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NXT Review: Jan 22

I have the plague.

Okay, maybe it’s just a cold that I’ve blown out of all proportion, but whatever it is that’s currently flooding my system with enough mucus to fill a bathtub the facts of the matter are, I’m ill.

Yet not even my impending death from Ebola can stop me from bringing you my thoughts and views on all the wrazzlin’, all the time, and as it’s Thursday (I think, I currently have no concept of time) we need to lace up our boots and head to the ring for this week’s episode of NXT.

The Undisputed Era vs. The Grizzled Young Veterans

The Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic Semi-Final: The Undisputed Era vs. The Grizzled Young Veterans

As soon as the opening of the show was kind enough to remind me that Imperium we’re going to be in attendance tonight, I knew this wasn’t going to have a clean finish.

Normally that would’ve been enough for me to start dishing out Vince McMahon Bull-Honky Alerts left, right, and center but I decided to let it slide.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone soft, though the fact I’m jacked up on enough cold medicine to knock out Keith Richard might have helped somewhat, this is all part of an ongoing story that reaches its crescendo the Saturday at Worlds Collide so it doesn’t really bother me that Walter and his boys got involved by not getting involved.

It’s a shame it happened though, as this match was yet another in a long line of curtain-raisers that the WWE has put on lately that have torn the house down and it deserved a decent ending, but I’ll leave my brain at the door on this one and accept that The Undisputed Era was so dazzled by Imperium’s sudden appearance that they forgot what they were in the middle of a wrazzlin’ ring and that they weren’t alone.

I’ve said before how I hate this kind of trope as it makes whoever’s on the receiving end look stupid by becoming so distracted that they lose any vestige of common sense, but there was enough top-quality action between the ropes beforehand that I’m just going to ignore that.

I love The Undisputed Era but have a sneaky suspicion we could be on the road to the faction leaving as a whole for the main roster after Wrestlemania, as Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish took the loss here.

This was good news for The Grizzled Young Veterans as they now advance to the final and Liverpool’s finest deserve to be there on wrestling ability alone as they haven’t put a foot wrong over the previous two matches.

They’re not going to win though, not with Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne being the poster boys for the tournament, but they’ll go back to the UK with a lot more shine on them then when they left.

Winners: The Grizzled Young Veterans

Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai

Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai

I am in a forgiving mood today.

Just like the match that had preceded it, there was no way we were going to get a clean finish here either and that should’ve flipped my trigger faster than a Vegan outside of a kebab shop, but as I said, I’m in a forgiving mood today.

God bless you, Lemsip.

As long as there is a reason behind it, and as long as it advances a story, then you could have Hulk Hogan come down to the ring to get involved and I wouldn’t care.

Well, not Hulk Hogan as he’s a racist douchebag, but you understand the point I’m trying to make.

When it’s done just for the sake of giving people something to do or to continue on with a narrative that should be taken out the back and shot Old Shep style, *cough* Lana and Bobby *cough*, then it’s just lazy writing that should be called out for the bull-honky that it is.

Something that should be called out though is the companies use of Io Shirai.

I have no idea what it is with the WWE and their Asian talent, but they just don’t seem to have any faith in them to be the face of the brand.

Yes, I know Asuka was the NXT queen for what seemed like an eternity but look how they completely botched her handling on the main roster.

Kari Sane, she was one of the most exciting talents that they’d had on their hands in a long time and now she’s part of a tag-team that seem to have forgotten they have titles to defend.

Hideo Itami, sure, he had his injury problems but instead of backing him to the hilt on his return they just forgot about him.

Is it any wonder that there are so many stories doing the rounds about a lot of these wrestlers wanting to leave?

After all, if Itami can go back to NJPW as the all-conquering Kenta, then why can’t the rest of them seek greener pastures elsewhere?

As for the match itself, it was alright. Both of these performers are pretty familiar with each other, having worked together on a few occasions now, and it was pretty fluid but won’t really live in the memory that long.

What was interesting, at least to your friendly neighborhood wrestling writer, was the ending.

What I initially assumed was going to be your standard beat down, after Bianca Belair stormed the ring, suddenly took an interesting turn when Rhea Ripley showed up.

Soon enough all four women were laying the boots to each other, and in doing so ramped up the tension surrounding the NXT Women’s Championship and even though it’s a little late in the day for it to happen at Worlds Collide, don’t be surprised to see the belt up for grabs at the next TakeOver event in a Fatal Four Way.

Winner By DQ: Io Shirai

Finn Balor vs. Joaquin Wilde

Finn Balor vs. Joaquin Wilde

A few weeks ago I said that there was no reason to think that Wilde was going to be used as simply enhancement talent.

