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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Sept. 20, 2017): Watch the stoic squirm

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

Johnny Gargano def. Tino Sabatelli via submission with Gargano Escape. William Regal grants Roderick Strong a NXT title opportunity in two weeks.

Before the action started, we got the Bobby Heenan tribute graphic and Mauro Ranallo called us “humanoids”. I know they often re-record voiceovers late in production, but this was nice touch, and indicative of the influence Brain had on anyone who’s ever done, tried to do or dreamed of doing wrestling commentary.

On the subject of commentary, Nigel McGuinness was still harping on their being something not quite right about Johnny Wrestling, and it didn’t seem to line-up with the story being told in the ring. Gargano wasn’t conflicted or unsure this week, but he did seem angry. It’s a bit of progression from last week, and the announcers could have done a better job emphasizing it.

While I’m a little disappointed we might have seen the last of Johnny as face-in-peril awaiting his own comeback, moving this story along quickly is the right call - if only to get him to some more talented opponents. Sabatelli and his tag partner Riddick Moss look great, but we didn’t see much these last two weeks to convince me they’ll survive an eventual culling at the Performance Center.

Roddy’s request went about as expected, and I’m sensing an edge from him I hope will be used in a future “will he or won’t he” angle with Undisputed. Mostly, I hope the running gag about Regal cornering production people to tell stories from 80s rock concerts continues forever.

Sonya Deville is the first woman to state her case for a shot at the vacated Women’s championship. Bianca Belair makes hers with a win over Lacey Evans via pinfall with an Alley Oop.

A tale of three wrestlers... I’m still really not sold on Deville. It’s early, and a fairly generic talking head spot isn’t the best way to judge her skills on the microphone, but... yawn. “Put your hair up and square up” doesn’t come across as bad ass as they think.

Both Evans and Belair, on the other hand, are the goods. I’ve written at length about The -EST, and everything we saw in this episode just strengthens my belief she’ll be as big as WWE lets her be. The hair whip is a great spot, but Bianca impresses with pretty much everything she does in the ring. We’ve only seen a handful of matches, but she’s wowed me every time with opponents of a variety of styles and experience levels. Her power game was on display here and, yep, that’s legit, too.

Which isn’t to sell Lacey short. The former Marine more than held her own, and with the right story, I could see theirs being a memorable - and possibly iconic (sorry PeyKay) - rivalry.

For now, Belair should move into contention for a shot at succeeding Asuka, although it’s probably too early to give her a title match. Presumably we’ll move that story forward starting with a new episode from last week’s taping next Wednesday.

Aleister Black addresses the NXT Universe for the first time by describing his path to NXT, but before he can reveal his next move, he’s interrupted by Velveteen Dream. Dream sees pain and fear written all over Black, and wants him to not be afraid of his light. Aleister kicks the microphone out of Dream’s hand and sits, which prompts Velveteen to suggestively get in his face before sliding out of the ring.

So this was the buzzed about exchange from the late August taping and...

Maybe I’m numb to controversy after a day of reading and writing about Jinder Mahal, Shinsuke Nakamura and Mr. Miyagi. Or maybe, as Wrestling Observer’s man on the NXT beat JJ Williams reported on Twitter, this segment was trimmed down from what Full Sail saw live and something more overtly sexual was teased to those in attendance.

Certainly not disappointed with what we got. Black’s speech was fine, but probably got stopped at the right time. I don’t really need his character explaining his ink as much as I need to see him kicking microphones out of people’s hands. The content of Dream’s veered a little too close to being the sexy version of a Bray Wyatt word salad, but his delivery was near perfect. It managed to be smooth and creepy at the same time - a great mix for a heel.

This performance helps, but it’s thinking about Patrick Clark’s character in relation to Mahal and the material he was given for this week’s SmackDown that’s helped me turn the corner on the gimmick. NXT hasn’t given me a reason to think they can’t add just enough nuance to keep this from at least not becoming offensive. Maybe they can even make it interesting. As main roster creative’s proven again with Jinder, they don’t deserve the same benefit of the doubt.

Oh yeah... really stoked to see how Black does in a longer story, and how Dream works in longer back-and-forth matches.

Dakota Kai explains why she’s deserving of a shot at the Women’s title. Lars Sullivan def. No Way Jose, ending the destruction with a diving head butt and one-armed slam.

Team F’n Kick is WWE kayfabe! Woohoo!

In Lars, NXT now has the Braun Strowman we were deprived of when Vince McMahon claimed The Monster Among Men before he ever made it to Wednesday nights. From his entrance music to his matches, I get the same kind of thrill from Sullivan I do when I hear “RAWR” on Mondays. Here, almost better than his offense was watching him steamroll through moves from another really big dude like Jose. There’s a long way to go, but so far so good.

Speaking of No Way, this tweet may be my favorite thing he’s ever done:

For your own health, though, man - let this one go.

Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly def. Trent Seven and Tyler Bate via pinfall following Total Elimination (and some help from Adam Cole). NXT champ Drew McIntyre cuts their celebration short, but The Undisputed back away from a fight. They’re cut off by tag champs SAnitY, however, and Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe deliver a beatdown and end the show standing tall near McIntyre.

From the entrances* through to the finish, the match was really well done. Both teams came off looking strong, with Cole being the difference for the artists formerly known as reDRagon. My only concern is in how Moustache Mountain disappeared after the match and didn’t play a factor in the closing angle. I want not only a longer version of this bout at a future TakeOver, but the one-on-one battles between the older and younger men in each team (especially Bate vs. KOR) which could be used to build toward it. It would be a real shame if Tyler and Trent’s work as screwed over babyfaces here, or Pete Dunne’s delicious little bit of heeling last week, were never followed up on.

Eric Young and company’s standing as fan favorites is official with this move, and I honestly marked out too hard for the reveal that EY, Killian Dain and especially my boy Alexander Wolfe were back to repay Cole’s squad to even worry about whether that makes sense. Or if Team Chaos shouldn’t have just attacked McIntyre once they got done throwing Fish and O’Reilly around.

A bit surprised we got to see Team Ring of Honor get their asses handed to them already, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s justified in that they were coming out of a match and had the numbers against them for a change, and there’s no sense in stringing things along just for the sake of stringing things along.

* I dug Undisputed’s music, which felt like a cool update of the nWo’s guitar-heavy entrance theme. Really hope each man gets his own tune - especially Cole, but I’d be down with them all being variations the way SAnitY’s are.

A fitting end point to Act One on the road to Houston, with no wasted minutes and lots of good action. Is it next Wednesday yet?

Grade: B+

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