Tommaso Ciampa has refocused his attention on reclaiming "Goldie," but he's not the only one with his eyes on Adam Cole's NXT Championship. Finn Bálor made that loud and clear.
Determined to bask in the limelight on a victory lap for NXT's monumental Survivor Series triumph, The Undisputed ERA kicked off NXT by interrupting the roster's ringside victory celebration.
Opting instead for a self-congratulatory address, Cole and his allies took credit for the black-and-gold brand's success while running down their fellow Superstars — not to mention the fans.
Ciampa, flanked by Keith Lee, Dominik Dijakovic and Matt Riddle, had seen enough gloating. The Blackheart announced his plans to resume his pursuit of the NXT Title, but that drew Bálor's arrival — and his declaration that he stands in the way of any championship opportunity for Ciampa.
With a matchup between Ciampa and Bálor formally set for later in the evening, it begged the question: Was NXT's newly returned "Prince" standing in solidarity with Cole and company? Or was Bálor fueled by other motivations?
After suffering their defeat in TakeOver: WarGames' eponymous main event, it seemed that The Undisputed ERA's title reigns might be running on borrowed time. But in the case of the NXT Tag Team Championships at least, they found a way to flip the hourglass Wednesday — even in the face of injury.
The Undisputed ERA retained their titles against the team of Keith Lee & Dominik Dijakovic, despite Roderick Strong needing to step into the match early on as an injury replacement for Bobby Fish.
Lee & Dijakovic brought the Full Sail crowd to their feet later with a scintillating sequence. First, Dijakovic toppled both Strong & O'Reilly at ringside with an awe-inspiring springboard senton from the top rope.
That action drew Adam Cole down the ramp moments later, but he was blindsided by a shoulder block from Lee that sent The Panama City Playboy soaring over the barricade into a group of fans.
With both The Limitless Superstar and Dijakovic shocked by the spectacle in front of them, Strong & O'Reilly were able to gather their bearings and take down The Rare Breed back in the ring with a lightning-quick high-low combination for the victory.
Though the events certainly diverged from The Undisputed ERA's blueprint for victory, they once again left no doubt about their championship mettle.
Mansoor's remarkable roll is showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Having already staked out an impressive collection of victories — including winning the largest Battle Royal in WWE history earlier this year and knocking off Cesaro last month — the 24-year-old's potential appears to know no bounds.
WWE's first Saudi Arabian-born Superstar picked up another victory Wednesday on NXT, this time defeating Shane Thorne in one-on-one competition.
It didn't come easy, either, with Mansoor having to overcome a disadvantage borne from a clever counter by "The Worst." Thorne caught Mansoor's attempted tope suicida, instead hitting a back suplex on the outside ring mats.
Mansoor's second bid at an aerial attack was successful, however, and he dropped Thorne with a slingshot neckbreaker moments later to secure the win.
Dakota Kai mostly escaped atonement for her sins — for now anyway.
Candice LeRae sought to make her former teammate pay for betraying Team Ripley four days earlier at TakeOver: WarGames, but left with only a disqualification victory — and plenty of pain for her troubles.
Narrowly kicking out after Kai hit the "Kairopractor," LeRae locked the Gargano Escape on her teammate-turned-turncoat moments later. The Captain of Team Kick eventually broke free, though, and shortly after cost herself the match by blasting Tenacious C over the head with the same knee brace she ripped off of Tegan Nox at WarGames.
Further tapping into the previously-not-seen viciousness she first displayed on that night, Kai — who we learned had been fined for putting her hands on NXT General Manager William Regal during that beat down of Nox — continued the assault, repeatedly throwing LeRae into the steel steps.
But when Kai looked to escalate the attack by wielding a steel chair, Rhea Ripley emerged at ringside to kick the chair from her hands.
Apparently wanting no part of Ripley and the vengeance The Nightmare likely had in mind, Kai fled the scene, leaving Ripley to check on the visibly hurt LeRae.
If Lio Rush's mind is still on Angel Garza, it doesn't seem to be slowing him down one bit in the ring.
