COMMENTATORS: Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, & Beth Phoenix
The first NXT post-TakeOver 31 features Ember Moon’s first match in 14 months as she teams with Rhea Ripley against Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. Also on the show Tommaso Ciampa takes on KUSHIDA, Austin Theory wrestles twice, and Drake Maverick tries to get Killian Dain to get on board with their tag team.
- NXT CHAMPION: Finn Balor
- NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Io Shirai
- NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPION: Damian Priest
- NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze)
- KUSHIDA vs. Tommaso Ciampa (***)
- Drake Maverick & Killian Dain vs. EverRise (*3/4)
- Leon Ruff vs. Austin Theory (NR)
- Dexter Lumis vs. Austin Theory (*3/4)
- Danny Burch vs. Ridge Holland (**)
- Shotzi Blackheart vs. Xia Li (NR)
- Ember Moon & Rhea Ripley vs. Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez (**)
-VIDEO: Recap of the bigger matches at NXT TakeOver 31.
TOMMASO CIAMPA DEFEATED KUSHIDA VIA DISQUALIFICATION (11:06 SHOWN)
Back and forth, counter for counter to start, KUSHIDA took control and starts working on Ciampa’s left arm. Ciampa bounces back, countering a back handspring with a baseball slide and focusing on KUSHIDA’s neck. Ciampa teases superplexing KUSHIDA onto the announce table, but KUSHIDA fights him off then gets dropped with to the apron. KUSHIDA bends CIampa’s arm over the strut and mounts a comeback, countering a Fairy Tale Ending by stomping the hand. KUSHIDA grabs a cross armbreaker, Ciampa keeps his fingers locked then counters a triangle choke with a sit-out powerbomb. The two trade kicks, Ciampa hits a fisherman buster but only gets a two-count. KUSHIDA grabs both wrists and stomps the holy hell out of the back of Ciampa’s head and applies the Hoverboard Lock. Before Ciampa can tap here comes The Velveteen Dream, his arm in a cast thanks to KUSHIDA this past Sunday, to interfere and somehow give Ciampa the win.
- Great match until the finish. I figured KUSHIDA “breaking” Dream’s wrist was to write him off television but Triple H is a stubborn motherf*cker and he remains. I also thought KUSHIDA was going to get the win due to the interference, but I guess I didn’t see everything. (***)
KUSHIDA easily fights Dream off. Ciampa is announced the victor but he’s not happy, the commentators wondering what he’ll do when he gets his hands on Dream.
-After a hype video and commercial break we go to Ember Moon, already in the ring. Moon jokes about finally being able to talk and mentions she’s been in isolation for fourteen months and found the “real” Ember Moon while riding her motorcycle. Moon introduces Ember’s Law: she’s going to do whatever she wants. She also calls the whole thing cheesy, which I agree with but you’re supposed to say the loud part quietly. Moon says she wants some gold, naturally bringing out Women’s Champ Io Shirai but before she can talk Rhea Ripley interrupts. But before she can get a lot of words out she’s attacked from behind by Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. Moon runs over to help, officials separate, and General Manager William Regal make it the main event for tonight. Somebody’s been watching old SmackDown episodes on the award-winning WWE Network.
-EARLIER TODAY: Drake Maverick arrives and brags about his new team with Killian Dain. Dain shows up to remind Maverick they aren’t partners or friends, Maverick informs him they have a tag team match tonight. Dain walks off in a huff, Maverick says Dain is going to love their theme music.
–McKenzie Mitchell interviews Io Shirai, asking why she didn’t help Rhea Ripley or Ember Moon. Shirai says none of them are her problem, only the Women’s Championship is. Well I mean if they’re all challenging for it then they ARE her problem but I digress.
-SLIDESHOW: the battle between Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly at NXT TakeOver 31, plus Ridge Holland throwing the limp body of Adam Cole over the barricade at the end of the show.
–Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, & Roderick Strong) are backstage lounging about, Cole in sunglasses. O’Reilly is ashamed he didn’t win on Sunday but they reassure him and say that Ridge Holland is their problem now. Cole removes his sunglasses revealing a black eye and calls Holland a dead man for breaking his ribs.
DRAKE MAVERICK & KILLIAN DAIN DEFEATED EVER-RISE (CHASE PARKER & MATT MARTEL) VIA PINFALL (4:03)
Maverick and Dain’s theme song is a jaunty dance tune. Maverick tries to dance his way out, Dain puts a stop to all of that and reluctantly walks to the ring with his “partner”. Match starts, Maverick wants in and Dain tags him REAL HARD to oblige. Maverick hits Martel with a spinning leg lariat and tries to tag Dain who half-heartedly puts his hand out. Martel clotheslines him and Ever-Rise take brief control, mocking Maverick. However they make the mistake of cheapshotting Dain, angering him and getting him invested in the contest. Dain tags in, lays waste to everyone but then Maverick tags himself in to finish, wanting to impress his buddy. Parker rolls Maverick up, Dain breaks it up with a pump kick then powerbombs Maverick on top of Parker for the 1…2…3.
