WrestleWatch- NXT Halloween Havoc 2022 (22/10/2022)
By Mick Robson
Ah, Halloween. As an Aussie, I don't fully understand it. Kids are taught "stranger danger" and "don't take candy from strangers", yet on October 31 I get hordes of random children knocking on my door wanting me to give them chocolates. I'm a bit of a Grinch when it comes to Halloween. Sometimes I get involved in the dress-up parties, but I'm not a big horror guy either.
But Halloween does have its place in the US-based WWE. It's a PPV that actually started back in the old WCW days. Halloween Havoc was a staple of Turner's PPV offerings in October for many years. Perhaps the most famous thing from the Halloween Havoc shows was Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio Jr in an absolute classic from the 1997 edition. One of my 3 favourite matches of all time- the others are TLC II and Taker vs Shawn from WrestleMania 25.
NXT brought back the Halloween Havoc theme in 2020 to mostly enjoyable results. It aired as a special NXT episode for the past two years, and this year became its own standalone Premium Live Event. I guess I better get used to calling them PLEs- the logic behind calling them that actually makes sense, even if I need to un-learn 25 years of saying and writing "PPV".
Bron Breakker is the standard bearer for NXT, holding the main championship for much of this year- a brief detour with Dolph Ziggler aside. On this event, he has two hungry challengers, who previously had great success on the now defunct NXT UK- Ilja Dragunov and JD McDonagh. Both men are known for their hard-hitting styles, so Bron better have his working boots on!
Elsewhere on the show, Grayson Waller faces Apollo Crews in a Spin The Wheel, Make The Deal match, former Diamond Mine members Julius Creed and Damon Kemp do battle in an Ambulance Match, the vacant North American Championship is contested in a Ladder Match, and much more. Plus a little spookiness, if that's your thing.
Let's do this!
A Chucky-narrated video airs, highlighting the main matches, complete with Halloween-appropriate spooky visuals.
Hosts of Halloween Havoc, Quincy Elliott & Shotzi (last name still redacted) welcome us to the show.
Match 1: NXT North American Championship-Ladder Match- Nathan Frazier vs. Oro Mensah vs. Wes Lee vs. Von Wagner vs. Carmelo Hayes
A ladder match is always a great way to kick off any show. High-octane action, and the vacant North American Championship hangs in the balance! Vic Joseph says it's the 4th time the championship has been "defended" in a ladder match during Melo's entrance. He means "contested", but he did inadvertenly give away a spoiler? Time will tell.
Frazer takes to the skies early with a cross body to the outside on Wagner, and is the first to grab a ladder. He briefly teams with Mensah to use the ladder as a weapon on Hayes. The alliance is short-lived, and when Frazer tries to climb the ladder, Mensah stops him and drops him with an exploder suplex. Hayes goes on the attack but Mensah back body drops him onto a ladder. Wagner gets back in the action and makes a statement, powerbombing Frazer on a ladder in the corner.
Booker T on commentary sells the dangers of a ladder match, name dropping Joey Mercury (from Armageddon 2006. That was gruesome). Wes Lee leaps off the top rope holding a ladder, driving it into Frazer on the way down. Melo gets a highlight with a springboard leg drop onto Mensah, driving him down onto a ladder. Frazer earns a "holy shit" chant by hitting a crazy flipping russian leg sweep on Melo onto a ladder! Wow!
Mensah is all alone in the ring and sets up the ladder, but Trick Williams tips him off it, which he turns into a cross body to the outside! Just barely cleared the ropes, that was scary. Wagner clears the field by using a ladder as a battering ram. He then gets a super-sized ladder that he bridges from the ring to the barricade. Soon after, he goes through it when Frazer hits him with a big splash!
Wagner recovers and gets back to the ring to battle Wes Lee. He picks Lee up in a military press slam and launches him out of the ring into the announce table! Mensah and Frazier then team up to take out the big man with repeated ladder attacks. Melo gains the advantage and goes for the belt, but Lee gets back involved with a springboard forearm! Lee hits Melo with a Meteora off the ladder into another ladder, then climbs to retrieve the belt!
Winner: Wes Lee
Star Rating: ****. A brilliant spot-fest where everyone got their moments. Besides Lee claiming the championship- his first singles one anywhere- Nathan Frazer just about stole the show with many jaw-dropping moments. Lee was a good choice to win- Melo was the most established name, but he's been here, done that. Hayes is main roster ready.
Bianca Belair hype video. One of NXT's biggest success stories in recent years.
