Full disclosure. I completely forgot NXT was even on last week. Like genuinely, the show I’ve been reviewing practically every week since October, I fully forgot about until Saturday and didn’t watch till Sunday evening, I assumed that by Monday morning, no one would care to read an NXT review. As a result, before we get into this week’s review, I’m breaking the rule of a lifetime and providing you with actual match ratings to save you the time of watching.

Cameron Grimes def. Dominik Dijakovic // Pinfall (Cave-In running double stomp off a distraction by Damian Priest) – 6/10. Pretty good action overall but it seemed to lose a little intensity in the middle

Xia Li def. Mia Yim // Pinfall (rollup off a distraction by Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez) – 4/10 Not bad considering the tie given, it played well into the building feud between Dakota Kai and all her former friends

Tommaso Ciampa def. Austin Theory // Pinfall (Fairytale Ending butterfly pedigree) – 3/10 According to Cagematch, this was only nine and a half minutes. Boy did it feel longer.

Killian Dain def. Bronson Reed // Pinfall (Ulster Plantation electric chair driver) – 5/10 Solid, beef action, felt like it lacked blood to it.

Grizzled Young Veterans (Gibson & Drake) def. Forgotten Sons (Cutler & Blake) w/Ryker // Pinfall (Ticket to Mayhem tombstone lungblower combo) – 4/10 Another perfectly solid match ruined by running too long and not having a clear face-heel dynamic

Charlotte def. Bianca Belair // Submission (Figure Eight bridging figure four) – 4/10 You might like this if you want to watch one of Charlotte’s least generous performances in ages, barely selling Belair’s offence and spending 90% dominating with her own.

Hi, and welcome to NXT. Last week, we saw some hints at where NXT might be going next with The Undisputed Era looking to get back to holding all the gold but in the meantime, Cameron Grimes, Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest looking at Keith Lee’s North American Championship. Also, Finn Bálor looks to be the next man to lose to WALTER and William Regal announced that this week we’d be seeing some qualifying matches for a Number One Contender to the NXT Women’s Championship Ladder match at NXT TakeOver: Tampa. Also, twice tonight, we’re stepping into the cage. Let’s find out what went down…

The Undercard

NXT TakeOver: Tampa Women’s Championship Number One Contender’s Ladder Match Qualifier: Chelsea Green w/ Robert Stone def. Shotzi Blackheart // Pinfall (Unprettier) Pretty good. Typing all of that heading information left me no room for a full review

Austin Theory def. Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott // Pinfall (Argentine Cutter) Despite the best efforts of Swerve, Austin Theory continues to do literally one interesting thing and that’s a rolling shotgun dropkick. 

Promos & Packages

Finn Bálor, having stolen Bray Wyatt’s gimmick of cryptic bullsh*t in place of promos, spoke about Imperium making the first move last week. Or something, he might just really like chess.

Rhea Ripley walked around the stadium in Tampa Bay where she’s going to be having the first-ever NXT title defence at WrestleMania. She inaccurately calls herself the first active NXT superstar to compete at ‘Mania forgetting Hideo Itami, Tian Bing, Killian Dain, Kairi Sane, Kavita Devi, Taynara Conti, Dakota Kai, Bianca Belair & Candice LeRae.

Keith Lee turned up and was interrupted by Cameron Grimes’ Wacky Hat (accompanied by Cameron Grimes). Cameron Grimes’ Wacky Hat’s mouthpiece, Cameron Grimes got the Zack Gibson treatment, getting booed to sh*t, it was goshdarn glorious. The fallout of this was a match for the North American Championship between these two next week.

Austin Theory was interviewed earlier in the day and he said he’s the best thing in NXT. He is very wrong. Swerve turned up to remind him quite how wrong that statement is and a match was made off it. For some reason, the Austin Theory match was also preceded by an Austin Theory video package. Is Austin Theory the Poochie of NXT? Every time he is not onscreen should we be asking, “Where’s Austin Theory?”

