Call it a product of NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa's doing, but the remnants from his sly suggestion last month, concerning Johnny Gargano challenging for the NXT North American Title, became a fiery phoenix when Gargano provoked a snippy exchange with reigning titleholder Ricochet.
With NXT TakeOver: Phoenix just over two weeks away, Gargano stepped into Full Sail Live and motioned his crosshair on The One and Only, who last week put out a smoke signal that drew the ire of Johnny Wrestling. After promising to make a championship reign be the linchpin to his 2019, Gargano called out Ricochet, who stepped out to the ring to double down on the very claim that ruffled the feathers of his adversary.
Before the tension could boil over, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa emerged to turn up the heat, encouraging Gargano that in 2019 “you can Do, It, Yourself.” But 2018's self-proclaimed “Sports-Entertainer of the Year” soon learned the downside of meddling in other people's affairs, after Aleister Black popped out to remind Ciampa of his own fate at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, where they are set to face off for the NXT Championship. A promise by The Dutch Destroyer to make Ciampa “fade to black” during their bout on Jan. 26 would eventually get supplemented with a beatdown on the stage.
As Ricochet watched the melee unfold, Gargano clocked him with a hard Superkick to dish out the first salvo in this already bitter rivalry.
After closing out 2018 on an un-de-fea-ted note, Bianca Belair continued business as usual in her first in-ring outing of the new year. But it was no easy task, seeing as how it involved the queen mother of chaos, Nikki Cross. Setting spark to the powder keg that was their pair of disruptive battles last year, the two forces took it to one another with pure intensity.
At one point, Belair lugged Cross from the top of the turnbuckle and dropped her with an awe-inspiring gorilla press. But NXT's Twisted Sister endured, and rechanneled Belair's hard hits with sadistic offense. When Belair attempted a suplex, Cross slithered out of the maneuver with an out-of-nowhere DDT. As she enjoyed the “playtime” brutality, Cross connected Belair with The Purge, only to have The EST of NXT roll out of the ring to avoid a pinfall. Engrossed on protecting her perfect win streak, Belair stopped at nothing as the match entered its final stretch. After avoiding a high cross body attack from Cross, The EST of NXT wrenched her opponent with the K.O.D. for the three-count.
Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel added more stock to their tag team offense, defeating the auspicious tandem of Stanley Watts & Hector Kunsman. Though the treacherous duo dominated most of the match, their work was assuredly cut out for them against the quick and agile Watts & Kunsman. Combating the brute strength of the “European Union” with lightning quick speed and slippery counters, Watts & Kunsman looked to be one move away from sending the NXT UK tandem packing. However, Aichner & Barthel unleashed a vicious double-team attack on Kunsman to earn the pinfall.
After crossing out Bobby Fish from his redemption list, EC3 looked to administer more dents in the Undisputed ERA armor by waylaying Adam Cole in one-on-one action. As Cole's black-and-gold attired comrades circled around the ring like sharks stalking prey, The Top One Percent maintained tunnel vision on The Panama City Playboy as he tossed him around like a handball. Yet, Cole found an opening after targeting the left arm of EC3. The former NXT North American Champion tossed EC3 into the steel steps, right before laying a dropkick onto the tenderized limb.
It was almost déjà vu when the other Undisputed ERA members interjected late in the contest. Though EC3 disposed of them, Cole capitalized on the distraction with a thunderous superkick and the Last Shot to pick up the three-count. As the entire Undisputed ERA pounced on the battered EC3, they received a true shock to the system when The War Raiders swooped in. Pulverizing the foursome with back-to-back tandem attacks, the modern-day Vikings left a crystal-clear warning ahead of their NXT Tag Team Title matchup at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Bianca Belair defeated Nikki Cross (10:46)
- Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel defeated Hector Kunsman & Stanley Watts (4:30)
- Adam Cole (w/ Bobby Fish, Kyle O'Reilly & Roderick Strong) defeated EC3 (7:55)
Other on-screen talent