Following the shocking turn of events at the end of NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day, Kyle O’Reilly came in search of answers this week. We had the trophy celebrations for the winners of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, the NXT debut of Zoey Stark, and an epic six-man tag match for the main event. Leon Ruff faced off against Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Kushida went one-on-one with Tyler Rust, Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter battled Aliyah and Jessi Kamea, and Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell fought Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon. First off, though, NXT opened with an explosive showdown for the Undisputed Era.

A Shocking Aftermath

Kyle O’Reilly made his way to the ring as the announcer team were discussing the events of NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day to no music. He said how he keeps replaying the moment in his head and can’t make sense of it. He said he was shocked, confused, and disappointed, and that Adam Cole ruined everything. Not only did he kick him in the face, but he also backstabbed him. O’Reilly said Cole was still his brother, and he needed to know why he did what he did, and he needed to explain himself. Roderick Strong came out instead and said he knows Sunday happened out of emotion, and Cole regrets what he did.

O’Reilly shouted out Strong and told him don’t come out on some “peacekeeping mission.” He told him not to get in the ring right now, and that he didn’t trust him. He needed Cole to come out and face him. Instead, Finn Balor’s music hit. O’Reilly said he wasn’t looking for Finn either, but the Prince shot him down and said if he wanted Cole, he needed to get in line. Balor said that they had some business they needed to address. He knew he shouldn’t have accepted his hand on Sunday. Suddenly, Pete Dunne, Danny Burch, and Oney Lorcan ran out and attacked Strong and Balor at ringside.

Referees tried to break it up but struggled to do so. O’Reilly went to stop them but he was taken out as well. Dunne’s music hit as they walked to the back. An explosive way to start the evening. O’Reilly was excellent here. He was so distraught by what Cole did, and his interaction with the mediator Roderick Strong was hard to watch. These guys have been friends for years, and the conflict is still upsetting to see.

The Way (Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell) W/ Johnny Gargano vs Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart

Gargano joined the team at ringside and gave out ‘missing’ posters with Austin Theory printed on them. Shotzi and Moon fired on all cylinders in the early stages, working well together to take down LeRae. After the break, Blackheart and Moon delivered a double kick as Hartwell and LeRae rested on the middle rope. Shotzi held Hartwell’s head in her legs as she draped herself over the ropes, but LeRae booted her in the head from outside and knocked her off the apron. Hartwell then booted Moon in the chest.

LeRae tagged in and went for the pin, but only got a two-count. As LeRae tried to choke Moon out, the cameras cut to the parking lot where a white van arrived. LeRae clotheslined Moon, then tagged in Hartwell who continued to beat down Moon. She hit a sidewalk slam on Moon, but couldn’t get the pin. LeRae tied up Moon by wrenching at both of her arms from behind, then whipped her body onto the mat. Moon fought back with some forearms, but Hartwell kicked her in the face to knock her outside, which allowed LeRae to jump off the apron and attack her. The van was shown again, so Gargano left to investigate.

When the show returned from commercial, Moon hit LeRae with an enzuigiri and managed to tag in Shotzi. Blackheart delivered a bulldog to Hartwell. As Shotzi held Hartwell in a bridge submission, LeRae hit a senton onto her. Gargano was shown trying to get into the van but had no luck. Back in the ring, LeRae hit a basement superkick to Blackheart. Moon tagged in Blackheart and they hit a facebuster and a floating knee drop on LeRae, but somehow she kicked out. The Way knocked off Moon and Blackheart from the top turnbuckle. Gargano then brought Theory out to the ring who was tied up, wearing a cropped t-shirt and only his underwear. LeRae ran out and hugged Theory. Hartwell smiled in the ring, but the distraction allowed Moon to roll her up and steal the win for her and Blackheart.

Winners: Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon Rating: 7/10

Leon Ruff vs Isaiah “Swerve” Scott

Swerve started off cocky, but Ruff’s speed was too much as he evaded him, hit him with a dropkick, then locked in an arm submission. Swerve came back and clocked Ruff with a running knee to the face. He picked up Ruff and delivered one hell of a backbreaker. Swerve dropkicked Ruff in the corner, then kicked him in the face as he rested off the apron. Swerve kept Ruff in check, but Ruff managed to deliver a few chops and a flying shoulder tackle and clothesline. He hit Swerve with a twisting cutter off the turnbuckle but only got a two-count.

Swerve missed a dropkick which allowed Ruff to deliver a double stomp on the back of his head. Swerve went for a powerbomb, but Ruff reversed into a crucifix pin and stole the victory. Swerve shook Ruff’s hand, then blindsided him with a sneak attack. He launched Ruff into the turnbuckle off of his shoulders, then said he was sick of how Ruff had everything handed to him before walking away. I can’t help but feel that NXT doesn’t have a place for either of these Superstars at the minute, so they just kind of shoved them together. If we’re witnessing the start of the feud, I have to say I’m not that invested in it.

