So here we are – the final official episode of WWE programming for 2017! NXT has, in my opinion, consistently outdone the main roster with its quality of matches both on weekly TV and at the Takeover events. Tonight looks set to be no different as Ember Moon will make her first Women’s title defence and a fatal four way between Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, Johnny Gargano, and Aleister Black will determine the next challenger for Andrade Cien Almas.
The Street Profits v. Kris Starr & Riley Apex
A showcase for the highly popular Street Profits to kick things off. The match runs little more than a minute as Dawkins and Ford hit some crowd-pleasing double team moves and Ford hits his trademark frog splash for the quick pin. Post-match, the duo cut a promo from in the crowd. They run down a list of the top teams/factions in NXT right now saying they are ready and they are here. Winners: The Street Profits
The match was simply a set up for the promo but that didn’t really achieve anything as it was just a generic statement of intent. Authors of Pain, Sanity, and Undisputed Era were mentioned by name, but The Street Profits need to follow through on this by battling one of those top teams soon.
NXT Women’s Championship Match: Ember Moon v. Sonya Deville
It seems Sonya Deville can’t quite leave NXT behind as she competes in her third match on the developmental brand since showing up as part of Absolution on RAW. Deville quickly goes for a submission hold as the announce team remind us of her MMA background yet again. Neither competitor can gain an advantage during the first part of the match as the pace is slow and the crowd deathly quiet. Moon eventually gets the upper hand with a springboard dropkick and soon after hits the Eclipse to retain. As she celebrates, Kairi Sane appears on the stage and literally eyes Moon up with her telescope. Before anything can happen, Shayna Baszler appears for the first time since the Mae Young Classic and forces the Pirate Princess to pass out with a submission hold. Winner: Ember Moon
I’m not sure what the point of this match was. Deville is a surprise main roster call up in desperate need of momentum, which she recently got a little piece of with a win over Ruby Riot. Why then have her lose in a throwaway match here? The post match angle was interesting and creates a number of interesting opportunities between the three women (even if Moon did just stand and watch).
NXT Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match: Johnny Gargano v. Lars Sullivan v. Aleister Black v. Killian Dain
After each competitor gets their full entrance, an intriguing match starts off with the crowd cheering loudest for Johnny Wrestling. Sullivan gets to show off his strength early on catching first Black and then Gargano as they dive to the outside and dropping them face first on the apron (not at the same time just to be clear). Even he cannot stop Killian Dain though as he finally gets knocked off his feet.
Back from the break, we see Sullivan on a tear as he sends Dain into the steps, tosses Black from the ramp into the barricade, and then lifts Gargano over his head to dump him on top of the Dutch Destroyer. Lars then clears the announce table and lifts Gargano up again, but Johnny Wrestling grabs hold of the lighting rig to save himself. Quick kicks from Black lay Sullivan out on the table and a huge splash from Dain leaves both the big men down on the floor.
Gargano and Black head straight back to the ring. Gargano gets close to a win when he locks in the Gargano Escape but a wicked senton splash from Dain breaks the hold. The two smaller guys team up to hit the Beast of Belfast with a double powerbomb from the top turnbuckle. Meanwhile, Lars Sullivan has picked himself up and returns to the ring in a state of rage. He tosses Black and Gargano to the outside to set up a stare down with Dain.
After the two behemoths trade blows and heavy clotheslines, Aleister Black comes back in and unloads with his trademark strikes and kicks. He knocks Dain out of the ring and then lands Black Mass on Sullivan. Just as he seems set to win, The Undisputed Era come down and drag the man from Amsterdam out of the ring. The trio beat him down until Gargano appears to make the save by diving onto Adam Cole over the top rope.
It turns out Gargano is after a crafty win as he lifts the prone Black back into the ring. Sullivan runs at him but ends up crashing into the ring steps. Dain soon ends up crashing into Sullivan, leaving Gargano free to hit a slingshot DDT over the top rope onto Black for the victory. Winner: Johnny Gargano
An interesting result and not one I was expecting. A few weeks ago, Gargano was caught in the midst of a losing streak and now has the mini Cinderella story of winning this tournament after not even being entered originally. His losing streak did start against Andrade Cien Almas of course so this represents an intriguing full circle. I am not sure having Black take his first pinfall loss was the right way to go about it, though the Undisputed Era played a heavy hand in that and it seems they have a new target. There have been better fatal four ways in recent times, but this did well to set up future angles and keep my interest as we head into 2018.
Not a great episode of NXT. Two meaningless matches and a solid but forgettable fatal four way mean that for the first time in a while, I can say I enjoyed Smackdown more this week (RAW was a distant third). The main focus for the developmental brand in this episode was storyline advancement with new rivalries brewing at the top end of each NXT division. Who will impress in 2018? Who will get that much sought after main roster call up? Stay tuned to Kayfabe Today to find out.