WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from November 18
NXT's title scene is constantly evolving, and the November 18 edition promised major twists. From a massive main event to the return of Finn Balor, anything could happen.
Rhea Ripley lost her NXT Women's Championship at WWE WrestleMania 36. Since then, she has struggled to remain in the title scene. Putting everything behind her, she finally challenged Io Shirai in an attempt to regain the gold.
The Prince finally returned to NXT. The NXT champion has been out for months because of injuries suffered in a grueling war with Kyle O'Reilly. It was unclear whether he would defend his championship or have to relinquish it because of his injuries.
Johnny Gargano will never live down his embarrassing loss to Leon Ruff, a match he demanded as his quick, easy victory only to lose the NXT North American Championship. Refocused, he wanted his rematch.
Two future title contenders teamed together as Toni Storm and Ember Moon were set to fight Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. Cameron Grimes also got another chance to get over his fear of Dexter Lumis by fighting him in a blindfold match.
This edition of the black-and-gold brand felt as big as NXT has gone in months. Champions returned, and top contenders looked to build momentum to future opportunities.
NXT North American Champion: Leon Ruff (c) vs. Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano angrily interrupted a recap of Leon Ruff's shocking victory last week to capture the NXT North American Championship. The Rebel Heart went after Ruff from the outset, viciously attacking the newcomer to NXT.
Damian Priest walked out to distract Gargano, but Ruff almost stole a victory with a roll-up. However, the former NXT North American champion would not be tricked twice. He hit the Final Beat to nearly take the win.
The Archer on Infamy dragged the current champion out of the ring and hit him in the face to cause a disqualification, making sure Ruff remained champ.
William Regal called out Priest backstage for ruining the title match. Ruff got involved and slapped Priest for making him into a joke.
Later in the night, a fight between The Archer of Infamy and The Rebel Heart broke out in the ring. Ruff got involved and dumped both men out of the ring. He ran when he saw Gargano and Priest both glaring at him. Ruff told Regal he would fight both men for his title.
Ruff def. Gargano by disqualification to retain the NXT North American Championship.
Ruff looked solid in this short but fun battle for the NXT North American Championship. He got to show off more offense, challenging The Rebel Heart more than their first outing. The DQ finish was smart to protect Gargano while keeping the title on Ruff.
Priest has gained ground as a babyface by protecting Ruff, but it would not be out of character for him to try to take advantage of the underdog champion. This story has certainly become more interesting in recent weeks.
Blindfold: Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis
Cameron Grimes struggled with the blindfold and took out the referee, thinking he had Dexter Lumis. The Technical Savage took off his blindfold with the referee out, but it didn't take long for The Tortured Artist to do the same. The two fought around the ring with eyes clear.
Instead of continuing the fight, Grimes bailed, running out of the arena.
Grimes vs. Lumis goes to a no-contest.
This was far more of a segment than a match. The initial silliness with Grimes did not last long before the referee was down, and the two were out of the match. Still, The Technical Savage is a funny persona, and this luckily did not last long enough to get uncomfortable.
Lumis vs. Grimes has built into a physical feud. The two just need to take this to a high level. Hopefully, the next stipulation allows them both to go all out.
Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell vs. Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter
Shotzi Blackheart challenged Candice LeRae to bring an army to fight her in WarGames on December 6.
The Poison Pixie was unfazed as she stepped into the ring alongside her new friend Indi Hartwell. The heels dominated Kacy Catanzaro early, but Kayden Carter got the hot tag to start shifting the tide.
LeRae managed to stave off the fast-paced offense and ground Carter. Hartwell took out Catanzaro outside to set up The Poison Pixie to take the victory with the Wicked Stepsister.
LeRae and Hartwell def. Carter and Catanzaro by pinfall.
This match was surprisingly flat. LeRae dominated so soundly that it never felt like Catanzaro and Carter had any chance. It was not an exciting squash match despite the talent involved and did not show off Hartwell yet.
The big announcement in this was that WarGames is official, and we're likely getting two big matches in WarGames. Team Blackheart vs. Team LeRae should be great and help establish plenty of top female talent on the black-and-gold brand.
Kushida vs. Arturo Ruas
After a small video package to highlight Arturo Ruas, the grappler managed to outmaneuver Kushida early. The Japanese Superstar was off balance against the impressive physicality of Ruas.
Kushida knew he was in a fight, and he had to resort to some unique offense against the power of Ruas. He managed to trap his opponent in a surprise pinning combination for three.
Kushida def. Ruas by pinfall.
This was a solid first outing for Ruas in what can be considered a restart to his career after the end of Raw Underground. He pushed Kushida early, and this was sold as the Japanese Superstar having to get creative with a man that him beat in the grappling game.
It would have been nice to see both men get more time. If this is supposed to be a start of a push for Ruas, losing in less than five minutes to Kushida does not help. His work can only shine so much when he's not allowed enough time.
