By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Undertaker: WWE made full use of their main roster stars and even rolled out its greatest legend for the one-night battle with AEW. Both shows brought it in their own way, but it’s hard to top a rare appearance by Undertaker, particularly on an NXT show that also featured John Cena, LA Knight Cody Rhodes, and Asuka. Taker’s return to the American Badass persona was really fun. His Clint Eastwood style lines were great. No, not the weird “talk to a chair” Eastwood, but Eastwood in his Dirty Harry and spaghetti western prime. The key difference between the two shows is that WWE had truly memorable moments and this one was at the top of the list.
Carmelo Hayes vs. Bron Breakker with John Cena and Paul Heyman at ringside: A quality main event. They had better PLE performances, but this was still an entertaining match, and the addition of Cena and Heyman to the respective corners was a really nice touch. Hayes and Breakker both gained something by getting rub from Cena and Heyman, and I continue to hope that Breakker’s days in NXT are numbered. Hayes is great and I hope to see him on the main roster too, but it really feels like they’ve run out of compelling things for Breakker to do on Tuesday nights.
Paul Heyman and Ava: It was so simple. The NXT Anonymous shot of Heyman pointing to The Bloodline logo on his phone before the camera pulled back and showed that he was speaking to The Rock’s daughter was one of my favorite moments of the night. Maybe it ends here. Or maybe it’s a major part of what brings The Rock’s character back to the ring for a match with Roman Reigns. Either way, it was a cool moment and the best use of the Ava character thus far.
Ilja Dragunov vs. Dominik Mysterio for the NXT Championship with LA Knight as special referee: As much as I dig LA Knight’s act, seeing him referee the match while wearing his shades and vest made the championship match look a little minor league. If you could get past that, it was an entertaining bout with good work from both wrestlers. The late interference from Finn Balor and JD McDonagh made for a fun scene with Knight and Dragunov clearing them from the ring, which was followed by Rhea Ripley falling into the arms of Trick Williams. The post match angle with Dijak taking out Dragunov before Baron Corbin could was unique. It also left me thinking that Corbin and Dijak would be a great big man heel team in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Tyler Bate, Butch, and Ridge Holland vs. “Gallus” Joe Coffey, Mark Coffey, and Wolfgang in a Pub Rules match: This match was a little tame for my taste with the dart in the taped hand spot and the later use of sugar glass. I’m not a death match guy, so it’s not that I wanted to see the real thing, but it was still too hokey for my taste. Ultimately, though, everyone involved worked really hard and the live crowd had a blast with this match, so it definitely got over even if it wasn’t for me.
Lola Vice vs. Dani Palmer in a first round match of the NXT Women’s Breakout Tournament: A soft Hit. This was better than expected for a true developmental match. There was a bit of clunkiness, but both wrestlers showed impressive athleticism. The kick that Vice uses to win her matches actually works because it looks great, whereas a similar finisher from Lyra Valkyria looked like just another kick.
Becky Lynch and Lyra Valkyria video package: Showing the older footage of Lynch coaching Valkyria was really effective in establishing the connection between the two. It’s clear that Lynch and the creative forces are very high on Valkyria. She is really good in the ring and I continue to hope she will find her voice and a way to truly connect with the audience.
Asuka vs. Roxanne Perez: What did this really accomplish? I expected Asuka to go over, but I hoped that Perez would be highly competitive and truly gain something in defeat. Rather, they had a six-minute match and then Asuka offered a blink and you missed it sign of respect afterward. It was cool to see Asuka in NXT again, but this match still fell below my expectations.