Alba Fyre challenges Mandy Rose to meet her in a haunted house. Mandy goes with Toxic Attraction, although they're very scared and jumpy. Well, Mandy and Jacy are. Gigi loves Halloween, and is pretty chill about the whole thing. They split up, which Jacy notes is a huge mistake- haven't you guys seen horror movies? Jacy goes into a movie room and gets dragged behind the curtain by Alba. Gigi sits down with Chucky and some ghouls and ends up fighting Fyre as well. She eventually gets kicked and shut into a freezer- damn. Alba then confronts Mandy and beats her with a bat. She chokes her out, throws her in a car, and after hitting Jacy and Gigi with the bat, drives off with the champ.
Druids bring a casket to ringside. That's what the wheel spun for the Apollo/Waller bout- it's a Casket Match!
Match 2: Casket Match- Apollo Crews vs. Grayson Waller
Waller looks spooky and subdued, but tries to do his usual entrance schtick. They begin swinging punches at each other, and Crews takes Waller down and rains down more spots. Early control for the former IC and US Champion. The fight spills to the outside and Crews hits a moonsault off the apron. Waller gets a brief opening with a kick to the knee, but Crews stops the charge with a huge belly to belly in the entrance way! Waller almost got Frequent Flier miles on that one!
They get back in the ring and Waller drops Crews with a roundhouse. They fight to the outside again and Apollo hits a shotgun dropkick, sending Grayson onto the announce table. Waller grabs Vic's pen and stabs Apollo with it to avoid disaster. Waller throws Apollo into the ring post and he gains momentum. Apollo goes for a superplex, but Grayson rakes the eyes and Apollo falls through the closed casket! Is it over? The lights go out and Apollo is up with the druids! They have another casket. That's BS, Waller won. A technicality about getting your opponent in the casket and closing the lid... not his fault NXT got a cheap casket!
The match continues, and Apollo is in control. The second casket is much higher quality. This is extremely weird. Crews with a gutbuster and Waller is in trouble. Crews puts Waller in the new casket but he escapes and puts Crews in there, but Crews escapes also. They both fight into the casket and Crews beals Waller out of it to the floor. Waller hits the rolling Stunner to drop Crews! Waller goes for a Tombstone but Crews reverses into a lungblower. Waller fights out of the casket and goes for a chokeslam off the apron, but Crews blocks it and hits one of his own into the casket!
Winner: Apollo Crews
Star Rating: **3/4. Good battle. The two casket thing was weak and really hurt this match for me. I get that they want to give Waller an out and something to complain about following this match, but... it's too legitimate a gripe. Good action and I liked the references/tributes to The Undertaker.
Andre Chase introduces a new student to Chase U. It's Duke Hudson. Andre asked a question about Halloween Havoc 96 which Duke correctly answers- Outsiders beat Harlem Heat for the tag titles. Bodhi Hayward doesn't like it, he doesn't trust Hudson. Glad they're doing something with the talented Duke, who has been relegated to NXT Lvl Up appearances in recent weeks.
Match 3: Weapons Wild Match- Roxanne Perez vs. Cora Jade
Roxanne attacks Cora with a skateboard, which looks far sturdier than the one Cora had a couple of months ago. Perez in early control and she gets a table. Jade sprays Perez in the eyes with... something in a can and slings her into the barricade. Cora gets a bunch of chairs and a trash can into the ring. Roxanne reaches for a chair but Cora hits her with the can. She then puts Perez in the trash can and stomps through it! They brawl to the outside and Cora uses a broom as a weapon. That witch!
Cora gets a rope and ties it around Roxanne's jaw, not her neck. We're still PG. Perez fights back by using the rope as a whip, then smashes Cora into the steel stairs. They get back in the ring and Roxanne goes wild with a kendo stick. It gets a near fall. Perez goes for Pop Rocks but Cora whips her into the turnbuckle then hits a high knee for a 2 count of her own. They fight to the top rope and Perez hits a super rana for a near fall. Cora Jade runs away through the crowd and up to a platform. Cora body slams Roxanne up there. Perez fights back and looks to knock Jade through a table down below, but hesitates and they both go through it. Not sure who delivered the offensive move there.
They eventually get to the feet and fight on. They get back in the ring and Cora shouts "you were never my friend!" while setting up a move on the chairs. Roxanne back body drops her onto the chairs and says "you were always my best friend" before hitting Pop Rocks on the chairs for the win!
