Johnny Gargano def. Dominik Dijakovic
I like the new music for Gargano as I did for Candice LeRae as it fits their heel personas well. It was a necessary change. This was an entertaining opener as Gargano and Dijakovic worked well together. Dijakovic was protected in defeat via the exposed turnbuckle and Gargano maintained momentum with the win. The repackaged duo of Gargano and LeRae is off to a strong start.
Akira Tozawa def. Jack Gallagher in an Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Match
I still find it odd that Tozawa is booked to look like a total loser on Raw yet has now won in back-to-back matches in the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament on NXT. He and Gallagher are both very good, so it's a shame they weren't given more time to do their thing here. Tozawa winning again genuinely surprised me, but it's cool he's been presented as being credible for the first time in years.
Chelsea Green def. Xia Li
I'm still waiting for that breakout performance from Green. She has a great look and I like her pairing with Robert Stone, but her matches have left a lot to be desired thus far. Meanwhile, I can't believe the Xi vs. Aliyah feud is still going on. Granted, Aliyah costing Li the victory here may have been designed to introduce her as the newest client of Stone, but I hope that isn't where this is going. The Robert Stone Brand is hardly established yet and adding Aliyah won't accomplish anything.
Karrion Kross def. Leon Ruff
Kross came across like an absolute star during the entrance alone. Holy shit! I can't wait to see that at a TakeOver eventually. At any rate, this was pure perfection. Kross killed Ruff in under a minute and did so in vicious fashion. Scarlett didn't do much at ringside aside from mouthing the lyrics to his theme song, but just aesthetically, she is an excellent addition to his act. You can tell NXT has big plans for him and rightfully so. He'll be one to watch for sure.
Io Shirai def. NXT Women's Champion Charlotte Flair by Disqualification
Flair vs. Shirai is one of the closest things we have to a "dream match" in WWE at the moment, and while it did have that big fight feel, it wasn't as amazing as I hoped it would be. Rather, it felt like they were holding back a bit, maybe because it was for TV. What we got was enjoyable, but it could have been more. On the bright side, Shirai wasn't beaten clean and the disqualification win keeps her in the title picture. Rhea Ripley returning also spices things up a bit and paves the way for a possible Triple Threat.
Kushida def. Jake Atlas in an Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament Match
Similar to Tozawa vs. Atlas, this was criminally brief and could have been a banger with more time. Kushida and Atlas are exceptional athletes and I was looking forward to seeing what they could do together, but instead, it was rushed and an abbreviated version of what they're actually capable of. If nothing else, it was a fun little match and Kushida going 2-0 was the right call.
Finn Balor Addressed His Attacker; Cameron Grimes def. Denzel Dejournette
I thought the identity of Balor's attacker(s) would be revealed on this show, but unfortunately, all he did was cut a quick promo on them and that was it. I maintain that it was either Imperium (as a way to prolong his program with them until the fall when NXT UK TakeOver: Dublin takes place) or Kross (who previously attacked Tommaso Ciampa backstage). Grimes then made short work of Dejournette and trash-talked Balor, which set up a bout between them for next week.
NXT Champion Adam Cole def. Velveteen Dream
Part of me is almost glad this didn't happen as the main event of TakeOver: Tampa as planned because this really wasn't anything special. It was a pretty solid match on the whole, but the lack of drama and suspense was apparent. Dream also suffered from not having a crowd to play off. As nice of a moment as it would have been for him to finally win the big one, the timing wasn't right and I think his title win would have fallen flat had it happened here. I'm not sure what to make of this Dexter Lumis' involvement or where it's headed, but as for Dream, he's better off in chase mode for now.
This show had a TakeOver-worthy lineup, but it didn't live up to the hype. The top two matches were well-wrestled albeit unspectacular. The night kicked off nicely with the opener and Kross' debut was a highlight, but I wasn't fond of the filler and the Interim NXT Cruiserweight title tourney matches were way too short this week. NXT has been doing its best in recent weeks in the empty arena, but this could have been a stronger effort.
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