A lot has been said in recent times about NXT's decline since its glory days circa 2015-2016. The brand has lost its biggest stars such as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, The Revival, Bobby Roode and, most recently, Asuka to the bright lights of Raw and Smackdown.
However, over recent months, NXT has found its groove again with some great rivalries, stories and characters dotted up-and-down its massively talented current roster. Nothing typifies this more than this week's episode of NXT on the WWE Network.
While we didn't get clarification regarding the NXT Women's Championship, what we did get was sensible, effective storyline progressions, talent showcases, intriguing set-ups, and a red-hot main event.
Roderick Strong lays down the gauntlet to Drew McIntyre
With NXT Takeover: Houston not due to take place for a while yet, and since it looks more and more likely that Drew McIntyre will defend his NXT Championship against Adam Cole, the NXT Champion needs something to do in the meantime. Enter Roderick Strong.
Early on this week's broadcast, a backstage segment aired which showed Roderick Strong demand an NXT Championship match against Drew McIntyre from William Regal. Roderick brought up the fact that he had already beaten the former champion, Bobby Roode, a few weeks ago and that she now believes that he should be next in line.
Regal agreed and set the match for 2 weeks time: Drew McIntyre vs Roderick Strong for the NXT Championship. While the match itself should be of a high quality considering the talent involved, Drew McIntyre is sure to retain considering his impending showdown with the aforementioned Adam Cole.
Aleister Black is confronted by The Velveteen Dream
Aleister Black spoke for the very first time in NXT this week, as he came out to cut a promo in which he spoke about how he had travelled the world to get to NXT and that he wore his scars (his tattoos) so that he wouldn't forget.
However, before Black could reveal what was next for him, The Velveteen Dream cut him off. The Dream spoke about how Black spent fifteen years walking in the darkness, only to be blinded by The Velveteen Dream. He spoke about how Black was afraid and that The Dream wasn't.
Before he could get any further, Black nailed him with The Black Mass, transitioning into his signature seated pose in the middle of the ring. The Dream responded in kind by getting in Black's face, which drew a massive reaction from the crowd, before crawling backwards out of the ring.
These two played off of each other extremely well in a segment which was really entertaining. It is clear that Black will feud with Dream for the foreseeable future which, if this segment is anything to go by, could be great fun.
The Undisputed Era debuts with style
This week's NXT is main evented by Trent Seven and Tyler Bate (aka Moustache Mountain) taking on the tandem of Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish.
To the shock of nobody, this tag team main event was excellent and featured tremendous back-and-forth exchanges. Tyler Bate started the match for his team and started strong, hitting Kyle O'Reilly with beautiful dropkicks before Bobby Fish enters the action. Fish would wipe out Trent Seven after a distraction from O'Reilly. At one point, before the show goes to its final ad break, Adam Cole distracts the referee which allows Fish to drive Seven into the rails on the outside.
When the action resumes, the pace intensifies. Seven hits Fish with a Seven-Star Lariat which allows Bate in with the hot-tag. Tyler then goes on a tear, hitting O'Reilly with a knee strike out of the corner, a spinning European uppercut off the middle rope, a suplex and a beautiful shooting star press. A powerbomb-back suplex combo from The Moustache Mountain leads to the match's first false-finish. Moments later, O'Reilly traps Bate in a deep guillotine choke which the former UK Champion tries to power out only to be caught with a roundhouse kick-brain buster combo. However, just when it appears that the match is over, with the spot of the night, Bate gets the tip of his boot to the rope to break the count.
Despite Seven being tagged in, a superkick to Bate from Adam Cole on the outside, followed by Total Elimination from O'Reilly and Fish to Seven gives O'Reilly and Fish the W in a tremendous tag team match which managed to showcase both teams really well.
However, The Undisputed Era's joy would turn to sorrow moments later...
The hunters became the hunted
Soon after the main event, the trio of Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly are confronted by NXT Champion Drew McIntyre, who makes a beeline for the ring. Unfortunately for Drew, The Undisputed bail over the railings when McIntyre gets to the ring.
It is at this point that sAnity, who also have a legitimate beef with The Undisputed Era, emerge from behind the curtain to attack the trio of ROH-alumni. Killian Dain, Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe put a beating on all three members of The Undisputed Era around the ringside area, and the heel trio end the show questioning their very life decisions as they eventually get away from harm.
Great way to close out the show and a really effective way of demonstrating just how many dangerous people Cole, Fish, and O'Reilly have pissed off since they arrived in NXT.
It will be interesting to see how the trio responds next week and in the week's to come, but whatever it is that they do, I cannot wait to find out.
- Is it fair to say that Bianca Belair has one of the most creative signature spots in WWE right now? Her hair whip spot is truly creative and helps her stand out among the other members of the NXT women's roster. The sound of her hair cracking off of the back of Lacey Evans was both sickening and truly awesome. It also helps that the Full Sail crowd get so hyped when she is about to use her hair as offence. Quick shout out as well to the guy in the crowd that shouted: "Ref, do your job!" after Belair used the whip. Sorry bro, but it is technically legal.
- It has been building for over a month, and Lars Sullivan and No Way José finally squared off this week on NXT. In what was a standard babyface underdog vs monster heel dynamic, Sullivan won after powering through a clothesline to plant José with a shoulder tackle, a top rope diving headbutt, and a slam to put his opponent away. There was nothing much to the match and it never got past being average. The problem is just how competitive it was. Rather than have Sullivan roll through José in a glorified squash, José came off as a legitimate challenger to Sullivan, which is not the way to build a monster heel.
- Johnny Gargano def. Tino Sabbatelli
- Bianca Belair def. Lacey Evans
- Lars Sullivan def. No Way José
- Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly def. Trent Seven and Tyler Bate
What did you think of NXT this week? Let us know in the comments below!