- It’s been a minute since I’ve watched weekly NXT but seeing Drake Maverick stuck doing comedy sh*t again after that really good emotional story arc during the Cruiserweight Title tournament is disappointing. I know he’s good at comedy but he deserves better than “mismatched tag team eventually become friends”. He’s above doing Head Cheese, c’mon. Match was what it was, Ever-Rise came off like geeks. (*3/4)
Maverick tries to get Dain to celebrate after, dancing to the music, but Dain hits him instead. However he takes pity on his partner and carries him to the back, Maverick celebrating at the breakthrough.
-VIDEO: Toni Storm’s “I’m here” announcement from NXT TakeOver 31 plays, then we cut to three weeks before where Storm has been spending the longest time away from the ring she’s had in a decade. Storm says she needed a change of scenery from NXT UK and NXT will experience a Storm they haven’t seen before. Well I haven’t seen ANY of it so that’s accurate for me, at least.
-EARLIER TODAY: Johnny Gargano and Candace LeRae walk their dog and talk about how Sunday sucked for the both of them. LeRae says they deserve rematches, Gargano agrees but says they need a plan. They make their way to the porch of their home, where a big screen 4K TV has been delivered courtesy of Indi Hartwell. LeRae questions Hartwell’s motives but Gargano is pumped about the free TV and brings it inside their home. If you ever want to assassinate me, leave a giant TV box at my front door. I will always bring it into my place.
AUSTIN THEORY DEFEATED LEON RUFF VIA PINFALL (1:49)
Ruff almost steals the win early, but Theory quickly bounces back and takes control as the commentators talk about Theory’s “immaturity”. That’s one way to put it. Ruff tries something off the ropes but slips and Theory hits the ATL for the win.
- Not much of a match but that was by design. (NR)
Theory gets on the mic after and brags about how that’s what to expect from him when he’s had a chance to warm up before a match. He says that last week Adam Cole caught him “cold” and mocks his current injury. Theory repeatedly calls himself the future of NXT which brings out the returning Dexter Lumis leading to a match…RIGHT NOW.
DEXTER LUMIS DEFEATED AUSTIN THEORY VIA KNOCKOUT (12:09 SHOWN)
Lumis dominates the opening minutes, including a Thesz Press into full mount rights a la Steve Austin. Theory bails to the floor, Lumis stalks him and throws him back in, hitting a bulldog that Theory takes on the TOP OF HIS HEAD for a two-count. Action goes picture-in-picture for commercials, during which Theory trips Lumis on the apron and sends him into the ring steps to go on the offensive. Back to full screen Theory hits a standing shooting star press for a two-count and mocks Lumis repeatedly. Lumis hits a spinebuster and mounts a comeback, including a rolling monkey flip. Theory hits Lumis with a dropkick but Lumis gets up first and stares a hole in Theory, who tries to escape but gets pulled back into the ring. Lumis hits a sitout urinage into a Kata Gatame for the knockout.
- Good, competitive win for the returning Lumis, while also continuing the story that Austin Theory is too immature to get the big wins. Lumis as a babyface doesn’t make a ton of sense but I like the cut of his jib and also I don’t want him to MURDER me so it gets a thumbs up from my end. Match could’ve been a little shorter though. (**)
Lumis doesn’t even get time to celebrate as Cameron Grimes lays him out with a Cave In. Apparently they had an altercation last week. Phoenix says that Lumis never saw it coming over a replay where he clearly watched Grimes as he flew at him. Funny to me.
-McKenzie Mitchell interviews Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. Gonzalez vows to take care of Rhea Ripley once and for all tonight, Kai says Moon should get behind her for a Women’s Title shot.
-VIDEO: A look at the Finn Balor/Kyle O’Reilly main event from TakeOver 31 where both men bled and Balor fractured his jaw in two places. Hot damn, I should watch that one.
-EARLIER TODAY: Ridge Holland arrives to the arena, unseen interviewer asks why he attacked Adam Cole. Holland says last week he didn’t have a Mercedes but this week he does and you can thank Adam Cole for that. Hired gun or payment for a ruse? WHO KNOWS.
-BURGER KING SUPERSTAR PROFILE: North American Champ Damian Priest.
-McKenzie Mitchell interviews the man himself. Priest talks about how great the afterparty was following his win at TakeOver 31 and wonders who will be next. He’s not ducking any challengers.
