The focus of this week’s NXT was without a doubt the main event between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. These two have had the biggest rivalry the brand has ever seen – maybe even the entire company – and it was all set to end in the main event. Ever since NXT TakeOver: Chicago in 2017, Ciampa and Gargano have had some of the fiercest matches in NXT’s 10-year history. The crowds have chanted for the Rebel Heart, and the fans have chanted for the Blackheart, but no matter what the fan’s allegiance has been, every match has been incredibly personal. That’s why tonight’s main event was a cerebral battle between the two former NXT Champions. They talked about their pasts whilst beating the hell out of each other, all whilst trying to see who’s heart would beat last.

NXT Women’s Championship No. 1 Contender Ladder Match: Io Shirai vs Tegan Nox vs Chelsea Green vs Mia Yim vs Dakota Kai vs Candice LeRae

What a way to start off the show! This match featured six of the finest female Superstars on the NXT roster, and each one brought something special to the match. WWE aren’t holding back when it comes to picking Charlotte Flair’s first opponent, and with Rhea Ripley reportedly dealing with visa issues, there were six women ready to step up to the challenge. Bodies were flying, old rivalries were reignited, and everyone got a moment in the spotlight.

There were some fantastic spots in this match. Raquel González has been a big factor in Dakota Kai’s recent matches, but everyone was wary of her. Io Shirai pushed her off a ladder, jumped onto the top rope, then launched herself over the ropes, landing on LeRae, Nox, Kai, and Yim. Things really started to get going from there, especially when Mia Yim moved her focus on  González by powerbombing her through a table.

Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox started to go at it in a big way, but things took a turn for the worse when Kai booted Nox in the face and off the apron, forcing her to crash through a ladder on the way down. Nobody was underutilised in the match. Chelsea Green received a punishing smack with a steel chair on her knee, courtesy of Mia Yim. Her agent Robert Stone tried to help her up, coaxing her up the ladder to try to capture the briefcase. As they stood at the top, Shirai and Rae pushed the ladder, sending the two into the ropes from up high.

The excitement wasn’t quite over yet. In the final moments of the match, Shirai and LeRae battled at the top of the ladder, but it was the Empress of the Sky who kicked LeRae off into a ladder set up in the corner of the ring. Io Shirai grabbed the briefcase and made a date with the Queen for the NXT Women’s Title. Matches like these are why NXT excels above the competition. This match helped to showcase the talent on the women’s roster, as well as giving Shirai a much-deserved shot at the title.

Winner: Io Shirai Rating: 7/10

Balor’s Next Move

Up next, NXT took a look back at the feud that’s building between Finn Balor, WALTER, and Imperium. After Finn Balor defeated Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver: Portland, he wondered what he was going to do next, but courtesy of Imperium’s Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel, he didn’t have to think for too long. They told him that the NXT UK Champion WALTER sends his regards, then proceeded to beat him up.

The match between Alexander Wolfe and Finn Balor from NXT UK was shown next in an attempt to fill up some time, and help us remind where the feud was going. The cherry on top came in the form of Balor’s promo that followed. The Prince has a real gift when it comes to issuing challenges and warnings, and it looks as though WALTER isn’t safe for much longer.

Time’s Almost Up

It’s been a while now since NXT aired the first teaser hyping Killer Kross, and now we know these vignettes are definitely about him, the wait to see him in an NXT ring is agonising. Having such a popular wrestler debut means that when it finally happens, it needs to be done right. You have to wonder if NXT are biding their time due to the pandemic, maybe utilising him once the crowd is in attendance to lose its mind. Regardless, fans or not, Kross is going to make one hell of an impact.

Indus Sher (Rinku Singh & Saurav Gurjar) vs Ever-Drive (Matt Martel & Chase Parker)

Following on from a recap of Indus Sher’s attack on Matt Riddle from a few weeks ago, it was time for the debut of Rinka and Saurav inside an NXT ring. Malcolm Bivens has introduced to monsters to the tag team division, and it won’t be long before they’re competing for the titles. For now, though, they were going to show how destructive they could be against Matt Martel and Chase Parker, aka Ever-Drive. This wasn’t quite the dominant victory I expected, as Martel and Parker managed to take some offence to the hulking Superstars.

Although Ever-Drive somewhat succeeded at times, they took a lot of big strikes, ending with Saurav delivering a pendulum backbreaker on Parker, followed by an elbow drop from Rinku. It was an average match that was only booked to highlight the debuting duo of Saurav and Rinku, but I wasn’t expecting it to be much else. These two have a lot of potential in NXT. They’re big guys who work together well, and despite their size, they have some great athletic ability, but is it enough to topple the current NXT Tag Team Champions, The Broserweights?

Winners: Indus Sher Rating: 4/10

Adam Cole, Bay Bay!

Adam Cole delivered a promo from his home regarding Velveteen Dream. Ever since Dream returned, he’s not quite had the spark he once had. Maybe it’s because he’s straight back into the title picture, or maybe because the Undisputed Era aren’t as threatening as they once were. Still, getting Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream at some point will be a stellar match, just because they’re both so good in the ring.

It was a generic promo for Cole, who explained to Dream he doesn’t know how many more times he has to tell him that he’s not worthy of a shot at his title. Cole went on to say that maybe he’ll grant him a match anyway, shattering the spotlight and ending the Experience. It’s pretty much a given at this point, as there’s no-one else in the title picture, but I hope it happens sooner rather than later so we can see some rising stars get a shot. Someone like Dexter Lumis would be a great opponent for Adam Cole, coming from nowhere and scaring the holy hell out of UE. Oh well, a guy can dream.

