Things are really heating up on the road to NXT TakeOver: In Your House, and tonight was no different. Adam Cole got an official match, Johnny Gargano issued a challenge, and the NXT Tag Team Champions Imperium looked like they’ve found their opponents. As far as the action on this week’s NXT, we got plenty of fantastic action, including a brutal showdown between Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher inside of a cage. First up, we got the triple threat match to see who would be facing El Hijo del Fantasma in the finals of the Interim Cruiserweight tournament.

Drake Maverick vs Kushida vs Jake Atlas

Jake Atlas and Kushida put on one hell of a performance, and Drake Maverick swooped in and picked up the victory. I’ve not hidden the fact that I haven’t been a huge fan of this storyline, and what makes it worse is Maverick isn’t on the same level as the other competitors in the tournament. Nevertheless, this match was really good. Right from the start, Jake Atlas hit a moonsault on Kushida who was outside the ring, then caught Maverick with a springboard blockbuster.

Kushida performed a double pin by sitting on Maverick and holding Atlas in a suplex, but they both kicked out at two. The action was constant, as Kushida then landed a huge moonsault on Atlas outside the ring, then dropped Maverick with his signature rainbow DDT, but Kushida managed to interrupt the pin. In the dying moments, Kushida locked in the armbar on Atlas, but Maverick managed to pin Atlas, picking up the win.

It was revealed afterwards that Atlas tapped out the same time as Maverick got the three-count, however, Maverick had already been crowned the winner. If Maverick had performed to the standards of the other two, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with him winning, but every match he’s scraped by without putting in the hard work. He’s taken a lot of punishment and got lucky every single time.

For WWE to push him to the final against Fantasma means we’re likely going to see him win. In my opinion, it cheapens the title, and I hope that as soon as this pandemic is over, Jordan Devlin comes back and beats the hell out of Maverick, once again reinstating himself as the rightful Cruiserweight champion. Later in the evening, Kushida approached Maverick backstage, where the underdog said once he became champion, Kushida would be first in line to challenge him.

Winner: Drake Maverick Rating: 7.5/10

Johnny Gargano w/ Candice LeRae vs Adrian Alanis

Before the match got underway, Gargano announced this would be the first ‘Johnny Gargano Invitational,’ and that Adrian Alanis would be the lucky opponent. It didn’t take long for Gargano to pick up the victory. After hitting a superkick on Alanis, he then locked in the Gargano Escape for the win. Afterwards, Mia Yim and Keith Lee appeared on the big screen, appearing in a pastiche of the Gargano’s dinner party.

This was an absolute highlight, as Yim and Lee mocked both Gargano and LeRae in tremendous fashion, especially when they did the weird black and white distorted segments. Even Tegan Nox made an appearance. Gargano showed his frustrations later in the night by challenging Keith Lee to a match at NXT TakeOver: In Your House for the North American Championship. Candice LeRae said she couldn’t wait that long, telling Mia Yim she wanted her on next week’s NXT.

Winner: Johnny Gargano Rating: 4/10

Shotzi Blackheart vs Raquel Gonzalez w/ Dakota Kai

Shotzi put on a strong performance against Gonzalez, but her power often proved too much at times. It didn’t help that Dakota Kai was at ringside, ready to distract Blackheart at every turn. As Kai started to destroy Blackheart’s tank, Tegan Nox came down to show some support, but Candice LeRae interrupted her, allowing Kai to interfere in the ring. This led to Gonzalez delivering a huge chokeslam powerbomb for the win. During the match, Shotzi Blackheart attempted a coffin drop, but she landed really awkwardly. She seemed OK afterwards, but it looked bad.

Winner: Raquel Gonzalez Rating: 6/10

Rhea Ripley & Io Shirai vs Charlotte Flair & Chelsea Green w/ Robert Stone

Earlier in the night, it had been hyped that Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai would team up to take on Charlotte Flair and a mystery opponent. Flair doesn’t have a lot of friends in NXT, but Green was a great choice for her, even if Flair did accidentally hit her with a knife-edge chop during the match. Overall, this was a decent match, with various big moves being broken up during the pin attempts, and two tope con hilo in the early stages coming from both Green and Shirai.

The match came to an end after Shirai knocked Ripley off the apron as Flair dodged out of the way, leading to her pinning Shirai for the victory. We’re set to see Ripley, Shirai, and Flair go at it at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, and I can’t wait to see it.

