History will be made tonight. The video before the open told me so (spoiler: it’s right!).
After the theme song, Nigel McGuinness welcomes us to the show. He introduces us to his partners, Percy Watson and the debuting Mauro Ranallo. After saying how excited he is to be back, Ranallo throws the spotlight to the wrestlers as Velveteen Dream’s music plays.
Dream vs. Hoho Lun gets going after an extended entrance for The Velveteen One. The Hong Kongese cruiserweight controls a wrist lock and holds his own during a striking exchange, but soon eats a boot from his larger opponent. Dream with a nice delayed vertical suplex to give himself time to climb to the top and finish things with a “provocative” in under two minutes with his elbow drop, which Mauro does identify as the “Purple Rainmaker”.
Video is show from “earlier today” and it’s an interview with a disinterested Asuka from the back of her SUV. She tells the faceless reporter she’s confident heading into her defense in the Last Woman Standing match, then they’re interrupted by a loud noise, which turns out to Nikki Cross jumping on the hood of the car! Cross tries to climb in through the regular door, with Asuka getting out to glare at her as security drags her away. We then flash-forward to “now” as the champ is working the heavy bag with kicks.
A flashback to three weeks ago when Hideo Itami was disqualified for hitting Oney Lorcan with three GTS-es rather than pin him is a way for Ranallo to inform us they’ll rematch later tonight, then we’re taken to William Regal’s office.
As Heavy Machinery is beefing with Authors of Pain, the General Manager informs Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight they’ll get a title shot in two weeks in what will literally be the biggest match in NXT history. Dozer and Tucker are excited and say weird stuff to each other. After the challengers leave, Paul Ellering asks Regal “What Jurassic cocoon did you find them in?” The GM says they’re unusual, but dangerous.
- As I’m sure some of you did, I read the live reports and saw video of Mauro’s proper re-introduction to Full Sail where Triple H brought the “bi-polar rock ‘n’ roller” back. That sounded great, and was well deserved, but I’m glad they went with something much more understated for the broadcast. He’s not always my cuppa, but you can’t accuse Ranallo of not being a professional.
- Nothing new to say on Dream: props to Clark for commitment to the gimmick, love what he can do in the ring, really not interested in watching a “flamboyant” heel in 2017 WWE. My new hope is that Full Sail’s love of irony will force Creative to turn him face.
- Part of me wishes they did “bored Asuka being driven to work” interviews more often, but it’s probably best to keep them special. This one was the PERFECT way to whet our appetite for what was to come later. Nikki Cross is G-D delight.
- Lord help me, I agree with Paul Ellering’s character about something... and “Jurassic cocoon” popped me. Hopefully, Heavy Machinery can be seen around Orlando doing their husky Stone Cold cosplay. And hopefully burning this match on a regular episode means they’ll be given more time to develop while NXT preps someone else to eventually close the Book of Dominance.
No sooner has Oney Lorcan stepped through the ropes for his match with Hideo Itami then he charges full bore into Itami with a European uppercut that busts Hideo open. The referee gets between them after Lorcan lands a couple more strikes. Trainers check on Itami as he bleeds profusely from his nose, and the official calls for the bell. Full Sail chants for Oney as Hideo leaves.
We’re reminded the Roderick Strong gets a title shot next week, and then his feud with Bobby Roode gets a video package. Highlights of Roddy’s backstory from the “Who is Roderick Strong?” series are shown, followed by his run-ins with the champ and some new words from the Glorious One promising to end Strong’s story.
Hideo Itami is marching back down to the ring to cheers as Ranallo tells us trainers have stopped the bleeding by filling his nostrils with gauze. This time, he charges Lorcan with a knee as soon as the Boston Brawler enters the ring. Itami drapes him over the top rope and knees him again. After a few more kicks, Oney gets a boot up on a charge and tries to climb up top to follow-up, but ends up being sent back first to the apron as we go to commercial.
They’re trading strikes when we return, but Lorcan takes control with running uppercuts and a blockbuster. Itami feigns an injury at that point, which lures his opponent in for a kick to the knee. Draping neckbreaker and diving clothesline gets a nearfall, but Oney slips out of the fireman’s carry set-up when Hideo tries for the Go 2 Sleep. Lorcan’s knee gives out on his landing. The ref checks on him, and he says he wants to continue, so Itami immediately grabs him, hits his finisher and wraps it up after three and a half minutes.
Post-match, Hideo asks for a microphone then asks Kassius Ohno to come to the ring. A wary Ohno walks down, and Itami offers his hand once he’s through the ropes. Before KO can decide if he wants to take it, however, Nikki Cross jumps on the apron. As Itami and Kassius turn to look at her, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain attack! After throwing Hideo to the floor and hitting a two-man powerbomb on Ohno, Wolfe grabs the mic. He says they have to do away with all these forced friendships, and Dain says they’ll do that with “chaos”. Wolfe says their maestro Eric Young is away working on his masterplan, but tonight, the first note with be struck by Cross. She wails on them and waves them goodbye - it’s main event time!
- Boy, this episode was not for the faint of heart.
- This was a “be careful what you wish for” scenario for me. In the June 7 recap, I wrote, “Gonna need at least another ten minutes of Oney and Hideo stiffing each other”. I should have realized that could likely result in one or both men being permanently damaged. Heck, they didn’t make it through five tonight.
