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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (May 30, 2018): Shook

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

Mauro Ranallo informs us Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are banned from the building by General Manager William Regal, and have each been sent paperwork to sign to make their TakeOver Street Fight official. NXT Champ Aleister Black and Lars Sullivan have an in-ring confrontation where Sullivan informs Black they’ll have a match in Chicago. That ends with Lars catching a Black Mass and putting the Champ down with Freak Accident. War Raiders def. Cody Vincent and George Hickson in a squash.

- There continues to be no doubt about what the the black-and-yellow brand sees as its main event program. I personally may be on the fence about the need to continue it, but if they’re going to, letting Johnny Gargano continue his ascent to Tommaso Ciampa’s level of crazy on the sidelines and in smaller doses is the right call. That’s what they continued to do here with Mauro’s recap off the top, a reminder about Candice LeRae’s tweet wiping her hands of the whole deal, and Johnny’s moment later on making the Street Fight official. We still got a lot of reminders about it, but in a way that doesn’t completely overshadow everything else going on.

- Such as NXT’s main title, and the men fighting for it. Black and Sullivan are both characters built on aura and mystique, so keeping their segment relatively brief was also smart. The big moment was Lars catching Aleister’s finisher, and it was a cool spot. Unfortunately, while it does make The Loquacious Leviathan look like even more of a threat, it doesn’t convince us this will be a great match. And it gets overshadowed by one or two TakeOver match-establishing moments later on.

- Hanson and Rowe were acting much more berserker-like in this outing, which is a welcome wrinkle. It does a little to set them apart from the hoss tag teams they’re following from the show’s history, and it gave a little more energy to their match.

Lacey Evans promises to win her rubber match against Kairi Sane next week, then EC3’s match with Fabian Aichner is interrupted by Gargano marching to the announce desk to deliver his signed paperwork for the Street Fight. EC3 wins a short time later via pinfall. Bianca Belair narrates a video package about her lifelong history of success, which she plans to continue by dominating NXT.

- Seems we’re flying through the Evans/Sane feud, which is fine. Kind of figured that one for a pre-show match in Chicago (and it still might be, especially if next week’s showdown doesn’t get a clean or conclusive finish), but quicker mid-card programs will probably become the norm with a roster this deep.

- This episode was light on wrestling, but the bouts we got crammed a lot into just a few minutes. The final match of EC3’s debut trilogy was not only a vehicle to get Johnny Wrestling back on our screens, it was another showcase for Aichner. The Italian continues to shine in losing efforts. I’ll continue to hope he gets a character soon, followed by a storyline.

- Oh, and don’t worry, EC3 is not upset at Gargano at all. It’s a business and he’s a business, man. But I really hope a Johnny vs. The 1%er feud is in our future. I’d like to see Gargano work his magic with a somewhat limited guy like EC3, and it might be our best hope to get Full Sail to boo the former Impact star.

- We know a lot about Belair after this mini-doc, but I’m not sure we have a better sense of who she is and why we should root for or against her. It’s the usual well done production and she’s got an interesting list of accomplishments. This was my least favorite, and I think the least effective, of NXT’s “Who is?” productions, though.

Ricochet defeats the debuting Chris Dijak with a 630, then has a confrontation with Velveteen Dream which sets up a match between the two in Chicago.

If you’ve only got time for segment this week, this is the one you want.

The former Ring of Honor Top Prospect winner finally makes his NXT television debut, and treats us to a tantalizing glimpse of what a 6’ 8” powerhouse/high flier hybrid can do. This is about as fun as a sub-three minute match can be, and about as good as the wrestler doing the job in one of those can look. If there’s a problem, it’s that Ricochet deadlifting his opponent for a suplex before the finish is more impressive than anything Dijak did. But we’re still introducing what The One and Only can do to the WWE Universe, so that’s really not a problem.

The post match angle is the latest perfect thing Velveteen’s done since debuting. He’s bringing out the best in Ric, who seems to turn his charisma up a notch when Dream enters, as he knows he has to in order to not be seen as a second fiddle. The respect and jealousy and hint of sexual tension is palpable, and an interesting twist to the formula of Velveteen’s feud with Black from last year. He’s less trying to impress his rival this time, and more trying to top him (in all senses of that phrase).

Leaving Dream speechless by vaulting the top rope without using his hands and landing on his feet to deliver the final words was perfect, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with to get Velveteen back on equal footing. NXT brass are right that one of their non-title matches is the best story on the brand right now, but they might be wrong about which one that is.

Shayna Baszler retains her Women’s Championship by submitting Dakota Kai with a rear-naked choke. Nikki Cross runs in to save Kai when the hold is reapplied after the bell, and calls for an impromptu match with Baszler that she wins when Dakota counts three on the champ after the SAnitY member hits her finisher. It obviously doesn’t count, but Cross makes off with the belt, telling the champ it’s her move.

The main event was more angle than match, but that was fine. Both women played their roles perfectly: Kai clearly demonstrating her anxiety wasn’t gone, she was just striving to overcome it, Baszler amping up her menace in an effort to keep her victim scared. Dakota conquered her fear enough to not give up after the champ took one of her main weapons away by targeting a leg, but wasn’t able to finish her comeback because of the damage and had no choice but to tap out.

Still wish it had played out on screen a little more, but without getting to say much, Kai’s character was developed nicely the past two weeks. The key will be fleshing that out more from this point forward, but this establishes her as the kind of plucky underdog NXT hasn’t had in the division since Bayley. That’s a really good thing to be established as.

From there, we segued into the set-up for the title program for Chicago and as a stereotypical smark-y Cross mark, I loved it. Shunting her off to the sidelines for long stretches of her WWE career has always been a headscratching decision, but it does lead to big pops when she returns. Nikki played up her brand of crazy even more than normal, which is smart as it puts Shayna on the defensive and communicates that her usual mind games won’t work on someone with such an unusual mind.

It’s probably just a new type of challenge for The Queen of Spades to master, but if she’s going to stay atop the card at this level and get there at the next one, these are the kinds of stories they need to tell with her character. If this episode’s faux-match was any indication, just watching The Bannockburn Banshee work with her will be fun. Then me and the rest of the Nikki nerds can go back to worrying about when we’ll see her again.

With only two more episodes to go from here to June 16, NXT decided to roll out the card in full during this narrative-heavy episode. But despite the lack of a long or standout match, there were tons of cool moments and the hour flew by.

The anticipation level for this TakeOver seems to be a little low, but if the rest of the build is as fun as tonight was, it’s gonna be alright.

Grade: B+