By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Aired February 6, 2019 on WWE Network
Taped January 30, 2019 in Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University
The NXT intro theme aired. The intro video now ends with Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano holding their title belts in the air…
Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, and Percy Watson were on commentary. New NXT North American Champion made his entrance. There were fans in the crowd holding up “Johnny Champion” 8.5×11 paper signs. Johnny was a babyface for tonight I assume (at least for now). Mauro noted that it was a big weekend for Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae who both had entrances in their respective gender’s Royal Rumbles.
Johnny Gargano soaked in and acknowledged the favorable “Johnny Champion” chants. Johnny talked about being on a journey with the fans for years. The crowd stopped Johnny a bit with “You deserve it” chants. Johnny talked about how “we deserve it” and “we” are validated when we won the championship. Gargano said “Johnny Wrestling is back”. Tommaso Ciampa interrupted Johnny’s promo with his entrance. Ciampa said he’s not out here to take away from Johnny’s moment but rather celebrate.
Ciampa said Gargano showed the world what Ciampa already knows, that Gargano knows how to follow the lead of the NXT Champion. Ciampa brought up how “we” (in terms of former DIY) own the world. Ciampa referenced the two traveling together for years. He talked about how both men standing tall at Takeover proves to the world that this is “our” moment. The crowd chanted “DIY”. Gargano refuted Ciampa’s claim and said this isn’t “our” moment. Gargano said he wanted to show at the end of the show that Gargano will “Never” need Tommaso Ciampa.
Velveteen Dream interrupted. He wore African themed gear and earrings. Dream said it’s not about Johnny Badass tonight or Gollum and his “Goldie”. Dream said that Dream stole the show at Takeover: Phoenix by just showing up. Dream also talked about how he won a title shot at a NXT Championship of his choice by winning the “World’s Collide” tournament. Dream stood face to face with Ciampa and told Ciampa that he doesn’t want the NXT Championship. Dream walked up to Gargano and said “The Dream wants you”. The crowd chanted “take his title” at Dream towards Gargano.
Gargano talked about how Gargano was putting on another match of the year while Dream was just sitting at ringside. Gargano also bragged about representing the “NXT universe” in the Royal Rumble. Gargano said he’s on top of the world and feeling dangerous. Gargano said “I win”. Dream said the only answer he wants to know if he’ll see “Johnny Champion” or “Johnny Jackass” in the ring when they face. The crowd majority chanted “Johnny Jackass”. Dream pointed at his wrist saying that Gargano’s time as champion is short. Gargano retreated to stand by Ciampa’s side for a bit and Ciampa headed to the back… [c]
John’s Thoughts: A really good traditional WWE opening to set up some new feuds coming out of Takeover. They made an effort to explain it, but still didn’t explain much in explaining why Dream would rather go for the secondary title over the World title? Dream’s stellar talking ability covered that confusion up enough to keep this segment solid, but it’s still something that a promo from Dream backstage would help clarify. The first part of the promo was even better with Gargano going full-in on his babyface thing (while staying true to his transformation) while Ciampa continues to play the “puppetmaster” role that Aleister Black has established where Ciampa is keeping people away from him by stirring the pot.
Drew Gulak was shown entering Full Sail from outside…
The Forgotten Sons trio made their entrance for Ryker’s enhancement match. His opponent was “Mansoor” who’s local California-Alameda/Oakland indie wrestler Manny Faberino..
John’s Thoughts: Cool to see local Cali talent and newer NXT signee Manny Faberino get a shot on NXT TV. He kinda looks like Mustafa Ali’s doppelganger. WWE signed Faberino to play the role of a “local” Saudi talent when they went over for the Greatest Royal Rumble.
1. Jaxon Ryker (w/Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake) vs. Manny Faberino. Ryker dominated Faberino and hit him with clubbing blows to the chest from the Tree of Woe position. Faberino tried to go high risk but was slammed by Ryker. Ryker hit Faberino with a impressive sitout Uranage for the win.
Jaxon Ryker defeated Manny Faberino via pinall in 1:29.
