The preview for NXT tonight is short and sweet. There will be a tag title match, where SAnitY will take their contractual rematch against Undisputed ERA. And Shayna Baszler will make her in-ring debut. It looks from like she’ll be fighting Dakota Kai. That’s all that was preannounced, but with TakeOver looming we can expect there to be some significant card building going on.
Shayna Baszler def Dakota Kai – by referee’s stoppage.
Kassius Ohno def Raul Mendoza
Lars Sullivan def Lio Rush
Undisputed ERA def Roderick Strong and Aleister Black
The show started with and Undisputed ERA promo. They welcomed us to 2018 and said it will be their year of dominance. They closed out 2017 by winning the tag titles, and will start 2018 by defending them against SAnitY. Adam Cole vowed to end anyone who steps in his way on the way to the NXT title.
We’re not at Full Sail today, we’re in Atlanta, that usually means the crowd will be a little odd compared to the FS regulars, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Shayna Baszler vs Dakota Kai
During Shayna Baszler’s entrance they showed a video of her choking out a trainee in the name of demonstrating the hold. Dakota Kai had to pull her off the unfortunate trainee, and that’s how this match was set. Kai is great, and this is a much better intro for Baszler than a squash match. I don’t think any of us are under any illusions that this is anything other than a foregone conclusion match. But there is more credibility gained for Baszler from beating a competitor like Dakota Kai, and there is nothing lost by Kai losing to the women’s divisions newest monster heel.
In the end, this didn’t last long at all. After manipulating Kai’s arm for a while, Baszler stomped on Kai’s elbow and the match was stopped by the referee.
That wasn’t enough for Shayna Baszler. She slapped Kai in the rear naked choke, and didn’t let her go until Ember Moon ran down to the ring, at which point Baszler left the ring, laughing.
Authors of Pain are coming for the winners of tonight’s tag title match. They want their titles back. The promo was delivered by both Rezar, Akam, and Paul Ellering. Interesting to see AoP starting to deliver some of their promos in English, that’ll be useful for them on the main roster…
There was a backstage, post-match, interview with Baszler, she didn’t get to answer the question of why she’d done it, instead she got a dressing down from William Regal. He told her that he sees right through her games, and that kind of behaviour won’t get her a women’s title match. Her only response was ‘Are we done here?’
Kassius Ohno vs Raul Mendoza
I hope there is a long-term plan for Ohno that just isn’t visible yet. Because, if he is just languishing in the NXT mid-card, they are chronically wasting a phenomenal talent. To be fair, Raul Mendoza is worth more exposure than he’s getting as well, but Ohno is on a whole other level.
This was a fun match, all speed and agility from both competitors, with some huge strike from Ohno. Mendoza gave a good account of himself, he got several near falls on the bigger man. Hope he’s earned himself some more opportunities, we could be in for some entertaining matches.
It wasn’t his night though. Kassius Ohno picked up his first win of 2018 with the high-tension elbow strike. May it be the first of many.
Zelina Vega gave an interview saying that she and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas are on the same page, now more than ever. They know they need to do the work for Almas to stay champion, and that’s what they’re going to do. She talked about Gargano being an opportunist not a fighter, said he didn’t earn his opportunity. He took advantage of guys that had already been beaten down by other people. She went on to say that Ciampa had been the successful one in #DIY, and Johnny Wrestling was a lie.
I’m not sure why they asked her about her strategy going into the TakeOver match, she never answers, and she didn’t this time.
In the answering interview, Johnny Gargano was just getting into his stride, talking about becoming the number one contender, when he was interrupted by Velveteen Dream. Velveteen asked him to say thank you, for Gargano taking the place in the tournament he vacated due to injury (he was out for approximately a month with undisclosed injuries following his TakeOver match with Aleister Black). He told Gargano he got lucky. He took too long to beat Kassius Ohno. And he got lucky again because he shouldn’t have beaten Aleister Black. Velveteen Dream said Gargano can’t beat Almas and he knows it. Finally, he didn’t deserve the spot, Velveteen Dream deserves his spot. He walked away telling Gargano to think about it.
Street Profits promo time next. They did their thing for a bit, then went to William Regal’s office, and asked him for a shot at the tag team championships. He announced a number one contender’s match for next week. Street Profits versus Authors of Pain.
