For a more detailed recap, check our live blog here.
Nikki Cross calls for another match against Bianca Belair and reminds us that “she knows” in a pre-open promo from backstage. Lacey Evans def. Candice LeRae via pinfall following the Women’s Right. Next week’s North American title Triple Threat between Adam Cole, UK champ Pete Dunne and NA champ Ricochet gets a promo video featuring each man talking about their own and the belt’s legacy. Tommaso Ciampa films himself warning Velveteen Dream not to step into the NXT champ’s spotlight.
- Gotta love NXT finding a way to prominently feature Cross outside of the title picture in a way that emphasizes her strengths as a character and someone who can deliver an entertaining match with just about anyone. Also, Full Sail must be more amazing than Disney World. Steamy hallways, Ciampa’s cave, whatever you call the place Undisputed ERA hangs out... they’ve got a lot of different types of spaces on that campus.
- Another good showing from Evans and LeRae. The First Lady seems to add a new wrinkle to her wrestling while getting more comfortable with her wrestling every time out. She’s very hateable as is, but I hope they really dive into the fact she’s chastising other women for being independent while being self-reliant. That hypocrisy would give her a heel trait everyone can boo. While it makes me uncomfortable, I don’t personally believe her heat is the “wrong kind” or whatever, but I would like to not see young girls cheering for her while she tells babyfaces to be better wives.
But how babyface is Candice at this point? On a show where we saw her husband keep it together (a little too well, IMO - but more on that in a bit), she snapped and it cost her the match. Maybe she wasn’t covering up for Johnny in that interview with General Manager William Regal about the attack on Aleister Black? Just the suspicion she may have acted without Gargano knowing gives her some agency while keeping her linked to him. I’ll take it. If that is where they’re going. I just don’t know.
Whether she’s a babyface or not, LeRae is a very good wrestler. Whatever story they put her in needs to result in her doing that more.
- Production delivered their usual kick ass work on the North American title piece, and throughout this episode. Ricochet continues to be the least interest of the three characters, which is exactly why he’s the right man to hold the black-and-yellow brands’ working belt. Let him have great matches with better talkers while he and Triple H’s team figure the rest of his presentation out.
- Dream vs. Ciampa should be phenomenal, and finally give us the face turn that already happened for fans months ago.
The Forgotten Sons squash Torry Kirsh, Vinny Mixon, & Cesar Rise. After a recap of how their Evolution match was set-up last week, we get a video from Shayna Baszler’s MMA-style training camp, after which she says she’ll prove she’s evolved enough to take the Women’s title back from Kairi Sane. Bianca Belair plans to embarrass Nikki Cross when their rematch happens in two weeks. Johnny Gargano def. Tony Nese via submission with Garga-No Escape.
- Not sure whether to credit the trios format or the much shorter match, but the Sons looked better here than they did in their previous two outings. Really like the dynamic of Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler flanking opponents so Jaxson Ryker can deliver the killshot.
- Hey look! Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke! They’re like, Horsewomen and stuff. And if you want to have some troll-y fun without actually being a troll, go check out some of the comments under the Baszler video on YouTube. Some MMA fans are really triggered WWE called her preparations for a “fake” bout a “Fight Camp”.
Anyway, this was another great non-match segment, and an interesting evolution for the Queen of Spades. She’s not the sadistic egomaniac we’ve known her as in NXT in this clip. I wouldn’t call it a turn, but the humanity she displays in admitting defeat to Kairi Sane is ground they can use to plant the seed for one should they want. Once she stops referring to the rest of the roster as “those girls”, of course.
- After her own “Who is...?” series tip-toed around the heel/face question, Belair has really ratcheted up the more annoying and despicable aspects of her gimmick. Like Renee Young before her, Cathy Kelley’s developed into a really useful supporting player for the wrestlers. Velveteen Dream calls her “Queen”? He’s more likeable. Bianca demands to be called “Ms. Belair” and talks over her? Boo that woman.
- Bear with me on Gargano/Nese, cause I have thoughts...
It’s a really, really good problem to have. But this was a really good match that I quite enjoyed while it was happening - and I feel like I’ve already forgotten about it. That might have happened if NXT was the only show I watched Wednesday night. This episode in particular did a great job showcasing four very different types of matches. But throw in TJP/Kalisto before it and an instant classic like Mercedes/Satomura after it? It gets lost in the shuffle.
Not sure what the answer to that it, or if there is one. The glut of wrestling and the embarrassment of riches we enjoy as fans of the form in 2018 is well documented. But it does put wrestlers, bookers and promoters in a position of having to do something pretty special (see: Mercedes/Satomura) to stand out. And, at least for me, a really good Tony Nese vs. Johnny Gargano match doesn’t accomplish that.
Also not sure if the show is trying to give us a resolution to Gargano’s mental breakdown yet or if this is just more misdirection. If it’s the former, color me very disappointed. Just weeks after the meltdown against Dream, smiling Johnny is back and picking up a win the right way? Nah, man. Hopefully it’s the latter, and the moments where it looked like he had to convince himself to release a hold or not throw down a fan’s “Johnny Freakin’ Wrestling” sign in disgust were glimpses into his still damaged psyche.
Brit-Am Brawlers Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch are the subject of a video; they’re out to prove ‘two average blokes’ can win gold. Lars Sullivan def. EC3 via pinfall following a diving headbutt.
- Not much to say about Burch & Lorcan, other than I am ride or die for those “two average blokes”.
- Interesting main event. It was probably my favorite EC3 singles match since returning to WWE, and they let him get in an amazing amount of offense on Sullivan as they leaned into the idea that standing up to and almost taking down the big bad was his arrival statement, despite it being the latest loss, after loss, after loss, after... Based on the reactions he gets, the One Percenter doesn’t need wins to be over as a fan favorite at this level, so a great show of fighting spirit in a brutal, fast-paced match may well have put him over the hump.
Lars got a chance to show off his skills as a salesman, and that’s probably my favorite thing about him at this point in his development.
Had this anchored a different episode, it might have been panned - or disappeared from memory. But since it was such a throwback, it really worked. The folks backstage don’t just put together awesome video packages. They also know how to structure an hour of wrestling.
Much like last week, this was largely about building to the bigger shows we’re getting next Wednesday, the week after, and in November at Evolution and eventually WarGames 2. Where this episode excelled was in varying its content, from different kinds of in-ring stories to excellent interviews and hype pieces to tie everything together.