Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano will attempt to settle their rivalry once and for all tonight.
Tonight's Ciampa vs. Gargano match is being billed as "Blackheart vs. Rebel Heart: One Final Beat." Triple H has said that Ciampa and Gargano will be given an empty building, a ring, and a referee who will only be there to say it's over. If things between them continue after this match, both will be gone from NXT.
The impending arrival of Killer Kross also looms over Ciampa vs. Gargano. In a brief video that played after Ciampa vs. Gargano was announced, Kross was confirmed as the person behind the apocalyptic-style vignettes that have been airing on NXT.
Another big match that was originally scheduled for TakeOver: Tampa will also air on NXT tonight. Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae, and Dakota Kai will face off in a ladder match, with the winner becoming the number one contender to new NXT Women's Champion Charlotte Flair.
Our coverage begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
The show began with a video package hyping the Gargano vs. Ciampa. Mauro Ranallo was back on commentary, and doing it solo like Joey Styles way back in the day.
Ranallo opened the show saying "hello all you cool cats and kittens" -- which is pop culure reference to Tiger King. He also noted the show was taking place on a closed set.
Io Shirai defeated Tegan Nox, Chelsea Green (w/ Robert Stone), Mia Yim, Candice LeRae and Dakota Kai (w/ Raquel Gonzalez) in a number one contender's ladder match
Shirai won the match to become the number one contender for the NXT Women's Championship. There were a few stunts throughout the match, and it was good even without a crowd to pop for the big spots.
Everyone paired off at the start. Kai was the only one left standing after a moment, and she called for Gonzalez to get the ladder. Yim and LeRae and stereo basement dropkicked the ladder into Gonzalez.
All the faces teamed up on Kai until Shirai leapt into the ring with a missile dropkick. As Shirai was fighting with LeRae, Green bulldogged both of them onto a ladder seconds before the first commercial break of the show.
Green was bringing a chair into the ring when the show returned from break -- only for Green to take a bump on the chair when Yim trippe her up. That left two rivals -- Nox and Kai -- in the ring to square off. They traded strikes, and Kai delivered a face wash. Nox came back seconds later with a chokeslam.
Green was driven into the guardrail when she lost a tug-of-war with Nox over the ladder. During a melee, everyone tried climbing the ladder after it was set up. A second ladder soon came into play.
Green hit Yim with a chair. Yim with a receipt whacked Green in the leg with the chair when Green's foot became trapped in the ladder. That took Green out of the match for awhile as she sold her leg. Shirai then swooped in and catapulted Yim into the ladder. Shirai was a splash off the top to the floor onto to everyone as the show cut to commercial.
Gonzalez got involved as picked Kai up in a fireman's carry and tried to climb the ladder with Kai on her shoulders. LeRae cut her off. Yim was trying to powerbomb off the apron, and Nox came in for an assist to help put Gonzalez through a table at ringside.
Kai booted Nox off the apron, and Nox crashed through a ladder bridge. Kai and LeRae were fighting on top of a ladder, and LeRae smacked Kai with the briefcase hanging above them. Shirai with a springboard into the ring knocked Kai off the ladder.
Shirai and LeRae both went down after trading German suplexes. Robert Stone coached Green to get up and climb the ladder with everyone else down selling. Green sold her leg, so she couldn't climb. Stone took it upon himself to jump into the ring and climb the ladder to help Green. LeRae and Shirai teamed up to tip the ladder over. Green and Stone took a bump off the ladder.
Shirai and LeRae were fighting atop the ladder. Shirai racked her eyes, and LeRae fell backwards doinga Nestea Plunge onto a ladder bridged between the ropes. Shirai then unhooked the briefcase to win the match. Shirai now looks to be Charlotte Flair's first challenger for the NXT Women's Championship.
The focus of the show shifted to Finn Balor and his feud with WALTER and Imperium. Clips caught the audience up on the feud so far, with some footage coming from NXT UK.
A match between Balor against Alexander Wolfe from NXT UK was joined in progress. Imperium interfered, but were ordered by the referee to leave the ring. Balor then wen to defeate Wolfe via pinfall after a Coup de Grace and a 1916.
Balor in a pre-tape promo addressed WALTER. Balor alluded to them not being able to meet right now (due to recent world events, although that was not mentioned). Balor said WALTER is holding the NXT UK Championship on borrowed time.
A vignette hyped the arrival of Killer Kross, although he was not named.
Indus Sher (Rinku & Saurav w/ Malcolm Bivens) defeated Ever Rise (Chase Parker & Matt Martel)
Indus Sher mostly mauled Ever Rise, but the babyfaces got in some brief offense on the monster heels. That did not last long. Indus Sher toyed with them at times. Rinku & Saur wore different colored arm bands so you could tell one from the other. They used Demolition's old finisher, and Rinku pinned Parker.
In another poolside promo, NXT Champion Adam Cole cut a promo on Velveteen Dream.
Footage from WrestleMania showed Charlotte Flair winning the NXT Women's Championship over Rhea Ripley. Flair in a post-match interview said it was the woman makes the title. She bragged about winning the title saying everone bows down to "The Queen".
Johnny Gargano defeated Tommaso Ciampa
Gargano pinned Ciampa after interference from Candice LeRae. She turned heel to help her husband win the match.
