NXT Champion Adam Cole def. Matt Riddle
Considering the show aired opposite of AEW Dynamite on TNT, kicking things off with this banger of a bout was a smart move. Sure enough, this was every bit as exciting as I expected it to be and then some. You could tell they were determined to go out there and steal the show, and they did just that. The action was exceptional, the crowd was white hot for everything they did, and every nearfall was suspenseful. This was seriously TakeOver main event worthy and ranks among my favorite WWE/NXT matches of the year. Despite an incredible effort, Riddle just barely fell short. Unless he goes for the NXT North American Championship at TakeOver: WarGames III, a move to the main roster could very well be in the cards for him (especially with the WWE Draft right around the corner). As if that wasn't amazing enough for the opening to this episode, Finn Balor showed up to a huge reaction before declaring that he is officially a member of the NXT roster. That's a tremendous get for the black-and-gold brand, and it's not as if he was doing anything of note on the main roster, anyway.
Velveteen Dream Addressed NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong
One criticism many have had of NXT so far is that the show on USA Network has been devoid of in-ring promos, so I'm glad we got one here. Granted, it didn't actually take place in the ring nor did it last long, but it was mic time on television, nonetheless. Dream put Strong on notice and basically challenged him to a rematch for the North American title. I assume that will go down on an upcoming episode as opposed to being saved for TakeOver: WarGames III (which isn't for another month and a half).
Io Shirai def. Mia Yim
Shirai is one of the best women's wrestlers this company has under contract (and that goes for the main roster, too), so you can always expect her to deliver whenever she's in action. Yim hasn't had much success since losing to Shayna Baszler at TakeOver: Toronto II, so it made sense for her to lose here. Even though there wasn't nothing on the line in this matchup, they worked wonderfully together and proved why NXT's women's division is one of the strongest out there.
Johnny Gargano def. Shane Thorne
Interestingly enough, Gargano hasn't competed on an episode of NXT TV since May, so it would have been nice if WWE advertised this as his in-ring return (making it feel like a bigger deal in the process). Nevertheless, this was a quality contest with Thorne getting plenty of offense in before losing. The outcome was never in doubt, of course, but I was glad that Thorne was able to look credible in defeat. Whether this will be the peak of his push remains to be seen, though.
NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler def. Candice LeRae
Everyone has an opinion on Baszler and whether she's booked brilliantly as a dominant heel champion or is just boring and charismatic, but I think there is a case to be made for her being one of the best NXT Women's Championship in the brand's history. Virtually every match she's had with the title on the line has ranged from good to great and this was no exception. She thrives against smaller opposition such as LeRae and they had terrific chemistry as a result. I really thought LeRae would win the title, but alas, as close as she came, it didn't happen. Baszler now approaches the one year mark as NXT Women's Champion, which is a phenomenal feat. At this point, I believe it will be Dakota Kai who beats Baszler for the belt given their history.
Pete Dunne def. Danny Burch
Burch may not be all that exciting on his own, but he can hang with the best of them as we saw here in his outing against Dunne. This was an incredibly hard-hitting affair that was just a blast to watch. It was weird for Burch's two victories last week on NXT and 205 Live to be followed up with a loss on this show, but it's not like he was totally squashed by Dunne. I liked Damian Priest showing up and attacking Dunne afterward as that will give both guys something to do going forward.
NXT Tag Team Champions Undisputed Era def. Street Profits
Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish are such a spectacular team and make magic with everyone they step in the ring with. I've really enjoyed the series of matches they've had with Street Profits since TakeOver: Toronto II and this was on par with that original encounter. We all knew Street Profits would lose, and although that's exactly what went down, it was a wonderful ride. Wale coming down to the ring with Street Profits was a cool touch, even if it would have been cooler if it was Josiah Williams (who rapped Adam Cole to the ring at TakeOver: XXV) instead. With an official main roster call-up imminent, I figured the show would close with Street Profits taking a bow in front of the audience, so Tommaso Ciampa showing up on the stage and going face-to-face with Cole was wild. What a cliffhanger.
All things considered, this was essentially a TakeOver-level show from NXT, except on free television. If this is what we're going to get every week with the Wednesday Night Wars upon us, I'm pumped. The funny thing is, I thought NXT was the superior show. Maybe not by much, but the two returns alone outshined anything Dynamite did on their broadcast. Furthermore, Cole vs. Riddle was out of this world, while the other matches were a ton of fun as well. This will go down as one of the most well-rounded episodes of NXT ever and I couldn't be any more excited for the immediate future of the brand.
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