Pre-Show Match: NXT UK Champion Kay Lee Ray def. Mia Yim (Non-Title)
Much like the NXT Women's Championship (which I'll address later), the NXT UK Women's Championship is being shortened to simply the NXT UK Championship. It's an odd move that I wish would be explained to avoid confusion. Putting that aside, this was a well-wrestled pre-show match that made sense from a storyline standpoint after Ray cost Yim the WarGames advantage two months ago. Yim didn't waste any time in going after Ray once the bell rang, which was a nice touch. It would have been silly for Ray to lose to someone who isn't even a part of the NXT UK Women's division, but despite the obvious outcome, they had a very good matchup and Yim was protected in defeat. My only nitpick is that the referee came across like a total idiot for not seeing that Ray clearly used the ropes to give herself an advantage during the finish.
Finn Balor def. Ilja Dragunov
The crowd didn't seem to be overly familiar with Dragunov, but they should be. I realize he hasn't appeared on NXT TV at all, but he's a terrific talent and has a bright future ahead of him. He and Balor had strong chemistry and kicked off the night on a high note with an awesome match. They worked a consistent pace, the crowd was into it, and the aggression and intensity from both men was appreciated. There was no way Balor was losing so close to his clash with Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: Portland, but I liked that Dragunov scored as much offense as he did over Balor and looked credible in defeat.
Tyler Breeze def. Ariya Daivari
Is it written into Daivari's contract that he must appear on every episode of 205 Live? I feel like I see him on every show. Unfortunately, his matches never get any more interesting. I said last week that Breeze gave him his best bout to date, and while this was equally enjoyable, I have no idea why it needed to happen if the result was going to be the same. I feared that Daivari would avenge his loss from last week with a win here, but thankfully, that wasn't the case. Breeze maintains momentum with the win, but couldn't they have had him face someone else instead?
The Brian Kendrick def. Danny Burch
Kendrick cost Burch his match against Daivari a few weeks ago, and when Kendrick hinted at Daivari having his back before this bout, you pretty much knew how this was going to end. The actual matchup was decent and hard-hitting, but the crowd didn't seem to care much. It didn't help that Daivari got involved in predictable fashion and aided Kendrick to victory. I'm sorry but a Kendrick and Daivari alliance does nothing for me. Fingers crossed this is leading to Oney Lorcan returning to reunite with Burch.
Roman Reigns and The Usos def. King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
I honestly can't remember the last time SmackDown opened with a match as opposed to a talking segment. It was a refreshing change of pace and I liked that this received a ton of time. The early goings weren't anything out of the ordinary, but once they picked up the pace, it turned into a very entertaining opener. There's no denying that Reigns and The Usos work wonderfully together and the heels were fun foils for them. I just fear that Reigns and company winning clean here means Corbin will beat Reigns at the Royal Rumble.
SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Lacey Evans Brawled
Evans talked a lot here about losing her father to depression, the upbringing of her daughter and how she strives to be an inspirational role model for the audience. She really laid it on thick and even got emotional toward the end. If this promo doesn't get fans to rally behind her, nothing will. I've enjoyed her babyface run so far and thought this was strong stuff. The brawl with Bayley left a bit to be desired, though.
Trevor Murdoch def. The Question Mark in an NWA Television Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
This seemed like a strange match to open the event, as it wasn't all that appealing from an in-ring standpoint and the result wasn't going to kick off the night on a high note. Maybe it was because Murdoch went on to become a big part of the tourney, but I would have gone with something else in this spot. It was a fine match while it lasted, but I didn't expect Question Mark to be bumped so early given how popular he's been lately.
Dan Maff def. Zicky Dice in an NWA Television Championship Tournament Quarterfinal Match
I'm familiar with Maff from his recent run in Ring of Honor, but it would have been nice to get more background on him prior to this match so more viewers had a reason to care about him. In fact, Dice has been more established in the NWA than Maff and has actually been quite the character on Powerrr. This was a bit better than the opener but was way too short to be anything overly special.
NXT UK Champion WALTER Addressed Undisputed Era
It's been rumored for the past week that the WWE United Kingdom Championship would be named the NXT UK Championship, so WALTER being given the new title belt (which is the same as the old title belt except that it has an NXT logo in the middle instead of a WWE logo) was hardly a surprise. WALTER then cut a passionate promo on Undisputed Era and how their feud is personal now coming off the events of TakeOver: Blackpool II. That clash should be stellar on Saturday night.
Jordan Devlin def. Ligero to Qualify for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship Fatal 4-Way Match at Worlds Collide
The commentators mentioned several times that Devlin is undefeated against Ligero on NXT UK. I'm glad their history wasn't ignored, but at the same time, if Ligero wasn't going to win (which he shouldn't have), bringing that up just makes Ligero look inferior. Other than that, this was a fun match as these two always work well together. Devlin's stock has never been higher following his fantastic match with Tyler Bate at TakeOver, so I really hope that's capitalized on soon. Sure, competing for the Cruiserweight title is cool, but he obviously he won't capture the championship.
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