Billed as "Black Heart vs. Rebel Heart", this was very cinematic. More like the Boneyard Match than the Firefly Funhouse -- but with even less gimmicks -- this was very different from a typical match.
Gargano and his wife -- LeRae -- arrived to an undisclosed location in an SUV. Gargano got out of the driver's seat, and LeRae walked around the vechile to meet him. He told her that she knew why he had to do this.
LeRae got into the driver's seat -- but before she drove away -- LeRae handed Gargano something wrapped in paper. Gargano walked into a building where Triple H was seated on a chair in the ring. Ciampa was already in the building.
Triple H said they were right on time. He went on to say this is where it ends. Triple H told them he doesn't care what they do to each other, but it ends after this. He introduced Drake Younger as the referee in charge. Triple H then left the building.
They began with a slugfest as they traded blows. Gargano took a Ric Flair bump over the turnbuckle. Gargano went for a slingshot, but Ciampa caught him with a knee as the show went to commercial.
Ciampa was in control after the commercial break. Gargano fought back and targeted a leg. He posted Ciampa's leg several times, and then began to pummel him at ringside.
Ciampa lifted Gargano intoa vertical suplex and then posted him in a crazy bump. Gargano still fought back, and flew through the ropes with a tope suicida. Gargano taunted Ciampa while he adminstered a beatdown. Gargano used weapons like a trash can lid and a chair.
Gargano unfolded a chair and sat down in the ring to gloat. He then picked up the chair and hit Ciampa with it. Gargano wedged the chair into a corner, but he tasted the steel when Ciampa reversed a whip.
After a commercial break, Ciampa cracked Gargano in the head when Gargano attempted to slingshot himself out of the ring. Ciampa put a chair around the neck of Gargano and posted him. That was a callback to a previous angle in their feud.
Gargano was crawling away, and Ciampa showed no mercy. Ciampa retrieved a crutch, and he attacked Gargano with it. This was also a callback.
Gargano shot Ciampa in the face with a fire extinguisher. Ciampa came back to powerbomb Gargano through a table.
In yet another callback to a previous match between them, Ciampa pulled back the mats in the ring to expose the bare boards underneath.
The fight spilled outside the building. Gargano tried to decapitate Ciampa, but Ciampa moved out of the way at the last second. Cimapa climbed on top of a cargo truck, and he dared Gargano to follow him. A decal on the truck indicated it was 13 feet high.
They squared off on top of the truck, and Younger as the ref climbed up to join them. Not sure why this wasn't falls count anywhere, but whatever. They traded strikes, and Ciampa threatened to throw Gargano off the truck. Ciampa became locked in the Gargano Escape on top of the truck.
They were still on top of the truck before cutting to commercial, and they had climbed down when the show returned from break. They went back inside, and Gargano was hiding to ambush Ciampa. Gargano with a flying crossbody on the floor put Ciampa through a table.
They got back into the ring -- where the mat was still pulled back to expose bare boards. They fought on the turnbuckles, and Ciampa gave Gargano a Code Red off the top to the floor.
Ciampa rolled Gargano back into the ring and covered him for the only near fall of the match. Gargano kicked out before the show cut to commecial.
Gargano choked Ciamoa with a crutch, and hit him repeatedly with a trash can lid. Ciampa ate some superkicks, and Gargano screamed at him that he was a failure.
Ciampa fired up after Gargano mentioned Cimapa's family. Ciampa broke the crutch hitting Gargano several times with it. They were fighting over the crutch and the referee was inadvertently raked in the eyes. Younger winched in pain as he rolled out on the apron. Younger was then hit with a running knee and he took a bump off the apron.
Gargano took a draping DDT on the exposed boards in the ring. There was a closeup of Gargano putting his hand over Ciampa's hand as if they were pals again, but Ciampa quickly jerked his hand away.
There was a double down, and suddenly Candice LeRae walked into the building. An visibly emotional LeRae got into the ring, and through tears she begged them to stop. She asked her husband, "Who are you, Johnny?" LeRae then turned to Cimapa and screamed, "Are you happy?!"
"I hate my husband," LeRae said. "Are you happy?!"
She sobbed and told Ciampa to finish it. Ciampa was reluctant. LeRae turned to her husband. "Fine, I'll finish it!"
LeRae then kicked Gargano with a low blow, and he fell to the mat. LeRae fought back tears as she left the ring.
Ciampa dropped to his knees over a fallen Gargano. They got face to face as Ciampa looked at Gargano with empathy in his eyes. This was playing out like the finish of Old Yeller. Ciampa was telling Gargano he was sorry for what he was about to do.
LeRae ran back in and kicked Ciampa with a low blow from behind. Ciampa fell to the mat in a heap. Gargano reached into his pants and pulled out a cup to show he had been protected from the earlier low blow. This was premeditated by him and his wife.
Gargano dropped Ciampa witth a Jay Driller on the exposed boards. Gargano then covered Ciampa for the pinfall. Gargano smirked and embraced LeRae. They walked arm-and-arm out of the building. Meanwhile, Ciampa was still down selling in the ring. LeRae and Gargano got into their SUV and slowly drove away like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde as the show faded to black.