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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Oct. 4, 2017): Acknowledge me

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

Ruby Riot starts alone in her rematch against The Iconic Duo, but when she’s taking a beating and Nikki Cross shows up, she accepts her as a tag partner willingly this time. Cross and Riot def. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay via pinfall after Ruby hits Kay with a Pele Kick. Lars Sullivan warns Danny Burch ahead of the match Oney Lorcan’s friend requested, saying he can control his rage - now Burch needs to control his fear.

Well past scratching my head about the handicap match/mystery partner booking, and I wasn’t even mad at it in the first go round between these teams since it got us to such a fan service-y moment with Nikki and Ruby. But was anyone else surprised the announcers played this like they thought Riot was going it alone again? I just assumed we all knew Cross would be there and the question was whether or not they could play nice together.

Either way, it got us to another nice beat that built off the first version of this same match. This was a solid affair which existed to get to that moment, but all four women acquitted themselves well. Kay in particular looks to be making strides lately. Peyton is already ready for the next level.

It will be interesting to see where Riot and Cross’ relationship goes from here, especially since at least one and quite possibly both could end up in War Games title match. They’ve definitely fully embraced Nikki as a fan favorite. Now we’ll see if that works better for her in practice than it has for her faction (I suspect it will).

Solid promo with a killer payoff line from Sullivan. They continue to make his take on a “monster” character just different enough by mixing and matching elements of other current and past giants. Now just let his match with Burch go a little longer... enough time for Lorcan to get involved.

Zelina Vega talks to “the media” about Johnny Gargano’s challenge to her associate, and how Andrade “Cien” Almas wants a NXT title shot. A six-man tag between SAnitY and Undisputed Era is announced for two weeks from tonight. Lio Rush and Aleister Black’s match never gets started because Velveteen Dream assaults Rush during Black’s entrance. Dream desperately wants Black’s attention, but Aleister won’t give it to him.

They’re cheesy, but I’m digging the addition of the intrepid reporters outside the Performance Center. It’s a fresh way to convey information and let the talent hone their microphone skills. Didn’t completely understand Zelina’s answer to the question about what it would mean if Johnny beat Almas next week, but she more than makes up for the lack of a comprehensible script with sassy delivery.

Bummer that Lio Rush’s debut was more of a de... but. Serving as glorified enhancement talent in an Aleister Black match worked out pretty well for the last two ex-Ring of Honor guys who were assigned that role, though.

Black’s angle with Velveteen Dream might be my favorite thing going on in WWE right now. Both guys are playing it perfectly and really highlighting why their characters should naturally be in conflict with one another. And that it’s built around Aleister essentially doing what a lot of fans did when Patrick Clark unveiled this gimmick and just refusing to acknowledge it... so good! Dream’s shocked and appalled expression when he realized Aleister wasn’t going to acknowledge him... also so good!

Kairi Sane def. Aliyah via pinfall following an In-Sane Elbow. Gargano/Almas II is confirmed for next week, when we’ll also get the first qualifying match to determine’s Kairi’s opponents in the Women’s title match at TakeOver - a Triple Threat between Nikki Cross, Liv Morgan and Peyton Royce.

Nice little showcase for the Mae Young Classic winner and... yeah. Thought Aliyah did okay playing heel, and seems to have improved a bit since the last time we saw her. But this was about giving Kairi a couple minutes to get her $#!+ in, and I’m never gonna complain about that. DAT ELBOW!

Drew McIntyre def. Roderick Strong via pinfall following Claymore to retain his NXT championship. The two men shake hands afterwards, but McIntyre is incensed to see Strong talking to Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly on stage at the end of the show.

Really enjoyed the main event, as much as I can remember enjoying a face vs. face encounter in quite some time. The sequence which established the story of the match - the battle outside that culminated in Roddy rebounding from being slammed on the apron to deliver a backbreaker onto the steel steps - gave it an intensity good guy fights sometimes lack. It also really made it feel of a piece with the other “NXT Strong Style” bouts we’ve seen over the last six months or so from the black-and-yellow brand.

The nearfalls in the closing stretch were great. I found it odd how muted Full Sail’s reactions were to them, but that could be a function of split rooting interest, being really involved in the action, being tired from a long taping... who knows. I would have preferred hearing gasps and big pops, but it didn’t detract from my appreciation of the bout.

Both guys come out of this looking great. Drew sold well for most of the match and looked like a wounded beast mounting his comeback. Several of Strong’s moves really should have ended it, and he took three devastating maneuvers before he stayed down himself.

Roddy may not have the gift of gab, but he’s delivering with all the other elements of his performance in this story with The Undisputed Era (which is, damnit, their official name based on the graphics displayed for their upcoming six-man). The determination he shows in pursuit of the belt perfectly blends with the conflict he’s displaying when dealing with McIntyre and Cole and company. I could see him going either way with his allegiances, which is exactly what I should be saying at this point.

It’s enough to make me wonder how long this story has been in the works. Were they setting Strong for this with the “Who is Roderick Strong?” vignettes, or did he land this role because of how fans responded to them? Either way, it’s a natural progression, and makes the trailer park kid who desperately wants to reach the top of the mountain so no one he loves every risks going back to that life the perfect guy to be pulled in different directions by some old friends and his conscience.

After a misfire last week, NXT got back on the horse this week by smartly advancing a few stories and delivering a killer final match.

Grade: B+

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