By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Io Shirai and Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai and Candice LeRae: A hot opening with Kai picking up where she left off last week by attacking Shirai on the stage. The match was entertaining from bell to bell. I was surprised to see Shirai beat LeRae, as I thought they might give Kai a win to prop her up heading into an eventual title match with Shirai. Even so, Kai was a focal point, as she walked out on LeRae and left her to fend for herself.
Keith Lee promo: Outstanding intensity. Lee is typically a good talker, but we don’t see this side of him very often and nor should we. This type of money intensity should be saved for key times, and the build to the hottest match that NXT has to offer in Lee vs. Karrion Kross is definitely one of those times. I didn’t even mind watching Lee destroy Cameron Grimes on this night. Grimes has a bright future, but he’s still playing the false bravado pest heel and this is what happens to pest heels. I hope that Grimes can flip a switch and deliver serious promos when the time comes for him to be a player in NXT.
Johnny Gargano vs. Roderick Strong: I’ll never complain about seeing these two elite wrestlers share a ring together. That said, I’m not sure who they wanted viewers to side with since both men are heels. The spectator wrestlers sided with Strong, so I guess he was the babyface, but I’m not really sure why. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come?
NXT Tag Team Champions Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner vs. “Ever Rise” Matt Martel and Chase Parker in a non-title match: An entertaining showcase for the returning tag team champions. The post match attack by Undisputed Era was interesting. Strong was cheered during his match, and the UE faction beat up a pair of heels in Barthel and Aichner.
Mercedes Martinez vs. Shotzi Blackheart: A decisive win for Martinez, who is off to a strong start in her full-time NXT run. The German suplex from the ropes looked vicious, and Blackheart continues to take some insane bumps. Martinez going over strong was logical and Blackheart is the type of spunky babyface who won’t lose her mojo from a single loss.
Isaiah Scott vs. Jake Atlas: A brief, yet strong match. Both wrestlers really need wins, so I’m not sure how much Scott really gained from beating Atlas. It obviously beats the alternative, but hopefully Scott will get a breakthrough win over a bigger name soon.
Finn Balor vs. Timothy Thatcher vs. Dexter Lumis in a NXT North American Title ladder match qualifier: Lumis put Thatcher to sleep? Come on. Thatcher ended Matt Riddle’s NXT career and had been booked well since then with training vignettes and a pair of entertaining wins over Oney Lorcan. They had a good thing going with Thatcher. And while one loss isn’t the end of the world, it was a very strange call. WWE has to know that their penchant for “last chance” matches is taking something away from these Triple Threats. Whether there’s a “last chance” style match in the works or not, fans have come to assume that there will be, so there’s no sense of finality when it comes to the wrestlers who lose these qualifiers.