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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Jan. 31, 2018): Residuum

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

Nikki Cross def. Lacey Evans via pinfall following a swinging fisherman’s neckbreaker. Highlights of the first four matches on last Saturday’s TakeOver: Philadelphia are shown along with several fallout videos. One of Undisputed ERA vowing to get revenge against SAnitY for interfering in Adam Cole’s Extreme Rules match sets up an announcement that Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly will face Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe on next Wednesday’s episode.

Mauro Ranallo repeatedly referred to this show as the “TakeOver Aftermath” edition. While I appreciate the wink to continuity and attempt to keep a linear timeline going, the only things remotely worthy of that name in this episode were the booking of next week’s SAnitY vs. Undisputed ERA matches, which stem from the chaos that ended Adam Cole’s loss to Aleister Black last Saturday.

Otherwise, even something like Shayna Baszler’s promo bragging about how she was the real winner of Philadelphia’s Women’s title match because she was healthy and Ember Moon was in the trainer’s room was immediately undercut with coverage of Moon showing up in the main event of Royal Rumble the next night.

None of which is to say the production on tonight’s video packages and fallout interviews wasn’t excellent as usual. Or that I have any complaints about revisiting a supremely entertaining night of wrestling from Jan. 27 (WWE Network had TakeOver: Philly on the live stream before this episode premiered, and I got sucked into the brilliance of Gargano/Almas III all over again).

As for the first of tonight’s new bouts, was hoping for more than three minutes from Cross and Evans, but I liked what we got. Nikki is uber-over and knows just how to channel her deranged character into a crowd-pleasing in-ring performance. I’m really liking the small samples of heel Lacey we’ve been getting. It’s smart to not pigeon hole her as a Liberty Belle-esque good girl just because of her real backstory, or because she’s a classically attractive, tall blonde. Not being afraid to experiment with something controversial like #MAGA as a way to get heat is admirable, and she seems to have the confidence to pull it off.

How quickly she lost here, and the way Cross has been stop-started since her Last Woman Standing match against Asuka last Summer, leaves me wondering when we’ll see either of them again. But I’m looking forward to it whenever it happens.

TM61 def. The Ealys via pinfall following Thunder Valley. A post-match interview with Nick Miller and Shane Thorne backstage sees the Australian duo again refer to themselves with their pre-WWE name. An extended highlight package for Andrade “Cien” Almas’ successful NXT title defense against Johnny Gargano segues into “exclusive footage” of Tommaso Ciampa leaving the arena after his post-match attack on Gargano, and an interview with Zelina Vega and the champ. We’re told Adam Cole faces Killian Dain on the next episode.

Someone made another smart call bringing Thorne and Miller back to television in front of a hot and appreciative crowd. One thing they couldn’t afford was to be greeted by crickets, and Wells Fargo Center was hyped - probably in general, but they also reponded to the Aussies attacks and encouragement.

TM61 was in control of their opponents throughout this short match, too. They’ve been back on the house show circuit for several months, so depite the “ring rust” angle Ranallo and Percy Watson were pushing, it’s not surprising they looked great. The Ealys acquitted themselves well, although I haven’t come up with a reliable differentiate-the-siblings system for them yet, which combined with their lack of characters makes it harder to form much of an opinion. They did cheat, which was appreciated, and added a little pop to Nick’s hot tag.

The most interesting thing was the way Thorne and Miller continue to shy away from their TM61 name in favor of their indie/international one. TMDK probably won’t fly in The ‘E, but if they always say “We Are The Mighty, and The Mighty Don’t Kneel”... maybe they can get away with it? Just call them “The Mighty” and use the rest as a catchphrase and go. It would probably be a big help, as questions about their WWE name seem to dominate the conversation whenever a fan is introduced to them for the first time.

Another interesting thing about the show so far is the two matches set-up for next Wednesday. Not sure SAnitY or Cole can really afford a loss at this point, but the lack of any mention of the titles being on the line* in Young and Wolfe’s match with Fish and O’Reilly may explain how they’re gonna balance that out. More on that next week (or in our taping reports later today and tomorrow, for the non-spoiler averse crowd).

* Nevermind, I just missed it somehow. It’s for the belts.

Roderick Strong def. Tyler Bate via pinfall following End of Heartache to become the #1 contender for the United Kingdom championship.

This was a fun main event, and I think Pete Dunne vs. The Messiah of The Backbreaker will be a blast whenever it happens.

It wasn’t without its issues. The main one was its length. Clocking in at about 10 minutes (meaning about 15 of tonight’s 51 minutes were spent wrestling), it seemed we fast-forwarded through the opening wrestle-to-a-standoff portion of most face vs. face matches, and even the slower middle portion which established the damage Roddy did to Bate’s lower back. That gave short-shrift both to the hot finish, which felt like it just kind of started instead of being transitioned into, and the psychology of Tyler not being able to lift Strong for his finisher.

Another issue is the more meta one, that I usually try to tell myself to not think about - at least during a match - but that I couldn’t turn off tonight. What’s up with the UK division? How does this effect Roddy and Tyler vis-à-vis 205 Live? Is there a story behind Bate taking televised losses on back-to-back nights, or did it just happen that way?

If those issues bugged you, too, here’s a little something to get you focused on wrestling again...

The main event is worth taking a few minutes for, but don’t come to this episode looking for any real development or “aftermath” from TakeOver. That starts next week, and makes this one hard to grade terribly high - especially on a scale with the really strong stuff we had leading into Philadelphia.

Grade: C

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