This week’s show was a barn burner, filled with great matches, the return of a former champion, and various challenges being made on the road to NXT TakeOver: In Your House. We got more Cruiserweight action, and a main-event featuring the best of the women’s division, but first, it was time for everyone to fall and pray. Before we get into it, I’d just like to take this opportunity to send my respects to the entire Gaspard family (watch WWE special video at the end of the review.) Shad died a hero, and that is something everybody should aspire to be.

Karrion Kross W/ Scarlett vs Liam Gray

By now everyone knows that Karrion Kross is someone not to be messed with. NXT has form for bringing in rookies for the bigger Superstars to decimate to prove a point, and once again they did just that. Liam Gray was the latest prey for Kross, and he wasted no time in destroying him. Kross landed two Doomsday Saito followed by the Kross Jacket, making Gray tap out instantly. Just when I assumed we’d move onto the next segment and thinking this was just another opportunity for Kross to assert his dominance in NXT, Tommaso Ciampa returned. Well played, NXT!

It wasn’t that long ago when Kross attacked Ciampa in the final moments of NXT, and now the Blackheart was back for revenge. Not only did he confront the maniac, but he also challenged him to a match at NXT TakeOver: In Your House. This is a perfect NXT TakeOver debut for Karrion Kross. It’s a chance for him to defeat one of the best in the business, but Ciampa is no pushover. This one is already a stand out for the PPV, and we don’t have any other official matches made yet.

Winner: Karrion Kross Rating: 3/10 

El Hijo del Fantasma vs Akira Tozawa

Rounding off Group B in the Interim Cruiserweight tournament was Fantasma against Tozawa, and what a match to go out on. Both guys showed why they’re so good in the ring, putting their bodies on the line to secure that all-important victory. There was never a clear winner, with Tozawa risking his body to deliver a flip into Fantasma as he sat against the barriers.

Fantasma delivered a frog splash onto Tozawa as he was laying on the apron, and dropped his body onto the top turnbuckle by releasing him from a Samoan drop. Tozawa came back with a super senton, but Fantasma managed to recover, slicing through Tozawa at ringside with a suicide dive. At the crescendo of the match, Fantasma almost won with the Phantom Driver, but Tozawa countered with the octopus. Just as it looked as though Tozawa was going to become undefeated in the tournament, Fantasma reversed again and hit the Phantom Driver, followed by the three-count.

Later on in the night, Fantasma and Tozawa were chatting in the parking lot (big mistake!), when the two masked wrestlers attacked Tozawa. Fantasma made the save and chased them off, but these two masked guys are still intent on kidnapping the hottest new Cruiserweight prospect.

Winner: El Hijo del Fantasma Rating: 8/10

Mia Yim vs Santana Garrett

Santana Garrett is a great athlete, and I was disappointed not to see more from her. However, after last week’s Gargano dinner party, we knew LeRae had her sights set on Yim. After a dragon suplex and her signature, Protect Ya Neck, Mia Yim managed to pick up the victory with ease. Following her victory, Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano headed to ringside, talking about how Yim was still getting opportunities.

LeRae and Gargano ascended on the ring, with Yim managing to boot Gargano off the apron. LeRae attacked Yim, but not before Keith Lee ran down to make the save. Later on in the evening, Keith Lee laid down a challenge to meet Gargano at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, claiming he was not a fan of the Johnny Gargano way.

Winner: Mia Yim Rating: 4/10

Roderick Strong vs Dexter Lumis

This was Dexter Lumis’ first real challenge since arriving in NXT, but he managed to put up one hell of a fight against Undisputed Era’s Roderick Strong. Before the match, Adam Cole and Bobby Fish walked Strong down to the ring, with Cole saying that next week, they’d be celebrating his reign as NXT World Champion.

As for the match itself, both guys worked hard to put on a great match. Strong was clearly nervous, as Lumis did his best to freak him out at every turn. Strong delivered a backbreaker to Lumis on the apron and hit an impressive Olympic slam, but Lumis wasn’t going to allow him to get the win that easy. Lumis fought back with some solid moves, using the Lou Thesz Press and signature spinebuster to shake Strong.

Strong was able to steal the victory with a roll-up, but Lumis was clearly not happy losing. He applied the Anaconda Vice, and despite Cole and Fish attempting to break it up, Lumis had it locked tightly in. It didn’t help that Velveteen Dream came down to even the odds, and after dropping a Purple Rainmaker onto Cole on the concrete, it seems as though their feud is far from over.

