NXT returned to us last night (Mar. 27) with their penultimate episode prior to TakeOver: New York. You can find all the results at the live blog here.
The show opens with the NXT championship on a pedestal in the ring. Adam Cole walks out first and calls Johnny Gargano to the ring so he can tell him what he’s in for at TakeOver: New York. Gargano obliges. He tells Cole that he’s been saying for month that his path ends with that title. And he’ll show Adam why he’s going to be called “Johnny TakeOver.” Cole reminds him that he hasn’t been in the winner’s circle when it comes to TakeOver often.
Cole tells his opponent that he won’t be able to beat him in even one fall of the two out of three falls match. He speaks of how he debuted at Barclays and how he’s going to win the title at Barclays. Cole then questions how Johnny has earned this match. Gargano reminds him that he didn’t get the roll out that Cole did. Instead he had to struggle to get to NXT. He cuts an impassioned promo recapping his career.
Afterwards, Adam starts to leave but then stops. He tells him Johnny can fight and claw all he wants but but in the end, it’ll be Cole that’s NXT champion and here’s why... then the Undisputed ERA join him on stage.
NXT had to suddenly shift their narrative for their main event, and they had one night to do it.
They did a pretty good job selling it.
Johnny cut a very impassioned promo recapping his career and putting him prime in the babyface spot. (He would have been there anyway, but given he was working heel for a bit not long ago, it was smart to refresh it.) His telling of journey to NXT was a good way to frame him as the babyface who had to work hard to get here. Not that Adam Cole didn’t, but he did get a roll out while guys like Johnny paved the way for that opportunity.
Meanwhile, Adam Cole pretty much told Gargano he’s going to use the rest of the Undisputed ERA to help him win.
It won’t be the same as Johnny finally vanquishing Ciampa to win the title. Nothing would be. But completing his NXT title journey by having to overcome all four members of the ERA is going to be fun to watch.
Aliyah & Vanessa Borne vs. Kacy Catanzaro & Lacey Lane is interrupted by Shayna Bazler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir. Borne and Aliyah peace and the horsewomen attack the other two. Kacy is caught in the kirifuda clutch but she uses her athleticism to fight out and take it to all three women! But it’s too much, and she is locked in the clutch again. Afterwards, Shayna walks over to the announce desk and tells them this will keep happening as long as the champ keeps getting mistreated.
There was a lot going on here and all of it pretty good.
The tag match that opened things up before the interruption was solid. Aliyah has not often impressed me, but she and Borne are finding their groove as a vicious heel tag team. Lacey Lane made for a strong face in peril. She’s easily likable, she’s a local gal to the Full Sail area, and her offense is impressive.
Kacy never got the tag before Shayna and co. interrupted the match. But her fire was very exciting to watch. Running up the ring post to escape the clutch was completely on brand for her. But of course she was getting choked out in the end.
Catanzaro was the perfect choice to get the champ booed as much as possible. She too is very likable and her flurry of offense fighting off Shayna and her goon squad was impressive so it made it more frustrating when she was cut down.
Shayna giving a reason why they keep interrupting matches was a nice touch. I appreciated her claim that she’s being mistreated because it’s a load of BS. This fatal 4-way match at TakeOver is her fault for interfering with the #1 contender match. Refusing to admit that is a good heel characteristic.
Matt Riddle def. Kona Reeves despite Velveteen Dream interfering by being ROLLED OUT ON A COUCH!
Kona Reeves and Matt Riddle had a solid- I can’t. All I can think about is the GREATEST MATCH INTERRUPTION OF OUR TIME! The dude was rolled out on a couch by two women, and he was drinking out of a friggin’ chalice!
Dream, we don’t deserve you.
It almost seemed like the always cool Bro was slightly rattled by the Velveteen Dream. I kind of wish we had more time with these guys to build this, but this was quite the treat.
The match was fine. Not the finest. Just fine. Kona got some offense in because of the interruption by Dream, but he tapped out none-the-less. He wore headphones to the ring this time. Keep trying new things, Kona!
Aleister Black & Ricochet def. the Forgotten Sons to win the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic
War Raiders walk to the ring and the teams stare each other down.
This match was an absolute blast.
Everyone came to play, and that includes the Forgotten Sons. Coming into the tournament, the Sons hadn’t done much to impress. But to their credit, they hung with every team they faced during the Dusty. They rose to the occasion each time.
They’re not the exciting team, but a heel team really shouldn’t be. They are playing their role as the heels who keep cutting down our heroes while big Jaxson Ryker does what he can to cheat on the outside. And tonight they brought it to another level. This was by far their best match in NXT. Really good dance partners sure helped, but it takes two (or four) to tango.
Now let’s talk about the star of this match: Ricochet.
Ric has been in NXT/WWE for awhile now but he still continues to surprise me with what he does. He played the face in peril most of the match, which is a great choice. He does getting beat up very well. Almost as good as he performs some superhuman feats. Landing on his feet after Wesley Blake’s reverse rana from the top rope and then wagging his finger with all the swagger was a fantastic moment.
Now Ric and Black will meet up the War Raiders at TakeOver and that should be another baller match. I don’t expect a title change, but I expect a great match.
This was a very good episode this week. Sounds like this is the bulk of the TakeOver go-home stuff and next week may be a lot of hype (though they do have Bianca Belair vs. Kairi Sane advertised). If this is in essence the go-home, it worked to help hype TakeOver.
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