In the battle of blistering kicks and spine-wrecking backbreakers, Aleister Black and Roderick Strong elicited plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the Full Sail Live crowd this week. The hard-hitting encounter saw both Superstars plaster each other with dizzying offense. The Messiah of the Backbreaker lived up to his moniker, tattooing the back of The Dutch Destroyer with a thunderous backdrop atop the steel rings steps.
Strong continued the onslaught inside the yellow ropes, steeping Black's back with punishing submission holds and, yes, more backbreakers. As if the backdrop over the steel steps hadn't already caused damage, Strong hurled Black from the apron onto the turnbuckle with a Torture Rack. Somehow, the ever-resilient Black withstood the painful blitz.
The Dutch Destroyer put his educated feet to work, spoiling a suplex by Strong with a well-timed (and devastating) Black Mass to claim the pinfall. Despite the victory, Black found himself waylaid by Strong's Undisputed ERA taskforce as Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish & Adam Cole stepped in to inflict damage. That brought out Ricochet, who sprang into action to even the odds and force the group to retreat.
The tournament honoring the memory of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes will begin in two weeks on the March 6 episode of NXT, and the winning tandem will challenge The War Raiders for the NXT Tag Team Championship at TakeOver: New York.
With NXT's Tag Team division as stacked as it's ever been, the competition in this epic tournament is sure to reach another level of intensity. So far, four teams have been announced: The Street Profits, Undisputed ERA's Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish, Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel and The Forgotten Sons. The next four teams will be revealed next week, before things officially kick off on March 6.
Xia Li is the holder of lightning-fast kicks, as the Chinese Superstar proved during her NXT TV debut against Mia Yim. Li unloaded a flurry of strikes that forced Yim into defensive mode for much of the action. Things shifted once Yim caught Li with a spinning back fist after she attempted a flying kick from the top turnbuckle. From there, NXT's Head Baddie in Charge tangled her opponent into a Protect Ya Neck to land the three-count.
Before she could celebrate, though, Yim had to combat an attack from NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler, who was joined by her menacing cohorts Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke. Yim momentarily got the best of Baszler, as they traded a fury of punches before WWE Performance Center trainees Lacey Lane, MJ Jenkins and Jessie Elaban — whom Yim sided with during an altercation with Baszler, Shafir & Duke last week — arrived to even the score. Yet, the brute force of Baszler, Shafir & Duke proved to be a roadblock as they steamrolled the trio and left them sprawled in and out the ring.
While Yim was held down on the canvas by Shafir & Duke, she engaged in a shouting match with Baszler about respect, demanding the NXT Women's Champion “respect me!” In response, The Queen of Spades charged into her with a running knee.
D-R-E-A-M is ... champion. Johnny Gargano's self-proclaimed year of “wins and championships” came to a screeching halt at the hands of Velveteen Dream, resulting in the crowning of a new NXT North American Champion.
The momentous win came in the waning moments of a grueling barnburner in which Johnny “Freaking” Wrestling and Dream exhausted every bit of offense in their arsenals. Gargano bolted Dream in an assortment of painful submission holds, such as employing a wrenching hammerlock that NXT announcer Nigel McGuiness aptly described as just plain “nasty.” Dream displayed startling endurance, as he matched Gargano's tenacious holds with ferocious strikes, coercing the champion to rely on more of his signature maneuvers to try to take down Velveteen Dream.
Things soon turned into a nail-biting back-and-forth when Dream intercepted Gargano's slingshot DDT with a hard haymaker, and later had his own DDT reversed into a superkick. The action spilled to the outside and saw Dream crash-land into a superkick that left Gargano room to snap-suplex onto the metal ramp and drag a groggy Dream back into the ring for a slingshot DDT. Miraculously, Dream kicked out of the pin attempt, causing a visibly drained Gargano to snap.
After launching another hard superkick, the champion charged full steam into Dream, who then scooped him up for two Dream Valley Drivers before launching into the Purple Rainmaker to snare his biggest NXT career win yet.
The NXT Universe erupted with praise following the shocking victory, as NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa was spotted watching the match from a distance. As Gargano's NXT North American Championship run falls short, the black-and-gold brand now prepares to experience a new, decidedly purple, reign.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
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