WADE KELLER PODCAST – EARLY PREVIEW OF ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 MEN’S MATCH, PLUS 2019 AND 2010 LOOK-BACK ROUNDTABLES
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WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
JANUARY 15, 2020
LIVE IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Beth Phoenix
-Graphic: In memory of Rocky Johnson 1944-2020
-Highlights from last week’s show, and also TakeOver: Blackpool II, where Undisputed Era jumped Imperium to close the show.
-Keith Lee, the #1 contender to the North American Championship, was introduced. His shot at Roderick Strong is next week. He soaked up the chants first. “Achievement unlocked: the specimen before you in this ring is your number one contender.” He acknowledged that UE had a great 2019. “The end of their 2019 was arguably the greatest of anyone. Except…for maybe me. And herein lies the difference.” He said UE has reached their peak, while Keith is limitless.
Undisputed Era’s music played, bringing all four to the ramp. Adam Cole asked if Keith has actually seen what they’ve done to everyone, and then the four jump him. Keith has control for a moment but numbers catch up. Roddy has a chair and wraps up Lee’s leg in it, then comes off the top. “Roddy sucks” chant. Tommaso Ciampa bolts to the ring and clears the ring of UE. “Daddy’s home” chant. The announcers sell Lee’s injury, likely as an out for him not taking the National Championship next week. He and Ciampa had a moment after the match.
-At TakeOver: Portland, Johnny Gargano faces Finn Balor.
-Tegan Nox was interviewed outside the arena earlier today. She had words against Dakota Kai, and Candice LeRae jumped into frame to hug Tegan and say she missed her. The women’s battle royal is later tonight. 13 women are on the graphic, including just-signed Mercedes Martinez, who wasn’t mentioned by the announcers.
(1) PETE DUNNE & MATT RIDDLE vs. MARK ANDREWS & FLASH MORGAN WEBSTER – Dusty Rhodes Classic first round match
Dunne and Andrews opened. Andrews with a headscissors and tag. All four got involved and missed some moves leading to split-screen commercial.
Back to action, Dunne tagged in to face Morgan, who was face in peril. Spinebuster by Dunne and Riddle tagged back in. Bro-ton for two. The two missed a tandem move and Andrews tagged in. Pele kick to both. He worked over both guy. DDT for Riddle. Dunne is dumped. Morgan tagged in and both hit tope con giros on Riddle and Dunne. Back into the ring and Morgan covered Dunne for two. Webster went for a move off the ropes but Dunne threw a forearm. Andrews tagged in and wanted a German but Dunne blocked. Enzuigiri by Dunne in the corner. German. Finger stomp. He tagged Riddle and they hit a stereo kick. Two count, broken by Webster.
Riddle hit a German with a bridge for two on Andrews. Suplex was blocked but a flash kick by Riddle got two before Andrews reached a rope. Bro-ton, and Riddle tagged in Dunne. Dunne worked Andrews’s legs and ankles. He worked an ankle lock but Andrews escaped. Northern Lights suplex by Andrews, who went for the tag leading into another commercial, this time without split-screen.
All four were going at it upon return. Webster cleared both opponents from the ring. He was legal, but no word on who was legal for the opposing team. Senton to the outside on both Riddle and Dunne. Riddle tagged in, but had nothing to offer. Andrews tagged in and he put Andrews in the electric chair, but Morgan helped out on a poison rana for two. “Tag team wrestling” chant for two. Riddle speared both Welsh guys but Morgan hit a small package for two. Tag to Dunne, and a tandem suplex got two. Morgan trapped Riddle for a cover but Dunne broke it up using Andrews. Dunne and Andrews both tagged in. Dunne hit an enzuigiri on a seated Andrews, but Andrews hit a stunner to counter the X-Plex. The other guys got into it outside. Shooting star press by Andrews got him trapped. Tandem flash knee finished for the Broserweights.
WINNERS: Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne at 18:19.
Riddle danced like a dork after the win, and Dunne smirked but didn’t join in.
(Wells’s Analysis: Great opener. There were two commercial breaks, which is becoming far too regular for the opener, but it was a good hook. They face Imperium in the final four. With the finals to be wrestled at Worlds Collide, we essentially have a spoiler that it’ll be one from each side)
-Rundown of Imperium-Undisputed Era after TakeOver: Blackpool II. There was a quick Walter promo.
-Cathy Kelley let us know that Keith Lee was being attended to by medical personnel, leaving his match next week “up in the air.”
-Tommaso Ciampa entered the ring. He said it’s clear Undisputed Era has a hit list. He does too, and Adam Cole is on his hit list. He said when Cole took Goldie, he took his life. He needs it back and he’s taking back his life. Undisputed Era strode to the ring and just like earlier, numbers caught up. Johnny Gargano’s music played and he came to the ring to take out UE. The ring was cleared of all but Johnny and Ciampa. “DIY” chant. They had a brief moment together in the ring before Gargano’s music played again.
