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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Oct. 18, 2017): Prelude to war

For a more detailed recap, check our live results post here.

Ember Moon def. Ruby Riot and Sonya Deville to earn a spot in the Fatal 4Way for the Women’s title at the Houston TakeOver. Moon pinned Riot after hitting Deville with an Eclipse while she had Ruby in an ankle lock. Sonya rolled away, but Ember was able to cover Riot, who was writhing in pain thanks to “injuring” her leg even before being placed in the submission hold.

Hey Ember! How ya been?

Quibbles about her disappearing act aside (and who knows? She may have needed that time to deal with the same lingering injuries which were reportedly behind her missing TakeOver: Chicago), well done by Mauro Ranallo and Moon herself to quickly remind us where she left off. We’ll have to wait and see if quibbles about her character remain - her fallout interview didn’t tell me much one way or the other - but she’s definitely still a gifted in-ring performer and someone NXT’s ongoing narrative tells us came the closest of anyone to dethroning the Empress.

This was a fun match which felt a little disjointed in the early going but really got going in a hurry. For me, one of the main things it accomplished was to address concerns regarding how Deville’s mixed martial arts-based style would play out over a longer match. Some of the more traditional pro wrestling stuff is still station-to-station, but I believe she can get there. The MMA work is really convincing, especially when it’s used within the larger story, as the ankle lock was here.

Really impressed by the layout of the whole final sequence, starting with Ruby’s dive where she “hurt” her lower leg (she’s been performing consistently on house shows, so this was almost certainly a work). A lot of times we complain about wrestlers not selling an injury, but whether or not they spend the rest of the match limping, what we really want is for it to matter. From her bicycle kick not being enough to finish Ember to the ankle lock set-up for the Eclipse finish, Riot’s leg was integral to this story, and it served to make all three women look better coming out of this match.

These qualifiers are two-for-two in my book. Bring on the battle royal!

We’re shown security camera footage of Undisputed ERA making another pitch to Roderick Strong, then General Manager William Regal announces a battle royal to determine the final Women’s title competitor for TakeOver - a move The Iconic Duo do not appreciate. Aleister Black def. Raul Mendoza via pinfall following Black Mass. Velveteen Dream showed up early in the match to taunt Black, and may have finally gotten his attention.

As with the impromptu press conferences we’ve received in recent weeks, kudos to NXT production for mixing up their narrative devices. Welcome back, security footage! Don’t remember having seen you since Enzo and Cass were still friends and Dash and Dawson weren’t yet The Revival.

There are plenty of people fawning over PeyKay these days, so you don’t need me doing it too. But they’re a stellar blend of grating and adorable, and this scene presented that perfectly...

Keep hearing good things about Mendoza, and the glimpses we get indicate there’s something there. Like several of the talents being used in enhancement roles, not sure what room NXT has for them to move up, but I’m interested in seeing what the house show hype is about with this cat.

Otherwise, the Dream vs. Black build continues to pretty much be note perfect. Velveteen sticking to his plan and not losing his cool did the trick, and Aleister’s frustration showed on his face. Even after centering himself after picking up the win, he couldn’t resist a glance in Dream’s direction... and that “Patrick” wasn’t there waiting to meet his eyes should only drive The Stoic One closer to acknowledging this thorn in his side. Seeing Clark tone down the flamboyence without losing any of his swagger is great, too.

More of all this, please.

Christy St. Cloud’s interview with NXT champion Drew McIntyre re-establishes the story of McIntyre’s return to WWE, but is cut off by Zelina Vega, who accuses the champ of ducking her associate Andrade “Cien” Almas. Drew wants Almas to ask for a title shot himself instead of sending Vega. Kassius Ohno def. Cezar Bononi via pinfall after a rolling elbow.

Big showcase for St. Cloud tonight and... I’m not sure she’s ready for it. I still dig her non-verbal reactions, but her line delivery is a bit over-the-top. Christy is obviously someone they’re high on, so hopefully she can figure out when to turn up the cheese and when to play it straight.

When the first question of the champ was about his “journey”, I rolled my eyes. But I actually really ended up liking this segment. Talking about his wife and how they’ve been through his WWE release and return together humanized McIntyre in a way that a million “I love wrestling” promos haven’t. It’s a trick they used with Strong, but it didn’t feel like a repeat.

Drew nailed it, and he also perfectly transitioned into the bad ass fighter we’ve been getting since his return when Zelina showed up to run her game. Vega continues to put her stamp on every scene she’s in, whether she’s on-screen with her business partner or not. Her slowly taking more credit for Andrade’s success is a great touch, and plants a seed which can be harvested later should they decide to turn Cien back into a técnico or just opt to split them up without an alignment change.

That’s all for later, though. Right now, I am here for McInytre vs. Almas.

They’re building Ohno for something... right? I assume they are, but it still doesn’t make his on-screen run since returning any less bizarre. Now, where’s Hideo Itami?

The six-man tag between SAnitY and Undisputed ERA ends when The Authors of Pain return to decimate the team who beat them for the tag belts in Brooklyn. Adam Cole and company warily look on as Akam and Rezar hold up the belts after wiping out Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain.

This was enjoyable, and most importantly got us where we needed to go (presumably that much closer to Regal walking out in the middle of a melee and doing his best Dario Cueto and screaming “WAR GAMES!”).

Still don’t think it was as much of a hoot as heel SAnitY was, or that Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly have delivered a performance that will make people who weren’t already fans of theirs before they showed up on NXT say “oh, I see why they’re a big deal”. Although the look on AC’s face when The Authors’ music hit comes close.

At least we got a little of Wolfe’s weird dancing, but I miss pre-match attacks and Nikki Cross’ unprovoked assaults.

Hopefully, the return of AoP will shift the dynamics a bit and allow Undisputed ERA to really heel it up and slide EY and crew to the middle. I mean, I’m still confused about what Akam and Rezar are supposed to be at this point, but they caught beatings like babyfaces when they were feuding with SAnitY. And whether it’s because we’ve seen them come up from super-green rookies so they feel like “our guys”, we respect them for getting better in the spotlight or because they’re in the Lars Sullivan/Braun Strowman “it’s too much fun to watch them smash” category, they’re going to be cheered. I most certainly popped for their return... all alone on my couch, like the sad-yet-proud middle-aged man that I am.

Ahem, anyway... this wasn’t perfect, but it was entertaining and it put the pieces in place for the more important stuff we should be getting when the build to War Games starts in earnest with the episodes from the latest taping next week.

After mentioned last week’s episode consisting of “transitional story beats”, and seeing as this edition also was primarily made up of them, I wanted to clarify that that’s not a slight or a knock in any way. Every fiction should have these building blocks. The trick is to make the times when you lay them out for us fun and compelling in their own right.

And that’s exactly what NXT’s done lately. The Oct. 11 show was a little better in my books because of how great its main event match was, but it’s a small, subjective difference. If they can keep this up for a few more weeks, the build to the next TakeOver should be as good as the show itself likely will be.

Grade: B+

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