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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Oct. 31, 2018): Futures, bright and gone

For a more detailed recap, check our live blog here.

Nikki Cross def. Mercedes Martinez via pinfall after the Purge. Candice LeRae confronts Cross afterwards, and LeRae is then confronted by Aleister Black about the whereabouts of her husband, Johnny Gargano. Street Profits def. The Mighty by pinfall after Montez Ford hits Shane Thorne with a frog splash.

- Before we even got the opening theme, NXT treated us to a killer video package recapping the “Who attacked Aleister Black?” mystery, ending with Gargano superkicking Black to close last week’s episode. I got chills. It’s also why I have to confess to being a little disappointed the show opened with Vic Joseph eliminating any ambiguity about why the Oct. 24 show ended like that and flat out declaring Johnny was being the parking lot attack.

It probably wasn’t realistic of me to hope they’d play around with ideas like Cross lying or being confused about what she saw, or Candice being the attacker. NXT is still WWE, after all. More importantly, there are only two shows after this one before the next TakeOver, so if Black/Gargano was gonna happen, it needed to get booked ASAP. And there’s still hope! This tweet would seem to indicate that Gargano has an explanation, and LeRae wasn’t suddenly raiding Paige’s wardrobe and make-up drawer because she’s an innocent bystander.

There’s also the matter of what, if anything, will be done with Cross & Black’s relationship. Okay, that’s probably me hoping for something WWE can’t/won’t deliver again, but at least I talked myself into not being disappointed about the rush to declare Johnny as 100% guilty.

- Our opener was a quality wrestling match, but I couldn’t invest much more in it than that. We’d just seen both these ladies in more exciting contests (Nikki’s rematch with Bianca Belair was more suspenseful, and Martinez’s Mae Young Classic second rounder with Meiko Satomura was instant classic material), and it wasn’t too hard to guess who was winning between the wrestler in the middle of a huge NXT storyline and the one without a WWE contract. It was a nice showcase for each woman, though.

- The Profits win over The Mighty was very good, however... definitely the best of their series. Working with the Aussie puro vets has really helped Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins develop, individually and as a team. It’s not clear what the future holds for either squad. We know Street Profits will be working in Evolve more, but their title win - or anything about Gabe Sapolsky’s promotion - hasn’t been mentioned on this show yet. Shane Thorne & Nick Miller have found a nice groove as heels. It seems clear their are no main event/championship plans for them at this stage, but hopefully they get another feud soon in a very talented, crowded tag scene.

General Manager William Regal announces two TakeOver matches (Velveteen Dream vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano vs. Aleister Black), and Black vows to end Gargano. Lars Sullivan goes on a rampage because Dream got the NXT title shot instead of him. Matt Riddle def. Luke Menzies via Bro-mission.

- Wrote about my excitement for the Nov. 17 card already this evening, so my main comment on the scene which announced the two singles matches is that I’m really glad this storyline has given us back angry, stoic Aleister Black. I know some folks liked it, and that he’ll need to learn to do it if he’s gonna be on-screen at the next level, but his doing the joke-y stuff never felt right to me. Give me the Stoic Satanist declaring Johnny’s future “is gone” any day.

Jumping back to Black’s earlier segment, I did like the small nod to Aleister and Candice’s history with her not being afraid of him, and him giving her a little leeway despite his anger with her husband. Wonder if that might come back to bite him...

- Sullivan seems to be getting Kane-d a little with his booking. After being fast-tracked to a title shot, it looks like he’ll now be used to give Dream another impressive win (or at least help him look strong before shenanigans take over) en route to his own championship match. That’s the problem with monsters, I suppose.

- From his Warren G-esque music, to the way he kicks off the slides during his jump into the ring, to a mostly-squash that let him show off both his strikes and his innovative use of MMA submissions, this was pretty much a perfect introduction to the Matt Riddle experience. Menzies looked better here than he did in a similar spot against Riddle’s bro Keith Lee, too.

After a recap of the NXT Women’s title match at Evolution and the fallout video of new champ Shayna Baszler, Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch def. Raul Mendoza & Humberto Carrillo via pinfall after an elevated impant DDT on Mendoza. The scheduled main event never starts because War Raiders attack Undisputed ERA backstage. Their brawl heads outside where Ricochet joins, then into the arena where Pete Dunne comes to Hanson, Rowe & Richochet’s aid. Regal comes out to announce the two quartets will face off in WarGames at TakeOver.

- As I also already wrote about recently, I’m not sure where NXT goes with the Women’s championship scene from here. I’m very glad they’ve added Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke to the mix, because they’d taken the well-done-but-basic Sane/Baszler feud as far as they could. Honestly, if we’re not getting my fantasy booked WarGames match, I’d just as soon this rivalry sits out the pre-Survivor Series show. TakeOver: Phoenix is right around the corner, and if they’re sticking to the one women’s match per live event formula, I’d rather it go to Belair/Cross, or LeRae/Cross, or Mia Yim vs. Lacey Evans, or... Hell, even if we get two women’s matches, they could probably rest Kairi & Shayna.

They’ve really amped up the plucky babyface vs. ruthless heel dynamic though, so whenever we get back to it, it should continue to be great stuff.

- The second tag match of the night was only about half as long as the first, but it had the same effect in that it made me really excited for the future of the NXT tag scene. My love of the Brit-Am Brawlers is well documented, and I really only needed to see Oney boot a flipping luchador out of the air with both feet for that love to remain fully aflame.

Mendoza impresses every time out, too, though. And Carrillo (fka Ultimo Ninja, and a member of the Garza family) looked fantastic in his first televised outing. These guys just need characters, because just based on these three minutes I’d like to see more of them as a team. Fly Zelina Vega in for tapings and let her manage them... it’s not like her primary business associate is doing anything on SmackDown these days, anyway.

- Probably should be as burned out on repeated ERA brawls as I am on the Pirate Princess/Queen of Spades program. And the booking of Hanson, Rowe, Ricochet & Dunne as the specific foursome they’ll face at TakeOver feels a bit rushed (are they doing an injury angle with EC3? It would make sense to explain why he’s not involved here, and likely missing the L.A. show all together). But hot damn, this was a heck of a scrap. Good enough for an alternate angles video!

And I appreciate Bobby Fish employing the horror movie trope of trying a locked door when there was an open one right next to it on Halloween.

But, yeah, I can’t complain about any set-up that puts this ridiculous collection of talent in a match, especially not the traditional two rings, one cage, four-on-four insanity we’ll get in a couple weeks. Plus, it got us Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly making scared faces!

I love this show.

In a lot of ways, this was a pretty standard “TakeOver’s coming!” episode. But that’s a pretty high standard.

Grade: B+

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