We are finally back in Full Sail University after two weeks on the road. It is time to get back to business with the beginning of the announced number 1 contender tournament. There will be two matches tonight with the winners earning a place in a fatal four-way to determine the next challenger for Andrade Cien Almas. We will also get yet another blow off match between two recent main roster call-ups, Ruby Riot and Sonya Deville.
Andrade “Cien” Almas Promo
The show kicks off with the new NXT Champ and Suzanna Vega in the ring. Vega celebrates their victory. Almas takes the mic and cuts his longest promo to date. He shouts “I told you!” and sarcastically apologises for injuring Drew McIntyre. They are awaiting the outcome of the number 1 contender’s tournament.
Almas still needs to work on his English, but it was good to hear him on the mic without a lengthy tirade in Spanish. This was a standard heel victory promo, and it did the job.
We see one of NXT’s trademark ‘media scrums’ backstage as Lars Sullivan takes questions. He says he is not a pretty face or a family guy like Roderick Strong. He vows to wipe the floor with him and advance to face Almas for the title.
We later see Undisputed Era declaring they now run this place. Cole says Aliester Black, his opponent in the number 1 contender’s tournament next week, has been impressive so far in NXT but that is only because he has never faced anyone called Adam Cole. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish also announce they will face Sanity for the tag titles in two weeks’ time.
Ember Moon also faces the ‘media’ to celebrate her Women’s title victory. She gets interrupted by Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, with Royce demanding a title shot. Ember stirs things up by suggesting she could face either of them next week. After a brief discussion, the Iconic Duo settle on Peyton Royce with Billie Kay to finish Ember Moon off later.
Number 1 Contender Qualifying Match: Trent Seven v. Killian Dain
Killian Dain flattens Trent Seven right after the bell and dominates the early portion of the match. A kick to the knee and a DDT gets Seven back in the action. Both men score near falls off signature moves. Trent tries to get the big man up on his shoulders but can’t quite manage it. The Beast of Belfast then drops his opponent with a fireman’s carry followed up by a senton splash. One Vader Bomb later and the match is over. Winner: Killian Dain
Disappointing that Trent Seven was beaten so easily, but this was always about showcasing Dain’s power and brute strength, building well on his performance at War Games.
Ruby Riot v. Sonya Deville
It is not unusual these days for main roster call-ups to return for a blow-off match in NXT. What is unusual here is that both these competitors are having their second blow-off match having already faced off in the first show after War Games. What is also unusual is that Ruby Riot turned heel when arriving on SD Live but is back here as she always was as a face.
This match is no-holds barred, but as Nigel McGuiness points out, both ladies go for strikes over holds early on. Sonya Deville puts Riot in an ankle lock for a very long time. Riot makes it to the ropes but under the match rules, there is no break. She eventually escapes by pulling herself up to the top and slamming Deville into the ropes.
Back from the break, Riot is in control but a thumb to the eye let’s Deville take control. She lands some more strikes before holding Riot in a sleeper hold. Ruby eventually escapes and mounts some offence, hitting a big suicide dive to the outside. However, when returning to the ring, Deville slaps on a triangle hold while Riot is hanging over the ropes. She eventually passes out and Deville’s hand is raised. Winner: Sonya Deville
50-50 booking at its finest! Riot won the match taped at War Games, so this match took place for no reason other than to get a win back for Sonya Deville.
Number 1 Contender Qualifying Match: Kassius Ohno v. Johnny Gargano
This was set to be Ohno v. Velveteen Dream but due to injury, Gargano came in as a late replacement. This should be an interesting match between two ‘nearly men’ of NXT. Before the match begins, the crowd exchange chants for both competitors and they engage in a sportsmanlike handshake. The sportsmanship does not last long into the match though as they start to trade blows. Ohno blocks a slingshot spear and ties Gargano into the ropes before blasting him in the face.
Back from commercials, Ohno is fully in control using his size and strength advantage to hit Johnny Wrestling with kicks and elbow strikes. He keeps the pace slow but that costs him as Gargano blocks an attempted senton with his knees. The comeback is then on as Gargano hits a hurricanrana off the turnbuckles and follows up with the slingshot spear for a near fall. The momentum swings back the big guy’s way after he finally lands the senton and then blasts his opponent to the outside with a big boot.
A great spot follows as Ohno goes for a suicide dive, but Gargano gets out of the way and delivers a dive of his own into a DDT on the ramp. Back in the ring, Ohno lands a Cyclone Kick out of nowhere but Gargano kicks out drawing ‘NXT!’ chants from the crowd. A roll-up almost wins Gargano the match before Ohno lands another big kick and a running forearm smash for a dramatic near fall. “This is awesome!” indeed. Just as it seems there is no way back for Gargano, he takes Ohno down with a head scissors and then slaps on the Gargano Escape. Ohno taps out. Winner: Johnny Gargano
That was easily match of the night. It was full of big moves, comebacks, and near falls. The crowd were hot for it despite the face v. face set up. Gargano winning breaks his losing streak though, which seemed to be building to a storyline. It will be interesting to see where Ohno goes from here. I sense a heel turn on the cards.
It was good to see NXT back to business after two weeks of filler (albeit it top notch) matches. The number 1 contender’s tournament gives the matches some edge and I am sure most fans will be salivating at the though of Black v. Cole next week. The Ruby Riot-Sonya Deville match was also a good one but felt unnecessary. At least both can focus on their main roster programmes now. Overall, this stuck to the well-established NXT formula of quality matches and brief promos/backstage interviews and delivered yet another good show.