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.
Bianca Belair Won the Women's Battle Royal
Although this had less competitors in it than the men's, I found it to be a way more convoluted. Most of the ladies weren't thrown out until much later on, so the pacing was off and some of the eliminations felt rushed. As a result, this felt like it lasted way longer than it did. On the bright side, the closing stretch was strong with Belair and Io Shirai going at it before Belair ultimately won. They have history from when they both contended for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: New York (and lost).
Roderick Strong Won the Men's Battle Royal
As noted, I enjoyed this more than than the women's because of how everything just seemed to click a lot better. There were a handful of people who shined at various points and, similar to Belair and Shirai, I loved the final few minutes with Strong and Tyler Bate. They have worked very well together in the past, so I was thrilled that they were able to rip it up once again here. It'd be interesting if Strong brought up this victory on an upcoming episode of NXT TV with all the Undisputed Era turmoil going on right now, but I doubt it will ever be mentioned again.
Candice LeRae def. Kay Lee Ray
Ray vs. LeRae? Please tell me that was done on purpose. In all seriousness, this was an enjoyable outing that was given a solid chunk of time. I realize these matches don't matter much, but I was slightly surprised LeRae went over, just because she isn't doing anything in NXT at the moment whereas Ray recently debuted in NXT UK and is in the midst of a push.
Piper Niven def. Zelina Vega
All right, so the outcome was never once in doubt, but this was still fun while it lasted. Vega is great at being a slimy heel and trying to dodge her opponent's offense. She used Niven's size against her at various points, but it wasn't enough to earn her the victory. Niven debuted in NXT UK earlier this month, yet I already have a good feeling about her future on the brand.
Tyler Bate def. The Brian Kendrick
This match was the perfect mix of comedy and action with Bate and Kendrick working extremely well together. Their similar styles engaged the crowd and made for a very enjoyable outing to kick off the show. I actually had the chance to see parts of this in person while at WrestleMania Axxess that Friday. Sometimes I think people sleep on Kendrick and how good he actually is since he isn't on 205 Live all that often nowadays, but matches such as this one serve as a reminder of his skills.
Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews def. Mike Kanellis and Ariya Daivari
I was worried that this wouldn't be all that interesting based off the involvement of Daivari and Kanellis and how I figured they wouldn't have much chemistry as a tandem, and although that was true to an extent, Webster and Andrews are an exciting enough duo that they were able to carry them to a solid match. This had a nice pace, but the flashy offense from Webster and Andrews was what really stood out to me.
Kassius Ohno def. Aiden English
I honestly forgot English was still an active competitor. To my knowledge, he hasn't wrestled a single match since he joined 205 Live commentary earlier this year, but I guess he's still technically a member of the SmackDown Live roster. I'm sure these two crossed paths at some point in the early days of NXT. I was glad that this was this shortest of all the matches on this show because it wasn't all that interesting. Ohno making a crack about how the fans were cheering for a commentator was funny, though.
Luke Harper def. Dominik Dijakovic
Dijakovic and Harper have been hyping up this encounter for weeks and it did not disappoint. What I wanted more than anything else was for them to get the time they deserved, and thankfully, that ended up being the case. It definitely felt like both guys went out there with something to prove and put it all on the line in an effort to leave a lasting impression and they surely did just that. This was a very fun and hard-hitting affair where the crowd was engaged in the action the entire time. Harper looked beyond happy to be back in the ring, which is why it's such a shame he was treated like an afterthought in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal days later. Here's hoping he'll receive some direction coming out of this week's Superstar Shake-up.
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