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[TV Recap] ‘NXT’ 12.18.19 – Baszler vs. Ripley, Cole vs. Balor

COMMENTATORS: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, & Beth Phoenix

It’s the penultimate NXT of 2019 and they’ve brought the big guns with TWO big title matches: Adam Cole defending the NXT Championship against Finn Balor and Rhea Ripley challenging Shayna Baszler for the Women’s Championship. This sounds tremendous on paper, let’s see how it goes in execution.


  • NXT CHAMPION: Adam Cole
  • NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Shayna Baszler
  • NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, & Adam Cole)


  • Adam Cole [c] vs. Finn Balor for the NXT CHAMPIONSHIP (***3/4)
  • Damian Priest vs. Killian Dain (***)
  • KUSHIDA vs. Cameron Grimes (***3/4)
  • Santana Garrett vs. Io Shirai (**3/4)
  • Pete Dunne vs. Travis Banks (***3/4)
  • Shayna Baszler [c] vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (****1/4)


-LAST WEEK: Finn Balor beats Keith Lee and Tomasso Ciampa to earn his NXT Championship match tonight. Also on the show Angel Garza unseats Lio Rush to become the new Cruiserweight Champion. I am still not used to this title being on NXT now and bearing the NXT name. Hopefully it gets a facelift at some point and ditches the purple if they’re going to do 205 Live dirty like this.

Adam Cole [c] vs. Finn Balor for the NXT CHAMPIONSHIP

NXT wasting no time this week, I respect that. Cole and Balor jockey for position early, the latter bringing the champ to the ground with a side headlock. Cole dodges a double stomp, Balor dodges a superkick and Cole backs his challenger into the ropes to slow it down. Balor rolls through a sunset flip into a basement dropkick, Cole kicks out of the lateral press and Balor settles into an armbar. Balor chops Cole all around the ring followed by a basement dropkick to the back of the head for a two-count. Balor goes a stompin’, Cole bails to the floor. Balor dropkicks him through the ropes, Cole kicks his legs out when he tries to go for something off the apron. Cole goes on the offensive, connecting with a Hangman neckbreaker and some ground & pound with his taped-up hand. Cole with a snap suplex, floating over into a lateral press for a two-count. Cole with a snapmare into a rear-chinlock. Balor tries to get to his feet, Cole yanks him back to the mat and bridges to add extra pressure. Balor escapes via jawbreaker, Cole dropkicks the left knee once again to stop a follow-up. Cole connects with another neckbreaker and settles into a headscissors to further weaken the neck. Balor bridges up for the 1…2…Cole kicks out and catches Balor with a back elbow when the challenger charges. Balor counters a splash with a pair of boots and mounts a string offense that leads to a two-count. Balor with a corner whip and charging chop not once but twice. Balor charges…and puts on a side headlock for some reason which is countered via Backstabber for the 1…2…Balor kicks out. That was…strange.

Balor escapes a Fireman’s carry, Cole escapes a waistlock and hits an enzuigiri. Balor responds with a sling blade then runs right into a superkick for the 1…2…Balor kicks out! Balor and Cole shoot out, pair of pump kicks from Cole and a Pele Kick from Balor, Cole lands on top of Balor for the 1…2…challenger kicks out! Cole kicks Balor’s knee, Balor counters Panama Sunrise with a Fireman’s carry. Cole counters the 1960 with an ushigoroshi for the 1…2…Balor kicks out again! Cole charges, Balor sweeps the legs and hits a double stomp followed by a dropkick that sends the champ into the corner. Balor shakes off the knee pain and heads to the top but gets knocked off and to the floor after taking too long. Cole breaks the count and tries a Panama Sunrise but Balor counters with a backdrop and dropkicks him into the guardrail. Balor rolls Cole in, Cole dodges the Coup de Grace and hits the Last Shot for the 1…2…BALOR KICKS OUT. Oh snaaaap. Cole exposes the knee for another Last Shot, Balor catches him with a lariat followed by another dropkick into the corner. Balor follows up with the Coup de Grace and goes for the 1960, but out comes the returning Johnny Gargano for the distraction. Cole escapes and hits the Last Shot for the 1…2…3!

