This week’s NXT had two title matches, two women’s tag matches, and the return of Finn Balor. With plenty of action on the cards and an address from the NXT Champion, NXT had the potential to be a superb show. The show started with the new NXT North American Champion in his first title defence, so let’s dive straight in.

NXT North American Championship Match: Leon Ruff (C) vs Johnny Gargano

Before the match, Johnny Gargano cut a video package regarding Leon Ruff’s shock victory last week. He came out and called Ruff a joke, saying that tonight, the joke’s over. He attacked Ruff as the bell rang. Gargano beat down Ruff, but the fighting spirit of the new champ began to shine as he started to show some impressive aerial ability to take out Gargano. It didn’t last long as Gargano threw Ruff into the turnbuckle twice, which knocked the wind out of him.

Damian Priest walked out and distracted Gargano which led to Ruff attempting a roll-up pin. Gargano managed to kick out this time, then hit a big powerbomb. Priest walked to the ring and pulled Ruff outside the ring after Gargano hit One Final Beat. Priest then punched Ruff which got Gargano disqualified, meaning Ruff retained the belt. I get Priest is trying to play mind games with Johnny Wrestling, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of Ruff. He may wear the belt around his waist, but it doesn’t, and it will never, feel like a legitimate title reign.

Winner: Leon Ruff Rating: 5/10

Blindfold Match: Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis

Both Superstars put on black sacks over their head. Grimes missed a flying punch and ran into the turnbuckle. Lumis didn’t move at all as Grimes made a fool of himself. Grimes then attacked the referee thinking it was Lumis. He went for the Cave In but Lumis moved out the way. Both men finally had their blindfolds removed and went after each other, with Lumis taking full advantage by beating Grimes up outside the ring. Lumis launched Grimes into the barricades three times. He tried to do it a third time, but Grimes managed to climb over and escape…for now.

Winner: Double count-out Rating: 4/10

Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro

Carter and Catanzaro showed off some great teamwork early on against Hartwell, but as soon as LeRae tagged in, Catanzaro was the victim of the Poison Pixie’s aggression. Hartwell tagged back in and continued to beat down Catanzaro. LeRae came in and missed an attack which allowed Carter to get tagged in. She took out Indi Hartwell and almost got a three-count after hitting a superkick on LeRae. LeRae hit a modified brainbuster followed by the Wicked Stepsister to pick up the victory.

Winners: Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell Rating: 5.5/10

Arturo Ruas vs Kushida

Ruas showed his submission skills early on, but Kushida tried to fight back albeit unsuccessfully. Ruas worked on Kushida’s left arm as he tried to dismantle Kushida’s attack, using a standing Kimura to do the job. Kushida exploded with some big kicks and almost got a three-count.  Ruas went for a leg submission, but Kushida turned it into a bridge pin and stole the victory. I would have loved this to go on for a bit longer as it was a solid match, but it wasn’t to be.

Winner: Kushida Rating: 6/10

Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai vs Ember Moon & Toni Storm

Toni Storm looked as though she was going to suffer a beat down at the hands of Gonzalez and Kai, but she managed to find her feet and deliver a basement dropkick on Kai. She tagged in Moon and both women took out their opposition. After the break, Storm landed a headscissors on Gonzalez, then tagged in Moon who continued to dominate the match with a standing senton and a huge kick to the face.

Outside the ring, Gonzalez hit a big boot to Moon as she went after Kai. Gonzalez then face-planted Moon into the apron and went for a pin, but Moon kicked out. Gonzalez dominated Moon in the ring. She tagged in Kai but got distracted which allowed Moon to tag in Storm. Storm landed three German suplexes in a row, then charged at Kai in the corner. Storm almost got the victory with a northern lights suplex, but Gonzalez broke up the pin.

Kai and Storm slugged it out with big punches in the middle of the ring. As Storm stood on the apron, Gonzalez rammed her into the ring post as the referee was distracted. Moon ran in and dived at Gonzalez into the announcer table. Storm rolled up Kai in the ring and managed to pick up the win. Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell ran out and attacked the winners. Inside the ring, Gonzalez delivered two one-armed powerbombs on both Moon and Storm.

Winners: Toni Storm & Ember Moon Rating: 7.5/10

August Grey vs Timothy Thatcher

August Grey got some early offence in, but Timothy Thatcher’s dominance proved too much. He used a hammerlock and some big uppercuts to wear Grey down. Grey tried to fight back, even hitting some big strikes, but after a failed aerial attack, Thatcher hit an uppercut and double underhook suplex, followed by a guillotine choke to make him tap out. Thatcher picked Grey up after the match to do more damage, but Tommaso Ciampa interrupted him.

He walked to the ring and stared Thatcher down, which led to him leaving as Ciampa stood tall in the ring. I am all for these two going at it. It gives Ciampa a great opponent, and also means Thatcher can stop doing his boring segments. Backstage, Ciampa was stopped by Mackenzie Mitchell and said quite plainly that he wanted to “fight Thatcher.”

Winner: Timothy Thatcher Rating: 5/10

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Rhea Ripley vs Io Shirai (C)

It was hard to separate Shirai and Ripley early on, but Ripley started to take the lead, especially after dropping Shirai headfirst into the apron. After the break, Ripley continued to use her brute force to destroy Shirai. Ripley hit a hanging suplex and tried to do some damage in the corner, but Shirai suplexed her off the second rope.

