Fresh off the news that General Manager William Regal had granted them a tag title rematch due to an officiating snafu at R Evolution, Simon Gotch & Aiden English decided to get the party started early. While Lucha Dragons were celebrating a victory over Tye Dillinger & Jason Jordan, the Vaudevillians jumped them from behind and laid them out with the spiffy tandem finisher, the Whirling Dervish.
After his attempt to motivate CJ Parker to inflict some damage on Baron Corbin for the love of Mother Earth failed, Bull Dempsey front row mindgames also backfired when the Lone Wolf pulled him from his seat into a pull-apart brawl. CJP and the referees kept us from seeing two much action between the big men, but both guys got a chance to talk, and neither embarrassed themself.
The NXT Universe was fired up for a return appearance by Old Blue Pants, and Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady were happy to help the crowd get loud for her match against their pal Carmella. But Enzo got a little too excited trying to provide some cheers for the Princess of Staten Island, and the Charles Xavier-quoting young lady got an upset victory. Big Cass then had a big challenge - keeping Carm from harming his buddy 'Zo.
Devin Taylor had a busy week, first speaking to Regal about both the current NXT champ and his predecessor - two men who have been hospitalized by their friend Kevin Owens (KO, for his part, refused to participate in an interview with Renee Young because he didn't like her attitude or her fact-checking), then watching as the GM booked a match for Curtis Axel for next week. Taylor also briefly spoke to Women's champ Charlotte, whose going away-sounding speech was interrupted by Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch. A two-on-one assault by the heels was called off when the champ's fellow legacy, Natalya, ran in to even the score.
In the main event, Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami looked to finally say goodbye for good to The Ascension. And it looked like they did it, too. A non-painted Irishman got to play face-in-peril this time, letting Hideo take the hot tag and tease re-taking an old sleep-inflicting move before unveiling another possible finisher to end Viktor and Konnor.
While some folks (meaning me) salivate over next week's Axel vs. Itami bout, this week we have three big segments to look tide us over until that epic showdown.
This will be the first we've seen of our NXT champ since he finally won the big one live on December 11th - unless you count a cell video recording from Quebec where he sounded as lost as ever thanks to his betrayal at the hands of Owens. Emotional Sami is the best Sami, and the stage is set for some angsty fire from the Likeable One when he returns to Full Sail on this episode. The question is, will he and his fighting friend come face-to-face? And, if so, will Zayn himself powerbombed back-to-apron one more time?
Many NXT watchers thought the Kalisto & Sin Cara were ripe for the picking at the last Takeover, and nothing has really changed since. With nearly all of the camera time over the past month still focused on the #1 contenders, we just might see our first non-live special title change tonight.
Meanwhile, we're guaranteed the best women's match we'll see on WWE television this week, but the more interesting aspect might be watching to see if they'll set up another challenger for Charlotte know that she's decisively beated Bayley and The Boss. Could Natty show an evil side? Will Becks take a step up in the rankings?
Plus, what's next for Itami & Bálor? When will we see Baron & Dempsey give it a proper go? And where in Orlando is Marcus Louis?!?!
(Note: I know some folks have come looking for a more definitive match listing - we strictly avoid NXT spoilers here at Cageside central. If WWE.com releases or the performers tweet more information on anything that's officially going to take place on tonight's show, that'll be updated here. If anyone wants to put a match listing in the comments, please use spoiler tags.)
After a few weeks of treading water, will tonight be the night NXT starts swimming toward the next live event?
It's the last Thursday night for your favorite WWE program. Join the gang in the 9PM Eastern results thread to say goodbye until next Wednesday, and look for reactions bright and early Friday morning.