There was plenty of action this week, as Rhea Ripley faced off against Dakota Kai, Adam Cole and Velveteen Dream fought in the main event, and Bronson Reed returned after a few months off. We celebrated Christmas with the Garganos, watched Io Shirai get torn apart, and witnessed how Xia Li and Boa were fairing in their torturous training regime. First off, the NXT Tag Team Championships were on the line as Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan defended the gold against Killian Dain and Drake Maverick.

NXT Tag Team Championship Street Fight Match: Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch (C)vs Drake Maverick & Killian Dain

Before the bell rang, Maverick and Dain attacked the champions on the ramp and started to beat the hell out of them. Dain set up a table at ringside and Maverick started to fill the ring with chairs. They both set up another table, but Lorcan and Burch attacked them. They whipped Dain into the barriers and threw him into the ring, followed by Maverick. Lorcan set up two chairs in the ring, and as they were about to suplex Dain through them, he broke out and managed to send Lorcan through them instead.

The challengers managed to build some momentum by working together to beat up Lorcan. Burch was able to hit a huge clothesline on Maverick as Lorcan hit a blockbuster on Dain outside. Burch forced Maverick into a chair with a drop toe hold, and as Burch went outside, Dain fought them both off. He charged at Lorcan but he moved out the way, sending him into a table set up against the barricades.

Back in the ring, Lorcan used Maverick’s belt to whip his back and chest. Maverick screamed as Burch used the belt on him, and then both guys began to double team him, with Dain nowhere in sight. As the champs celebrated, Dain appeared and attacked them both, charging at them in each corner of the ring. Dain powerbombed Burch and hit an elbow drop. He tagged in Maverick. Burch and Lorcan knocked Dain off the apron into two tables, but neither broke and he just bounced off them.

In the ring, Maverick hit a couple of low blows, then cracked his belt over both of their backs countless times. After whipping Lorcan in the face, he dropped the belt. Lorcan hit a low blow on Maverick and grabbed him as Burch used a cricket back to smash him in the stomach. They then hit their finisher on him to pick up the victory. Solid start to the show.

Winners: Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch (Still NXT Tag Team Champions) Rating: 7/10

Jake Atlas vs Isaiah “Swerve” Scott

Swerve kept Atlas grounded and under control, but Altas hit a flying kick on Swerve as he stood on the apron. Swerve went to pick up a chair but thought better of it. After the break, Swerve was surprised with a Code Red for a two count. Atlas went for a cartwheel DDT, but Swerve kicked him mid-air. Swerve deadlifted Atlas with a suplex to only get a two-count.

Atlas pump-kicked Swerve as he stood on the top rope then went for a super poisonrana, but Swerve landed on his feet. Atlas and Swerve traded kicks, then both reversed a couple of pin counts, however, it was Swerve that picked up the victory after landing the JML Driver. Swerve celebrated after the match and went to shake Atlas’ hand, but he refused.

Winner: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott Rating: 7/10

Rhea Ripley vs Dakota Kai

Kai worked on Ripley’s arm at ringside, whipping it into the apron then into the ring post. Back in the ring, Kai locked Ripley’s injured arm in a submission hold and continued to do damage to it. Kai was in complete control. She kicked Ripley’s arm, then trapped it under her knees. As Kai kept applying pressure on the injured arm, Ripley managed to deadlift Kai and drop her with a powerbomb. Ripley fought back and smashed her knee into her face a few times. She slammed Kai face-first into the mat, but only picked up a two-count.

They traded blows in the ring. Ripley almost got knocked out with a scorpion kick, but came back and planted Kai into the mat off her shoulders. Ripley locked in the inverted cloverleaf as Raquel Gonzalez stood on the ramp. Kai managed to grab the bottom rope to break the submission. Kai hit an over the head lung blower but couldn’t pick up the win. Ripley went for the Riptide, but Kai reversed into a guillotine. Ripley got out and managed to connect with the Riptide for the win.

After the match, Gonzalez walked to the ring despite officials trying to stop her. Ripley and Gonzalez faced off, and after a few seconds, they went after each other. Referees and NXT personnel rushed to the ring to try and split things up.

Winner: Rhea Ripley Rating: 7.5/10

Bronson Reed vs Ashante “Thee” Adonis

Reed was dominant. After a small flurry of attacks from Adonis, Reed knocked him off his feet. He hit a standing senton and followed it with a Tsunami off the top rope to pick up the win. Bronson Reed is back, and he means business.

Winner: Bronson Reed Rating: 2/10

Timothy Thatcher vs Leon Ruff

Thatcher wrenched at Ruff’s face. Although Ruff kept trying to get a headlock in place, Thatcher wouldn’t allow it. He smothered Ruff’s mouth as he locked in a submission. Thatcher hit a belly to belly, then grabbed a chair and set it up at ringside in the hopes Ciampa would come out. As he got back in the ring, Ruff got in some offence but ate a huge uppercut as he jumped off the ropes.

Thatcher goaded Ciampa as he held Ruff, but out of nowhere Ruff rolled him up and got the win. After the match, Thatcher beat the hell out of Ruff. Ciampa ran out and hit Willow’s Bell. He said, “you wanna fight? I’ll see you in the fight pit.” Could this be a similar match to the one Thatcher had with Matt Riddle? Who knows, but I’m intrigued.

Winner: Leon Ruff Rating: 5/10

Ariya Daivari vs Tyler Rust W/ Malcolm Bivens

I have to say, for as much as Bivens sees in Rust, he puts on some really dull matches. After a few submissions and takedowns, Rust got caught by Daivari with some offence. As Daivari talked trash to Rust, he got locked up with a triangle choke. Rust hit an uppercut and a big boot, then after a one-percenter, he locked in the rings of Saturn for the win.