Winner: Leon Ruff Rating: 6.5/10

Aliyah & Jessi Kamea W/ Robert Stone vs Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter

Before the match, we saw what happened last week in regards to Xia Li, Boa, and Mei Ling (or Tian Sha,  according to that animated segment from a few weeks ago). Carter and Catanzaro were then shown talking earlier about how they’re not sure what is happening to their friend. As for the match, Catanzaro and Carter delivered a double kick to Kamea who was resting on the second rope. Catanzaro landed a hurricanrana on Kamea, but only got the two count. Boa was shown standing on the ramp.

In the ring, Aliyah and Kamea delivered a double team move on Carter. Catanzaro and Aliyah tagged in. Catanzaro landed a spinning double kick to Kamea’s back. Carter hit a neckbreaker on Aliyah as Catanzaro hit a splash off the top rope to pick up the victory. After the match, Xia Li appeared on the ramp. Catanzaro tried to reason with Li, but Li grabbed her hand and marked it with black paint. Li then said that next week she would purge her.

Winners: Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter Rating: 5/10

The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Trophy Presentation

Beth Phoenix stood in the ring and hyped the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic for both the women and the men, then cut to a video package of all the action from MSK and Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez’s journey through the tournaments. Phoenix then welcomed MSK to the ring. Lee and Carter came out and were still elated following their victory. They gave Beth a hug, then Carter said on March 3, they’d face Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan for the Tag Team Championships.

Beth then introduced Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. Kai said they feel awesome, and moments like this is why they do it. As Kai continued, Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax walked out. Baszler said on Sunday Kai and Gonzalez were on the right side of history, and on March 3, they would be on the wrong side of history. Kai introduced the champs to Gonzalez. Kai said Baszler ran away after losing to Ripley. Gonzalez then asked if that was the same Rhea Ripley who she defeated, to which Kai said “the very same.”

Baszler then commented on how she broke Kai’s arm. Gonzalez said in two weeks they would beat them for the tag team championships. All the while this was happening, MSK stood in the corner with Phoenix eating popcorn. Jax said she had the pleasure of working with Dusty Rhodes, and she’ll never forget him calling her a “big, beautiful, badass bitch.” Gonzalez then said Dusty never met her. Baszler ended the confrontation by saying on March 3, they’d beat their ass. As the champs walked off, Gonzalez said she’d stick her boot so far up Jax’s hole she’d never get it out.

Kushida vs Tyler Rust W/ Malcolm Bivens

Rust kept evading Kushida in the early stages. Both men reversed wrist locks until Rust took Kushida down. They continued to reverse each other’s submission attempts until Kushida hit a handstand diving elbow. Rust punched Kushida in the face and knocked the wind out of him. Kushida then wrenched Rust’s arm into the top rope. He climbed the turnbuckle, but Rust knocked him off which allowed Rust to lock in a submission. After the break, Rust continued to wear down Kushida.

Kushida fought back with an arm drag into a basement dropkick. He drove Rust’s arm into the mat with a running dive then went for a front face lock. Rust trapped Kushida’s neck then landed a suplex. Rust kicked Kushida in the back then the side of the head, but couldn’t pin the TimeSplitter. After a couple of reversals, Rust locked in a sleeper hold then transitioned into a unique submission. Kushida held Rust in place with the Hoverboard Lock. Bivens jumped on the apron and asked the ref to end it.

Winner: Kushida Rating: 6/10

Zoey Stark vs Valentina Feroz

Stark showed off her vicious side against Feroz. She threw Feroz into the turnbuckle then hit a huge kick into her jaw. She delivered a bridging half-nelson suplex, then a sliding knee strike. Stark ended the match with a spinning GTS.

Winner: Zoey Stark Rating: 4/10

Pete Dunne, Danny Burch, & Oney Lorcan vs Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, & Finn Balor

O’Reilly and Lorcan started things off. Balor and Strong offered their hand for a tag, and O’Reilly chose Balor. Balor was pushed into the opposition’s corner as Burch tagged in, but he managed to control the action and tagged in Strong. Dunne worked on Strong’s left arm, but he broke out and hit a dropkick. Dunne struck Strong with a sharp clothesline then knocked him outside. Dunne then squared up to O’Reilly. Back in the ring, Strong hit a backbreaker and tagged in O’Reilly.

O’Reilly used his quick feet to take out Burch, then hit a couple of dragon screws on Dunne and Lorcan. Dunne hit a big strike into O’Reilly’s face as he fell outside. After the break, O’Reilly hit a dragon screw on Dunne. Burch tagged in and was almost pinned. O’Reilly fought back and knocked Burch to the mat. Dunne tagged in and took out Strong on the apron. He locked in an ankle lock on O’Reilly but it didn’t last. Balor tagged in and hit a basement dropkick onto his knee. He stomped on Lorcan then took out Burch.

