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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Nov. 14, 2018): Can we get much higher?

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

Bianca Belair def. Mia Yim via pinfall following the K.O.D. Cathy Kelley asks the team of Ricochet, Pete Dunne & War Raiders who will represent them in the main event tonight. Ricochet & Dunne argue before the Raiders angrily announce Hanson will do it. After a video recap of the Aleister Black/Johnny Gargano feud, a Kelly interview with Matt Riddle is interrupted by Kassius Ohno, setting up a match between the two for next week’s show.

- Have to believe these two talented wrestlers have a better match in them than this. Several of the transitions seemed a little sloppy, particularly when Belair pulled Yim to the floor early and Mia’s flurry to start her final comeback. It wasn’t bad, it was just unspectacular. It was just a match, and I was hoping for something a little more.

It doesn’t help that the outcome was all but assured, and Yim doesn’t have much of a character (and less than not much if you didn’t watch the Mae Young Classic or follow her on social media). Bianca needs to vary her rest holds if she’s staying heel. I still love her attitude and in-match character work, but, yeah. This was a match.

- Of the three TakeOver promo packages we got on this episode, this first one was by far my favorite. It cut promos we’d seen before together in a way which gave us a dialogue between Gargano & Black we didn’t get in the build. It also showed that NXT played fair with us during the months-long whodunnit, reminding us Johnny had motive after not only failing to prevent Tommaso Ciampa from winning the NXT title but aiding his victory over the Dutch Destroyer, that he was seen exiting the area right after Aleister was attacked, and that he never denied his guilt when General Manager William Regal questioned him. Even the music was perfect, orchestral metal with Inception horns laid in. Great stuff, for a match which probably didn’t need it, but we’ll take it.

- The build to Riddle’s second televised match is pretty baffling, even more so now that it’s on the recap-heavy TakeOver fallout show (which usually means it will be taped as a dark match on Saturday, but NXT is also taping material at their San Jose house show tomorrow night (Nov. 15), so it could happen there). I mean, we spent a lot of time establishing Ohno as an angry veteran, and the match should be great... but he’s still gonna lose, right? We could have had the character who lost to Velveteen Dream face Riddle in a regular episode and used all the time spent telling us he’s cranky now on something else.

Oh well. I enjoyed the Bro pronouncing the ‘t’ in debut, and playfully mocking the trope of rival wrestlers interrupting interviews.

Lacey Evans def. Karissa Rivera via pinfall after a Woman’s Right; Evans then gets to cut an in-ring promo about being the only ‘Real Lady’ in NXT. A hype video for Velveteen Dream’s match against NXT champ Tommaso Ciampa is shown.

- The First Lady of NXT continues to come along nicely, and is much smoother from a wrestling perspective than she was six months ago. But she should be past squashing unsigned talent just to remind us she exists at this point. The announcers reminded us the seeds were planted for a program with Candice LeRae, so hopefully that’ll happen after WarGames.

Evans is still a little rough on the mic, I’ve noticed. She had to pause to remember her line during this promo, and even the video segments they post on WWE’s online channels can include some stumbles. That’s probably why she’s still treading water and getting a spot like this to cut a promo at Full Sail, even though she didn’t have anything new to say.

- It’s weird, but I’m not as excited about Ciampa/Dream as I thought I’d be. Perhaps it’s simply because theirs is the one match on Saturday’s card without months and months of backstory. Its build just pales in comparison to the others. With their video, all involved worked hard to establish a “spotlight” theme - is Velveteen ready for his biggest one? How will the Blackheart handle not being the main event for the first time since he returned? It’s an interesting angle to take, and I look forward to seeing how they weave it into their match this weekend.

But I can’t help feeling this feud could have used one more face-to-face talking segment. We normally would have had one with an in-ring match announcement, but theirs gave way to the Gargano reveal. Throw in having to officially turn Dream as part of the build, and these guys were asked to do a lot without a lot of time. We’ll see if they can bring it all together at Staples Center. They should be up to the task.

Kairi Sane is interviewed as part of a recap of her Evolution loss and the set-up of her two-out-of-three falls match against Women’s champ Shayna Baszler on Saturday. Kyle O’Reilly def. Hanson to give Undisputed ERA the entry advantage in WarGames; O’Reilly scored the pin after hitting the Raider with his tag belt while the referee was distracted by the other six members of their teams brawling at ringside.

- Like her old rival Lacey’s promo earlier, “interview practice” was likely one of the reasons the Women’s title video was put together the way it was. They didn’t even bother mining their history pre-Evolution, instead focusing on Kairi being sad/angry about being screwed out of her title by Shayna and 23 of the remaining MMA Horsewomen. I thought she did a good job, but your mileage may vary. You can probably tell if you’ll like her whole gimmick just based on your reaction to when she says “My treasure box is empty” (first person to make a phrasing joke should feel ashamed of themselves... and has my undying respect). I said “awww”, but I’d understand if you rolled your eyes.

The most interesting thing about the clip is Sane’s claim that Baszler “won’t have” her “friends” this time. Barring Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir from ringside would make a ton of sense, and eliminate the big question bugging me about General Manager William Regal’s booking of the fifth showdown in this long-running rivalry. But he didn’t say it, and WWE hasn’t said it anywhere either. Hmmm...

- Of course, as the main event reminded us, Regal barring people from ringside means less than a hill of beans. Also of course, I don’t care because I wanted a big cluster**** with all eight guys from Saturday’s main event involved, and I got it.

The match was fine until the remaining members of Undisputed ERA showed up and the rest of the babyface quartet raced in to even the odds, but that was more than just a teaser for how WarGames will go (and it’s super obvious the heel would win to ensure his side had the numbers advantage until everybody was in the cage at TakeOver, but that’s also fine because WarGames with the good guys having the advantage is dumb, and very un-Dusty-like). It was also when business picked up.

O’Reilly and Hanson did pretty well with a tricky story - underdog heel against babyface monster - and Kyle again proved himself a leading candidate for MVP of the ERA by using his mix of jiu jitsu and douchebaggery to make it work. War Beard got to show off a bit, too, selling well and reminding us that he and his partner can do things men of their size shouldn’t be able to do, like cartwheels and moonsaults.

But in the end, this was exactly what it needed to be... a good-not-great match that gives the bad guys a definitive edge with the entry advantage, and tilted things even more against the faces by establishing injuries to Pete Dunne and Hanson that can be targeted on Saturday.

I’m already really, really psyched for this weekend’s show. So saying this episode didn’t add much excitement isn’t an entirely fair criticism, because it didn’t really need to. Still, you’re gonna see these video packages again on Saturday, and there’s nothing else must see to this hour.

Grade: C

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