Well, proves what I know, huh?

This was the definition of a squash match and considering how much grief I gave the WWE for pulling the same thing on Monday Night RAW, I should be consistent in my damning of such shenanigans.

But I’m not going to be.

My column, my rules.

The reason behind this is quite simple, Finn Balor came off as a total bad-ass here and a legitimate threat to anybody on any roster within the WWE.

It’s quite easy to forget that before the always smiling, Finn freezing, babyface run that he had he was one of the greatest heels of the 21st century.

Prince Devitt might have only seen the light of day in NJPW but this incarnation of him should, if they play it right, run roughshod over NXT until he becomes a two-time champion.

Starting with him taking care of Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: Portland.

Winner: Finn Balor

Shayna Baszler vs. Shotzi Blackheart

Shayna Baszler vs. Shotzi Blackheart

After Blackheart had dumped Baszler out of last week’s Battle Royale, I was hoping that it would be the start of a mini-feud between these performers.

And I suppose, it kind of was.

Thanks to Deonna Purrazzo attacking Shotzi backstage, you can pretty much stick a one and done fork in this rivalry, which is a crying shame in this writer’s opinion, as it could’ve done both wrestlers the world of good.

Baszler needs fresh blood to go after and Blackheart needs a big name to show her skills off against and even though they both had that here, it was for the most fleeting of times.

Both came out of this looking good, however, and it’s now set Shayna up as a heel after refusing to break her submission hold after the bell, but I would’ve genuinely liked to see these two go at it a couple of more times at least.

Winner: Shayna Baszler

Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne vs Imperium

Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic Semi-Final: Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne vs. Imperium

I don’t get all the fuss surrounding Matt Riddle.

I mean, it’s not like I dislike the bloke but to hear wrestling fans bang on about him, you’d think he was the second coming of Daniel Bryan.

I just don’t see it.

His “bro” gimmick is annoying and he just doesn’t seem that good in the ring. He may have a pretty “rad” physique but I thought we were past this objectifying wrestlers just because they have hot bodies?

Pete Dunne, on the other hand, is a beast and deserves all the glory he’s in line for within the WWE, including winning this year’s Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic.

I expected some form of Undisputed Era interference to help cost Imperium the match but Riddle and Dunne won cleanly, which should be all you need to know about who’s walking away with that trophy next week.

Winners: Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne 

NXT North American Title Match: Keith Lee vs. Roderick Strong

NXT North American Title Match: Keith Lee vs. Roderick Strong

If you are not already basking in the glory of Keith Lee, then I suggest you climb aboard this bandwagon while there’s still room as he is the future of the WWE.

His victory over Roderick Strong for the NXT North American Championship is just the first step on his climb to greatness, which will culminate in him becoming NXT Champion before heading over to RAW and defeating whoever holds that strap at the time.

Probably Brock Lesnar still.

And if you’ve any sense you’ll be able to say that you saw the bout that started it all off.

We’re not even out of January yet and NXT has already given us two Match of the Year contenders with this being the newest one to that list.

It wasn’t all one-sided either, with Strong and his cohorts trying everything they could in the book to keep the belt. Everything from distractions to sneak attacks and a really, really brutal segment where Strong used the ring steps to try and crush Lee’s ankle. It was so old school heel that I thought Arn Anderson had just walked into the room.

But there was no denying the man his moment and after he’d laid out the three other members of the Undisputed Era, he hit Roderick Strong with the Big Bang Catastrophe, got the pin, 1-2-3, and the Full Sail University crowd, and a very ill me, lost their shit.

Now let’s just pray the WWE don’t manage to f*ck this character up.

Winner And New NXT North American Champion: Keith Lee

The Street Profits

Final Thoughts

I really can’t pick fault with this week’s NXT.

And trust me, I tried.

It seems that each time they put out an episode they go out of their way to top what they gave us seven days previous and they very rarely fail to.

There was so much going on here that it could’ve been a mess of a show but they have their formula down so well now, that that was never going to be the case. They never confuse the viewer with convoluted storylines and keep it simple enough that a toddler could follow it.

And at the same time, they put on some of the best wrestling available in the business today.

It’s a practice that is guaranteed to reap dividends in the long run and leads me to believe that the WWE as a whole will be a lot better product when Big Vinny Mac finally steps aside.

NXT really is the future.

Neil Gray

Written by Neil Gray

The Undisputed Sports Obsessive One Man Wrestling Writing Machine. He is The Gray and he is 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 damn good.

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