-The women’s battle royal was promoted as the main event tonight. A battle royal as the main event? Huh. Time Splitters vs. Grizzled Young Veterans next.
(Wells’s Analysis: Good segment, short and sweet, but it’s always worth an eye roll when a face’s music plays before he runs out to help in a brawl)
-A graphic of a tweet by Trent Seven teased a match between Moustache Mountain and #DIY for Worlds Collide. Oh my.
(2) THE TIME SPLITTERS (Alex Shelley & Kushida) vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake) – Dusty Rhodes Classic first round match
Shelley and Kushida were introduced first to a strong reaction. GYV took a long look at the trophy before hitting the ring. Good heel heat for them.
Gibson and Shelley to start. Surprised Kushida didn’t start to set up a tag. “Alex Shelley” chant. He was in excellent shape. Gibson backed Shelley into a corner for a relatively clean break. Irish whip reversal. Drake protected Gibson in the corner and tagged in, but Shelley chopped him a couple of times and tagged Kushida. Shelley got whipped into the heel corner but elbowed both guys out. The Splitters hit splashes to the outside on both guys before Kushida and Drake came in. Shelley made a blind tag and Shelley worked over Drake, but he escaped for a tag. The Splitters were able to hit a tandem basement dropkick on Gibson as Kushida tagged in. Arm wringer. Tag to Shelley. Double suplex got two for Shelley.
Blind tag by GYV, and they were able to knock down Shelley and clear Kushida from the apron leading into commercial.
Drake and Shelley were legal upon return. Shelley wanted a tag but GYV had him in peril. He rolled up Drake for two but Drake hit a backbreaker and Shelley spilled outside, leading to a Gibson-assisted legdrop on the outside by Drake. Gibson tagged in and some fans did the “If you hate Gibson, shoes off” chant that he gets in England. Gibson had Shelley in a chinlock and tagged, but Shelley escaped for the tag. Kushida worked over Drake. Cross-armbreaker for Drake, who rolled up Kushida to break. Drake managed a tag and Gibson trapped Kushida long enough for an enzuigiri by Drake. Hangman neckbreaker on Kushida for two.
Drake tagged in again. Kushida fought off tandem move attempts. Headscissor takedown for Gibson. Shelley tagged in for a 450 splash for two, broken up by Gibson. Chaos as all four were in. Faces took control as the hot crowd cheered them on. Kushida tagged in and went to the top, but Gibson tossed him from the top. GYV isolated Shelley and hit him with their finisher.
WINNERS: Grizzled Young Veterans at 11:55.
(Wells’s Analysis: Very strong work by all four, unsurprisingly. Having the Time Splitters work here was a lot of fun, but every effort was made to create US vs. UK matches for the next round. GYV faces O’Reilly and Fish in the semifinals)
-Kushida and Shelley wanted to shake hands. GYV bailed and Gibson said they derailed the reunion tour on the first stop. He said the Splitters are a great tag team…of the top. He said the Grizzled Young Veterans are sssssoon to be recognized as the Dusty Rhodes Classic winners.
-Earlier today, Chelsea Green and Robert Stone were outside. Stone said the crowd would have to wait to see the hottest free agent in NXT, and she wouldn’t be in the battle royal tonight. The graphic was updated to remove Green from the battle royal.
-Up next: a triple threat for #1 contendership of the Cruiserweight Championship: Lio Rush vs. Isaiah Scott vs. Tyler Breeze.
(Wells’s Analysis: Not sure if this was an audible or the plan, but if Green isn’t going to win the battle royal, I’m in favor of not having her appear. Getting lost in the shuffle in a battle royal is not the way to introduce Green, or for that matter, Stone)
-Finn Balor vignette. He said Ilja Dragunov was like him: fast, smart, furious. He sees belief. He sees that Ilja believes he belongs in the ring with Finn. Finn said if Ilja comes at him, he best not miss.
-Angel Garza joined the broadcast team for the next match. He said something in Spanish and Beth said “I don’t know what you said, but I like the way you said it. I like your dimples.” Mauro powered through as the introductions started.
(3) TYLER BREEZE vs. LIO RUSH vs. ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT – #1 Contender for Cruiserweight Championship
Breeze was introduced first, followed by Swerve and finally Rush. Rush made a point to stop and fist-bump NXT superfan Izzy, who was seated next to the ramp.
