NXT’s Halloween Havoc was the week’s best show, and it shows in this week’s list of WWE’s best matches.
This a spooky edition of my Best Matches Of The Week in WWE. The only spooky thing about it is you’ll get a Halloween joke out of me somewhere around here. Or maybe you won’t and the anticipation will be the only scary thing about this piece. Stay tuned.
First off; another week of RETRIBUTION looking anything but legit. I look for the silver lining in everything so this is what I think it is: They’re a great foil for the Hurt Business, who are so badass. Man, they’re so cool and look even cooler getting the better of RETRIBUTION. But it definitely hurts as a fan of Mustafa Ali watching him be made a joke of every week. I still think he will have his day.
I would like to acknowledge my favorite weekly running gag in WWE ever. It’s not Big Show turning heel/face. It’s Nia Jax slamming Lana onto the announcer’s desk just because she can and wants to. This would get a crazy pop from a real crowd every week; for the moment it gets a pop out of me and that’s fine.
Raw definitely happened this week, and NXT was an incredibly fun show, perhaps the best show of the month. Keeping up with the tradition of Triple H’s undying love for 80s NWA/WCW, Halloween Havoc, in all its spooky glory, made a triumphant return after 20 years on the shelf following WWE’s purchase of WCW.
When NXT runs a special episode it borders on being a TakeOver but succeeds in added spectacle and spectacular matches, nevertheless.
They did a great job assembling the Halloween decorum and pageantry. On commentary, Vic Joseph was dressed as Waldo and Wade Barrett was dressed as “Bad News” Barrett. In the ring, Santos Escobar made my Mexican heart warm by wearing Rey Mysterio’s purple tights he wore against Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc 1997 — a gesture the legendary Mysterio thanked Escobar for — and donning Día de los Muertos face paint for his match with Jake Atlas.
Props go out to Cameron Grimes, who made me laugh a lot during his Haunted House of Terror Match with Dexter Lumis. Only Grimes would be foolish enough to step into a haunted house full of things not belonging to a traditional wrestling match and ask the visibly zombified referee if the match is “pinfall of submission?”
More decor surrounded the ring area and even a tiny graveyard opposite the crowd. There was a giant inflatable pumpkin at the top of the stage before Johnny Gargano slashed it, what a jerk. And the ring’s ropes were orange! You love to see it.
NXT UK featured the long-awaited Walter vs. Dragunov match, and it was as physical as you would expect. But the show included an Aoife Valkyrie vs. Dani Luna match that showcased two very under-the-American-radar talents, I suggest you check that out.
Smackdown was really good this week, too. Another step in the amazing Roman Reigns story was taken; after beating (but not really defeating) Jey Uso at Hell in a Cell, Jey had no choice but to “fall in line” with the Tribal Chief and his quest to further cement his family’s legacy. Jey continued to suggest Reigns was in the wrong to be behaving this way and even went as far as proclaiming his hate for him, but by the end of the night, he fell in line.
After beating Daniel Bryan to earn a spot in Team SmackDown for their 5-on-5 match with Team Raw at next month’s Survivor Series, Jey was urged by Reigns to assault Bryan even though the match had already concluded. He followed the order, though reluctantly, but the more he attacked Bryan it became clear that Jey was doing this because he wanted to. What a happening. Remember when it was reported Roman Reigns went to an acting coach? Yeah. Jey is really becoming one of the best WWE performers as well, it’s great to see.
Watch 205 Live for EverRise, that is all.
These were the best matches of the week:
5. WWE NXT Halloween Havoc: Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel González
A true clash of the titans-styled matchup is a rarity in the women’s division and that’s what we got in this bout between Ripley and González. The two dealt each other huge strikes and showcased their impressive strength, González especially.
Ripley ran off the ring apron into a somersault to knock González, who was standing outside, but González had other plans. She caught her mid-flip and lifted her onto her shoulders to slammed her into the plexiglass, sheesh. Ripley executed a perfect Hurricanrana before landing a Riptide for the win, proving these stars are more than their muscles.
