Preview by Joseph Currier
Two big title matches are set for NXT's final live episode of 2019.
Kicking off tonight's show will be Adam Cole vs. Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. Balor became the number one contender to Cole's title by winning a triple threat match last week. After Keith Lee gave Tommaso Ciampa a Spirit Bomb, Balor hit the Coup de Grace on Lee to get the victory.
WWE has announced that Cole vs. Balor will be presented commercial-free.
The NXT Women's Championship will also be on the line as Shayna Baszler defends her title against Rhea Ripley tonight. Ripley pinned Baszler to win the women's WarGames match at last month's TakeOver event.
WWE will also follow up on Angel Garza's Cruiserweight title win from last week and continue building to the NXT vs. NXT UK Worlds Collide special that's taking place during Royal Rumble weekend.
Our live coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The show opens with a title match that definitely involved the proverbial shades of gray. Both the champion and challengers are heels, which makes for an interesting dynamic.
NXT Champion Adam Cole defeated Finn Balor to retain his title
Cole pinned Balor after a low blow and the Last Shot. Johnny Gargano returned to cost Balor the match by distracting him at the finish. The match was great and the outcome still protected Balor despite him taking a loss.
Dueling chants as they grappled at the start. Cole was the first to use an underhanded tactic to gain the advantage, but Balor soon had a counter. Balor got a two count after a basement dropkick. Balor stomped on Cole, and then hit him with a wrecking ball dropkick.
As Balor was seemingly measuring for a PK, Cole struck with a super that took Balor's feet out from underneath him on the ring apron. That turned the momentum into Cole's favor. Cole would go on to work over and ground Balor. Dashing a hope spot, Cole targeted a leg to again cut down Balor.
Balor made a comeback and got a near fall. Balor was going to work when Cole cut him off with a backstabber. Balor answered back moments later with a slingblade. Cole shot back with a superkick that led to a two and half. That was a great near fall.
They were trading kicks when Balor struck with a Pele kick. Both fell in a heap, and Cole fell over Balor for a blind cover and a two count. They each countered the other's big move as they kept trading near falls. Cole then caught Balor with an ushigoroshi. Balor fought back with a double stomp and a shotgun dropkick.
Balor was slow to capitalize as he sold his knee. Cole attempted a Panama Sunrise off the apron, but Balor with a counter backdropped Cole on the floor. Balor then mowed him down with a running dropkick that sent Cole into a barricade that wiped out a row of plants. Wiping out a section of planted fans seems to be almost a weekly gimmick on NXT these days.
Balor went for Coup de Grace, but Cole avoided it and delivered the Last Shot. However, the blow was not the last strike as Balor kicked out.
Balor with a lariat and a shotgun dropkick set up the Coup de Grace. Balor looked to follow up with the 1916, but his attention was diverted by the emergence of Johnny Gargano. This was Gargano's return after being injured in storyline by Balor.
Balor was distracted and Cole hit him with a low blow. Cole followed with the Last Shot to score the pinfall.
Gargano got a folding chair and attacked Balor after the macth. Gargano laid him out with chair shots as Johnny Wrestling looked to gain a measure of revenge on Balor.
Damian Priest defeated Killian Dain
Priest pinned Dain after delivering The Reckoning. This was a hoss match, yet Priest sold through much of it.
The story of the match was Priest had injured ribs from a prior encounter, but he fought through the pain to win. Dain targeted the ribs as he punished him. Priest sold big as Dain worked him over for much of the match. This continued through a commercial break.
Priest was making a comeback as the show returned from break. Priest fired up and began to clean house. Dain went to powder, but Priest cut him off with a springboard flip dive over the ropes to the floor. Priest followed with the South of Heaven for a near fall. Dain would soon counter for his own near fall.
Priest got a two count on a victory roll, but he began to sell his rips. Dain looked to exploit the weakness as he set up a Vader bomb. Priest got his knees up to block it, and Priest delivered The Reckoning for the pinfall.
A video package hyped the return of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic for next year. Some teams in the tournament will be revealed on the New Year's Day edition of NXT on USA.
Cameron Grimes defeated Kushida
Grimes pinned Kushida with a double stomp out of nowhere in the finish of a really exciting match.
Kushida was out-wrestling Grimes at the outset. Grimes escaped his grasp only for Kushida to catch him with a flying armbar. Kushida worked the arm before flying into a basement dropkick.
Kushida leapt off the top rope with a Ricky Steamboat overhead chop, and then he applied an octopus.
Grimes turned the tide during a commercial break. He hit Kushida with a series of strikes that had him reeling, but Kushida recovered enough hip toss Grimes outside over the top rope.
They did a running Spanish Fly that netted Grimes a two count. They went back-and-forth during the commercials. Grimes had the advantage as the show returned from break.
Grimes worked the back, and he also bieled Kushida across the ring. Grimes with a backbreaker continued to target the back.
Kushida with a handspring back elbow led into a comeback. Kushida with a flurry of offense before he applied a cross armbreaker. Grimes got a rope break, and Kushida went back to targeting the arm.
