This week’s episode of NXT was filled with matches and plenty of surprises. Edge was scheduled to appear, and we were given three matches across the men and women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. The Cruiserweight Championship was on the line, Pete Dunne squared up to Finn Balor, another match was added to the newly named NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day, and plenty more. Get ready for a wild night in NXT.

Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter

Catanzaro and Carter did a great job in the first few minutes working on Kai and managed to stay focused when Gonzalez tagged in. It wasn’t long until Gonzalez took control, throwing Catanzaro through the ropes from outside the ring. Kai went for a pin but only got the two. She used her quick feet to wear Catanzaro down, but she managed to tag in Carter who came in like a wrecking ball. She hit Gonzalez in the corner and bounced off her to land a splash on Kai, following it up with a hurricanrana on Gonzalez. The show went into the break as Carter got shoved into the announcer table.

After the break, Gonzalez and Kai tried to stop Carter tagging in, but Catanzaro became the legal woman and went after Kai with a splash in the corner and a hurricanrana, followed by a scissor kick. Catanzaro launched herself off Gonzalez’s back to climb up the scaffolding at ringside, and once she was high enough, she hit both her and Kai with a crossbody. Back in the ring, Catanzaro tried to pin Kai, but only managed a two-count. Carter tagged in, but Kai kicked them both to tag in Gonzalez. Gonzalez dropped Carter from above her head into a Pele kick from Kai, but Catanzaro broke up the pin.

With Gonzalez caught between the ropes, Carter dropped to her knees with Gonzalez’s head locked in her thighs, followed by a dropkick by Catanzaro. Catanzaro hit a basement hurricanrana, then hit that crazy spin off the top rope, but Kai managed to break up the pin. Outside the ring, Kai whipped Carter into the steel steps, whilst back inside Gonzalez dropped Catanzaro with her chokeslam powerbomb to pick up the victory. What a great match to kick off this week’s NXT.

Winners: Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez Rating: 8/10

Leon Ruff vs Austin Theory W/ Johnny Gargano

Ruff’s athleticism was on full display as he managed to evade a fallaway slam, but Theory soon took control. He whipped Ruff into the corner and hit a belly to back suplex. He stomped on Ruff’s back, and as Ruff fought back, he floored him with an elbow strike. Ruff almost rolled up Theory for the win, then followed it up with various strikes and kicks. Gargano tried to get involved, but Ruff kicked him in the face, following it up with a missile dropkick to Theory.

Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell ran down to carry Gargano away, but Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart attacked them as all four women fought to the back. Gargano got sent to the back after knocking Ruff off his feet. Back in the ring, Ruff hit a cutter off the top rope, but Theory managed to get a foot on the rope. Ruff went for a crossbody to Theory outside the ring but was caught and dropped onto the barricade. Back in the ring, Theory hit the ATL for the win. After the victory, Theory continued to beat down Ruff, hitting another ATL. He went outside to grab the ring bell, but Dexter Lumis appeared and locked in Silence. Theory got out, but Lumis managed to pull out some of his hair, stroking it across his face as Theory looked on. Lumis stepped up the weirdness once more, and it looks as though we might be seeing these two go to war over the coming weeks. Who knows, it may even lead to a match for the North American Championship. Either way, Theory and Gargano were in fine form tonight, and I’m really starting to love The Way more than I probably should.

Winner: Austin Theory Rating: 7/10

Legado Del Fantasma (Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde) vs Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado)

Lucha House Party started off strong. Dorado hit a hurricanrana on Mendoza, then a lionsault off the second rope. Wilde tagged in, beating down Dorado with some double team offence. Mendoza beat up Dorado in the corner. Metalik tagged in and hit a splash off the top rope, but ended up getting knocked out the ring where Wilde hit a suicide dive off the apron. After the break, Metalik hit a sunset flip powerbomb off the top turnbuckle on Mendoza. Both men made a tag, but Dorado took advantage. He hit a crossbody on Wilde but only managed a two-count.

