Nigel says that tonight will be "NXT's Infinity War." So... is half the roster getting fired at the end of the show?
MATT RIDDLE PROMO - He calls out Kassius Ohno to have their match now instead of next week on NXT. Ohno came out and accepted (while also calling Riddle stupid) so we got...
MATT RIDDLE vs. KASSIUS OHNO - no rating, good segment
Ohno ran in for an elbow but Riddle immediately knocked him out via running knee to the chin. Mauro noted to us that Oh no had vowed to "expose Riddle in one second flat" but it turned out to be the other way round. Ohno still wanted to fight but was groggy and in no condition to do so. I assume Ohno will get some revenge on TV over the next few weeks and we'll build to some sort of match to fit the build (Last Man Standing, or maybe KOs only, or perhaps they'll find a way to add submissions into the mix).
2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH FOR THE NXT WOMEN'S TITLE:
Shayna Baszler(c) vs. Kairi Sane - 6.75/10
This was disappointingly short for a 2-out-of-3 falls match, but they did a good job of both telling their story for this match and making its point within the context of the larger feud. Kairi got shined up until Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir interfered, but then lost after being locked in the rear naked choke. In fall two, Kairi overcame that which caused her earlier downfall, but fall three taught us that such a thing would only be temporary unless Kairi would have help of her own on the outside to neutralize such a threat, but that such a thing needed to be done purely by others or else Baszler would be able to capitalize on any little distraction.
I thought these two did a good job of not making the match feel short despite the fact that it was three falls in less than eleven minutes. The action was good, the heels' offense all focused on Kairi's head, and they kept things moving along in such a way that it made the story feel very nuanced and open-ended. One particular spot I'd like to highlight was that they did a running knee right at the beginning of a fall for a two-count, which was a clever callback to the previous match. Maybe Shirai took too much time setting up her dive before actually jumping, but that's about the only technical complaint I can see anyone having with this match. Speaking of Io...
Io Shirai and Dakota Kai make perfect sense as Kairi's back up, given Io's connection to Kairi (which WWE did emphasize at Evolution, so it's not coming out of nowhere), and Dakota's issues with Shayna earlier this year (and actually running towards the Horsewomen can be said to represent a step forward for Dakota, even if she never had any interaction with Shayna). There should be a six-woman tag coming out of this, which is something we rarely see on NXT, so that's something to look forward to as well.
Someone tell Sean Waltman that you lose the cool-factor associated with D-X's famed crotch chop and saying "suck it!" if you do it while holding a small dog.
JOHNNY GARGANO vs. ALEISTER BLACK - 9.5/10
Well... that was F*CKING INSANE! They worked over each other's heads with strikes, while also playing these wonderful mind games with each other, with both falling for the other's tricks, but not doing so often enough to make them look stupid; just one or two key points during the match, each. They worked a very strike-heavy style, but instead of that indy/puro "hit each other so many times as to make it all meaningless" crap, at least half of the strikes they threw were dodged, emphasizing each man's agility, and making each strike that finally connected feel like a bigger deal. Nigel's commentary in particular was excellent, and really helped to highlight the thought process behind Gargano's transitions to traditional submission wrestling.
The only complaint I have about the match, it was that I wasn't fond of the idea of Aleister going for early roll-ups. This match is his chance to, as he put it, get his "pound of flesh" from Gargano. How is he going to punish Johnny for attacking him if he wins with a school boy in three minutes?
NXT TITLE MATCH:
Tommaso Ciampa(c) vs. The Velveteen Dream - 9/10
The Velveteen Dream came out in Hollywood Hogan homage gear, and they peppered in some Hogan homage spots, which were kind of fun. These two had a heck of a brawl, but one that managed to feel very different from Ciampa and Gargano's. Shockingly, it was that one that felt more like a sporting contest whereas this one felt more like a fight, even though neither lacked for intensity.
The Velveteen Dream worked over Ciampa's knee while Ciampa worked over TVD's head. I actually popped for Ciampa yelling at Mauro for calling him a "sick S.O.B." simply because Mauro did it with Ciampa standing right there, and that leading to TVD getting an advantage back was a good transition (although I will admit that I would have been quite unhappy if it had actually led to the finish). Speaking of the finish, the last few minutes of this were utterly NUTS, and the finish they did was an extremely clever one, making use of the unique situation offered by the War Games set-up. The crowd was hot as hell the action was intense, and both guys were completely on their game. An EPIC world title match.
They spent WAY too much time plugging a WWE vs. NXT game of League of Legends on Xavier Woods' YouTube channel. Stop wasting my time. Come back to me when they're playing the real greatest game of all time: StarCraft: Brood War.
WAR GAMES MATCH:
Undisputed Era vs. Pete Dunne, Ricochet, & the War Raiders - 8.75/10
All of the babyfaces were wearing the War Raiders' war paint. I'm not as big of a War Games mark as some people are, so I thought the three minute periods were excessive and that two would have worked much better. War Games is, as Vince Verhei once famously described it, a series of run-ins, so just get me to the match beyond, please.
The spot with Fish using the padlock from his own cell to doubly lock Dunne in the babyface cell and throwing away the key was a very clever way for the heels to still cheat even though it's freakin' War Games.
This was really awesome for a long time, but then it just started to drag. It really should have ended after Hanson hit that splash to O'Reilly on a table. After that point, most of what they did felt like they were just doing stuff got the sake of doing cool stuff, rather than the creativity we had seen before (that spot where the heels had Dunne trapped in one ring and had him in a submission- even a double-submission at one point- while the others held the babyfaces at bay in the other ring with chairs until Hanson & Rowe threw Ricochet over the gap and into them was one of my favorite spots I've seen all year). Once they started fighting on the top and doing stuff from the top and that Tower of Doom spot I just lost interest, as it felt like spots rather than anything resembling a story.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Dunne and Ricochet had a bit of a stare-down after the match to remind us that they still do want to settle their issue and win the other one's title.
Another FANTASTIC TakeOver show from NXT. The action was fantastic, the crowd was red-hot, they moved their stories along, and gave us satisfying payoffs all through the card aside from one dirty finish, which stands out from everything else for just that reason. And no one got wiped out of existence in the end, either. Take that, Nigel. You were wrong!