Roderick Strong def. Bronson Reed
Undisputed Era attacked Reed backstage last week, so it made sense for him want to get back at Strong here. He's a hell of an athlete, but I don't like how he isn't protected enough despite being a big guy. He scored plenty of offense against Strong, and even though he had the advantage of the distraction from Velveteen Dream, he still came up short. Meanwhile, Dream comes across like a heel for targeting Strong's family, but maybe the idea is that he's justified in doing so because Strong and company put him on the shelf for so long.
Dakota Kai def. Candice LeRae
Kai and LeRae previously faced off soon after Kai's heel turn at TakeOver: WarGames III and Kai got herself disqualified, so I liked that they delivered a decisive finish here. This was another quality contest from them, though I feel they haven't done the best job of establishing LeRae's involvement in this angle. I know they and Tegan Nox are good friends outside the ring, but I'm not sure if that's been touched upon much on TV. Kai needed the win after losing to Nox two weeks ago.
Johnny Gargano def. Cameron Grimes
This marked Gargano's first match at Full Sail University since early October. Before that, he hadn't wrestled at Full Sail since June. He feels more special because he doesn't compete as often as he used to, and if he isn't going to move to the main roster, that's how he should be booked. This served as an exhibition of sorts for him before he faces Finn Balor at TakeOver: Portland, though Grimes looked good in defeat and it was a lot of fun while it lasted.
Lio Rush def. Angel Garza in an NXT Cruiserweight Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
These two have had a stellar series of matches against each other for the last few months and this was another excellent encounter from them. Their offense was innovative, the crowd was hot, and they pulled out all the stops. It helped that I genuinely didn't know who would win, but Rush's victory was logical. Garza is already on Raw and a heel vs. heel match with him and Jordan Devlin would have been a strange dynamic. Rush vs. Devlin should be a blast.
Bianca Belair def. Santana Garrett
Garrett and Mercedes Martinez are a tale of two signings. Martinez was immediately pushed within weeks of arriving in NXT, whereas NXT has done absolutely nothing with Garrett since she signed in September. She's lost two matches on TV and that's yet. This was a complete squash for Belair before she challenges Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver. Speaking of Ripley, she surfaced afterward and got laid out by Belair. I guess that was designed to give viewers the impression she has a chance of winning on Sunday, but I still say Ripley retains and defends against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 36.
NXT Champion Adam Cole def. Kushida (Non-Title)
As big of a fan as I am of Kushida, his NXT run up to this point has definitely been a tad underwhelming. He hasn't been given enough chances to shine and has been directionless since suffering his first loss to WALTER back in October. It was nice to see him spotlighted in the main event for a change in a match with the NXT Champion, even though there was never any doubt that Cole was winning. That would probably explain why the crowd was dead in the final few minutes, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless. The post-match confrontation with Cole and Tommaso Ciampa could have been hotter, but then again, that contract signing a few weeks ago where Ciampa got bloody felt like the peak of their program.
As a go-home show for TakeOver: Portland this Sunday, I thought this edition of NXT was successful in hyping up all of the advertised matches for the event. Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne didn't appear in front of the crowd, but the videos they were featured in that aired throughout the night were entertaining. Interestingly, I didn't find anything from this episode must-see, but the wrestling delivered and everything served a purpose. I also appreciated how they announced Dream vs. Strong, Devlin vs. Garza for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship, and Chelsea Green vs. Kayden Carter for next week.
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