Winner: Roderick Strong Rating: 7/10

Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan vs Ever Rise (Chase Parker & Matt Martel)

This match was a whitewash. Burch and Lorcan utterly destroyed Ever Rise, turning it into a barroom fight rather than a wrestling match. Although it was short, it was great to see the intensity that both of them brought, and what made it even better is their mockery of Imperium at the end. I, for one, am hopeful that a match between Burch & Lorcan and Imperium is made for NXT TakeOver: In Your House, and it looks as though my wish may be granted.

Winners: Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan Rating: 5/10

Kushida vs Drake Maverick

In a surprise to no-one, Maverick managed to pick up the victory over Kushida. I’ve lost any interest in this underdog story NXT have set up for Maverick. He is facing Superstars who are infinitely better than him, and to win against Kushida is ridiculous. Kushida controlled the whole match, working Maverick’s right arm through a variety of submission moves. Hearing Maverick’s incessant howling with every move started to grate on me, and having him roll up Kushida following an armbar was a mistake.

Following Maverick’s victory, Byron Saxton announced that Kushida, Maverick, and Jake Atlas would participate in a triple threat match next week on NXT to decide who would advance to the final of the tournament. Why bother? Maverick is clearly going to win. Not only would it be wrong to put the title on Maverick, but it would also make the entire tournament a waste of time.

Winner: Drake Maverick Rating: 5.5/10

Io Shirai vs Rhea Ripley

Ripley started the match manhandling Shirai, clearly fired up after her WrestleMania 36 loss and issues with Io Shirai having an effect on her. Although she displayed her power throughout the match (including a well-executed superplex), Shirai was on fine form, locking in a couple of cross faces in an attempt to wear down The Nightmare. After hitting a 619 and suicide dive, Charlotte Flair wandered down to ringside. Shirai launched Ripley into Flair, knocking her down, but when action resumed in the ring, Flair ran in and hit a big boot on Shirai.

She followed up with a spear on Rhea Ripley, then stood in the ring holding her NXT Championship above her head. If we’re getting some sort of triple threat match between these three, count me in. There’re seldom better Superstars in NXT right now than these women, and after an excellent match at WrestleMania 36 between Flair and Ripley, it can only get better with the addition of The Genius of the Sky.

Winner: Rhea Ripley Rating: 6.5/10

What Else Went Down?

– Timothy Thatcher issued a challenge to Matt Riddle, telling him he doesn’t want pinfalls, but rather the option to “knock out or tap out” Riddle. The Original Bro responded later in the night, saying, “why don’t we go somewhere we’re both familiar – a cage.” Next week, the two will go one-on-one in a cage match, and I cannot wait. These two are technical masters with experience in this kind of environment, so we’re likely to be given one hell of a war.

– Shotzi Blackheart delivered a promo from her tank – the “dirty blonde” – putting the NXT women’s division on notice. She mentioned the likes of Raquel Gonzalez, Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, and Chelsea Green. Blackheart’s ballsy attitude oozed from the promo, and I love her so much. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her in-ring very soon.

– Cameron Grimes bragged about defeating Finn Balor last week. Grimes is great, but using the phrase ‘Grime Time’ seemed like bad timing after the tragic events of this week.

– Damian Priest offered a challenge to Finn Balor for NXT TakeOver: In Your House. This could be a solid match, especially as Priest has been picking up momentum in recent weeks.

After The Bell

NXT was a fantastic mix of action and promos, with challenges being issued all over the place. If the matches are made official, we’re getting Keith Lee vs Johnny Gargano (or even a mixed tag match) and Damian Priest vs Finn Balor at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, with the potential to see many more matches at the PPV.

Ciampa returning to challenge Karrion Kross was perfect. These two know no bounds when it comes to dishing out punishment, so this is going to be a very physical match. It’s also refreshing to see both Ciampa and Gargano move on from their feud, meaning that it could actually be over.

I have no clue as to where Dexter Lumis ends up now. Dream is still getting involved in Adam Cole’s business, so maybe we get a triple threat for Bay Bay’s Championship. Maybe he’s not done with the other members of UE just yet. At this point, I’m just happy to see Lumis getting great matches against the best of the black and gold brand.

Finally, it looks as though NXT want both Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley on Charlotte Flair’s tail. These three in a match equals quality, so Regal may be making an announcement very soon regarding Flair’s opponents at NXT TakeOver: In Your House.

Star of the Show: Tommaso Ciampa Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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