Tonight is essentially the start of the new year of NXT. All the call-ups are done and it’s time to tie up loose ends and build up new storylines. NXT lost another few people in the Superstar Shake-up. Drew McIntyre made his return from injury, by debuting on RAW in an alliance with Dolph Ziggler. SAnitY are making their way to SmackDown Live, minus Nikki Cross who will hopefully now be a mainstay in the NXT women’s division. And Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas is also going to SmackDown, with business manager Zelina Vega. In the spirit of tidying up loose ends, Vega has a match tonight against Candice LeRae, which should be a lot of fun. Also on the agenda in this super-packed episode is Ricochet’s Full Sail debut, Killian Dain versus Lars Sullivan in a no disqualification match, a visit from the newly reinstated Johnny Gargano, and a promise of more destruction from War Raiders. It’s going to be a busy one.
Ricochet def Fabian Aichner
War Raiders def The Metro Brothers
Lars Sullivan def Killian Dain
Candice LeRae def Zelina Vega
Tonight’s show was dedicated to the memory of Bruno Sammartino, who died today.
The show opened with Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae, announced as Candice LeRae and the newly reinstated Johnny Gargano. I’m not sure who was happiest, Gargano and LeRae, or the crowd.
Gargano said that going into TakeOver he dreamt of this moment, and it’s good to be home. For too long he was defined by two words, Tommaso Ciampa. He was his best friend and he broke his heart, cost him the NXT title and stole his career. But, after 37 of the most intense minutes he’s spent in a professional wrestling ring, he has his life back and he’s back where he belongs. The crowd showed their appreciation with a ‘Johnny Wrestling’ chant. He said the last few months have been the toughest of his career but he wanted to thank the crowds and their signs and chanting and always having his back. To Candice LeRae he said he knows the last few months have been tough on them both but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. Then the cutest couple on tv hugged.
Now they’re back they have some unfinished business. LeRae took the mic and said she’s handling it tonight when she goes one on one with Zelina Vega. Gargano said if Almas tries to get involved he’ll drop him like his name is Tommaso Ciampa. And, once that’s done, he’ll be Aleister Black’s first challenger. Because he is Johnny Wrestling, and We Are NXT.
Killian Dain promo ahead of his No DQ match against Sullivan. He said, ‘In New Orleans, Lars Sullivan took away his chance to make history, and tonight he’s going to take everything from Lars. There’ll be no Eric Young, no Alexander Wolfe, and no Nikki Cross. Killian Dain brings the chaos alone.
Ricochet vs Fabian Aichner
I’m so relieved they didn’t feel the need to give Ricochet a squash match for his opening singles contest. Aichner is a serious opponent, not someone to be taken lightly at all, and a really good choice for Ricochet.
Unsurprisingly, it was a really good, very fast, fun-filled match. There was a lovely sequence with Aichner catching Ricochet mid-leapfrog and hitting him with a gut-buster. They both looked impressive throughout the short match. Aichner has the edge on power, Ricochet has a few extra tricks, they’re both insanely fast.
There was obviously no way Aichner was beating Ricochet on his Full Sail debut, but it was extremely entertaining to watch anyway. Ricochet won with a 630 senton.
Post-match Ricochet was asked how it felt to make his Full Sail debut. He encouraged the crowd to chant for him and said it feels great to debut in a place he’s watched so many of WWE’s top superstars make a name for themselves, like Bayley, Sami Zayn, and Seth Rollins. Now it’s his turn. He came to NXT to take things up a notch, make a name for himself and to prove to the entire NXT universe why he’s the one and only Ricochet.
Hype package for EC3. He is 97% charisma 3% body fat. He’s the top 1% of this industry. And he likes the sound of his own voice (I may have added that last bit).
In Lars Sullivan’s answering promo to Killian Dain he said tonight he has a no disqualification match which means he gets to do whatever he likes whatever comes into his mind, will happen. Tonight Killian Dain and the entire NXT universe gets to see why Lars Sullivan is a real-life freak of nature.
War Raiders vs The Metro Brothers
So happy to see these two in NXT, they’re just brilliant. Sadly, they were given a squash match to start their NXT career so there isn’t much to say. Rowe and Hanson showed off their power and agility in the course of a sub-two-minute murder of Chris and JC Metro. They’re going to be a fantastic addition to the NXT tag division.
