Find out what happened on this week’s episode of WWE NXT. It’s the final episode before TakeOver: Toronto.
Previously on WWE NXT, the finals for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was set. In the first of two semifinal matches, DIY lost a heartbreaker to the Authors of Pain. It wasn’t without controversy, however. Interference from both Paul Ellering and The Revival proved to be the difference here.
In the other semifinal, TM61 defeated SAnitY. It was the first loss in NXT for the team of Sawyer Fulton and Alexander Wolfe, and Eric Young and Nikki Cross did not seem happy about the result. But Shane Thorne and Nick Miller punched their ticket to TakeOver: Toronto and a chance at the Dusty Cup.
In the main event slot, Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe signed the contract for their NXT Championship Match at TakeOver. William Regal filled the ring with security guards, but Joe still refused to enter the ring. Instead, he forced Regal to bring him the contract on the stage. Nakamura responded by assaulting the entire security force, leaving Regal angry and Joe shocked.
On tonight’s episode, the last few steps on the road to Toronto will be taken. In the only match advertised ahead of time, Cedric Alexander takes on Andrade Almas. These two have history, going back to Alexander’s official NXT debut. After teaming up for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, a first round loss led to an acrimonious split. Tonight, they’ll settle the score.
Result: Liv Morgan defeated Peyton Royce via disqualification
Rating: 2.0 out of 5 stars
Lots of good things in this one. By far, this is Liv Morgan’s finest hour in NXT. She showed more fire in this match than in any of her prior bouts, possibly in all combined. When she locked in the guillotine at the end of the match, she had it deep. It looked tremendous.
I’m also a fan of the complete lack of subtlety involved with Royce and Kay being NXT’s “Mean Girls.” Corey Graves dropped a Regina George reference, it’s super obvious at this point. But hey, why not? Gimmicks have been born out of less than a pop culture reference from 10 years ago.
Finally, Ember Moon. If there was any doubt that she’s the clear alpha of the NXT Women’s Division, Non-Asuka Subset, this should remove it. Royce and Kay had things solidly in hand, even after the appearance of Aliyah. But once Moon shows up, they went from Mean Girls to Keystone Kops.
My only criticism with the entire segment is the probably unintentional weakening of Kay, Royce, Morgan, and Aliyah brought on by Moon’s arrival. Yes, she’s the superpower here. But how do you justify one competitor immediately showing up and “evening up” the numbers game by doing everything herself?
In a backstage segment later in the evening, Morgan issues a challenge to Kay and Royce for a six-woman tag. Leaving aside how Morgan can’t actually speak like a human being – seriously, listen to her again, it’s bad – for the life of me I can’t figure out who the third teammate for the Mean Girls could be. Nikki Cross? Mandy Rose? Daria Berenato?
Result: Elias Samson defeated Nathan Cruise via pinfall
Rating: 2.0 out of 5 stars
Oh, boy. Here we go.
I’ll be totally honest here: I had no idea that there was any big “return” due on NXT this week. I must have zoned out every week they’ve been showing those hype videos. But given who the videos were for, I don’t think I missed anything.
I will say this, though. Samson learned how to interact with the crowd during his time off from injury. He still seems like a dude in need of a new gimmick, because no one knows what a drifter actually is. But he knows the crowd loathes him – it’s near Eva Marie levels of boos and hatred. And he’s playing into it a bit more than prior to injury.
The Drifter’s in ring work has also improved. This is nothing more than a quick squash match. But Samson looked good – appropriately vicious, cocky, arrogant, and powerful when the situation called for it. The neckbreaker finish looks good compared to where he was before his hiatus.
Officially, this was a segment spread out over a couple slots of the show promoting the entirety of TakeOver: Toronto this Saturday. Unofficially, the bulk was a video making it impossible to root against Tye Dillinger.
WWE kills me when the social media team doesn’t upload these videos. It was so so so good, and it’s nowhere to be found. But go back onto the Network and rewatch it, it’s fantastic.
The short version? Dillinger was in OVW back in the day, and had a few appearances on WWE TV as an enhancement talent. He got released and struggled to make it back. Now that he’s here, he knows second chances don’t usually lead to a third, so he’s out for as much glory as he can get.
Splice in Bobby Roode deriding him, and you immediately side with Dillinger and want to see Roode get his comeuppance.
As for the rest of TakeOver, another great video package nowhere to be found outside the episode was for DIY vs. The Revival. Interestingly, Gargano took the blame for denying DIY fans their “moment” at TakeOver: Brooklyn. For the conspiracy theorists waiting for Ciampa to turn on his partner, it’s just more fuel for the fire.
There’s Paul Ellering going in the shark cage, a la the Last Battle of Atlanta. Remember, Ellering has become a more frequent active participant in the Authors of Pain matches of late. TM61 isn’t about to lose the Dusty Cup due to interference, so a toy set inspired the stipulation.
And we get another look at the two big championship matches scheduled for Toronto. Mickie James making her return to face Asuka kind of got glossed over. But Nakamura-Joe II got its own segment to close the show. We all know the story here, right?
Result: Andrade “Cien” Almas defeated Cedric Alexander via pinfall
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
How you know NXT is still a developmental promotion: In a match between two agile, high flying luchadores, the majority of the match is stiff chops!
It’s not the match you would expect these two to have in the early going. Cedric just turned Andrade’s chest into hamburger meat with a series of chops that would make Ric Flair proud. Almas countered with some of his own after a dropkick turned the tide.
With the big selling point for this match being “it’s personal this time!” the hard strikes makes perfect sense. Even if it’s not the high-flying you think you’ll get from these guys, they want to hurt each other. And as cool as flippy stuff looks, it’s easier to hurt your opponent by bashing their face and chest in.
The big takeaway in this one is how Andrade Almas is a million times better working as the big bad then he was as a happy go lucky good guy. I mean, it’s night and day from his early NXT stuff here tonight. So, so good, especially when he started working the arm late in the match.
Kudos to Cedric for making Almas look like a million bucks with his selling. We always talk about the little things being so important in wrestling, because they’re the difference between good and great. When Almas let up the triangle armbar around the rope, Cedric immediately favored the left arm, even pulling off his elbow pad to help shake it loose.
Later in the match, Alexander even sold it on offense. The handspring elbow didn’t quite have the same oomph as usual, since he couldn’t push off the left arm. After the tope to the outside, he felt the effects. And it perfectly segued into a new finisher for Almas, the hammerlock DDT.
Top marks all around for this one. One of NXT’s best non-TakeOver matches in a long time.