They traded big moves down the stretch. Grimes with some wicked German suplexes, but Kushida fought back. Kushida landed hard doing a dive to the outside.
Back in the ring they fought while perched on the top rope, and Kushida flipped Grimes off the top for a two count. After another series of exchanges, Grimes struck with a double stomp for the pinfall. The finish came somewhat out of nowhere, but it in no way too anything away from the greatness of the match.
A video package hyped Io Shirai, who is up next...
Io Shirai defeated Santana Garrett
Shirai pinned Garrett with a moonsault press. This match felt more like something to fill time rather than advancing storylines. Maybe it helped to develop characters, but neither Shirai nor Garrett looked stronger than the other with the way the match was laid out.
The announcers on commentary put over Garrett, and she also got to shine in the match. She did some handsprings and a Great Muta elbow. She also applied a Muta lock, but Shirai escaped.
Shirai hit her with a running double knee strike that set up the moonsault press for the pin.
The next match was billed as a preview for When Worlds Collide. This was supposed to be NXT vs. NXT UK -- but the one from representing NXT was from the UK and the other representing the UK was from New Zealand. Go figure. Still a great matchup regardless.
Pete Dunne defeated Travis Banks
Dunne pinned Banks in a great match.
They started the match with grappling that soon transitioned into fast-paced exchanges. They traded strikes and such before Dunne used an X-plex to splat Banks on the ring apron. The show went to commercial with Dunne seemingly in control.
Banks fired up after the commercial break as he began to retaliate. Banks with some cannonballs and then a tope through the ropes. Banks with a missile dropkick and a double stomp got him a two count. Banks went for a springboard, and Dunne mowed him down with a forearm strike. Dunne followed with an X-plex for a two count.
Banks went for a sunset bomb, and Dunne flipped over to land on his feet. He hit Banks with a running kick, and then went for the Bitter End. Banks countered with a swinging DDT. Banks went for his finisher, but Dunne cut him off with a counter. They fought on.
Banks with a Kiwi Crusher netted him two and a half. Dunne went on to execute an avalanche X-plex. Dunne hit Banks with kicksk to set up the Bitter End for the pinfall.
Cathy Kelley interviewed Dakota Kai about her thoughts on Mia Yim. Kai admitted that Yim pu ther through a table in a spot that caused her to get eight staples in her head. Still, Kai noted that she was still victorious in the match. Kai is really starting to develop a mean streak.
Announced for next week on the Christmas Day episode of NXT is Roderick Strong putting his title on the line in a North American Championship Challenge. Also set for next week is Lio Rush & Keith Lee teaming up against Damian Priest & Tony Nese. That is somewhat of a random tag match, but maybe it will be good nevertheless.
Rhea Ripley defeated Shayna Baszler to win the NXT Women's Championship
Ripley pinned Baszler on her way to winning the title.
Early on Ripley was able to psych out Baszler. Ripley was looking to dominate when Baszler rolled outside to set a trap. Ripley walked into the trap and Baszler took advantage. Baszler began to work over Ripley while focusing on the neck.
Ripley got a hope spot with a roll-up, but Baszler quickly dashed any hope...but not for long. Baszler kept trying to punish Ripley, and Ripley would fight back. Baszler would nevertheless return to targeting a neck.
As the show was returning from a commercial break, Ripley was able to fire up for a comeback. Baszler bumped and fed before they traded strikes.
They did a superplex spot that resulted in Ripley getting a two count on Baszler. Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir ran down to ringside to cause a distraction. Ripley knocked Duke off the apron. Ripley fought with Baszler and the Horsewomen at ringside, and Ripley did a somersaullt senton off the apron.
Baszler stomped on Ripley's hand to sandwiched it between the ring steps. Baszler then targeted the hand with joint locks as she tortured Ripley. Baszler was still working over Ripley when the show returned from a commercial break. The referee ejected Shafir and Duke from ringside during the break.
Ripley was absorbing kicks when she hulked up on Baszler. They bumped the ref, and Ripley delivered the Riptide finisher. No ref to count.
Ripley crashed and burned doing an attempted senton on the floor. Meanwhile, Baszler grabbed a chair and slid it into the ring. Baszler with a DDT on the chair as Baszler looked to cheat her way to victory. Not so fast as Ripley miraculously kicked out.
Baszler went for a sleeper, but Ripley escaped. Ripley then went to apply a leglock -- only for Baszler to catch her in the Kirifuda Clutch. Ripley tried to power out and struggle free. They teased Ripley passing out, but she hulked up instead.
Ripley eventually rolled through the escape the sleeper. She stomped Baszler repeatedly before attempting to apply The Prism leglock. Baszler escaped to deliver a running knee strike.
The finish came when Ripley executed an avalanche Riptide, and Ripley covered Baszler to win the title.
The locker room emptied and crowded into the ring. They held up Ripley on their shoulders and paraded her around the ring in celebration of a new champion.
The queen has fallen. Long live the queen.