Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole (whose contract is basically up) meet face to face this week. We were due to see Ember Moon versus Sarray, but Moon is not cleared to compete so Sarray will face Dakota Kai in the opening match. Kai’s ex-best friend, Raquel Gonzalez is set to open up about Kai’s betrayal. Odyssey Jones and Trey Baxter have the first semi-final match of the 2021 Breakout Tournament. And Ilja Dragunov makes his NXT debut.
Since our last NXT review, there has been a significant shrinkage in the roster. On Friday night, Bronson Reed, Bobby Fish, Leon Ruff, Jake Atlas, Mercedes Martinez, Kona Reeves, Tyler Rust, Asher Hale, Ari Sterling, Desmond Troy, Giant Zanjeer, Zechariah Smith, and referee Stephon Smith. Unlike recent batches of releases, the talk was not about budget cuts, but about a complete overhaul of the brand. Nothing is officially confirmed at the time of writing, but it sounds truly awful. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a WWE/NXT wrestler at the moment. Releases are happening with alarming regularity and seemingly without any logical sense. Outside of a very select few, it seems no one is safe.
Dakota Kai def. Sarray
LA Knight def Andre Chase
Gigi Dolan def. Amari Miller
Odyssey Jones def. Trey Baxter
Boa def. Drake Maverick
Pete Dunne def. Ilja Dragunov
No Beth Phoenix on commentary this week.
Sarray vs Dakota Kai
Before the match, Dakota Kai sent a message to Raquel Gonzalez, hoping she was watching and reminding her she’s coming for the title after she beats Sarray and proves she’s no one’s sidekick. She slapped away Sarray’s offer of a handshake.
Kai cheated her way out of a submission with a handful of Sarray’s hair. She took an age to drag herself to the ropes in another. Sarray is always a pleasure to watch, but there was a harder edge to her offence than she’s needed to show before.
Sarray’s dropkick against the ropes looks brutal and effective. She missed the second one though and took a kick to the head.
Picture in picture showed Raquel Gonzalez on her way into the building as the match built to a finish. Kai caught Sarray with a massive kick in the face for the pin. Gonzalez arrived and chased her off as she went to do it again.
After Kai had run for her life Gonzalez said if she’d wanted a chance, all she had to do was ask. At TakeOver, Kai will get her opportunity and Gonzalez will tear her apart.
Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis had their first date. Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae agreed to try to make it work so Hartwell wouldn’t run away like Austin Theory has. Gargano did the concerned father bit while Lumis waited. They tacked her phone and followed them.
Hit Row had a fire in what looked like a container. They used it to burn a Lucha mask after talking about the disrespect Legado del Fantasma showed them.
Ilja Dragunov arrived to a CWC full of people, two-thirds of whom appeared to have no idea who he was. He was there to talk, not fight. Where he comes from, words mean nothing, but pain means something. The struggle and blind belief and fighting spirit mean something. So he’s put all his strength into his fists, not his mouth. At TakeOver 36, he’s going to do the unthinkable and end WALTER’s reign to become the NXT UK Champion.
Pete Dunne came out, alone which is unusual. He thinks Dragunov owes him a thank you for travelling the world with the NXT UK title and making it what it is. If he’d stayed in the UK, he’d have put Dragunov in his place a long time ago.
Dragunov disagreed. He’s going to beat WALTER and that’s something Dunne never did. He challenged Dunne to a match tonight to see if he’s a strong as his words. Dunne told him he’ll make sure Dragunov doesn’t make it to TakeOver.
LA Knight made a bunch of excuses for leaving Cameron Grimes high and dry last week. He threw in a few insults to Grimes as well. It’s time for this one to be over. Grimes has lost his spark.
LA Knight vs Andre Chase
This was over in under a minute. Knight won.
Ted Dibiase came out while Knight was humiliating Cameron Grimes a bit more post-match. He said he knows Grimes is a man of his word but this has gone too far. He believes in Grimes and knows he could be doing more. Grimes can be whatever he wants to be and he knows he can take the Million Dollar Championship off LA Knight if he’ll put it on the line again.
