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NXT recap & reactions (Jan. 23, 2019): Reconnecting with old friends


NXT returned to us last night (Jan. 23) with their final show prior to this Saturday’s TakeOver: Phoenix. Find a run down of the results at the live blog here.

Velveteen Dream opens up the show, saying he’s got a sparkle in his eye looking ahead at the North American title. He’s immediately interrupted by former NA champ Adam Cole, soon to be flanked by Bobby Fish.

The Panama City Playboy claims they’re going to claim all the gold this year. Fish tells Dream that he should be ashamed of getting the fans hopes up.

Velveteen makes a comment about Adam being in charge of Bobby and Fish charges the ring. Dream escapes both of them and taunts on the entryway, leaving one half of the ERA incensed in the ring.

This leads to a match later in the night between Dream and Fish which Dream wins despite having his leg worked over the entire time.

The Dream vs. ERA feud is upon us and it’s off to a hot start.

Their 2019 goals clash as Dream wants the North American title while Undisputed wants all of the titles. As they should with “undisputed” being part of their name. ERA is likely not getting called up soon so a 2019 arc consisting of them trying to hold the titles at once is a good plan.

The fact that this led to Fish vs. Dream right away, and given Cole’s attempt to cost Velveteen the match, has me hopeful that the end game is Cole vs. Dream. Nothing against Bobby. He was very good tonight and he and Dream had a strong match. (Props to Dream for selling the leg most of the match.) But when it comes to charisma, Adam has a step or two on Fish. A story featuring the palpable personalities of both Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole has potential to steal any show.

It’s also smart to start telling the story prior to TakeOver to give us something to look forward to on NXT TV in a couple of weeks.

Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch def. Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner

Holy s*** this match.

These two teams are of the same stock, bald dudes who hit hard. And they made some magic together in the time given in the middle of the show.

The European Union’s match against an enhancement team the other week made them look good, but at the same time, they struggled to put away a no-name team. But the BritAm Brawlers have been close to winning the titles. So losing to them in such a close fashion brings Aichner and Barthel up a couple of notches.

After beating the holy living hell out of each other, with some fabulous high flying from Aichner mixed in, it was a Lorcan roll up that scored the victory. Which hopefully means they’ll do it again because this was fantastic.

This is kind of what we’ve come expect with tag teams in NXT (and why it’s so sad to see what happens if one those teams ends up on Raw).

Io Shirai & Kairi Sane def. Amber Nova & Tanea Brooks

The victors cut a backstage promo post match, where they’re interrupted by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, who talk a little trash. This sets up a match next week.

Sane and Shirai are a fantastically fun team, with great chemistry who are already whipping out a ton of tandem moves.

Mid-match, watching the enhancement team, I thought “Is that Rebel?” If you’ve watched any TNA/Impact, which I used to a ton as I covered it for Cageside, you’ve seen Rebel. And she often did not impress. She looked OK tonight, but I couldn’t tell if she was supposed to kick out at the end or not, which felt like classic Rebel.

With the main roster getting women’s tag titles, NXT can start experimenting with more teams for eventual call ups. (I don’t expect to see NXT women’s tag titles any time soon.) In the more immediate future, they’ll be teaming against Duke & Shafir, which will be an interesting test for the rookie duo. Facing a team of two veterans is a good place for them to start.

Ricochet makes his way to the ring and cuts a promo on Johnny Gargano. He claims his opponent is a selfish liar & deceiver. He’s soon interrupted by Johnny, who says he knows the champ is trying to use his emotions against him. But 2019 Johnny is too smart for that. He enters the ring and tries to cheap shot Ricochet but Ric cuts him off and the two brawl.

When Johnny is tossed out of the ring, Tommaso Ciampa attacks Ricochet from behind and throws him out of the ring. Gargano and Ciampa stare each other down. Then the champ watches with a smile as Johnny beats up the One and Only.

Aleister Black runs out and attacks Ciampa, but then Johnny helps the Tommaso by attacking Black. Soon DIY are taking it to their opponents and share the ring together as the crowd chants “DIY.”

They slowly make their way to the stage where they stare each other down. Ciampa sticks his hand out before Candice LeRae runs out to stop her husband from shaking Tommaso’s hand after all they’ve been through.

This is the type of thing I point to when I want to talk about how damn good NXT is.

They have told a fantastic story with all four of these men. While Ricochet is kind of the odd man out as he hasn’t been part of this story for long, they found a way to fit him in that works perfectly.

The underlying story here is the possibility of a #DIY reunion, which is an added layer to the two matches this Saturday. It’s not just two title matches, which would have been enough. But it has this extra hook that’s part of the overarching Johnny/Tommaso story that makes it great.

These two TakeOver matches are going to be fantastic, and there’s multiple stories to tell in them.

The facial expressions of the #DIY guys as they slowly walked up the ramp were great. Johnny’s was one of confusion and apprehension. Ciampa was one of manipulation but also caution.

Then he extended the hand, bringing out Candice LeRae (who really only serves at part of this story in NXT) who obviously has no desire to see her husband reunited with the man who ruined their lives.

The argument could be made that Ric and Black are taking too much of a backseat to the #DarkDIY, and I’d understand that. But this subplot isn’t making me want to watch these matches any less. If anything, I’m more intrigued and that’s what’s important.

Another very good show tonight. Phoenix is gonna rule, y’all!

Grade: A

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