As the feuds begin to take shape and the road to NXT TakeOver Phoenix becomes visible, this week was an action-packed episode of NXT to the WWE Network.
A tribute to the “Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington was displayed at the bottom of the screen during the intro to the show.
This week the Forgotten Sons returned to action against the team of Raul Mendoza and Humberto Carrillo.
The Mexican team was received well by the crowd. Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake were the two who faced them with Jaxson Ryker outside the ring. This was a back-and-forth match with the Carrillo and Mendoza impressing with their athleticism. Carrillo especially, some of his offence was breath-taking. Eventually the heels got the better of the faces with Mendoza getting laid out outside by Cutler before Blake finished off Carrillo with a jumping piledriver-like DDT, a unique move, before a tag-team combination finisher to end proceedings.
Perhaps surprisingly, the heels did not need to utilise the presence of Jaxson Ryker at ringside.
A hype video involving Heavy Machinery also aired, discussing the journey that Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight have taken ever since their NXT Tag-Team championship match against the Authors of Pain over a year ago. The pair talked about being better than ever and hungry for a shot at the Undisputed Era. One heart, two souls.
Stopping the Bro Show
Matt Riddle opened the show this week, coming out to a warm reception and chants of “Bro!” from the NXT faithful. Riddle was joined in the ring by new NXT recruit Punishment Martinez. The former Ring Of Honor star also received a good response from the Full Sail audience who recognised the indie star.
Duelling chants of “Let’s go Riddle” and “Punishment” dominated the start of the match. This was a clash between two excellent strikers and made for a very entertaining viewing. Interesting note by Byron Saxton on commentary, Punishment Martinez’s father once beat Chuck Norris in an exhibition match in the 1970s.
Martinez took the fight to Riddle but was eventually undone by the Bromission after being left reeling by a swift kick to the head.
As the former UFC star made his way back up the aisle post-match, Kassius Ohno would blindside him from behind and hit his spinning elbow, knocking Riddle off the ramp and leaving him lying.
EC3 and Bobby Fish
Bobby Fish directly addressed EC3’s comments from last week in a backstage segment with the rest of the Undisputed Era also present. Fish referred to himself and his stable mates as sharks and said they bit EC3 once and they’d be more than happy to do it again.
This has the potential to be a very interesting feud. Bobby Fish, recently back from injury, was almost like the forgotten member of the Undisputed Era before he got everyone’s attention by taking out EC3 before TakeOver War Games. Now it might be time for his first singles feud between him and EC3 to give them both something to do.
Also to be noted, the Undisputed Era addressed other tag-teams in the tag division, calling out everyone by name, including the heels, and saying that they’re all living in the Undisputed Era.
An injury update on the War Raiders was provided, specifically Hansen who, according to Mauro Ranallo, suffered broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and torn ligaments inside the War Games match in Los Angeles.
NXT GM William Regal’s recent tweet regarding a number one contender to the NXT Women’s championship was shown on screen, announcing that a fatal-four way would take place three weeks from now to determine the next challenger to Shayna Baszler’s title. Bianca BelAir was announced as the first participant in that match, having qualified at an NXT Live Event recently.
Dakota Kai faced off against Shayna Baszler in a non-title match. It always amazes how the face always comes out alone despite being victim to a group attack by the heels just a week ago. No common sense to bring backup this time, while the heels come out as a group as always. Dakota came across as very dumb by doing this, especially after last week. Io Shirai or Kairi Sane should’ve been in her corner from the start.
The Rivalry: Dakota Kai-Shayna Baszler
The story between Dakota Kai and Shayna Baszler has the potential to be a TakeOver main event one day if utilised properly. Kai was Baszler’s first opponent in NXT and the Queen of Spades put her on the shelf after kayfabe breaking her arm in her debut. Since then, the terrorising figure of Baszler has gotten the better of the chirpy babyface at every turn, winning another match between the two before this third encounter between the duo this week.
Baszler focused on Kai’s arm once again, bullying the Kiwi. But the underdog would make a fiery comeback thanks to a flurry of kicks. Dakota Kai would hit her running kick in the corner finish once but Baszler would counter a second attempt and hit back with running knees of her own. An extremely hard-hitting contest reached its conclusion after Baszler locked in the Kirifuda Clutch for the submission victory. This was arguably Dakota Kai’s best match on NXT and no harm done in losing clean to Shayna Baszler.
Post-match, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir picked Kai up before dropping her down at Baszler’s feet. The beat down was put an early end to by Io Shirai who ran in to make the save. The Genius of the Sky took out Shafir and Duke before helping Kai back to her feet. Kai attempted one final running corner kick to Baszler but the NXT Women’s champion was pulled out of the ring just at the right time by her fellow Horsewomen.
NXT North American champion, Ricochet, gave a backstage pre-tapted interview about what the future holds for not just him but his championship. The interview was preceded by a special video package showcasing the talents of the One and Only since joining NXT. Ricochet announced, after a conversation with General Manager William Regal, that he would be defending the NXT North American title next week against a surprise opponent.
The Velveteen Dream gave a typically charismatic backstage interview to Cathy Kelley. When asked about what was next for him, the Dream responded by saying that everyone has been talking about what’s next for the Dream before abruptly leaving the interview.
A match between EC3 and Bobby Fish was also announced for next week on NXT.
In the final segment of the show, the self-proclaimed greatest sports-entertainer of all-time, NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa came out to address the NXT universe.
Welcomed by the now regular chorus of boos, the Sicilian Psychopath started by calling himself NXT’s MVP after another TakeOver. Ciampa would go on to point at specific members of the crowd saying that no one believes in him before going on to call out Mauro Ranallo by saying that the Voice of NXT doesn’t believe in him but, lifting the NXT title above his shoulders, he said “mamma mia, here I stand”. Great line by Ciampa.
Ciampa went on to call himself the greatest NXT champion of all-time, also adding that children would grow up studying his work. Brilliant stuff.
He would soon be interrupted by Aleister Black though. The Dutch Destroyer, or the Devil’s Envoy as Nigel McGuinness so aptly called him this week, made his way down to the ring. Black declared that at TakeOver War Games, he absolved Johnny Gargano of his sins, sins that Ciampa, or the “puppet master” as Black called him, created. The former NXT champ then announced that he was invoking his rematch clause for the NXT championship at TakeOver Phoenix.
Black had barely finished his sentence when Johnny Gargano’s music hit and he came out, mic in hand. Gargano said that he and Aleister were far from finished and that it would be over when he says it’s over. As Black and Gargano stood toe to toe, Ciampa came up with another great line addressing Gargano saying that he loves when he leaves Johnny Wrestling in the back and comes out and becomes Johnny Badass. This got a major pop and Johnny Badass chants from the Full Sail crowd.
Ciampa, while standing on the ring apron, would keep going in an attempt to incite the pair. Ciampa said that he enjoyed watching the two of them try to rip each other’s head off at TakeOver War Games but there was something missing and that was that they should’ve been inside a cage.
The NXT champion got the reaction he was looking for as Johnny Gargano challenged Black to a Steel cage match. Gargano looked Black in the face and said “I’m not afraid of you, I’m Johnny freaking Wrestling” to which Aleister responded “Johnny Wrestling”.
This promo was intense, passionate and captivating from start to finish. Gargano got under Aleister’s skin just enough to provoke a Black Mass attempt which he dodged before getting out of the ring. The NXT champion was not so lucky, however. As he stood on the ring apron, smiling and admiring the chaos he had just caused, Black delivered a vicious-looking Black Mass spinning heel kick to the champion’s face to close out the show.