The winner of this match will join Angel Garza and two members of NXT: UK in a four-way match for the championship at Worlds Collide. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe Ligero and Travis Banks make sense. Pendulum backbreaker by Breeze on Rush. Swerve cleared out Breeze and took down Rush. Half nelson, but Rush escaped. Swerve took both down to a big pop; Swerve had the crowd behind him early.
Chop by Swerve for Rush. Kick to the chest for Breeze. And some more. Rush blindsided Swerve and tossed him from the ring. Rush used his speed to escape Breeze’s offense and hit a kick to the head. Swerve flipped out to the ramp to catch Rush, who was flipping back to avoid it. Rush hit a headscissor takedown on Swerve from the apron. Breeze took down Rush on the apron leading to commercial. Garza hasn’t said a lot on commentary, and mostly it’s been in Spanish, but he seems energetic about things.
Back to action, Swerve chucked Rush from the ring, but soon after grabbed Rush for a suplex and the two got suplexed together by Breeze. Garza said he’d prove who the best Cruiserweight is. Rush ran the ropes but Breeze took down both Rush and Scott. He missed Scott on the outside and Rush hit a tope on him, then himself got hit by Swerve. Back in went Rush and Swerve. Rush went up and Breeze tried to follow but got knocked down. Rush and Swerve kicked and struck each other leading to Swerve unintentionally setting up Rush for a Supermodel Kick by Breeze. Breeze hit a kick in the corner on Swerve for two. Swerve blocked a Breeze suplex and hit a forearm. Rush dumped Breeze, and then hit a wrecking ball suplex on him. Poison rana for Swerve. Tope by Rush on Breeze. Back in, Final Hour on Swerve for two, broken up by Breeze. All three guys sold in the ring.
The three fought to their feet and exchanged blows. Breeze had the crowd for this segment, it seemed. Breeze hit a Supermodel Kick to clear out Swerve. Final Hour on Breeze. Swerve tried to break it up but Rush hit the Come Up. Breeze rolled up Rush for two. Swerve hit his finisher, the JML Driver, on Breeze to finish. Garza still didn’t say a whole lot when prompted.
WINNER: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott at 13:18.
Garza stared down Swerve from the announce table as Mauro promoted the coming four-way match.
-Rhea Ripley talked to Cathy Kelley backstage. She said she’d go through Toni Storm, who tried to cut the line. She said she’ll also go through the winner of tonight’s battle royal, and the nightmare is just beginning. Beth said the battle royal is next.
(Wells’s Analysis: Getting Swerve involved in a match like this is a good start for him, though I expect Garza to retain in this bonus somewhat-important show. Garza had so little to say that his appearance didn’t do much for him. It might have had more impact to have him simply hit the ramp after Swerve’s victory)
-Cathy Kelley attempted to have a word with Johnny Gargano outside. Ciampa showed up and thanked Johnny for earlier, and the two agreed to the match with Moustache Mountain for old time’s sake. Undisputed Era looked to jump them, but Keith Lee came into view and pounced on – Fish? – and sent him through a row of shrubs. He destroyed a “security guy” on a car hood and another on a table, then yelled “NEXT WEEK!” at Roderick Strong, who had run off well earlier.
-Next week, Strong vs. Lee, Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Fish & O’Reilly, and Riddle & Dunne vs. Imperium.
(4) BATTLE ROYAL – #1 Contender’s match for Women’s Championship
Order of introduction: Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, Bianca Belair, Kacy Catanzaro(?!), Mercedes Martinez…and there’s commercial.
(Wells’s Analysis: Catanzaro’s return sure was a well-kept secret. She “retired” from wrestling after her injury setback and this wasn’t even a sure thing to ever happen, let alone so soon. I’m high on her and am very glad to see her back. It’s also excellent to see a newly-signed Mercedes Martinez. I think she may be the first wrestler to appear in a match on both Dynamite and NXT since Dynamite started)
Upon return, Io Shirai entered the ring, which was by this time getting full. Tegan Nox was next. The match looked to be getting started, but Shayna Baszler was introduced as one last surprise. I think I counted 18 in the ring.
Wrestlers paired off to start. The usual punches and kicks in a loaded ring ensued. There was a surprising amount of time before the first elimination, which was M.J. Jenkins by Shayna Baszler. Bianca Belair powered out Jessie Kamea next. Lucha wrestler Catalina got a few spots in the middle of the ring before Baszler caught her and eliminated her. Kayden Carter went next, also thanks to Baszler. The match went to split-screen commercial at about six minutes.
During the break, Tegan Nox eliminated Indi Hartwell.
