With NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day on the horizon, the final three matches to decide who would be heading to the PPV in the Men and Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals dominated this week’s NXT. Xia Li was back in action, Johnny Gargano was in bad shape following an attack from Kushida, Cameron Grimes returned, and a huge match was set for next week’s show. It was another packed episode of NXT, so let’s dive in with the first match of the night as MSK faced Legado Del Fantasma to see who would take the first final spot in the men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final Match: MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) vs Legado Del Fantasma (Joaquin Wilde & Raul Mendoza)
Joaquin Wilde started off cocky, trying to control Wes Lee on the mat, but it didn’t take long until MSK started to show off their quality as a tag team. Lee held Wilde in the corner as Carter jumped over his partner’s head to hit a bronco buster. Carter and Mendoza locked horns, ending with Lee tagging in and using a succession of quick attacks to keep him grounded. Legado Del Fantasma were able to capitalise on their quality as a team to isolate Lee in the corner, with Mendoza assisting his partner with a moonsault off the ropes.
Carter tagged in and tried to gain some momentum, but as he stood on the apron, Mendoza lifted Wilde into the air and connected with a dropkick that sent him to the outside of the ring. After the break, Carter managed to make a tag. Lee hit Mendoza with a superb jumping kick. MSK hit Hot Fire Flame off the apron onto Legado Del Fantasma. Lee then followed it up with a picture-perfect Tope con Hilo to both men on the outside. Back inside, Mendoza dropkicked Lee into the ropes as Wilde hit a reverse hurricanrana. Mendoza dropped Lee with a final cut suplex, and as Mendoza held Carter on his shoulders, Wilde jumped off his back and landed a 450 on Lee.
Lee managed to roll up Wilde, but Mendoza threw Carter into him. Legado Del Fantasma tried to end it, but Carter grabbed Mendoza’s feet and pulled him out the ring. Wilde ate a superkick from Lee as MSK hit their finisher to pick up the win. These two teams were always going to put on a show, but that was excellent. MSK head to NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day, and I cannot wait to see them there.
Winners: MSK Rating: 8.5/10
Xia Li w/ Boa & Tian Sha vs Cora Jade
Before the match, Li showed off some swordplay and martial arts on the ramp. Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter tried to talk to Li before the bell rang, clearly concerned about her recent transformation. Jade attacked from behind, but Li quickly turned the tables. Li booted her in the back, and as she got to her feet, Li ended her with a spin kick. After the match, Catanzaro and Carter climbed on the apron and tried to talk her out of it. Carter approached Tian Sha and tried to plea with her, but Li grabbed her and threw her off the ramp. Li talked to Sha as Boa joined the conversation. Sha grabbed Boa’s throat as Li took out Catanzaro.
Winner: Xia Li Rating: 2/10
Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Finals Match: The Way (Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell) W/ Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory vs Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon
Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart showed great spirit in the early stages, managing to control Candice LeRae. Blackheart hit a vicious knee in LeRae’s face as the two continued their great teamwork. Hartwell tagged in and landed a sidewalk slam on Blackheart, but only managed a two-count. LeRae pulled on Blackheart’s hair and yanked her to the mat. LeRae controlled Blackheart, then tagged in Hartwell who continued to keep Blackheart from tagging in Moon.
Blackheart finally tagged Moon who hit LeRae with a step-up enzuigiri and a dropkick. Both women worked on Hartwell. Blackheart held her in the corner with her legs wrapped around her neck as Moon connected with a big punch. LeRae hit a hurricanrana on Moon and sent her into Blackheart outside the ring. After the break, Moon threw Hartwell over the rope and tagged in Blackheart. Moon dropped LeRae with a modified codebreaker as Blackheart bulldozed LeRae into Moon’s knee. Moon hit a pump kick on Hartwell, but LeRae attacked her. LeRae landed a lionsault on Moon from the top rope as Hartwell held her in place, then went for a suicide dive to Blackheart, but couldn’t connect as she caught her foot on the second rope.
