An incensed Roderick Strong kicked off NXT this week, still apoplectic with the actions of the returning Velveteen Dream last Wednesday. The former North American Champion declared that Dream had made things personal by not only attacking The Undisputed ERA, but appearing with Strong's wife, Marina Shafir, and their son airbrushed on his pants, and Strong demanded an apology.
What he got instead was a challenge from an equally fired up Bronson Reed, who was still fuming after being targeted by Strong and The UE during their hunt for Tommaso Ciampa a week prior.
With Strong caught in a hard-hitting affair with the "Aus-zilla," Dream continued to play mind games. Full Sail went dark purple late in the match, momentarily distracting The Messiah of the Backbreaker. Strong later gathered his bearings and caught Reed off the top rope with a jumping knee strike for the victory.
Dream wasn't finished with Strong on this evening though, appearing on the video screen to flaunt those same pants a second time and share pointed words for Strong and his family, once again sending his UE rival into a fit of rage.
Before Johnny Gargano settles the score with Finn Bálor this weekend in Portland, he took care of another grudge.
Prepping for his return to the TakeOver stage, Johnny Wrestling prevailed in singles competition against Cameron Grimes days after a heated confrontation backstage at an NXT live event. The Technical Savage proved to be a worthy tune-up ahead of Gargano's showdown with Bálor, giving Johnny Wrestling all he could handle with his own impressive ring acumen.
But it was Gargano narrowly evading Grimes' vaunted Cave-In, instead taking him down with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors into the Gargano Escape, forcing him to tap almost immediately to the devastating hold.
Lio Rush came to collect an opportunity to regain the NXT Cruiserweight Title — and he got what he came for.
The Man of The Hour earned a matchup with reigning champion Jordan Devlin by virtue of knocking off sworn enemy and fellow former titleholder Angel Garza, who was equally motivated to recapture the gold.
But in a confrontation earlier in the evening, Rush vowed to Garza that he was a different man from the one Garza knocked off last year to become champion. He backed up those words in the squared circle, too, demonstrating a renewed focus to win the latest chapter of his rivalry with NXT's resident lothario.
Devlin arrived immediately afterward to confront his challenger-to-be, reminding Rush to never bet against an ace.
Bianca Belair is locked in and ready to seize her moment at TakeOver: Portland, if her performance this week was any indication.
Making quick work of Santana Garrett — The E.S.T. took down Garrett with a vicious tackle and ruthless stomps before even removing her earrings — Belair spent more time afterward adddressing the disrespect she's felt during the recent war of words between NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley and Royal Rumble winner Charlotte Flair.
Ripley arrived to rebute Belair and insist she wasn't looking past her Portland opponent, but rather right at her — and fisticuffs ensued moments later. The E.S.T. got the better of this exchange, however, and Belair laid out The Nightmare with a thunderous K.O.D. to stand tall over the champion.
The scene left just one question — would we see the same image Sunday at TakeOver?
The NXT Title remains Tommaso Ciampa's life source, and he wants it back. But Adam Cole will not relinquish it without a fight.
Before Cole takes to Portland to put his championship on the line against The Blackheart, he had to deal with Kushida, whom he and The Undisputed ERA literally disposed of in a garbage can last week backstage at Full Sail. Kushida's ring IQ was on full display with NXT's time-traveling Superstar astutely taking aim at the left arm Cole favored, even nearly pulling off the upset at multiple points in the match.
However, Kushida ultimately fell victim to The Last Shot like so many of The Panama City Playboy's previous opponents.
That was merely an appetizer for what was to come with Ciampa arriving afterward. The Blackheart circled Cole like a shark and locked eyes on his prey — the NXT Title that Ciampa was forced to give up due to injury and still fondly refers to as "goldie."
Will Daddy be home with the NXT Championship this time next week, or will the leader of The UE continue his dominant reign atop the black-and-gold brand?
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Roderick Strong defeated Bronson Reed
- Dakota Kai defeated Candice LeRae
- Johnny Gargano defeated Cameron Grimes
- Lio Rush defeated Angel Garza to become #1 Contender for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship
- Bianca Belair defeated Santana Garrett
- Adam Cole defeated Kushida
Other on-screen talent