Pete Dunne, Kyle O'Reilly, Damian Priest and Scarlett Interrupted NXT Champion Finn Balor
It's great to have Balor back on the show after a two-month layoff. I know he made a quick appearance a few weeks ago, but that was lost in the shuffle of everything happening on the road to TakeOver: WarGames IV. Here, four fresh faces were teased as potentially being his next challenger to the NXT Championship on the New Year's Evil show on January 6. Personally, I love the idea of Balor vs. Dunne since it's never been done before, but Balor against any of these people (including Karrion Kross down the road) would be a blast. It's weird Kushida wasn't out there considering the roll he's been on recently.
Jake Atlas def. Isiah "Swerve" Scott
Atlas defeated Tony Nese last week on 205 Live, and while I think he's tremendously skilled with a high ceiling for success, it felt random because he's been booked like an enhancement talent for the better part of his NXT run so far. I'm glad that wasn't just a one-off and that the brand actually appears to have plans for him if his win over Scott here was any indication. It was a nice little match and Scott refusing to shake Atlas' hand afterward signals a heel turn might be imminent. That had to happen following his string of losses to Santos Escobar and failure to become NXT Cruiserweight Champion.
Grizzled Young Veterans def. Ever-Rise and Imperium (Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner) in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match
Ever-Rise attacked both of these teams last week, so you had to know a Triple Threat was coming at some point. From an in-ring standpoint, this was a lot of fun and I liked how they constantly kept the pace moving. My only issue with it was that all three of these teams are heel and thus viewers had zero incentive to cheer for one team over another. Otherwise, this was solid stuff and I'm glad Grizzled Young Veterans scored the victory because they should be gunning for the NXT Tag Team Championship sooner rather than later.
NXT Women's Champion Io Shirai and Ember Moon Attacked Toni Storm
Storm was doing a backstage interview and talking about how she made the right decision in joining Team Candice at WarGames when Shirai interrupted her and they brawled to the ring. Storm nearly got away, but Moon threw her back in so she could get laid out by Shirai. Storm vs. Shirai could be a huge match for the NXT Women's Championship eventually, but I hope they don't rush into it. Rather, Raquel Gonzalez would make more sense as being the next number one contender while Moon and Storm settle their score separately.
Tommaso Ciampa def. Cameron Grimes
Ciampa is coming off a win over Timothy Thatcher at WarGames whereas Grimes is fresh off a loss to Dexter Lumis, so although Grimes needed the victory more, I understand Ciampa being kept strong ahead of a likely rematch with Thatcher (which was heavily teased here). Ciampa vs. Grimes was well-wrestled, but even with interference from Rust Taylor, Grimes wasn't able to beat Ciampa and that doesn't make him look too good. The comedy stuff has made me a fan of his, but he needs to be given back his edge at some point or risk further losing credibility.
Johnny Gargano Celebrated His NXT North American Championship Victory with Candice LeRae, Austin Theory and Indi Hartwell; Karrion Kross Attacked Damian Priest
Gargano has been a revelation as a heel this year, and while he may have "go-away heat" with some, he's been very entertaining in my opinion and adding more people to his act with LeRae (Theory and Hartwell) is a smart move. They were over-the-top here, but it was well-done comedy. I'm glad the first feud back for the returning Kross will be with Priest because Priest vs. Gargano is played-out by this point. Gargano and Theory will team up against Leon Ruff and Kushida next week and I assume that will pave the way for Gargano vs. Kushida for the North American title.
Pete Dunne def. Killian Dain
I completely forgot that Pat McAfee's crew put Dain on the shelf several weeks ago, so it was logical for him to go right after Dunne upon his return. He and Drake Maverick have been an unexpected gem in the tag team division, but I'm glad he went back to being the serious, one-man wrecking crew here. It feels like forever since he was last portrayed as a serious threat, but he had a great showing in this match and they worked well together. Dunne's victory gets him one step closer to challenging Balor for the NXT Championship at New Year's Evil.
Raquel Gonzalez def. Ember Moon
Gonzalez is one of the few people who I have completely turned around on in 2020. She started the year relatively green but was wisely positioned as the heavy for Dakota Kai. Now, she feels like one of the more must-see performers in the NXT women's division, which is saying something given how stacked it is at the moment. Working with women as talented as Shirai, Kai, Ripley and now Moon has helped her tremendously. This was a solid main event and exactly what it needed to be. Moon had the valiant babyface comeback, but in the end, it wasn't enough as Gonzalez won clean as she should have. As previously noted, Gonzalez has an NXT Women's Championship opportunity coming her way sooner rather than later, likely at New Year's Evil (along with Balor vs. Dunne, Gargano vs. Kushida, and potentially Kross vs. Priest). Before then, though, will we get Gonzalez vs. Ripley II? You would sure seem to think so based on what was teased afterward.
Even as the big post-TakeOver show, AEW Dynamite still had the hotter show because of everything they advertised in advance. NXT needs to work on making their shows feel more must-see heading into the new year because they're always enjoyable, but you aren't missing a ton if you don't tune in live most weeks. That said, there were a ton of seeds planted for stuff presumably being set up for the New Year's Evil event on January 6th. Combine that with the quality wrestling we got and this was an easy thumbs-up edition of NXT. Having Kross and Balor back in the mix helps freshen things up as we head into the final stretch of 2020.