Winner: Tyler Rust Rating: 4/10

Velveteen Dream vs Adam Cole W/ Roderick Strong

The match started off slow, but it picked up after Cole landed a jumping neckbreaker, followed by a big kick on Dream which knocked him outside. Pete Dunne came out of nowhere and attacked Roderick Strong at ringside. A couple of referees managed to stop Dunne and send him to the back. In the ring, Dream used his t-shirt to attack Cole. Ooh, dangerous.

After the break, Dream went for the Purple Rainmaker, but Cole moved out of the way. They traded blows, then Cole landed a shoulder breaker. He then hit an enzuigiri and German suplex on Dream, but only got a two-count. It was announced that Strong and Dunne would face each other next week, and at New Years Evil,  Thatcher would face Ciampa in a Fight Pit.

Dream punched Cole repeatedly in the corner, but Cole fought back, knocking Dream off the top rope with a superkick. Dream recovered and jumped off the top rope to Cole on the outside, but again Cole landed a superkick into his stomach. Dreamed crawled back into the ring as Cole hit yet another superkick in his face. Cole locked in a Figure-Four, but Dream grabbed the bottom rope.

Dream connected with a spinning DDT and a Purple Rainmaker, but Cole kicked out. Cole hit another shoulder breaker. He tried to follow it up with a Panama Sunrise but got kicked in the face. Dream climbed the rope and jumped off only to eat another superkick. Cole connected with The Last Shot for the win.

Winner: Adam Cole Rating: 7.5/10

What Else Went Down

– The Way celebrated Christmas at home, with Johnny Gargano being the absolute star. It started off with Gargano ‘playing piano, saying, “forget elf on a shelf, you have Gargano on piano.” They all opened presents, with Theory receiving ‘the Gargano whey’ protein powder. He tried to be funny, but the rest of the guys didn’t appreciate it.

– A video package aired which hyped Kyle O’Reilly vs Finn Balor. It featured them watching their last match at TakeOver 31, with both men talking about how they feel going in to New Year’s Evil. O’Reilly is so likeable as a wrestler and an entertainer, and I hope he manages to pick up the win and become the new NXT Champion.

– Malcolm Bivens and Tyler Rust were being interviewed backstage where Bivens talked about what a great job Rust did against Tommaso Ciampa last week. He called him a diamond in the rust, and they then walked off.

– Adam Cole and Roderick Strong talked about O’Reilly’s chances at New Year’s Evil. Velveteen Dream interrupted trying to stir the pot by saying “Kyle was the head of the snake” around here. Cole slapped him and said Undisputed Era has no leader, and he would show Dream tonight he was still the best around here.

– Timothy Thatcher cut a promo about Tommaso Ciampa. He said he would make an example of Leon Ruff later, and if he didn’t like it then he should come and stop him.

– The second visit to the Gargano’s Christmas aired with Indi Hartwell getting a PS5, but the box was empty. Gargano said there was nothing inside the box because it added dramatic effect to what he was really going to give her. He christened Hartwell ‘Indi Wrestling.’ “That’s way better than a PS5,” said Hartwell, as Theory looked on disappointed.

– Toni Storm said backstage to McKenzie Mitchell she was gunning for Io Shirai, and she would beat her as she has done before.

– Xia Li was shown training with her master. Boa was getting attacked with a kendo stick as well as being beaten by Xia Li. There were no tears or blood this time around. Instead, they looked focused and ready. It looks as though they are almost ready to return to NXT. Fingers crossed.

– McKenzie Mitchell tried to catch a word with Shirai, but she asked production to play her music as she headed to the ring. She asked Toni Storm to come to the ring. Instead, Mercedes Martinez came out and attacked her. She threw Shirai through the announcer table and stood tall above her.

– In the third instalment, LeRae was given a wheel from Blackheart’s tank. Gargano said he spent seventeen hours in a junkyard looking for it. It ended with them taking a photo, and as the picture was taken, Theory had a mouthful of protein powder that went everywhere. Theory is kind of growing on me now.

– Damian Priest cut a promo about Karrion Kross, saying he was going to “punk out” Kross in front of the entire world.

– Dexter Lumis was shown drawing Ripley vs Gonzalez in a Last Woman Standing Match at New Year’s Evil.

– Ruff was backstage talking to McKenzie Mitchell about his rematch with Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship next week. He said the Gargano curse is still on, and he would keep it alive. I doubt it.

– A video package aired with Karrion Kross talking about Damian Priest. He said Priest had dug a hole he can’t get out of. Kross said it was inevitable he would reclaim the gold, and that Priest was a roadblock he can’t take his eyes off. Doomsday is coming.

After The Bell

It was a packed show with plenty of matches. The best of the night was definitely Rhea Ripley against Dakota Kai, and with the Last Man Standing match being made official for New Years Evil, we’re in for a treat. It was great to see Adam Cole in the ring in singles competition, but I don’t like Velveteen Dream at all.

The Gargano’s are so good at the minute, and I found their segments tonight genuinely funny. Even Austin Theory is growing on me and that’s something I never expected to happen. It was good to see Bronson Reed again, and the Karrion Kross and Damian Priest match is starting to gain some momentum.

I’m not sure I’m on board with Mercedes Martinez stealing Toni Storm’s thunder, but a triple threat match for the NXT Women’s Championship match could be fantastic. Finally, Kyle O’Reilly vs Finn Balor didn’t get a lot of build-ups this week, but I’m still super excited to see it go down at New Year’s Evil.

Star of the Show: Johnny Gargano Overall Rating: 7/10

All images and videos courtesy of WWE