Johnny Gargano sat down for a chat with his good bud Mauro Ranallo and proceeded to look like he was going to murder him. They spoke about why he attacked Tommaso Ciampa in the sense that Johnny asked why anyone would need to ask why. He called Mauro a hypocrite and a liar for immediately calling him ‘Johnny Turncoat’. Mauro looked really uncomfortable and it was actually quite unsettling, either Johnny was actually intimidating Mauro or he is actually the best actor in WWE. That said, considering how strong Johnny’s rationale was here, please, Full Sail, do not cheer him. I know you want to because he’s a wrong’un now but resist your natural instincts to be yourselves.

Steel Cage: Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai w/ Raquel Gonzalez

This was a very good way to open an episode. It’s no secret that this has been my favourite NXT feud of the year so far and this was another very strong outing filled with good crunchy action and two people just walloping each other into a large metal cage. The thing that makes this pairing work much better than similar feuds is that even if they don’t always start off their matches at full pelt, their body language just emits such intense animosity that it really helps cover various cracks in the storytelling. It’s something that I don’t like in cage matches is with the win via escape rules, the idea that a valiant babyface who has requested a match where the idea is to keep in a heel where they can reach them, would then try and climb up to win via escape. It works to have the heel trying to sneak away, especially if they have their larger, more physically intimidating friend on the outside to help them but the babyface should not be trying to win via escape. Other questions I have include why, once again, would Candice LeRae or Mia Yim not come to Nox’s aid? Beyond that, this was a very fun encounter with a creative ending as Nox attempted to scale the outside of the cage, only to get trapped between the door and the cage wall by Gonzalez to allow Kai to escape. I’m sure this is leading to a final match at TakeOver: Tampa and probably, hopefully, some form of karmic retribution for Kai in the form of Nox but frankly, for now, let’s just be grateful that we even have these two nutcases in the world. Both of them with knee braces on and Nox crossbody dived onto Kai from the top of the cage, that’s some good stuff.

Winner: Dakota Kai

Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan vs Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish)

At TakeOver Chicago II these two teams had a match for the NXT Tag-Team Championship and it was pretty ace. This was pretty good. It had that standardised TV tag match structure complete with both babyfaces getting mini-hot tags and Lorcan and Burch showed enough fire to make you wonder why they still keep getting overlooked in WWE. But it really felt like this was just to heat up the Era ahead of their tag title match with the Broserweights next week. This was made even clearer by the post-match segment where the Era called out the Broserweights and just as Matt Riddle was talking about what a stallion William Regal is, they were attacked on the stage by Grizzled Young Veterans. Are they building to a three-way dance at TakeOver: Tampa? Probably, both the champions and the GYV have wins over the Undisputed Era. Does this mean next week is probably going to be a No Contest or a Disqualification victory? Probably also, yes. Era won with a High-Low Total Elimination combo on Lorcan.

Winner: Undisputed Era

Steel Cage: Velveteen Dream vs Roderick Strong

So was this entire thing just a trap set by Velveteen Dream to lure out Adam Cole? Back when Dream lost his North American Championship to Roderick Strong, it was because of interference by Adam Cole so maybe all along, he hasn’t been mad with Roderick Strong but was just baiting him into fighting him so that he could get Adam Cole alone in a cage and beat him down before raising up the NXT Championship that he wanted. If so, solid work my man, it paid off, and all you had to do was threaten to go full Damian Priest and steal another man’s wife and child. The match itself was solid, it was nice considering Dream’s suggestion that Marina Shafir should leave Roddy for him that she turned up to bring her husband a Kendo Stick just before the ad-break along with help by all three other members of the Undisputed Era because the cage is designed to KEEP OUT ANY INTERFERENCE! The ending with Dream throwing Roddy out of the door so that he could trap Cole in there with him was clever, it just felt like this being here only served as diminishing returns after that rad opener. That said, Roddy hitting an avalanche Olympic slam off the cage was nice.

Winner: Roderick Strong

The first half-hour which, barring a Finn Bálor promo, was just the women’s division was refreshingly fun and actually quite inventive and interesting. It’s just a shame the rest of the show couldn’t live up to this. Swerve deserves better. Lorcan & Burch deserve better. KUSHIDA deserves better than to just be forgotten. At this point, I’m not sure the audience do deserve better because frankly, we are the problem. More on that next week, most likely. 

All images are courtesy of WWE.com

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