- Brilliant use of a shoot injury, and I love the story they’re telling with Ohno & Itami so much... it might be my favorite thing on NXT right now, at a time I legitimately believe the brand has never been better.
- So much so that I might be looking forward to the tag match between these two and SAnitY Mauro announced (with a poorly dubbed in edit) during the main more than next week’s title fight.
- That’s also because, with a healthy dose of Nikki Cross and the fresh wrinkle of giving Wolfe a chance on the stick - where his quirky charm continued to shine, they’ve convinced me to give Eric Young’s faction another shot. I’ll probably be disappointed when they Bray Wyatt it up again in Brooklyn, but for now, the possibilities of SAnitY in the tag division have me intrigued.
Even though she’s already in the ring smiling with anticipation, Nikki gets a spotlight introduction along with her own remixed version of the SAnitY theme. The champ gets the same treatment as ring announcer Mike Rome explains the Last Woman Standing stipulation. They start cautiously, locking up and breaking off before a staredown. Cross forces Asuka into a corner, but she answers with a flurry of kicks and stays in control until Nikki hits a crossbody. A second one is answered by a dropkick from the champ, but a baseball slide to the outside finds her tied up in the ring skirt and taking some street fight strikes while trapped. Cross goes to retrieve as many chairs as she can find under the ring as we head to break.
Both women block attempted suplexes onto the stack of chairs, then take turns throwing each other into the ring steps. Asuka introduces a trash can, which she puts over Nikki’s head before lighting her up with kicks. A dropkick to the can leads to our first count of the night, but Cross beats it. They trade offense on the outside when the champ goes there to toss chairs into the ring. A reverse DDT on the apron gives Nikki the upperhand and keeps Asuka down for a four count. An attempt to follow that up with something from the top is thwarted by Asuka, and Cross gets thrown into the pile of chairs. She fires back quickly by suplexing the champ into the pile, and both women are down, but stand before ten as we take our last break.
The champ is lighting up the challenger, but the SAnitY member is laughing in her face, which only fires Asuka up more. Cross blocks a back fist and returns fire with a clothesline, and stays one step ahead of the champ in order to hit her fisherman’s neckbreaker finisher for a five count, so she uses the move three more times. Nikki grabs the title belt while the referee counts, and when Asuka reaches her feet at nine, charges her with it. The Empress kicks the belt and it hits Cross, and a follow-up flattens Nikki, but not for long. They battle to the apron where Asuka tries to suplex her onto the chairs (now at the base of the ramp), but that’s blocked. Cross snaps the champ’s neck on the ropes and then powerbombs her onto the pile! Despite also hitting her head on the steel ramp, Asuka is up at nine, using the guardrail for support. Nikki yanks her up the ramp, but the champ fights back and tries for a suplex off the side, but that’s blocked. Cross tries one that’s also thwarted, then she gets shoved off the ramp. Asuka takes her down with a leaping hip attack, but Nikki answers the count at eight. Cross dodges a kick and Asuka’s shin hits a stage light, creating an opening for the challenger to drape her off a barricade for a version of her finisher - but the champ again gets up at nine!
A spinning backfist by Asuka connects, but Cross comes back with a ladder, driving it into the champ’s midsection. Slamming Asuka’s head off the announce table, Nikki sets the ladder up there as the commentary team scrambles. Cross lays her opponent across the desk and goes to climb, but Asuka grabs her foot. They brawl on the ladder before the champ grabs Nikki and drops them both through the announce table with a superplex off the ladder! The Empress of Tomorrow shakily gets her feet to the floor at nine, celebrating another successful defense. Cross remains down, but smiles and laughes as officials check on her as we fade out.
- See, this is why we shouldn’t spam shows with “Holy $#!+” or “This is Awesome” chants. You’ve got to save it for when a match deserves it, and the one-on-one showdown we’ve been waiting for between Nikki and Asuka was certainly deserving of the former, and probably the latter, too.
- The last ten minutes of Raw’s were great, but this is my runaway winner for favorite WWE main event of the week. And not to pile on the criticism of Tuesday’s Money in the Bank do-over (which I didn’t dislike as much as most of my co-workers), but NXT really did just out TLC an actual ladder match.
- Review-wise, this is a “just go watch the thing” match. I loved it. I loved how they logically tried to do things which were either so painful or designed to render their opponent incapable of standing from the start. I loved that they were consistent within their characters while also displaying different facets of them throughout. Even though I cringed, I loved their commitment to big spots and how well they executed them.
- As alluded to above, I had my issues with Mauro’s main roster run. Whatever the reason, though, the things that annoyed me on SmackDown were gone here, and especially in this match, his call added so much - especially when he didn’t say too much.
- Just go watch the thing.
- Either Asuka is very good at making bumps off steel objects look and sound more vicious than they actually are, or I’m pretty sure she was concussed at least twice in these 20 - 25 minutes. I’m actually shocked she wasn’t busted open when Nikki sent her into the steps in the early going.
- What an amazing ending. Not just the spot, but Asuka screaming in Japanese as she mustered her last charge up the ladder, and Cross’ delight at having taken part in such carnage even though she didn’t win.
- Just go watch the thing.
Not that it really matters, but as with the chants I mentioned above, an hour of wrestling like this is why I don’t give epsiodes like last week’s top marks. While most episodes of NXT since WrestleMania 33 have been good wrestling shows that were really entertaining, they weren’t Oney Lorcan, Hideo Itami and especially Nikki Cross and Asuka scaring me with violence great.
This one was.