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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Oct. 25, 2017): Impatient for success

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

General Manager William Regal informs us that, due to how she was interfered with in her own qualifier, Nikki Cross will be entered in the battle royal to determine the final entrant in the Women’s title match at the Houston TakeOver. Regal’s also told SAnitY, Authors of Pain and Undisputed ERA to be on their best behavior, and made a tag title match between the Authors and SAnitY for next week. Riddick Moss and Tino Sabatelli def. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch via pinfall with a Gory Special/running bulldog combo.

The last minute inclusion of Nikki here, and the eventual outcome of the battle royal, makes you wonder if it’s not Cross’ time. She’s clearly very popular with the NXT faithful at Full Sail and beyond, and her performances against Asuka probably convinced the decision makers backstage she’s ready for the biggest spotlight they have. If SAnitY isn’t getting the call to the main roster any time soon, you could do a lot worse than to crown her in Houston.

Of course, there aren’t really any bad choices among that foursome, and good cases to be made for each of them as champ. A good problem for Triple H to have. And, yes, I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’m going to spend the whole section underneath the match itself talking about Bianca Belair (kidding... maybe).

Regal imploring wrestlers to not get out of line or else will never get old, and is another great running gag with the GM. I remain befuddled about the tag champs... why are the non-competing members of the group being banned from ringside when they haven’t been cheating lately? Will Paul Ellering be allowed to corner Akam and Rezar? Are SAnitY heels when facing AoP but faces when battling Undisputed ERA? That’s not even a bad thing, it’s just... weird.

As for our opening match - f*** yeah, Burch/Lorcan! Oh yeah. They lost. But still! Oney is the best hot tag, and Danny giving him a little pep talk in the aftermath of their latest setback was heartwarming (a vibe which continued into this fallout video). Maybe they can win someday? Sabatelli and Moss look much better as a unit than they did as singles guys in the program with Johnny Gargano, but I need to see them impress against a team that isn’t made up of expert hands before I endorse a push (not that anyone cares about my endorsement).

Nikki Cross wins the battle royal by eliminating Billie Kay to become the final participant in the TakeOver Fatal 4Way for the vacant Women’s championship. Regal comes to the ring with the belt, and a tense but ultimately peaceful photo opportunity with the challengers - Cross, Peyton Royce, Ember Moon and Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane - takes place.

Battle royal’s gonna battle royal. Put a bunch of wrestlers of varying skill levels in a ring, and a five star classic is not what you’re going to get.

But still, this was a fun 12 or so minutes which did exactly what it was supposed to do... SHOWCASE BIANCA BELAIR AS THE FREAKING STAR SHE IS. Ahem, sorry, that’s just one thing this match accomplished. But she really is.

In addition to the spot in the above video where she uses Zeda as a weapon to eliminate Rhea Ripley, Belair also press slammed Candice LaRae to the floor, and then there was the hair business. Similar to how I’m gauging the size of the rocket on Nikki’s back by her booking tonight, the fact The -Est made it to the final four indicates to me that I’m not the only one who knows what a freaking star she is.

We also got the furthering of the rivalry between Cross and Taynara Conti when Nikki made a beeline for Undisputed ERA’s stooge and then the Brazilian put a beating on the Scot after being eliminated. There could be something going forward between Belair and Billie Kay.

Otherwise, I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t much established for some of the newer faces. Dakota Kai, Abbey Laith and Sarah Logan in particular just kind of exited the match. Obviously, not everyone was going to leave this with a storyline - battle royals need fodder. But the prominent roles played by two unsigned talents in LaRae and Mercedes Martinez (who, based on this fallout video, is getting what should be a really good match with a title contender in Moon) makes you wonder what NXT’s plans are for their stacked women’s roster beyond the title scene.

NXT champion Drew McIntyre’s impromptu press conference is interrupted by Zelina Vega, who again demands a title shot for her associate Andrade “Cien” Almas. McIntyre again tells her he needs to ask himself. Aleister Black’s scheduled match never starts because he’s attacked by Velveteen Dream. Dream ties him up in the ropes and makes progress on getting acknowledgement, but Black gets free and strikes back before saying his rival’s name.

Not sure what else I have to say about Dream and Black’s program. It continues to be a masterclass in building tension in short segments each week, and by not doing much more than letting the antagonist slowly escalate things so the protagonist can react accordingly. When you have two interesting and contrasting characters like this, simplicity is best, and all involved know that.

That said, welcome to the Zelina Vega show!

If Raw is Jericho, Kevin Owens gets Tuesdays and Enzo Amore gets... later on Tuesdays, I’m okay with giving Wednesdays to Andrade “Cien” Almas’ associate. Vega’s done good work in smaller doses, but the final third of this edition of NXT was hers and she owned it.

You get the same sense from Zelina you get from Paul Heyman - and that’s before she hurricanranas anybody. I don’t mean that her promos are on par with one of the best ever (they’re not bad at all though, and the shifting accents thing works for her), but she’s someone you’d want on your side. Advocating for you, if you will. That everything seems to be clicking for Almas, in story and with his performances, since she arrived can’t be a total coincidence.

She and Drew have great chemistry in their back-and-forths, too. I’ve become more invested in McIntyre as a face champion with Zelina (and Almas) as foils than I was at any prior point during his latest run with WWE.

The woman is doing her job, is what I’m saying.

Vega again addresses McIntyre before the main event, where Andrade “Cien” Almas def. Roderick Strong via pinfall following a hammerlock DDT - and a hurricanrana into the steps by Zelina. Afterwards, they challenge the champ to meet Andrade in the ring, where he will ask for a title shot. Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly appear to offer Strong membership in Undisputed ERA. He accepts their armband, but doesn’t give an answer.

A job she continued to do with another promo here. The thin air metaphor was a little stretched, but the patient woman line was so money the rest of the speech gets graded on a curve.

Not to gloss over the match, which I really enjoyed and which carried on the recent tradition of strong NXT main events, but there was Zelina’s brilliant, game changing maneuver and two killer cut scenes after it! The bout itself delivered pretty much the same quality we got from their previous TakeOver encounter, but really showcased how far their characters have come since San Antonio. That was a dream match extravaganza. This was a story.

Roddy and Cien are also at the top of a lengthy list of guys on this roster who seem incapable of having a bad match right now, so critique and/or praise away if that’s how you consume your graps. I just liked watching them work.

As I mentioned in the post covering War Games title bout announcement, I’m a little bummed NXT went ahead and made that official after two weeks of playing it like McIntyre wouldn’t consent to face Cien until they were face-to-face. Andrade and Zelina’s crashing of the announce desk is a good example of why. They’ve nailed all the little moments; I would have liked to see the big one. I’m confident they can pull off the pivot to a contract signing, though.

Then there’s Roderick’s new armband. The great thing about Strong’s arc is that if he chooses to join Cole and company, they’ve absolutely built a compelling case for why even a good man might be tempted. Which also means that if he ends up rejecting them... the babyface pop should be tremendous.

NXT isn’t perfect, but during a week where the main roster asked me to accept spectacle even when it paused or set aside development of character and story, I sure do love it.

Grade: A-

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