WWE NXT results, recap, grades: Johnny Gargano calls out Finn Balor, Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic begins
The first NXT of 2020 also helped determine the No. 1 contender to the NXT North American title
The new year is in full swing, so Wednesday night it was time for the NXT crew to get back to business as usual inside Full Sail University on the USA Network. As arguably the hottest brand under the WWE banner flies off into a new decade, The 2020 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic kicked off, Johnny Wrestling returned to make his intentions crystal clear and we also received a few glimpses into what the future holds for the black and gold brand. And following a fantastic main event, North American champion Roderick Strong learned his next challenger.
Let's have a look now at everything that went down on Wednesday night's edition of NXT.
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The women want to fight: New NXT women's champion Rhea Ripley was out for an in-ring promo to begin the first live NXT episode from Full Sail in 2020. Before she could properly call back to the memory of winning the NXT women's title to close out the final live episode of 2019 and subsequent celebration in the ring with the fans, she was interrupted by Toni Storm. Storm reminded Ripley that she's already beaten her twice, and after she wins back the NXT UK women's title this Sunday at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II, they'll meet again at the Worlds Collide event during Royal Rumble weekend where she will become a double champion. The party was just getting started as NXT UK women's champion Kay Lee Ray, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair and Candice LeRae were all out to get involved. Ripley said she was there for a fight, too, and a brief melee ensued after she punched Belair. A six-woman tag match was made right there on the spot.
Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm & Candice LeRae def. Bianca Belair, Io Shirai & Kay Lee Ray via pinfall: Things went south for the heel team as Shirai was setting up for a moonsault onto Storm but Belair decided to tag herself in. This enraged Shirai, who took out Belair with a missile dropkick before walking out on her squad. Shortly after, Ripley put away Belair with the Riptide followed by the 1-2-3. Very good showcase for the female talent in what we assume is now the post-Shayna Baszler era in NXT. Grade: B
Tommaso Ciampa promo: A pre-taped package aired where Ciampa expressed how empty he is without the NXT championship. He told Adam Cole, "You took my life, and I want my life back."
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic First Round -- Imperium def. The Forgotten Sons via pinfall: Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel advanced to the semifinals after a European Bomb onto Wesley Blake. Imperium will face the winner of Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster. Post-match, Riddle cut a promo backstage where he hilariously explained how the "Broserweights" were born. Grade: C-
Austin Theory def. Joaquin Wilde via pinfall: Theory earned his first victory on NXT television after a TKO. Fairly quick contest here as the ascent of Theory -- who has all the tools to evolve into a massive, mainstream star in the coming decade -- in NXT kicks off as 2020 begins. This was an effective live TV introduction for Theory, which was the goal here. Grade: B
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic First Round -- The Undisputed Era (c) def. Gallus (c) via pinfall: This huge champions vs. champions showdown came to a conclusion thanks to Adam Cole, who interfered by connecting from the outside with a kick to the head of Wolfgang as he was draped over the middle rope and Bobby Fish was distracting the referee. This allowed Fish and Kyle O'Reilly to nail a High/Low onto Wolfgang for the win, and the NXT tag champions now advance to the semifinals where they will face the winner of The Grizzled Young Veterans vs. KUSHIDA & a partner who was revealed later in the show (more on that below). Much better match than the first tournament contest we saw earlier in the night, and the finish was a great way to protect NXT UK tag team champions Gallus as they head into their title defense this Sunday at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool II against Imperium, The Grizzled Young Veterans and Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster in a four-way ladder match. Grade: B+
Johnny Gargano fires off on Finn Balor: Gargano was out for an in-ring promo, and he said that he's been waiting a long time to get a live microphone to address "The Prince." He questioned Balor calling himself the flag bearer for NXT by reminding him that when he got the call to Raw in 2016, he was more than happy to put that flag down and head out of Full Sail; to the contrary, Gargano said that when he got a similar call in August, he declined the invitation. When it comes down to it, Gargano believes that Balor is being eaten alive by the fact that NXT was able to succeed without him. This brought out Balor, who suggested Gargano now be referred to as "Johnny Promo" because that's all he can get cleared for these days. Balor called NXT his personal chessboard and told Gargano to go see William Regal to ask for a one-on-one match at NXT TakeOver: Portland ... if he can make it there. Great mic work from both men, especially Balor who continues to flourish in the heel role. Grade: B
Time Splitters reunion: When it was announced that KUSHIDA would be enlisting the services of a mystery partner for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, longtime fans held out hope we could maybe see him reunite with former New Japan Pro-Wrestling junior heavyweight tag team partner and veteran presence Alex Shelley. Well, it was announced on Wednesday night that the Time Splitters will be reuniting as Shelley will be making his NXT debut next week to team with KUSHIDA.
Mia Yim def. Kayden Carter via pinfall: Yim emerged victorious after Protect Ya Neck ... but the match here was merely a setup for an angle. After the match, Yim helped Carter to her feet, but Carter was attacked from behind by Chelsea Green. Robert Stone, the former Robbie E of Impact Wrestling who has been working the house show loops as a manager, was on the ramp where he announced he was building his own stable with Green serving as his first free-agent acquisition. Interested to see who else is added to the Robert Stone group, but for now, it's nice to see Green get the spotlight she's earned. Grade: B-
Keith Lee def. Cameron Grimes (via pinfall), Dominik Dijakovic & Damian Priest to become North American championship No. 1 contender: Absolutely spectacular four-way match from these men, as if you'd expect anything else. Lee, however, emerged as the No.1 contender after a massive Spirit Bomb onto Grimes. It was announced before the show went off the air that Lee will challenge Strong for the North American title in two weeks on the Jan. 22 edition of NXT. Grade: A-
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