Your eyes do not deceive you, Sovereign S.A.M. is back to write the review for NXT. It has been a minute since I have done the NXT blog, but I knew it was in great hands with Queen KB doing it while I was away. I will say that I did miss writing about my favorite, and in my opinion the best Wednesday show, brand of wrestling weekly. I think NXT right now is in a good place and do not let the “ratings war” fool you to think otherwise. We have two title matches and the return of Finn Balor to look forward to this week. Without further ado, let us see what the black and gold brand had for us this week.
Johnny Gargano vs Leon Ruff (NXT North American Championship)
Leon Ruff pulled off quite possibly the biggest upset in WWE history last week. It was 1-2-3 Kid/Razor Ramon on a whole ‘nother level because there was a title involved. Even though they have made Ruff to look rather weak, he is actually quite gifted in the ring and you saw flashes of it last week and this week as well. When he gets going, boy he is fun to watch. I loved that Gargano came out during the highlight package prior to the match to tell Ruff that it was a fluke and he wouldn’t retain the title. The match would get going and it was more of what we saw last week. Ruff did get a bit more offense in but it looked like he was doomed to have a short title reign. Damian Priest would come out and provide some distraction but Gargano looked to have the match won after hitting his finisher. That was until Priest pulled out Ruff and clocked him to cause the DQ finish. Great stuff here and I loved that Priest apologized to Ruff before nailing him. Gargano couldn’t believe it and Ruff remains champion.
Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis (Blindfold Match)
Prior to this match, Cameron Grimes was shown walking in the back and he was uber confident that he would be able to beat Lumis in a blindfold match. I love how reluctant he was to put the blindfold on because he wanted to be able to see Lumis to attack him. Blindfold matches are always tricky to book because of the nature of the match. I love how Grimes is always fine with making somewhat of a fool out of himself and he did it here. He flopped around like a pro and I loved how Lumis stood still while all the zaniness was happening. Grimes would eventually take out the referee and remove his blindfold to attack Lumis. Lumis’ blindfold would eventually fall off as well and the two would fight until Grimes would escape. I doubt this is the final chapter between these two and I would not be surprised if they ended up in a cage match after this.
Damian Priest and William Regal Backstage
Regal really is like the principal/dean of NXT and I like that about him. He doesn’t overstep his authority and uses it when needed. Priest explained why he did what he did for the second week in a row and said it was a joke. Leon Ruff ended up overhearing the conversation and he did not take too kindly to what Priest had to say. He questioned if he was calling him a joke an would slap Priest. I am digging this story with Ruff and I hope they continue to build him with this because I am liking what I am seeing.
Shotzi Blackheart Vignette
I was going to grade this but this just ended up being an announcement that NXT will indeed be doing WarGames this year. Shotzi wants Candice in a WarGames match and that is sure to be fun. I also expect Shotzi to do something crazy because that is the type of wrestler she is. No grade here and I cannot wait for WarGames.
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter
It was pretty easy to see who would win this match but it was still a good one. Kacy and Kayden are really good as a team and that should be no surprise considering that they are best friends. Indi and Candice looked good together and this match was really about the two of them showing they can work together. Some good offense from all the ladies here but it was a shame that the camera missed a move on the outside by Kacy and we only saw the aftermath. Indi would end up taking out Kacy and that would allow Candice to hit Kayden with her finisher for the win. Solid work from the ladies here and isn’t it nice when a company allows their ladies to shine and develop stories.
Arturo Ruas vs KUSHIDA
I mentioned in the DD that I had hoped this match would get a little bit of time and I am glad that it did because it was a fun one for the amount of time given. Ruas is someone that doesn’t have much in the character department but he is solid in the ring. KUSHIDA has kind of been floundering a bit but has found some new life of late. This match was really technical and displayed a good amount of grappling as well. My mind went straight to picturing KUSHIDA taking on Timothy Thatcher in the Fight Pit because that could be an amazing match. Really solid back and forth in this match but KUSHIDA would end up rolling up Ruas for the win. KUSHIDA continues to build momentum and I am looking forward to seeing what is next for him.
Ember Moon & Toni Storm Backstage
Ember and Toni have never been my favorite on the mic but they were solid here. Both voiced why they have beef with Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez and I enjoyed how Ember cut off Toni before she started to dive in and talk about the Women’s Championship. Ember wants her to focus on the present and they can discuss who would be next in line for the title after the match. Simple enough segment that did its job in hyping up their match a bit.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez vs Ember Moon and Toni Storm
I miss Ember’s old theme because it was so amazing and this new one is just okay at best. Toni’s theme is newer too and I like it just about the same as her old one. We have our second of three women’s matches on NXT, take notes AEW, and this was a darn good one. This was such a fun tag match, take that haters on WWE not doing tag team wrestling, and all the ladies showed out for this one. This was given plenty of time and the chemistry between all four competitors was really good. I will say though that it will take me some time to seeing Ember wrestle in pants and not her old gear. Really good back and forth in this match and I love how NXT has built Raquel to be this powerhouse in the division. Ember would end up taking out Raquel with a dive to the outside and that would allow Toni to pick up the win with a rollup. That wasn’t the end of it though as Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell would attack Ember and Toni as they made their way up the ramp from behind. They would toss them inside the ring and they would get finished off by their opponents. I mentioned in the DD that Candice’s team would likely be her, Indi, Dakota and Raquel and this seems like the tease that it will play out that way. Looks like Ember and Toni will end up on Shotzi’s team possibly and just have to wonder who the fourth woman will be.
