Before NXT even hit the air, WWE Network cameras caught Tommaso Ciampa confronting NXT General Manager William Regal earlier this afternoon outside Full Sail University. The Blackheart asked what he had to do to put Johnny Gargano behind him once and for all. In response, Regal offered the solution that Ciampa had been waiting for, ruling that the former #DIY teammates will face off in an Unsanctioned Match at TakeOver: New Orleans. If Gargano prevails on Saturday, April 7, his NXT contract will be reinstated. If Ciampa wins, Gargano will be banished from NXT forever.
William Regal continued delivering huge news as tonight's NXT kicked off, revealing that a new title, the NXT North American Championship, will be introduced in The Big Easy at TakeOver: New Orleans.
The gigantic announcement perked the ears of one of NXT's latest blockbuster signees, EC3, who strode to the ring to interrupt Regal. Calling himself “The Top One Percent,” EC3 described himself as a “literal human money-printing machine” and assumed, incorrectly, that Regal had created the title just for him. Regal quickly disavowed the brash powerhouse of that notion, instead informing him that nobody is handed anything in NXT and that EC3 would have to earn the title in a Ladder Match against five other Superstars at TakeOver.
Before the end of the night, EC3 learned just how treacherous the path to becoming NXT North American Champion would be, as Regal rounded out the Ladder Match lineup with the most remarkable selections imaginable, naming Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain and acclaimed newcomer Ricochet to the six-Superstar melee. Which competitor will make history and become the inaugural NXT North American Champion on the eve of WrestleMania 34?
The Authors of Pain's march toward a second consecutive appearance in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals continues.
Akam & Rezar scored a big Semifinals win over Street Profits, thanks in part to a timely distraction by AOP's manager, Paul Ellering, as well as a premature celebration by the Profits’ Montez Ford. In reaction to a dynamic series of moves by his teammate Angelo Dawkins, Ford paraded around ringside, drink cup in hand, until he ran across Ellering. Ford offered the WWE Hall of Fame manager a sip, but Ellering knocked the beverage out of Ford's hands, much to Ford (and the NXT Universe's) disappointment.
The out-of-ring antics distracted Dawkins from the matter at hand, allowing AOP to bludgeon him with the Last Chapter for the win. AOP now stand one win away from accomplishing what no other team has ever done: becoming two-time winners of the Dusty Classic.
Like a predator devouring its prey, Lars Sullivan feasted on John Silver before the NXT Universe's eyes. The 300-pound punisher mauled Silver, tossing him from one corner of the ring to the other. The logophile leviathan even took flight, nearly caving in Silver's upper-body with a top-rope headbutt. Sullivan finally put Silver out of his misery by slamming him into the canvas with the Freak Accident.
As Dakota Kai stood in the ring awaiting her scheduled opponent, the NXT announce team got word of an altercation in the parking lot between Aleister Black and the man who dared him to appear this week, NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas.
El Idolo had ambushed The Dutch Destroyer, his challenger at TakeOver: New Orleans, from behind. With Zelina Vega cheering him on, a furious Almas tore into Black with a vengeance, ramming the NXT Title contender head-first into a door and screaming that he would not be disrespected. The assault spilled into the arena and eventually the squared circle, where Almas slammed a steel chair into his rival for good measure. The NXT Champion then held the title aloft and stood over Black's supine body in a scary display of supremacy.
So far, so good for the least-experienced duo in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Roderick Strong & WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne might only be two matches into partnership, but as they proved in their Semifinals win over former NXT Tag Team Champions SAnitY, they're already operating like longtime teammates.
The victory was anything but easy, with Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe throwing everything in their arsenals at the makeshift duo. The bout was rough-and-tumble, with fists flying throughout. Wolfe & Young claimed numerous near falls, but Strong & Dunne exhibited exceptional teamwork, breaking up several pin attempts to stave off elimination.
After a flurry of big hits by Strong & Dunne, The Messiah of the Backbreaker tossed Young into Dunne's clutches, allowing The BruiserWeight to connect with a variation of the Bitter End for the win. Strong & Dunne's remarkable run now leads them to next week's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals, where they prepare to face The Authors of Pain in a match that will not only decide the tournament victors, but also the next challengers for NXT Tag Team Champions Undisputed ERA.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- The Authors Of Pain (Akam & Rezar) (w/ Paul Ellering) defeated Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) in a Semi Final Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Match (2:30)
- Lars Sullivan defeated John Silver (1:34)
- Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong defeated Sanity (Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young) in a Semi Final Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Match (8:34)
Other on-screen talent