The Queen Speaks

Following on from her victory against Rhea Ripley at WrestleMania 36, Charlotte Flair was interviewed by Charly Caruso. Flair cut a great promo about how her father had all the expensive things when he was a champion, but all of his cars and fancy clothes meant nothing. “Suits don’t make the man, the man makes the suit.” She went on to say that it is the Woman that makes that title. She has been RAW Women’s Champion, SmackDown Women’s Champion, and now a two-time NXT Women’s Champion, and sooner or later – just like Rhea – everyone will bow down to the queen.

Following on from her interview, we saw Rhea Ripley in tears after her match with Charlotte. After trying to regain composure, she simply uttered the line, “she was a lot better than I expected.” It was genuinely gutting to see her like that. Rhea Ripley is incredible, and I was disappointed to see her lose at WrestleMania. Hopefully, we’ll get a rematch because if her leg wasn’t in such a state, I think the result would’ve been very different.

Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano

I get the feeling that some fans won’t like this match. It wasn’t anything like their previous encounters, but it felt like the right way to take it. Taking a leaf out of WrestleMania 36‘s book by making this more cinematic was the right approach. Before Gargano walked into the Performance Center, we saw Candice LeRae give him something, but she did not look happy with her husband at all. With both men inside the ring, an already-waiting HHH is ready to start the match. Having HHH be the guy that talked them through what the match was all about was a great touch. “When I walk through that door, it’s on.” As soon as HHH uttered those words, the two former friends went at it, and they went at it hard.

Much of the early spots were taken up by intense kicking, punching, and using whatever was lying around to hit each other with, such as trashcans and lids, and a steel chair. The segment in the ring where Gargano recounted the various injuries Ciampa had suffered over the years, then struck the areas where he’d received surgery, brought home how personal their rivalry had gotten. Ciampa grabbed the famous crutch and used it to choke Gargano. Gargano used a fire extinguisher and emptied it onto Ciampa. Ciampa then powerbombed Johnny Wrestling through a table and began to expose the ring’s hardwood surface.

Things escalated into the parking lot. Gargano tried to ram a steel container into Ciampa who was sitting against an NXT truck, but he managed to move away in time. The two then ended up on top of one of the NXT trucks, but before anything serious happened, they climbed down and headed back inside the Performance Center. Inside the ring, Ciampa and Gargano wrestle on the top rope, and in perhaps the biggest spot of the match – and definitely the most dangerous – Ciampa delivered an Air Raid Crash to the floor outside. The ref didn’t want the match to continue, but of course, it does.

Gargano took control in the ring and started to call Ciampa a failure. A failure as a man, a husband, and a father. Ciampa just laughed at him, but as soon as Gargano mentioned Ciampa’s daughter Willow, Blackheart snapped. He started to choke Gargano with the crutch, but he got out. The two went back and forth, delivering crushing blows, superkicks, and whatever else they could manage to muster just to get the upper hand. It had truly been a war up until this point, and it didn’t seem as though it was ever going to end. These two men were so full of rage that neither wanted to call it quits.

Ciampa finally delivered a DDT on Gargano into the exposed ring, even going so far as to check and see if he was OK, with Gargano swiftly moving his hand away. They both picked up parts of the broken crutch and hit each other to the point they fell down. With both men on the verge of exhaustion, Candice LeRae walked in and looked utterly devastated at the destruction surrounding their broken bodies. She shouted at Gargano, telling him to stop, then asked him who he was? LeRae played her role perfectly, making what happened next such a surprise. She turned to Ciampa, saying, “are you happy? I hate my husband.” To everyone’s surprise, she turned back to her husband and delivered a low blow with her boot, making him fall to the floor in agony.

Tomasso Ciampa knew that what just happened was more painful than anything he’d done to Gargano in the match. Their rivalry had caused Johnny to lose his wife, and Ciampa was clearly struggling with what had just transpired. Holding Gargano, Ciampa tells him he’s sorry. He gets to his feet, only to have LeRae turn him round and kick him between his legs. The real shock was when Gargano removes an athletic cup from his trousers, revealing that that was the thing LeRae had given to him before the match. It was a superb twist that nobody saw coming, and a great idea to have LeRae finally turn heel like her husband. Gargano hit Ciampa with the Fairytale Ending and covered him for the win.

Winner: Johnny Gargano Rating: 8/10

After The Bell: My Final Thoughts

This week’s NXT was a great show, made special by the ladder match, and Ciampa and Gargano’s final showdown. With Io Shirai set to face Charlotte Flair, it’ll provide new challenges for the Queen, but also a different opponent. Hopefully, Charlotte Flair stays in NXT. She’s done all she can on the main roster, and NXT is very different from the last time she was there.

Indus Sher have plenty of potentials if used right. NXT are set to have a fair few faces added to the roster, such as Killer Kross and Timothy Thatcher, so a tag team powerhouse like Rinka and Saurav are coming in at the right time. Cole’s promo wasn’t anything special, but we all know how good Velveteen Dream’s and Adam Cole’s matches are, so these two are set to have an absolute blast whenever it may happen.

As for Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, I can’t honestly see how their feud ends like this. To have them go at it again would be cheapening what they’ve had. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ciampa takes a bit of time away and comes back in a few months, and Gargano could very well assert himself as the company’s top heel. Time will tell, but for now, it looks as though NXT is heading in the right direction, and the main event tonight was superb.

Star of the Show: Johnny Gargano Overall rating: 7/10

All pics and videos courtesy of WWE

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