This was a very unusual and unique episode of NXT. It was an episode of monumental proportions that thrust the main event scene of NXT into complete flux. For a viewer who does not follow the world of wrestling on the internet, and has no access to backstage news, rumours or gossip, this show would have been staggering. Everyone else knew it was coming, but that does not make it any less pivotal. Yes, the major development on this show was the news that, three weeks out of NXT TakeOver: New York, Tommaso Ciampa has had serious neck surgery and has been forced to vacate the NXT Championship. NXT founder, as he was announced, and of course WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H was on hand to break it down.
Triple H Segment
The Game was here for a rare appearance at Full Sail University, newly vacated NXT Championship in his hand. He put over the brand and its talent, saying that this is where dreams are made, this is where they begin, and sadly for some, this is where they end. The plan was, of course, to announce that Ciampa would defend the NXT Championship against Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: New York, in the culmination of a two-year long storyline and rivalry. But Ciampa’s dream has ended, at least for now, so Gargano needs a new opponent. How will that be decided? By a Fatal Five Way match in tonight’s main event. NXT North American Champion Velveteen Dream, Matt Riddle, Adam Cole, Ricochet and Aleister Black are to be the five competitors who have the chance to face Gargano for the title.
As mentioned, this episode of NXT was unique and unusual because it was simply built around one match, the main and only event, which lasted for approximately half the runtime of the show. From Triple H’s promo until the entrances for the match, we are just shown vignettes hyping the competitors and backstage interviews with other wrestlers asking their views on the match. We are also shown footage of Ciampa and his family in the hospital, which seemed to set him up for a babyface return. Personally, I’d rather he returned to sneak attack Gargano on whichever brand he happens to be on at the time. The most recent chapter of the rivalry ended with Gargano standing tall, so Ciampa should be eager for payback. And he should be eager to blame Gargano for, in his mind, costing him the one thing he cares about: his title.
NXT Championship #1 Contendership Fatal Five Way Match: Velveteen Dream vs Matt Riddle vs Adam Cole vs Ricochet vs Aleister Black
Simply by looking at the talent in this match, one thing was perfectly clear from the moment it was announced: it was going to be one hell of a bout, and so it proved. Five of the premier Superstars on the NXT roster going all out for the chance to main event TakeOver: New York and compete for the NXT Championship, which is currently in the first vacancy in its history. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. I particularly enjoyed the subplots to the match. Tag team partners Ricochet and Aleister Black managed to coexist despite competing against each other, Black and Velveteen Dream had several callbacks to their award-winning rivalry, and the recent tensions between Dream and Matt Riddle were apparent. In the end, the contest was won by Adam Cole, in a great moment of heel opportunism. Ricochet had performed a hurricanrana on Dream, sending him from the top turnbuckle to the outside and crashing onto Cole and Black. Ricochet was straight to his feet, and mounted the turnbuckle to hit a picture-perfect Shooting Star Press on a prone Riddle. As he went for the cover, he was hit from behind with a Last Shot by Cole, who showed great toughness in managing to withstand the collision from seconds earlier. Cole then pinned an out-cold Ricochet to advance to TakeOver: New York.
This was my predicted outcome when I saw the field, as Dream and Riddle seem to be embroiled in their own program for the North American title, and Ricochet and Black are hopefully bound for victory in the Dusty Cup and the War Raiders. Gargano vs Cole will be a great main event, and whoever wins should go on to have a great title run.
Overall this was an outstanding episode of NXT considering it had to have been hastily re-written. It did a great job of showcasing five of its top stars, featured an outstanding match for the #1 Contendership, and even had a rare appearance from the boss, Triple H.