Matt Riddle vs. Arturo Ruas

NXT opened this week with a match between the “Original Bro” Matt Riddle and a veteran of the black and gold brand but that has recently gone through a shift in his look and intensity, Arturo Ruas.

Ruas and Riddle pose an interesting match up for NXT audiences as well as general fight fans as punctuated by  Mauro Ranallo’s lauded explanation of Ruas’ experience with Jiu-Jitsu and Capoeira as well as Mixed Martial Arts and took a moment to remind the audience of Riddle’s previous life and career employed by Dana White and the UFC.

The match was off to a slow start as they began the feeling out process with a series of low outside kicks before Riddle brought Ruas to the mat with a low knee tackle locking him in a waist lock and maintaining control. Ruas was able to reverse the waist lock for one of his own rolling into chin lock before it is broken by Riddle.

However, before momentum could shift entirely Ruas was back on his feet with Riddle in a modified toe hold leading Riddle to roll forward breaking that as well. The pair then moved into a strike exchange with Riddle backing Ruas into the far corner causing for a rope break to be called. The break was not clean though as Riddle wrapped Ruas in his inverted chokehold with his legs wrapped around the waist of the smaller man.

Ruas drilled Riddle’s ribs with a series of right hands causing him to loosen his grip before powerslamming him into the mat. Ruas then transitioned into an armbar attempt slapping him across the stomach and getting a moments extension before Riddle rolled through and reversed the hold into an armbar attempt of his own.

The hold was reversed again as Ruas fought his way back to his feet with Riddle still wrapped around him leaving both men no choice but to disengage. Ruas then began to close the distance with the typical Capoeira approach bobbing and weaving his head and arms before striking out violently with his outside leg hoping to take Riddle by surprise. Riddle was able to avoid the strike though as he dove for a waist tackle bringing both men into the ropes. Riddle then wrapped up Ruas’ left leg attempting to lift him for a sidearm powerbomb before it was reversed bringing both men crashing to the mat.

Riddle forced a rope break at this point wrapping his right arm and clutching at the bottom rope for what seemed to be dear life. Ruas backed off giving Riddle a moment to compose himself before continuing the match. The feeling out process began anew as Riddle gave Ruas a series of outside leg kicks dancing out of the way of those sent back towards him. Ruas then extended his arm looking for the finger lock tie up that wrestling fans have grown accustomed to before being met with a swift kick to the head that he was only just able to jerk away from.

Riddle took the moment to taunt the seemingly stunned Ruas before he was taken down with a beautifully executed waist tackle. Both men struggled for position as Ruas was able to land a few strikes to Riddles guard before both men hurriedly made it back to their feet. Riddle then gave Ruas two highly exaggerated jabs to the stomach before moving into a spinning heel kick which was ducked and then met with a kick to the head in response that was promptly blocked by Riddle before driving Ruas once again to the mat this time with a kick square to the chest. Riddles attempt to capitalize was broken up however by a seated dropkick from Ruas, rocking riddle temporarily and giving him time to regain his vertical base.

Ruas was able to take down Riddle by wrapping his left knee up and bringing his legs out from under him Ruas then began to batter Riddle with a series of hammer fists before catching a series of up kicks from Riddle to the face leaving the smaller man rocking and dazed. Riddle was then able to set up for the Final Flash Knee Strike bringing Ruas down again. This time Riddle pounced and proceeded to hammer him from his chest before the match was stopped as a TKO.

This was a short match clocking in at just over 5 minutes but was a great reintroduction to Ruas where he didn’t lose much as a result of the loss. He still looks imposing and impressive giving fits to the man who KO’d Cassius Ohno in 3 seconds. Riddle, on the other hand, continues to look strong moving into the TakeOver Toronto event that is just shy of one month away.

Riddle was attacked after the match by a large man in jeans and a black hoodie that commentary alluded to being a fan who had jumped the barricade but was revealed to be the returning Killian Dain who after beating down Riddle inside and out of the ring drove him through the stage. I cannot wait to see what these two get up to in Toronto.

Next came a very special edition of Street Talk were Ford and Dawkins, apparent recent graduates of the Jake “The Snake” Roberts school of promos, drew the viewers in with their soft spoken explanation of how they were the kings of the tag division.

Contrary to the belief of Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Riley. They then called out Fish and O’Riley going into detail on how they continue to run their mouths but have yet to produce results against the profits in the ring. Dawkins threw the gauntlet down telling Fish and O’Riley, “Whenever you want the smoke come holler at us. Cause we gonna still be The NXT Tag Team Champions. And that is… Undisputed.”

