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 22, 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
-Recap of last week’s events. In addition to the obvious, Shotzi Blackheart’s elimination of Shayna Baszler in the women’s battle royal got a featured spot. Walter had the last word leading to Worlds Collide.
(1) UNDISPUTED ERA (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) vs. GRIZZLED YOUNG VETERANS (Zack Gibson & James Drake) – Dusty Classic semifinal match
All four of UE walked to the ring first, and Adam Cole stopped near the announce table to give a warning to Imperium. Gibson and Drake stopped and took a look at the Dusty Classic trophy at the top of the ramp before heading down to the ring.
O’Reilly and Gibson started. “Undisputed” chant with a very light “GYV” in response. To the corner, O’Reilly hit a flurry of forearms. Zack returned with a lariat and made the tag to Drake. Drake got distracted by Fish while on the apron, and O’Reilly hit a dragon screw on Drake. Tag made, and Fish made the cover for two in the ring. Senton atomico by Fish for two. He kicked down Drake in his own corner and tagged O’Reilly, who took a couple of shots before tagging again. Stereo suplex and Fish covered for two. Backdrop driver by Fish for a one count. Another tag for UE. O’Reilly hit a shinbreaker and kicked the back of Drake’s leg out for two. Drake rolled up O’Reilly on another attempt on the shin, but O’Reilly escaped. Zack made the “hot tag” to boos, which Nigel acknowledged.
Tandem offense on O’Reilly. Zack hit a basement dropkick. Action spilled out leading to a split-screen commercial. Normally that’s the time for a heel heat segment, but with nothing but heels in the match, it was more or less 50-50.
Back to the ring, O’Reilly was in peril and reaching for a tag while GYV attempted to cut it off, but both made tags. Bobby Fish fought off both GYV in the ring and yelled out like a fired-up babyface. Gibson, legal, hit a lungblower but Fish caught him in a kneebar. Drake helped Gibson reach the ropes. Drake tagged in and hit a corner dropkick on Fish. Helter Skelter by Gibson and Drake covered for two. Mauro said it would be an upset to see GYV win there. Tag to Gibson, but Fish was able to dump him and O’Reilly, on the outside, hit a diving knee on a standing Drake. Gibson tagged in. All four got into it and there was chaos in the ring as power kept shifting. Fish and Drake stood in the ring at the end, exchanging forearms. Blind tag by Kyle, and UE surprised Drake with tandem knees.
Imperium’s music played. Kyle completely stopped paying attention to the match. Nobody came to the ring. GYV hit their tandem finisher Ticket to Mayhem and Drake covered Kyle for the win.
WINNERS: Grizzled Young Veterans at 13:01.
(Wells’s Analysis: It chaps my hide when the hypothetical guy in the music booth ends up costing someone the match. Contrived ending aside, these two teams put together a very strong match considering the difficulties of a heel-heel matchup. Also hanging over the match is the utter predictability that GYV and Riddle-Pete have to win tonight given that Imperium and UE are already booked for Worlds Collide)
-Hype for Rhea Ripley vs. Toni Storm at Worlds Collide. Up next, Toni faces Io Shirai.
-Shotzi Blackheart vignette. She’s confident for her match with Shayna Baszler tonight.
(2) TONI STORM vs. IO SHIRAI
Io was introduced second to the usual friendly reaction.
Collar and elbow. Storm grabbed a headlock but got knocked down. Leglock by Shirai, reversed back to a headlock. Toni got up first and extended a hand. Shirai tried to slap it and Storm yanked it away.
Shirai hit a dropkick after some more missed moves. Storm blocked a kick and hit a dropkick. Big boot by Storm for two. European uppercut by Toni. Shirai dragged Storm near the ropes and hit a running boot on the outside. Shirai rolled up Storm for two. To the corner. Mudhole stomp by Shirai. Chops by Io. To the corner, another stomp and Shirai choked Toni over the ropes until the ref broke it up. Shirai took hold of a chinlock but Storm tossed Shirai overhead. To their feet, strikes were exchanged until Shirai took down Storm with a headlock. The crowd was trying to get Storm back into it, so it’s closer to even than in most Shirai matches. The match went to commercial.
