Velveteen Dream Challenged NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano
It's interesting that despite coming across like a heel in recent months, Gargano embraced the audience here when they cheered him. I guess he's supposed to be a tweener? Anyway, by virtue of winning the Worlds Collide tournament over Royal Rumble weekend, Dream has a guaranteed shot at any championship in NXT of his choosing. He teased going after the NXT Championship only to settle for the North American title instead. From a storyline standpoint, it's odd he'd settle for the midcard belt, but perhaps there's a reason behind his decision that we aren't aware of yet.
Jaxson Ryker def. Monsoor
Ryker just might be the most interesting part about The Forgotten Sons, but even he still needs some fine-tuning. I believe his last singles match back in December had to be re-taped because there were so many botches. This was definitely a better bout, but not by much. He's clearly being made out to look dominant, but I'd rather see Dominik Dijakovic get the television time instead.
Drew Gulak def. Eric Bugenhagen; Matt Riddle def. Gulak
First and foremost, I need to point out how much Bugenhagen impressed me with his outing against Gulak. The dude sweats charisma, and apparently, he's been training at the WWE Performance Center for a while now. He has a huge upside, and although he came up short here, he can be a breakout star in no time. Gulak then issued an open challenge to anyone in the back, which was accepted by Riddle. They proceeded to beat the holy hell out of each other and it was a tremendous match. Their chemistry was off the charts and it was probably the best bout I've seen Riddle have since he arrived in NXT. The show of respect from Gulak to Riddle post-match was a nice touch as well.
Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane and Io Shirai def. NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke
It was smart to have Shafir and Duke do most of the in-ring work for their team early on because they aren't going to improve if they aren't in there with the best NXT women's division has to offer. This didn't have the hottest start as a result, but it turned into a fun six-woman tag team affair once Baszler tagged in. Shirai pinning Baszler for the victory would seem to indicate that she'll be next in line for a shot at the NXT Women's Championship.
This edition of NXT seemed to have a little bit of everything. The Forgotten Sons continue to do nothing for me, but outside of Ryker's brief squash, this was an enjoyable episode. The main event was decent and set up Baszler vs. Shirai for a later date (presumably TakeOver: New York), Bugenhagen shined in his debut, Gulak and Riddle killed it, and Gargano vs. Dream for the North American title was announced for the show happening in two weeks.
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