There was plenty of action on this week’s NXT. Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne faced off with an opportunity to face Finn Balor at New Year’s Evil, Shotzi Blackheart fought Indi Hartwell, Tommaso Ciampa was looking for payback against Tyler Rust, and Toni Storm went one-on-one against Rhea Ripley in the main event. We also saw the return of Karrion Kross, along with plenty of other video packages and announcements. The show started with Kushida and Leon Ruff against Austin Theory and Johnny Gargano, so let’s jump right in.

Leon Ruff & Kushida vs The Way (Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory)W/ Indi Hartwell & Candice LeRae

Kushida and Theory started things off. The Time Splitter hit an atomic drop on Theory and tagged in Ruff, who showcased his quickness only to get knocked down. Gargano came in and faced some resistance from Ruff who managed to hold his own until he got dropped with a front suplex. The Way worked well in wearing Ruff down until Kushida came in and helped out his partner. Ruff tried to hit a cannonball over the top rope onto The Way but landed awkwardly. Thankfully, he was OK and managed to get back into the match. Theory hit Ruff from behind with a dropkick as Gargano landed a missile spear from the apron into the ring.

After the break, Theory had Ruff in an arm lock, but he managed to reverse and land a botched clothesline. Kushida tagged in and lit the match on fire. He took out Theory, and went after Gargano, booting him in the stomach. Ruff and Kushida hit a double dropkick on Gargano in the corner. Theory planted Ruff with spinning sit-down powerbomb, but only managed a two-count. The match exploded. Ruff hit Gargano with a cutter off the top rope, but Theory came in and got the victory after hitting a twisting flatliner. If anything, it shows that Leon Ruff still needs time at the Performance Center to hone his skills because he was not good tonight. After the match, Dexter Lumis was seen watching on whilst sat next to an easel and blank canvas.

Winners: The Way Rating: 6/10

Tyler Rust vs Tommaso Ciampa

Before the match, Ciampa set up a steel chair at ringside with a Timothy Thatcher t-shirt draped over it. Rust tried to use some arm submissions to get the advantage, but Ciampa reversed every one. Thatcher walked out as Ciampa beat up Rust with some big chops and a clothesline. Outside the ring, Rust accidentally booted Thatcher in the face. Ciampa walked up to Thatcher and a handful of officials broke it up. With Ciampa distracted, Rust took advantage and wrenched the arm of Ciampa on the apron.

The match continued after the break, with Rust trying to gain momentum. They traded blows until Ciampa hit a succession of clotheslines. He hit an air raid crash on Rust, but only got the two-count. Rust hit an axe kick, and after a failed pin attempt he locked in an armbar. Ciampa managed to break out, hitting a big knee into Rust’s face. After almost hitting the Fairytale Ending, Rust reversed and hit a twisting front neckbreaker.

Rust applied pressure to Ciampa’s injured arm, but he managed to get a foot on the rope. After kicking a wounded Ciampa, he fought back and landed WIllow’s Bell for the victory. Rust put up a great fight, but it was only fair that Ciampa reigned victorious. After the match, Thatcher came out, but he was still being held back by officials. Ciampa waved at him then walked off. After the break, Malcolm Bivens was shown telling Rust he was a star as they walked off together.

Winner: Tommaso Ciampa Rating: 6.5/10

NXT Championship Number One Contender Match: Kyle O’Reilly W/ Adam Cole & Roderick Strong vs Pete Dunne W/ Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch

Before the match, Dexter Lumis was shown sitting where he was before. Killian Dain and Drake Maverick attacked the tag team champions before the bell. Cole and Strong joined in, and then from out of nowhere, Breezango attacked them as well, as the action spilled into the back. The bell rang, and Dunne focused on O’Reilly’s ankle with a modified surfboard. O’Reilly reversed, but they got to their feet as Dunne hit a clothesline. Both men fought at ringside and nearly got counted out. They ran in the ring and traded forearms until O’Reilly knocked Dunne off his feet. He booted Dunne in the back as he sat on the apron.

After the break, Dunne landed a German suplex. He went for the Bitter End, but O’Reilly reversed. Dunne hit the X-plex, then stomped on O’Reilly’s left arm. Dunne continued to manipulate O’Reilly’s body. He hit a basement dropkick and booted O’Reilly’s back, then a neckbreaker. Dunne was in full control, but O’Reilly fought back and hit a knee into Dunne’s stomach. Dunne used his knees and feet to beat down Dunne, then hit three double underhook suplexes. He tried to hit a German suplex off the top rope, but Dunne landed on his feet and beat the hell out of O’Reilly as he was trapped in the tree of woe.

After the break, Dunne and O’Reilly were pulling each other’s heads into the turnbuckle as they stood either side on the apron. Back in the ring, Dunne hit a sitting powerbomb but couldn’t get the pinfall. Dunne almost made O’Reilly tap out until he got his foot on the rope. Both men kept transitioning into different submissions until Dunne headbutted O’Reilly. O’Reilly hit a brainbuster as both men lay flat out in the centre of the ring. O’Reilly went for a pin after a fishermen’s suplex, but only got a two-count. Dunne went to pick up his mouthguard when O’Reilly stomped on his hand.

Dunne stomped on both of O’Reilly’s hands. He went for the Bitter End on the apron, but O’Reilly reversed it into a DDT into the ringside mat. Back in the ring, O’Reilly hit a diving knee and picked up the win. Is it possible for these two to have a bad match? Absolutely not. This was excellent, and I’m so happy for Kyle O’Reilly. We’ve got Finn Balor vs Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT Championship at New Years Evil and I cannot wait.

