By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Shinsuke Nakamura and Austin Aries def. Blake and Murphy
While I was selfishly hoping for Bobby Roode to make his NXT debut alongside Aries, Nakamura surely wasn't a poor consolation prize as Aries' mystery partner. The match mostly consisted of the babyfaces on offense, so this was essentially a showcase for them. I love how Aries has incorporated how he's flown under the radar since debuting in NXT into his character and the commentators questioned how wise it was for him to pair up with someone who the crowd adores more than him. That should be the perfect set-up for a match at TakeOver. Alexa Bliss walking out on Blake and Murphy afterward all but confirmed that they're going their separate ways (along with the backstage segment that aired later on) and it's about damn time. Bliss can be a real player in the women's division whereas Blake and Murphy have already peaked.
Carmella def. Peyton Royce
It's really amazing how Carmella has been able to turn the crowd in her favor over the past year. They despised her when she initially arrived for whatever reason, but even without Enzo Amore and Big Cass by her side, the faithful at Full Sail University have taken to her as a fan favorite very nicely. To boot, she's also gotten significantly better in the ring as seen in this match and I'm glad she's established her goal to become NXT Women's Champion. Royce has a unique look and she showed some signs of potential here, but I'd like to see more of what she's capable of in the future.
Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa def. Danny Burch and Rob Ryzin
I'm ecstatic Gargano and Ciampa are finally under contract to NXT because, as I said earlier with Bliss, it was about damn time! They had a very fun outing here versus the enhancement talent and I look forward to seeing them mix it up with the rest of the tag team division. However, both men will be on their own in the upcoming Cruiserweight Classic series, so I'm interested as to whether this will be a short-term pairing or if that will be ignored all together.
Nia Jax def. Bayley
Perhaps it was because they told a different story this time around, but I enjoyed this match much more than their encounter in London back in December. That was a solid affair, but I thought the over-reliance on the choke hold hindered the quality of the contest more than it helped it. It seems to me that Jax can be carried to competent match with the right opponent, such as Bayley, and this is the best she has ever looked. The clean victory surprised me, but it definitely solidified her as a threat to the title. Could we see a Triple Threat match for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver?
I don't know what it is (maybe because I just re-watched the new NXT DVD that was recently released for the second time this month), but I'm on such an NXT high right now, so needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. A new match was made for TakeOver (American Alpha vs. The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championship), Aries and Nakamura made for a fantastic tandem, Bliss finally broke off on her own, and the women had a nice night as well. The next TakeOver special couldn't be here soon enough!
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