LeRae hit a Wicked Stepsister as Hartwell landed a slingshot elbow drop from the apron, but could only get a two-count. Blackheart hit a second rope-assisted DDT on Hartwell as Moon hit an Eclipse on LeRae. Blackheart then landed a senton off the top rope onto both women and picked up the victory. Moon and Blackheart are heading to the finals after an excellent match. After the match, Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai walked out and approached Moon and Blackheart. Regal walked out and said that not only would the winners of the women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals match make history, they would also earn a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship.
Winners: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart Rating: 8.5/10
Austin Theory w/ Johnny Gargano vs Kushida
Theory hit a dropkick on Kushida and managed to land some impressive strikes. Kushida landed a cartwheel dropkick after a judo toss, then followed it up with a bulldog on Theory’s arm. Kushida stomped on Theory’s back, then controlled him with some mat submissions. Kushida was in full control, continually damaging Theory’s arm. Kushida went to jump from the top rope, but Theory knocked him off and punched him to the outside. After the break, Theory dropped Kushida with a backbreaker. He hit a fallaway slam, then went for an arrogant pin to no avail. Kushida ate a handful of fists to the face, along with some forearms to the back.
Kushida hit an inverted atomic drop and a springboard back elbow. He whipped Theory into the turnbuckle then connected with a German suplex. The TimeSplitter wrenched at Theory’s injured arm and tried to attack him from the apron, but Theory moved away. As Kushida locked in an armbar on the apron, Gargano superkicked him in the side of the head. They assaulted him on the outside of the ring. Surprise, surprise, Gargano is fine. Theory was pulled under the ring. Gargano thought he was pulling his friend from underneath the ring, but it was Dexter Lumis. Kushida locked in the Hoverboard Lock on Gargano as Lumis put Theory to sleep with Silence.
Winner: Kushida (disqualification) Rating: 7.5/10
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final Match: Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa vs Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
As Gibson did his usual monologue approaching the ring, Thatcher and Ciampa attacked them. Ciampa threw Drake over the barricade as Thatcher took Gibson into the ring. The bell rang as Thatcher took Gibson to the mat. Ciampa tagged in and worked on Gibson’s leg. Thatcher returned and whipped Gibson into the turnbuckle, but Drake cushioned the blow allowing GYV to take control. Thatcher clawed back and knocked Drake out the ring. Drake attacked Ciampa outside as the GYV teamed up on Thatcher inside.
Drake powerbombed Ciampa onto the apron with some assistance from Gibson as the show went into commercial. After the break, Thatcher hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Drake, but Gibson tagged in and took him to the mat. He wrenched at Thatcher with a headlock, but he got to his feet where he ate a couple of uppercuts. Drake jumped off the turnbuckle, but Thatcher hit him with an uppercut. Ciampa tagged in and hit a succession of clotheslines on both members of GYV, ending with a flying double clothesline. He hit a German suplex on Drake and Gibson, then dropped Drake onto Gibson with an air raid crash.
Ciampa chopped at Drake’s chest and back. He traded blows with Gibson in the middle of the ring. Gibson hit a final cut suplex as Drake came in and took out Thatcher by jumping off of Ciampa’s back. GYV hit a Doomsday Device on Ciampa, but Thatcher broke up the pin. GYV hit Ticket to Ride to advance to the finals of the men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. The show ended with a recap of the final card for Sunday from the commentary team, as Pete Dunne and Finn Balor squared up to one another in the ring.
Winners: Grizzled Young Veterans Rating: 8/10
What Else Went Down
– A video package aired where Mercedes Martinez talked about how it has taken 20 years for her to get this shot at the NXT Women’s Championship. She said Shirai’s expiration date as champion is this Sunday.
– William Regal was being interviewed about the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic backstage. As he walked into his office, Scarlett was sat on his desk wearing a black dress. She said that Escobar’s time was up. Regal booked a match between Karrion Kross and Santos Escobar for next week, as Scarlett looked seductively at the General Manager, then walked off.