Winner: Roxanne Perez
Star Rating: ***. Quality gimmick match. Would be a fitting end to their feud if they so choose. Both ladies sold the emotion of the feud and their past friendship well while doing battle, and they weren't afraid to get physical. Well done to both.
Vic and Booker promote NXT's next Premium Live Event- NXT Deadline, on December 10.
Shotzi makes her entrance. She's looking scarily fine in a Beetlejuice outfit! Quincy Elliott makes his entrance as... a giant banana?! They make a couple of banana puns before Lash Legend interrupts. She calls Shotzi a "green goblin". Quincy points out that Lashing out (Legend's talk show) was cancelled a long time ago. Lash says she would do a better job hosting that someone on Smackdown. Quincy says that hearing Lash on the mic is "more horrifying than anything on Halloween. Shotzi says that she can handle this, and takes out Lash Legend. Fun little breather to give our charismatic hosts some screen time.
Charlotte Flair hype video. I'm guessing she'll be back soon, but I haven't exactly missed her.
Promo from the Schism. Joe Gacy says that some people wear masks all year, not just on Halloween. Jagger Reed says that they will deliver their message by force, because they are unafraid to be themselves. They tried to be peaceful, but what happens next is "your fault".
Match 4: Ambulance Match- Julius Creed vs. Damon Kemp
They brawl at ringside and Creed hits a nice overhead throw on the floor. They quickly fight to the ambulance and Kemp uses a crutch to prevent the doors closing on him, then jabs Creed with it. They fight back to ringside and Creed uses a fire extinguisher on Kemp. They trade strikes, brawling back to the ambulance, and Kemp slams the door on Creed's head. Creed kicks his way out of the ambulance and barrels him back into the ring post (the ambulance isn't too far from the ring).
Kemp brings steel stairs into the ring and hits Creed with an uranage onto them. Julius grabs a wheelchair and wheels Kemp into the steel stairs. Luchi and Jess did it better at PWA LFG. Creed looks to dive on Kemp but Kemp sprays him with the fire extinguisher. It didn't look great. A stretcher comes into play. Julius threw a ring bell at Kemp. Kemp threw a steel chair back. We're getting Weapons Wild here, too!
Kemp throws Creed into a cart and rams the cart into the ambulance. He puts Julius inside but he blocks the door closing with his fingers! Creed puts Kemp through a nearby table and starts throwing chairs at his prone body. It sounds like the crowd are chanting "use the bucket" for some reason. Creed powerbombs Kemp onto the stretcher. He puts a chair on his face and clothesline through it. He picks up Kemp's lifeless body, puts him in the ambulance and closes the lid!
Winner: Julius Creed
Star Rating: **3/4. Given their experience level, a decent battle. Not my favourite ambulance match by any stretch- the stipulation can drag sometimes, and I felt like that was the case at times in this one. The finish was a bit weak for my liking as well.
As the ambluance drives off, we see Alba Fyre arrive in her car with Mandy Rose. They brawl to the ring, where the ref is waiting, and this match is official!
Match 5: NXT Women's Championship- Alba Fyre vs. Mandy Rose (c)
Mandy manages to fight back with shoulder barges in the corner. Drives the air out of Fyre but she kicks out. Rose beats down Fyre and chokes her using the ropes as Vic Joseph talks about her year of dominance as Women's Champion. Alba tries to fight back and Mandy drops with a spinebuster for a near fall.
Fyre scores with a fireman's carry powerbomb then the Swanton. Cover, but Toxic Attraction pull the ref out of the ring! The big knee from Mandy misses, and Fyre hits the Gory Bomb! Cover, but Toxic took the ref out! Gigi and Jacy take out Fyre with a high/low. Mandy hits Kissed By A Rose, and retains the title!
Winner: Mandy Rose
Star Rating: **. Short and sweet effort, with the earlier haunted house skit cutting into their time. Would like to see a rematch without the Halloween hijinks- it was fine for what it was, but I feel like an improved Mandy Rose could have a genuinely great match with the former Kay Lee Ray.
Cody Rhodes hype video. With this being a premium live event and not just a special NXT episode, they're taking the opportunity to hype some main roster stars. Hopefully we see Cody back soon!
Brock Lesnar/Bobby Lashley hype. Crown Jewel will be interesting- will we get more than we got between these two at the Royal Rumble?
McKenzie Mitchell interviews Nikkita Lyons & Zoey Stark. They get a title shot on Tuesday. Enofe & Blade interrupt, they want to win the titles too. Well, the men's tag titles. Be a bit weird if they went for the women's gold.
