Preview by Joseph Currier
A "cage fight" between Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher headlines tonight's edition of NXT.
After their partnership imploded two weeks ago, Riddle and Thatcher will face off in a cage match that can only be won by knockout or submission. WWE posted pictures of the fight pit that is being used for the match.
Kurt Angle, who was part of last month's WWE releases, will return as the special guest referee for Riddle vs. Thatcher.
Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai will take on NXT Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and a partner of her choosing. The match comes in advance of Charlotte defending her title against Ripley and Shirai in a triple threat match at NXT TakeOver: In Your House on Sunday, June 7.
The build to TakeOver will also continue with NXT Champion Adam Cole and general manager William Regal having a live negotiation tonight. Cole has said he wants to make sure Velveteen Dream disappears forever and stays out of the Undisputed Era's business.
Plus, a triple threat match between Kushida, Drake Maverick, and Jake Atlas will decide who advances to the interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship tournament finals from Group A. The group ended in a three-way tie last week after Maverick defeated Kushida. The winner of the triple threat match will advance to face El Hijo del Fantasma in the finals.
Our coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The show is opening with the triple threat match to decide who advances to the cruiserweight tournament finals from Group A.
Drake Maverick defeated Jake Atlas and Kushida to advance to the finals of the Interim Cruiserweight Championship Tournament
Maverick pinned Atlas in a nifty finish where Kushida had Atlas in a submission hold, and Maverick jumped in to cover Atlas.
Atlas got to shine early on with a moonsault off the middle turnbuckle to the floor on Kushida, and then he springboarded into a blockbuster for a near fall on Maverick. Kushida soon fired up for a cartwheel dropkick and a couple of palm strikes.
They teased a Tower of Doom, but ended up doing something way better before the show cut to its first commercial break. Kushida with an O'Connor Roll had Atlas rolled up for a cover. Maverick went to break it up, and Kushida -- still cradling Atlas with his legs -- gave Maverick a German suplex into a bridge. Kushida's bridge had a dual cover on both Atlas and Maverick for a double near fall. That was pretty damn cool.
All three were trading strikes when the show returned from break. Maverick sidestepped the other two, and he capitalized with a missile dropkick. Atlas was kinocked off the apron, leaving Kushida and Maverick in the ring. Kushida dived off the top turnbuckle for a flip dive on the outside to wipe out Atlas.
Kushida with a tornado DDT that he transitioned into an armbar. Maverick countered to cradle Kushida for a two count. Atlas got back into action with a reverse suplex on Kushida, but he posted himself charging at Maverick. Atlas then took a sliced bread from Maverick for another two count.
Kushida dropped Maverick with a wind-up punch. Atlas then caught Kushida in a German suplex. Atlas executed the Rainbow DDT on Maverick, but Kushida broke up the pinning attempt. Atlas hit Kushida with a kick. Atlas tried to climb the ropes, but Kushida tripped him up.
All three took turns fighting on the turnbuckles. Kushida did his flip off the top into the cross-armbreaker that he has done numerous times. Kushida was wrenching on the arm when Maverick jumped in to place an arm over the chest of Atlas. The referee counted Atlas shoulder down for the three count, and Maverick advances to the tournament in a creative finish.
El Hijo del Fantasma came out to face off with Maverick after the match. They shook hands as they will soon meet in the tournament finals.
Officially announced for TakeOver: In Your House is Rhea Ripley vs. Io Shirai vs. Charlotte Flair in a triple threat for the NXT Women's Championship.
Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae came to the ring cutting a promo. Gargano says he is being misunderstood. The "Gargano Way" isn't about eliminating people, but instead he claims it is about making NXT a better place. He said there were at least a few "good hands" there, and he wanted to give people a chance. So he announced tonight for the first time is the "Johnny Gargano Invitational".
Gargano will give a young wrestler the chance of "stepping in the ring with the greatest performer of a generation." After a drum roll, he announced the first participant as Adrian Alanis.
