Preview by Joseph Currier
Seven months after undergoing neck surgery, Tommaso Ciampa returns to the ring on tonight's episode of NXT.
In his return match, Ciampa will face Angel Garza. Ciampa made his return to television two weeks ago and confronted NXT Champion Adam Cole. Ciampa continued to set his sights on Cole's NXT title last week, and he also got into a backstage confrontation with Garza to set up tonight's match.
Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic will face off in their fourth televised match against each other in NXT. It's being promoted as the "rubber match" between the two. Lee and Dijakovic each have a victory in their series, while the other match ended in a double countout.
Pete Dunne will also take on Damian Priest tonight. Dunne defeated Danny Burch on NXT two weeks ago but was laid out by Priest after the match.
Plus, Tegan Nox will be in action.
Our live coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The show is opening with the return to the ring of Ciampa.
Tommaso Ciampa defeated Angel Garza
Ciampa pinned Garza after delivering a new draping DDT finisher. Garza got his chance to shine, but this was about Ciampa. He looked in tremendous shape.
Garza out paced Ciampa at the outset, and he hit an enzuigiri. Ciampa powdered, and then he pulled Garza out of the ring. Ciampa started to pummel Garza, but Garza soon cut him off and flew through the ropes with a tope suicida. Garza followed with a missile dropkick.
Doing the Latin Lover gimmick, Garza ripped off his tear-away pants. That only proved to anger Ciampa. He got to his feet and mowed down Garza. Ciampa stomped on Garza, and then he stomped a mudhole in Garza's pants.
Ciampa threw the pants in Garza's face, and then he executed his new Willow's Bell finisher for the pinfall.
Undisputed Era came to ringside and surrounded the ring after the match. Ciampa calmly sat down on a folding chair in the middle of the ring. He also had a walking crutch he had brought with him to the ring as a weapon. The heel faction surrounded the ring, but they stayed outside. Undisputed Era eventually slinked away.
In a skit that supposedly took place during a commercial break, Roderick Strong and Undisputed Era attacked Velveteen Dream. Strong cut a promo on Dream about not embarassing him. Dream was laid out in tattered clothes.
Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel w/ Alexander Wolfe) defeated Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan
Barthel pinned Lorcan after the European Bomb. This turned into a fantastic match that got hot down the stretch.
Imperium got heat on Burch, and a hope spot was dashed before a commercial. After the break, Lorcan ran wild off a hot tag as he cleaned house on Imperium. Lorcan flew to the outside with a parade of dives. Burch got a near fall on a jackknife cover, but Aichner kicked out.
Imperium cut off their foes, and Aichner delivered a brainbuster. Barthel flew through the ropes with a tope. Aichner executed a double springboard into a moonsault press for a close two count.
A spinebuster and a penalty kick set up the European Bomb -- where Imperium picked up Lorcan in a Doomsday Device. Barthel then leapt off the top with a flying uppercut on Lorcan, and he covered him for the pinfall.
A video package told the backstory of DIY and the rise of Johnny Wrestling. Cathy Kelley interviewed Johnny Gargano. She asked Gargano what would happen when he saw Ciampa. Gargano said he was unsure what would happen when he met Ciampa again face-to-face.
Io Shirai defeated Kayden Carter
Shirai pinned Carter with a moonsault press. Rhea Ripley confronted and threatened Shirai in an angle after the match.
Carter and Shirai went back-and-forth to a stalemate early on. Carter had Shirai reeling after an O'Connor Roll and a missile dropkick. However, Shirai tripped up Carter on the apron.
Shirai with a springboard missile dropkick looked to turn the tide. Carter made a comeback and got a two count after hitting Shirai with a superkick. Shirai answered back with a wheelbarrow into a German suplex.
Shirai climbed the turnbuckles for a moonsault off the top rope, and then she covered Carter for the pinfall.
Cutting a promo after the match, Shirai attempted to call out the champion. She was intsead interrupted by Rhea Ripley after Shirai name dropped her.
Ripley stormed to the ring. She said Bianca Belair will face her next week because Belair mentioned her name last week. Ripley warned Shirai about mentioning her name, or Shirai would be next. Shirai grew angry, but she kept her distance and left the ring. Shirai nevertheless ranted in Japanese as she backed away.
Boa cut a promo to call out Killian Dain. He is looking of revenge against Dain later in the show.
William Regal had breaking news about Velveteen Dream. Regal announced Dream was injured after the attack by Undisputed Era. This appears to write off Dream for the time being as Regal said he might not be able to compete for some time.
Regal said Dream was out of the NXT North American Championship match set for next week. Roderick Strong will instead defend against the winner of Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic.
Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic ended in a no contest
North American Champion Roddy Strong ran in to attack them -- which ended the match. They never really announced the official finish. The Fink would never let that fly back in the day. William Regal would go to rule that Stromg willl face both of them in a triple threat match. This was far from the best match between Lee and Dijakovic, but with the non-finish that was fine in the end. The match served its purpose, and there was some good stuff in it too.
They slugged it out at the start like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. Things were relatively uneventful through a commercial, but they picked it up the pace from there. Lee worked an arm, but Dijakovic fought back during a the break. The action was on a split screen, which was the first time they did that inset gimmick this week.
After the break they were trading strikes, and Lee fired up on Dijakovic. Lee sent Dijakovic flying with a shoulder tackle pounce. Dijakovic came back with a chokeslam into a sit-out powerbomb for a two count.
Lee did a frog splash on the injured arm of Dihakovic. Lee delivered a Spirit Bomb, but Dijakovic rolled outside before Lee could cover him.
