After proclaiming last week that 2018 would be the year of No Way Jose, NXT's resident party-starter got the year started on the right foot with an impressive win against the heavy-hitting Cezar Bononi. The Brazilian Bomber did everything in his power to pull the plug on Jose's fiesta, using his raw strength to put Jose on his heels and even nailing the 245-pounder with a pump-handle powerslam. Yet, Jose would not be deterred. Spurred on by the NXT Universe, Jose rebounded and clocked Bononi with a pop-up punch to the jaw, putting the big man from Brazil down for the count.
A veteran of Japanese and British wrestling tours, Latoya Allsopp entered her match against Bianca Belair with a distinguished resume. Only one woman in the ring could lay claim to the title “EST of NXT,” however, and it wasn't Allsopp.
After roughing up Allsopp with a backbreaker and a mean forearm shimmer, Belair whipped Allsopp with her long, braided hair. The resulting sonic burst echoed throughout Atlanta's Center Stage. Belair planted Allsopp face-first onto the mat with a variation of a powerbomb and then showed some mercy, pinning Allsopp for the win.
With their NXT Women's Title Match at TakeOver: Philadelphia just around the corner, champion Ember Moon and challenger Shayna Baszler were all business during a sit-down interview presided over by Percy Watson.
The War Goddess condemned Baszler's recent sneak attacks on unsuspecting Superstars, writing off her behavior as nothing more than bullying. She chided The Queen of Spades for not living by the unwritten code of sportsmanship that has helped define the acclaimed NXT Women's division, and she promised that Baszler will not succeed in knocking Moon off her throne in Philly.
Never one to be intimidated, Baszler boldly stated that whether the NXT Universe approves of her ruthless actions matters not; come TakeOver: Philadelphia, NXT fans will have no choice but to “get used to it.” Will Baszler's words prove prophetic this Saturday on WWE Network?
Days before their NXT Tag Team Title Match against The Undisputed ERA, The Authors of Pain gave champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly every reason to approach TakeOver: Philadelphia with supreme caution.
Akam & Rezar laid waste to their scheduled opponents, Damien Smith & Chris Chase Brown, before the bell even rang, smashing Smith & Brown with stereo Death Valley Drivers into the turnbuckles. AOP grabbed the microphone and bellowed out a warning to Fish & O’Reilly, suggesting the same fate that befell Smith & Brown will be felt by Undisputed ERA this Saturday in Philly. Adding an exclamation point to the statement, AOP then brutalized Smith & Brown with the Super Collider for good measure.
Johnny Gargano took a huge gamble by putting his NXT Championship opportunity on the line against Velveteen Dream, but as the outcome showed, Johnny Wrestling was right to bet on himself, even when others weren't willing to.
There were moments during the thrilling clash when it looked like Gargano's decision to risk his title match was nothing short of foolhardy. Dream, competing in his first match since November, showed zero signs of ring rust; in fact, he was arguably performing at his ruthless best. Plainly aware of the opportunity at hand, the purple-clad provocateur wore down Gargano mentally and physically. He entered the ring wearing a Johnny Wrestling T-shirt and told Gargano that he was not ready for TakeOver, preying on any shred of self-doubt still harbored by Gargano. Dream savagely targeted Gargano's spine, too, torqueing it with neckbreakers and a vertebrae-collapsing DDT.
Gargano refused to quit. Not only that, but he returned fire, often focusing his attack on Dream's left arm. The strategy paid off late in the match when Dream, still feeling the effects of Gargano's offense, opted to use his right arm for the Purple Rainmaker elbow drop instead of his left arm. However, the split second it took Dream to make that decision made all the difference. Gargano avoided the move, causing Dream to crash and burn. He then drilled Dream with a superkick and forced him to tap out to the Gargano Escape.
Afterward, NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega strode to the ring to get a closer look at Almas’ reaffirmed opponent for TakeOver. El Idolo ambushed Gargano, but Johnny Wrestling fought back and stunned the champion with a slingshot DDT. He then proudly raised the NXT Title overhead as Almas writhed in pain, perhaps giving the NXT Universe a peek of things to come this Saturday in Philadelphia.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- No Way Jose defeated Cezar Bononi (3:17)
- Bianca Belair defeated Latoya Allsopp (3:33)
- Johnny Gargano defeated The Velveteen Dream to be the #1 Contender for the NXT Championship (12:30)
Other on-screen talent