Hey, it’s NXT, last week saw Full Sail shocked by Finn Balor kicking Johnny Gargano in the head and continued domination by the Undisputed Era resulting in good in-ring action and a quickly ingratiating storyline of Era resplendent. This week though had two big women’s matches to help distract from that including the NXT return of two former Women’s Champions in Kairi Sane and longest-ever NXT Women Champ, Asuka. Let’s find out what happened.

The Undercard

Bronson Reed def. Shane Thorne // Reed pinned Thorne off a Frog Splash

Packages & Promos

Finn Balor explained why he kicked Johnny Gargano in the face, through a barricade and dropped him on his head. Explaining that it’s because too many wrestlers these days are fans of wrestling. Those losers, on twitter. He declared that where Wyatt became the hottest thing by putting on a mask, he did it by taking one off. This was another good promo ruined by the sheer awfulness of Full Sail audiences.

We got a Kabuki Warriors highlight reel with some sick J-Rock. Why can’t they have that instead of their rubbish theme mash-up?

We got a Tyler Bate highlight heel.

Team Fly Kicks were interviewed and explain why they’re going to win tonight.

We got a Mia Yim highlight reel.

Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae

First off, let’s acknowledge it, this wasn’t as good as their frankly astonishing TakeOver match but they made up for it by giving Shirai the full TakeOver treatment with a special entrance to everyone’s favourite Illuminati empathy-bot Poppy singing her hit track ‘Scary Mask’. What became very clear during this match it how significantly the 50/50 split of support for both performers seemed to be weighted with it sounding like the Shirai supporters were all-male where the LeRae fanbase was more mixed. I’m not saying that female wrestling fans are smarter than men because they actually cheer the face but frankly, most men suck and so do all people who cheer heels. Anyway, the match was still really good with both women working at the height of their powers at the moment. The only really weird moment of in-ring action was a very abrupt finish as LeRae lost after a lionsault onto a chair. While it was well telegraphed, it seemed like there was a minute or two to put a button on the action still to go that we missed out on. That shouldn’t stop this being an enjoyable match featuring two of the best in the WWE. Post-match: Shirai stayed on the attack until Rhea Ripley made the save

Winner: Io Shirai

WWE Women’s Tag-Team Championship: Team Fly Kicks (Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai) vs Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane)

Today it was Wales vs New Zealand in Japan for the third-place play-off of the 2019 Rugby World Cup but here, it was Wales & New Zealand vs Japan in tag-team action. My first tip for if you haven’t watched this match, have Chris Brooke’s current entrance music of Babymetal – Awadama Fever cued up and play it instead of the rubbish Kabuki Warrior theme mash-up. It slaps, it works it drowns out Full Sail. Anyway, surprising news, this match was very good. I was confused at first as to why Asuka and Sane were working over Kai’s good leg but it really paid off as it meant that down the stretch, we could see the pain in either of Kai’s legs as her signature knee and kick-based offence was impacted, especially after a beautiful scorpion kick, the sight of Kai, one of the most underrated face-in-perils of the modern-day, crawling to a hot tag.

Nox’s hot tag had a real fire to it and it’s clear from her and Kai’s time in Stardom, that they are very comfortable working in the Joshi pocket. Also, it’s nice to see Nox has been watching the tapes of when Kabuki Warriors won the title, dodging the eye poke on the apron from Sane. But really, this was the champion’s match. This was their big homecoming to NXT and both Asuka and Sane were treated like the stars they were and in turn, they worked like the top-tier talents they are, highlighting their’s and their opponent’s strengths beautifully. Asuka’s reversal of a Shiniest Wizard into a kneebar was particularly beautiful but equally impressive was the way Nox transitioned it into a cross arm breaker. The finish as Asuka hit the mist on Kai allowing for Sane to drop the anchor on that InSane Elbow drop was very effective. This was exceptionally strong action that would have been even better if given a few more minutes to really drag some more tension out of that final stretch. Post-match: The 3 Horsewomen attack till Rhea Ripley comes to help, till Shirai attacks Ripley, till LeRae attacks Shirai, then Bianca BelAir comes in too. Regal and a small army of referees and ring crew separate them with Regal declaring the only way they can sort this pandemonium is in “NXT TAKEOVER: WARGAMES!” Give it to me, now.

Winner: Kabuki Warriors

Tyler Bate vs Cameron Grimes

Tyler Bate is at a point in his career where I’m not sure he can have a bad match but what I don’t like is that this re-debut on NXT seems to be using him as a fall guy to build towards Pete Dunne vs Killian Dain. Bate, as arguably the most complete performer of the trio known as British Strong Style, deserves better than being Peter’s fall guy. Either way, this was a solid, well-structured, well-performed match that elevated Grimes to the point that he was able to escape The Undercard (sorry to Reed and Thorne for leaving them alone in there). Its main problem is that just as it was really starting to heat up, the action spilled outside and Dain intervened giving Grimes an opening for the flash Double Stomp for the pin. Without the Dain bollocks, this would have been a strong encounter and one that I hope they revisit with more time at a later date. Post-match: Dain attacked Bate. Dain continues to be fine.

Winner: Cameron Grimes

Keith Lee & Matt Riddle vs Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)

Of tonight’s five matches, two ended in victory via distraction. When 40% of your matches have distraction finishes, maybe you need to start getting a little more inventive. The four men put on a good encounter, it had a real house show ‘get your stuff in’ feel giving Lee and Riddle a chance to showcase their under-utilised tag chemistry. The major problem this match had was that it felt like it and the Women’s tag earlier in the show were in the wrong order leaving that one feeling like it had an under-developed final stretch and this one with an over-extended middle. Sometimes you just want to watch the bad guys get kicked and when they did give us that, it was beautiful but as good as all four members of the Undisputed Era are, I’ve been getting a bit worn down by their antics since last year’s WarGames. Anyway, watch this match it was very good and you get to see Keith Lee pounce Adam Cole into Roderick Strong. The Era won with total elimination leg sweep and axe kick combo for the pin Post-match: the era provided a beatdown till Ciampa came in and cleared house with his crutch. He then looked at Goldie but didn’t pick them up, declaring they’d have to wait “Daddie’s going to war”

Winner: Undisputed Era

This week’s NXT was something of a show of two halves. The two women’s matches were both superb TV encounters that also helped advance various micro-stories while contributing to the macro-narrative. Whereas the men’s action was good, if occasionally a little overdone, and until Ciampa turned up, suffered from a lack of narrative propulsion. Quite smartly, beginning the build here to a women’s war games match with 4 on 5 at the moment, perhaps the Mia Yim video package is a hint of who might join them… Only time will tell. Also Full Sail, BOO THE BLOODY HEELS YOU FLORIDIAN RUBBISH BINS!

Next Week

Pete Dunne vs Damian Priest II

 [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s52DTV9DQKM]

All pics courtesy of WWE