NXT often uses the age-old art of the squash to good storytelling effect, and last week the used it early and often. Finn Bálor took a few licks from Tye Dillinger, but didn't break too much a sweat in picking up a win. His old buddy Hideo Itami had a very similar match to send CJ Parker off to the independent circuit.
Difference was, Finn picked up a new rival in the aftermath of his decisive victory - and it was someone with whom Itami is very familiar. Tyler Breeze's new mission is to take out the highly touted global stars that Triple H keeps bringing into NXT. He beat Hideo everywhere but on the Japanese Superstars road to WrestleMania, and now Prince Pretty wants to take the Irishman down a peg as well.
Rhyno also used some enhancement talent to get back on a roll after he was pinned by Sami Zayn the week before.
Dana Brooke continued to posture herself as a contender, but she was shown up on the stick when NXT champ Kevin Owens intimidated Devin Taylor better than she could. And it was proven that there's a really high bar to clear in the women's division when Becky Lynch pinned Bayley to win the Triple Threat they were having that also included Charlotte. It wasn't even the best women's matches from the last few months of NXT, but it still stole the show.
It also put women's champ Sasha Banks on notice that her former partner in crime Lynch is now coming right at The Boss.
Enzo & Cass are trying to put Blake & Murphy on notice that they're coming for the tag belts, but the champs are making a strong play for the female representative of their New York/New Jersey coalition. Flowers, jewelry and now music have been sent Carmella's way by the former Wesley and the Australian One...and the Princess of Staten Island seems to be receptive.
He did the job again, but Alex Riley would undoubtedly argue with anyone calling his second loss to Owens a squash...but that might just be because of his anger issues. In addition to the loss, A-Ry was also nearly the victim of a pop-up powerbomb to the side of the ring, but Zayn swooped in to save him from the fate that befell him at R Evolution. The Likeable One and his former friend the champ had to be pulled apart several times before officials could get them under control.
And the road to whatever we'll call the next TakeOver began...
This is a new set of tapings. We know the date of the next live special (May 20th), but we don't yet have a weird subtitle. While you all get to work on that - I'll leave it up to your discretion if you continue on the movie sequel tip, such as TakeOver and The Order of the Phoenix Splash - we'll be looking for NXT to get working on building the feuds that will make up that show.
With three episodes including tonight, and most of the title programs in place, they should have ample time to build heat between the competitors. Not that a whole lot of effort should required. I'm assuming that the way they're hyping tonight (Can Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens be contained!?!?) means that we're getting a main event featuring their rivalry. Audiences could probably use a refresher course on their issues, but it won't take much.
Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch has built-in backstory...I'm still mourning the break-up of Team B.A.E., myself. The Boss' presence has been sorely missed over the last few weeks, but that time has been used to give Bex a chance to shine, and she now feels like legitimate threat and not just a jilted tag partner.
And the tag title program has been simmering for months. We're largely ready to go there, but giving Enzo & Cass more microphone time is never a problem, and Blake & Murphy are discovering their own goofy, creepy charisma with the slow-burn on the feud.
The question, as it always is with the top heavy "Developmental" show these days, is what else gets on the card? Bálor vs. Breeze seems likely. Are two weeks of alternating 30 second matches from Rhyno and Baron Corbin (and their bout at the San Jose live show) and indication that they could become dance partners between now and the 20th? Will a TakeOver ever have two women's matches?
(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.)
We'll start to find out tonight - what twists and turns do you want from the title feuds between now and TakeOver V?
Discuss amongst yourselves below, and be sure to come back Cageside tonight for our live thread and reactions posts to keep the NXT dialogue going!