Back to action, Storm rolled up Shirai to escape a submission. Shirai went to town on Storm in the corner. Double knees. German suplex by Storm for two. She wanted Storm Zero but Shirai snuck out. Shirai ran into a lariat for two. Shirai went for 619, but Storm caught her and dropkicked her to the floor. Storm went for a dive, but Bianca Belair appeared out of nowhere and put her fists to Toni Storm and cause the DQ.
WINNER: Io Shirai by disqualification at 11:01.
Rhea Ripley’s music played to bring her to the ring to go at it with Bianca Belair. Io Shirai hit a springboard dropkick on Rhea, then dumped Rhea and Bianca and hit a moonsault on both. Tope on Shirai by Storm. Toni picked up the NXT Women’s Championship and the crowd booed her as she held it up.
(Wells’s Analysis: Nobody likes a DQ finish, but this angle moved forward several stories and Io didn’t end up having to do a job that could damage her before she likely becomes Rhea Ripley’s next major challenger after Bianca Belair is out of the way. Good action in the ring, and a very efficient use of talent)
-Adam Cole, flanked by his UE brothers, gave a quick and fiery promo on Imperium.
-Ilja Dragunov promo. He’s invincible! I know I said this last week, but if you haven’t seen Ilja yet, treat yourself.
-Finn Balor’s music played for…a televised match? That’s not like him.
(3) JOAQUIN WILDE vs. FINN BALOR
My brother is watching with me and had a lot of great soundbytes on Wilde’s bizarre entrance gear. In short, he was amused.
Balor took down Wilde to start and put the boots to him. Repeated dropped boots to Wilde’s midsection until the ref broke it up. Chop in the corner by Finn. To the opposite corner, Finn ran into boots but hit a running dropkick to follow. Finn made the finger guns and hit a hard dropkick to the corner. Coup de Grace. 1916. That’s that.
WINNER: Finn Balor at 2:04.
(Wells’s Analysis: We don’t get a lot of Finn in the ring on TV, so these two minutes will have to do. Finn and Ilja don’t have anything on the line at Worlds Collide, but it should be a nice twelve minutes of brutality. Wilde just got back to TV recently but already feels like he needs a character shift again to be taken seriously)
-Cathy Kelley caught up with Shayna Baszler and asked about Shotzi Blackheart. Shayna says she’s not going anywhere, and will go through everyone to become Shayna three-time. The match is next.
(Wells’s Analysis: I think Shayna will be the winner of the Royal Rumble, and I think this talk of staying around and going through everyone is a red herring. I expect Shayna to win this match before heading north but Shotzi is likely to be elevated just by hanging with her.)
(4) SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. SHAYNA BASZLER
Shotzi, surprisingly, entered after Shayna. Shayna stared down at Shotzi’s entrance histrionics, unimpressed. Mauro pointed out that “Blackheart” is a shout out to Joan Jett.
Collar and elbow. Shayna powered down Shotzi, pushed down her head and got up to boos. Shayna worked the joints and kicked Shotzi down, but Shotzi reversed. Drop toe-hold by Shayna leading to an armbar, reversed. Transition to a leglock by Shayna, who worked Shotzi’s joints. Baszler charged Shotzi and got dumped. Back in, and Shotzi got a couple of shots in but Shayna returned the favor by dumping Shotzi. Backdrop on the apron. Shayna draped Shotzi over the apron and put knees to her. Back in. Shayna hit a knee to the back for two.
Shotzi got back up and hit a couple of shots. Shayna reversed to the Kirifuda Clutch, quickly reversed. DDT by Shotzi. Clothesline by Shotzi but Shayna hit a forearm to Shotzi. Step-up enzuigiri by Shotzi. Shotzi slammed Shayna to the mat and hit a senton as Baszler was draped over the second turnbuckle. Out to the apron, and Shotzi dropped back and hit Shayna’s neck on the apron. Baszler went into the ring and Shotzi went up. Shotzi came off the top and fell right into the Kirifuda Clutch. She held off for a surprisingly long time and Shayna had to roll back into the center of the ring to finish. After the bell, Shayna wouldn’t let go for a moment and soaked up the boos.
