By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Finn Balor and Kyle O’Reilly: The Shawn Michaels hosted face to face meeting was outstanding. O’Reilly has spent too much of his career in the sidekick role as far as promos are concerned. He did a terrific job of showing cockiness and confidence in this promo, and I loved the acknowledgement that new champions don’t lose their first title defense (Sasha Banks excluded). Balor has been putting down his opponents since he returned to NXT as the Prince, so it packed a punch when he was respectful and highly complimentary of O’Reilly. NXT really rushed into this match, but this segment covered a lot of ground and made me even more excited to see this match.
Adam Cole vs. Austin Theory: Cole delivered a kick ass promo before the match that put over the Undisputed Era in a huge way. Is it the last stand? Cole calling out Theory for badmouthing Kyle O’Reilly in an earlier promo made for interesting television. Cole acted happy when Kyle O’Reilly became No. 1 contender last week, and then he stood up for him this week and predicted that he would shock the world on Sunday. It seemed like a swerve that will result in Cole turning on O’Reilly, though we can’t rule out the possibility of the rest of the faction turning on Cole. Either way, I am enjoying the storytelling and look forward to the match and the UE payoff.
Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae vs. Damian Priest and Io Shirai: The Power Couple of Gargano and LeRae are really hitting their stride. It was jarring to see them work as heels initially following their long babyface runs. I don’t know if they struggled to find the right approach or if viewers just weren’t ready for the abrupt change in characters, but they really started to click in recent weeks. It was logical for the heel duo to beat the champions they will be challenging on Sunday.
Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai: A nice win for Blackheart in her first singles match since her hot non-title match with Io Shirai. Unfortunately, the match also featured the return of the frightening near miss moment that we’ve seen in too many Blackheart matches. To be fair, the Sliced Bread on the apron spot was far less reckless than some of her crazier moments, but I’ll never understand why wrestlers spend so much time performing moves on the apron. Putting that aside, this was a well worked and entertaining match.
Santos Escobar and Isaiah Scott: Escobar continues to deliver strong performances. We need more of the Scott we saw in this verbal exchange.
Cameron Grimes and Ridge Holland: While I don’t envy the position Grimes is in after seeing what happened to Johnny Gargano, Grimes is the perfect opponent to help make the green powerhouse look good and improve his game.
Kushida vs. Tony Nese: Kushida stated in the promo package that preceded the match that he is vicious now. He showed that in this match and I assume he will do the same at Takeover when he faces Velveteen Dream.
Kayden Carter vs. Xia Li: Another step in the story of Li breaking bad.
None: A very good go-home show that did a great job of spotlighting the NXT Title match, the Undisputed Era saga, the NXT North American Title match, and the NXT Cruiserweight Title match for Sunday’s Takeover.