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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Sept. 26, 2018): Brick and mortar

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

After interrupting General Manager William Regal’s update on his investigation into the attack on Aleister Black, Undisputed ERA get booked in a North American title Triple Threat (Adam Cole vs. Pete Dunne vs. Ricochet) and a Tag Team championship match (O’Reilly & Roderick Strong vs. War Raiders). Johnny Gargano is excited for a fresh start at being Johnny Wrestling next week when he faces Tony Nese, and Lacey Evans has issues with Candice LeRae not standing by her husband. Velveteen Dream tell Cathy Kelley he is not a snitch, but thinks the writing is on the wall regarding who took out Black. Lars Sullivan def. Victor Orchant via disqualification when EC3 attacked Sullivan.

- Great opening segment which allowed all four participants to shine and set the tone for the episode as essentially an enjoyable piece of the larger puzzle.

Roddy continues to impress as the dorky guy who gets to hang with the cool kids on the team because he’s a good athlete. Strong loves that Sherlock Holmes show, you see, and doesn’t understand why the GM won’t get the viking cosplayers off their back. The real stars, unsurprisingly, were Cole and Regal. The former is so charming that the only reason he’s boo-able is because everything he says is utter horse$#!+. The latter looked like he might break while Undisputed’s leader was running his game, then used that bemusement in his delivery while dissecting the ERA’s arguments and using them as the basis for booking them into a corner.

- Since I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to find Johnny borderline pathetic right now, let’s call his interview a home run. I’m mostly excited because Nese visiting from 205 Live is a sign of cross-pollination among Triple H’s territories, something I’m all for. Evans’ shift from xenophobia to another Tomi Lahren-esque trait, advocating for women to support their men at all times, is... definitely gonna get some heat, especially from NXT’s audience. I’m willing to let it play out, as she’s a fictional character and will hopefully she’ll get her comeuppance. Plus, this is developmental, so they should get a little more freedom to push boundaries. But considering how they’ve promoted Macey Estrella as a beacon of female empowerment outside of kayfabe, it is a weird look. And possibly a confusing one for younger fans.

- Any interaction between Dream and “Queen Cathy” is okay in my book. Fingers crossed his being the latest person to try and implicate Tommaso Ciampa is a sign (a) that Ciampa didn’t attack Aleister and (b) that Velveteen’s next program could be for the NXT title.

- NXT doesn’t really overuse set-ups. But if there’s one they go to a bit too often, it’s angry wrestler who breaks up a squash to further their feud. Lars looked like a beast, EC3 showed great fire and got a really nice pop... this program should be fun. But we don’t know much after tonight we didn’t already know before it.

Regal is surprised when Nikki Cross emerges from his office, wanting another chance “to play with” Bianca Belair and chanting “I know, I know”, which Regal discounts as not being reliable for use in his investigation. The Mighty def. Street Profits via pinfall. Kairi Sane def. Vanessa Borne via pinfall following an InSane Elbow, and a Women’s title rematch is set for Evolution when Shayna Baszler arrives after the match for a segment with the champ.

- Our first helping of Cross vs. Belair was just getting going when it ended, so I’m certainly interested in more. Nikki’s a treasure (Kyle’s reaction to her in this fallout bit might have been my favorite thing that happened on Wednesday night). And, as with the clue Velveteen tried to float, I’m assuming that just about everything they’re putting forward about the attack right now is misdirection, so Regal saying he doesn’t think SAnitY’s Twisted Sister knows anything probably means he believes she knows something.

- Feels like NXT’s been rolling out a lot of mid-card tag matches lately. Nick Miller & Shane Thorne’s clean-if-underhanded win over Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins stood out for a few reasons.

Both teams are getting a chance to show some range - The Mighty as comedic heels and Street Profits as righteously angry good guys. In both cases, it’s a welcome addition to their repertoires. Ford & Dawkins (and, as usual, especially Montez) are really making this feel like a personal rivalry. Neither team can afford to lose, but since one of them has to, a long feud does something to protect each squad. Seeing as both teams have come up short in title opportunities and/or the Dusty Cup, I could see either or both in a mid-card gatekeeper role after this program ends.

Their wrestling here was quite good, too. Nothing spectacular - although Ford’s dive and hot tag were quite something - but solid throughout and really effective in telling the story.

- Kairi’s been in action a lot for an NXT titleholder, but that’s not a bad thing by any means. Her athletic and character strengths are best appreciated while she’s wrestling, so getting her out there as often as possible is smart.

Bourne is on the Aliyah plan of slightly tweaking her presentation every time out. The important thing is her performance improves, even if slightly, whenever we see here. This was a tune-up for the champ, but “The Vision” held up her end and didn’t make any noticeable mistakes.

The set-up for the rematch between Kairi and Shayna at Evolution wasn’t anything extravagant, but it doesn’t need to be. This is the tale of competitors having one another’s number. Last time around, Baszler was shaken by her rival’s unexpected ferocity. This time, the Pirate Princess may be getting a little over-confident. It’s a basic story, but not a predictable one.

Keith Lee challenges Kona Reeves to a match during an interaction in hair & make-up. Tommaso Ciampa survives a tough challenge from Heavy Machinery’s Otis Dozovic, pinning him after a pair of draping DDTs.

- Big fan of Lee, and with his voice, I could listen to him read soup can labels. But could we give him a script that doesn’t involve him uttering one of his catchphrases every other line? We get it. He’s limitless. Let’s work that into a narrative that works in kayfabe. Dusty liked the “Bask In My Glory” line... have someone else take issue with that, be jealous of the attention Rhodes paid to Keith. Or something that has nothing to do with the American Dream. I don’t know. But walking about calling himself the Limitless One isn’t doing anything for him or his opponents.

On the other hand, Kona may not be my favorite to watch in the ring, but for however long it lasts, he’s might be becoming my favorite entry-level heel since the days of CJ Parker.

- Initially, I was taken aback by Dozer more or less dominating the NXT champion. He’s mostly been a strong, goofy dude on an undercard tag team up until now. What message does it send that he’s taking the top guy to the limit?

But the story, set-up by Tommy Entertainment himself and reinforced by the announce team, is that Ciampa approached this match as a joke. That fit with his long-standing ego issues, which have become a raging god complex since he destroyed Gargano’s soul and psyche in Brooklyn. And you just have to look at the two men to see there’s going to be a power imbalance. So in watching Tommaso get his ass kicked for the better part of ten minutes, but refuse to be pinned, we were reminded of the Blackheart’s toughness and grit. In shielding himself behind the referee so he could rake Otis’ eyes and finish the match, his guile is re-established.

Through all that, both in-story and with some damn fine work, Dozovic took big steps toward stardom. Which might not be the best news for his Heavy Machinery partner Tucker Knight, but could be really good news for fans of the black-and-yellow (NXT, not HM).

An hour that mixed building blocks with DVD extra-type filler. It featured no must see wrestling, but a mix of entertaining segments. If this was show whose highs weren’t quite so high, this would probably get a stronger recommendation.

Grade: B-