Adam Cole [c] defeated Finn Balor via pinfall to retain the NXT CHAMPIONSHIP (15:15)

  • A great match with a distraction finish that made sense. Adam Cole is having one hell of a 2019 and gets to end the year atop the NXT food chain which he deserves to do. At least until Velveteen Dream comes back anyway. (***3/4)

Gargano grabs a chair and circles Balor. Balor begs off but it’s not enough and Gargano sends him to the floor with a series of chairshots. Gargano hits him a few more times and Balor bails through the crowd.

-EARLIER TODAY: Rhea Ripley is all focus as she arrives to the arena. Champ Shayna Baszler is the picture of confidence as she arrives, flanked by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir.

-NXT TAKEOVER WAR GAMES RECAP: Killian Dain cracks Damian Priest’s ribs during their triple threat match. They face off NEXT.

Damian Priest vs. Killian Dain

Priest’s ribs are still taped from the War Games match last month. This is going to be a METAL AF hoss fight judging by their gimmicks. I’m glad Dain was given the life preserver of returning to NXT after Sanity faltered on the main roster.

Bell rings and they waste no time. Priest clobbers Dain in the corner, Dain with a pump kick to the ribs. Priest tries to suplex Dain but his ribs betray him and he gets flattened with a running crossbody. Dain drives the point of his elbow into the ribs and applies a waistlock. Priest escapes with back elbows and runs right into a standing bear hug. Boooo. Priest almost escapes so Dain throws him in the corner and splashes him. Dain hangs Priest on the middle buckle and connects with a pair of knees to the ribs followed by a baseball slide that sends him crashing to the floor. KILLIAN DAIN RULES. Dain rips off some of the rib tape and belts him with a bicycle kick followed by ribs-first into the guardrail. Back in the ring Priest kicks out of a lateral press and Dain connects with a belly-to-back suplex. Priest almost escapes a chinlock, Dain connects with a gutbuster and rips off the rest of the tape for more rib shots. Dain flattens Priest with a senton and plays to the crowd a bit. “SHAVE YOUR BACKHAIR” chant from Full Sail. Come on guys, you’re better than that. Dain with a fisherman suplex into a lateral press for the 1…2…Priest kicks out. Dain remains in control as we go to commercial.

Back live Priest catches Dain with a flatliner and mounts a string of comeback offense, ending in an AXE BOMB-BAH!. Priest splashes Dain in the corner with a back elbow and tries a suplex again but THE RIBS. Priest finally gives himself some FIGHTING SPIRIT and connects with the move, popping the crowd. Priest climbs the buckles, Dain rolls out on the opposite side and Priest connects with a springboard tope con hilo. Priest follows up with the South of Heaven for the 1…2…Dain kicks out! Priest misses a corner splash and superkicks Priest in the ribs followed by a power bomb and elbowdrop for the 1…2…Priest kicks out! That power bomb was straight up out of Sid’s heel turn in 1995. Dain measures Priest and splashes him in the corner. Priest counters an electric chair into a victory roll. Priest connects with a spinkick. Dain muscles out of a power bomb attempt, Priest counters a Vader Bomb with a pair of knees and connects with the Reckoning for the 1…2…3!

Damian Priest defeated Killian Dain via pinfall (10:46 shown)

  • Fun hard-hitting match. Killian Dain is the f*cking truth, y’all. Priest was great as well but that gimmick is so dorky that it’s hard for me to take it seriously. Hopefully he grows out of it and gets to do something else, all that fire and brimstone stuff is Brood-level. (***)

-Nominees for various NXT Year-End Awards are shown. I don’t really care about these so I’m not going to go through who’s who. The people you expect are probably the ones that are in the running for the various categories.

KUSHIDA and Cameron Grimes are shown working out backstage. They’re facing off NEXT.

-The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic returns next year; the teams will be announced on the New Year’s Day edition of NXT.

