Two nights out from TakeOver: New York, this episode of NXT served to put the finishing touches on the build for the five matches taking place on the card.
War Raiders vs. Two unnamed competitors/Adrian Jaoude & Cezar Bononi
As the tag team division in NXT has been represented by the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament over the last several weeks, the Tag Team Champions War Raiders have felt a little like an afterthought on NXT TV. These two matches here reminded viewers of their position as champions of the division and their ferocious hoss brawling style. The first two chaps they faced received neither a ring entrance nor introduction, but did get a humorous “Let’s Go Jobbers” chant from the Full Sail crowd! Needless to say, War Raiders made quick work of the bout, before getting on the mic and announcing that another team was to face them. That team was Adrian Jaoude and Cezar Bononi, who put up a bit of a stronger fight but soon still succumbed to the Raiders’ dominance. Re-establishing the champions’ heat was much needed, especially given that their opponents at TakeOver, Ricochet and Aleister Black, are currently being booked strongly on all three top WWE brands, and thus will be the team at the forefront of the viewer’s mind when it comes to this match. I do expect War Raiders to win though, and Ricochet and Black to move up to the main roster full-time.
Jaxson Ryker w/ Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake vs. Oney Lorcan w/ Danny Burch
Speaking of re-establishing heat, this match served to put the Forgotten Sons over once again after their defeat in the finals of the Dusty Classic. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch made a swift first-round exit from the tournament at the hands of the Forgotten Sons, and Jaxson Ryker had Lorcan’s number once again in this one. The match itself was a good singles version of that barroom brawl of a tag match, and Ryker ended up winning with his No Remorse sit-out chokeslam. While they may have lost the final match of the tournament, WWE clearly consider the Forgotten Sons a big deal, and a War Raiders vs. Forgotten Sons championship match down the road seems a foregone conclusion. I do think they would have great chemistry in the ring given the similarity of their styles, so I’m looking forward to that eventual bout.
Kairi Sane vs. Bianca Belair
In the main event, Bianca Belair and Kairi Sane did battle to try and gain an edge going into the Fatal Four Way match for the Women’s Championship at TakeOver: New York, where they will also face the champion Shayna Baszler and Sane’s Sky Pirates partner Io Shirai. This was the best segment of the night for me. The match was very good, though it was once again ruined by Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, who ran in and attacked Belair and Sane. Shirai came down to even the odds and an all-out brawl broke out. More chaos was to come, however, as the entire women’s locker room would empty out and join in with the fight! I loved the idea of the women’s division finally getting their chance to get one over on Baszler after her frequent interference in matches to assert her own dominance. In the end, Shirai was the one standing tall, holding the NXT Women’s Championship above her head. Will that be the sight after the four way on Friday? Will Sane join Baszler as a two-time Women’s Champion in NXT? Will Belair finish what she started at TakeOver: Phoenix? Or will Baszler continue her reign of terror over the NXT women’s division?
Elsewhere on this show, we were shown amazing promo packages for Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream vs. Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne vs. WALTER, the matches at TakeOver which didn’t get live segments putting over the competitors. Matches for future episodes of NXT TV were also announced: Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic, Aliyah vs. Candice LeRae and The Street Profits vs. Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel.
Overall, this show did a good job of hyping TakeOver, although I would have liked to have seen live segments building to every match with the video packages being saved for TakeOver itself. The main event segment was absolutely excellent, and served its purpose fantastically.