NXT and NXT UK collided last night, giving birth to a new Rumble weekend show. We saw some old rivalries renewed, a title change hands, and got to listen to Sam Roberts complain for 40 minutes on the kickoff show. What was that about? Why is he so mad at everyone all the time? We also got a Winston Churchill quote playing over the opening package to start the show, which was certainly a strong choice somebody in the video department made.
Mia Yim vs Kay Lee Ray (Kickoff)
Glad to see NXT has learned you can have more than one women’s match on a show, even if it’s not for a title. Both women here pull off hair colors I could only dream of, so i was watching this one very closely. Yim started out strong, taking it to Ray with a series of drop kicks and strikes. Ray was able to really show off her athleticism here, with a senton from the top turnbuckle to Yim on the outside. After countering each other’s finishers, Yim attempted Eat Defeat but was countered, and Ray hit her own version of the move in tribute to both Gail Kim and Chuck Taylor, presumably. Yim recovered enough to land a Destroyer, but only got a two count. Not to sound like a middle aged Attitude Era mark with 6 followers and a dial up internet connection, but c’mon. It’s too early for me to see people kicking out of moves like that. Ray got a quick roll up and leaned on the ropes to keep Yim down. Crowd helped this match as they were super into both competitors, and the big spots got the appropriate reaction, which doesn’t always happen on the kickoff. Ray cheating potentially sets up a future match for the two down the line.
Verdict: Great showing for both women, and a fun way to start off the show.
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Finn Bálor vs Ilja Dragunov
I admit I didn’t know much about Dragunov prior to this match, but I loved his wild, chaotic energy here. He seems like his only goal in life is to smack the daylights out of people and use as much hair gel as humanly possible, and I support him in both these endeavors. Bálor has been more over than ever since joining NXT and the crowd was firmly on his side, although I would guess a lot of them were also unfamiliar with Dragunov. Both men started this match trying to ground the other; Bálor is known for a more high flying pace at times, but Dragunov brought a more gritty style, and Finn certainly met him with it here. The two seemed pretty evenly matched throughout, cutting off each other’s momentum before one could get the upper hand for long. After a coast to coast dropkick Ilja seemed like he was on a roll, but Finn got the knees up during a senton, setting Dragunov for the Coup de Grace and then hitting 1916 for good measure. Hey, that’s only one year away from the Russian revolution. These guys have so much in common.
Verdict: Good match with some great chemistry between the two. Сейчас, Илья мой сын.
Cruiserweight Championship: Angel Garza (c) vs Isaiah Swerve Scott vs Jordan Devlin vs Travis Banks (Fatal Four Way)
This match nearly stole the show, with four very talented guys giving it their all. Garza attempted to start by taking his pants off, but received 3 superkicks for his horny transgressions, because apparently no one in that ring is a friend of mine. Travis Banks came in hot, managing to wipe out all 3 other men. Banks might have been the least favored to win here, but he was possibly the star of this match, taking some wild bumps and bringing an intensity that only comes from living in a country overshadowed by Australia. A lot of huge spots here: a Destroyer from Banks to Devlin, Devlin superplexing Scott and Garza at the same time, only to be cut off with a flying kick from Banks immediately after. Garza landed the Wing Clipper on Scott, but Devlin broke it up and hit him with a head butt. Devlin hit his finisher and got the pin, then gave an incredible jump of joy, like he was closing out an 80’s coming of age film.
Verdict: The match itself was fantastic, but the newly updated CW title (pour one out for ol’ purple) feels a little lame. Devlin is a great wrestler, and I’m sure he will have some really good matches lined up. But since merging fully with NXT, the cruiserweight division doesn’t seem very interested in storytelling. Title changes happen with little, if any, build up. Garza and Rush were the only two in recent memory that seemed to have a concrete feud going on, but even that felt like it came to an end too soon. This is also the first CW champ from NXT UK, which suggests the title may begin to be shown there more than 205 Live or NXT. Where does 205 even go from here if its title isn’t defended on the show itself?
#DIY vs Mustache Mountain
This may have been the match I was least excited about, but from a strictly wrestling point of view, all four men delivered. For all the grief I may give their fumbled storyline and Disney Magic band Instagram posts, Gargano and Ciampa are incredible workers, and Mustache Mountain has been one of the top teams in NXT for years. Bate and Gargano started off, evenly matched and even giving each other a handshake, because short kings gotta stick together. They tagged in Ciampa and Trent, who compared facial hair and muscles, although I’ve seen identical beards on every poli-sci grad student. This match was fun in a way others weren’t—it was about respect, rather than fighting for a title or who has the right to wear a black jacket. It was more for fans of both teams than anything else. After DIY threw both Bate and Seven into the announce tables, they hopped up on the apron and patted themselves on the back, the same way Gargano does after securing that limited edition Jon Snow and Ghost Funko Pop in an eBay bidding war. This match did go on a bit long for me, especially considering how short the women’s championship was, but the crowd was very hot for it. Gargano and Ciampa finally won with Meet in the Middle on Seven.
Verdict: This was a very solid match from two very talented teams. There wasn’t a lot to appeal to me personally, but the crowd loved all the old timey DIY references, because 2017 was a simpler time and we would all like to go back. I can’t say it didn’t work, I can just point out that their gear was kind of Blue Lives Matter-y, wasn’t it?
NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley(c) vs Toni Storm
Huge promotion for Hot Topic studded wear in this match. I imagine their sales will be through the roof Monday morning. Storm started out strong, controlling the match early on by tossing Ripley into the turnbuckle and hitting her with a DDT. Ripley sold her neck following this, which is always a little terrifying to see, but helped emphasize Storm’s offense. Ripley regained control and attempted the Riptide, but Storm turned it into a crossbody. The two women knowing each other so well worked great here, with both countering each other’s finishers and staying one step ahead. Storm hit a headbutt and went to the top turnbuckle, but Ripley rolled out of the way. She then hit Riptide to retain, and I guess that’s all we get.
Verdict: Great effort from both, but that was it? Feels like a title match between two competitors with history should go longer than a tag match with zero stakes, but I don’t know, man. Belair vs Ripley is surely going to slap.
Undisputed Era vs Imperium (8 Man Tag Match)
Which frat is best? We finally get some answers as these two foursomes square off. Both teams used quick tags early on, getting in every member aside from their fearless leaders. Alexander Wolfe looked to be seriously injured early on after a kick to the head, and had to be helped to the back. Cole and Walter then faced off, with the baybay doing everything he could to protect his chest from those meaty hands. Much of the match was UE using their new numbers advantage, isolating the smaller members of Imperium and trying their best to keep the large father from getting in the ring. Kyle mocked Walter on the apron, but then found himself on the receiving end of some chops and a double suplex to him and Strong. Roddy managed to return the favor by slamming Walter through the announce table, like when a tiny ant lifts a crumb three times its size.
All seven men started brawling in the ring, and we all agreed to forget about tag rules for a while. Aichner and Barthel took out the rest of UE on the outside, and Walter won by powerbombing Fish. Brexit is cancelled, Europe wins forever. Walter looked incredible in this match. Between Imperium being down a member and his singlehanded domination of every man in UE, he came out the hero of the match and maybe the strongest player of the night.
Verdict: Big Daddy VValter is back baby!! I don’t know that chump who got ousted from Survivor Series in two minutes and neither does the country of Austria. RIP to Kyle’s chest and lungs.