WINNER: Shayna Baszler at 6:20.
(Wells’s Analysis: It was the exact match you’d think. Shotzi looked great in defeat and fought off the Kirifuda Clutch for a good bit, and may be in the mix near the top soon. Some great counters in this one)
-Recap of the Dakota Kai-Tegan Nox feud. Apparently, this match will be given away on next week’s show. The second Dusty semifinal is next.
-Moustache Mountain hype video.
-Cathy Kelley talked to Angel Garza, who didn’t care who came for his championship. It’s his show. It’s his house. Cathy amazingly resisted the urge to mention Angel’s dimples.
(5) MATT RIDDLE & PETE DUNNE vs. IMPERIUM (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) – Dusty Classic semifinal match
Bro-serweights were out first. Riddle had his hair up in…interesting…braids. All four of Imperium were out for this one.
Dunne and Aichner to open. Quick reversals to start and Barthel tagged in. Headlock by Dunne, reversed by Barthel. Blind tag by the heels. Armdrag by Aichner who continued to work the arm. Rope run, ending with a lariat by Dunne. Tag to Riddle. Dunne flipped Riddle onto Aichner and Riddle continued with a gut wrench suplex. Barthel tagged in but had no better luck until he blocked a Bro-ton with his knees. Punches in the corner by Barthel. Both guys tagged.
Dunne dropkicked Aichner, then stomped Barthel’s digits. German for Aichner. Crucifix bomb got two for Dunne. Dunne hit a moonsault on the outside on Barthel as he was charged by Aichner. Walter distracted Dunne on the outside so Imperium could take control and put the knees to Dunne at the steps leading into commercial.
Back after commercial, Dunne and Barthel were legal. Dunne was trying to make a needed tag but Imperium cut him off. Dunne hit a step-up enzuigiri on Aichner and finally made the tag. Riddle destroyed both Imperium guys with knees and exploders for all. Bro-tons for both. Fisherman buster for Aichner and Dunne tagged back in. Stereo knees for two. Riddle back in. Face miscommunication led to Imperium taking control again. Tandem offense by Imperium led to Barthel getting a two on Riddle. Chaos for a moment and Dunne became legal. Tandem DDT by the heels and Riddle broke it up. Riddle got dumped and Aichner tagged in. Dunne reversed a delayed suplex into a submission. Riddle and Barthel got involved and eventually cleared out. Tag by Riddle, and the faces backdropped Aichner. Jackhammer by Riddle for two. The camera made sure to establish that Walter and Alexander Wolfe were still hanging around on the ramp.
Aichner and Riddle went up the turnbuckle. Brainbuster by Aichner. Power shift city for a few moment. Dunne and Aichner ended up legal and a tandem kick by Dunne finished.
WINNERS: Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne at 14:41.
(Wells’s Analysis: Given that both of these tag matches were foregone conclusions, only a couple of strong outings could make them worth it. This match delivered in a big way. It was hard to keep up with the action, but didn’t just seem like a chaotic spotfest.)
-Grizzled Young Veterans showed up on the top of the ramp and stopped Riddle and Dunne from leaving. Zack Gibson said Dunne and Riddle were the men who kept blocking them from the top, and they were going to take them down. Riddle said “I don’t know what you’re saying, but when you started talking about ‘joint’ manipulation, I started daydreaming.” “Riddle’s gonna smoke you” chant. Dunne took the stick and played along with the pot riff for a moment, but got serious and said they were going to finish the job next week. At one point, I thought this was booked for Worlds Collide; this seemed out of nowhere.
-Up next, Keith Lee challenges for the North American Championship.
(6) KEITH LEE vs. RODERICK STRONG (c) – North American Championship match
Challenger entered first, 16 to the hour. Strong hit the ramp with all three of his stablemates, who stayed at ringside. The fans hit the “Go bask in his glory” chant even while the UE music was playing. Formal introductions commenced.