Dunne cradled Balor but he kicked out. Strong dived through the ropes and took out Burch with his feet. Dunne hit an enzuigiri on Balor, but the Prince fought back with a sling blade. Burch tried to pass Dunne his tag team title as Balor kicked Dunne into the ref. Cole ran out and knocked Balor off the top rope as he was about to hit the Coup de Grace. Cole then superkicked O’Reilly and followed it up with a suplex onto the steel steps. Balor hit a Pele kick on Strong without realising it was him. Balor looked around and noticed what he had done, allowing Dunne to come in and hit the Bitter End on Balor for the victory.

After the match, Cole superkicked Finn Balor as he stood in the ring. Cole picked up the NXT Championship and held it above his head as the show went off-air. It looks as though we know what Cole wants, and he’ll do whatever is necessary to get it. A bitter end to the show, and a dark sign of things to come.

Winners: Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch Rating: 8/10

What Else Went Down

– William Regal said he received a message from Santos Escobar earlier in the day. Escobar was sat in his car and told Karrion Kross that he wouldn’t be facing him tonight. It cut back to Regal who said the match wouldn’t be taking place tonight, but it would next week. If Escobar didn’t show up, he would be suspended indefinitely. Instead, tonight’s main event would be a six-man tag with Dunne, Burch, and Lorcan facing O’Reilly, Balor, and Strong.

– A video aired from earlier today where Pat McAfee was shown on an aeroplane. He bragged about his jet and was glad everyone finally saw what he knew all along about Adam Cole. He said the NXT universe was too dumb to realise, but he wasn’t. He said people could tweet him to apologise by using the hashtag #patwasright.

– Kushida was shown receiving medical treatment from earlier in the day. McKenzie Mitchell was interviewing him about his match at TakeOver. Bronson Reed came in and said Kushida had a great match on Sunday. He said he was ready for his opportunity at the North American Championship and walked off. Malcolm Bivens walked in and also congratulated Kushida. He said it would be more impressive if Kushida competed tonight as well, and he knew the perfect competitor. He asked the medical team if Kushida was cleared to wrestle tonight, and they said he was.

– Malcolm Bivens was shown backstage talking about how Kushida may not be 100% tonight, but Rust would take care of him. He delivered the “diamond in the rust” line to end the promo.

– Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong were shown arguing in the parking lot, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying.

– Another sweet promo aired of Cameron Grimes showing off how rich he now was. At the end of the video, Grimes crashed his Lamborghini. He said he was just going to get himself another one.

– Earlier in the night, Io Shirai was shown doing a photoshoot when Toni Storm attacked her.

– A video hyped the debut of Zoey Stark (FKA Lacey Ryan) on NXT happening after the break.

– LA Knight’s appearance on the pre-show for NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day aired. He was then shown at his house earlier in the day. He said he was the hottest free agent, and how NXT belongs to him. He finished with his “that’s not an insult, that is just a fact of life” catchphrase.

– A vignette aired featuring Karrion Kross and Scarlett. Scarlett said there was no pause button in this nightmare and Escobar couldn’t dictate time. Kross said his fate had already been decided. He told him to show up next week so he could drive his arm into the back of his head. If he didn’t he would hunt him down anyway.

After The Bell

NXT may not have had the familiar quality of matches seen in recent weeks, but there was plenty of promise shown from all areas of the locker room. The Undisputed Era feud picked up plenty of heat, especially when Adam Cole came out and attacked both Balor and O’Reilly. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler’s appearance was unexpected, but it helped to put Kai and Gonzalez into the babyface picture for once. Plus, Gonzalez is great on the mic, and I loved her nod to what happened on Raw last week with Jax.

The Xia Li angle has grown a little stale, and I don’t think Kacy Catanzaro is particularly good on the mic. I’d rather Li go straight for the top and attack Shirai instead of her ‘friends,’ but it might actually surprise me. I was pretty gutted about not seeing Santos Escobar facing Karrion Kross, too, but Escobar is playing the heel very well here. He’s arrogant, and tonight only highlighted that. I’m excited to see more from Zoey Stark, and it was nice seeing Eli Drake cut a promo. Sorry, I’m not ready to call him LA Knight just yet.

Overall, it feels like NXT has a wealth of talent at the moment, and they’re building them just right to make sure 2021 is a solid year for the black and gold brand. It’s a great position to be in, and I’ve no doubt that as the year rolls on, we’re going to see stars made out of the likes of Zoey Stark, Kushida, Bronson Reed, LA Knight, and Cameron Grimes, all Superstars I consider to be the future of NXT.

Star of the Show: Kyle O’Reilly Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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