Preview by Joseph Currier
A North American Championship match will headline tonight's episode of NXT.
Roderick Strong will put his title on the line against Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic tonight. Velveteen Dream was originally supposed to be Strong's opponent, but Dream was removed from the match due to a back injury.
Another match with title implications is set for tonight. Dakota Kai & Tegan Nox will face Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke, with the winning team challenging for Asuka & Kairi Sane's Women's Tag Team titles next Wednesday. That will be the first time the titles have been defended on NXT.
Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair and Matt Riddle vs. Cameron Grimes have also been announced for tonight's show. Ripley and Belair are looking to establish themselves as the top contender in the NXT women's division.
After returning and confronting NXT Champion Adam Cole three weeks ago, an appearance by Finn Balor has been teased for tonight.
The show opened with a women's match that could have top contender implications.
Rhea Ripley defeated Bianca Belair
Ripley pinned Belair after delivering The Riptide in a good match. Io Shirai ran in before the finish, but Candice LeRae made a save to even the odds.
Testing their strength at the outset, they had an old school knuckle lock spot and reversal. Belair taunted Ripley, and got kicked in the face for doing so.
They continue with several counters and reversals. Ripley took a Ric Flair press slam off the top turnbuckle. That allowed Belair to get heat on Ripley. Belair dashed a hope spot, and then applied an abdominal stretch. Ripley was down on tbe mat selling as they went into a commercial break.
The split screen was back during the break, and Belair dashed more hope spots. She also taunted Ripley, who by this point had sold so much that her winning was a obvious considering WWE match logic.
Ripley with a mid-air kick started her comeback. She got a nearfall with a dropkick, and then she applied her newest finisher -- the Mare's Grasp. Belair got to the ropes to break the hold, but Ripley gave chase with a senton off the apron.
Io Shirai ran in to attack Ripley, allowing Belair to hit Ripley with a spear. Ripley kicked out on a very close near fall. Candice LeRae ran down to ringside, and pulled Shirai off the apron. Ripley then executed a pump handle bomb for the pinfall.
Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate were walking to the building when they were stopped by Cathey Kelley for an interview. She asked Dunne about his loss to Damian Priest last week, and Dunne said he had no excuses for the loss. Kelley asked about Killian Dain, and Dunne replied that he "don't care" about him. Still, he had a look of distain on his face as he walked away.
Next up was a tremendous video package focusing on Tommaso Ciampa and his return. This was an excellent piece of business, and Ciampa wants Goldie back. He really, really wants Goldie back. He will stop at nothing to reclaim the title.
Matt Riddle defeated Cameron Grimes
Riddle pinned Grimes in a really good match.
At the start, Grimes went for the double stomp that has won him many squash matches in recent weeks. Riddle had him scouted, and Grimes begged off. They started grappling on the mat, and Grimes was using dirty tactics.
Grimes went for an O'Connor Roll, and Riddle countered into a sleeper. Grimes escaped, but he soon took a suplex and ate a series of kicks. Riddle was on fire, and Grimes was reeling.
Riddle with a jackhammer got a near fall, and the announcers played that up without actually saying Goldberg's name. Riddle with another two count, and he was still in control.
Grimes with a backflip into a German suplex turned the tide just before a commerical. No split screen during this break.
Riddle made a comeback after the break. A ripcord knee turned into German, and he followed that with a Bro to Sleep for a two and half. Riddle was looking strong when Grimes countered into a tilt-a-whirl side slam for two.
They did a superplex off the tope for another near fall. Riddle went for a Floating Bro, but Grimes got his knees up. Grimes with a superkick and a running Spanish Fly for two.
Riddle fired up at the finish to counter a stomp with a powerbomb. A knee strike set up the BroDerek for the pinfall.
Tyler Bate was in the front row, and he congratulated Riddle. Grimes a moment later took exception to Bate. Grimes was barking at him when Bate knocked him out with a punch.
William Regal booked a tag match for later in the show where the winners would get a shot next week at the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship.
Isaiah "Swerve" Scott & Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) defeated The Forgotten Sons (Steve Cutler, Wesley Blake & Jaxson Ryker)
Swerve pinned Blake to win the match for his team. Swerve replaced an injured Kushida.
The babyfaces cleaned house and cleared the ring before a commercial. During the break (although not shown on a split screen). Ryker gave Breeze a uranage on the apron to set up the heat.
The Sons worked over Breeze as they kept him on their side of the ring. Fandango eventually made a hot tag, and he ran wild with what Mauro called a "ballroom blitz". Swerve tagged in to deliver a flying crossbody.
Swerve was soon cut off and triple teamed. He took a superplex followed by stereo flying headbutts. Breeze jumped in to break up a subsequent pinning attempt.
Swerve made a comeback and sent all of The Sons outside. He was going for a dive when Ryker stopped him. Swerve leapt off the top rope, springboarded off the chest of Ryker, and flipped into a moonsault to the floor.
Breezango with stereo superkicks got their team a near fall. Fandango and Ryker both went over the ropes to the floor. Cutler threw Swerve outside on top of them.
Breeze made a save for Swerve, and then Swerve landed a leaping kick for the pinfall.
Roderick Strong was shown warming up, and then a split screen also showed a promo he cut on the main event title match.