Vic hypes this Tuesday's episode of NXT- we get the two sets of tag title matches, but a breaking announcement, Shotzi will be back on NXT to face Lash Legend! Hopefully, just a special one-off for Shotzi.
Main Event- NXT Championship- Bron Breakker vs. Ilja Dragunov vs. JD McDonagh
Dragunov opens the match by booting McDonagh in the face and striking away, but Bron interrupts because HE wants to beat the crap out of JD. JD fighs back and hits Bron with a snap suplex for an early near fall. Dragunov back in and nails Bron with a lariat, then JD hits Dragunov with a Northern Lights suplex. JD looking strong early in this match!
McDonagh with some innovation, sweeping Dragunov's legs then hitting a slingshot corkscrew splash. Breakker back in to smash both his opponents with clotheslines. He ducks a Dragunov clothesline and hits an exploder suplex. JD sneaks in for a schoolboy, then after the kickout he just rolls to the outside, avoiding the battle for now. Breakker goes for a vertical suplex, but Dragunov drops behind and locks in a sleeper. JD tries to pick his spot again, but Dragunov catches him and rains down elbows. McDonagh looks for the Devil Inside, but Dragunov turns it into a Death Valley Driver, spiking JD into Bron. Dragunov then goes up top and hits a Coast To Coast on both of them!
All three men down, and Breakker and Dragunov are the first to rise and start trading strikes. JD, who stayed down out of the fight, applauds them, but then they both turn on him. Huge back body drop by Breakker, then he and Ilja pinball JD between them with strikes. They throw him out of the ring like trash and we're back to Bron vs. Ilja. Dragunov lands some shots but Bron explodes back with a clothesline. The champ lifts Dragunov with a military press, but McDonagh gets back in and drops him with a headbutt! Big "NXT" chants from the crowd. Bron sets JD up with a Frankensteiner, and Dragunov catches JD in a powerbomb! Wow!
They all trade strikes, Dragunov gets the better of it, and hits JD with a senton. Breakker Spears Dragunov and they go through the ropes to the outside. McDonagh takes them both out with an Asai moonsault! Back in the ring, Dragunov hits a powerbomb, and when Bron kicks out, JD strikes Draguov with a 450 for a near fall! JD throws Dragunov to the outside and hits Breakker with a brainbuster for another near fall. Dragunov back in to hit a trifecta of German suplexes, but when JD blocks the third, Bron comes in to German them both! Bron hits a top rope bulldog on Dragunov, followed by the military press powerslam. JD tries to steal the pin but Dragunov kicks out!
Breakker sets up for the spear, but Dragunov knocks him down, then hits a top rope senton. Torpedo Moscow follows, but McDonagh stops the ref's hand from hitting for the 3 count! Dragunov boots him to the outside and then runs around ringside to attack, but JD catches him with a Spanish Fly! McDonagh tries to shatter Dragunov's ankle on the steel stairs, but he avoids it and takes him out with a flying European uppercut! Back in the ring, Bron and Ilja trade bombs. Dragunov sets up for Torpedo Moscow, but Bron intercepts with a Spear for the win!
Winner: Bron Breakker
Star Rating: ****1/4. With the return of NXT special events to PLEs, this was a Takeover-worthy main event. It would be easy to say that NXT UK standouts McDonagh and Dragunov carried the action, but the rookie Breakker held his own in an epic, which feels crazy to say about a guy just over a year in the business, but that's what went down. Having said that, McDonagh did especially stand out in this one. People may have their issues with JD Don'tGoogleMe (I actually haven't really, something to do with Speaking Out, I assume), but there's no question that he's a great pro wrestler. Easily Bron Breakker's best match to date, but all three men shone in this one.
A strong return for NXT to PLEs! Halloween Havoc allowed for all kinds of gimmickry and shenanigans, which can be hit or miss- not all of it was to my personal taste, and also there may be things I enjoyed that someone else may find silly. That said, the show was bookended by a wild ladder match and an epic triple threat, which were reminiscent of Black And Gold NXT at its best. The midcard featured either wrestlers who are still developing- which is fine, that's part of NXT's purpose- or stuff that was a bit silly/contrived/overbooked, which is bound to happen at some level when you indulge in a Halloween-themed show. All in all, a show worth the watch, but go out of your way to watch the first and last matches.
Overall Score: 7/10
Until next time, take care.