Winner: Kyle O’Reilly Rating: 8.5/10

Indi Hartwell W/ Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae, & Austin Theory vs Shotzi Blackheart

Shotzi took out her frustrations early on against Hartwell. She went for a cannonball in the corner, but it didn’t quite connect, allowing Hartwell to take advantage. Shotzi eventually hit a cannonball in the corner, then landed a running dropkick as Hartwell stood on the apron. LeRae distracted Blackheart as Hartwell hit her with the trophy, but the referee saw it and called for the DQ. After the match, Hartwell continued to hit her with it, as all four members of The Way stood around her body.

Winner: Shotzi Blackheart Rating: 4/10

Karrion Kross W/ Scarlett vs Desmond Troy

Poor, poor Desmond Troy. He never stood a chance. Kross landed a couple of Doomsday Saitos, then made him tap with the Kross Jacket for the win. Kross is back, and I worry for everyone else in NXT. After the match, he turned to the camera and challenged Damian Priest to a match at New Year’s Evil. The match was made official later on.

Winner: Karrion Kross Rating: 2/10

Toni Storm vs Rhea Ripley

Both women reversed pins early on, but neither could get a win. Storm chopped at Ripley’s back, but she returned the favour by slapping Storm’s back. Ripley hit a couple of clotheslines and a crescent kick. As Ripley stood on the apron, Storm charged her into the turnbuckle, then kicked her to the outside. After the break, Storm had Ripley in a headlock, but Ripley got out and kicked Storm in the face. She hit a succession of knee strikes then a basement dropkick on Storm.

Ripley went for the Riptide but couldn’t manage it. After a couple of kicks to Storm’s back, they both headbutted each other and fell to the mat. They traded blows after getting to their feet, then Ripley landed a dropkick. Ripley locked in an inverted cloverleaf, but Storm got out and hit a basement clothesline as Ripley rested on the bottom rope. Storm nearly got the win after a gorgeous German suplex pin. Ripley dropped Storm off her shoulders into the turnbuckle, but only got a two-count.

Ripley hit three leg drops, but once again couldn’t grab the victory. She went for the Riptide again, but Storm got out and landed on the apron. Raquel Gonzalez came out and threw Ripley into the ring post. Storm ran at Ripley with a knee, then landed Storm Zero to pick up the win. It was a decent match, but it was inevitable someone would interfere. It looks as though Gonzalez isn’t quite done with Rhea Ripley.

Winner: Toni Storm Rating: 7/10

What Else Went Down

– A video package aired featuring Toni Storm and Rhea Ripley. Storm said after the last time they faced off, she was a different person. Tonight, their match tonight would be on her terms.

– Legado Del Fantasma featured in a video package where Santos Escobar talked about how no-one could touch them.

– Shotzi Blackheart was being interviewed backstage. She said she was “damn proud” of her team at WarGames, and although it was over, her war with Candice LeRae wasn’t, and tonight she would start with her best friend.

– A promo aired from Grizzled Young Veterans talking about how a lot of new faces have appeared in NXT, but they are still the best tag team of this generation and they will be recognised as NXT’s number one.

– Another Karrion Kross promo aired which hyped his return tonight. Later on, we got a recap of his return from last week.

– Rhea Ripley was being interviewed backstage and said she wasn’t the same person she was in NXT UK, but Storm was still the same piece of trash.

– Xia Li was crying as her master shouted “again.” We saw Boa on his knees. Xia Li was shown beating the hell out of Boa as he bled out. The mystery female was shown watching on. These vignettes are fantastic, but I really want to know who the mystery female is.

– A video package aired featuring Bronson Reed which revealed he would be returning next week.

– Isaiah “Swerve” Scott was being interviewed and was asked about not shaking Jake Atlas’s hand last week. He said he was frustrated after losing, but challenged him to a match next week. Ever-Rise interrupted at the end and talked about how they wanted their voices to be heard. Chase Parker shouted “Ever-Rise rules” as they walked off. Why, NXT, why? They’re awful in the ring, and even worse on the mic.

– Dexter Lumis drew a picture which said he would be the host of New Year’s Evil.

– A promo aired of Finn Balor talking about his match with Kyle O’Reilly at New Year’s Evil. He said it wasn’t Balor vs O’Reilly II, it was Balor vs O’Reilly, the end.

After The Bell

It may not have been the best episode on NXT recently, but the match between Pete Dunne and Kyle O’Reilly was excellent. I can’t wait to see Finn Balor and O’Reilly face off at New Year’s Evil, and I’ll have everything crossed with the hopes that he becomes the new NXT Champion. Speaking off New Year’s Evil, we’ve got a few matches set now, including Damian Priest vs Karrion Kross. I think this could be a great match as long as Priest doesn’t just get decimated within five minutes.

The main event was a good one, and it looks as though we’re going to get Ripley vs Gonzalez at New Year’s Evil. It’s good to know Bronson Reed will be back next week because he was on quite the run before he went away. The newly-named The Way were on fine form tonight, but who exactly is going to challenge Gargano for the North American Championship? Could it be Reed?

There wasn’t a lot else that really got me excited this week, other than the Xia Li promo, Kross’ return, and the Dunne/O’Reilly match. Ever-Rise are painful to watch. They’re no fun in the ring, and their mic work is terrible. I hope this is a passing phase because I genuinely can’t stand watching them. Finally, announcing Dexter Lumis as the host of New Years Evil was a great move. Although he has never spoken, it could be quite amusing as to what he might get up to.

Star of the Show: Kyle O’Reilly Overall Rating: 7/10

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