Here is a recap and reactions to the 26 February episode of NXT.
Cameron Grimes def. Dominic Dijakovic
Xia Li def. Mia Yim
Tommaso Ciampa def. Austin Theory
Killian Daine def. Bronson Reed
Grizzled Young Veterans def. The Forgotten Sons
Charlotte Flair def. Bianca Belair.
Dominic Dijakovic vs Cameron Grimes
Dijakovic’s pathway to a rematch against Keith Lee will take a little while longe as he wasn’t immediately sling shot back into the title picture after his Takeover loss. Instead, he has one of the other men from the fatal four-way which Lee won on his pathway to the gold in Cameron Grimes.
From the onset, Dikaovic matches the slipperiness of Grimes with his pure power – grinding in headlocks and generally ragdolling his smaller opponent. Grimes counters the brute strength with kicks, rolls, and the odd fish hook to the mouth.
The match hits higher gear later on, as the two counter each other with super-kicks, Grimes hits an incredible northern lights suplex, and Dijakovic lands a beautiful moonsault to the outside. However, DD’s past comes back to haunt him as Damian Preistruns out of the crowd and strikes him in the knee with a pipe. Dijakovic narrowly avoids the 10 count on the outside, but Grimes seizes the opportunity and hits him with the Cave-In for the win.
Takeaways: This was a good match and made a ton of sense storyline wise. Shot-gunning Dijakovic right back into a title match with would only have weaken him, since there is no way they’re taking the belt off Lee any time soon. The injury feigned after the match, allows a new set of competitors to get fed to Lee while DD waits in the wings.
Finn Balor Promo
The Prince is back in Full Sail. He tells the fans he is THE guy. Runs up and down his accomplishments throughout his career and he asks, who will want the Wrestlemania rub from Finn?
Cue Imperium’s music. Fabiann Aichner and Marcel Barthel come to give him Walter’s regards, which is not so much a hello, but rather an ass whopping. Finn delay’s the beatdown for a bit with a little offense of his own, but the numbers game was too much to overcome. The Imperium mates leave him spilled to the NXT floor as their music plays them off.
Takeaways: NXT knows how to surprise. The logical next step for Balor was Adam Cole, but they defied expectations by setting up a potential Wrestlemania weekend Feud with Walter. With the rumours of WWE focusing on the UK scene after their new TV deal with BT sports, this has the looks of a feud that is good for business, but it sure as hell will be good TV.
Xia Li vs Mia Yim
Earlier in the night, William Regal announced that a tournament will be held, which will culminate in a ladder match, to determine a future #1 contender for the Ripley’s championship. The crowd wasn’t int this one and I don’t blame them. After the quiet lull of a start crescendos into a dull murmur, out comes Dakota Kai with her new best friend Raquel Gonzalez to get intoYim’s head. She mentions their history going back to War Games and the pair starts slowly heading towards the ring. With Yim facing the on-coming heels, Li takes advantage to get the roll-up victory. Gonzalez enters the ring and beats down both competitors to end the segment.
Takeaways: This was weird. The call back to the previous feud was a loose connection at best. Plus, NXT commentary kept trying to put over Li as the honourable babyface, despite her winning the match with a sneaky roll-up after a distraction. Gonzalez looks like a beast, but raw as a performer. I’d expect her to continue smashing lower rung NXT talent for the next while, or potentially breaking into the steel cage match booked next week between Kai and Tegan Nox.
Velveteen Dream promo
Dream says Roderick Strong has suffered, but he broke his back, that isn’t enough. He tells William Regal that he wants Strong in a steel cage next week.
Takeaways: Hell yes. Give it to me.
Austin Theory vs Tommaso Ciampa
Austin Theory looks for retribution after last week’s embarrassment and beatdown at the hands of Ciampa. The 22-year-old comes out hot against the veteran Ciampa hitting him with strikes. While the match takes a while to build, once it did, it was a banger.
Theory looks to have the match won at a point, hitting a Seth Rollins-eque blockbuster to bucklebomb combo. He follows it up with his finisher “the Ataxia,” but Ciampa is able to kick outat 2.9. Theory doesn’t hesitate and keeps laying in the offense, but the more experiences Ciampa capitalizes on the youngster’s mistake. He catches theory with a kick between the ropes and from their it was only elementary. A draping DDT and a fairy tale ending put away Theory after a showcase performance.
Before Ciampa’s hand can even be raised a blue blazered Gargano runs out of the crowd and commences a beatdown on Ciampa.
Takeaways: Theory was never likely to beat Ciampa without Gargano’s interference, but this match made him look like a much bigger star than any two-minute squash could have. For fans unaware of Theory’s performances on the independent circuit, this was the eye opener they needed to start building him as a future star. The post-match run in by Gargano wasn’t necessary, but it helped establish the two’s roles as heel and face moving forward.
Bronson Reed vs Killian Daine
Big sweaty boys doing big sweaty boy stuff. Chops, kicks, forearms, headbutts, slams made up most of this match. This was a slower paced affair (as you’d expect from two 300 pounders), but coming off Ciampa vs Theory, it was molasses slow. Following a super-plex that buckled the ring, Daine hit a couple sentons and a Vader Bomb to pin Reed.
Takeaways: It was a match. I wouldn’t expect either of these guys to hang around the top of the card any time soon.
Forgotten Sons vs Grizzled Young Veterans
The entire premise behind this match was “‘Murica bad!” vs “’Murica good!”
The crowd easily bought into the foreign heel schtick, chanting “USA, USA, USA,” throughout the fight. It was an NXT tag team match, so there was a definite level of quality, but overall the match wasn’t super compelling. The Young Veterans continuously save each other from every pinning predicaments and attempted offense by the Forgotten Sons. Their chemistry is undeniable and it leads to them hitting the Ticket to Mayhem for the win.
Takeaways: This was a good way to get the Forgotten Sons on TV before their name becomes more and more literal. The GYV are at least somewhat engaging as a heel tag team and their performance in the Dusty Rhodes classic has them likely earmarked for a future title shot against Riddle and Dunne.
Bianca Belair vs Charlotte Flair
This was a main event. The NXT crowd was super hot for this match, with explosive “YOU DON’T GO HERE CHANTS,” throughout the contest.
They were certainly not disappointed as these two worked extremely well together. Not many in the women’s division can match Flair’s power and athleticism, but Belair is absolutely one of them. She mixes her acrobatic ability with power, hitting botha spear and the chickenwing slam on Flair.
Thing erupt as these two go all out towards the finish. Belair tries to get one up on the Queen, putting the legs up on a top rope moonsault, but it is immediately countered into a Boston Crab by Flair. The EST of NXT tries to escape Flair’s submission, but she is hoisted into a Gut Wrench Powerbomb. Belair survives the slam and hits Flair with a spear, but Charlotte brushes it off and counters it with one of her own. A Natural Selection later and Flair is able to beat the upstart Belair, in what will definitely not be the last match between these two.
Takeaways: This was fantastic and one hell of a main event for NXT. Flair does go for the post-match beat down on Belair, but Rhea Ripley comes out for the save of her NXT counterpart.