– Before Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell’s semi-final match, Johnny Gargano was brought out in a wheelchair with a broken arm. He grabbed a microphone and said due to the “vicious and mindless” attack from Kushida, he’s broken his arm. Footage from last week was shown of the attack. He said he had four fractures in his arm and was unable to defend the North American Championship at TakeOver on Sunday. Gargano called for Kushida’s suspension as Regal appeared on the ramp. Regal said the medical team had cleared him yesterday, and Gargano knew that. Gargano showed an x-ray picture of his arm, but Regal debunked his ridiculous claims. The GM said Theory could take his place in a match with Kushida, or he could forfeit the North American Championship. Kushida appeared behind The Way and attacked Gargano.
– Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa cut a promo backstage. Thatcher said they went to war last week with Undisputed Era. He said it was rough and brutal just the way they like it. Ciampa added that GYV were tough young dudes, but they would whip their asses and win this Sunday at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
– Escobar was interviewed about his match next week with Kross. Mendoza and Wilde walked in and apologised for their loss. Escobar said they didn’t need to say sorry, but they could do him a favour by making sure Kross didn’t make it to NXT next week. Later on, Wilde and Mendoza were shown unconscious. Kross appeared and said he was going to do to Escobar what he had just done to his teammates.
– A video package aired to hype the NXT Championship match between Pete Dunne and Finn Balor at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
– Toni Storm was talking about her opponents at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day in a video package. She said everyone would be talking about her and she would win this Sunday. It was Toni time.
– An Imperium promo aired which was similar to the one last week, except they talked about their roles within the group, ending with their famous line, “the mat is sacred.”
– Cameron Grimes pulled up in a Lamborghini in the parking lot and started to give out money to people. As he walked to the ring, he continued to throw money about. Looking smart in a brown suit and hat (minus a shirt), he said two months ago he was laid out at ringside courtesy of Timothy Thatcher. Grimes said he would come back and Cave In Thatcher, but in his downtime, he started to play video games and wondered why he bothered wrestling when he could play games. He said he bought shares in Game Stop and was now loaded. He also invested in something called dog coins (dogecoins) and became even more rich. He told Regal to kiss his grits if he thought he was going to wrestle Dexter Lumis or zombies again. Grimes started to do snow angels in his money and then left. What a guy. It’s good to have him back.
– Gargano was being interviewed by McKenzie Mitchell. He said Kushida better be ready for their match this Sunday. There was no humour or funny business. Gargano was serious. He said he wasn’t just Johnny Wrestling, he was Johnny TakeOver.
– A video package aired where Io Shirai said how she wasn’t scared to face Martinez and Storm, she was excited.
After The Bell
The calibre of matches this week was unreal. Each of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic matches was excellent, especially MSK vs Legado Del Fantasma. With NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day only a few short days away, none of the competitors in the two big championship matches made their presence felt. However, this gave NXT a chance to build Karrion Kross vs Santos Escobar for next week, as well as giving the tag teams plenty of time to shine.
Johnny Gargano was on fine form once again, cutting a promo that was genuinely funny. Why have we never seen this side of Gargano before? His current heel turn has been excellent, and I hope he keeps it up for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping something important happens with Xia Li soon. I always get frustrated when big returns are watered down by constant squash matches, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that her storyline will pick up steam.
It was so good to see Cameron Grimes. It may not have been long since he last appeared on NXT, but he’s one of the most charismatic Superstars the brand has, not to mention an excellent competitor in the ring. Finally, I’m going to be praying Thatcher and Ciampa’s current friendship doesn’t get forgotten about. They work pretty well together, and it would be interesting to see where things go for both of them.
NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day Final Card
Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final: Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs. Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final: MSK (Wes Lee & Nash Carter) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
NXT North American Title Match Kushida vs. Johnny Gargano (C)
NXT Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match: Mercedes Martinez vs Toni Storm vs Io Shirai (C)
NXT Championship Match: Pete Dunne vs. Finn Balor (C)
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