Charlotte Flair makes her first NXT Women’s Championship defence tonight, against number one contender Io Shirai. Adam Cole is also putting his title on the line tonight against Velveteen Dream, but only because William Regal forced him to. Aside from the title match, we have Karrion Kross debuting, Johnny Gargano facing Dominik Dijakovic, and Finn Balor coming in to talk about being attacked in the locker room a couple of weeks ago. Sounds like a busy couple of hours.
Johnny Gargano def. Dominik Dijakovic
Akira Tozawa def. Jack Gallagher
Chelsea Green def. Xia Li
Karrion Kross def. Leon Ruff
Charlotte Flair def. Io Shirai
Kushida def. Jake Atlas
Cameron Grimes def. Denzel Dejournette
Adam Cole def. Velveteen Dream
Mauro Ranallo and Beth Phoenix were on commentary from afar again, with Tom Phillips in the Performance Center.
Johnny Gargano vs Dominik Dijakovic
This was the first outing for the new Johnny Gargano and it was a hell of a challenge. Gargano is more than used to wrestling people a lot bigger than him, but Dijakovic is huge.
Unsurprisingly, Gargano got tossed around the ring a lot. Candice LeRae came to ringside and managed to distract Dijakovic enough for Gargano to shove him over the top rope and land a suicide dive going into a break. She got involved twice more when we came back, both to no effect. Gargano got a turnbuckle pad off while Dijakovic had him in the corner and managed to send Dijakovic face-first into it. He followed it with the DDT he’s now calling One Final Beat, and got the win.
Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner, of Imperium, had a promo segment. They’re officially challenging for the NXT Tag Team Championships. Later in the show Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher accepted. Later still the match was confirmed for next week.
Akira Tozawa vs Jack Gallagher
Another match in the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship tournament and another good match. That’s about all I’ve got to say about it, other than Tozawa won it with a senton from the top turnbuckle.
Tozawa had a post-match interview. He’s got El Hijo del Fantasma next. They’ve never wrestled, but Tozawa says he will beat him.
WWE are part of The Real Heroes Project. We got to see a short video about it.
Xia Li vs Chelsea Green, with Robert Stone
Robert Stone introduced Chelsea Green, who came out wearing a skirt type thing which she threw at Li so she could get the first blows in unhindered. It might have been a decent match but Aliyah appeared at ringside then got up on the apron. Xia Li kicked her down again but the distraction cost Li the match. Chelsea Green delivered the I’m Prettier for the win.
Robert Stone helped Aliyah up after the match, could she be a new addition to the Robert Stone Brand.
Karrion Kross did indeed debut, with Scarlett (she’s just Scarlett now). It was the most dramatic of dramatic entrances. I kind of loved it.
Karrion Kross vs Leon Ruff
This was just a massacre. Karrion Kross chucked Ruff around a bit then submitted him.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Io Shirai – NXT Women’s Championship match
This started the second hour of the show, leaving the main event spot for the other title match. Io Shirai is a legitimate contender. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if she was the one to eventually dethrone The Queen, but not on Flair’s first title defence in a non-main event segment with a week’s notice and no build.
That took nothing away from the match. Shirai said she wanted to show Flair how good she is, and she did. Flair missed with her moonsault and took a tiger feint kick and double knees in the corner, but she got her knees up for Shirai’s moonsault. She failed to pin Shirai with a big boot immediately after that and got cross. When Shirai sent her face-first into the corner she rolled out of the ring. She avoided Shirai’s moonsault off the top turnbuckle and hit her with a kendo stick causing her immediate disqualification.
After being disqualified Charlotte Flair set about destroying Io Shirai’s knee against the corner and using the steps. Rhea Ripley ran down to stop her and chased her off. Instead of being grateful, Shirai yelled at Ripley and limped up the ramp after her. Ripley told her to shut up and kept walking.
After a break, Ripley said she’s sick of Charlotte Flair and all her ‘bow down crap’. Flair beat her at WrestleMania but that was one night and she’d like to see her do it again. At that point, Io Shirai arrived and started screaming at Ripley again. It quickly got physical and they had to be separated by officials.
Kushida vs Jake Atlas
Another cruiserweight tournament match. I’m enjoying Jake Atlas in NXT. Kushida wasn’t impressed with his handstand though, he just kicked his arm out from under him. It was a fast and gymnastic kind of a match, high on style and content. It was too short though. Kushida got the win with an armbar.
After the match Kushida said his victory was to honour all the cruiserweight champions of the past. He will be the next one.
Finn Balor delivered his address from a lectern. He said he used to think that the biggest snakes in the place were in the office, but now he’s not so sure. Wrestling playbook 101, attack the guy, get the push. The big push. Music, lights, smoke, lasers. But then the bell rings and now you’re in the ring with the prince and there’s nowhere to hide. He’s a patient man but to whoever attacked him, it won’t be a push it will be a squash.
Cameron Grimes vs Denzel Dejournette
I feel a little sorry for Denzel Dejournette. He was purely there so NXT could remind everyone that Cameron Grimes was still on the roster. It was over in seconds them Grimes started trash-talking about Finn Balor. Balor came out and Grimes backtracked. He eventually went for the surprise attack but he was too slow. Cameron Grimes took a double stomp and a slingblade before he rolled out of the ring.
Balor said into camera that there is a snake hiding but he’ll find it and the best way to kill a snake is to chop off its head (I think decapitating your opponent is still a disqualifiable offence).
Finn Balor versus Cameron Grimes will happen next week.
Adam Cole (C) vs Velveteen Dream – NXT Championship match
This was a worthy main event match. It’s been a long time in the making, one way or another. Cole was all arrogance and trash talk when he was on top, and Velveteen Dream had to shut him up repeatedly. There was a sense it could have gone either way, but it wasn’t allowed a clean finish.
Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish came to help Adam Cole, but Dexter Lumis slid out from under the ring to stop them. Lumis launched Strong onto the apron, and somehow Strong took the ref out. Of course, while the ref was down Velveteen Dream delivered a Purple Rainmaker and had Cole pinned for way more than a three count. He went to see what happened and saw Strong and Fish quietly beating up Lumis at ringside, so he jumped off the top rope and took them out. Unfortunately, Velveteen Dream got back into the ring just in time to take a Last Shot and the ref was awake to count the pin.
I know something needed to be done to freshen Johnny Gargano up in NXT, but I’m not sure bitter, whiny, cheat was the way to go. Maybe it’ll grow on me. Overlooked and underappreciated works well for Candice LeRae, I totally buy that, but it doesn’t ring true for Gargano.
I’m tired after tonight’s episode of NXT. Eight matches, including two title matches, and a smattering of promos in between, is too much in a two-hour timeslot. Ok, two of them were under a minute, but it was a packed show with a lot going on. Everything in NXT is thriving except the tag division, which is just ticking along.