Johnny Gargano (with Candice LeRae) defeated Adrian Alanis in the first ever "Johnny Gargano Invitational"
Gargano offered to shake hands, but that was a red herring to set up a sucker punch. Alanis fought back -- only for him to run into a superkick. Gargano then applied the Gargano Escape, and Alanis quickly tapped out.
Gargano & LeRae's celebration was interrupted by a skit from Mia Yim & Keith Lee. They were spoofing the Garganos' skits from their dinner table. They made fun of the flashlight spot from the previous skits. This was a great.
Yim prepared LeRae's favorite kind of dinner -- takeout. Tegan Nox delivered them a pizza, but she had eaten it all but one piece.
Yim & Lee then got serious by cutting a promos to hype up their upcoming mixed tag team match.
Maverick was being interviewed backstage when Kushida approached him to encourage Maverick, and Maverick promised him the first title shot when he wins the title. That was nice of him.
NXT Tag Team Champions Imperium cut a promo on Danny Burch & Loney Orcan. Good stuff.
Raquel Gonzalez (with Dakota Kai) defeated Shotzi Blackheart
Gonzalez pinned Blackheart after interference by Kai. Tegan Nox and Candice LeRae also got involved in an angle at ringside during the match.
Blackheart used her quickness to counter Gonzalez in the early portion of the match. Gonzalez soon cut her off. Meanwhile, Kai got in Blackheart's mini-tank and went to drive it around ringside.
Tegan Nox ran down to make a save for the tank. She shoved Kai out of the tank, and Blackheart in the ring got a near fall with a roll up off the distraction.
After a commercial break, Gonzalez was working over Blackheart. Gonzalez with a powerslam for a two count, and she then applied a bear hug. Gonzalez dashed a hope spot using a backbreaker for another two count.
Blackheart made a comeback and then took a nasty bump doing a trust fall to the outside. She landed hard on the floor.
Nox was checking on her when LeRae ran down to confront Nox. Maybe LeRae was upset about the pizza too. Regardless, they argued while the referee tried to separate them. Why? They weren't even actually interfering in the match. This might have been distracting, but was it illegal? Really this just a lame excuse for the ref to miss seeing the ensuing interference.
Meanwhile, Blackheart was trying to finsih the match when Kai interfered. The ref finally got back into the ring. Gonzalez with a side slam, and then she covered Blackheart for the pinfall.
A great vignette hyped up the TakeOver match between Finn Balor and Damian Priest.
Charlotte Flair has a mystery partner for a tag match against Rhea Ripley & Io Shirai. However, the mystery won't last much longer because that match is next! Who could it be?! Turns out it was Chelsea Green. It did make her seem important.
Charlotte Flair & Chelsea Green (with Robert Stone) defeated Io Shirai & Rhea Ripley
Flair pinned Shirai with her feet on the ropes.
Mauro Ranallo on commentary honored the memory of Hana Kimura during Shirai's entrance.
Flair let Green start the match, which kept Flair away from her upcoming challengers. Shirai wiped out going for a Tiger Feint Kick, and Green leapt through the ropes with a tope on Shirai.
With Shirai hurt, Flair was now more than willing to tag into the match. Shirai with a recepit on Green when Shirai dived through the ropes to splash Green. Reversing a whip, Green sent Shirai crashing into the guardrails before a commercial break.
Flair was working over Shirai when the show returned from the break. Shirai ducked a chop and Flair hit Green with the chop by mistake. Green shook it off, and got back into the match.
Ripley was a house of fire after a hot tag, and Green fed into her. Flair twice in the matter of moments jumped in to break up pinning attempts. Flair went for the figure-four, but Shirai made a save. Shirai tagged in and she had Flair reeling for a near fall.
Shirai with roll up into a double stomp on Flair, and she followed with a Tiger Feint Kick. Green pushed Flair out of the way to take a bullet for her when Green got in the path of a springboard missile dropkick from Shirai.
Ripley was knocked off the apron, and Flair rolled up Shirai with a schoolgirl. Flair put her feet on the ropes for added leverage, and she got the pinfall on Shirai.
