Preview by Joseph Currier
The first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic concludes on tonight's episode of NXT.
Alex Shelley will make his NXT television debut as he reunites with Kushida to take on The Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) in a tournament match. Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster is also set.
Undisputed Era's Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish will face either Shelley & Kushida or The Grizzled Young Veterans in the semifinals, while Imperium's Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner will face either Riddle & Dunne or Andrews & Webster.
Two matches with title shot implications have been announced for tonight. There will be a battle royal to determine who will challenge Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: Portland. Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Chelsea Green, Dakota Kai, Vanessa Borne, Kayden Carter, Mia Yim, Santana Garrett, Io Shirai, Shotzi Blackheart, Xia Li, and Mercedes Martinez are advertised for the battle royal.
Angel Garza will defend his NXT Cruiserweight Championship in a fatal four-way match at Worlds Collide. Two of his challengers will be from NXT UK, while the other one will be decided by a triple threat match between Lio Rush, Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, and Tyler Breeze on tonight's show.
Our live coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The show from Full Sail opened with Keith Lee coming to the ring for a promo. Lee next week challenges Roderick Strong for the NXT North American Championship. A vocal majority of the live crowd chanted for Lee as he talked about his upcomimg title shot, and he addressed Undisputed Era. They might hold all the titles, but they have peaked -- whereas Lee said he was "limitless". This was really good promo.
When Lee vowed to win the title next week, Undisputed Era interrupted the promo. Adam Cole snarled at Lee on the microphone while flanked by Strong, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish. The heel faction jumped Lee. He fought back and cleaned house at first, but he was greatly outnumbered as the heels closed in like wolves on their prey.
Strong hit him with a chair and Pillmanized Lee's ankle in the chair. Tommaso Ciampa ran down to make a save. He fought off Unidsputed Era, and they soon fled the scene like frightened coyotes.
Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano was announced as official for NXT TakeOver: Portland.
Tegan Nox was being interviewed outside the building when Candice LeRae ran up to her for a hug. Meanwhile, Io Shirai and Mia Yim were psyching themselves up ahead of the women's battle royal later on.
Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne defeated Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Andrews to advance in the Dusty Classic
Riddle pinned Andrews in the conclusion of an exciting match.
The match was just beginning when the show cut to commercial. Dunne & Riddle worked over Webster during much of the break. Webster was taking a beating when the show returned from commercial. Webster still managed to escape their clutches, and he tagged out.
Andrews ran wild off a hot tag. Dunne & Riddle bumped and fed. Webster & Andrews did stereo flip dives over the ropes to the floor. More tandem offense got them a near fall.
Webster went for a springboard, and Dunne decked him in mid-air with a punch. Dunne witha flurry on Andrews before tagging Riddle.
Setting uo tandem moves of their own, Dunne with a release suplex on Andrews. Riddle then caught Andrews in the air for a powerbomb. Riddle then hit a knee strike while Dunne also hit Andrew with a kick at the same time. Webster jumped in to break up a pinning attempt.
Riddle & Dunne maintained their aggression until Andrews executed a Northern Lights out of nowhere. He followed with a double stomp on Dunne as the show cut to commercial. No in-set this time.
The show returned from break with a hot tag to Webster. He leapt into a moonsault, hit a shotgum dropkick, springboarded into another dropkick, and then he jumped off the top turnbuckle with a somersault senton to the floor.
Riddle cut off Andrews and had him in an electric chair when Webster hit Riddle with a kick -- and Andrews executed a poison rana. After a near fall on Riddle, the fans clapped along to a "tag team wrestling" chant.
Andrews delivered a tornado DDT to Dunne on the floor. Webster went for a splash, but ate a spear from Riddle instead. Andrews ate another spear, but he was able to small package Riddle for a two count.
Dunne tagged in to help deliver a double-team strike on Webster for a close near fall. Webster also caught Riddle in a cradle, but Dunne was able to bump Andrews into the referee to break the count.
Andrews countered an X-plex into stunner. Things were looking good for his team until Riddle caught Webster on a tope. Riddle then delivered a Gotch Driver on the floor. Andrews went for a shooting star press in the ring, but Dunne clocked him with a right hand.
Dunne with a pump handle suplex that set up a knee strike by Riddle. After that combo, Riddle covered Andrews for the pinfall.
Highlights from TakeOver: Blackpool II showed Undisputed Era attacking WALTER. Cole and his faction meet Imperium in a eight-man tag match at Worlds Collide.
Tommaso Ciampa sauntered to the ring for a promo. Ciampa said it was clear that Undisputed Era has a hit list. So does Ciampa, and Cole is at the top of that list. Ciampa wants Goldie back. He wants his life back!
Undisputed Era hit the ring for a gang attack on Ciampa. They were beating him down when Johnny Gargano ran down to make a save. Gargano cleared the ring and cleaned house. Ciampa also struck with a Widows Bell to help clean up. The crowd chanted "DIY" as the former tag team partners seemingly had reunited -- at least for a fleeting moment.
