Preview by Joseph Currier
After two weeks of taped episodes during the holidays, NXT is back live tonight.
The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic will begin with two first round matchups. One of those will feature the NXT and NXT UK Tag Team Champions facing off, with The Undisputed Era (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) taking on Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang).
The Forgotten Sons (Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler) will also meet Imperium (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) in the first round tonight.
NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong's next challenger will be decided as Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic, Damian Priest, and Cameron Grimes face off in a fatal four-way number one contender's match.
Tonight's show will also feature the fallout from Rhea Ripley's NXT Women's Championship win. She won the title from Shayna Baszler on the final live NXT of 2019.
Our coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The show opened a great video package setting the stage for tonight.
NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley kicked off the show with an in-ring promo. This was her first appearance on television in front of the Full Sail crowd since winning the title.
Ripley begins to address the audience when she is interrupted by Toni Storm. She marched to the ring to confront Ripley.
Storm congratulated Ripley on winning the title, but Storm also reminded Ripley she had already beaten her twice. Storm vowed to win the NXT UK Women's Championship this Sunday at NXT UK TakeOver.
Storm then vowed to become a double champion at Worlds Collide -- if Ripley would accept her challenge for a title match on that show. Ripey agreed to a match.
NXT UK Women's Champion Kay Lee Ray entered the scene to cut a promo on Storm. Ray scoffed at Storm becoming champion, and she said there was no way Storm was taking her title.
Io Shirai showed up and snatched the microphone away from Ray. She wanted the NXT Women's Championship. So does Bianca Belair. She was out next to cut a promo. Candice LeRae came out to join the party.
Ripley asked if LeRae wanted to fight as well. Ripley said she did too before she punched Belair -- and the fight was on. A brawl ensued that set up an impromptu six-women tag team match.
LeRae sailed through the ropes with a tope before the show cut to commercial.
NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley, Toni Storm & Candice LeRae defeated Kay Lee Ray, Io Shirai & Bianca Belair
Ripley pinned Belair to win the match. The match built to an exciting fast paced finish.
The match began during the commercial break, and the heels started to dominate. That set up a hot tag as the show returned to break. LeRae tagged to and leapt into the match with a missile dropkick.
Shirai cut off LeRae and the heel team got heat on her. Heels proverbially cut the ring in half while making quick tags. The match heated up as Belair dashed a hope spots with her acrobatics.
Ray with a swanton on LeRae for a two count. Storm jumped in to break up the pin, and Belair wiped her out with a spear. A melee began with everyone jumping into the mix. Soon everybody was laid out selling as the show cut to commercial.
LeRae was still isolated when the show returned from break, but she caught Ray with a poison rana. Belair cut off LeRae from making a tag, and sent her across the ring with hair mare. When Belair charged into her own corner, LeRae moved out of the way. Shirai instead went flying off the apron, and LeRae rolled through the make the hot tag.
Storm ran wild and cleaned house on Ray ahead of their match this Sunday. Ray fought back, and Shirai got back in the ring looking to finish the match.
Shirai looked to finish the match as she set up for her finisher. She was going for her moonsault press when Belair tagged herself into the match. Belair had other ideas on winning the match.
Belair had Storm in a torture rack when Shirai springboarded into the ring with a missie dropkick on her own partner. Shirai screamed at Belair before bailing out of the ring. Belair turned around and walked into a boot by Ripley.
Ripley batted clean up as she mauled Belair. Ripley delivered the Rip Tide, and then she covered Belair for the pinfall.
They did a spot after the match where LeRae picked up the title belt to gaze at it before she gave it back to Ripley.
A vignette with Tommaso Ciampa that clearly painted him as an impending challenger. To talked about Goldie, and called holding the title his life. He told Adam Cole that he wanted his life back.
Keith Lee in a backstage promo vowed to this year become NXT North American Champion.
Imperium (Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner) defeated The Forgotten Sons (Steve Cutler & Weskey Blake w/ Jaxson Ryker) to advance in the Dusty Classic
Aichner pinned Blake after a European Bomb, and Imperium advances past the first round of the tournament. In the next round they face the winners of Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne vs. Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Andrews.
This may be the best The Forgotten Sons have really looked. The Sons also have new gear. Aichner was wearing a face shield of some sort, presumably for medical reasons.
The match began with a quick pace and they hardly let up. The action unfolded at a fast pace with tandem moves back-and-forth. This frantic pacing continued with a parade of highspots -- and then it culminated with Imperium getting the win.
Cathy Kelley interviewed Matt Riddle to ask him how his team with Pete Dunne. Riddle told the story of how the team was formed in a way only Matt Riddle can describe. This was great.
Austin Theory defeated Joaquin Wilde
Theory pinned Wilde after executing a TKO. Theory looked strong in winning this short match.
They started the match with grappling, and Theory soon gained the advantage. Wilde fought back to catch Theory with a flying headscissors. Theory rolled through and popped up with a dropkick, and then he followed with the TKO.
