Tonight’s show finds us in NXT’s home base of Full Sail Live for the second episode from a taping (spoilers from which are here) which builds from TakeOver: WarGames 2.
Here’s what to expect, and some thoughts on the overall landscape of the black-and-yellow brand.
Last week’s closing segment was amazing. Truly, it hasn’t been far from my mind since I watched it during its initial Dec. 5 airing. All three men involved - NXT champ Tommaso Ciampa, #1 contender Aleister Black and wild card Johnny Gargano played their roles to perfection. The changes to each of their characters & stories underwent in Los Angeles were clearly & definitively presented in an extremely entertaining few minutes.
Black stood tall, but no one came out if it looking less than how they entered. The Blackheart got his face kicked off, but still managed to goad his next challenger into a brutal match before they face off in Phoenix. Ciampa also kept his hooks in Gargano, who remained in the main event picture - and may be transitioning from his old tag partners rival to his ally/henchman. Two TakeOver-level matches were booked, only we don’t have to wait until TakeOver for one of them.
We do have to wait until next week however. Aleister faces Johnny in a steel cage on Dec. 19. Which means we have to get through what sounds like a solid but unspectacular episode this week.
Okay, unspectacular isn’t fair. There’s a full slate of matches lined up and, if you’ve read the spoilers, you know there’s a treat in store.
But even the official preview-makers over at WWE.com left a bullet point in for next week. Will we get much more than pre-tape interviews from Gargano & Black not-really addressing things? Probably not, but I’m still hyped.
Let’s run down the rest of the show and where things stand for other key players, but... is it Dec. 19 yet?
The Title Scene
With his last several months worth of feuds pretty much tied up after his side won WarGames, North American titleholder Ricochet needed a new challenger. He’s a fighting champ and didn’t want to wait too long before making a defense, so he asked General Manager William Regal to find him an opponent and the GM obliged. It’s not quite an open challenge, but it serves the same purpose... intrigue, followed by (fingers crossed) a really good match.
Just last week, I remarked on how smart it was for NXT to hold the first qualifying match for the Dec. 26 Fatal 4Way which will determine who challenges Women’s champion Shayna Baszler at TakeOver: Phoenix at a house show. Then Mr. Regal just added Lacey Evans via a tweet. Oh well. At least we’ll see either Reina González or Mia Yim earn their way in when we see who wins their match tonight.
Coming out of TakeOver, War Raiders seemed locked into the #1 contender spot for Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong’s tag titles. Then we saw Rowe & Hanson in the trainers room, and last week we were informed Warbeard left Staples Center with “broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and torn ligaments”. With that battle on hold, NXT stated setting up Heavy Machinery as Undisputed ERA’s next opponents.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Injuries might also cause problems for Baszler’s interim feud. We looked on track to a 3⁄4 MMA Horsewomen vs. Super Joshi Friends program last week, when Io Shirai cleaned house after Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir assisted the champ in a post-match beatdown of Dakota Kai. If Kai’s knee injury is as bad as feared however... we’ll just wait to see how much of this program they already taped, I guess.
- Back to the tag scene, if War Raiders are out for longer than a few weeks, O’Reilly & Strong may need more than one interim match. Tonight’s BritAm Brawlers vs. The Mighty bout might provide another. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch won their last televised skirmish with Shane Thorne & Nick Miller, but then the Aussies jumped them in the aftermath. One & Two will look to settle the score and move up the ladder on this episode.
- EC3 is out for revenge against Undisputed’s Bobby Fish when they go one-on-one this week. Although seeing as Fish was part of the numbers game attack on Mr. 3 he’s seeking revenge for, I’m not sure why he thinks Adam Cole & crew won’t get involved here again.
- Kassius Ohno didn’t need numbers to get back at Matt Riddle for humilating him in Staples Center, but he did need to sneak up on the King of Bros after his win over Punishment Martinez. Now Riddle wants another face-to-face shot at the veteran gatekeeper, which is fine by us, because we want to see a real match between these two on WWE Network.
NOTE: Spoilers are out there for these pre-taped broadcasts (including here), but many Cagesiders don't partake. If you are going to post or discuss spoilers for this show before they happen, or results of future shows, please use the spoiler bar in your comment.
See you tonight for NXT, Cagesiders!