WWE NXT results, recap, grades: Finn Balor makes allegiance clear after two great title matches
The follow-up to a dominant weekend for NXT left a bit to be desired on Wednesday night
NXT dominated WWE's Survivor Series weekend, not only winning the brand vs. brand vs. brand competition at the big show but putting on a tremendous performance at its own event, NXT TakeOver: WarGames 3. Considering the high that the brand left the weekend on, anticipation for what would happen on Wednesday night's next television appearance was high.
While there was once again great action on NXT, the show often felt low energy. Promos hung in the air a bit without loud audience reaction, and three run-in finishes were more formulaic than we have come to expect from this brand. The show certainly had its moments, but this was one of perhaps two weeks since NXT went live on USA Network that it felt like there was something left to be desired. Not having Mauro Ranallo calling the action certainly did not help.
Undisputed Era spoils the party: NXT started with the entire roster hitting the ring to celebrate and rap along with a new NXT theme. Undisputed Era interrupted the fun to explain that the fans and wrestlers are not NXT, but they are NXT. Tommaso Ciampa interrupted Adam Cole's rant to promise that Undisputed Era would lose its tag team titles tonight, Roderick Strong's days as North American champion were numbered and that he would be taking "Goldie" back from Cole soon with no one standing in his way. This led Finn Balor out to literally stand between the two sides, so Ciampa challenged him for a match later in the show.
NXT Tag Team Championship -- Undisputed Era (c) def. Keith Lee & Dominic Dijakovic via pinfall to retain the titles: Just as the match began, Bobby Fish was injured after being thrown out of the ring and landing on Kyle O'Reilly; the back of Fish's knee banged into the front of O'Reilly's knee. Fish was pulled during the commercial break for Roderick Strong, who hit the ring in his legitimate street clothes as he was not dressed for action.
A hot tag to Lee cleaned house, but double-team action by O'Reilly and Strong but the champions back in the advantage. However, Dijakovic somehow managed to lift O'Reilly up from a triangle armbar into a chokeslam while simultaneously grabbing Strong for another. Lee tried a Spirit Bomb on the outside but was chopped down, so Dijakovic did a cannonball senton followed by another double chokeslam. Cole made his way down to the ring to interrupt, but Lee intercepted, bodychecking him clean into the crowd. Distracted by Lee's move, Dijkaovic was caught off guard by Total Elimination, and Lee was too late to make the save. The Lee spot with Cole was fantastic, but the finish left some to be desired. Credit where it's due to Strong for stepping in cold. Grade: B+
Mansoor def. Shane Throne via pinfall: These two traded multiple high-risk maneuvers with a springboard neckbreaker from Mansoor getting the job done. Short match that was not notable aside from the fact that Thorne apparently cannot get a win against anyone.
Candice LaRae def. Dakota Kai via disqualification: Earlier in the show, LaRae cut a promo on Kai, promising she would get revenge for Teagen Nox. LaRae missed a springboard moonsault on Kai, who capitalized with a flip backbreaker for a two count. Kai also broke free from a Gargano Escape. As LaRae went for a tope suicida, Kai grabbed Nox' knee brace and smacked LaRae over the head with it; Kai then threw LaRae back-and-forth into the stairs and ring post. The referee grabbed the knee brace away from Kai, so she picked up a steel chair, but Rhea Ripley ran in to kick it out of her hands and save LaRae. Solid match with the right finish as Kai certainly could not have taken a clean loss, plus it continues the emergence of Ripley as a babyface. Grade: B
NXT Cruiserweight Championship -- Lio Rush (c) def. Akira Tozawa via pinfall to retain the title: The match was filled with counters and dead ends as Rush and Tozawa often had the same ideas at the same time. Tozawa took a big advantage on the ring apron with a kick to the back of Rush's head and a release German suplex off the apron onto the floor. Both slid into the ring just before the 10 count, but as Tozawa lost his mouthguard and collapsed to the canvas, Rush's springboard cutter hit nothing but air. Tozawa caught another springboard attempt with a German suplex and then lifted Rush for a gutwrench German, which got a 2.7 count. Rush got his legs up just in time to break a diving senton from Tozawa and immediately hit the Final Hour twice -- first on Tozawa's back and then again on his front for the 1-2-3. The rejuvenation of Rush continues, and he impresses more and more each week. Highly entertaining match. Grade: A
Rhea Ripley, Shayna Baszler brawl after Xia Li def. Vanessa Borne via pinfall: Li dominated Borne quickly and saw the Horsewomen walking down the ramp at the end of her match. Though Li got a shot on Baszler after they attacked, the women's champion eventually dominated her and bragged about how she dominated at Survivor Series. Ripley hit the ring and the Horsewomen got out of dodge, but Baszler jumped on the ring apron as Ripley told her the next time they faced she would take her title. Baszler said she's heard it all before and dipped out.
Finn Balor def. Tommaso Ciampa via pinfall: After throwing Ciampa outside the ring following a slingblade, Balor attempted a 1916 DDT on the entrance ramp only to see it reversed into an Air Raid Crash. Back in the ring, Project Ciampa got a 2.8 count, and Balor reversed Fairytale Ending into a double stomp, followed by a driving dropkick. As Balor prepared for the Coup de Grace, Ciampa scurried to the top rope to land an avalanche Air Raid Crash. Just as Ciampa was set to capitalize, Cole ran down to the ring to interfere but got knocked down and left his title in the ring. Ciampa kicked out of a quick cover, and Balor did the same. Balor caught Ciampa with a slam onto the title -- the referee noticed but chose not to disqualify as it was accidental -- and with her back turned as she removed the strap from the ring, Cole caught Ciampa with a kick. Balor followed with the 1916 DDT for the win.
After the match, Cole and Balor stood over Ciampa. Cole flashed his Undisputed Era hand signal, while Balor displayed the double guns. However, when Cole patted Balor on the back as if they were friends, Balor hit him with a Pele kick, making it clear he was not on Cole's team. NXT is clearly going in a triple threat direction with these three, and it will be interesting to see when that trigger is pulled (no pun intended). There was nothing wrong with the match, but it was not particularly noteworthy. The post-match angle saved it some. Grade: B
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