The week of Survivor Series started with RAW in Boston on November 18th and continued with NXT at Full Sail in Florida on Wednesday, but WWE moved to Chicago on Friday November 22nd for SmackDown and stayed for four nights of events in a row. Everything was based around the brand warfare between RAW, SmackDown, and NXT. This is the first time in WWE's history that NXT has been acknowledged as an equal third brand instead of a developmental brand. Most of NXT's stars have never been featured on a platform so large and in front of a crowd of die-hard Chicago wrestling fans. There were many bright moments in the weekend, but five NXT Superstars announced their presence with authority last week. Here's a closer look at who stood out last week and what we can expect from them in the future. In the comments below, share your favorite break-out moments from the weekend.
1. Adam Cole
Adam Cole walked out of Survivor Series weekend with plenty of bumps and bruises but most importantly, he walked out with his NXT Championship. Cole carried the entire WWE throughout the month of November. Cole started the month by stepping into the main event of SmackDown on FOX to defeat former WWE Champion Daniel Bryan when the rest of the WWE roster couldn't make the show due to extreme travel complications. Cole wrestled Seth Rollins three days later on RAW. On the week of Survivor Series, Cole defeated Domink Dijakovic in a ladder match (to gain the advantage at WarGames), Cole & his Undisputed Era teammates defeated The New Day & Heavy Machinery on SmackDown, Cole crashed through a table with Tommasso Ciampa at WarGames to lose the match in a memorable fashion, and Cole managed to recover the next day to defeat Pete Dunne and retain his NXT Championship to end the week.
Adam Cole proved that he has the presence and in-ring ability to carry any nationally broadcast wrestling show this past week. He wrestled men of different styles and body types successfully while captivating the attention of the live crowd and the audience at home. Cole is heavily influenced by Shawn Michaels. He's won gold in CZW, PWG, & ROH before coming to NXT. He had an amazing trilogy of matches with Johnny Gargano from April of 2019 to August of 2019 and gave Ricochet one of his best matches ever in their clash for the North American Championship. Cole has also shined in multi-man matches like the 5-way match on the March 13th edition of NXT or the six-man tag match on Halftime Heat in 2019. Cole has also competed in all three men's WarGames matches since its revival in NXT. Cole hasn't wrestled a whole lot of big men in NXT and that's a test that Cole could face on RAW & SmackDown should he ever make his way to those programs. Cole will hang on to his NXT Championship for a bit longer, but it's hard not to see his star rise to the absolute top after the performance he put on throughout November.
2. Rhea Ripley
At the age of 23, Rhea Ripley has already made her name one of the biggest in wrestling. Ripley stunned the wrestling world with her performance on the November 22nd edition of SmackDown on FOX by pinning Charlotte Flair while Flair had Sasha Banks in a figure-eight leg lock. Such creativity in a finish combined with her in-ring work and tough look, Ripley has made everyone take notice of her. Ripley was the first women's NXT UK Champion and has mostly competed there with the exception of her great showing (she eliminated Dana Brooke, Zelina Vega, & Kacy Catanzaro) in the 2019 Women's Royal Rumble. Ripley also had a good showing in her impromptu match with Becky Lynch on the November 20th edition of NXT.
At 5'8" and 137lbs, Ripley is able to use her size to throw around smaller opponents with her power offense. Ripley employs a variety of dropkicks as well to take advantage of her long and powerful legs. Since losing her NXT UK Women's Championship to Toni Storm, Ripley has come to NXT looking to challenge Shayna Baszler for supremacy in the NXT Women's division. After her performance this past November, it looks like Ripley has made herself the #1 contender for Baszler's championship title. Look for Ripley's former rival, Dakota Kai, to be one of the first to try to knock Ripley off her path. Ripley's body of work is relatively small, due to her young age, but her matches with Toni Storm & Dakota Kai stand out above the others as well as the triple threat she had with Sasha Banks & Charlotte Flair on SmackDown.