RIDGE HOLLAND DEFEATED DANNY BURCH VIA PINFALL (2:06)
Stiff shots from Burch in the early moments, the two trade forearms and Burch catches Holland with a missile dropkick from the middle buckle. Burch gets in more offense but Holland manages to put a stop to it all, powering out of a crossface to hit a lariat and inverted suplex for the win.
- Quick match but I appreciated how stiff it was. (**)
Holland mocks Burch on his way out. Burch gets to his feet and slaps the hat off Holland’s head, leading to Holland knocking him out with tons of headbutts. Burch’s partner Oney Lorcan runs interference and a brawl breaks out, continuing even after officials try to break it up. Lorcan manages to get the last hit, a splash that causes Holland’s ankle to buckle in a gross way. Lorcan checks on Burch.
-Back to the Gargano House we go as Johnny Gargano watches the TV. He calls in Candice LeRae and we find out they’re watching the women’s battle royal from a few weeks back as it was on a USB stick that came with the TV. Gargano (and the spotlight edit) points out how many times Indi Hartwell helped LeRae during the match and says she has a bright future. LeRae says she’s starting to like her as well.
-VIDEO = Timothy Thatcher beats up a poor faceless soul while talking about how life has peaks and valleys so you have to strike first. Thatcher talks about how life grinds people down but won’t let it happen to him. Thatcher called this segment “Thatch as Thatch Can” which is pretty great.
-Back to the arena where Ridge Holland is carried out on a stretcher, his leg getting legitimately injured during that brawl. Solemn voices from all the commentators. Poor Ridge; got a big boost in his career and now he’s injured. The WWE really is cursed sometimes.
SHOTZI BLACKHEART DEFEATED XIA LI VIA PINFALL (1:46)
Blackheart comes out in her mini-tank, which now has Halloween decorations on it. She also hypes up the upcoming Halloween Havoc special which she will be hosting. Xia Li’s entrance involves various stances and a big fan. This was all much longer than the match, which Blackheart won in short order with a stage dive splash.
- The restraint WWE had on bringing back Halloween Havoc is impressive, but if NXT doesn’t have an inflatable pumpkin or a partnership with Slim Jim it’s going to be all for nothing. To me anyway because I’m captain no fun. (NR)
Boa, a fellow Chinese-born NXT roster member, shows up and hands Li a letter. She reads it, looks shocked, then leaves with Boa while Blackheart celebrates her win. ARE THEY FINALLY DOING SOMETHING WITH XIA LI? COOL.
EMBER MOON & RHEA RIPLEY DEFEATED DAKOTA KAI & RAQUEL GONZALEZ VIA PINFALL (11:49)
Moon starts the match, her first for NXT since 2018, hitting a senton and snap suplex before settling into an armbar. Gonzalez tags in and powers out of various attempts by Moon until being staggered by a series of kicks. Gonzalez fights through and tags out to Kai, who gets sent to the floor after slapping Moon, leaving her open for a tope suicida between the middle and bottom rope. Gonzalez runs over to help, Ripley flattens her with a senton from the apron. Ripley tags in proper, Kai tags out to Gonzalez and helps send Ripley crashing to the floor, holding her while Gonzalez levels her with a kick. Kai and Gonzalez utilize quick tags and wear Ripley down while cutting off the ring. Ripley tries to make a tag and Gonzalez throws her across the ring like a sack of garbage. Eventually Ripley is able to fight them off long enough to get the HOT TAG to Moon. Moon takes it to both Kai and Gonzalez but misses a corner splash; Gonzalez tags in and hits a powerslam after a kick from Kai for the 1…2…not yet. Ripley and Kai tag in. Kai hits the Kairopractor (GREAT NAME) but Ripley kicks out. Moon tags in and hits a lariat, Gonzalez breaks up the count. Moon heads to the top, Gonzalez trips her up but Ripley grabs her in a fireman’s carry; Kai kicks them into and over the announce table. Moon then hits the Eclipse on Kai for the 1…2…3.
- Happy to see Ember Moon back, especially in an environment better suited to showcase her. Match itself had some jank but Moon made up for it at the end with a great Eclipse. I love that finisher so much. (**)
Moon & Ripley raise their hands in victory as the show goes off the air.
FINAL THOUGHTS: For a post-TakeOver episode this week’s NXT felt kinda flat. Not that anything was super bad (okay the Drake Maverick stuff was pretty bad), just didn’t really pop for me outside of KUSHIDA/Tommaso Ciampa. I don’t know. Maybe I was expecting more. Glad they built it around Ember Moon’s in-ring return and the women’s division though.
- MATCH OF THE NIGHT: KUSHIDA vs. Tommaso Ciampa
- MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Dexter Lumis stares a hole through Austin Theory to the point where he tries to run for his life. Dude was born to be a serial killer…IN A MOVIE. A MOVIE.