The camera then held on Montez Ford’s shocked face at the brazenness of his Tag Team partner Dawkins and Ford shared a wry smile before cutting to black and returning us to the sultry smooth sounds of Nigel McGuiness who explained that Mia Yim, who had been constantly plagued by NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler and her horsewomen, took matters in her own hands over the weekend beating down horsewoman Marina Shafir in her car outside of a live event.

We were then shown footage reportedly captured on a fan’s cellphone of the incident which showed Yim striking Duke in the face several times before slamming the car door into her head straightening her top and walking off across the lot.

This should be a pair of very exciting and hard-hitting feuds culminating in matches at TakeOver Toronto. While I can’t see the Street Profits dropping the belts just yet to the likes of the Undisputed Era I think Yim should walk away from her match with the victory barring any funny business from the remaining horsewomen.

Dexter Lumis vs. Bronson Reed

The second match of the night was a first-round match in the NXT Break Out Tournament which saw Dexter Lumis (Lumis was last seen on the NWA 70th anniversary PPV as Samuel Shaw in a losing effort of the finals of the NWA National Title Belt tournament against Willie Mack) facing off against Bronson Reed. Reed was last seen as Jonah Rock in both the PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2018 where he lost to NXT UK Champion WALTER in the second round.

Lumis seems to be continuing his gimmick from the indies as a deranged serial killer turned wrestler sporting leather gloves and a vacant stare and leaving the commentary booth visibly and verbally shaken. Reed, however, seems to be WWE’s response to Jacob Fatu, the current MLW World Heavyweight Champion a large man who touts bringing Australian Strong Style to the forefront of our consciousness while putting the NXT roster on notice.

The match started with both men circling each other in the center of the ring while Loomis framed Reed with his fingers before engaging in a collar and elbow lock up and moving into a side headlock hold on Lumis. Lumis then walked Reed backward into the ropes as commentary continued to hammer home how uncomfortable they were, before Irish whipping him across and catching a shoulder tackle for his efforts.

The small victory did not last long however as Loomis was quick to kip up and stare into the slightly shorter man’s very soul causing wide-eyed disbelief from reed before running the ropes and shoulder tackling him again sending him ass over teakettle and leading him to land back on his feet before being hoisted up onto the shoulders of Reed.

Lumis was able to reverse the lift before sending Reed into the ropes and delivering a shoulder tackle of his own spilling the larger man to the outside. Lumis then leaped over the top rope rotating in a full front flip as he did so but with no one there to catch him he had to settle for landing on his feet and staring down Reed who had retreated around the corner of the ring.

Reed then ducked a big clothesline from Lumis before taking him down to the ground with a crossbody. Lifting Lumis by his ears as the ref begins his count and rolling them both inside to break the count at 6. Reed is the first to his feet again bringing Loomis back to a vertical base by his ears before catching a double-handed jab to the throat followed by an arm drag into the bottom rope causing further damage to the throat area.

Lumis then circles Reed before pouncing on him hammering the man with fists and feet. Then moving to Reeds ears and neck cranking the appendage before slamming him back onto the mat and delivering an Axe handle chop to his chest. Cranking again on Reed’s neck and grazing his eyes. At this point, Lumis leans in and slowly licks the face of Reed coming up with a smile at the jeers of disgust from the NXT universe. Reed is able to establish a vertical base and fight his way free of the hold sending Loomis crashing into the ropes before he’s caught in a huge powerslam.

Both men fight to their feet before Reed fells Lumis again with a big elbow to the face Loomis, however, seems unfazed as he bounces up again and again before being sent across the ring with a towering back body drop. Reed then administers a standing Senton leading to a near fall. Reed pulls Lumis to his feet with a side headlock. Lumis then escapes and delivers a huge belly to back suplex to the much larger Reed followed up by a leaping leg drop for another near fall.

Lumis then crossed the ring to the far turnbuckle before climbing to the top and leaping for what would have been an absolutely devastating Senton Bomb had Reed not rolled out of the way just in time. Reed then catches Loomis in what looks to be a side suplex but instead, he spikes the man to the mat climbing to the top turnbuckle himself and connecting on a massive super splash securing the pinfall and moving on to the next round. Both superstars came out of this match looking absolutely incredible and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for them.