Ryker pulled Faberino back in the ring and hit him with another Uranage…
Cathy Kelly was shown standing by waiting for Ricochet during a Ricochet photoshoot. Cole interrupted and talked about how Cathy should be asking Cole for an interview because Ricochet is a “one trick pony”. This caught Ricochet’s attention. Cole told Ricochet to go at the back of the line and that Cole’s coming after the title. Ricochet reminded Cole that Ricochet beat Cole for the NA title. Ricochet challenged Cole to a match next week. Cole said he’s looking forward to it. Cole and the UE members walked away doing high school bully manerisms… [c]
Drew Gulak made his entrance wearing his boxing robe. Mauro summarized Gulak’s mission statement on trying to make a “better 205 Live”. Gulak was making his entrance for a match. His opponent was Eric Bugenhagen who came out looking like PG Joey Ryan. Bugenhagen was dancing like a dork and screaming like a girl (in a somewhat charming way)…
2. Drew Gulak vs. Eric Bugenhagen. The crowd gave Bugenhagen a standing ovation for his mannerisms. Bugenhagen landed a gutwrench suplex and then sung to his own air guitar. Gulak then turned the tables quickly and gave Bugen hagen a body slam on the turnbuckle. Gulak gave Bugenhagen stiff clubbing blows against the buckles. Bugenhagen turned the tide and gave Gulak a few punches. Bugenhagen put Gulak in a body stretch and yelled “I wanna rock!”. He used Gulak’s abs as an air guitar. Gulak quickly reversed Bugenhagen and put Bugenhagen in the Gu-Lock for the win.
Drew Gulak defeated Eric Bugenhagen via submission in 2:34.
Replays of the match aired. Gulak talked about representing 205 Live as the best submission specialist in WWE. Gulak talked down about Bugenhagen and compared Bugenhagen to Ben Stiller from Dodgeball. Gulak then laid out an open challenge. Gulak’s former stablemate from the indies, Matt Riddle, made his entrance. Riddle said “bro”, and then wondered if Gulak was really talking down to NXT. Riddle threatened to tap Gulak out. Gulak told Riddle to take his flip flops off and make his day. Riddle took the flops off and then said that Gulak made the right decision.
John’s Thoughts: Good NXT debut for Gulak, but an unexpected and fun debut for Eric Bugenhagen. Gulak has improved a lot since the the CWC and is better in terms of personality these days. I would have liked more build but it was a clever way to build towards an impromptu Riddle vs. Gulak match. Bugenhagen looked great (he may rub people the wrong way due to the cornball nature of his personality). Bugenhagen has the potential to be the next No Way Jose and Adam Rose, in a good way, before the main roster ruins him at least.
3. Drew Gulak vs. Matt Riddle. Gulak and Riddle started off with some impressive and traditional MMA chain wrestling. Riddle locked in a Cross Armbreaker on Riddle. Gulak reversed into a headlock. Gulak reversed a headlock from Riddle by using his legs as a triangle. Riddle did a handstand out of it and gave Gulak a PK and Senton. Riddle gave Gulak a Superman Forearm and went for a second but Gulak caught Riddle with a Yakuza Kick. Gulak sent Riddle out of the ring with a shotgun dropkick. Gulak had the upper hand with ground submissions which Riddle tried to counter into some pin attempts to relieve the pressure.
Riddle got some separation but Gulak maintained the high ground by keeping Riddle grounded when Riddle would try to run. Gulak locked Riddle in a body stretch. Nigel really liked the added torque from Gulak as he turned the stretch into a modified Rings of Saturn along with some joint manipulation. Gulak put Riddle in a double armtrack headlock. Riddle hulked up and gave Gulak palm strikes to the gut along with a suplex for a moment of respite for Riddle. Riddle got up to his feet first and gave Gulak some shoot kicks to the chest. Gulak reversed with a Dragon Screw legwhip. Riddle caught Gulak and gave Gulak a chinlock against the top rope. Gulak reversed. Riddle reversed into a Deadlift German. Gulak rolled through into a Fujiwara Armbar.
Gulak went for a Crossface Chickenwing but Riddle got to a vertical base. Riddle gave Gulak a slicing knife edge chop to Gulak’s gut. Gulak and Riddle traded strong style chops. Gulak reversed a spinning roundhouse but Riddle reversed Gulak into a Gutwrench Power Bomb and knee strike. Riddle quickly followed up into the rapid elbow strikes and Bromission. Gulak took a few seconds and then tapped out.
