NXT Recap & Reactions: A Shocker (www.cagesideseats.com)

Kyle Decker

NXT returned last night (Dec. 2) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

A Shocker

For the first time ever (probably not but maybe), a team of babyfaces earned the WarGames advantage. No, seriously.

In the main event of the night, Shotzi Blackheart defeated Raquel González in the advantage ladder match. The match itself felt a bit sloppy at times, but mostly in a way that worked for the chaos this type of match should entail.

Like the men last week, the other members of the teams were watching from balconies. But unlike last week, they all left the balconies to get involved. It started with the heels when Indi Harwell sprung them with a ladder. Rhea Ripley and Ember Moon found their way down as well and the teams converged on ringside.

During the chaos, Raquel González broke free to climb the ladder. That’s when the always impressive Io Shirai springboarded onto the back of González mid-ladder, hooking in a sleeper. Like almost everything Shirai does, it was very rad. The women’s champ choked out the larger Raquel, allowing Shotzi Blackheart to win.

It was a fun ending and added a bit of surprise to an angle that was otherwise fairly predictable. We knew Io would join the team, but the way they did it was still really fun.

I wonder how they book a WarGames match with the babyfaces having the advantage. I’ve seen a suggestion that they’ll use it to showcase González more, that she’ll hold her own even in a handicap situation, continuing to build her lore.

It’ll be something to watch for in a match that has the ingredients to be really good.


A Natural

This isn’t new information, but hot damn Pat McAfee is very good at this.

He was tasked to deliver a long promo to sell the match on this Sunday. The Undisputed ERA were represented earlier in a video of them out dining and discussing how to get back on track. So Pat’s promo was the only in-ring bit for the men’s WarGame match.

The heel started by discussing his respect for the late Pat Patterson, and then he seamlessly transitioned into his bad guy spiel in a way that didn’t seem out of place and also didn’t seem disrespectful.

The former punter mocked the ERA’s night out on the town, with zingers about their fake tuxes that didn’t fit or a really good line about the restaurant seating them by the kitchen because they were embarrassed that the Undisputed ERA was dining there. He’s sometimes laugh out loud funny.

There was some psychology in there that will play into the match Sunday and maybe afterwards. McAfee claimed that his boys broke ERA’s spirit last week. Pete Dunne the grabbed the mic to say on Sunday, they’re going to end them for good. (Pat’s reactions to Pete are always entertaining.)

That’s the big angle coming into Sunday. Sure, ERA want revenge, but they’re in a fragile state right now. For the first time, they were taken out in a way they never have been before. Pat McAfee manipulated them and formed a crew that got the better of the best. It left Undisputed discussing their issues over dinner. That doesn’t scream “dominant.” So what happens if they can’t get the job done? What happens to Undisputed’s collective psyche if the Kings of NXT beat them at their own game on Sunday?

I’m very curious to find out.


How Many Ghostfaces?

Johnny Gargano is in full mind games mode.

The entertaining villain was on commentary this week to watch his two WarGames opponents team up. North American Champion Leon Ruff was scheduled to face two members of Legado Del Fantasma alongside newcomer Curt Stallion. But Stallion was attacked by Fantasma and Damian Priest stepped in.

Priest had to contend with those mind games during the match, which put him at a disadvantage. In the crowd was an individual wearing a Ghostface mask. Damian has bad memories of that costume. It was someone wearing that outfit that cost him the North American title back at Halloween Havoc.

Indi Hartwell has since revealed herself as an individual under that mask, but we’re still seeing people in this costume. And we’re seeing Ghostfaces in the same places Indi is, meaning there’s at least one more person working for the Garganos.

After Ruff and Priest won the match (the NA champ tagged himself in to land a splash and pick up the pin after the Archer of Infamy did the lion’s share of work), the camera panned to Gargano at ringside and now there were two Ghostfaces behind him.

This will clearly come into play this Sunday. Who are these masked men? A safe guess is Austin Theory, who’s been off TV since he “quit” weeks back. Velveteen Dream has been missing yet again after taking a series of losses. (This has become a pattern with the man.) So he’s a possibility.

It adds a little mystery to the North American title story, which is already rather good since the addition of Leon Ruff to the angle.


Ever-Rise Rules!

Ever-Rise was set for a match this week against the Grizzled Young Veterans, who attacked them randomly last week. Unfortunately, Ever-Rise were attacked randomly again this week, this time by Imperium. This set up Imperium vs. the Grizzled Young Vets.

This was a match I should have been more excited for than I was. Imperium is great. The Vets are talented. But maybe because it was heel vs. heel, maybe because we haven’t seen either team in awhile, I just couldn’t get into what was a perfectly good match.

In fact, it was Ever-Rise attacking both teams that entertained me the most. They may be heels, but they were the righteous team this week. And repeatedly shouting “EVER-RISE RULES” is the type of dumb I can get behind.


All the Rest:

– Tommaso Ciampa tried to get one up on Timothy Thatcher yet again, sneaking up on him as one of his “students” during Thatch as Thatch Can. But Tim got the upperhand and laid out the Psycho Killer. Their match is official for Sunday.

– Cameron Grimes defeated former Tim Thatcher student August Grey. Afterwards, he grabbed the strap that’ll be used in his strap match this Sunday against Dexter Lumis (well, maybe not the exact same strap) to send a message by beating poor Grey with it. However after Grimes tossed August out of the ring attached to the strap, it was Lumis on the other end when he pulled it back in. It was the fun type of reveal we get with Dex. Cameron then took a beating of his own, maybe a prelude to Sunday.

– Jake Atlas picked up a pinfall win over former cruiserweight champion Tony Nese. To be fair, it’s been awhile since Nese was champ and pinning him now doesn’t feel like that big of a deal. But the announcers put it over as Jake’s biggest win, and Atlas cut a post-match promo talking about how this was the first step to getting on track back to Santos Escobar and the cruiserweight championship.

– There wasn’t much to the Xia Li & Boa saga this week. They were still in the warehouse where we left them last week. The older man was forcing them to submerge themselves in ice water baths over and over. Then they were both attacked by kendo sticks as the mysterious woman watched on, her identity still unknown.


This episode had plenty of elements that felt like a punt against AEW’s Winter is Coming special. The main event was fun, and there was nothing bad on this show. But this go-home episode felt inessential and sometimes unimportant. It wasn’t a bad show. NXT rarely is.

Grade: B-

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