In a Zoom meeting, NXT Champion Adam Cole and General Manager William Regal had formal negotiations. Cole was of course a heel that kept insulting Regal. Cole wanted Regal to agree that Velveteen Dream never gets another title shot against Cole after he beats him at TakeOver. Regal agreed to the stip so Dream's challenge at TakeOver is now is "last" shot at winning the title from Cole. The NXT Championship match and the stip are official for TakeOver.
A vignette profiled Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. This was great character development. The feature concluded with them meeting in a bar to drink water. They toasted to what they hoped will be a victory over Imperium for the NXT Tag Team Championship at TakeOver.
Tommaso Ciampa defeated Leon Ruff
Scarlett came out to ringside scouting Ciampa ahead of his match against Karrion Kross at TakeOver. With Ciampa distracted, Ruff rushed in to schoolboy Ciampa looking for a quick upset. Ruff continued to shine until eating a knee strike from Ciampa.
Ciampa pummeled Ruff, and then he exeuted the Fairy Tale Ending to score the pinfall.
On the Titantron, Kross cut a promo on Ciampa after the match. This was like the scene in a comic book involving a super villian. I guess it worked. I'm intrigued.
Announced for next week on NXT is the finals in the cruiserweight tournament with Maverick vs. Fantasma. Also on the next episode is Mia Yim vs. LeRae in a singles match, and a "Prime Target" feature on the title matches at TakeOver.
Timothy Thatcher defeated Matt Riddle in a cage fight with Kurt Angle as special guest referee
Thatcher won via ref stoppage after he choked out Riddle with a sleeper.
The set for this was amazing. There were no ropes, and the ring was surrounded by a huge caged structure. There was a catwalk platform on top of the cage, which basically made it a scaffold match within a cage fight. The announcers referred to the set as the "fight pit".
The fight could only be won by a 10-second knockout or via submission.
They started the match on top of the platform as they stood on opposite corners of the catwalk. Riddle leapt off the catwalk and rolled through into the ring, and the fight was on.
Thatcher went down first when Riddle springboarded off the side of the cage into a disaster kick. Thatcher was able to get to his feet to break the ten count, but he was spitting up blood. He spat out what was sold as his teeth.
Angle put on latex gloves and went to check to see if Thatcher could continue. A doctor also came to check on Thatcher, and the doctor said he could continue just as the show went to a commercial break.
They were grappling when the show returned from break. Riddle went for another springboard off the cage, but this time Thatcher countered trying for a Fujiwara armbar. Riddle escaped -- only for him to take a suplex a moment later. Thatcher then applied a half crab. Thatcher transitioned into a crossface.
Riddle was able to break a ten count and get to his feet. A grappling battle developed on the ground with both going for submission holds. Riddle escaped the guard, and he mounted Thatcher for ground and pound.
Thatcher went for a triangle, and Riddle deadlifted him. Riddle went to powerbomb Thatcher into the cage, but Thatcher instead broke free to climb atop the platform. Riddle joined him on the catwalk and the cage fight suddenly turned into a scaffold match. There was a even a "Skywalkers" reference for all of the old school Starrcade fans to enjoy.
They were trading strikes on the platform when Thatcher caught Riddle in an ankle lock. Riddle kicked free, but no water in the pool on an attempted senton. They were teasing high spots off the apron, and Riddle hit Thatcher with a ripcord knee strike. Thatcher tumbled off the platform into the ring.
Riddle backflipped off the platform into a Floating Bro into a the ring on Thatcher. Riddle landed a flurry of kicks, but he crashed into the cage when Thatcher sidestepped a charge. Thatcher then locked in a sleeper. He was riding Riddle like a jockey as Riddle took him on a tour of the cage trying to break the hold. Riddle eventually fell backwards to sandwich Thatcher into the mat.
Thatcher nevertheless again applied the sleeper, and Riddle was trapped. Angle raised Riddle's arm, and his limp arm dropped three times. Angle stopped the fight for techincal submission.