Damian Priest was flanked by two women as he cut a backstage promo. He boasted about winning the first NXT main event of this year (after his win on the taped show from last week -- which was actually taped in 2019). Much like Keith Lee earlier, Priest vowed to win the NXT North American Championship.
Undisputed Era (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) defeated Gallus (Wolfgang & Mark Coffey) to advance in the Dusty Classic
Fish pinned Wolfgang after a high/low finisher and interference by NXT Champion Adam Cole. He and North American Champion Roderick Strong were at ringside in the corner of Fish & O'Reilly.
This match was hard hitting and really good.
Fighting spirit exchanges was how it began, and the fight only escalated from there. They beat the tar out of each other like this was an All Japan tag match back in the day. Gallus had Undisputed Era reeling before a commercial break.
With no explanation, Fish & O'Reilly were somehow in control after the break. This built to Coffey getting a hot tag. He was cleaning house on Undisputed Era, but they soon cut him off. O'Reilly on accident kicked his own partner. Fish went flying off the apron.
Coffey tagged Wolfgang, and Undisputed Era looked to be in trouble. Wolfgang catapulted O'Reilly into a Samoan Drop by Coffey in a cool combo. Fish dived in to break up a pinning attempt.
A slugfest developed and Undisputed Era powdered out. Wolfgang helped to send Coffey over the ropes for a splash on the outside. Cole interfered with an enzuigiri from the outside. Fish & O'Reilly capitalized with their high/low finisher on Wolfgang that led to the pinfall.
Johnny Gargano in his first promo since returning stormed to the ring so he could address Finn Balor. Gargano basically called out Balor with a wicked promo that painted Gargano as true to NXT, and Balor as basically a hypocrite.
Gargano said he picked up NXT after Balor left (for the main roster) and strapped a rocket to its back. He took NXT to new heights without Balor, and Gargano claimed that eats at Balor.
Balor of course came out to defend himself against these quite valid accusations by Gargano. Balor said Gargano should be called "Johnny Promo because that's the only thing the doctors will clear you for."
Balor went on to challenge Gargano to a match at TakeOver: Portland. That is -- as Balor cautioned -- "if you make it that far."
Cameron Grimes ranted like a lunatic in a backstage promo.
Alex Shelley was announced as the mystery partner teaming with Kushida in the Dusty Classic. The Time Splitters reunite! Next week they face Grizzled Young Veterans on NXT.
Mia Yim defeated Kayden Carter
Yim pinned Carter after a Protect Ya Neck out of nowhere.
Carter got to shine with her lucha arsenal, but Yim blocked a flying headscissors and turned the tide. She rocked Carter with kicks and then applied a bow and arrow.
Carter fired up on Yim, and she hit Yim with a face wash. A superkick netted her a two count. Carter went to jump off the top rope, and Yim caught her in mid-air with the Protect Ya Neck.
Chelsea Green in a angle ran in after the match. Yim and Carter were embracing in a display of sportsmanship when Green ran in to knock them down.
A mouthpiece named Robert Stone appeared to say Green was the first signee of his Robert Stone Brand. I guess this will be an updated version of the Stud Stable.
Announced for next week is a women's number one contender batte royal. The winner get a title match for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: Portland.
Keith Lee defeated Cameron Grimes, Damain Priest and Dominik Dijakovic in a fatal four way
Lee pinned Grimes using a Spirit Bomb. Lee now seemingly becomes the next challenger for the NXT North American Championship after winning this number one contender's match.
A vocal majority of the Full Sail crowd was behind Lee from the start.
Lee and Dijakovic teamed up early on only to soon square off against each other.
They did a spot where Dijakovic suplexed Priest into the waiting arms of Lee. Priest was then used as a battering ram as Lee swinged him around the ring. Lee proceeded to powerbomb Priest on to Dijakovic.
Most everyone began to brawl on the outside, and Priest with tope con giro wiped out everybody before the show cut to commercial.
The melee continued after the break. Lee with a deadlift superplex on Priest, and Dijakovic then moonsaulted on to Lee. Grimes hit Dijakovic with kicks, and he gave him a German suplex for a near fall.
Priest with a Frakensteiner sent Grimes into the waiting arm so Lee in a callback to a previous spot. This time Dijakovic booted Lee in the gut, and he took Grimes away from Lee.
Dijakovic delivered the Feast Your Eyes to take out Grimes. Lee then launched Dijakovic out of the ring with a pounce. Priest struck with The Reckoning on Lee, but Dijakovic with high kick broke up a pinning attempt.
Priest and Dijakovic exchanged strikes, and they both had each by the throat with a goozle when Lee did is rise up gimmick. Lee executed a double chokeslam on Priest and Riddle.
Grimes out of nowhere caught Lee with running Spanish Fly for a near fall. Grimes followed with a moosault off the top to the floor. He took out Dijakovic with a double stomp on the apron.
Grimes leapt off the top rope -- only for Lee to chop him down out of the air. Grimes tried to strike down Lee with kicks, but he Lee used a pop-up powerbomb to score the pinfall.
Lee stood tall to close the show.