Winners: Charlotte Flair & Chelsea Green Rating: 6.5/10

Adam Cole And William Regal Get Down To Business

William Regal and Adam Cole had a video call to negotiate some deals regarding Undisputed Era. Cole first said they deserved a shot at the NXT Tag Team titles as they lost them unfairly. He then turned his attention to Velveteen Dream. Cole made it clear he wanted Dream to come nowhere near him or the NXT Championship, but Regal had other ideas.

This was a great back and forth between the two, eventually leading to Regal booking a match between Cole and Dream for the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: In Your House. Regal also said that he would be finding a location for the match to suit both their egos. It looks as though this will be another cinematic style match, which could be amazing. This feud needs a little sparkle, and by engaging in something a little out of the ordinary, it could be a big highlight for the upcoming PPV.

Leon Ruff vs Tommaso Ciampa

Poor Leon Ruff. If it wasn’t enough he was decimated at the hands of Karrion Kross a couple of weeks ago, Tommaso Ciampa now gets a turn. Scarlett watched from ringside as Ruff managed to get a few hits in whilst Ciampa was distracted. Ruff’s luck didn’t last long, as he was caught in a huge Fairytale Ending which allowed Ciampa to cover him for the victory. After the match, Karrion Kross appeared on the screen, warning Ciampa that he would make him feel something he had never felt before in his life. Goosebumps! This one is going to be brutal, and I can’t wait for it.

Winner: Tommaso Ciampa Rating: 5/10

Cage Fight: Matt Riddle vs Timothy Thatcher W/ Kurt Angle as Special Guest Referee

This was a brutal match between Riddle and Thatcher. Both men took a severe beating, with Thatcher being kicked in the face early on, resulting in him losing two teeth. As blood poured from his mouth, officials checked on him to see if he could continue. Thatcher being the savage that he is carried on, finding motivation in the pain. The only way to win was being knocked out or get tapped out, and both guys tried their hardest. Thatcher wrenched at Riddle’s leg in a single leg crab, but Riddle managed to escape.

Both guys took a lot of punishment, with things spilling out to the top of the cage structure. Thatcher tied up Riddle with an ankle lock which left him dangling down into the ring, but he got out of it. Riddle attempted a BROton but missed. Eventually, the Original Bro hit a big knee that knocked Thatcher off the platform and back into the ring. Riddle then landed a Floating Bro from seven feet in the air. This would normally be enough to take out other Superstars, but Thatcher is a monster. He got up and managed to lock in a rear-naked choke after Riddle tried to slam him into the cage. Angle lifted Riddle’s arm three times, but he was out cold.

Winner: Timothy Thatcher Rating: 8.5/10

What Else Went Down?

– Imperium addressed Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan mocking them on last week’s NXT, calling them disgraces to the black and gold brand. Later on, we also saw Burch and Lorcan cut a promo, saying they have been better than ever as of late, adding they want a shot at Barthel and Aichner. It looks as though we could very well see this at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, which would be a great addition to the match card.

– We got a video package featuring the recent feud between Finn Balor and Damian Priest which helped to build the hype for their match at NXT TakeOver: In Your House. This could be the match that elevates Priest to the big leagues, and I’m hoping this will be one of the standout matches for the PPV.

– It was announced that next week, Drake Maverick would face Fantasma in the finals of the Cruiserweight tournament, and Mia Yim would go one-on-one against Candice LeRae. Also, there would be a special feature called ‘Prime Target’ involving Io Shirai, Charlotte Flair, and Chelsea Green, as well as Adam Cole and Velveteen Dream.

After The Bell

There were some solid matches this week, especially Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher’s war inside the cage. I’m excited to see whether or not we’ll get to see these two do something special at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, because they’ve got great chemistry in the ring. However, Twitter is ablaze that Matt Riddle may be moving to SmackDown as early as this Friday, and NXT’s tweet regarding his match with Thatcher only hints further this could be the end for the King of Bros appearing on NXT.

Johnny Gargano and Keith Lee look set to face at the PPV as well, which will probably be made official soon. The card is looking stacked, with the likelihood of it being one of the best TakeOvers of all time. Karrion Kross and Tommaso Ciampa’s match is probably my most anticipated at this point, but with so many other great matches happening, we’re all spoiled for choice.

There is still one more NXT before the PPV, and anything can happen, so there’s likely to be a couple more matches added, including an NXT Tag Team Championship match, and something between Riddle and Thatcher. NXT is going from strength to strength, and it’s a good time to be a wrestling fan.

Star of the Show: Timothy Thatcher Overall Rating: 8/10

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