Shirai charged at Ripley with an elbow in the corner, then double stomped Ripley in the stomach. Shirai was on fire. She hit a basement dropkick then locked in a crossface, but Ripley got out of it. Shirai worked on Ripley’s injured left arm by slamming it into the apron. Shirai whipped Ripley off the apron and sent her arm right into it, then launched her at the steel steps.

After the break, Ripley landed a superplex. Both women continued to battle in the centre of the ring. Ripley hit a snapmare takedown and basement dropkick, then went for a pin, only managing a two-count. Ripley locked in a devastating leg submission, but Shirai managed to grab the bottom rope. Ripley attempted the Riptide, but Shirai reversed into an armbar. Ripley got her feet on the bottom rope and managed to break out. After two failed 619s, she finally landed one, following up with a missile dropkick.

Shirai hit a double running knee and went for the moonsault, but Ripley avoided it and went for a clothesline, almost picking up a win. Ripley went for another Riptide, but Shirai countered with a DDT. Out of nowhere, Shirai powerbombed Ripley through the announcer table after pulling her off the apron. Ripley crawled back into the ring, but Shirai hit the moonsault and picked up the win. Both women embraced on the ramp, showing mutual respect for one another. What a fantastic match. After every match before being relatively poor, it was good to see the women save the day once again.

Winner: Io Shirai (Still champion) Rating: 8.5/10

The Prince Returns

Finn Balor entered the ring and congratulated Io Shirai, but said it was time to get down to business. Without getting much of a chance to talk, Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan, and Danny Burch came to the ring. McAfee said things have changed recently. He said they’d destroyed Drake Maverick, Killian Dain, Breezango, and Undisputed Era. McAfee told Balor to hand over the title or else he’d end up dead like the others. Balor said it’s easy for the mice to play when the cat’s away. Balor said the cat’s back and look what he’s dragged in. Undisputed Era ran out and attacked McAfee, Dunne, Lorcan, and Burch. This was awesome. UE are full-on faces, and I can’t wait to see all this unfold in the coming weeks.

What Else Went Down?

– Cameron Grimes was backstage where he talked about how he isn’t afraid of Dexter Lumis after what he did to him last week, and that after his win tonight he’d be going “to the moon.”

– Backstage, William Regal asked Damian Priest what he thought he was doing out there. Leon Ruff walked over after he heard them talking. Ruff took offence to them mocking him as champion and said, “am I a joke to you?” He then slapped Priest and walked away.

– A video aired featuring Shotzi Blackheart where she told Candice LeRae to get an army as they were going to war on December 6. WarGames is coming in just over two weeks. NXT General Manager William Regal has confirmed that the men’s WarGames match will feature Cole, Strong, O’Reilly and Fish vs. McAfee, Dunne, Lorcan and Burch. WWE has also confirmed the two Team Captains for the women’s WarGames match. Shotzi Blackheart will lead one team, while Candice LeRae will lead the other.

– Ember Moon and Toni Storm were backstage being interviewed. They talked about how glad they were teaming up tonight, but the NXT Women’s Championship was on both of their minds. They decided to put it to the back of their minds for tonight.

– We got a video package where various Superstars and WWE legends talked about who they thought would win between Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai.

– McAfee and his cronies were in the parking lot. McAfee said they were here to see what Balor had to say.

– Damian Priest was coming out for his match when Johnny Gargano attacked him. They both beat the hell out of each other. Leon Ruff came out and attacked both Priest and Gargano, showing off that he is no joke when it comes to the NXT North American Champion. Priest and Gargano stood up after being attacked and went after Ruff, but he managed to escape the ring and head to the back. Later on, Regal asked Ruff what he was doing. Ruff said everyone thinks he’s a joke and the punchline was he would face both Gargano and Priest.

– Wade Barrett announced that Kevin Owens would be the guest commentator next week in his absence.

– We saw what happened last week with Boa. Regal went to Boa’s front door where he answered looking a complete mess. Regal said he needed to report to the PC and hadn’t done so all week. Boa said, “she’s coming.” What is going on here? I’m very excited to see where it goes. I’m assuming it’s Xia Li, but not the same woman we’re used to.

After The Bell

After some pretty poor matches and dull segments, it was the women that elevated the action. The tag match featuring Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez, Ember Moon, and Toni Storm was a decent one, and the main event was superb. Tommaso Ciampa interrupting Timothy Thatcher was just what we needed. The ‘Thatch-As Thatch Can’ segments have been dull, but he’s a great wrestler, and Ciampa is only going to bring out the best of him.

Although I’m not a fan of what NXT is doing with Leon Ruff, it’s good to see him fighting for his title. There’s no doubt in my mind Priest or Gargano would beat him in a one-on-one match without any interruptions, but at least he’s trying to be a fighting champion. The best moment of the night was definitely Undisputed Era returning and beating the crap out of McAfee and friends.

This could lead to a superb WarGames match. We’ve got a couple of weeks to see so much more of a build-up, and if done right NXT could be back on track. I don’t get how some weeks the matches are great, and others they’re generally average. They have the calibre of stars, but it seems they don’t want to consistently utilise them. Anyway, a great last 30 minutes to an otherwise average show.

Stars of the Show: Undisputed Era Rating: 7/10

All images and videos courtesy of WWE