There is a lot going on in NXT at the moment. WWE's developmental brand is facing a hostile takeover (no pun intended) by Ring of Honour alumni, as well as a delicately poised women's division, a continuing midcard feud between Kassius Ohno and Hideo Itami, and the burgeoning solo run of Johnny Wrestling.
This week's episode of NXT went about addressing some, but not all, of these aspects of the promotion. We got some development in the feud between SAnitY and Cole/O'Reilly/Fish, the 'pay-off' of Ohno and Itami's story, and the emotional farewell of the greatest champion NXT has ever had.
Lars Sullivan goes on a tear
This week's show saw Lars Sullivan compete in a 3-on-1 handicap match against a trio of unnamed jobbers. After demanding to face the 3 all at once, Lars ran through all 3 of them in quick fashion.
He would go on to attack them after the bell, which drew out No Way José who called him out for attacking him at Takeover Brooklyn III. After hitting Sullivan with a few punches, José is overpowered and beaten down by Sullivan and left lying.
It is an inevitability that this will result in a match between No Way José and Lars Sullivan which will act as nothing more than a way of elevating the latter by having him destroy the former. Sullivan has a great, dangerous, menacing look about him and he looks like he is going to be NXT's answer to Ryback, without the immediate Goldberg callbacks [...] maybe.
SAnitY Warns Fish and O'Reilly
A short video package aired in the middle of the show which featured SAnitY responding to Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish's attacks on SAnitY at Takeover Brooklyn III and the following NXT broadcast. Eric Young warns them that they will regret attacking them, before Alexander Wolfe chimed in by saying that all they care about is chaos.
Short but effective segment here. I love the atmosphere of the promo and sAntiy as a group altogether. The laughing of Nikki Cross in the background came across as eerily unsettling. Very much looking forward to the eventual match between SAnitY and O'Reilly/Fish, despite how predictable it looks on the face of it.
Kassius Ohno and Hideo Itami bring the house down
In the night's featured bout, Kassius Ohno took on Hideo Itami in a no-DQ match in a finale to their multi-month long feud. Very good match here with lots of hard-hitting action. Itami was particularly excellent here as a vicious, malevolent heel. At one point, Itami nailed Ohno with a nasty Hesitation Kick in the corner with assistance of a steel chair, as well as a fisherman's suplex on the ramp minutes earlier.
It takes two to tango, and Kassius Ohno performed well as well, complimenting Itami's strong style and quickness with sheer power. He also throws some of the most convincing looking punches, and elbows in WWE today.
Ohno would overcome injury after Itami blocked an early attempt at Rolling Elbow with a steel chair. Ohno won the match after hitting Itami with a low-blow, calling back to their past encounter when Itami intentionally hit Ohno with a low blow, followed by a Rolling Elbow for the 1-2-3.
While the match was fun and as hard-hitting as it needed to be, it raises questions as to where Itami goes from here. While a rematch is certainly an option considering the nature of the finish, it feels as if Itami is directionless in NXT and could be best served with a call-up and a fresh approach.
Farewell to The Empress of Tomorrow
The show closed with an in-ring promo from Asuka. Asuka talks about her time in NXT, and how she loves NXT and has grown so much there. William Regal is in the ring with her and compliments her on her NXT Women's Championship reign., calling her one of the greatest champions in WWE history.
Regal announces that Asuka has started negotiations with RAW and SmackdownLive for a call-up drawing a strong "YES!" chant from the Full Sail University crowd. Regal follows this by revealing that Asuka is stepping down as NXT Women's Champion.
Asuka finishes by saying: "You are NXT! I am NXT, and wherever I go, NXT comes with me!".
The NXT locker room empties onto the stage to applaud. Ember Moon walks down to the ring, offers Asuka a handshake before giving her a hug instead and raising her hand. HHH then embraces Asuka and gives her a bucket of flowers.
- Percy Watson remains a very annoying presence on commentary, especially when quizzing Zelina Vega on her relationship with Andrade Almas. Still offers very little on commentary and doesn't possess the same passion as Nigel McGuinness and Mauro Ranallo.
- While on that note, I am absolutely loving the pairing of Vega and Almas. They have a natural chemistry and effortlessly come off as an obnoxious power couple.
- NXT could have something potentially special in Sonya Deville. Not only does she have a great, menacing look, but her combat experience gives her a level of legitimacy which will be missed now that Asuka is gone. Her match with Zeda was short and achieved what had to be achieved. Deville won after hitting Zeda with a knee strike before transitioning into a triangle choke for the submission win.
- During the show, a United Kingdom Championship match between Pete Dunne and Wolfgang was advertised for next week, which makes next week's show already must-watch.
- The Asuka farewell segment was brilliantly done and befitting of what Asuka has brought to the NXT Women's Championship. She should prove to be a true star when she debuts on the main roster. As for where this leaves the NXT Women's Championship, I expect Ember Moon to be the next champion down the line before entering into a feud with Kairi Sane
- Andrade Cien Almas def. Cezar Bononi
- Lars Sullivan def. 3 unnamed jobbers in a tornado handicap match
- Sonya Deville def. Zeda
- Kassius Ohno def. Hideo Itami