Dorado hit a stunner, but again only got the two-count. Wilde managed to hit Lucha House Party with a springboard DDT off the top rope and went for the pin on Dorado, but only grabbed a two-count. Metalik hit a hurricanrana on Mendoza to the outside of the ring, then Dorado flew outside with a moonsault onto both members of Legado Del Fantasma. Back in the ring, Legado hit Dorado with their finisher to advance in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. An incredible performance by both teams. After the match, MSK came out and talked trash, saying how they were going to beat them. They said it was “MSK all night and all day.”

Winners: Legado Del Fantasma Rating: 8.5/10

A Chance To Feel Alive

Pete Dunne, Danny Burch, and Oney Lorcan arrived in the parking lot. Dunne said, “let’s go get Balor.” After the break, they headed to the ring. Dunne talked about how he delivered the message last week because Balor wasn’t listening. Balor walked out and said Dunne was hiding behind “those two clowns.” Dunne said he wasn’t hiding behind anyone. Dunne told Burch and Lorcan to leave the ring. Balor said he’d face Dunne at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day for the NXT Championship. Edge came out and I got literal goosebumps.

Edge said that “this feels good.” He said how the focus on NXT is wrestling as opposed to entertainment, and how NXT helped him find the passion to get back in the ring after nine years. Edge looked at Dunne and told him he saw a lot of him in himself and said Balor was operating on an entirely different level. Edge said he was going to be watching their match at TakeOver because he’s intrigued by the NXT Championship, and that he may well challenge for it at WrestleMania. Oh my God. I never saw that coming at all. Things just got a whole lot more interesting.

Jessi Kamea W/ Aliyah & Robert Stone vs Toni Storm

Storm started off strong, hitting an elbow into Kamea who was resting on the bottom rope. Kamea booted Storm in the stomach after dropping her into the turnbuckle, then hit a spinning kick. Mercedes Martinez interrupted and took out Kamea, then turned her attention to Storm. Io Shirai came down and just started watching from the top turnbuckle. As Storm and Martinez tussled outside, Shirai hit a moonsault on both of them, then held her title up high in the ring.

Winner: No contest (DQ) Rating: 1/10

Cruiserweight Championship Match: Curt Stallion vs Santos Escobar (C) W/ Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde

Escobar got the upper hand with some kicks to Stallion’s chest. He continued to work on Stallion with a headlock, followed by a dropkick. Scarlett appeared as she watched on from a small stage in the arena. Escobar hit a suplex, then worked on Stallion’s wrist. He hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but Stallion took advantage of Escobar being distracted and almost rolled him up for the win. After the break, Escobar was beating up Stallion outside the ring. It was shown during the break that Escobar had dropped Stallion onto the steel steps.

Escobar dropped Stallion with a neckbreaker, then locked in a half Boston crab. Escobar then transitioned into a crossface. Stallion fought back, hitting a German suplex and a couple of big forearms to the face. Escobar slid out the ring, but Stallion dived through the ropes and took him out. Stallion hit a frog splash and almost got the win. Escobar managed to suplex Stallion into the turnbuckle. He hit a superkick in Stallion’s face, followed by a Phantom Driver. Rubbing salt in the wounds, he hit the Legado to pick up the win.

After the match, Karrion Kross came out took out Wilde and Mendoza. Escobar stood in the centre of the ring as Kross walked in and squared off with him. Kross said he was giving Escobar the gift of time to think about the inevitable. He told Escobar to run along, followed by the signature, “tick-tock.” Fair play to Escobar who didn’t run off. This is the feud I never knew I wanted, but happy that it’s now in full swing.

Winner: Santos Escobar Rating: 7.5/10

Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Roderick Strong) vs Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa

Ciampa and Cole went at it, with both men starting strong. Ciampa secured a couple of headlocks to change the pace. Cole missed a pump kick and a couple of other opportunities. Ciampa clapped his efforts, then tagged in Thatcher. Strong tagged in as well, managing to take Thatcher to the mat. Thatcher’s prowess in the submission department turned the tide as he controlled him on the ground. They both got to their feet and traded blows until Strong hit a dropkick. Ciampa tagged in and chipped away at Strong with a knee to the back and a running elbow.

