By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Edge, Finn Balor, and Pete Dunne: A cool verbal segment. Balor and Dunne do a great job of making the storyline tension between them feel real. Edge took it to another level with a terrific promo that put over NXT, Balor, Dunne, their upcoming title match, and the NXT Championship. I don’t expect Edge to challenge Balor for the NXT Championship at WrestleMania, but I wouldn’t complain if he did.
Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher vs. Adam Cole and Roderick Strong in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic quarterfinal match: A match that looked really good on paper and overdelivered. I’m surprised the tournament wasn’t laid out so that this was a semifinal match. It makes me wonder if they intend to go with an upset by having the Grizzled Young Veterans advance to the finals.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez vs. Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semifinal match: NXT opened strong with a hot match involving NXT’s two mainstay women’s tag teams. There were some clunky moments early, but it just got better and better as it moved forward. Kai and Gonzalez clicked from the start of their run together, and Carter and Catanzaro have clearly put the work in and have improved as a team. I continue to hope that NXT will introduce its own women’s tag titles. The division is more than deep enough to support tag titles and the WWE Women’s Tag Champions rarely visit NXT.
Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza vs. Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic quarterfinal match: This beat the hell out of the Lucha House Party duo’s clunky Raw Tag Title match on Monday. This match wasn’t without its flaws, but they worked a fast pace and included some terrific high spots. Selfishly, I’d like to see LHP stay in NXT where they are far more likely to be booked properly, but they are a Raw tag team and thus it was the right call to have the Legado Del Fantasma duo advance to the semifinals for what should be a hot match with MSK.
Santos Escobar vs. Curt Stallion for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship: A well worked match that turned out to be more of a showcase for Escobar than I anticipated. The post match scene with Karrion Kross confronting Escobar was interesting in terms of leaving us wondering who will end up being the babyface act in their feud.
Austin Theory vs. Leon Ruff: A nice match. Ruff continues to be a likable underdog, and Theory’s alliance with Gargano has already been beneficial in terms of Theory developing a character and coming off like a new man following his early losses. It will be an interesting test for Theory to be asked to carry the verbal portion of his feud with the silent Dexter Lumis character.
Tian Sha: I’m not a fan of supernatural campiness in pro wrestling. In this case, the story was told creatively and intelligently. Most importantly, Beth Phoenix immediately questioned if we’re really supposed to believe that the character is thousands of years old. It wasn’t just accepted as gospel, and Wade Barrett spoke of it as mythology while expressing fear of the character. Only time will tell whether this stray into hocus pocus silliness, but at this point I’m still enjoying the unconventional ride.
Toni Storm vs. Jessi Kamea: I was ready to put this odd heel vs. heel battle in the Miss section, but it quickly turned out to be a solid showcase for Io Shirai and the NXT Women’s Championship Triple Threat at Takeover.
None: A highly entertaining two hours of television. NXT did a better job of pacing their show compared to its competition last night. NXT packed a lot into the show, yet I didn’t come away feeling like it was too much. The show gave a late yet strong push to the Takeover event that looks excellent on paper.