Started from the bottom, now we’re here. Newly crowned NXT North American Champion Johnny Gargano stepped into Full Sail Live with extra spring in his step following an exhilarating matchup against Ricochet at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix. By the sounds of the mounting “Johnny Champion” chants that met him inside the ring, Johnny Wrestling was back, indeed.
With a long, hard-fought journey now behind him, Gargano appeared ready to seize his long-awaited victory lap, telling the NXT Universe “at TakeOver: Phoenix, we were validated when I won this.” But the trip down memory lane invited another champion, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, who strolled down the ramp to congratulate Gargano on his victory and for following “The Champ’s lead,” along with a reminder of their victory pose at the close of TakeOver. As Gargano poked a hole through Ciampa’s fairy tale ending (“Johnny Gargano will never need Tommaso Ciampa”), out came the winner of the first-ever WWE Worlds Collide Tournament, Velveteen Dream.
After outlasting 14 other NXT, NXT UK and 205 Live Superstars to claim the first WWE Worlds Collide Tournament, The Dream earned himself a guaranteed championship opportunity of his choosing. As both reigning champions stood in his midst, the enigmatic provocateur quickly made his decision, locking his scope on Gargano’s freshly polished crown and begging the question: “When it’s Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream, will it be Velveteen Dream vs. Johnny Champion? Or will it be Velveteen Dream vs. Johnny Jacka**?” Though the question went unanswered, the silent yet tense stare-down that followed surely spoke volumes.
Later it was confirmed that the hotly anticipated title bout will go down two weeks from tonight, exclusively on WWE Network.
Jaxson Ryker continued the 2019 leg of The Forgotten Sons’ Do Unto Others tour by showing no mercy to NXT’s newest blue-chip prospect, Monsoor. The power of Ryker went unhinged almost immediately after the bell, folding Monsoor in half with an explosive spear after he attempted a diving double axe- handle. From there came a canvas-pounding powerbomb to close out the bout. Afterward, Ryker dragged Monsoor back into the ring for another crushing powerbomb, altogether leaving a message no one would forget.
Whoever said rock ‘n’ roll was dead, think again. Without an electric guitar or amplifier, NXT newcomer Eric Bugenhagen awoke the genre’s spirit. A noted fan of Aerosmith and Freddie Mercury, to name a few, the walking livewire turned NXT into the rock ‘n’ swoll show immediately upon his arrival, all as 205 Live’s Drew Gulak watched with disdain. The Philadelphia Stretcher brought his campaign to the black-and-gold brand, hoping to enliven the NXT Universe with pure, scientific wrestling. Taking on Bugenhagen, the submission specialist’s plans were held up by pure, glittering rock energy. At one point, Bugenhagen locked Gulak in an abdominal stretch and used his exposed ribs for a quick air guitar rendition. However, Bugenhagen’s showmanship would prove to be his weakness, as Gulak bounced back and trapped him in the Gulock for the finish.
Despite scoring the win, the self-proclaimed “Best Submission Specialist in WWE” felt disrespected by his opponent, reminding the NXT Universe of his résumé before jeering: “And you feed me Ben Stiller from ‘Dodgeball’ in this ring?” Moments later, Matt Riddle hit to stage to grant Gulak what he yearned for: tougher competition.
Judging by the educated holds and hooks, Matt Riddle presented Drew Gulak the competition he sought. As for the match itself, it was a pure limb-twisting affair. For every move applied by 205 Live’s grappling guru, The Original Bro returned fire with a punishing strike or submission maneuver.
Most of the match was carried by an intense ground-and-pound game that saw both Superstars experimenting the science of limb manipulation, from armbars to cross-face chicken wings. The intensity was raised during the final seconds, when Gulak kicked out of a pinfall following a powerbomb-turned-jaw-crushing knee strike from Riddle. Fired up, Riddle bashed his opponent with elbow strikes before fastening in the Bromission for the win.
While Gulak got his wish, Riddle, too, received his toughest challenge yet as both Superstars effectively pushed each other to their absolute limit. Earning each other's respect in the hard-hitting battle, both Superstars exchanged a post-match handshake.
“Upset” is one of many ways to describe the conclusion to the high-octane battle between Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane & Io Shirai and the treacherous trio of NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke. With so many layers of grudges baked into this all-star matchup – such as Sane & Shirai’s quarrel with Shafir & Duke and the boiling temps between Belair and Baszler following TakeOver: Phoenix – it’s no wonder that fists flew with total abandon.
Exercising their dynamic combination of strength and agility, Belair deadlifted Sane into the air for an impromptu InSane Elbow on Duke. Yet, the united power of Baszler, Shafir & Duke proved to be a difficult front for the opposing trio to climb. Baszler’s joint-breaking holds and Shafir & Duke’s relentless strikes dented the armor of Belair, Sane & Shirai. At one point, the entire trio took turns tagging in and pounding Sane with a variety of attacks – but once Shirai stepped in and took flight, nothing was the same. Shirai lit up Baszler with a 619 and brought in Sane for an InSane Elbow. When that couldn’t score the pinfall, The EST of NXT swung into action and laced The Queen of Spades with the K.O.D, only for Duke & Shafir to halt the ensuing pin attempt. Shirai tagged herself in, and with Baszler still feeling the effects of the KOD, The Queen of Spades was an easy target for The Genius of the Sky to land an awe-inspiring moonsault for the three count.
In the end, the look on Belair’s face as she watched Shirai snag the pinfall over the NXT Women’s Champion said it all. Though the battle was won, unfinished business still stands.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Jaxson Ryker (w/ Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake) defeated Mansoor (1:29)
- Drew Gulak defeated Eric Bugenhagen (2:34)
- Matt Riddle defeated Drew Gulak (9:24)
- Bianca Belair, Io Shirai & Kairi Sane defeated Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir & Shayna Baszler (9:22)
Other on-screen talent