Upon return, Shayna Baszler dumped Santana Garrett. Mia Yim hit Protect Ya Neck to eliminate Vanessa Borne. Deonna Purrazzo (announced during the break, so I didn’t know she was returning here as well) was eliminated by Shotzi Blackheart, but Purrazzo yanked Shotzi out and wasted her on the ramp. Shotzi’s still in the match. Xia Li started getting a featured role in the ring, which probably means she’s going next. And there she goes, courtesy of Shayna. Io Shirai dropkicked Kacy Catanzaro out. Seven in the ring, but I think Shotzi is still in as well. Not sure why Dakota Kai isn’t here, other than to save her first meeting with Tegan Nox.
Candice and Bianca paired off, and Belair took her out with a head to the turnbuckle on the apron. Yim and Martinez ended up on the apron, and Martinez suplexed Yim out. Martinez and Baszler faced off to a good pop while Bianca, Tegan and Io recovered. Martinez and Baszler exchanged punches. Baszler trapped Martinez in the Kirifuda Clutch but Martinez escaped and they went to the ropes. Baszler took out Martinez with a headscissors.
The final four, unless Shotzi is still in, are Shirai, Belair, Nox and Baszler. They did the good old spot with each in a corner. Nox went up and splashed Shirai. She took down everyone and hit running elbows in the corner on Belair and Baszler, then cannonballs on each. Mauro said Dakota Kai was conspicuous by her absence. Nox chokeslammed Shirai on top of Baszler. Belair tried to spear Nox but hit Baszler. Nox had Baszler on the apron but Belair unintentionally saved. Shiniest Wizard on Belair. Nox went up the turnbuckle again, and Dakota Kai ran to the ring to yank Tegan off the turnbuckle and out to boos.
Baszler worked over Belair and Shirai. Shotzi Blackheart stormed back into the ring and eliminated Shayna Baszler to a huge pop, but as she taunted Baszler, she was dumped by Bianca Belair.
Final two: Bainca Belair and Io Shirai. They met in the center of the ring and Belair overpowered Shirai. She tossed her by the hair a couple of times. She attempted to powerbomb Shirai out, but Shirai blocked. 619 by Shirai. Shirai went up and got caught in a cross-body for a fallaway slam by Belair. Belair got dropped into the second turnbuckle and Shirai set her up on the top turnbuckle. Shirai went up to meet her. Both teased elimination. Shirai wanted a huracanrana, but Belair almost flipped her over and out. Both ended up on the apron, teasing elimination and just barely holding on. Shirai held down Belair by her hair extension, but Belair yanked it away to drop Shirai on her back on the apron.
Back into the ring, the two exchanged blows on their knees. The crowd was mostly for Io. Io hit a basement dropkick and the crowd chanted her name. Belair speared Shirai. Shirai grabbed the hair and then hit a German suplex. Double knees in the corner. Belair countered a fireman’s carry and lifted up Io to hit KOD to Io on the outside.
WINNER: Bianca Belair at 22:49.
Mauro promoted Bianca vs. Rhea Ripley (or Toni Storm) for the Women’s Championship at TakeOver: Portland.
(Wells’s Analysis: Battle royals can be the red-headed stepchild of creating a top contender, but given Bianca’s had such a middling last year, this kind of match is probably the quickest, easiest way to establish her at the top. On the PWT Talks NXT podcast, Tom Stoup and I both predicted Belair as the first TakeOver challenger of Rhea Ripley. She seems like the right call, given that a longish reign for Rhea is probably in the cards, and Bianca can have a good match with Ripley but is clear cannon fodder as Ripley works her way toward eventual matches with Io Shirai and Dakota Kai. The battle royal was as a match, just okay, but it did an excellent job of setting up matches or continuing feuds: Baszler-Martinez, Baszler-Shotzi, Kai-Nox, and possibly Purrazzo-Shotzi.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: It was very weird to just have four matches, and not have the usual couple of quick affairs to give time to midcard acts on their way up, but NXT has a lot of big shows coming up to promote and that’s making it tough to carve out time for those acts. The battle royal was effective at setting up the future of the Women’s division, though some of the lesser-known acts should have gotten their entrances on TV to make their appearances mean something. Bianca will finally get another singles match on TakeOver, though I can’t possibly see her winning; hopefully she’ll get some TV time to give this match the hard sell nonetheless. Even just last week, she was the fall guy in a six-woman tag match, so there’s some work to do. There are some intriguing Dusty Classic semifinal matches next week, leading to either a Riddle & Dunne vs. Grizzled Young Veterans or an Undisputed Era vs. Imperium final. Given that UE and Imperium are being promoted in an eight-man match, this seems like a giveaway to an annoying degree. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Grizzled Young Veterans win the tournament and slip over to Full Sail to bolster the tag division in the US.
All in all, not a bad show, but the glut of major events coming forward kind of kills the vibe of NXT building toward the future. I’ll cover the show in depth tonight with Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg on PWT Talks NXT. Follow me on social media @spookymilk.