Shayna Baszler took a camera to take over a meeting going on in the women’s locker room. She pulled Ember Moon’s nametag off the cubby and put a queen of spades playing card in its place. There’s no-one here to stop the fact that things are going to be different around here so they should all get in line or get out if they’re too scared to… At that point, Dakota Kai got up to leave and Baszler stopped her to ask where she was going. She gestured with a water bottle and sidled out with Baszler shouting after her. Baszler told the locker room to ‘get in line behind her or get run over’.
Kona Reeves has been repackaged and he’s coming back in two weeks as NXT’s finest. It’s about time he got a chance.
Pete Dunne was asked for his thoughts on what happened with Roderick Strong at TakeOver. He said he’ll be back in a couple of weeks and we’ll get his thoughts on Roderick Strong when he gets his hands on him. He’s going to rip his head off.
Killian Dain vs Lars Sullivan – No Disqualification match
Interesting that this isn’t the main event. I’m really pleased they’re giving it to Vega and LeRae. Anyway, this one was brutality and chaos from the first echoing blow.
They were only in the ring for a few seconds before they took to the outside and the steps came into play with lars Sullivan being sent crashing into them.
Dain’s suicide dive to follow up didn’t even take Sullivan off his feet. Instead, he caught Dain and sent him spine first into the ringpost, then followed it up with a suplex on the outside.
Killian Dain was bleeding from the mouth courtesy of a stray forearm from Sullivan. He definitely spat something out, could have been chewing gum, might have been a tooth. It looked like his nose was bleeding as well but it’s genuinely hard to tell through that much facial hair.
Sullivan diving off the turnbuckle to the outside didn’t put Dain away, nor did launching himself at him in the ring, so out came the chairs. A Vader Bomb from Dain only got a two count. Nothing was working, so Dain got the tables out.
Dain moved out of the way of Sullivan’s diving headbutt, and Sullivan headbutted a chair instead. When Dain, finally, sent Sullivan through the table propped in the corner, it looked ugly.
After battering Dain with a chair, a Freak Accident onto more chairs finally secured the win for Lars Sullivan.
Nice build package for Candice LeRae vs Zelina Vega, which obviously centred around their parts in the Almas/Gargano feud. It’s an NXT in-ring debut for both of them, but it seems unlikely Vega will do much, if any, more now she and her client have transferred to SmackDown Live.
Undisputed ERA were shown chatting and getting ready for a photo shoot. They were just talking about how wonderful they are and how good they look with the gold. That was the set up to announce their appearance on NXT next week, and Adam Cole’s first defence of the North American Championship – against Oney Lorcan.
Candice LeRae vs Zelina Vega
I’ll get this out of the way now, Candice LeRae is one of my favourite wrestlers, and I’m very happy to finally see her in the ring having a match of her own.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas interfered almost instantly. He got up on the apron and distracted LeRae when she was up on the turnbuckle, allowing Vega to capitalise by dragging her off by her hair. Johnny Gargano came down to neutralize the threat and, as inevitable as it was, I just wish they’d both stayed out the back instead of pulling focus.
Good match. Candice LeRae had an answer to everything Zelina Vega threw at her. Vega’s best chance came from a double-knees in the corner, but it only got a two-count. LeRae was after retribution, and she was going to get it.
When Candice LeRae locked Vega in the Gargano Escape Almas got into the ring. Before he could do anything, Johnny Gargano caught him and put him in the Gargano escape as well. Vega tapped out.
That was twee, but it tied up the loose ends nicely I guess.
After the match, Johnny Gargano grabbed a mic and, after saying how awesome the match was and declaring that unfinished business dealt with, called out Aleister Black.
Aleister Black came to the stage and said, ‘if you want it, next week you shall have it’, then left again. Looks like we’ve got ourselves two title matches next week.
That was an incredibly packed episode of NXT. Loose ends have been tidied up and Almas, Vega, and Dain can go off to the main roster having concluded their outstanding business.
Ricochet’s debut was great. War Raider’s needed proper competition for them to show their skills against. The women’s division main eventing made me happy. I’m not pleased that calling LeRae ‘Candice Wrestling’ seems to be catching on. They’re an adorable couple, but it would be nice if she was Candice LeRae first, and Johnny Gargano’s wife second. She deserves that.
Next week we have the first North American Championship defence and an NXT Championship match. NXT seems to have started the new wrestling year off strong.