New WWE Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush in street clothes got a full entrance before a commercial break. He would join the commentary team for the next week.
Killian Dain cut a promo on Pete Dunne while Dain stood over an open fire in a barrel.
Angel Garza defeated "Gentlemen" Jack Gallagher
Garza pinned Gallagher after a quebrada in a short -- but quite good -- cruiserweight match. The finish however was kind of flat. Lio Rush was on commentary during the match, and Garza was clearly being positioned as contender for Rush's title.
They did some cool mat wrestling in the beginning. Garza was unsnapped his pants to do the Latin Lover gimmick, but Gallagher shot behind him and went to push him into the ropes. Instead Gallagher ripped off Garza's loose pants. Still holding the pants, Gallagher then took a dropkick to a huge pop.
They traded near falls. Garza with an inverted slingshot suplex followed by a superkick netted him two and half. Gallagher with a delayed vertical suplex got him another two count.
Garza teased a dive, but gave Gallagher a slap to the back for a lucha libre comedy spot. Gallagher soon fought back with headbutt, but Garza answered back by slamming Gallagher to the mat.
Garza jumped off the second rope with a quebrada for the pinfall.
Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai defeated Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir (w/ NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler) to become number one contenders to the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship
Nox pinned Duke to earn her team a title match next week on NXT.
Duke with a kick at the start almost ended the match earlier as she covered Kai. The Horsewomen got heat on Kai as they proverbially cut the ring in half.
Nox finally came in on a hot tag. She chokeslammed Duke & Shafir, and proceeded to run wild. With a flying crossbody she got a two count.
Duke rolled up Nox sith a schoolgirl, but Nox kicked out. Nox then used a shining wizard to score the pinfall.
WWE Women's Tag Team Champions Asuka & Kairi Sane on the LED screen cut a heel promo running down Tegan & Nox. Next week the two teams meet in a title match.
Besides the tag title match, also announced for next week is Cameron Grimes vs. Tyler Bate. Another match announced for next Wednesday is Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae. I still haven't seen a better women's match in WWE since their last match at TakeOver.
NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong defeated Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic in a triple threat match to retain his title
Strong pinned Lee to reatin his title. This match was a wild almost from start to finish.
There was a lot of action, and they set a quick pace at times. They also did some crazy things. But none of that was the big story here. A plot twist after the match occured when Finn Balor turned heel.
Lee got to shine in the early portion of the match. He sent Strong flying with shoulder tackle. Lee then gave Dijakovic a pop-up slam before a commercial. The split screen was back for the main event.
Strong was still selling outside the ring as Lee and Dijakovic clobbered each other in the ring. As the show returned from the break, Strong tried to get back into the match. Lee instead tossed him over the ropes like a sack of potatoes.
Lee and Dijakovic were perched on the turnbuckles when Strong rushed back into the ring to shove Lee down the floor. Strong then executed a superplex on Dijakovic for a two count.
Dijakovic cut off Stron, but Lee cut off Dijakovic. They set up a spot where Dijakovic suplexed Lee onto Strong before a near fall.
Lee caught Dijakovic on an attempted senton off the apron. Strong struck them both with wrecking ball dropkick through the ropes.
They all three took part in a wild Tower of Doom spot where Lee powerbombed Dijakovic while Strong took a superplex. That led into last commercial break of the show, which was not part of a split screen.
They were all trading strikes when Strong fired up with a backbreaker and jumping knee strikes mixed with forearms An Olympic slam got Strong a near fall.
Lee and Dijakovic both caught Strong doing a wrecking ball. They teamed up to take out Strong. Dijakovic delivered Feast Your Eyes, and then Lee hit Strong with a pounce. That left the two monsters to square off in a hoss fight.
Dijakovic almost fell off the ropes, but he still managed to do a backflip followed by a superkick. He then did an avalanche choke bomb for a two count on Lee.
In possibly the wildest spot of the match, Dijakovic did a Fosbury Flop onto Strong. That got a big pop, but it would pale in comparison to the gigantic pop for Lee doing a tope con giro to the outside. The Full Sail crowd came unglued.
Lee with an avalanche sit-out powerbomb on Lee popped the crowd again. Before he could capitalize, Strong jumped in with leaping kick on Lee. Strong then covered Lee to score the pinfall and retain the title.
The rest of Undisputed Era -- Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish -- ran in to gang up on Lee. They cleared the ring and all four stablemates from Undisputed Era posed with their respective titles.
They were interrupted by Tommaso Ciampa. He carried a sinister look on his face, and he dragged a walking crutch behind him. Johnny Gargano came to the ring to back up Ciampa.
There was a long staredown before Finn Balor joined the party. He was seemingly there to back up DIY, but that was merely a ploy. Summoning the evil spirit of the original Bullet Club, Balor dastardly lay out Gargano with a paylay kick. Undisputed Era then jumped Ciampa, and they held him so Cole could deliver a Last Shot.
Balor sprinted into a shotgun dropkick on the floor. He wiped out Gargano, and Gargano took out some plants in the first row when he collided with the guardrail. Balor then executed Sunday Bloody Sunday on the floor. With an angry look on his face, Balor stood over a fallen Gargano.
Balor has given in to the dark side.