This episode of NXT was interesting in that it featured mostly in-ring action and little by the way of promo segments. Four matches were contested on the show, and storylines were furthered for both main eventers and midcarders.
Jaxson Ryker w/ Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake vs. Humberto Carrillo
After having dispatched of the Brit-Am Brawlers, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, in recent weeks, Jaxson Ryker of the Forgotten Sons turned his attention here to Lorcan’s 205 Live brand-mate, Humberto Carrillo. The Mexican Carrillo looked to get out of the gates early and use his quickness to his advantage against the bruiser Ryker, but Ryker is equally agile and was well matched up to Carrillo’s tactics. After gaining the upper hand, Ryker would nail his No Remorse sit-out chokeslam, which seems to have been re-christened the Widowmaker, but instead of attempting a pinfall he simply took Carrillo to the outside and brutalised him further. Sending him over the barricade and onto the unforgiving concrete, Ryker continued to pummel Carrillo, forcing the referee to call for a stoppage to the contest. After yet more punishment, Lorcan and Burch would make the save for Carrillo, armed with steel chairs. I enjoyed this hectic brawl, and as suspected, Lorcan and Burch have found a third man for a six-man tag team blowoff to their rivalry with the Forgotten Sons.
Aliyah & Vanessa Borne vs. Candice LeRae & Kacy Catanzaro
After Candice LeRae defeated Aliyah two weeks ago in Brooklyn, the Borne and Boujee Duo claimed that due to the location of the match, Aliyah was ill-prepared to wrestle, having been pre-occupied with the high life of New York City. They thus challenged Candice to find a partner to face them in tag team action. Kacy Catanzaro was LeRae’s recruit, and this match was fine and ended up being a comfortable victory for Candice and Kacy, which Candice picked up with a springboard moonsault. I was under the impression prior to this bout that Candice had a future match with Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship in her sights, but if commentary is anything to be believed, it is more likely she and Kacy will face the IIconics, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships.
War Raiders vs. Street Profits
This match was set up last week when the Street Profits were greeted with the War Raiders outside NXT General Manager William Regal’s office. The Profits had been on their way there intent on creating an opportunity for themselves, having defeated Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner in Brooklyn. The Raiders had instead set up this match with William Regal themselves. Although War Raiders are now Raw Superstars under a modified name, the Viking Raiders, here they were still referred to as the War Raiders, presumably due to this show having been taped prior to their switch to the main roster. I was disappointed to find the NXT Tag Team Championships were not at stake in this contest, as that seemed to be the implication of last week’s backstage segment. It mattered little, however, despite the Profits being in the ascendancy early, taking out the Raiders before they could even get in the ring, and nailing their spinebuster/top rope frog splash for a big near fall. The momentum would soon shift, with the Raiders using their power and strength advantage to full effect, scoring the pinfall win with the double-team powerslam that is now known on Raw as the Viking Experience. This was an odd piece of booking, as with the Raiders now having been moved to Raw, it seems necessary for them to drop their championships as soon as possible. Instead, this match didn’t do much more than put them over and keep them strong. I guess I was correct in my initial supposition that the Forgotten Sons will be the ones to dethrone the Raiders, and that should happen after the feud with the Brit-Am Brawlers is paid off.
Johnny Gargano vs. Roderick Strong
Last week, Roderick Strong jumped Johnny Gargano from behind during a promo battle with Roddy’s Undisputed Era leader Adam Cole, and this led to a four-on-one beatdown on Gargano. Johnny then asked William Regal for a match with Strong, at which Cole appeared disappointed and jealous of his teammate. Earlier tonight, Matt Riddle confronted Cole backstage during a photoshoot, and called him out over his apparent jealousy of Strong. All these combustible elements combined to tell the best story on this week’s episode of NXT. In the midst of a cracking bout between Gargano and an unaccompanied Strong, Cole crept out to ringside and jumped up onto the apron, causing Gargano to break the Gargano Escape that he had Strong locked in. The remaining two members of Undisputed Era, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, would soon follow Cole out to the ring, but Riddle was behind them and in the midst of the chaos Strong reached out to try and attract Cole’s attention. Cole reacted instinctively, and nailed a kick on Strong, thinking he was Gargano. This allowed Gargano to easily hit Strong with a slingshot DDT and pick up the three-count. Gargano and Riddle would share a fist-bump on the way out, while Undisputed Era left arguing.
The biggest development here for me was that the heelish side to Matt Riddle we saw at NXT TakeOver: New York appears to be forgotten, although if he goes on to face Gargano for the NXT Championship and turns there, it won’t be entirely surprising given how we saw him behave in his match against Velveteen Dream. The seeds have been sown in his character. It is also satisfying that they appear determined not to rush an Undisputed Era split, and are building to it in the right way.
Elsewhere on this show, we saw Shayna Baszler and her buddies attack Io Shirai in the middle of a backstage interview, building on the events of last week’s main event, where they made Shirai watch as Baszler brutally assaulted Kairi Sane. With Sane now on the main roster, a Baszler vs. Shirai match seems inevitable. Also, Kassius Ohno was announced as the debuting Kushida’s opponent next week in a backstage segment between Ohno and William Regal. Ohno will be making a return to his old stomping ground from his new home brand of NXT UK. This should be a brilliant match. I love the hard-hitting style that Ohno employs, and he is an altogether unsurprising first opponent for Kushida given the role that he has been used in previously on NXT and now in NXT UK.
Overall, this was a fun episode of NXT, but I didn’t think it hit the heady heights of what NXT is capable of thanks to a couple of odd booking decisions. I am hugely looking forward to Kushida’s debut next week, however. It feels a while since the viewer has been treated to a big NXT debut, so it should be exciting.