KUSHIDA vs. Cameron Grimes

KUSHIDA stole Grimes’ hat and he wants it back, DAMMIT. Grimes lost last week to Raul Mendoza thanks to KUSHIDA’s interference as well. KUSHIDA wears Grimes’ hat to the ring, only further angering his opponent.

KUSHIDA with a wristlock to start, hanging on through whip attempts and transitioning into a front chancery. KUSHIDA catches Grimes with an armdrag into an armbar, Grimes drops him with a shoulderblock off a whip. KUSHIDA catches a charging Grimes with a sit-out hip toss. Grimes bails to the floor, KUSHIDA belts him with a dropkick through the ropes and heads to the top for a flying tomahawk chop. KUSHIDA applies a sort-of Octopus hold, Grimes escapes but eats a dropkick. Back to the Octopus into a crucifix for the 1…2…Grimes kicks out as we go to commercial.

Back live and Grimes is now in control, standing on KUSHIDA’s back. Grimes continues focusing his meat and potatoes offense on the spine of his opponent, including bending him over his knee after a backbreaker. KUSHIDA escapes with a series of strikes and connects with a back-handspring elbow. KUSHIDA continues the offense, including a cartwheel dropkick but can’t get the pin so he switches to a Cross Armbreaker. Grimes gets to the ropes to force a break. KUSHIDA goes for the Hoverboard Lock, Grimes counters into a Nightmare Pendulum for the 1…2…KUSHIDA kicks out. KUSHIDA drives Grimes into the middle buckle and connects with a release German. Grimes dazes KUSHIDA with a kick and does a backflip into a German suplex for the 1…2…KUSHIDA KICKS OUT. KUSHIDA backdrops Grimes to the apron and sends him to the floor with a handspring heelkick, following up with a senton from the top but it appears to hurt his back as much as it hurt Grimes’…everything. KUSHIDA rolls Grimes in and runs into a kick. Fight moves to the buckles, Grimes fights off the Hoverboard Lock but eats a handspring double heel kick and KUSHIDA sends him crashing to the mat with a flying victory roll-looking thing for the 1…2…Grimes kicks out. KUSHIDA kicks the arm, Grimes kicks the face. KUSHIDA dodges the Cave In, Grimes throws him off a tornado DDT attempt and finally hits the Cave In for the 1…2…3!

Cameron Grimes defeated KUSHIDA via pinfall (10:29 shown)

  • Boy this episode of NXT is f*cking fire, isn’t it? Another great match here, with Grimes looking like a million bucks coming out of it. KUSHIDA rules too of course, but this is Grimes’ night and as a fellow overly hairy man I gotta back my surrogate. (***3/4)

Grimes is barely able to stand as Ranallo puts over how big of a win this is; the biggest of his career apparently. After a replay we go back live where Grimes grabs his hat, reunited with his love. Biggest win of his career AND he got his hat back? Everything is coming up Grimes!

-VIDEO: Io Shirai is CRAZY and she’s in action next. Yes please.

-VIDEO: NXT TakeOver Portland coming February 16, 2019. YEEEEAH. I love me a good non-main roster weekend specific TakeOver show.

-TALE OF THE TAPE: Shayna Baszler and Rhea Ripley are the same height, but the latter has the strength and reach advantage. Baszler has the advantage in being a f*cking killer, though.

Santana Garrett vs. Io Shirai

Ahhhh I forgot Garrett was signed to NXT, that’s awesome. Impact represent! This is only Garrett’s second match on NXT TV.

Shirai drops Garrett with a shoulderblock and shows off some acrobatics. Garrett locks knuckles with Shirai and connects with a Lucha armdrag followed by a back-handspring headscissors…BUT SHIRAI LANDS ON HER FEET. Garrett makes her pay with a kick to the mush, Shirai responds with a flapjack. Garrett dodges corner knees and catches Shirai with a kick and side Russian Legsweep into a lateral press for the 1…2…Io kicks out. Garrett connects with a corner back-handspring elbow followed by a suplex and float-over into the 1…2…Io kicks out and Garrett cinches in the Muta Lock. Shirai rakes the eyes to force a break and sends Garrett into the ropes throat and face-first. Garrett sits in the corner, Shirai hits her with double knees and finishes things off with a moonsault for the 1…2…3.