Dijakovic with a cyclone kick cut off Lee. A fighting spirit exchange led into them each trying for a suplex. Lee lifted Dijakovic into a delayed vertical suplex. Lee then climbed the turnbuckles, but Dijakovic hit a superkick. He picked up Lee in an electric chair. Lee countered with a reverse rana for a huge pop.
They fought while perched on the buckles. Lee blocked a Frankensteiner, and was attempting an Ultimo Guerreo powerbomb when Roderick Strong ran into the ring and attacked them.
William Regal in a voice from above like he was a deity then scolded Strong. He ruled that Strong would face both Lee and Dijakovic in a triple threat match next week for the North American Championship. Strong pitched a fit, but there was nothing he could really do. The deity had spoken.
Undisputed Era confronted Regal backstage during a commerical break. Regal ignored them as they ranted and raved. He had already spoken.
Matt Riddle defeated Bronson Reed
Riddle pinned Reed with a Gotch tombstone.
They had a fist bump to start the match, and then Riddle exploded with a flurry of offense on Reed. Riddle went for Bro-ton, but Reed got his knees up.
Riddle took a senton from Reed, but Riddle soon came back with a strikes and kicks. Riddle with a Bro 2 Sleep and a powerbomb. He followed with a running knee strike for a two count.
The crowd chanted "bro" as Riddle climbed the ropes for the Floating Bro swanton. Riddle applied a sleeper, but Reed escaped. Reed went to spring off the ropes, but Riddle caught him in a tombstone postion. He then hooked an arm for a Gotch-style piledriver, and he covered him for the pinfall.
Biana Belair cut a promo on Rhea Ripley in a vignette.
Kushida is injured with a hairline fracture in his wrist suffered in the match last week against Walter, according to an update.
Tegan Nox defeated Taynara Conti
Nox pinned Conti in her return to the ring on NXT television. Nox looked strong in winning. She and Dakota Kai were confronted by the Horsewomen after the match.
Nox with some shine at the outset. Conti cut her off and kicked her out of the ring. Conti began to work over Nox. Running double knees got her a two count.
Nox fired up into a comeback. She chokeslammed Conti, and moments later flew off the top with flying cross body. She followed with a shining wizard for the pin.
Cathy Kelley was interviewing her at ringside when Dakota Kai came out to give her a hug. They embraced, but they were soon interrupted by the Horsewomen.
NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler, and her cohorts Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, confroted Nox and Kai. Baszler cut a promo on Nox, and then Baszler and company sauntered away.
Maybe that leads to a tag team match with Kai and Nox teaming together against the Horsewomen. Also add Nox to the list of challengers in the women's division.
A cool Finn Balor vignette saw him talking about him rediscovering his heart. Balor concluded a promo by saying, "Next week my future will be my past."
Killian Dain defeated Boa
Dain submitted Boa with a stretch submission.
Boa was the aggressor at the start. Boa was out for revenge for Dain attacking him last week. He was a house of fire. Dain fled to the outside where he baited Boa into a flying crossbody. That hurt Boa's injured ribs -- which Dain caused last week in a post-match run-in attack on Boa.
Boa tried to fight back, but Dain mauled him. Dain struck with a lariat and senton before going for his finisher.
Dain with a trifecta of Vader Bombs led to him stretching Boa until he tapped out.
A video package hyped the new NXT Cruiserweight Champion Lio Rush.
Dain was still making his way out of the arena when he passed Pete Dunne on the stage. Dunne grabbed his hand and did the finger break spot. Officials poured out to seperate them.
Announced for next week on NXT is Bianca Belair vs. Rhea Ripley.
Damian Priest defeated Pete Dunne
Priest pinned Dunne after a low blow and The Reckoning.
Priest was getting the better of Dunne until Dunne was able to apply joint manipulation. Moments later Priest was able to kick Dunne into a flat back bump on the apron. Priest dropped Dunne with a right hand before a commercial break.
They fought through the break on a split screen. Priest got heat on Dunne as he ragdolled him while working him over.
Dunne made a comeback during the break. He gave Priest a release suplex . The show returned from break with an superplex by Dunne. He then tried to mow down Priest with kicks.
Priest was reeling as Dunne delivered a missile dropkick to the knee. Dunne shifted his attack to the fingers, but first he did a moonsault to the floor.
Dunne with a Liger bomb got a two count. Priest soon looked to fire back, but Dunne caught him in a triangle. Priest got a rope break, and a step up enzuigiri by Priest cut off Dunne.
Priest posted Dunne, and then he gave him a Razor's Edge for a near fall. Priest springboarded into a somersault senton to the outside.
Dunne landed on his feet on an attempted German suplex. Dunne then landed a kick, and climbed the turnbuckles. Priest hit him with a cyclone kick, and then Priest used a Frankensteiner. Priest followed with a sit-out chokelsam for a close near fall.
They traded strikes, and Priest turned Dunne inside out with a lariat. Priest countered the pump handle, and he hit an enzuigiri and another step-up kick. Priest went for a Superman punch, but Dunne countered with a right hand of his own to knock down Priest.
Dunne went for a moonsault, but Priest got his knees up. Dunne was going for a finger break spot when he and Priest were tangled up with referee Jessika Carr. Priest kicked Dunne with a low blow, and Priest then used The Reckoning to score the pinfall.
Final thoughts --
This was a really great wrestling show, but I'm not sure it was all that competitive as counter programming. This episode did a good job of helping to establish some characters, and it built towards the coming weeks. The show also featured several notable returns.
Still, this episode of NXT lacked a certain spark. Most everything on the show was good to even great, but there was not anything I would recommend going out of your way to see. Being great is almost commonplace nowadays. Is just being great enough to win the war?