3. Keith Lee
Keith Lee won the Chicago crowd over within his first five moves on the Undisputed Era in WarGames. Fish and O'Reilly bumped and fed Lee perfectly showcasing how quick and agile the former Texas A&M lineman truly is. The 340lb Lee stood out even more the next night in the men's Survivor Series match by pinning Seth Rollins and being one of the final two Survivors before eating a spear from Roman Reigns to get eliminated. Reigns showed respect to Lee by giving him a fist bump in the center of the ring. Keith Lee returned to NXT this with renewed confidence and reactions to him are getting louder and louder.
Lee is a former PWG champion and former WWN champion. Lee got global attention for his match with Donovan Dijak (Dominic Dijakovic in NXT) on Day Three of PWG's Battle Of Los Angeles 2017 by getting a rating of five stars from critic Dave Meltzer. Lee's ability to fly around the ring like a cruiserweight while weighing 340lbs is a sight to behold. His smile and personality is contagious and his experience of working as an independent wrestler for over a decade has given him a wealth of knowledge and perspective as the spotlight finally shines on him. If you don't have access to the BOLA 2017 match, check out his match against Dijakovic on the September 25th edition of NXT. Lee's wrestling and warm personality have gotten him far, but the true test for him on a global stage will be when he has to carry a storyline to build to a big match.
4. Shayna Baszler
At the age of 39, Shayna Baszler competed in the first main event featuring women in Survivor Series history (with Becky Lynch & Bayley) and won. Baszler shined as the captain of the heel team in the first ever women's WarGames match the night before. Baszler's sinister smile through her black mouthguard works perfectly for television cameras and it was effective in garnering sympathy for the out-numbered Rhea Ripley & Candice LeRae. Baszler's persona and mic work helped the build to the match and reinforce the feeling of danger. Although Baszler's team lost, the women's WarGames match was a tremendous success and every woman that competed in the match came out looking like a bad-ass.
Trained under Billy Robinson and Josh Barnett, Baszler is the only certified female catch wrestler in the United States and has presented herself as a force in NXT. Baszler has broken Asuka's record for combined days as NXT Women's Champion defeating challengers like Kairi Sane, Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, Nikki Cross, & Toni Storm. Shayna has proved almost everything there is to prove in NXT. Baszler's wheelhouse is combat and not soap opera stories, but she has continued to evolve and has more to give if put in the right storyline. Baszler's persona is like Ronda Rousey's persona but if it had no remorse. Check out her matches with Kairi Sane, Io Shirai, or Bianca Belair and you'll see what Baszler can do with different dance partners.
5. Pete Dunne
Pete Dunne's first major show in the United States was in Chicago in 2017 when he defeated Tyler Bate for the NXT UK Championship. Chicago fell in love with Pete Dunne that night and that love has only grown. Chicago has always been known as a town that favors heels, but it's more of a town that favors survivors. Chicago loves cunning, toughness, and relentlessness: all of those are qualities of Pete Dunne. Dunne is only 5' 10" and around 205lbs but his wrestling style has uniquely established him as the enemy of fingers everywhere. Dunne snapped fingers throughout the men's triple threat match with Damien Priest and Killian Dain while cleansing the palette of the Chicago crowd after a show-stealing women's WarGames match. The next night in the same building, Pete Dunne challenged Adam Cole for the NXT Championship at Survivor Series. Both men were beaten up and sporting medical tape all over their bodies.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Dunne is that he can wrestle an amazing match with someone the size of Tyler Bate while also being able to have an amazing match with the humongous Walter without having to change up his wrestling style a great deal. Dunne can employ his attacks on fingers while still being able to execute the power moves of Dean Malenko's offense much to the audience's delight. Dunne hasn't been put in a major emotionally-driven storyline yet, but the sky is the limit for this highly-skilled 26 year-old. Definitely watch his match with Tyler Bate in Chicago, his match with WALTER, or re-watch his work in the triple threat match on WarGames 2019.