If you are reading this article, you’ll probably be aware that the world surrounding NXT has become rather wild as of late. Without giving spoilers, Hunter’s outlaw promotion is about to get somehow more mental but nonetheless, this week’s television is being transported from a much more relaxed time and place. Things are rather settled and Centre Stage is very tired which means that we’ve got a solid hour of hot rasslin’ action lined up. That includes some Dusty Rhodes Classic action, a UK Championship encounter and of course, a contract signing.
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.
Speaking of NXT’s annual tag team tournament, that’s what we’re getting started with here. It was in the last Dusty Classic that Sanity found their feet and here they are opposite the legendary duo of Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. Wolfe ran wild briefly before being halted and worked over a little. He eventually fought free though and made the tag to Young. His hot tag was a strong one and culminated in a big elbow drop off the top rope.
Moss broke up the fall which earned him a Nikki Cross…crossbody and Sanity quickly pinned Sabbatelli. Not much to note here really but EY’s portion was a lot of fun and Wolfe sold adequately. They are a good team, we obviously know that regardless.
Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli
Though this was brief, my recent fandom of Moss & Sabbatelli absolutely continued here. I loved Moss’ top rope cut-off spot and Tino’s “I SUCK?” response to negative chants also ruled. Their control portion was brief though as realistically, the physicality wasn't the focus here. Instead it was about the team’s dissension and that came to fruition as Moss inadvertently dropped Tino here. I like the trend of their in-ring approaches not gelling even though their personalities seem to be a perfect fit. That’s neat.
My only issue is that sadly, I’m unsure as to where these two go as singles acts. Frankly, I’d rather they just remain as a unit for now but it’s only fair that I wait and see what comes next.
Up next, Tommaso Ciampa is back and once again, these savages are very much booing him. I agree with them though honestly, it was rather immoral of Ciampa to steal ‘Cien’s big moment of another clean win opposite Johnny. Either way, Ciampa was unable to get a word out and simply bailed. Though absent, Gargano is now haunting Tommaso…there’s something awfully poetic about that I’d say.
Some women’s division action followed as Lacey Evans took on Dakota Kai. Evans went straight after Kai’s injured arm with some nice aggression but Kai then rolled her up for a super quick win. Due to its lack of length, I can’t really grade this but Dakota is a very good natural babyface, that’s for sure.
SHAYNA BASZLER AND EMBER MOON FISTFIGHT
Following Kai’s win, Shayna Baszler arrived and it must be said, a genuine aura suddenly came across Centre Stage. Dakota sold her presence magnificently too, with fear immediately coming across her face due to their prior interaction. Ember Moon’s music soon hit though and she cut a brief promo before hitting Baszler in the face. A wild brawl emerged as the two women scrambled for position. Baszler then floored Moon with a big right hand but Ember flurried, heading up top.
Shayna cut her off but out of nowhere, Dakota Kai made a sudden save which allowed Ember to hit The Eclipse. This was a segment that for me, served two purposes. Firstly, it nicely furthered the build for New Orleans and did a great job capturing the animosity. Moreover though, I sense that all of this is leading to Baszler’s next key babyface rival in NXT. All I’ll say is don’t be surprised if Baszler vs. Kai finds itself as a TakeOver title match in the very near future.
More Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic action is up now as two Report Card favorites clash. Few teams are more consistently entertaining than the Profits and Heavy Machinery so this should be a fun one. To begin, Otis and Montez (two of the world’s finest technicians) got us started with some comedy, as Ford offered Dozovic a sip of whatever beverage is within that cup of his. In the end though, that proved to be a bad idea as Otis run wild and along with Knight, took control of the action.
Ford then sold for a portion before bringing in Dawkins. The team’s powerhouse run his hot tag and looked sharp here, flurrying on Tucker until he was cut-off. Otis then came back in and they looked set to hit their finish but Ford smartly removed Tucker to halt that, allowing Dawkins to floor Otis with a DDT. Ford followed up with his frog-splash for the win. Both these teams are incredibly fun to watch and from purely an entertainment perspective: blatantly ready for primetime.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times: Otis Dozovic is an absolute treasure. His whole response to Ford’s drink was simply delightful, from the excited face to the wacky leg spasms…all great. I also enjoyed their tandem maneuver in which they used Montez as a battering ram, running him into Dawkins’ great balls of fire. Tucker’s monster Thesz press was fabulous too and my only real complaint is that one of these teams had to go out.
