No NXT notes for last week due to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances (sorry, I was in hospital). It was mainly a recap of NXT TakeOver Chicago, but there were three matches. Aleister Black beat Curt Hawkins. We saw the debut of Velveteen Dream (who used to be plain old Patrick Clark), he beat Robert Anthony. And Drew McIntyre beat Wesley Blake. It was a decent episode, well worth checking out if you can.
Ahead of this week’s show we were promised an explanation from Tommaso Ciampa for his beat down of ex-partner Johnny Gargano after their TakeOver loss. Also advertised was an address from Bobby Roode and a slightly cryptic question as to how SAnitY will respond to Eric Young and Nikki Cross being beaten at TakeOver.
Pete Dunne def Danny Burch
Cezar Bononi def Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Kassius Ohno and Roderick Strong def SAnitY
The show opened with Tommaso Ciampa making his way to the ring on crutches. He called out Johnny Gargano to come to the ring so he could explain his actions at TakeOver Chicago, then corrected himself saying Gargano wasn’t there tonight. He talked about his injury the week before TakeOver and how people were discussing whether he would be able to compete, and who should replace him as Gargano’s partner. In less than a day he felt he became an afterthought as the fans found it so easy to replace him with ‘dream partners’ for Gargano.
Moving on to the TakeOver match, he said he’d felt his knee pop during the NXT title match. He knew he was injured not just hurt, and knew he’d be out for a long time. When they failed to win the belts back he realised Johnny Gargano would do exactly what the public had done when he was hurt before the match, Gargano would replace him. But he couldn’t let that happen, DIY was special and he couldn’t let himself become an afterthought, if he was going to go away for a long time then Johnny Gargano was going to go away as well. TakeOver was supposed to be their moment, but it wasn’t, It was his moment.
To wrap up the segment he told the fans he doesn’t need them now and never has, then promised that when he comes back he will the most dangerous sonofabitch in all of NXT.
Commentary later confirmed that Tommaso Ciampa needs major knee surgery (presumed to be for a torn ACL, with down time of 6-9 months). But no update was provided on the status of Johnny Gargano who apparently has refused to speak to anyone since the attack.
NOTE: Shortly after TakeOver Chicago Johnny Gargano’s wife, Candice LeRae, posted this tweet which is the only social media update from either of them.
Before the first match of the evening, we were shown a short intro video for Danny Burch and a segment with Bobby Roode talking from the car earlier that day. Roode said tonight they needed a glorious championship celebration but no-one was invited because it was too exclusive. It’s still his NXT though, and he’ll be back next week.
Pete Dunne vs Danny Burch
This was a great match, and a good chance for Pete Dunne to show the NXT crowds a different side to his game. Danny Burch works a slower and more methodical pace than the matches Dunne has been seen in recently, less visually impressive maybe but more ‘old school’ technical.
The way Dunne is being built is excellent, WWE seem to want to show him as a well-rounded, capable of anything, kind of performer and it’s working. Where the title match against Tyler Bate was big moves and showmanship, this was a hard fought, ground out, kind of match. Different, but no less enjoyable to watch.
It got a good amount of time for an NXT match, but the title wasn’t going to change hands that quickly. Dunne finished the match with The Bitter End, then took to the mic.
He said, ‘Since January I’ve had to watch some boy carry a championship that rightfully belonged to me, and at NXT TakeOver it was my pleasure to take it from Tyler Bate. History will remember that the UK brand truly started when this, and everything that comes along with it, was owned by the bruiserweight Pete Dunne.’
The Velveteen Dream was interviewed backstage, well sort of. He shushed the first question to say the ambience didn’t feel right. Apparently The Velveteen Dream experience needs everything to be perfect. He walked out on the interview without answering a single question.
Paul Ellering did a video promo for Authors of Pain next. The book of pain has been shut, the book of dominance has opened.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs Cezar Bononi
Almas’ motivation and commitment are under scrutiny by NXT at the moment with the storyline suggesting he’s partying too much and doesn’t care. He started with a good amount of aggression, and his talent is clearly not in question. For the first couple of minutes Almas dominated the much bigger Bononi, then he got complacent.
Almas took too long posturing and, as he went for a suplex, Cezar Bononi reversed it into a small package and pinned him.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas appeared furious, grabbed a chair to take back into the ring but Bononi was gone by the time he got back. Within seconds Almas shrugged and left the ring smiling and shaking his head.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce did one of their video segments next. Apparently they’re trying to create an iconic wing in the performance centre. Ember Moon wandered out and, while they were shouting at her, the doctors came out and got Moon to sign something confirming she has been cleared to return to the ring.
Next up there was an announcement that in two weeks Asuka will defend her title against Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross again, this time in an elimination match.
A video from after NXT TakeOver Chicago was shown next. Hideo Itami, clearly angry, trashing things and swearing at Kassius Ohno, who was trying to calm him down. The footage then cut to them making up in the car park shaking hands, before it was announced Itami has a match against Oney Lorcan next week.
SAnitY’s Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe vs Kassius Ohno and Roderick Strong
Decent enough main event match. I’m a big fan of Kassius Ohno, I don’t think he’s ever had a bad match. SAnitY are proving themselves to be a formidable team, as well as a powerful stable, displaying some very good teamwork.
Ohno took the majority of the punishment until late in the match when Strong came in hard. Shortly after, it all broke down. Eric Young had Roderick Strong in the centre of the ring and called for Killian Dain to come and help him out. It looked like Strong was in trouble, until No Way Jose ran to the ring to even the odds and take Dain out of the equation. In the chaos which ensued, Roderick Strong pinned Eric Young.
The final shot of the show, the victorious team of Ohno, Strong, and Jose, suggests that this will be the next phase of SAnitY’s journey.
No women’s division action two weeks running isn’t good enough. A quick segment with Royce and Kay just doesn’t cut it. There is plenty of talent in the performance centre, use it.
I don’t understand the rationale for the women’s title match in two weeks. There was no ambiguity in the decision, but Asuka hasn’t made enough defences and no-one else is ready, so why not.
SAnitY’s feud seems to just have replaced Tye Dillinger with Kassius Ohno, and placed Roderick Strong as the new focal point. It’s not a bad thing, it just seems to lack direction.
Lacks direction seems to be a theme of NXT at the moment, but I’m sure it’s just transitory. Just because the plan isn’t yet visible, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I’m sure the injury to Tommaso Ciampa has thrown a spanner in the works for that one, we’ll have to see how they deal with that. With the women’s tournament coming up in summer, and a plan for a weekly UK championship show reportedly in the works, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. It will be exciting to watch it all come together over the coming months.