The Man of The Hour successfully defended his NXT Cruiserweight Championship against Akira Tozawa on Wednesday after being prepped with an answer for every move The Stamina Monster had in store for him.
Both competitors were keenly familiar with each other's repertoires after doing battle in a Triple Threat match along with Kalisto during Sunday's Survivor Series Kickoff — the same night that also saw Rush ambush Garza backstage with a vicious punch, likely a receipt for disrespecting Rush's family two weeks ago.
Rush's title reign was seemingly in jeopardy when he was sent crashing to the outside by Tozawa's German suplex from the apron. The tide shifted in favor of The Man of The Hour, however, when he caught Tozawa with knees to the back during an attempt to finish things off with a top-rope senton.
From there, it was time for The Final Hour — once to Tozawa's back, and again to his abdomen — to clinch the victory.
Shayna Baszler may have delivered the clinching victory for NXT at Survivor Series, but she also tasted defeat at the hands of a hungry challenger at TakeOver: WarGames — and Rhea Ripley didn't wait long to remind her.
The Queen of Spades — with Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir in tow — seized the ring after Xia Li defeated Vanessa Borne in one-on-one action, a matchup that "The Vision" demanded after Li injured her ally Aliyah earlier this month.
Initially able to ward off Shafir and Duke, Li was eventually overwhelmed by the three-on-one disadvantage, leaving Baszler and company to stand tall in the ring. From there, the NXT Women's Champion was free to bask in her massive win against SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch this past Sunday at Survivor Series.
Ripley was quick to interrupt Baszler, though, and The Nightmare promised that she would soon once again top The Submission Magician, except this time it would be for her coveted title.
For weeks, the WWE Universe wondered if Finn Bálor was in cahoots with Adam Cole.
"The Prince" finally delivered his answer: a resounding no.
Bálor defeated Tommaso Ciampa in a clash of two of the black-and-gold brand's alpha males thanks to an assist from the NXT Champion, then blindsided Cole moments later.
Once again embracing a more sinister edge in his first bout at Full Sail in more than three years, Bálor seemed intent on putting Ciampa back on the shelf the same way he injured Johnny Gargano. But Ciampa countered the attempt at the 1916 DDT on the ramp, dropping Bálor with an Air Raid Crash.
With the action moving back to the ring, "The Prince" narrowly escaped pinfall attempts after The Blackheart connected with Project Ciampa and another Air Raid Crash — this time off the second rope.
Cole arrived at ringside just as Ciampa seemed poised to finish things off for good. Though Ciampa initially staved off his foe, The Panama City Playboy's presence tipped the scales in Bálor's favor.
In a chaotic matter of seconds, the NXT Championship found its way into the ring. With the official temporarily distracted while removing the title, Cole dropped Ciampa with an enziguri from the outside.
Bálor then planted The Blackheart with the 1916 DDT and from there, the pinfall was academic.
Taking to the ring to pose at Bálor's side with the gold was Cole — but the leader of The Undisputed ERA was soon floored with a Pele Kick by Bálor.
With that, NXT's returning Prince made his self-interest evident, further complicating the pecking order of challengers for Cole's NXT Championship.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Dark Match: Raul Mendoza defeated Arturo Ruas
- Dark Match: Santana Garrett defeated Deonna Purrazzo
- The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) (c) defeated Dominik Dijakovic & Keith Lee to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship (20:16)
- Mansoor defeated Shane Thorne (3:02)
- Candice LeRae defeated Dakota Kai by DQ (12:29)
- Lio Rush (c) defeated Akira Tozawa to retain the NXT Cruiserweight Championship (13:03)
- Xia Li defeated Vanessa Borne (1:10)
- Finn Bálor defeated Tommaso Ciampa (11:31)
Other on-screen talent
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Tommaso Ciampa interrupted The Undisputed ERA and was confronted by Finn Bálor
The Undisputed ERA v Dominik Dijakovic & Keith Lee
Mansoor v Shane Thorne
Candice LeRae v Dakota Kai
Lio Rush v Akira Tozawa
Xia Li v Vanessa Borne
Rhea Ripley confronted Shayna Baszler
Finn Balor v Tommaso Ciampa