This was an an action-packed episode of NXT, with story development aplenty from the very beginning. It also marked the first appearance of Beth Phoenix at the announcer’s desk, as Percy Watson has departed WWE for pastures new. I really enjoyed Percy’s work on NXT commentary and am sad to see him go, but wish him the best of luck for the future. Beth Phoenix has large shoes to fill! Last week we had been promised an appearance by the Viking Raiders to address the state of the NXT Tag Team Championship, and they were up first.
Viking Raiders Segment
Erik and Ivar hit the ring with their title belts in tow, and talked about how of late they had been raiding Monday Night Raw, and have no plans to slow those raids down. This meant, however, that seeing as there was nobody in NXT who could beat them for their championships, they needed to speak to NXT General Manager William Regal. The GM came to the ring and the Raiders duly attempted to relinquish their titles, but were interrupted by Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford, the Street Profits! The Profits talked about how they took the Raiders all the way in their recent match against them, and had the NXT Universe believing that they could beat them even though they lost. The Profits are so charismatic on the mic. They even teased the Raiders about their recent name change! Anyhow, the segment would culminate in Regal booking the Raiders to defend the titles against the Profits in tonight’s main event!
This wasn’t the last of the build to this match. Later, the Forgotten Sons angrily entered William Regal’s office to demand why the Street Profits were handed a title opportunity, when they are the more deserving team. Up until this point, I was actually anticipating a title change, but this was a reminder of how strongly booked the Forgotten Sons are. More to come on this one later.
Keith Lee vs Cezar Bononi
Keith Lee was making a return from injury against Cezar Bononi here, an injury which had caused his program with Dominik Dijakovic to be nixed just as it was getting started. Disappointingly, Dijakovic was announced by Mauro Ranallo as having his own injury, a torn meniscus, so it looks like his burgeoning feud with NXT North American Champion Velveteen Dream will also hit the backburner. As for this match, it was a fine contest, with Bononi, who is similar in size and stature to Dijakovic, putting up a good fight but eventually falling to Lee’s huge Spirit Bomb. Keith Lee is too talented to not be involved in the main event scene in NXT, and hopefully this victory is a sign of things to come.
Kushida vs Kona Reeves
Hot off the heels of his victory two weeks ago over Kassius Ohno, Kushida returned to in-ring action here against “The Finest” Kona Reeves. This was another excellent display of what Kushida can do inside the ropes, but was this time punctuated by an appearance from Drew Gulak, who got a decent pop when he came out but anticlimactically decided to simply watch the match from the stage! Gulak, traditionally a 205 Live competitor, is no stranger to NXT, having had an excellent match with Matt Riddle on the black and yellow brand in the weeks prior to WrestleMania. Kushida defeated Reeves with the Hoverboard Lock after a decent contest, and he and Gulak stared daggers at each other across the arena. Kushida vs Gulak would be a TakeOver match to salivate over.
Vanessa Borne (w/ Aliyah) vs Jessie
Jessie is best known to fans through her appearance in last year’s Mae Young Classic where she exited at the first round stage to Taynara Conti. Here, she took on Vanessa Borne, who was hoping her own fortunes would improve after lacklustre results in recent weeks against Candice LeRae and Kacy Catanzaro. This was a great display of Borne’s natural sass and swagger, and she showed her heelishness when she distracted the referee and allowed Aliyah to get involved from the outside. Borne won the match with a nasty-looking swinging neckbreaker, and as a big fan of Vanessa, I would not be averse to her becoming involved in the NXT Women’s Championship scene going forward.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match
Viking Raiders (c) vs Street Profits
This match was of course set up earlier during an in-ring segment, and with the Viking Raiders’ NXT status somewhat up in the air due to their regular appearances on Monday Night Raw, it was not totally clear heading in who would emerge victorious. This made for an exciting encounter, and one which I thought the Street Profits had won when Montez Ford hit an absolutely gigantic Frog Splash from the top rope, a move which garnered a count from the referee of 2.999! But of course, as they alluded to earlier outside William Regal’s office, the Forgotten Sons soon got involved in the match as they attacked Erik outside the ring, causing a disqualification and no title change. This would devolve into an all-out brawl between the three teams, with Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch soon joining the fray as well. The Viking Raiders ended up standing tall, and after they cleared the ring, took a bow for the Full Sail crowd. Despite their attempts at the beginning of the show to vacate the titles, the Viking Raiders still walked out champions, and it appears that we are headed for a four-way tag at TakeOver where they will drop the titles, in my mind to the Forgotten Sons. This was an exciting main event, though, and there is still hope for the Street Profits.
Elsewhere on the show, it appears the issues between Roderick Strong and Adam Cole are over, but events didn’t go down without an interesting twist. We were shown a clip of Cole and Strong shouting and swearing at each other outside after Strong got involved in Cole’s loss to Matt Riddle last week, and Cole appeared to tell Strong he was no longer welcome in the Undisputed Era. We were then shown a backstage interview with Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish this week, in which they appear to confirm that this is a case. In the background, there are shouts and security guards run past. Strong then approaches Undisputed Era, clad in his own merchandise, and things look to get heated. However, he then hands Cole a flip flop, sinisterly adorned with droplets of blood, and tells him that his Riddle problem has been taken care of. The Undisputed Era all crease into smiles, and Strong and Cole embrace. It was a really well-done swerve, and I was thoroughly entertained by the whole segment.
Later, we are shown Riddle getting his ribs bandaged with Johnny Gargano by his side, and Gargano announces that he will be facing Adam Cole at TakeOver for the NXT Championship once again. We are also informed that Io Shirai will be challenging Shayna Baszler at TakeOver for the NXT Women’s Championship, but that may not be the final incarnation of the match. Bianca Belair was shown making her way to William Regal’s office to ask for another shot at the title, but as she approached she was greeted with Mia Yim, who said she’d asked Regal for a rematch with Belair after Bianca used her hair to beat her last week. I am hoping that next week Belair beats Yim clean this time, and is then added to the championship match at TakeOver.
This was in my mind the best episode of NXT since TakeOver: New York, with storylines being furthered throughout the entire card, and a good number of wrestling matches to enjoy. With two more episodes to go until TakeOver: XXV, the show is happily hotting up and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the build ends up unfolding.