We then moved into a promo package with “Prince Pretty” Tyler Breeze explaining to Charlie Caruso that in order to survive in NXT he may need friends before coming face to face with the Forgotten Sons. Pretty used his signature wit when faced with leader Jaxson Riker he retorted, “Didn’t you used to be Buddy Murphy.” This seems to be setting up a tag match between the Forgotten Sons and Breeze and an unnamed partner. Perhaps this is how they bring Fandango back from his lengthy shoulder injury.

Before continuing the action in the ring we were giving a recap of last weeks comments from Io Shirai after her brutal attack on Candace LeRae following her cage match with Shayna Baszler, “I don’t need any friends. I don’t need any of you.” Shirai stated before strutting out of the center of the ring showing off her new all black ring gear. This led into a tease of next week’s match pitting Sharai against the relative newcomer to NXT Kacy Catanzaro.

KUSHIDA vs. Apollo Crews

The third match of the night saw Kushida face off against a returning Apollo Crews. Crews was met by a cacophony of “welcome back” chants as he made his entrance. The match opened with a quick brush of the fingers as a show of respect before Crews locked Kushida in a waist lock maintaining control over the much smaller competitor, the hold was then reversed into a front face lock by Kushida who then used a Gator Roll to establish a vertical base as Crews rolled just out of the way of a spinning heel kick. Kushida and Crews then began a huge series of leapfrogs and evades as they ran the ropes before ending with a dropkick by Crews.

Crews then Irish whipped Kushida across and out of the ring before exiting himself. Kushida was able to reenter the ring and come off the ropes with a back handspring double heel strike to Crews sending the bigger man crashing back to the outside. Kushida followed this up by bringing Crews back into the ring and locking him up with a cross face armbar before breaking and running the ropes into a gutbuster in the center of the ring.

Crews then lifted Kushida into a vertical suplex hold leaving him hanging for several seconds before bringing him back to the mat and transitioning into a chin lock. Kushida was able to wriggle free of the chin lock and thrown into the corner before being met with a corner splash and a near fall. Crews brought Kushida back to his feet before driving his forearm across his jaw leaving the man to cross the ring in order to escape. Kushida was then able to use a back handspring drop elbow before moving into a kart wheel basement dropkick. Kushida then used a tornado DDT for another near fall.

Kushida began targeting the left arm of Crews before attempting a standing armbar. Crews then drilled Kushida into the mat before delivering a series of deadlift german suplexes and a standing shooting star press for another near fall.

Kushida and Crews lay prone on the mat for several seconds as the fans began to chant “Both These Guys” before Kushida used a reverse S. T. O. to drive Crews left arm back into the turnbuckle following up with a hurricanrana and an overhead kick. Crews was then able to retort with a leaping enziguri leaving both men prone.

Crews was able to get back to his feet to break the refs count at 3 before climbing to the top turnbuckle and being met face to face with the lightning-fast Kushida who then began to lay hellacious elbows across the chin of Crews before being sent to the mat and coming back with a double heel strike then climbing back to the top rope and using a superplex to bring Crews down rolling into an armbar and then a Sakuraba lock for the submission and the win.

Kushida continues his dominant run through the NXT and WWE rosters. I cannot wait to see this man draped in gold. Apollo Crews came to NXT with one mission, to remind fans that he can very much still go. Mission accomplished.

A Keith Lee promo is next where he speaks about his tenure in NXT and all the starts and stops along his NXT career and all the opportunity that he was supposedly given. He then listed off all the opportunities being given to the new group of superstars. He smiled and then left the frame. Then we were given a promo image showing his return to the ring next week against new superstar and former ROH Television Champion Damian Priest.

Johnny Gargano Returns

The main event of the night was meant to be an NXT Championship match between champion Adam Cole and a man making his debut of sorts a man who trained at Johnny Gargano’s school in Cleveland. Twan Tucker. Twan approaches the ring with a mic in hand and after being reassured that it was just him and Cole and that none of the Undisputed Era was there to back him up and that he would have a fair chance to “Slap the taste out of [Cole] mouth.”

Twan smiles and says, “That’s too bad. Cause I didn’t come alone.”  At which point Johnny Gargano’s music hit and he chased Cole around the arena beating on him. This culminated in two major spots. The first where Gargano threw himself from the stage area onto a waiting Cole and the ref staff then moving back into the ring where he locked Cole in the Gargano Escape causing him to tap out frantically. The episode ended with a long shot of Gargano holding up three fingers calling for the rubber match at TakeOver Toronto. No stipulation has yet been announced for the match.

Show Grade: B

A solid show and a great set up for the coming Takeover event. I am excited to see how and where all the new storylines culminate.

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