For a more detailed recap, check our live results post here.
After highlights of the invasions of SmackDown and Raw they took part in (respectively), Ruby Riot def. Sonya Deville via pinfall after a wheel kick.
Not surprised footage from Sonya’s debut on Monday night and Ruby’s on Tuesday was edited into this episode. I do wonder if they ladies worked their red and blue ring gear-theme intentionally knowing their call-up was coming. Sure, they were repping the wrong color, but it was a nice touch, and gave this viewer something to (over)think about.
As someone who’s been... let’s call it dubious... of Deville’s ability to work longer matches and make her MMA schtick an interesting part of those, this eight minute joint was a good way to shut me up. The story of their feud has been how Sonya injured Riot’s ankle during their Triple Threat with Ember Moon a few weeks back, so that helped in giving this one a logical reason to incorporate specific submissions. But when you can mix in more traditional pro wrestling strikes and moves as she does here, it’s not hard to create that kind of psychology within any match. This was her best all around performance on NXT television, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
This also gave me more cause to dwell on my biggest concern about Riot at the next level (other than Kevin Dunn convincing Vince McMahon to revert to ‘05 hiring practices for women wrestlers), which is that she won’t get to play babyface. Her selling and so-frenetic-they-can-appear-sloppy comebacks are my favorite things about her style - on full display here with moves like the one-legged springboard senton. Having to adapt to the main roster and playing rudo at the same time will be a challenge, but as her being fast tracked from newly signed to on USA Network in under a year shows, they believe she’s up to the task.
Maybe the biggest compliment I can pay this match is that I bought into the drama even with the stakes being lessened/non-existent by the knowledge Riot and Deville are now on different brands.
The show was peppered with highlight videos and fallout interviews from TakeOver: WarGames. See most of them here. The package for Undisputed ERA’s win over SAnitY and Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong contained “exclusive footage”. Next week’s matches are announced as Street Profits vs. Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss, round 2, and Kairi Sane vs. Peyton Royce.
All of the recaps are the usual solid WWE productions, with the above WarGames one being a real standout due to its increased runtime and the car crash/spot fest match it’s spotlighting.
It’s a little disappointing there was no new interview footage, and weird we still haven’t had any kind of update about Drew McIntyre’s arm injury (and the lack of updates continued with Mauro Ranall’s comments around the interview clip with the former champ). But overall, they got the mix of compelling in-ring action and clip show right with this one.
Regarding next week, which hits while they’ll be taping at Full Sail, in addition to the two matches announced in this episode, another fallout video sets up a UK division tag that was filmed in San Antonio on the Friday before TakeOver. And it actually addresses the champ walking out on Trent Seven and Tyler Bate during the Undisputed ERA attack a month or so back!
So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
Pete Dunne def. Johnny Gargano via pinfall following Bitter End, retaining his United Kingdom championship
Both matches on this edition were helped by a loud Texas crowd, but the roar for Dunne was quite something. Not that Johnny Wrestling didn’t have his admirers - the start featured a dueling chant for each man, and Gargano’s comebacks definitely roped in all but the most heel-loving fans in Toyota Center. But the level to which The Bruiserweight is over with NXT fans, especially considering he hasn’t had anything beyond the basic title chase/defense angles on the brand, is quite something.
It’s been written elsewhere, by me and others, but it’s an idea worth repeating. If the UK show doesn’t come off soon, make this belt the black-and-yellow brand’s secondary title. And then have Dunne drop it and go after the NXT championship.
As for this match, it’s a blast. Neither man’s absolute best work, but really good nonetheless. Like the opener, your “smark brain” knows Gargano isn’t winning, but these two manage to suck you in regardless. It’s a proper showcase for both men. Johnny gets to show fire, Pete gets to be brutal. The finish starts with the challenger taking too long to decide to be ruthless (after a smart bit of storytelling where Dunne spits out his mouthpiece in order to bite his opponent’s hand to get out of Garga-No Escape), which plays into his overall soul-searching character arc. Integrating that into what is otherwise a house show “dream match” was an important part of making this episode feel less disposable.
Now show this post-episode interview where Johnny all but says he’s lost his smile next week.
Was prepared to grade on a curve, because these post-TakeOver episodes can be slight - even if you don’t follow WWE online and watch the videos from late Saturday night in advance. But anchored by two strong matches and aided by the fact it was recapping a great show, this was a decent way to spend an hour.