This was the first episode of NXT held at Full Sail University since TakeOver: New York, so while some new storylines were teased last week, the build to the next TakeOver in San Jose in June would start properly here. Notably, two championship matches were contested on this show.
NXT North American Championship Match
Velveteen Dream (C) vs. Buddy Murphy
We kicked things off with a massive cross-brand title match that was set up last week when NXT North American Champion Velveteen Dream was shown backstage at WrestleMania taunting Buddy Murphy over the loss of his WWE Cruiserweight Championship to Tony Nese. Murphy was moved from 205 Live to SmackDown Live in this week’s Superstar Shake-Up, so this was very much a guest spot for him. Being a former NXT Superstar, and a one-time NXT Tag Team Champion with Wesley Blake, this return to his old stomping ground garnered him a warm reception from the Full Sail crowd. Having much improved in the ring since his NXT days, Murphy put on a great hard-hitting affair with Dream, but given the former Cruiserweight Champion’s new main roster status, there was only going to be one winner here. That victory came when Murphy was struggling to get Dream back into the ring before the referee’s count of 10, so he broke the count himself to gain more time. The idea behind this was supposed to be Murphy showing cleverness, but shouldn’t Dream have still been counted out? Regardless, once inside the ropes, Dream was straight back up, and hit a Famouser, Dream Valley Driver and his top-rope Purple Rainmaker flying elbow in quick succession to retain the title.
Next up, it was time for “Street Talk” with the Street Profits! This was a backstage promo in which the Profits approached NXT General Manager William Regal’s office with the intention of creating opportunities, presumably title opportunities, for themselves. Knocking on the door, they were not greeted with Regal, but with the NXT Tag Team Champions themselves, the newly-christened Viking Experience. The Profits’ theme song had been playing in the background throughout this promo, but when the Vikings appeared, it came to an abrupt end with nice comic timing. Wearing now-outdated merch featuring their former ring name, War Raiders, the Experience told the Profits they had already spoken to Regal and they will be facing them in the ring next week. Given the Viking Experience’s surprise Raw call-up in the Superstar Shake-Up, it looks like a title change will be going down in that match. I had expected the Forgotten Sons to be the ones to defeat the Experience, but the Street Profits are a much preferable option. It seems their victory in last week’s main event was indicative of a bright future.
Johnny Gargano/Undisputed Era Segment
In what was an excellent promo segment, the new NXT Champion, Johnny Gargano, came to the ring here for the first time since winning the title at TakeOver: New York for a typical babyface championship celebration. Equally typically, it wasn’t long before his heel rival would emerge to shoot him down. Adam Cole, accompanied by Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, told Gargano that he was the uncrowned champion, because he won the first fall of their 2 Out Of 3 Falls NXT Championship Match at TakeOver. If it had been any other match, it would have been over at that point. The champ countered however, with the fact that he won two straight falls afterwards, meaning his victory was not only definitive, it was Undisputed! The fact that Cole lost and is therefore crying like a Bay Bay was another zinger from Johnny! Gargano also alluded to the tension shown within the Undisputed Era last week, pointing out that Roderick Strong was nowhere to be seen. He soon appeared though, and jumped Johnny from behind when Cole, O’Reilly and Fish began to approach the ring. The segment ended after Cole’s three goons held Johnny in place for their leader to hit a superkick, and referees rushed to check on Gargano while the Undisputed Era posed for the camera.
Later, the Era were gloating in an interview before they were interrupted by William Regal, who told them Gargano had asked to face Roderick Strong in what looks to be a non-title affair next week. Adam Cole, however, had assumed Regal was going to announce a match between himself and Gargano, and was left looking thoroughly disappointed when that did not transpire, while Strong looked mightily pleased. The road gets rockier for the Undisputed Era, and I look forward to seeing Strong take on Gargano and whatever fallout may occur.
Dominik Dijakovic vs. Aaron Frye
Dominik Dijakovic defeated Aaron Frye in the squashiest of squash matches here, winning with one kick to the face. Frye was given a theme song and a ring introduction, perhaps to make it seem like he was going to put up more of a fight, and make the resulting job a bit more shocking. The real story here was Dijakovic’s post-match promo in which he put over his immigrant parents creating opportunities for him in life, claimed that means opportunity runs in his blood, and issued a challenge to Velveteen Dream and his North American Championship. I’m all for Dijakovic using his foreign heritage in his character, as long as things are kept tasteful.
NXT Women’s Championship Match
Shayna Baszler (C) w/ Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke vs. Kairi Sane
This match carried the stipulation that if Kairi Sane lost, she would never be able to challenge Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship again. These two have engaged in a rivalry dating all the way back to the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament in 2017, where Sane defeated Baszler in the finals. Since then, they have exchanged title victories and most recently Sane challenged Baszler for the title at NXT TakeOver: New York along with her Sky Pirates teammate Io Shirai and Bianca Belair.
Of course, Kairi Sane is now a SmackDown Superstar, having debuted this week in the Superstar Shake-Up, teaming with Asuka. Unavoidably, this removed a lot of the drama from the stakes of the match, which was given a bit of a hype video recapping the feud. Nonetheless, the contest served its purpose well, and although Sane got in a good degree of offense Baszler emerged victorious once again. The manner of victory was a little unusual however. Baszler had Sane in a gruesome-looking armbar-type hold, and when the Pirate Princess reached the ropes she retreated all the way to the outside. The referee then called for a doctor, who came to the ring along with Io Shirai. Baszler reached down and pulled Sane back into the ring, and as the champion made to stomp on the injured arm Shirai entered the ring and attacked her, causing the referee to call for the bell and a DQ victory for Baszler. Shayna would then get in Io’s face, and Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir pulled her to the outside and made her watch as Baszler carried out a brutal attack on Sane’s arm. The show would go off the air with Shayna and her cronies celebrating with the title on the stage, while Shirai crouched over her fallen partner in the ring.
The next chapter in Baszler’s story now seems to be a one-on-one defense against Io Shirai, while Kairi Sane moves onwards and upwards to SmackDown Live. I am expecting Shayna to retain and Bianca Belair to then challenge once again in the final match of a trilogy, but I would not be against a Shirai victory. NXT did a great job here of gaining sympathy for the Sky Pirates, and in NXT canon Sane can be written off with an injury while Shirai defends her honour and faces Baszler.
Elsewhere, we were told that exciting new NXT signing Kushida would be making his in-ring debut in two weeks, and Aliyah and Vanessa Borne issued a challenge to Candice LeRae, who beat Aliyah last week, to find a partner to face them both next week. NXT Superstars who were drafted to a main roster brand in the Superstar Shake-Up were congratulated. Ricochet, Aleister Black, Lacey Evans, EC3 and the Viking Experience went to Raw, and Lars Sullivan, as well as Kairi Sane, went to SmackDown.
Overall, this was another great show, which furthered the storylines in exciting ways for all four champions in NXT and produced two great wrestling matches.