Initially, LA Knight said no, but he agreed with a condition. If he beats Grimes for the third time at NXT TakeOver 36, Dibiase has to become his butler.
Gigi Dolan got a promo segment. She said “They” were going to run through every woman in the NXT women’s division, but she didn’t specify who the others were. She and Jacy Jayne were the ones talking to Mandy Rose backstage a couple of weeks ago though.
We didn’t have to wait long to find out.
Gigi Dolan, with Jacy Jayne, vs Amari Miller
I’m not sure trying to establish a talent hardly anyone is familiar with against talent hardly anyone is familiar with is particularly efficient, but what do I know. The match was decent enough. Dolan’s finisher is very dynamic.
Later, Mandy Rose tweeted about the advice paying off.
Indi Hartwell caught Candice LeRae spying on her and Lumis on their date.
William Regal had eight security guards in the ring with him for Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly’s face to face. They’re calling this match ‘The Undisputed Finale’. It’s two out of three falls. O’Reilly picks the first fall. Cole picks the second. If it goes to a third, that’s Regal’s choice.
O’Reilly chose straight-up wrestling, pinfall or submission, because the loss in their last match doesn’t sit right.
Cole called that predictable and chose a street fight, for basically the same reason. He’s confident it won’t go to three falls.
Arguing turned to fighting and while security held them apart, William Regal picked a steel cage for the final fall.
If you want to watch them trashing each other, here it is.
Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher both want to fight Ridge Holland. Thatcher will be going first.
MSK sent a reply to Imperium after the rude interruption of their interview. If they want a title shot, just ask. MSK are fighting champions.
Odyssey Jones vs Trey Baxter – NXT Breakout Tournament Semi-final
Decent but short match. Baxter did all the things the smaller guy in a big man small man match is supposed to do, but it wasn’t enough. Odyssey Jones planted him into the canvas and may have left a Trey Baxter shaped imprint.
He will meet either Duke Hudson or Carmello Hayes in the final.
Post-match, Jones told an interviewer whose name appears to be Sam, that he’s excited to have made it into the finals. He got in a quick shoutout to his mum as well.
McKenzie Mitchell spoke to William Regal so he could announce two title matches for next week. Imperium versus MSK, and Kushida versus Roderick Strong. They’re calling it Title Tuesday, but it’s not the first time there have been two title matches on an NXT episode. Slightly weird thing to do on a go-home episode though.
Boa, with Mei Ying, vs Drake Maverick
No Xia Li for this one, and no mention of her. And this is the problem with the uncertainty. Is she the next release? Has she been moved to a different brand?
It was turning into a good match when Mei Ying spat something in Maverick’s face. Boa kicked him in the head and pinned him as soon as he got back into the ring.
Johnny Gargano accidentally threw a cake into Dexter Lumis’ face while playing tug of war with Indi Hartwell with it during the last visit to the date.
The promo package for Karrion Kross and Samoa Joe’s title match was great, as these things always are. Joe said it’s not about the championship. He’s there to fuck Kross up. Kross said he’ll put NXT’s past to sleep when he puts Samoa Joe out… which feels uncomfortably prophetic.
They have a face to face on next week’s go-home show.
Ilja Dragunov vs Pete Dunne
Great main event. Wade Barrett talked about successful NXT UK alums who have moved onto the main roster. He mentioned Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm, then ran out.
I could have watched the back and forth all night, brutal strikes and intricate submissions in perfect balance, but WALTER turned up before the end and divided Dragunov’s attention.
Dragunov kicked Dunne out of the ring to deal with him and Dunne came back to give him a Bitter End. Dragunov kicked him in the head instead and charged at him for the Torpedo Moscow, only to get punched out of the air. This time, Dunne’s Bitter End found its mark.
WALTER paused by Dunne on his way into the ring, but Dunne just shrugged at him and left. The attempted beatdown on Dragunov didn’t go well for WALTER. He took a Torpedo Moscow which had him rolling out of the ring.
Knowing there are major changes in the offing without knowing what they are, makes investing in anything NXT are doing seem kind of pointless. That said, it is still (so far) the workplace of a lot of my favourite wrestlers and TakeOver is likely to be great. It just feels very temporary and uncertain.