Timothy Thatcher vs August Grey
I am unfamiliar with Grey but I did like the little bit I saw from him here. I knew this would be a lesson in Thatch as Thatch Can Wrestling and that is what we got here. I just continue to love how NXT has let Thatcher be himself in the ring and have not made him alter his style. It definitely is different than most of the roster and I like that. It helps differentiate himself from the rest of the pack and that is always a good thing. Grey tried to mount offense but Thatcher would end up proving too much for him as he would tap out to one of Thatcher’s many submission holds. Thatcher would put Grey back in the hold after the match but would let it go when Tommaso Ciampa’s music would hit. Ciampa would enter the ring and I liked how Thatcher told him that he had no beef with him and left the ring. A short interview segment would be shown after the commercial of Ciampa saying he wants to fight Thatcher. I am all for that and I like that he said fight because that leaves the option of the Fight Pit and I hope that happens because it could be a war in there.
Damian Priest vs ???
Priest was set to face somebody but that never happened as he would be jumped by Johnny Gargano before he finished his entrance. The two would fight and brawl inside and outside the ring. I thought this was heading to Priest standing tall after beating down Gargano but I ended up being pleasantly surprised by what came next. Leon Ruff would enter and end up taking out both men and standing tall in the ring. At least for a moment he was until both men got up and dove back into the ring to get a piece of Ruff. Ruff would end up making his escape before either man could attack him. Leon Ruff went from a guy who got a bit of help to become champion to someone who is bringing the fight. I am liking what I am seeing from Ruff.
William Regal Checks On Boa
I am super intrigued by what is happening with Boa and Xia Li. William Regal went to visit Boa last night and Boa looked like he hadn’t slept since last week. He said he and Xia are in hiding from someone and I like that we don’t know who it is. Regal looked just as perplexed and I really wonder where they are going with this story. NXT has a good history of building intrigue for storylines like this so I am hoping this will be another good one.
Leon Ruff Backstage
Leon Ruff was shown leaving the CWC and William Regal, who is all over the place tonight, asked him what he was doing out there. Ruff said he knew what he was doing and that he wants both Priest and Gargano in a match at the same time. I am fully behind this build and push for Ruff and I hope the triple threat happens at WarGames because I feel like this triple threat could be a sleeper if they let it build until then.
Rhea Ripley vs Io Shirai (NXT Women’s Championship)
I debated between 4.5 and 5 crowns but I just had to give it all the crowns here. This was just an amazing main event and one of my favorite women’s matches of the entire year. Said it once and I’ll say it again, take notes AEW because this is how you do justice to the women on the roster. I know there was worry about the time they would get but I had hope that they would be given the right amount of time and they were. This was a great back and forth match and they did not let up on the physicality as well. Simply put, this may have been Rhea’s best match in NXT and this certainly was one of Io’s best matches. Really amazing work by both women here and Rhea would end up getting a bloody ear too and I loved how she wiped a bit of the blood onto her face to signify some war paint. This is one of those matches you have to see for yourself because it was that darn good. In the end, Io would end up retaining and the two would have a bit of sportsmanship after the match as well. NXT knows how to do right by the women on the roster and I am always happy to see that over whatever the other company is doing, or rather not doing, with their women.
Finn Balor In-Ring
Balor wasted no time getting in the ring to talk about what is next for him and the NXT Championship. He spoke about how he broke his jaw and would talk some more before being interrupted by Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan. Pat is really great on the mic and I love how he boasted about everything his group has done in Finn’s absence. McAfee pretty much told Finn that the NXT Championship would end up with his group and that nobody cares about the Prince anymore. Finn would end up telling Pat and his group that he brought something back with him and the Undisputed Era made their return as well and a brawl ensued. The two groups brawl around and inside the ring as NXT would come to a close. I always love a good brawl to end a show because a little bit of chaos at the end of an episode is always welcomed in my eyes.
I will add the online exclusive to this as well because it adds even more and why it boosted my grade a little bit. The two groups would eventually be separated and William Regal would make his way out. He spoke about there being eight competitors and two teams of four. We all know where this is going and I loved how the Undisputed Era, Adam Cole aka CHUGS was the most vocal, were begging Regal to make the announcement we all knew was coming. Regal would announce that these eight men will face off in WarGames and I loved McAfee’s reaction to it. That was just the cherry on top and I am loving the build to WarGames already.
Simply put, this was a splendid episode of NXT this week. This was great from start to finish and there is not much you can complain about. We got three women’s matches and all three were good in their own way. The main event was especially stellar and one of NXT’s best matches of the year. The brawl at the end was great as well and I love that we are getting WarGames between those two groups. I am digging the NXT North American Title scene right now and I feel like they are doing a good job in building Leon RUff into something more than a jobber or someone that got lucky. I am also still intrigued by the Boa/Xia Li stuff and wonder where they are going with it. All in all, superb episode of NXT this week. I am Sovereign S.A.M. and make sure you join me next week for another Here and Now.