Io Shirai defeated Santana Garrett via pinfall (4:00)

  • Good match, solid win for Shirai who’s easily my favorite member of the women’s roster in NXT. I love that psychopath gimmick thing she’s got going. Garrett looked good in defeat as well and got to show off her athletic offense, and I hope she gets more to do at some point. She’s been on the hustle for a long time and deserves the success. (**3/4)

-Ranallo and crew hype Worlds Collide happening next month during Royal Rumble weekend (January 25th). NXT will be taking on NXT UK.

“The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne vs. “The Kiwi Buzzsaw” Travis Banks

This is a Worlds Collide preview, as Banks represents NXT UK. Banks beat Dunne earlier in the Bruiserweight’s career, so they have some history outside of the NXT brand.

Dunne in control early, heel hooking Banks and locking in a side headlock before rolling him up with a crucifix for a two-count. Banks takes to the ropes and catches Dunne on his dropdown attempt with a dropkick. NICE. Banks connects with a series of kicks, Dunne responds with rapid-fire slaps to the chest. Dunne stomps the hands and kicks Banks in the back of the head, forcing the Buzzsaw to bail to the floor. Dunne in control as we go to commercial.

Back live Banks hits Dunne with a forearm, Dunne responds with a rolling elbow that sends him flying into the corner. Dunne charges, Banks kicks his legs out and connects with a corner dropkick and cannonball that sends Dunne bailing to the floor. Banks follows up with a low tope suicida and takes a moment to check on his knee before heading to the top for a missile dropkick. Banks connects with a corner double stomp and covers for the 1…2…Dunne kicks out. Banks apparently beat Jaxson Ryker last week on the show which I’m sure everyone already forgot about because who gives a damn about The Forgotten Sons. Dunne dodges a slice of heaven and connects with the X-Plex for the 1…2…Banks kicks out. Dunne flips out of a sunset bomb and connects with a running enzuigiri, Banks counters Dunne with a DDT. Dunne counters Slice of Heaven and stomps Banks’ face right into the canvas. CRUEL. Banks counters the Bitter End and hits the Kiwi Crusher for the 1…2…Dunne kicks out! Banks charges in the corner, Dunne drives him into the mat with a power bomb and climbs the middle buckle. Banks belts him with a step-up enzuigiri and goes for a Superplex, Dunne counters with an avalanche X-Plex and follows with the Bitter End for the 1…2…3.

Pete Dunne defeated Travis Banks via pinfall (7:23 shown)

  • First time seeing Travis Banks (I’m a terrible pro wrestling fan) and goddamn I may need to start watching NXT UK now. That dude is fire. Add another great match to the pile for this week’s show, Worlds Collide is going to kick ass come Rumble weekend. I can’t wait to see who WALTER faces. (***3/4)

Cathy Kelley is standing by with Dakota Kai. Mia Yim put her through two tables last week. Kai says she has eight staples in her head but she still won. Kai will continue to beat every women in the division until she becomes champion.

-Shayna Baszler play fights with Jessamyn Duke heading into the main event.

-NEXT WEEK: Roderick Strong defends his North American Championship in an Open Challenge match, Keith Lee teams with Lio Rush to face Damian Priest and Tony Nese. I guess this isn’t the last NXT of the year after all, my bad.

Shayna Baszler [c] vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

The rocket has been strapped to Ripley for the past couple of months, culminating in this title match and her goal of becoming the first woman on the roster to win both the NXT and NXT UK Women’s Championships. Baszler gets the MMA entrance and it RULES.

Baszler with a top wristlock, bringing Ripley to the mat. She tries to stomp the elbow, Ripley catches her foot and a terrified Baszler drops to avoid a right hand. Baszler grabs a quick waistlock and slaps her in the back of the head, Ripley responds with a big boot and hammer throw into the corner. Baszler rolls to the floor and Ripley stands tall as we go to commercial.

