluke roll-up but the quality of the match was such that it gives Grimes some more legitimacy while not detracting from KUSHIDA’s. I’d imagine because that’s how rubber matches always up working that they will have a third encounter.

Winner: Cameron Grimes

NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley vs Shayna Baszler (c)

You’ve got to hand it to Shayna, for nearly two years she has been one of the focal-points of this division and she has handled the position of the champion with all 3 of Kurt Angle’s Is. While she’s managed to put on some great matches with the likes of Io Shirai, Kairi Sane, Ember Moon, etc, all proven prospects, here she showed that she can elevate younger talent like Ripley, delivering what might not be Baszler’s best match but is without a doubt a worthy main event match. The storytelling worked best when it was kept simply down to Baszler trying to bully Ripley and Rhea using her brief pockets of air to try and gain an advantage. There were run-ins and ref bumps galore along the way, which frankly it didn’t need. Also, it’s a little disappointing that the opening match got the advert-free treatment where this had 2 ad breaks. If you’re going to give one match advert-free, make it your main event consarn it.

Despite various overbookings along the way, the finish came down to Ripley, on the top rope hitting a headbutt and an avalanche Riptide pump-handle slam for the pinfall. I enjoyed this match a lot, it’s the most sympathetic Ripley has looked and also getting Candice LeRae and Rik Bugez cameos in the celebration moshpit were lovely. If this was Baszler’s NXT swansong, then it was a great match to go out on, helping make Ripley look like a star on the way over to whatever’s next. Then again, she might just win the title back in a few weeks and we start the whole cycle again. Let’s see what happens.

Winner: Rhea Ripley NEW CHAMPION

This was a good episode of television with some strong wrestling than any other week I’d just give my praises and leave. Today I want to highlight that apparently during Io Shirai’s entrance, a dickhead shouted, “Go back to China.” Now, her response of, “Japanese, bitch” before hitting a perfect split like nothing was a perfect retort but honestly, she shouldn’t have to respond to that kind of base racism. Racism has no place in culture, not just wrestling culture but society at large. If you think that this is just ‘old school heckling’ a heel, then piss off back to the 70s with Jim Cornette and his cult of dweebs. Io Shirai can clearly handle it but she is not the only person to be subjected to this. It’s not banter, it’s not a bit of fun. We can do better. If you can’t think of anything to say without being racist then just shut up and go away. Merry Christmas everyone.

Next Week:

Roderick Strong’s North American Open Challenge

Keith Lee & Lio Rush vs Damian Priest & Tony Nese

 [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCtmQO6ytjg]

All images courtesy of WWE.com

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