Up next is another reunion as THE TIME SPLITTERS ARE BACK!
Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) defeated Kushida & Alex Shelley to advance in the Dusty Classic
Drake pinned Shelley after the Ticket to Mayhem. Great win for the Grizzled Young Veterans. The announcers never referrred to Kushida & Shelley as "Time Splitters", but they did talk about their history as a team.
Shelley got to shine at the outset of the match, and then him and Kushida did stereo dives to the outside. The Grizzled Young Veterans fired up on their opponents with a RVD/Saby spot as the show cut to commercial.
The show returned with heat on Shelley, and then Kushida launched into the ring after a hot tag. He connected with a handspring back elbow and a windup punch. He briefly caught Drake in an armbar. Double team tactics cut off Kushida. He kicked out for a two count, and then he fought off Grizzled Young Veterans. Shelley tagged in to begin a display of Time Splitter greatness.
Kushida & Shelley with combos, inlcuding a few signature ones. Kushida was perched on the top turnbuckle when Gibson shoved him to the floor. Shelley was then outnumbered as he fell victim to Gibson & Drake. Shelley went for sliced bread #2, but was countered. He took the Ticket to Mayhem, and Drake covered him for the pinfall.
Kushida & Shelley offered handshakes after the match, but Gibson & Drake heeled on them. Gibson then cut a promo saying they are the future, and he vowed they will win the Dusty Classic.
In a pre-tape skit, Robert Stone said he pulled Chelsea Green from the battle royal tonight. She is the hottest star, and apparently too big of a star for the battle royal. Stone and Green got in a car and drove away.
Isaiah "Swerve" Scott defeated Tyler Breeze and Lio Rush in a triple threat match
Swerve pinned Breeze to earn a spot in the fatal four way match for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship at Worlds Collide. The Cruiserweight Champion -- Angel Garza -- was doing guest commentary.
This was as wild and hectic as you would expect with a triple threat these days with these guys. The match was good, but it was hard to keep track of with the parade of highspots.
In the closing moments, Rush fired up on Swerve and Breeze. Rush with the Final Hour (frogsplash) on Breeze, and then the Come Up (springboard cutter) on Swerve.
Breeze tried to steal a pin, but Swerve cut him off to deliver a package dirver for the pinfall.
Cathy Kelley was oustide the building interviewing Gargano when Ciampa approached him. They talked about teaming for "old time sake". Undisputed Era entered the scene to confront DIY as sceurity held back the faction.
Keith Lee ran in out of nowhere to spear a security guard through some bushes. Lee then hurled another security guard onto the hood of a car. He was screaming about Strong as security tried to restrain him. He threw another guy over a table. Lee screamed threats at Strong ahead of their title match next week.
Bianca Belair won a number one contender's battle royal
Notable returns in the this match included Kacy Catanzaro and Tegan Nox both back in action. Mercedes Martinez also returned to NXT in this match -- but this time she is officially part of the NXT roster after signing with WWE. Martinez more than deserves the opportunity.
The former NXT Women's champion -- Shayna Baszler --was the final surprise entrant as she returned to Full Sail for the first time since dropping the title.
Other entrants included Bianca Belair, Mia Yim, Io Shirai, Santana Garrett, Xia Li, Vanessa Borne, Kayden Carter, Shotzi Blackheart, Catalina, Jessi Kamae and MJ Jenkins.
The match itself was like almost every battle royal you have seen before. They did some good highspots before the show cut to commercial. After the break the field had dwindled down somewhat. The eliminations started to come more quickly from this point forward.
Martinez did some spots with Baszler in the final minutes. Baszler eliminated Martinez from the match. Hopefully that leads to a match bewteen the two soon. Fingers crossed that happens.
The final four were Baszler, Belair, Nox and Shirai...or at least that was what we were supposed to think.
Nox fired up in the closing moments as she ran wild. Nox was climbing the turnbuckles when her nemesis Dakota Kai ran in to trip her up. Nox fell the floor and was eliminated.
Shirai found herself trapped on the apron in a Kirifuda Clutch applied by Baszler. Blackheart suddenly rolled back into the ring to throw out Baszler. Blackheart had apparently never been eliminated. She was gloating and was then eliminated by Belair.
Shirai and Belair were left as the final two. Shirau struck with a Tiger Feint Kick, but Belair countered a moment later with a fallaway slam.
They were fighting on the top turnbuckle while they teased falling out of the ring. They also fought on the apron, and fought back in the ring.
After several exchanges, Belair had Shirai in a torture rack when she threw Shirai over the top rope to win the match. Shirai took a helluva bump on the floor, and Belair was declared the winner.
Belair is now the number one contender in the NXT women's division. She challenges for the title at Worlds Collide.