As all 12 of you know, it’s very rare that I’m aware of what’s happening in the upcoming episode of NXT. However, believe it or not for the second time in a row I actually know what’s happening this week. I assume that you’ll all be sending gifts my way and/or celebrating at home due to my achievement but sadly, there’s no time to stall and our journey to the next TakeOver must continue to progress so with that being said, let’s head to Full Sail….oh yeah, I probably should’ve pointed out that tonight’s main event is Drew McIntyre vs. Roderick Strong so yeah, there’s that.
DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.
Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross...eventually
We start tonight’s proceedings with a tag/handicap match in which Ruby Riot once again takes on The Iconic Duo alone…unless Nikki Cross shows up again (she does, again). After being briefly controlled by Billie Kay, Ruby fought back and scored some cool offense on both women. Eventually this came to an end though and the heat segment began. Suddenly I was reminded of a seemingly similar match from not so long ago. Nonetheless, Ruby had nice fire early on and sold pretty well in this portion too until a dual facebuster led to a double down.
Nikki Cross soon showed up (told you she would) and Ruby quickly tagged her in to confirm that this is, in fact, the exact same match as its predecessor from a couple of weeks ago. Just like beforehand, Nikki beat Billie up but this time there was no pin as Royce broke things up, tagged herself in and hit the deadly bulldog onto Kay’s knee for a … two count. Oh my bad, I thought this was an important move, silly me! I suppose kicking out was a good look for Nikki though, even if I wish it garnered a bigger reaction from the crowd.
Riot soon intervened, leaving Cross and Billie alone which of course eventually led to the finish as Ruby came back in to pin Kay for the win.
It’s hard for me to really add too much here concerning the Iconic Duo’s performance as it was basically exactly the same as the last match between these talents. The same points remain really, Billie is good fun as a character but not particularly riveting in the heat segment and though she’s much more refined, nor is Peyton at this point in time. That doesn't change the fact that they are still a genuinely entertaining act and bring some much-needed personality to the NXT women’s division.
A backstage interview with Lars is up next and he cuts a pretty bland monster promo without a good monster voice. Well, that was my first take at least but after re-watching I sensed that maybe the intention was to take Lars’ character in a more intelligent/calculated direction, not sure how I feel about that honestly.
Following this came a segment with Vega and she’s quite tremendous, to be honest. Not likable in any way whatsoever, the way it should be. This was a press style segment too so good stuff all round and a nice example of how to establish a character in a very short amount of time.
Oh my lord it’s Lio Rush, NXT’s latest (not quite) free agent acquisition. Lio is an incredible athlete and a tremendous wrestler so I really can’t wait to see him wrestle here…oh wow, he’s wrestling Aleister Black too. This should be spectacular!
Never mind, The Velveteen Dream is here instead and has already beaten up Lio. I would say it’s a shame but I’d be lying to be honest because The Velveteen Dream has been a Report Card favorite since day one (ish) and is on fire in this feud with Black. In the end, he fled whilst Black approached, all only to shout “SAY MY NAME” as he backed up the ramp. It is a shame that we didn't get any hot wrestling action but we got a good angle anyway nonetheless.
I believe that this is my first time covering a Kairi Sane match so I’ll prepare myself for some online abuse regarding my outlandish takes. I find Kairi’s gimmick to be kind of odd but that may be due to my ignorance. Regardless of that, she really has a great babyface look and is immediately endearing. She was taking on Aliyah here and the two grappled early before Sane took advantage very briefly before then mostly selling for the majority of the match.
She did sell well though and eventually fired back with a spear, her corner offense and then the famous elbow drop for the win. This was a good showcase in that it shined some light on Kairi as a personality and character but I’m not sure she was spotlighted enough physically. Not that it matters much in the big picture as either way, Kairi will be a major player in NXT.
It feels like it’s been a while since we last saw Aliyah on NXT but I have to say that I thought she looked really good here. She hit a neat tilt-a-whirl suplex early, even if slightly over telegraphed, and some really nice kicks to the spine too. She’s still a little clunky in between spots but that was over-shined in this match by more surprisingly cool power stuff (yes seriously) as she focused on Kairi’s back. She really had a nice showing here and seems to have improved.
Before the abuse begins, the grades above and below don’t suggest that Aliyah is almost as good as Sane but instead that in this 5-minute match, she shined a lot herself and left an impression. That’s all, nothing more.
Roderick Strong vs. Drew McIntyre (c)
Main event time, title match time and more importantly, TakeOver grading style time folks. Let’s get this started. Firstly, Strong’s facials before the match were tremendous as he really showed his nerves and anxiety. This is nothing new with Roddy but still, always something worth crediting nonetheless. This character aspect continued early too as Drew’s power advantage repeatedly showed in the grappling exchanges. Strong’s speed got him brief success but Drew continued to dominate the challenger in what was arguably his best NXT performance so far. Eventually, though, a backbreaker on the steel steps changed things and Roddy was now in control.
Strong is the absolute best at working another human’s back and was so aggressive that Drew’s selling actually worked here. He sold really well too but that’s not exactly new, it just showed more with Strong’s work being so intense. McIntyre was now unable to come back too much as Strong’s sheer aggression overwhelmed him. He eventually kipped up (yes seriously) and made a big comeback, hitting some cool moves and making those Scottish noises he makes. It was now very much back and forth as the pair traded big moves, hard strikes, and false finishes.
Nigel McGuinness was superb at the commentary desk also and really put over the emotional aspect of Strong’s mind-set coming in. A headbutt earned Drew the advantage and allowed him to hit a big move I don’t know the name of off of the top rope. However, in a neat moment of storytelling it was Strong that got his foot on the rope and with that he fired back himself, hitting the “Sick Kick” for a two count. Strong’s chances vanished soon enough though as he was powerbombed into the ring post and Drew closed the show with the Future Shock DDT and Claymore, retaining his title.
Wow, I remember not liking the first match between these two but I have to say that I absolutely loved this. Physical, intense and gripping, Strong and McIntyre had a really entertaining babyface vs. babyface match and trust me, from my perspective that’s no easy feat. I’m not a huge fan of either man’s character right now honestly but both can do great things bell to bell and Strong’s journey has been interesting to watch. Great main event.
For the first 30 minutes, this week’s NXT was a whole lot of nothing for me but thankfully, the ‘Messiah of the TV Match’ saved the day and put in another great NXT TV main event, this time with Drew McIntyre, a guy that I’ve never enjoyed more than I did here. Really good main event that made this a worthwhile hour and due to its quality, elevated all the segments that came before it. NXT may not be 60 minutes of complete excitement every week but it’s consistently providing quality segments right now and that’s good enough for me.
Please comment your thoughts on Roderick Strong’s TV match greatness below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. Until next time folks.