The preview for tonight’s episode make it sound great. We are getting a series of qualifying matches the winners of which will go into a fatal four-way for a shot at Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas’ NXT Championship. The first two of those matches are Killian Dain versus Trent Seven, and Kassius Ohno versus Velveteen Dream, we got those tonight. When you add in a championship celebration from Almas, and a No Holds Barred match between Sonya Deville and Ruby Riott, we should have a great show on our hands.
Killian Dain def Trent Seven
Sonya Deville def Ruby Riott
Johnny Gargano def Kassius Ohno
The show opened with William Regal announcing the format for deciding the new number one contender – four qualifying matches, leading to a fatal four-way. This is being done because Drew McIntyre’s injuries prevent him from taking his rematch for the foreseeable future. He also announced a change to the matches announced in the preview. Velveteen Dream picked up an injury in his match with Aleister Black at TakeOver, and will be unable to compete. Kassius Ohno’s new opponent was not announced.
The championship celebration started the show proper.
Zelina Vega said we are all witnesses to the start of a historic championship reign. We should respect the man, embrace the legend, and rise for or NXT champion El Idolo. Almas said he told us so, he’s the champion. He beat Drew McIntyre, he hurt Drew McIntyre – sorry. He switched in and out of English after that, but I caught ‘We are NXT’. That was it, no interruptions, run-ins or anything, just an actual celebration.
Interview with Lars Sullivan, he has Roderick Strong in two weeks in a qualifying match. He said Roderick Strong is a hell of a competitor and a handsome guy who looks like he could be on the cover of a men’s fitness mag, but he’s not like that. Strong talks about his family, but Sullivan doesn’t have one, all he cares about is getting his hands on Strong in two weeks, and making the NXT championship his in Philadelphia. Nothing is going to stop him winning the NXT Championship.
Trent Seven vs Killian Dain
Fifteen minutes in before the first match, quite unusual for NXT. We’re told that Trent Seven was given this spot in the qualifier for winning a battle royal at an NXT live event, now he just has to get past Killian Dain.
Unsurprisingly, they’ve met on the indies so they know each other, that usually helps. They’re also both very good, which also helps.
Trent Seven went on the offensive from the bell, it didn’t work out for him. Dain caught him with a forearm, and Seven was down. Trent Seven threw his best shots at Dain, but to no avail.
Killian Dain pinned Trent Seven off a Vader bomb to go through to the fatal four-way.
Undisputed Era promo next. They told the world they were going to run the place, and they put a stamp on it at TakeOver WarGames. Adam Cole will fight Aleister Black next week, Cole thinks Black isn’t on his level (he’s right, Black surpassed him a long time ago), and next week he’s going to beat him. O’Reilly and Fish are getting a title shot against SAnitY in two weeks. Obviously, they’re planning to become tag team champions.
Ruby Riott vs Sonya Deville – No Holds Barred
A lot was made by commentary of the lack of rope breaks in this match, drawing attention to the fact Riott used one in their last match to break Deville’s ankle lock.
Deville started the match with a power display, throwing Riott around the ring. She got the first ankle lock on when Riott went for the Pele kick a couple of minutes in. Riott managed to get to the ropes, and used them to pull Deville face first into them to make her break the hold.
Things started to get a bit more no holds barred from then. Deville gouged Riott’s eyes which gave her a few minutes’ advantage. Actually, while Ruby Riott kept fighting back, Sonya Deville had the upper hand for the majority of the match.
That ramp never looks like a good place to land, it certainly didn’t when Riott hit Deville with a suicide dive onto it.
Sonya Deville caught Ruby Riott in a leg triangle after Riott threw her back into the ring and went to climb in after her. Ruby Riott passed out rather than tap.
Ember Moon interview. Winning the title was a dream come true, and the fulfilment of her destiny. Her goal is to be the best women’s champion in NXT history. Of course, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay had to interrupt, asking Ember Moon who she pinned at TakeOver, and pointing out it was Nikki Cross not Peyton Royce. By their reasoning this means Royce is owed a title shot. Moon asked the ‘Iconic Duo’ which one of them would be facing her next week, which sent them into a bit of a disagreement. Is this a tease towards tension between the duo? If it was, it was short lived, Billie Kay agreed that Peyton Royce can settle her unfinished business with Ember Moon next week. Although she did tell her not to beat her up too bad, as Kay wants to finish her off.
Pete Dunne will defend the UK Championship against Tyler Bate in two weeks. It was announced with the entire video package from the UK tournament. They need some new footage, we seen this way too many times now.
A mystery promo for a new person, and the match announcements for next week (Royce/Moon, Black/Cole), led us into the main event.
Kassius Ohno vs Johnny Gargano
So, Johnny Gargano was the mystery opponent. These two know each other really well, and this match should be nothing short of awesome. The crowd, with the raucous duelling chants before the match started, seemed to agree. In a warm fuzzy moment, the match started with a handshake.
That was the last warm and fuzzy of the match. Neither of these guys have been having the best of times with their win/loss records recently, there was a lot more at stake than just a place in the four-way.
What a match. Obviously, Kassius Ohno has the superior size and strength advantage, but that’s never bothered Johnny Gargano before, and it didn’t in this one. Trouble is, Ohno is more than happy to do the flippy stuff as well, so they traded blows, and they traded big moves too.
Gargano’s suicide dive into a DDT on the ramp fully deserved the NXT chant it received. Ohno threw everything at Gargano, and he knocked him down plenty, he just couldn’t keep him down.
Johnny Gargano managed to catch Ohno in the Gargano escape, and Ohno tapped out. Gargano goes through to the four-way.
Kassius Ohno looked devastated as he walked away. Johnny Gargano beckoned him back to the ring when he looked back, and they bumped forearms for the final show of respect. A good note to end on.
Great episode tonight. I’m slightly surprised by the Ruby Riott versus Sonya Deville result, but not disappointed. Riott’s credentials are well established, whereas a lot of people have suggested Deville is too green for a main roster call up. She needed a dominant performance much more the Riott did.
Gargano versus Ohno was a superb main event. The amount of talent on the NXT roster is truly astounding, to the point where the single hour pre-taped format is starting to become increasingly restrictive. They’re limited to one or two matches with anything like enough time to develop, and one or two which don’t get that chance. I’ve been saying for a long time that NXT needs to either go live, or go to an hour and a half. Something needs to happen, or huge amounts of talent will end up woefully underused, or at least not seen by tv audiences.