Strong danced around Lee, who waited. Strong charged and slapped Lee, who glared back. A forearm took down strong. Elbow in the corner. Chop by Lee. Another forearm/elbow. Lee tossed Strong, who bailed, leading to commercial. No split screen, so the match is likely to go to another commercial.
Back from commercial, Lee was in control and Strong bailed to his mates. Lee went out and UE lurked and jawed just feet away as he hammered Strong. Lee walked toward them and they backed up, but the distraction worked as Strong hit a wrecking ball dropkick to Lee to the outside. Strong set up Lee’s right leg on a step and slammed down on it. Strong broke the count so he could trap Lee’s leg between the stairs and ring and kick them. Back in and a cover got zero, though Strong stayed on top. Strong kept working the ankle in a bit of a sit-down Sharpshooter. Dragon screw by Strong. Strong hit a Banzai Drop on the ankle on a rope, but Lee dumped Strong on the next attempt. Strong reentered the ring and went for the ankle and Lee looked to kick him off, and it took three attempts to wedge Strong off of him.
Running drive-by forearms by Strong. Both guys collapsed to the mat going into split-screen commercial at the ten minute mark.
Back to TV, Lee spiked Strong for two. Strong bailed again to his UE brothers. Lee followed and UE just barely kept their distance. Lee looked at them warily and went up, but Bobby Fish got a shot in on the ankle as Cole distracted the ref. Strong covered for two. Lee fought to his feet and knocked down Strong. Both guys sold on the mat and Lee was up first. He went up the turnbuckle but Strong clipped him and followed. Strong wanted a superplex but he was elbowed to the canvas. Strong went up again and was able to hit an Olympic Slam for one. Lee powered out of the cover at one with a victory shout. “Go bask in his glory” chant. Lee pounced and sent Strong over the top, where he landed on the rest of UE. “Mamma Mia” chant.
Strong limped back in and got hit by a huge lariat for a long two. Lee dragged Strong near a corner and went up. Moonsault missed and Strong grabbed an anklelock. Lee was nowhere near the ropes, but he made quick work of the distance and broke the hold. Shots in the middle of the ring; Lee won that battle. UE hit the apron and Lee cleared them out. Knee strikes by Strong and a cover for two. Strong ran into Lee’s finisher, and with the rest of UE recovering, it was good to finish.
WINNER AND NEW NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPION: Keith Lee at 20:29.
(Wells’s Analysis: I still think Lee could make a huge splash in the Royal Rumble, but I thought this win was essential for Lee as he continues his rise up the card. UE no longer has all the gold. Roddy was a great champion who was having quality matches with many different types of challenger, and once Lee moves up the ladder some more, hopefully the NA Championship is still in the cards for him again)
-Walter and his Imperium buddies stormed the ring and went at UE. “Security” attempted to break it up as the show faded out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The tournament matches were seriously marred by the fact that Imperium and Undisputed Era were already booked at Worlds Collide, but with the Dusty Classic getting shafted and moved to NXT TV anyway, I guess they could have done any finishes they wanted. I still think Grizzled Young Veterans win this one, and head to the US for a while to bolster the tag division. Worlds Collide isn’t likely to be a show that matters, but the build has been decent and the matches should deliver regardless. Keith Lee is one of many dark horses to win the Royal Rumble in a field that seems more wide open than usual, though I would make the boring pick and say Roman Reigns is likely to come out on top. With this win, Lee becomes infinitely less likely to win that match. I’m okay with a guy not being moved up too quickly, so some time with NXT’s secondary championship is just fine before he takes the next step.
I got an email for tonight’s PWT Talks NXT show decrying the Baszler-Shotzi match, but I thought it was just fine. I may have to watch it again but nothing stood out as egregious. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time I took another look while not having to recap the match in real time, and some mistimed moments stood out. All that aside, the company seems committed to Shotzi and I look forward to seeing what she can do in a crowded field. All in all, it was a fine if unspectacular show, with a big moment for Keith Lee. Tonight I’ll record PWT Talks NXT with Tom Stoup and Nate Lindberg, and you can hear us again on Saturday night following Worlds Collide. Have a great wrestling weekend, gang.