Back live Ripley sends Baszler into the corner and drops her face-first into the buckles with an electric chair. Ripley connects with strikes, Baszler catches her with a rolling trip/kick. Ripley with a back elbow and dropkick. Ripley sets her up and connects with a top rope superplex for the 1…2…Baszler kicks out. Ripley ducks a kick and connects with a release German suplex. Out come Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir to run interference. Ripley sends Duke into Shafir, Baszler tosses Ripley to the floor. Ripley is unfazed though, tripping up Baszler and sending her bouncing off the apron. Ripley takes out the Horsewomen with a cannonball from the apron, leaving her open to a running knee by the Women’s Champ. Ripley uses the steps to get to her feet, Baszler STOMPS THE ARM. Baszler works the arm, twisting it in unnatural positions and bending her digits back. Ripley bails to the floor as we go to another commercial.

Back live and Baszler gets Ripley’s arm in position for a SECOND STOMP. Gross. Duke and Shafir got physically involved during the break and the ref ejected them from ringside. Ripley catches a kick and unloads with a right hand. Baszler escapes the Rip Tide, Ripley dropkicks her into the referee and hits the Rip Tide. She gets the visual pin but there’s no ref! UH-OH. Ripley misses a cannonball, hitting nothing but floor, Baszler tries to lock in the Kirifuda Clutch but Ripley rams her into the ring post to break it up. Baszler introduces a chair into the ring. Ripley tries to use it, Baszler DDTs her on the steel for the 1…2…RIPLEY KICKS OUT. Ripley escapes the Kirifuda Clutch and goes for the Prism, but Baszler counters and this time the Kirifuda Clutch is applied in the center of the ring. Ripley almost gets to the ropes, Baszler pulls her back into the center and cinches the hold in deeper. Ripley tries to grab for the ropes again, Baszler bats it away and rolls her back to the mat. Crowd goes quiet, having seen previous title defenses. Ripley grabs the ref to prevent her arm from dropping, rolls through, and STOMPS THE SH*T OUT OF BASZLER leading into the Prism! Baszler escapes, kicking Ripley into the corner and following up with a step-up knee strike. Baszler seats Ripley on the top buckle and decides to trash talk, allowing Ripley to headbutt her, and hit an AVALANCHE RIP TIDE FOR THE 1…2…3! YESSSSS!

Rhea Ripley defeated Shayna Baszler [c] via pinfall to win the NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP (14:17 shown)

  • WHAT A MATCH, WHAT A WIN, WHAT A CROWNING OF A NEW TOP DOG IN THE NXT WOMEN’S DIVISION. So f*cking good, Ripley is a goddamn mega star. Baszler tried everything in her arsenal and had the match won seemingly until her hubris caught up with her. I especially loved when the crowd went quiet after it looked like Ripley was going to fade, having seen it happen so many times before in other matches; when Ripley sprang back to life I thought the roof was going to blow off the arena. Tremendous stuff here, congrats to Rhea Ripley for ending Baszler’s excellent 400+ day reign as champion. NXT picked the right person to dethrone her. What a reign by Shayna though, here’s hoping if she ends up on the main roster she continues to be dominant and doesn’t end up submitting to Charlotte Flair or something in her first big match. (****1/4)

After a replay we go back to the ring where the ring is full of fans and Ripley celebrates above them. What a thing.


FINAL THOUGHTS: NXT put on a TakeOver-level event here, with no bad matches and an absolute BANGER of a main event with the best possible outcome. AEW is putting the pressure on and we’re getting gold because of it. Rhea Ripley f*cking rules. This show f*cking ruled. I’m almost terrified to keep watching and ruining this feeling. YEEEEAH.

  • MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Baszler vs. Ripley
  • MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Crowd goes silent as Ripley almost fades in the clutch; crowd goes INSANE when Ripley grabs the ref and shows she still has life in her after all

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