4. WWE SmackDown: Jey Uso vs. Daniel Bryan in a Survivor Series Qualifying Match
Jey Uso’s stock is soaring right now. No one’s been on a better run since September except for the man he’s been tied to in story, Roman Reigns. This match with Daniel Bryan was another chance for Jey to prove his ability in the ring with one of the greatest wrestlers ever. Before the additional whooping Jey put on Bryan after the match, the two had an awesome contest.
The emotion Jey displays regardless of who he’s wrestling should be commended. He demonstrates anguish better than anyone on the roster at the moment. You can feel his PAIN through the TV screen, thanks in part to being in the ring with the likes of the hard-hitting Daniel Bryan. We saw a shift in Jey’s behavior post-match, which means it is expected of him to continue the roll he is on.
3. WWE NXT Halloween Havoc: Io Shirai (c) vs. Candice LeRae in a Tables, Ladders, and Scares Match for the NXT Women’s Championship
Don’t freak out, it’s just a TLC match with a Halloween pun inserted. But the scares were definitely present. Any time Io Shirai wrestles I’m horrified it could be her last time doing so. That’s a professional, I know, but her dives to the outside and her moonsault finisher put her in such a feast-or-famine situation I’m not even sure she’s going to survive or not. Anyways, it makes her matches all the more entertaining.
The match embraced the wackiness of its Halloween theme when they involved a bag of loose limbs. Yes, they were plastic, yes, they whacked each other with them. Io and LeRae showed tremendous bravery, finishing the match with a huge bump from the latter onto a ladder positioned horizontally outside.
2. WWE NXT UK: Walter (c) vs. Ilja Dragunov for the NXT UK Championship
If you close your eyes during this match, you would think they were at a gun range. Dragunov and Walter are super intense. Dragunov has this dazed look in his eye, totally locked in on his opponents. Think Festus after the bell rings and Kurt Angle at all times. You have to be a special kind of brave to get in the ring with Walter, he just hits so damn hard. The match felt like an ongoing struggle, with both wrestlers struggling and using every ounce of their energy to land the next big hit in this dramatic slap fight.
No one makes me react like Walter does. You could argue he has an overreliance on chop strikes but does that have to be a bad thing? It certainly isn’t for me. Walter’s offense hasn’t become stale for me because it’s not as if they hurt any less. My brother slapped me on the chest once, and it caused heart palpitations. I can’t even imagine getting hit that same way but a hundred times harder and a hundred times more. Anyway, what a banger.
Walter unloaded everything on the incredibly persistent Dragunov; though the German Suplexes, earth-shattering clotheslines, and top-rope splashes wouldn’t get the job done, Walter’s sleeper hold did. Dragunov laid on the mat motionless and defeated while commentary’s silence sold the shocking nature of this fight.
1. WWE NXT Halloween Havoc: Johnny Gargano vs. Damian Priest (c) in a Devil’s Playground Match for the NXT North American Championship
This was just pure fun. I was hoping Gargano would pay for his sin of puncturing the giant pumpkin, but he didn’t. I’ve been impressed with Gargano’s work as a heel. “Wife guy” Johnny Gargano is so funny to me and I enjoy his ring work far more as a bad guy. Accompanied to the ring by an electric guitar solo, Priest once again showed me there’s no one cooler than him in WWE. Seriously, this entrance was sick.
The match itself was great. There was fast-paced action and some really brutal spots. Gargano hit Priest with a standing Sliced Bread onto the steel steps and rammed a cart into his face as they fought backstage. One of the funniest things I’ve seen in a wrestling match happened when Gargano opened a vertical leaning casket and was surprised by a jump-scaring mechanical corpse, which he then superkicked back into its resting place.
Ghostface from the Scream franchise interfered and set Priest up to be thrown off Shotzi Blackheart’s elevated stage, crashing into a wooden shed and making it easier for Gargano to get the win and become a two-time North American Champion, boo. The match was a display of everything that makes a good wrestling match plus some Halloween silliness, a combination that made this the most fun match of the week.