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It’s time to stop calling NXT a developmental brand. With its full two-hour debut on the USA Network on Wednesday, it has become as integral to WWE as Raw or SmackDown.
No WWE show was hyped better this week than the October 2 edition of NXT, and this monumental night showcased title matches from the opening bell to the main event.
NXT champion Adam Cole ushered in a new era by defending his belt against the dangerous Matt Riddle.
Longstanding NXT women’s champion Shayna Baszler faced a bold new challenger in Candice LeRae.
The Street Profits finally got the opportunity to regain the NXT Tag Team Championships against Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish.
With a need to make a statement and so much gold up for grabs on the night, WWE promised to make this a night no one would forget, and no champion felt safe.
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With a cast on his right wrist from last week’s confrontation with Matt Riddle, Adam Cole refused to take it slow early in this NXT Championship match.
The titleholder avoided The Original Bro’s signature technical holds and throws, and he managed to grind down the challenger with strikes.
Cole caught Riddle with a surprise backstabber and ushigoroshi for near-falls, but The Bro refused to stay down. With a suplex, running knee and Floating Bro, Riddle barely made the three-count.
Cole set up the Last Shot with a Panama Sunrise, but Riddle ducked and locked in the Bromission. While the champion escaped, his opponent went to the Fujiwara armbar to nearly get a tapout. Cole barely survived and connected with the Last Shot for the win.
Finn Balor interrupted Cole’s theme to announce to the champion that he is now back in NXT on a full-time basis.
Cole def. Riddle by pinfall to retain the NXT Championship
This was a great way to open the night. Cole and Riddle worked this much more like an opener than is typical of NXT Championship matches. They never stopped moving and pushed the pace almost to an absurd degree, occasionally even losing the psychology of the bout.
While the two can have a far more complete match down the line, NXT needed to get the limited crowd chanting, and they clearly succeeded.
Balor’s return to NXT is a big move for the brand, but it’s hard to say if it’s a positive one for The Extraordinary Man. He wasn’t prominently featured on the main roster, but he was a clear star. However, he and Cole should be great rivals.
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Velveteen Dream made a statement with purple-and-pink lighting as he called out Roderick Strong.
He was not afraid of Undisputed Era and seems ready to regain his NXT North American Championship soon.
This was a quick-and-easy introduction to Dream for new audiences. He got a little caught up in his words, but the presentation delivered. His gimmick is hard to forget once you’ve seen it.
NXT needed to showcase the clear stars of the brand on this night, even in short segments. It would not have been right for the night to go without some appearance by Dream.
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Physicality was the focus for both Io Shirai and Mia Yim early.
The two women threw out their best strikes, but neither backed down. While The Head Baddie in Charge refused to lose, The Genius of the Sky took over the action with her unbelievable athleticism.
With a side kick to set it up, Shirai connected with the moonsault for the win.
Shirai def. Yim by pinfall
NXT promised big matches, but this one—which went without hype—delivered just as much as the title bouts. It was physical and felt surprisingly personal despite having no story behind it. Shirai brings an energy to every performance that elevates all of her challengers.
NXT should revisit this matchup, though. These two have chemistry to spare, and they could use a chance to tell a complete story without split screen.
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Shane Thorne came out firing fast against Johnny Gargano.
A series of powerbombs nearly stole the win for the Australian star, but Johnny Wrestling refused to stay down to anything.
Gargano popped up at just the right moment with a poisonrana into a superkick to the kneeling Thorne to take the victory.
Gargano def. Thorne by pinfall
This was a solid match in which Thorne got deserved momentum as a future title challenger. He is not up to Gargano’s level yet, but he showed he can hang with a top guy.
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Shayna Baszler showed no remorse as she punished Candice LeRae for wanting a match with the NXT women’s champion, injuring the left arm of the challenger. But her opponent was willing to fight with one good arm.
She managed to escape the Kirifuda Clutch at every stage, even reversing into her own Kirifuda Clutch. However, the champion ducked the springboard moonsault and got locked deep into the submission hold.
LeRae nearly fought to her feet in the hold before finally submitting.
Baszler def. LeRae by submission to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
LeRae and Baszler had a TakeOver-worthy title bout in which both women showed why they are among the elite in NXT. The champ wore down the challenger with a focused attack on the arm, while her opponent refused to give up.
It was easy to get behind the challenger as she fought through everything, but it was not her night. It was honestly surprising that the champion retained, but it’s hard to say who else can truly challenge her.
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Pete Dunne was ready to hurt Danny Burch to take this win, and he dominated early.
However, Burch survived long enough to pull off a huge DDT that nearly got the win. The Bruiserweight was not amused, snapping his rival’s fingers before hitting the Bitter End for three.
The lights went out shortly after the finish, and Damien Priest appeared to plant Dunne to make a statement about his next target.
Dunne def. Burch by pinfall
Dunne vs. Burch is always a solid matchup, though it’s a bit too obvious who will win. This bout may have gone a bit long, but it was a crowd-pleaser and different from much of the rest of the card.
Priest is taking a big step up with his next opponent. It will be telling how he does against The Bruiserweight, who is among the premier stars in NXT. If he does end up on top, he could be winning gold soon.
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Rapper Wale introduced Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins before their match against Undisputed Era.
After an early flurry from The Street Profits, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish took over the match, isolating and wearing down Ford.
The long time Dawkins was waiting on the apron set him up for an emphatic hot tag. He threw around Undisputed Era but injured his knee along the way, setting up O’Reilly to lock him in a leg lock. Ford saved his friend while stuck in a guillotine choke from Fish by running into O’Reilly.
After Fish barely escaped a three-count following a frog splash, Roderick Strong had to get involved to distract The Street Profits. This set up a High-Low to Ford to retain the tag titles.
As Undisputed Era celebrated, Tommaso Ciampa made his return to NXT to stare down Adam Cole and his championship belt—the same one he was forced to relinquish before undergoing neck surgery in March.
Undisputed Era def. Street Profits by pinfall to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships
Undisputed Era cannot ever have a bad tag team match. This started slow and ran a bit long, but it was entertaining and fantastic for the home stretch. One has to wonder if this loss will send The Street Profits to the main roster.
Ciampa’s return to NXT after seven months out was a great hook, especially on a night when no titles changed hands.
While Cole vs. Balor is interesting, Cole vs. Ciampa is obvious money. It will be interesting to see which way the brand goes first.