Toni Storm and Ember Moon vs. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez
Ember Moon had to keep Toni Storm focused on this coming match while she was clearly more interested in going after the NXT Women's Championship.
The former NXT UK women's champion went after Dakota Kai, but she almost lost control of the match and had to tag in The War Goddess. Moon managed to take out The Captain of Team Kick and Raquel Gonzalez on her own for a moment. Eventually, though, the tag team cohesion of the heels was too much.
Moon struggled to escape the grip of Gonzalez, eventually giving Storm a furious hot tag. Gonzalez blasted Storm into the steel post before Moon took out the tall woman. Kai thought she had Storm, only for the former NXT UK women's champion to catch her with an inside cradle for three.
Afterward, Candice LeRae attacked the faces to make a statement and appease some heel allies.
Storm and Moon def. Kai and Gonzalez by pinfall.
The night was cold and slow at first, but this contest brought the fire. Everyone involved got physical. Gonzalez continued to show why her unique power game makes NXT special. Storm and Kai had a great preview of a future match between them. Moon brought the explosive offense in spades.
The WarGames match for the women is quickly shaping up, and this tag team match showed exactly what to expect inside the cage. It will be intense and physical as the heels show cohesion and the faces work with impressive talent.
Timothy Thatcher vs. August Grey
August Grey went after Timothy Thatcher right at the bell, but he lost control of the match immediately thanks to Thatcher's focused technical style. NXT's most lethal technician. The underdog fought hard but could never get what he needed.
Grey dived at him but ran into a vicious uppercut. Thatcher followed it up with an underhook suplex then locked in a guillotine choke for a quick tapout.
Afterward, Thatcher tried to add more damage and insult, but Tommaso Ciampa arrived and intimidated the dangerous technician into backing down.
William Regal found Boa at his home, trying to get answers out of him about himself and Xia Li. He just said that "she" was coming and shut the door in terror.
Thatcher def. Grey by submission.
While the match was not overly exciting, the squash had energy thanks to the pacing. Grey continued to go after Thatcher, but the veteran just kept slapping him down. It established the newcomer's will to fight as well as the technician's lethal ability.
Ciampa vs. Thatcher is a match that NXT needs to highlight. That will get brutal quickly. The two men are known for high-impact offense and intense technical assaults on their opponents. What comes next may cause some to turn away in fear at the brutality.
NXT Women's Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Rhea Ripley
Once the bell rang, both women were all in to take this victory. Rhea Ripley used her strength to dominate Io Shirai, taking clear control after slamming The Genius of the Sky hard face-first into the apron.
The Nightmare wore down the NXT women's champion with a focused technical attack on the ribs. Shirai blocked a superplex and hit an elevated German suplex to finally start moving again. A few well placed shots busted open Ripley's ear, drawing blood.
Shirai knew she could not win without wearing down Ripley. She targeted the left arm with an intense focus, including several brutal shots using the apron and steel steps. Despite all that damage, she locked in the Prism Trap, having to get to the ground to save the impact on her injured arm.
The NXT women's champion got to the ropes and locked in her own cross armbar to do more damage. Ripley ducked the moonsault and turned Shirai inside outside with a clothesline. Shirai reversed the Riptide into a DDT.
The Genius of the Sky dived underneath Ripley's legs on the apron and powerbombed The Nightmare through the announce table. Ripley got back to the ring before 10 but rolled into the Over the Moon Moonsault, which gave Shirai the win.
Shirai def. Ripley by pinfall to retain the NXT Women's Championship.
This was an unbelievable main event. Both women brought it all in a contest that could have gone all night and never gotten boring. It was two of the best women in the world going absolutely all out. The style switches from power to speed to technical showed just how many tools the women have in their arsenal.
Despite lacking a clearly built story, the contest told its own. Both women were desperate for the win, unafraid to brutalize each other. Ripley came out on fire, but it was Shirai who truly did lasting damage to The Nightmare.
Shirai continues to carry the NXT Women's Championship to new heights. Even through some incredible reigns, there may not be a better championship reign in NXT than what The Genius of the Sky is doing.
Undisputed Era Returns to Take Down Pat McAfee's Kings
Finn Balor congratulated Io Shirai, then turned to the future. He was ready to get back to wrestling. Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch interrupted immediately. The former NFL Pro Bowler taunted the NXT champion, saying that his group would take every title in NXT.
The Prince was unfazed and said he brought friends. The lights went out, and Undisputed Era arrived. A brawl broke out as Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish went after the men who attacked them.
While the women's match should have ended the night, Undisputed Era's return was a fun surprise, even if it had to happen soon. With WarGames on the way, this men's WarGames match had to be set up. McAfee's group has been set up perfectly for the most personal WarGames yet in NXT.
Balor's arrival was oversold given he had no answers yet. He is not involved with the UE vs. Kings of NXT match. He needs a rival. At least it seems likely he is back to stay and ready to defend his NXT Championship.