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NXT recap & reactions (Feb. 5, 2020): Return of the Queen

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NXT returned to us last night (Feb. 5) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

The Queen returns but the EST rules

Charlotte’s return didn’t give us the answer we were looking for in regards to WrestleMania. But it did give us some fantastic Bianca Belair moments.

Because in the segment with Charlotte and Rhea Ripley, it was the EST of NXT that stole the show.

Belair opened the segment with a promo letting it be known how she didn’t like Rhea looking past her at TakeOver: Portland. Bianca doesn’t care about Charlotte. She called out her opponent. But she got Charlotte anyway.

After they had a quick moment, Rhea Ripley came out and all the ingredients were in the ring. Given the assumed WrestleMania match is Rhea Ripley and Charlotte, Bianca was left as the odd woman out. And this segment capitalized on it.

The EST was continually disrespected by Charlotte and each time Belair’s reaction was absolutely priceless. It was hard not to pay attention to her utter bewilderment at Charlotte’s actions.

Rhea didn’t care for the Queen’s disrespect either. Because while she and Belair may destroy each other in Portland, they’re both still NXT. And Charlotte isn’t. That’s when they both dropped her.

We likely won’t get the actual challenge until after TakeOver, and that’s the way to go. You can’t announce it until Rhea successfully defends her title. That would put Belair in a rough position. Instead, they used that position to let the EST shine this week and everyone was better for it.


Dream On

The big thread this week was Undisputed ERA’s mission to find Tommaso Ciampa and make him pay for last week.

It almost went poorly for them early on as the Blackheart was able to blindside them when they were searching and isolate Adam Cole. But the numbers caught up to Ciampa. That’s when the BroserWeights made the save.

This led to a six man tag main event (with Roddy Strong being the ERA man out) that was enjoyable. But throughout great in-ring work, it was a single tag that stood out the most. After Ciampa finally tagged into the match, he had Kyle O’Reilly in a bad spot. But he let him go noticing that Cole was the only man on the enemy apron. Kyle quickly made the tag, but the champ hesitated getting, knowing what madman was waiting for him. He eventually stepped through and their stare down amped up the excitement for Portland.

At the end, Roddy Strong interfered and the ERA got DQ’d. That’s when they used their numbers to punish their enemies.

They isolated Tommaso in the middle of the ring and laid the boots to him. Adam Cole produced spray paint, making an X on his enemy’s upper back. This was a callback to last week when Ciampa marked a table with an X before putting Cole through it. This week it served for where he’d deliver his Last Shot, which was very close to Tommaso’s surgically repaired neck.

That’s when Velveteen Dream returned, fighting off all four members of the men who put him on the shelf for months.

Of course, it’s great that the Dream is finally back. It’s kind of amazing that NXT has been putting out quality shows every week and doing so without one of their hottest stars for months.

This is going to sound nitpicky, and it probably is, but part of me was hoping we’d see Undisputed go through with their attack on Ciampa. That maybe Dream could return next week. (The 2/5/20 video clearly meant that wasn’t going to happen.) Because that would have been a heat seeking move to really add to their match in Portland. People have been getting the better of the ERA for a little while now and a reminder of how dangerous they could be may have helped.

Maybe we’ll get something like that next week with all of their enemies known to them. I’m assuming Roddy vs. Dream will be added to the Portland. And I have a feeling Undisputed is going to have a poor night in the northwest. One last night of dominance next week may be their last chance.


Odd Couple

I can’t get enough of the BroserWeight dynamic.

It seems like Pete Dunne maxes out on tolerate when it comes to his partner Matt Riddle. I mean look at his face when they’re are riding out on the BroserWeight mobile. This is a man who doesn’t want anything to do with Riddle’s dumb BS. He just wants to fight and the Bro is also very good at that so he deals with the annoying games.

Riddle just gets under everyone’s skin. Tonight, it Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish, who were so annoyed with his crap that they needed Roddy Strong to talk them out on defending the titles tonight.

It’s a really fun dynamic, amping up the odd couple theme to 100. That’s why I hope Dunne doesn’t snap on his partner too soon, though I’ll understand when he does. There’s mileage in this Felix & Oscar duo.


Personal

I’ve talked ad nauseam about how Finn Bálor has never felt more comfortable in his character than he does as the Prince.

But what I haven’t spoken about is how this feud has brought out Gargano’s best. Johnny isn’t a promo guy, but these have been his best that I recall. They’ve leaned into the “NXT legacy” story, which makes sense given how much both men have done in the and for the promotion. And that’s material that Gargano can believably get passionate about.

This side by side video promo segment did a great job laying out the issues between the men. They let this get personal. From Finn saying he doesn’t care if he wins in 20 minutes or 20 seconds because that’s not how paydays work (a stark contrast to Gargano who takes pride in his five star matches). To Johnny rubbing Finn’s failure on the main roster in his face.

They sold that they really do hate each other and want to beat the hell out of the other. NXT has done a good job heating this feud back up since Johnny’s return.


The Total Package

Angel Garza picked up a win over Isiah “Swerve” Scott. The end was never in doubt. No way would the new Raw star take a loss two days after debuting and taking out Rey Mysterio. But they made sure to give Scott a few impressive nearfalls before he took his inevitable loss.

Afterwards, Garza cut a promo both addressing his antics on Monday and making his intentions to win back the cruiserweight title known.

This dude is the total package. He’s got a great look, he’s oozing charisma (which carries over to his promos), and he’s fantastic in the ring. If this man isn’t a top star for the company in a few years, they did something wrong.


TakeOver bound

Dominik Dijakovic defeated Killian Dain in his journey beat all the big men to face another big man Keith Lee for the North American title. Immediately afterwards, they announced that Lee vs. Dijakovic for the title will happen in Portland. Finally, these two get that TakeOver match.

Kinda weird to see Dain just serve as the final roadblock for D Double. When they brought him back, it looked like they were planning big things. But after decent feud with Pete Dunne and Damian Priest, he hasn’t done much of anything.


All the Rest:

- Mercedes Martinez had her first singles match where she defeated Kacy Catanzaro, in her first singles match since returning. A video package earlier in the night made it clear that Mercedes is going to be an immediate fixture in the women’s division, which is the right move. The veteran made sure to make Kacy look good before beating her up and getting the win.

- The Irish Ace Jordan Devlin was victorious over Tyler Breeze in a non-title match. Devlin is a very good wrestler and a good fit for the traveling champion they want the cruiserweight title to be.


Yet another fun episode of NXT as we make our way to Portland.

Grade: B+

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