Some news to start, for anyone who hasn’t watched RAW or SmackDown this week. The next round of NXT call-ups (Up? Across? Are we still working under the premise main roster is the ultimate end goal?) have been announced. Lars Sullivan, we knew about, Nikki Cross, Heavy Machinery, Lacey Evans, and EC3 will be joining him on either RAW or SmackDown.
Heavy Machinery feature on tonight’s episode in a warm-up match for their tag title match next week. Dominik Dijakovic makes his NXT tv debut on this episode (in this guise at least), as do Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir when they face Dakota Kai and Io Shirai. To round off this packed hour of television, we have Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black in a steel cage.
Io Shirai and Dakota Kai
Dominik Dijakovic def. Aaron Mackey
Heavy Machinery def. Blake Howell & Danny D’Accardo
Johnny Gargano def. Aleister Black
Io Shirai and Dakota Kai vs Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir
The women’s division got the action underway this week, after the obligatory hype package for the main event. Shirai and Kai came out individually to their own themes. Duke and Shafir came out as a team to a variation of Shayna Baszler’s.
Kai has the major score to settle, so she started things off with Jessamyn Duke. Marina Shafir got a sneaky kick in to Kai’s back early on when the ref wasn’t looking. It had been fairly even to that point, but Kai took a lot of punishment from both Duke and Shafir after that kick landed.
They’re not doing anything flash, and their style is, unsurprisingly, very similar to Shayna Baszler’s, but it was an impressively solid tv debut. They managed to keep Kai away from Io Shirai until Kai landed a kick and created herself some space to tag out.
Shirai came in at the same time as Shafir and immediately took control. She was a whirlwind of activity and Shafir didn’t get a look in.
Jessamyn Duke got up on the apron when Shirai went up for the Asai moonsault. Dakota Kai kicked her down and Io Shirai hit the moonsault on Marina Shafir for the win.
Matt Riddle said he’s not happy about it but he doesn’t blame Kassius Oho for attacking him from behind. After all, he knocked him out in seven seconds last time they fought, so Ohno needs all the advantages he can get. He dares Ohno to step in the ring with him again and he’ll knock him out in seven seconds again.
Aaron Mackey vs Dominik Dijakovic
The evolution of Donovan Dijak is complete. He is now Dominik Dijakovic and the intonation in the last name has shifted. He’s still using the ‘Feast Your Eyes’ catchphrase though.
Aaron Mackey was just there to get thrown around and get pinned. Dijakovic threw him around and then pinned him. Job done.
William Regal’s tweet naming Io Shirai as the final competitor in the fatal four-way number one contender’s match next week, on the basis of her performance in the opening match. The full line up is Bianca Belair, Lacey Evans, Mia Yim, and Io Shirai.
Heavy Machinery vs Blake Howell & Danny D’Accardo
Warm up match = squash match. Howell and D’Accardo got squashed. Somewhat literally.
Undisputed ERA came to the stage while Tucker Knight was busily running back and forth, ramming D’Accardo into turnbuckles. D’Accardo tried to attack Knight from behind while he was yelling at them. He took a huge clothesline and a Compactor but Dozovic pulled him up before the three count. Howell took a Compactor as well, having been plucked off the turnbuckle by Knight and thrown to Dozovic, then they took a Compactor together.
Undisputed ERA stayed on the stage and watched. They looked a little less confident at the end of the match when Heavy Machinery stared them down.
Aleister Black vs Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano didn’t wait for the start of the match, or his own entrance. He attacked Black as he got to the cage and they brawled around the outside of the ring for a while before Black shoved Gargano through the door and followed him.
Gargano started to climb the cage and Black followed. Gargano climbed back down and fell against the top rope, crotching Black on the top rope (considering the injury Black has just come back from, that was brave).
The cage played a big part in the match. Both superstars will be wearing diamond patterns on various parts of their faces and bodies for a while.
Gargano tried to catapult Black into the cage but Black grabbed the mesh and started to climb. He evaded Johnny Gargano’s attempts to pull him down, then moonsaulted onto him. It didn’t lead to a pin attempt, and Black was holding his knee from the landing.
Aleister Black threw Gargano into all four sides of the cage and delivered a barrage of kicks, but only go a two count. With Johnny Gargano down, Black made it to the top of the cage and was just moments from victory, but he climbed back down instead and took the fight back to Gargano.
That was an error because Gargano quickly took control and almost escaped over the top himself. Black caught up with him and Johnny Gargano powerbombed Aleister Black from the top rope to the mat. It took Gargano a long time to attempt an exhausted-looking cover, which earned him a two-count.
Somehow, they kept up the intensity with a brutal exchange of kicks and punches. Gargano almost made it out of the cage door head first, twice. Both times Black pulled him back in by his legs.
Johnny Gargano got the Gargano Escape locked in. Black managed to pick him up and slam him against the side of the cage, but Gargano didn’t let go. The second time he did it Gargano released him and started to climb the cage again. Gargano made it over but Black pulled him back to the top and they punched and headbutted it out up there for a while.
Double knees from the top turnbuckle and a bridging German suplex wasn’t enough to keep Gargano down for three. Black started to lift Gargano up for the Black Mass, but Gargano threw Black’s leg over the second rope and kicked it, then lawn-darted him into the turnbuckle then into the side of the cage, but a bit where two panels meet.
Johnny Gargano held Black’s face and told him he absolves him of his sins, but before he could make another move Aleister Black landed the Black Mass. Black couldn’t get up to make the cover. Johnny Gargano was the first man to his feet and started to climb again. Black crawled to the door as Gargano started to climb down and it was a race to the floor.
Tommaso Ciampa appeared and slammed the door on Black’s head then got in the ring and started beating on him.
The crowd chanted ‘DIY’ as Gargano climbed back into the ring, Gargano and Ciampa looked at each other then did the DIY finisher. Gargano looked horrified at what he’s done. Ciampa wore a look somewhere between amusement and pride.
Gargano pinned Black and Ciampa gave him a slow round of applause and backed up the ramp. Johnny Gargano spent a few moments sat cross-legged beside Aleister Black before he left the ring.
If accidentally working with his most bitter rival doesn’t convince Johnny Gargano that he’s gone too far, nothing will. That said, a heel DIY would be a lot of fun. I think we’re good either way. A video clip attached to a tweet posted just after the match suggests Gargano hasn’t come to his senses yet.
The announced call-ups all look good. Heavy Machinery get their title match next week, I’m going to guess they’re not winning, and I don’t like Lacey Evans’ chances in the four-way considering she’s on her way out of NXT. You never know though, there are always curve balls. Nikki Cross will flourish on the main roster if she’s given a fraction of a chance. Heavy Machinery will be good for either tag roster, but RAW need them more. EC3 was a bit of a surprise, but he should be well on the main roster as well. Lacey Evans has the talent, but we’ll see if her character translates outside of the quite insular NXT environment. NXT will be unaffected by the losses, there are ten superstars fighting for every place on every card at the moment.