Lio Rush vs Lars Sullivan
Lio Rush is a talented youngster. He could do with learning some social media skills so he doesn’t get himself in trouble again, but in ring he’s great. I suspect he’s not going to get chance to show much of that tonight, as his opponent is Lars Sullivan.
Rush is tiny, and the size disparity of almost comical. He ‘s clearly quicker than Sullivan, but speed is only useful for running away, especially when none of the strikes you land make any difference to your opponent.
He got a token moment or two, largely involving him getting out of the way of Sullivan in the corners, rather than any offence he created. Sullivan got bored quickly, delivered the Freak Accident, then folded Rush up like he was made of paper for the pin.
After the match, Lars Sullivan said he’s faced opponent after opponent, sometimes two at once, and they’ve all fallen at his hand. But he keeps going back to two weeks ago when he met a force he’d never felt before, but that gives him joy because it’s a force he wants to destroy. He was talking about, and to, Killian Dain. To hammer the message home, he gave Rush a super-Freak Accident from the second turnbuckle. I’d quite like to see him try to do that to Dain, he’s considerably larger than Lio Rush.
The cameras cut away to something going on backstage, which turned out to be Undisputed ERA beating SAnitY up. They were yelling that they make the rules as officials chased them off.
Having just seen SAnitY sprawled on the floor backstage, ambushed and beaten, it seemed unlikely that we would get the promised title match. Undisputed ERA certainly seemed to think that was the case as they made their way to the ring, laughing and joking.
Adam Cole was telling the crowd that they kicked the Chaos out of SAnitY, when Nikki Cross appeared on the stage, determined to get to Undisputed ERA and exact revenge on behalf of her faction. She was being held back by two officials, and it took them a goodly while to force her backstage. Shame, that would have been fun to watch, and the crowd thought so too.
William Regal came out and told Fish and O’Reilly they would be defending their titles tonight. Before they had a chance to protest, Roderick Strong appeared and offered his services. He didn’t get to finish whatever he was going to say about choosing a partner, because Aleister Black stepped up. Strong and Black hit the ring, and a brawl broke out.
Undisputed ERA (C) vs Aleister Black and Roderick Strong
By the time we came back from a quick break, the brawl had turned into a match.
Aleister Black is set to face Adam Cole at TakeOver, after Undisputed ERA cost him the number one contender’s match, and his undefeated streak in the process (still not ok with that). Roderick Strong has had issues with Undisputed ERA, and is now at a bit of a loose end.
It started well for Black and Strong. Kyle O’Reilly took a lot of punishment from both of them. Bobby Fish turned things back in his team’s favour by taking out Blacks legs from outside the ring, and dumping him face first on the apron.
With Black subdued, UE kept him trapped in their corner, making with the frequent tags, and wearing him down. Eventually, Strong had to break up a pin attempt. When Black managed to recover enough to get to his corner and tag in Strong, Roderick Strong decided to take on both of UE at the same time, before settling for fighting Kyle O’Reilly.
Adam Cole got involved when Aleister Black attacked Bobby Fish on the outside. Cole managed to get Black to pursue him into the crowd, at which point Roderick Strong was double teamed and pinned.
Aleister Black ran back to the ring to have a go at Fish and O’Reilly. Predictably, it ended up in a three man beat down, culminating in Black being thrown spine first into a chair, and Undisputed ERA posing over his prone body.
William Regal was really putting his GM stamp on things tonight. His final act of the evening was to make Aleister Black vs Adam Cole, at TakeOver Philadelphia, an extreme rules match. Cole got up in Regal’s face, then changed his mind, and they walked away still mouthing off.
Strong start to NXT’s 2018. I enjoyed the amount of involvement William Regal had in this episode. He’s great in his role, why not use him.
Shayna Baszler has made an instant impression. She looks like a legitimate badass, and it will be interesting to see how she progresses.
The NXT tag division is looking healthy, can’t be long now before some of them are main roster bound. TM61 are due back soon and, as it stands, there isn’t the space for any more teams to come through. I expect at least two teams to be called up by the week after WrestleMania.
Velveteen Dream interrupting Gargano’s interview was interesting. It sounds like Gargano may be defending his position as number one contender before TakeOver.
All in all, a good start to the year. Lots to look forward to in the next few weeks.