Credit: WWE (and Dexter Lumis?)
NXT kicked off their 2021 with a loaded card, intent on putting their best foot forward heading into a New Year.
The only disappointment being that Fight Pit 2 (Back in the habit) was postponed to a later date due to an injury to Timothy Thatcher but even that was replaced with a fun mixed tag match featuring the most powerful man in all of sports entertainment,
Damian Priest V Karrion Kross
Gran Metalik V Santos Escobar (C) for the Cruiserweight title
Xia Li V Katrina Cortez
Rhea Ripley V Raquel Gonzalez- Last Woman Standing
The Way V Shotzi Blackheart & Kushida- MIxed Tag
Kyle O'Reilly V Finn Balor (C) for the NXT Title
Now before I begin, I just want to introduce my new ratings system, the NXT Promoter Score (or NXTPS for short) which is a little play on the Net Promoter Score that a lot of business' use to gather client feedback.
In essence this 1-10 scale is not a rating of quality but of how likely I would be to recommend a match or show to a fellow fan with 1 being avoid at all costs and 10 being do not miss this under any circumstances.
This score will be inclusive of pre/post match angles/promos as its related to the match itself.
Damian Priest v Karrion Kross
A solid show opening match with plenty of violence and aggression shown by both men. Priest played the roll of gutsy babyface fighting from underneath who inevitably fails as all have before him and Kross simply brutalised his opponent from bell to bell (as per usual). There were moments where Priest built a bit of momentum, even landing the Razors edge but we were never given the impression that it would last with Kross targeting his damaged ribs inside and outside the ring before finishing him off with a particularly nasty looking forearm smash to the back of the head. This one went a bit long for me but I was never bored and I look forward to seeing Kross decimate some poor fool over the next couple of weeks!
NXTPS : 6/10
Gran Metalik v Santos Escobar: Cruiserweight title match
So turns out world renowned Lucha Libre wrestler Gran Metalik can really go in the ring, who'd have thought??????
The action was fast paced and aggressive throughout with some spectacular aerial moves in there from Metalik that genuinely had Escobar on the ropes at times. Escobar to his credit kept himself in it with some impressive power moves and strikes, always able to find ways of cutting off Metalik's offence even if his methods were not entirely clean. Just when it looked like Metalik may have finally found the champions number, Escobar tried to pull his mask off and in the ensuing panic was able to drop his opponent from the top rope with a display of raw strength before the Emperor of Lucha Libre finished the King of the Ropes off with the Phantom Driver. I feel like this could have done with a bit more build but I'd definitely watch a sequel.
NXTPS : 7/10
Xia Li v Katrina Cortez
The match itself was basically a squash with minimal offence from Cortez but Xia Li was able to demonstrate her new found aggression and lethal striking to really stand out as a potential threat in the division for 2021. The real story was the return of Li and Boa with their mysterious master after weeks of disturbing vignettes and as a regular viewer I was very impressed by the presentation of this new faction so I'm giving it a bonus point on the NXTPS.
Rhea Ripley v Raquel Gonzalez: Last Woman Standing (MOTN)
It takes a lot to keep Rhea down but this just about did the job- Credit: WWE
WOW! I feel like that should be the whole review but for the benefit of the readers I'll go into more detail!
In my opinion 'last person standing' matches on average are not really that good. They often go too long, with lots a counting while someone tries to stand up and are generally just quite contrived. This however was probably the best of that match type I've ever seen (feel free to recommend a better one if you can), it was well paced, hard hitting and very inventive. If the rumours are true and Rhea is off to the dreaded main roster soon then this was one hell of a way to put Gonzalez over as the unstoppable beast that she is.
Never before have I seen someone throw Ripley about with such consummate ease as she manhandled her throughout, dropping her onto the edge of the announce table which subsequently exploded before burying her in debris. She literally ripped part of the chain link fence off that Ripley had cuffed her to and then beat Ripley with it, broke a kendo stick over her in 2 swings, swatted her out of the air with a chair & finished the match by one armed powerbombing her through the stage from the ring steps(see above).
All credit to Rhea who gave as good as she got at one point driving Gonzalez through a glass door before amusingly stuffing Dakota Kai into a locker but she was on the backfoot from the bell and it was inevitable how this one would end.
The Way v Shotzi Blackheart & Kushida: Mixed Tag
This started as a celebration of Johnny Gargano breaking his title defense curse, complete with some amazing moments from Mr. Takeover (as we've come to expect when he's handed a mic) until they were interrupted by Shotzi taking care of business. TCB in this instance meant shooting Theory in the crown jewels with her tank and clearing the ring only for Kushida to make the save when the heels ganged up on her leading to an impromptu mixed tag match courtesy of the verbose Dexter Lumis.
The match itself was a fun little sprint full of cute moments and flashes of exciting in ring action, especially between Gargano & Kushida who I hope to see more of in the ring together. It all devolved into a anarchy as the rest of The Way tried to get involved but ended amusingly with Gargano landing head first in the aforementioned crown jewels allowing Kushida to roll him up.
Not a bad little match for a last minute replacement but the real gold lay in the pre match segment because right now Johnny can do no wrong.
Kyle O'Reilly v Finn Balor: NXT title match
The long awaited sequel to the acclaimed main event of Takeover 31 finally took place in the main event of New Years Evil and neither man disappointed. It never really reached the heights of physicality present in their previous match but this felt like a more informed story driven match focussing on the ability of both veterans to hone in on their opponents weakness and target it.
Stiff, hard hitting and full of submissions attempts, this style of wrestling is not for everyone but I enjoyed it although I must admit I cringed when KOR bit the bottom rope to break a submission only for Balor to then kick the rope as payback for his broken jaw. From there it ramped up with momentum see sawing between both men until Balor landed a lucky kick to the liver and applied an abdominal stretch for the submission victory- something I've never seen before!
Bloody, battered but still champion! Credit: WWE
If you're going to watch one thing- Rhea v Raquel: Last Woman Standing
If you're going to skip one thing- Xia Li v Katrina Cortez