If the first match of the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is any indication, this year's tournament honoring the late American Dream will be the wildest yet. In a brutally hard-hitting rematch of the 2016 final, defending Dusty Cup winners The Authors of Pain bested TM61, ending the red-hot streak that Shane Thorne & Nick Miller had established since returning to NXT earlier this year.
With the overwhelming support of NXT fans, TM61 used their daredevil offense to keep Akam & Rezar on their heels and gain near-falls. Despite this, AOP's destructive tendencies proved to be too much for the exciting Aussies. The turning point occurred when Rezar powerbombed Thorne from inside the ring onto the apron. The devastating impact took Thorne out for the remainder of the match and enabled AOP to clobber Miller with the Last Chapter for the pin.
With one massive win behind them, AOP now advance to the Second Round, where they will battle the winners of Street Profits vs. Heavy Machinery.
No matter who receives the unenviable assignment of facing Bianca Belair, the result — pure domination by The EST of NXT — remains the same.
This week, Miss Drew Renee found herself standing across the ring from the arrogant athletic wonder. Belair summarily trashed Renee with one power move after another, including a painful suplex into a gourdbuster. Once she grew bored with toying with her competition, Belair mercifully put Renee down for the count after flattening with a fallaway powerbomb.
You might think Tommaso Ciampa would be in the mood for celebration following his ouster of Johnny Gargano from NXT two weeks ago, but you'd be wrong.
Appearing for the first time since he sealed Gargano's fate, The Sicilian Psychopath, his now-infamous crutch slung over his shoulder, stalked to the ring sans entrance music or an introduction; instead, the thunderous boos of the NXT Universe provided the only soundtrack that was needed. As the self-proclaimed “Blackheart” appeared ready to finally break his silence, the hostile reaction to Ciampa gave way to adoration for Gargano, as chants of “We want Johnny” reverberated inside Atlanta's Center Stage. Many members of the NXT Universe even taunted Ciampa by waving print-outs of Gargano's trademark emoji symbol at him.
Without saying a word, Ciampa exited the ring, grabbed one NXT fan's pro-Gargano sign and obliterated it with his crutch in a scary fit of rage. We'll have to wait a little longer to find out what deranged thoughts are tumbling through the mind of The Sicilian Psychopath, but it's clear he's still haunted by the specter of Johnny Wrestling.
A big-fight feel hung in the air as two of the winningest Superstars in NXT history, Aleister Black and Killian Dain, went toe-to-toe in a match that carried potential NXT Title implications. To shed the devil on his back and move one step closer to an NXT Championship opportunity, Black knew he had to clear a massive roadblock in the form of the SAnitY juggernaut.
The Beast of Belfast wasn't about to make it easy, using brawn and bad intentions to wear down The Dutch Destroyer. Dain blasted Black with hard hits and used submission holds to rob him of breath. He smothered Black with a senton and a Vader Bomb, and made Black appear, for once, uncharacteristically human.
Black forged ahead and eventually found his opening, reversing Dain's Ulster Plantation into a victory roll. The Beast of Belfast powered out of the pinning predicament but then walked straight into Black Mass. Black's patented spin kick found its mark, flooring the 322-pound behemoth and paving the way for The Dutch Destroyer to claim the all-important victory.
Following the milestone win, NXT General Manager William Regal ruled that Black had earned the prize he wanted, announcing that Black will challenge NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas for the title at TakeOver: New Orleans on Saturday, April 7, live on the award-winning WWE Network.
- 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 TM-61 (Nick Miller & Shane Thorne) in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic 2018 First Round Match (7:31)
- Bianca Belair defeated Miss Drew Renee (1:19)
- Aleister Black defeated Killian Dain (8:30)
Other on-screen talent