Following on from last week's rather disappointing effort, NXT pulled out all the stops to present an exciting, rewarding night of wrestling and absolutely delivered.
This week's show achieved everything that it set out to. We saw development in the fascinating Velveteen Dream vs Aleister Black story, and we saw Kairi Sane make her much anticipated debut on NXT television, while Drew McIntyre put the NXT Championship on the line in the night's barn-burner of a main event.
Not only that, but we got little moments such as that between Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross, and set up for two interesting matches for next week.
The Velveteen Dream sends a message
The second (advertised) match of the evening featured the much-anticipated debut of ROH-alumni Lio Rush, as he took on the undefeated Aleister Black.
Unfortunately for Rush, he was attacked before the match could even take place by The Velveteen Dream. The Dream brutalized Rush before hitting him with the Purple Rainmaker, all the while Black stared on from the ramp.
When Black did enter the ring, Dream scurried off before staring a hole through Black, who refused to even acknowledge his presence, at which point Dream said; "Hey Aleister? What's my name?"
Black would maintain his position in a crouch in the middle of the ring staring off into the distance as Dream repeatedly warned: "I'm gonna make you say my name."
This feud has been hot since its beginning a few weeks ago and that continued tonight with a well structured and logical segment.
The Velveteen Dream attacked Rush as a way to get Black to acknowledge him. And when he didn't, The Dream got increasingly frustrated. This feud has already featured some terrific mind games, and I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.
It's just a pity we didn't see Lio Rush compete.
Kairi Sane sails into NXT
An eagerly awaited moment finally took place this week as Kairi Sane debuted on NXT television, taking on Aliyah.
Kairi, the inaugural winner of the Mae Young Classic, entered Full Sail with a massive pop and left with a relatively routine debut win.
Aliyah had control for the majority of this match but, when she fought back, Kairi Sane looked terrific.
After hitting a big spear on her opponent, Sane mounted a comeback before hitting her famous elbow for the pinfall win.
It was an ideal debut for Sane as she gave the Full Sail University faithful a taste of what she could as she heads towards her NXT Takeover: Houston match for the NXT Women's Title.
Drew McIntyre dispatches Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong finally got his shot at the NXT Title when he took on Drew McIntyre in the night's main event and, true to form, the men put on an absolute clinic.
Both men put on a hard-hitting, relentlessly paced 20-25 minute affair as they hit each other with everything they had to try and win. Strong would target the back of McIntyre throughout the match to keep the bigger man down, hitting the champion with a back suplex on the ring steps.
The action intensified from there. Strong hit McIntyre with a superplex, tiger bomb and Sick Kick for near falls, while McIntyre hit Strong with a pop-up spinebuster and avalanche Celtic Cross for near falls as the Full Sail crowd whipped themselves into a frenzy.
The match would turn when Drew McIntyre threw Roderick Strong into the ring post back first, before hitting him with the Future Shock DDT and the Claymore for the 1-2-3.
Regardless of outcome, Strong looked amazing here. He was vicious, ruthless and brave against his much bigger opponent while Drew demonstrated the heart and resilience to retain his title.
After the match, as Strong watched McIntyre celebrate in the ring, The Undisputed Era made their presence felt, with Adam Cole reassuring Strong that they were not there to attack him. From the tone and body language of Cole, it looked like he was trying to get on the good side of Strong, which is a fascinating angle to explore in the future as The Undisputed Era attempt to bring in some new members.
- There was development in the Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross relationship this week when Riot took on The Iconic Duo in a "tag team" match. Cross would appear halfway through, again, and take the place of Riot's partner, again. The difference, when compared to a few weeks ago, was that Riot voluntarily tagged Cross in as opposed to Cross tagging herself in a few weeks ago. The impromptu duo would win, predictably, before Cross bailed into the crowd. It is unclear where this is going in the weeks ahead. It might lead to the two becoming a tag team or something along those lines. Either way, as a fan of both, I look forward to where they go with it.
- There were a couple of exciting matches advertised for next week's NXT broadcast, with Liv Morgan, Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce competing for a spot in the NXT Women's Championship match at NXT Takeover: Houston. Additionally, the rematch between Andrade 'Cien' Almas and Johnny Gargano was advertised. Both matches are notable for their own reasons: Gargano vs Almas is sure to be a high quality contest, while the triple threat will give fans an indication of what to expect in Houston.
- Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross def. The Iconic Duo
- Aleister Black vs Lio Rush never got started
- Kairi Sane def. Aliyah
- Drew McIntyre def. Roderick Strong to retain the NXT Championship
Are you excited about NXT TakeOver: Houston? Let us know in the comments below!