Matt Riddle defeated Drew Gulak via submission 9:24.
Mauro noted that Riddle is still undefeated in NXT right before they aired the replays. Gulak pulled Riddle by the shoulder and then called for a code of honor handshake which Riddle returned… [c]
John’s Thoughts: A really good submission and counter match. This match could have used Gulak being build up a bit more on NXT because he came off like a 205 Live guest instead of a person who could have beat Riddle (he is a 205 Live guest, but 205 Live did a good job early 2018 of building up Gulak as a Minoru Suzuki inspired heel). Anyway, good match to go out of your way to see, especially if you like seeing a more realistic form of pro wrestling.
Mauro advertised Gargano vs. Dream for the NA Championship as well as Ricochet vs. Adam Cole next week…
Io Shirai and Kairi Sane made their entrance. Sane gave a younger fan in the front row her pirate hat (I think it was Bayley Superfan Izzy?). Bianca Belair came out too. Shayna Baszler made her entrance flaked by her horsewomen goons…
4. Io Shirai, Kairi Sane, and Bianca Belair vs. Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke. Baszler and Belair started off the match which Mauro noted was a rematch from Takeover. Watson pointed out that Belair was wearing a tribute to Black History month because her attire was a collage of African American legends. Belair tried to show off her agility but Baszler just walked it off and tagged in her partners. Belair gave Duke a Glam Slam. Belair tagged in Sane and Military Press Slammed Sane on Duke. Duke made a desperation tackle to send Sane to her corner and cause some isolation. Nigel tried to hype Shafir’s Martial Arts but we never saw it because Sane quickly came back wiht strikes.
Shirai went in the ring and did tandem offense with Sane. Nigel argued that Shirai should have been disqualified for not being the legal person in the ring. Sane and Shafir brawled to the top rope with Sane dominating. Sane put Shafir on the mat with a headbutt. Baszler distracted Sane to allow Shafir to recover. Baszler tagged in and went for a quick pin attempt on Sane. The heels then traded quick tags for isolation on Sane. Baszler hit Sane with a unique Liontamer/Curb Stomp combo. Shafir and Duke were as methodical and elementary as ever.
Sane threw Duke out of the ring to tag in Shirai for the hot tag. Shirai took down Baszler first. She then hit both Baszler and Shafir in the corners with meteoras. Shirai hit Baszler with a Tiger Feint Kick and then a slingshot dropkick. Sane tagged in and hit Baszler with an InSane elbow. Shafir ran in to prevent the pinfall with a roundhouse to Sane. Sane tried to tag in Shirai but Belair stole the hot tag. Belair hit Baszler with a sitout Burning Hammer. Duke and Shafir broke up the pin. Sane took Duke and Shafir out on the outside with a crossbody. Shirai tagged in and hit Baszler with a moonsault for the win.
Io Shirai, Kairi Sane, and Bianca Belair defeated Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke via pinfall in 9:22.
The babyface trio celebrated their win after the match. Mauro continued to hype Sane and Shirai as “The Sky Pirates”. Mauro also noted that Shirai and Sane are the only people in NXT to have pinfall wins over Baszler. Mauro kept trying to hype that Bianca Belair looked confused (but she didn’t. Belair looked pretty happy after the match for the win?). This closed NXT…
John’s Thoughts: A pretty good trios match. The closing sequence was pretty good in putting some heat behind the babyfaces by having them all get their finishers on Baszler. Shafir and Duke are nothing more than goons and they were utilized well as goons in this match by doing their job and preventing pinfalls over Baszler. Duke and Shafir continue to be exposed as green, but ultimately they were hurt by being associated with Ronda Rousey which sets up high expectations that they can’t meet (and it’s hurting Duke the most who is showing steady improvement similar to Sonya Deville’s early MMA-WWE transition). NXT still has a job to do to rebuild their women’s division because it is a bit awkward for them to try to build towards short Baszler programs while also rushing the development of Duke and Baszler at the same time. The babyfaces are suffering a bit with this build.
Anyway, a good NXT show with some good budding of new storylines and some solid matches. The outcomes or drama weren’t at Takeover levels, but it was a good TV show to have running in the background and if you decide to watch you’re treated to a jam-packed hour of pro wrestling. I’ll be by tomorrow with a Hit List and members exclusive audio review…