Main event match time now as Adam Cole challenges Pete Dunne for the UK Championship. Cole used The Undisputed Era to his advantage early, jumping Dunne early before being floored by a big forearm. Fish & O’Reilly would help him turn things around later too, distracting Dunne after he’d began to dictate the action. We then went to a break and returned to see Dunne already making a comeback…I guess Hunter Hearst Helmsley doesn't love Adam Cole’s heat segments either.
Either way, as the match approached its climax Cole looked increasingly comfortable, with one highlight being a counter backstabber to earn some reprieve. He followed up with an USHIGIROSHI and then began to taunt out of frustration. That earned Cole a big forearm and a wacky strike exchange came after. Though not initially my thing, it did culminate in a legit awesome spot as Cole brilliantly kicked Dunne out of the air. For that, thumbs up.
One more Fish & O’Reilly distraction then allowed Cole to hit Last Shot for a really nice false finish which Cole maximized with strong facials. Dunne then fired back which forced The Undisputed Era to cause a DQ finish. Smart finish to a very good match that Cole shined in. Of all his standard matches in NXT thus far, this was likely Cole’s best and certainly his strongest individual showing.
Playing a different role here, I liked how Dunne’s personality was emphasized by his very first move. Rolling out the ring to confront Fish & O’Reilly was a nice character moments and I very much enjoyed the commentary debate that it spawned. After proving Nigel correct with a big forearm strike, Dunne took control and went after Cole’s arm and fingers just like he usually does. A distraction then led to Dunne selling for a period before making a babyface comeback.
That was an interesting element to watch here, especially when a part of Dunne’s comeback involved him violently stomping on Cole’s arm. That’s not a snarky critique though, I loved it. Another neat character touch was Dunne’s rebound late, snatching Cole’s fingers to turn things around before the finish.
After the DQ ending, The Undisputed Era began to work Cole over until a wild Roddy Strong made the save….or tried to at least. Dunne then saved Strong though and together, they cleaned house. No babyface handshake followed this time regardless, with Dunne instead almost scoffing at the notion, brushing Strong’s shoulder with a smug grin on his face.
Nice angle and as for the match, it worked well as in this particular case, they were a really nice blend. Dunne’s work was crisper but he didn't feel like a natural babyface. Luckily, Cole played the heel well and had some nice character touches to bring the match together. Good stuff.
NXT Title Contract Signing
Lord Steven Regal is in the ring now and he’s here for tonight’s big contract signing. He introduced Aleister Black first and then the champion ‘Cien’ but of course, King Almas was nowhere to be found. He’s in the gym, clanging and banging. Zelina Vega is here though and rightly made it clear that if Almas was here tonight, he’d have already DESTROYED Black.
Meanwhile Black was seemingly befuddled by Vega’s lack of height, moving the table before sitting down cross-legged. This understandably fired Queen Zelina up and she rightly warned Black of what’s to come. Aleister responded with actual short jokes and took things too far, forcing Vega to slap him across the face. In response, he simply signed the contract and walked out.
Before leaving though, Black announced that he wasn't alone and this brought out Candice LeRae. She beat Vega up and hit a big corner bulldog, making Black very happy…what a pair of cowards!
With some fun tag team action and a quite engaging UK Title affair, this episode of NXT certainly had some enjoyable in-ring action. The closing segment was solid too and overall, that made for a relatively strong hour of New Orleans build. I’m very cautious of doing the cliché “TakeOver lacks hype” thing but I must say that thus far, I don’t think that this has been their strongest build-up. It’s felt slightly formulaic at times though perhaps that’s about to change. Nonetheless, another good episode of NXT that wasn't quite great.