NXT put up a strong show for their first head to head with AEW. Three title matches, Johnny Gargano versus Shane Thorne, an appearance from Velveteen Dream, and, according to the spoilers I didn’t manage to avoid, some really cool surprises.
Adam Cole def. Matt Riddle
Io Shirai def. Mia Yim
Johnny Gargano def. Shane Thorne
Shayna Baszler def. Candice LeRae
Pete Dunne def. Danny Burch
Undisputed ERA def. Street Profits
I really liked the opening credits. Very rousing. Matt Riddle and William Regal sharing a fistbump, before Riddle came out to open the show, was a cute touch.
Adam Cole (C) vs Matt Riddle – NXT Championship match
Commentary told us before Cole’s entrance that Cole would be wearing a cast due to a fractured wrist caused by Riddle last week.
It’s a bold move to start with a match most people would be expecting to main event, but it worked in their favour. The crowd were into it and kept the energy levels high and the noise levels up. And it was a fun match. I’m never going to be an Adam Cole fan. I know he’s really good, I just don’t want to watch him. But it was a good match.
Riddle came close to beating the champion several times. It was a positive festival of near chances and false finishes on both sides. A title change really would have been a bold way to start the first fully televised live show, but it wasn’t to be. Riddle hit Cole with everything in his arsenal and Cole kicked out, he even locked in the Bromission and an armbar on the injured arm. But Adam Cole hit him with the cast and a Last Shot and that finished the match.
After the match things got exciting. Finn Balor arrived back in NXT. Mauro Ranallo excitedly announced Finn Balor has come home, and the crowd chanted welcome back.
Balor said, ‘As of now, Finn Balor is NXT’. Adam Cole backed out of the ring and left quietly.
Great move for Balor and for NXT. He’s too good to be as lost in the shuffle as he was on the main roster brands.
Velveteen Dream brought the Velveteen Dream Experience to NXT. That equated to purple lighting and his couch being surrounded by women. He challenged Roderick Strong to a rematch for the NXT North American Championship.
» Lio Rush got a hype package. He’s challenging Drew Gulak for the Cruiserweight Championship on next week’s NXT.
Io Shirai vs Mia Yim
I really like the NXT women’s division. There is a ton of talent in various stages of development, which means every so often you end up with a lot of talent and experience in the ring together, just because. I love what they’re doing with both characters at the moment as well. Mia Yim is fighting for position and respect and reputation. Io Shirai just wants to burn everything to the ground. As a result, this was a battle. Shirai picked up the win with a moonsault, but I fully expect to see them do it all again soon.
» Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were in the crowd.
» Tegan Nox also got a hype package. I wish they’d stop showing her sobbing when she got injured.
Johnny Gargano vs Shane Thorne
Shane Thorne had framed this on social media as the battle for the title of Mr NXT. A little delusional, but it’s nice to have goals. This was a fast-paced and highly entertaining match, with the crowd one hundred percent behind Gargano. Shane Thorne made a good case for himself stepping up the rankings, but it was Johnny Wrestling who picked up the victory.
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Candice LeRae – NXT Women’s Championship match
Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir accompanied Baszler to the stage, but she came to the ring alone. LeRae had a good start, making Baszler take a break on the outside and following her to keep up the pace. It didn’t last long though. Baszler turned it around threw Candice LeRae into the steps, injuring her arm. If that didn’t do it then stomping the arm into the steps afterwards definitely did. Baszler zeroed in on that arm for the rest of the match.
LeRae didn’t just let her have it her own way though. At one point she got Baszler in the Kirifuda Clutch, and delivered a swinging neckbreaker from the turnbuckle. Baszler was down, but she moved out of the way of LeRae’s moonsault and locked in the Kirifuda Clutch. Candice LeRae fought fiercely to get free, but she couldn’t do it and had to tap out.
That won’t be Candice LeRae’s last shot at the title.
» Stephanie McMahon, Mark Henry, and Alundra Blaze were shown in the crowd. There’s a bit of a TakeOver vibe to the whole show.
» Kushida versus WALTER is on next week’s show.
Pete Dunne vs Danny Burch
Another fun and hard-hitting match which was finished with Pete Dunne’s Bitter End. It was good, I just have literally nothing to say about it. Dunne is so over at Full Sail and has just relocated to the US to join NXT full time, it was too much of a foregone conclusion. Damian Priest attacked Dunne after the match, that’s going to be an interesting feud.
» Adam Cole had an interview where he defended the use of his cast in the match. The rest of Undisputed ERA arrived and were getting all irate about Finn Balor’s arrival, Cole tried to refocus them for the upcoming tag title match.
Undisputed ERA (C) vs Street Profits
Street Profits were brought to the ring by Wale. Undisputed ERA’s entrance was considerably more low key.
There was nothing low key about the match though, it was great. Montez Ford is so impressive, and he just keeps getting better. He was also the chosen recipient of some extended punishment from Fish and O’Reilly. It was his athleticism that finally allowed him to escape and tag in Angelo Dawkins, who decided to take on both Fish and O’Reilly for a while. Interference from Fish injured Dawkins’ leg, and O’Reilly would have tapped him out were it not for Montez Ford dropping Fish onto them.
Street Profits almost got their double team finish on Bobby Fish, but O’Reilly made the save. An incredible dive from Ford put them back in sight of a victory, but Roderick Strong appeared from nowhere and grabbed Ford’s leg. Montez Ford kicked him away and Angelo Dawkins took him out with a spear, but it was too late. Fish kicked Ford off the turnbuckle and a high low finished him and ended Street Profits’ title hopes.
Adam Cole came to the stage to congratulate his stablemates. Tommaso Ciampa’s music hit and out came the ex-champion. He walked slowly around Cole the stood and stared him down before turning his gaze to ‘Goldie’. Between Balor and Ciampa, Adam Cole is about to experience ‘interesting times’.
So, did NXT beat AEW? The ratings suggest a clear victory for AEW in this first week but as WWE’s rather disingenuous sounding congratulatory statement to AEW says, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll see how it plays out over the next few weeks and months. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen both shows and they were both great. AEW is an exciting prospect that I look forward to getting increasingly drawn into. But I’ve been covering NXT for three years and haven’t missed an episode in that time, so I may be biased but NXT just edged it for me.