Following a solid first 2021 event in NXT New Years Evil last week, the yellow brand looked forward to its next venture, the annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. This year’s Dusty Cup features 16 teams from both NXT and 205 Live, including an unannounced duo that made their NXT debut here tonight. Lots of hype and speculation surrounded the mystery MSK team preceding the episode, and many made the correct prediction; this tag team left an impact! Main-evented by Undisputed ERA and Breezango, tonight showed that Dusty Cup ’21 will not disappoint.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Candice LeRae w/ Indi Hartwell
Although the match begins like every other Blackheart showing — quick and frantic, she surprisingly utilizes some technical, limb-targeted offense during the opening minutes. Before commercial, Hartwell interferes ringside giving LeRae the upper hand. For whatever reason, NXT rarely shows lasting heel control outside picture-in-picture, and coming back, Blackheart delivers a suicide dive onto both rivals. Eventually, she scales the ropes but hesitates from Hartwell’s distraction, allowing LeRae to capitalize with a top-rope Neckbreaker for three.
Winner: Candice LeRae
Match Rating: 2.5/5
NXT Champion Finn Balor cuts an in-ring promo, putting down Kyle O’Reilly after defeating him last week. Before he can stoically deliver any more idioms, Pete Dunne interrupts with tag champs Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch who quickly jump him. Making the save is Kyle O’Reilly, thereafter the remaining Undisputed ERA in Adam Cole and Roderick Strong. Animosities are still present between them all.
Backstage, Austin Theory gives North American Champion Johnny Gargano a special package given by “that guy”, the artist known as Dexter Lumis. Gargano faces Lumis later tonight after being humiliated by him during New Years Evil, depicted by the drawings inside the package: Gargano crying and Theory grasping his injured nuts.
Grizzled Young Veterans vs Ever-Rise – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: First Round Match
GYV enters ringside while cutting the usual boasting promo, mentioning their performances in last year’s Dusty Cup. Before the matchup begins, the LED walls of the Capitol Wrestling Center picture all former Dusty Cup winners as General Manager William Regal says some words of importance and grandeur. GYV really impresses with their intensity and chemistry, although Ever-Rise are great punching bags too. The latter’s Matt Martel makes a short-lived comeback but succumbs to Ticket to Mayhem, pushing GYV into the second round.
Winners: Grizzled Young Veterans
Match Rating: 3/5
A video package featuring Raquel Gonzalez highlights her victory over Rhea Ripley. Gonzalez is finally climbing the rankings and calls out NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai.
Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon announce that they’re competing in the upcoming Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Johnny Gargano w/ Austin Theory vs Dexter Lumis
Gargano rips up the aforementioned drawing of him crying, and Lumis lashes out. The former sports his orange and brown Cleveland Browns gear, so maybe Gargano’s luck will continue here tonight. However, Lumis makes a comeback and hits the eye-catching kip-up leg drop. They trade blows, Theory interferes, and Gargano steals the victory with a rollup. Gargano is about to initiate another attack before Kushida runs in, making his claim known for the North American Championship.
Winner: Johnny Gargano
Match Rating: 2.5/5
Postponed from New Years Evil, the Fight Pit match between Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa goes down next week. Wade Barrett conducts a head-to-head table confrontation where both men argue their toughness and character. Ciampa sells this hard, putting some intrigue behind next week’s inevitable war.
After Pete Dunne threatened to interfere later tonight, the Undisputed ERA are interviewed backstage and show off their indelible confidence.
Jake Atlas and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs MSK – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: First Round Match
MSK has arrived! The former Rascalz faction of the independent scene and Impact Wrestling debut with new monikers, Zachary Wentz as Nash Carter and Dezmond Xavier as Wes Lee. The seasoned tag team faces two butting rivals in Atlas and Scott, so the outcome is already given. Nevertheless, the action breaks loose, ending with Lee’s outside dive as commentator Vic Joseph cheekily says, “These rascals are high-flying, they’re exciting. Will they advance?” Back from break, Lee makes a rapid, graceful comeback but the opposition overcomes. After Lee eventually hits an insane Frankensteiner, MSK delivers an assisted hangover for three. This was a full-force indy bout in the best way possible — quick, calculated and exciting!
Match Rating: 3.5/5
A vignette featuring Scarlett recaps the destruction caused by Karrion Kross. Their intentions are set on NXT Champion Finn Balor. He can’t lose the title this soon, right?
Xia Li w/ Boa vs –
The production value on this spectacular entrance is fitting for a superstar, but it’s only Xia Li; her unnamed opponent falls to the finishing tornado kick for three. The matchup was over so quickly, whoever controls headsets needed to remind commentator Vic Joseph to sell the opening punch, one of only two moves delivered. The mysterious higher power sitting atop her throne forces Li to continue the attack ringside.
Winner: Xia Li
Match Rating: –
Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter declare that they’re winning the whole thing — the Women’s Dusty Cup of course. This was the most prominent showing of character from them in their careers, and obviously they have some good chemistry and friendship; nice to finally see it on-screen.
During commercial, Jake Atlas and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott brawl proceeding their Dusty Cup loss. It takes “The Colossal” Bronson Reed to cool things down, telling Scott to “cool it.”
Breezango vs Undisputed ERA – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: First Round Match
Kyle O’Reilly guards ringside in case Pete Dunne and the Tag Team Champions interfere, although maybe the veteran Dusty Cuppers will be upset tonight anyhow. The opening minutes consist of technical goodness between the division’s best, each guy countering the opposition’s chain work. Roderick Strong makes an intense comeback with his signature backbreakers and forearms, followed by Adam Cole’s pump kicks. The action really climaxes, Breezango proving they can hang, but Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch attack O’Reilly as everybody’s down; Finn Balor tries to save, but the numbers are too strong as O’Reilly reinjures his jaw. Concluding the matchup, Cole counters Fandango’s top-rope attack with a catching Superkick for three. Fantastic opening night for the Dusty Cup!
Winners: Undisputed ERA
Match Rating: 3.5/5
Capitol Wrestling Center
The three Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic matches alone made this episode great. I’m sure the internet is “buzzing” about Carter and Lee as they seriously had a banger. And as said before, anytime Adam Cole or the Undisputed ERA work an NXT show, it’s a treat. Awesome start to the tourney.