Thatcher continued to beat down Strong with a body slam and an elbow. He stomped down Strong in the corner and tagged in Ciampa. These two were showing some great chemistry in the ring. All four men entered the ring and a fight broke out. After the break, Thatcher had Strong in a chin lock, transitioning into a surfboard. Ciampa tagged in and they traded chops to the chest until Ciampa knocked Strong to the mat with an elbow. Thatcher kneed Strong in the kidney, then caught him in a headlock.

Thatcher climbed the turnbuckle whilst choking Strong. Strong hit a superplex on Thatcher and finally managed to tag in Cole. Cole hit a pump kick on Ciampa and Thatcher, then connected with a backstabber on Ciampa. He booted Ciampa, then dropped him with a neckbreaker onto his knee, but only got a two-count. Cole locked in a Figure-Four on Thatcher as Strong locked in a lion tamer on Ciampa. Thatcher went for the Fujiwara but Strong reversed. Ciampa tagged in and hit a German suplex on Strong, as Thatcher hit a German suplex, followed up with a big knee, almost picking up the win.

Ciampa almost connected with the Fairy Tale Ending, but Strong hit an Olympic slam. Chaos erupted all over the ring, but Ciampa was able to hit Willow’s Bell on Strong to pick up the victory. This match was insane. Thatcher and Ciampa worked very well together, and they deserved to advance to the semi-finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. As Thatcher and Ciampa walked off, Grizzled Young Veterans walked out and they started to fight until it was broken up by referees.

Winners: Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa Rating: 8.5/10

What Else Went Down

– Backstage, Alyse Ashton was interviewing Toni Storm about the recently announced match for the Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day where she would be facing Io Shirai and Mercedes Martinez. Storm said Shirai has been untouchable, but not to her, and nobody is going to stop her from winning the title.

– Edge was shown backstage chatting with William Regal.

– A video package aired that showed Santos Escobar talking about how the “end is near,” and that Legado Del Fantasma would both win their matches tonight. Escobar continues to tease a showdown with Karrion Kross, and I am all for it.

– A vignette aired in the style of an old Chinese folktale, telling the story of Tian Sha. In a beautiful ink-style, it told the story of how Mei Ling sold her soul to a dragon to return honour to her family. She defeated her evil brother, but in turn, became an evil despot herself. The animation faded to reveal the mysterious woman sat on her throne, as Xia Li and Boa stood next to her. It looks as though we have a name for her now. This was a welcomed break from the normal vignettes, and I’m glad NXT hasn’t given up on Xia Li and her interesting return to action.

– Gargano was backstage with Alyse. He talked about “that freak,” Dexter Lumis, and how his wife and Indi Hartwell would punch their ticket to the women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. He was informed by Alyse he would be defending his North American Championship against Kushida at TakeOver, to which he was not impressed about. He went to find Regal, but Kushida was in his office. The two started fighting backstage.

– A video aired where Curt Stallion talked about how he was going to beat Santos Escobar tonight.

– Yay, Cameron Grimes. A video aired showing he would be back next week.

– Edge was backstage fist-bumping Bronson Reed. He was asked by a random interviewer whether he’d made his choice yet. He said he hadn’t, but even if he had, he wouldn’t tell him. Karrion Kross interrupted and said he’d be the guy who became champion, so Edge should be careful about who he chose. Edge said words like that help motivate people. My brain says Edge isn’t going to be challenging for the NXT Championship, but my heart says I now want to see Edge vs Karrion Kross at WrestleMania.

After The Bell

This was one of the best NXT episodes in recent weeks. Every match apart from Kamea vs Storm was TakeOver quality. The main event was incredible, as was the Lucha showdown between Legado Del Fantasma and the Lucha House Party. Edge coming to NXT was something special, and seeing him stand in the ring with Balor and Dunne was great, as was his moment with Kross in the parking lot.

Santos Escobar is one of the finest athletes in NXT. I love his in-ring ability and his attitude, and now he’s feuding with Karrion Kross and Scarlett, it only elevated his appeal for me. The women were on fine form this week as well. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez were fantastic, but kudos to Catanzaro and Carter who put on a fine performance.

We’ve now got three matches set in stone for NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day, with the potential for two more to come (possibly the tournaments’ finals). It’s time like these that I’m proud to call myself an NXT fan. What a show.

Stars of the Show: Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa Overall Rating: 9/10

All images and videos courtesy of WWE