It’s the go home show before a TakeOver: Portland! While the night had many strong matches, the stakes were
low as nothing major was likely to happen just days before going to Portland.
Here is a recap and reactions to the February 12 episode of NXT, and where things might be heading.
Roderick Strong def. Bronson Reed
Dakota Kai def. Candace LeRae
Johnny Gargano def. Cameron Grimes
Lio Rush def. Angel Garza to become the #1 Contender for the Cruiserweight Championship
Biance Belair def. Santana Garrett
Adam Cole def. Kushida
Matt Riddle, Pete Dunne, Dusty Rhodes Classic Trophy Road Trip.
While not a match, these segments were worth a mention. From Dunne driving on the wrong side of the road (because he’s English, duh), to Riddle calling him a silly goose while in a goose shaped paddle boat — these were great. The road trip ends with Matt and Pete stowing away in Triple H’s private plane to get to Portland. A+ stuff from the BroserWeights.
Roderick Strong vs. Bronson Reed
Strong starts this out with a promo berating The Velveteen Dream and demanding an apology. However, he doesn’t get it. It’s Bronson Reed who comes out, pissed off from last week’s backstage attack.
Reed gets in some heavy offense to start, but it’s eventually Strong who gets the last laugh. After hitting a Superplex on the 345 lbs. Reed, the lights go down and the purple glow of The Velveteen Dream envelops the ring. The distraction allows Reed to hit Strong with a second rope dive, but Strong rallies and hits him with the knee for the win.
After the match, Dream finally appears on the TitanTron. He wants to take something from Roderick, but Strong has already lost his title. Dream shows a picture of Strong’s wife and kid, while showing off his tights which say “Call me up Marina” on his ass. He says if anything were to happen to Strong, someone would take care of Marina and make sure “all her dreams are fulfilled.” The camera pans down to a portrait of Dream and Strong’s wife and kid on this leg. Enraged, Strong runs backstage
to find him to end the segment.
TakeAway: It’s interesting to see Dream invoke a man’s family (essentially trying to cuck him) and still be the babyface in a feud. It would be bold of NXT to give Dream a heel run on his much-anticipated return. Could NXT be looking to perform a double-turn? Probably not until Strong leaves The Undisputed Era, but the build between these two will be something to keep your eye on.
Candace LeRae vs. Dakota Kai
LeRae comes out flying in this one, hitting Kai with four straight Topes and a top rope missile drop-kick. The match has its back-and-forths with Kai being her brutal heelish best – including a spot where she tries to Superplex LeRae outside the ring. Following a sequence where LeRae locks on the Gargano Escape, Kai is able to roll her up for the sneaky win. LeRae is furious and approaches Kai on the outside, who goes ballistic. She hits LeRae with the ring bell and is about to continue the beatdown until Tegan Nox comes in for the save. She lays into Kai until they are broken up by ring security.
TakeAway: This built up Kai’s heelish tactics and continued the feud, so while the match wasn’t spectacular, it served its purpose. Kai vs Nox at TakeOver has the chance to sneak up on people for a potential match of the night – that is if they let the two blow off the brutality of the feud.
Johnny Gargano vs. Cameron Grimes
Most of this match was basically just a wrestling clinic by Gargano. He works on Grimes on the mat, transitioning from submission to submission. Eventually, this match gets a little more back-and-forth with some incredible counters by the two men. DDTs are turned around like they are nothing. Eventually, Gargano transitions Grimes down to the mat and into the Gargano Escape. Grimes taps-out to finish a very solid match.
TakeAways: One of NXT’s strengths is being able to put on a match like this one. It was great, made Gargano look dominant, but still make Cameron Grimes look like an exceptional wrestler in his own right. Gargano looks his usual fantastic self and apparently shows no signs of rust heading into the PPV that he is famous for.
Lio Rush vs. Angel Garza
Cruiserweight #1 Contender Match
The two talented cruiserweights went head-to-head and you know this one is serious since Garza immediately rips off his tights. He dominates the smaller Rush from the bell, picking him up and smashing him into barricades and ring posts. Garza appear to have the match won after getting the knees up on the frog splash and kicking Rush’s face off with a super-kick. As he tries to lift Rush into the Wing Clipper, Rush rolls him up for the win. Devlin comes out to confront Lio and ends the segment
TakeAways: This was the right call. Garza is currently pre-occupied with his fill-in role on Monday Night RAW. Devlin will likely hold the title for quite a little while longer and having Garza lose to him on a TV match does nothing for his character. Rush can put on a fantastic match with Devlin and a loss does not really hurt him right now. They will go head-to-head next week for the Cruiserweight Championship.
Bianca Belair vs. Santana Garrett
Oh boy, Garrett’s entrance music is terrible. Luckily, we don’t have to hear it again as she is immediately crushed by Belair. Belair gets on the mic and tells Ripley to stop looking past her to a potential match with Charlotte at WrestleMania 36. Ripley comes out and says she’s not looking past Belair, but she’ll run right through her in Portland. The two quickly scrap, but Belair ends up scooping Ripley and hitting her with the KOD.
TakeAway: Having someone stand tall over their opponent on a take home show before a PPV never
bodes well for that person. However, with the Wrestlemania implications making a Ripley win fairly
assured, having Belair stand tall makes some sense even though the intentions are clear and obvious.
Adam Cole vs. Kushida
The story of retribution against Undisputed Era members continues with Kushida taking Cole on after his attack last week. These pre-PPV matches are tough. There’s no chance Cole was going to lose heading into Portland as champion, at least without outside interference. Kushida goes after Cole with some urgency while Cole tries to survive without Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly in the building. He targets Cole’s arm with kicks, bars and general torqueing. Kushida really impresses in this one. The New Japan star is all over the ring and shows off the talents that made him an exciting acquisition by NXT. However, the NXT Champion is too much for Kushida. Cole catches him with a super-kick in mid-air and finishes him off with The Last Shot. Tommaso Ciampa comes out to stare down Cole and hype of Sunday’s match at TakeOver: Portland.
TakeAways: This was a good showcase for Kushida, who hasn’t yet found his bearings on NXT. Cole was never going to lose this but the strong performance from Kushida could see him in future title pictures.