There are four advertised matches for tonight’s show. Candice LeRae takes on Lacey Evans, Johnny Gargano meets Tony Nese, EC3 faces Lars Sullivan, and The Forgotten Sons have a six-man tag that sounds suspiciously like it’s going to be a squash. There’s also a hint that Tommaso Ciampa might want to respond to Velveteen Dream’s accusations from last week.
Lacey Evans def. Candice LeRae
The Forgotten Sons def. Vinny Mixon, Cesar Rise, and Torry Kirsh
Johnny Gargano def. Tony Nese
Lars Sullivan def. EC3
The show opened with Nikki Cross talking to us/herself/Bianca Belair it’s not always easy to tell, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s excellent. She said games are fun, especially games you can play with other people. It was fun playing with Bianca Belair last time, and they’re going to get to do it again. She hopes Belair isn’t scared because they didn’t behave last time. And speaking of bad behaviour, she knows. She kept repeating I know and got right up into the camera. I think she wants us to know that she knows.
Candice LeRae vs Lacey Evans
I’m not really into this 1950’s Good Housekeeping gimmick of Lacey Evans. I think the 50’s is probably where it belongs. Anyway, that’s an issue for another time and a different column (check out this week’s Women of the WWE, out on Sunday night, for more discussion).
Good opening match. Evans’ height and power give her a definite advantage at times, as does her willingness to cheat. There were a long few moments where she was using LeRae’s hair to leverage a submission, and angling her body so the ref couldn’t see.
What she lacks in height and gives up in power, LeRae makes up for in experience and talent. As hard as she tried, Evans couldn’t establish any kind of ongoing dominance, every time she put her down, LeRae got back up and broke out something of her own.
LeRae was on the back foot more often than not, but she had some good chances through the match. She couldn’t quite get the Unprettier and Evans sent her face first into the corner then threw her to the mat.
It wasn’t the first bit of trash talk Evans had aimed at LeRae during the match, but when she said, ‘you’re a loser, just like your husband’, and Candice LeRae lost it. She started beating on Evans in the corner then stepped back to regroup before the ref got to five. As she moved back towards Evans, she walked straight into the Woman’s Right and out she went.
Hype package for next week’s North American Championship triple-threat between Ricochet, Pete Dunne, and Adam Cole, up next. They all think they’re going to win. Adam Cole thinks he’s entitled to it. Pete Dunne wants to add it to his collection and raise its profile alongside his own. And Ricochet wants to build the legacy of the championship as the next part of his legacy. Ricochet pointed out that he and Dunne at least respect each other, even if they don’t like each other, but neither have anything but disdain for Cole. Sure by a fun match.
Tommaso Ciampa appeared from his secret hidey-hole backstage. He said, ‘when you’re on top they will try to chop you down. They’ll talk, and they’ll speculate, and they’ll lie. All to try and steal that spotlight for themselves. Or perhaps, perhaps, it’s to cover their own tracks, to hide their own guilt. Your name is fitting, Velveteen Dream, because you seem to be living in a dream world. A dream world in which I am the guy who attacked Aleister Black, but you and I, we both know exactly what it is that Aleister experienced. So, my advice to you Velveteen Dream, be careful. Keep your theories and your accusations to yourself. And stay out of the champ’s spotlight. Because Velveteen Dream, need I remind you, I’m the guy that ended the fairy tale I’m the guy that exposed the mystique. And if you’re not careful, I’ll be the guy that turns the dream into a nightmare.’
The Forgotten Sons vs Vinny Mixon, Cesar Rise, and Torry Kirsh
As expected from the promo, this was a squash, albeit an extended one. Let’s call it a display match. We learned that when the opponents offer very little offence and pose no threat, The Forgotten Sons work well together as a team and can do some impressive looking stuff.
They won, obviously.
After a recap of Kairi Sane telling Shayna Baszler she can have her rematch at Evolution, there was a video package for Shayna Baszler’s pre-match training regime. She’s gone to a training camp to really immerse herself in the preparations and she’s aiming to show the WWE universe, at Evolution, that she has evolved.
Tony Nese had a pre-match backstage interview. He was asked what brought him to compete in NXT? He said, doesn’t NXT have some of the top competition in sports entertainment? We witness every week on 205 Live he continuously proves he’s the premier athlete, so he thinks it’s time he takes over NXT and if we don’t believe him, he’s got eight more reasons why.
Bianca Belair made Cathy Kelley call her Miss Belair before she’d give her response to Nikki Cross’ request for a rematch. Belair said, first of all, she’s not here to play. And second of all, it’s not about what Cross wants, it’s about what she wants, and she’s still un-de-feat-ed. That’s not changing anytime soon. Nikki had her chance to walk away, but she’s got no sense. So now she’s not only going to have to beat her, she’s going to have to embarrass her and remain un-de-feat-ed.
Johnny Gargano vs Tony Nese
What a completely fun and entertaining match this was. They could have cancelled the rest of the show and just done this for an hour and I’d have been happy enough.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to tell you. Two exceptionally skilled, very well-matched performers, did their thing in front of a highly appreciative crowd. It was good to see Gargano back looking like he was enjoying wrestling again, rather than fighting for his sanity.
There was a buckle-bomb spot that looked really nasty. Gargano’s head bounced off the bottom turnbuckle and it looked kind of awkward. The ref spent a longish while checking on him after that, Gargano kept flexing his right arm, and there was a slight pause in the action. They soon got going again, so it was probably fine.
A 450 splash from Nese failed to keep Gargano down. And that was his last real chance. He should have followed up the German suplex into the corner with a pin attempt, but he went for more punishment instead and, as he ran towards the corner, Gargano superkicked him.
One clothesline later, Johnny Gargano got the Gargano Escape locked in and Nese tapped out.
After the match, Gargano held up a ‘Johnny Freakin’ Wrestling’ sign, but his right arm was clearly still giving him trouble.
Nice little promo package for Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, next. They reminisced about starting out as opponents and earning each other’s respect. They also talked about their title match at TakeOver Chicago, where Lorcan got injured courtesy of a stray Roderick Strong knee. He’s all healed up now, complete with metal plates in his face, and they’re aiming for the NXT Tag Team Championships.
Next week we’ll have the North American Championship triple threat and Keith Lee versus Kona Reeves. Bianca Belair versus Nikki Cross will happen in two weeks.
EC3 vs Lars Sullivan
Compared to some of the recent main event matches, this was quite short at just under ten minutes. It was probably just as well considering how hard they went at it.
EC3 didn’t even wait for his entrance music to finish before he dived on Sullivan and bullied him out of the ring. The ref had to hold him back when Sullivan climbed back in, just long enough to get the bell rung to start the match proper.
It was EC3 with the early momentum. They went straight back to the outside and EC3 rammed Sullivan back first into the steps, three times, leaving Sullivan with some nasty scratches/welts from the edges. EC3 even managed to get Sullivan up to slam him.
Of course, EC3 wasn’t going to have the match all his own way. As soon as he found an opening, Sullivan flung him around and squished him a bit. But EC3 kept coming back with more offence, including a German suplex at one point and a diving crossbody from the top turnbuckle.
A Freak Accident on the apron left EC3 gasping on the mat like a fish out of water, and Lars Sullivan’s diving headbutt put him down for the three count.
Good episode of NXT made very close to great by the Gargano versus Nese match. There is, obviously, no doubt that Johnny Gargano would be great over on 205 Live, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that is his intended final destination.
This is the first week in a while that we haven’t had some kind of addition to the who attacked Aleister Black storyline. Hopefully, that means there will be a big update very soon and we can start to wrap this up while it’s still an intriguing little mystery.