It was just a few weeks ago that Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano declared they weren’t done with one another. Black thought he’d put Gargano behind him after his win at NXT TakeOver: WarGames II, but that wasn’t the case. Gargano stormed the ring two weeks ago to interrupt Black, who was invoking his rematch clause for Tommaso Ciampa’s NXT Championship. Ciampa, not exactly eager to put his title on the line, goaded both men into settling their feud in a way he thought most fit: a steel cage match. Well, that match is here, and all I can say is that it ends with some serious fireworks, and one body laid to waste. Let’s get to it.
The show kicks off with tag team action though, as recent friends Io Shirai and Dakota Kai take on Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, who ran into Kai and Shirai when they attempted to interfere in the WarGames title match between Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler. You can read all about that match, and the NXT TV debuts of Shafir and Duke, right here.
Next up, NXT gets a look at the highly-touted Dominik Dijakovic. He’s been the center of video hype packages for the last few weeks, and he gets in the ring with Aaron Mackey this week. He’s 6 foot 7 and 270 pounds, which means he towers over Mackey, who’s a slim high-flyer. To Mackey’s credit, he goes right after Dijakovic, but it doesn’t work out so well. The big man hits him in the gut with a punch and then lays him out with a few clotheslines before throwing him across the ring with ease. It’s a complete mauling, as Dijakovic puts Mackey on his shoulders and then flips him into his knee for the knockout, a move he calls Feast Your Eyes. It’s the first of presumably many wins for Dijakovic, at least until he comes up against someone else who can match his size and strength.
Speaking of size and strength, it’s time for a little Heavy Machinery. During RAW’s recent shakeup it was announced that Heavy Machinery are heading to the main roster sometime soon, but they have unfinished business in NXT. Namely, they have a title shot against Undisputed Era next week. This week though, they face off against two, umm, very tiny men in generic blue tights. That’s bad news for the blue tights guys who don’t even get an entrance. Heavy Machinery
Finally, it’s the main event. Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano in a steel cage match. It’s a rivalry so heated—started by Gargano attacking Black in the NXT parking lot and putting him on the shelf for weeks—that Black can’t even get in the cage before Gargano flies down the ramp and attacks his opponent. The two fight around the cage for a while before finally getting locked in the cage, with the match officially starting.
Once inside, Black takes quick control. Gargano tries to escape as soon as the door’s locked, but Black won’t let him, hitting him with a number of strikes and a big suplex. Once Gargano’s up he goes to escape again, but this time it’s to lure Black into a vulnerable position on the ropes. He takes control by slamming Black into the cage and raking his face across the steel. It’s a start defined by their heated emotions, each man a little out of control, running simply on hatred. Once they settle in though, they get down to their gameplans. They exchange knees, kicks, and strikes in the middle of the ring, evenly matched before Black grabs Gargano and bounces him off all four walls of the cage. He follows that up with two knees to Gargano’s jaw and gets the match’s first near fall.
That near fall is enough to give Black room to climb the cage and escape, but once he’s on top of the cage he can’t help but look back at Gargano on the mat. He’s not done yet. He’s angry and driven and he wants to punish Gargano. It’s a decision that’s purely emotional—Black could have escaped and set his sights on his title match with Ciampa at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix next month—and it costs him. Gargano snatches Black off the ropes and hits him with a devastating powerbomb, leaving both men beaten and exhausted in the middle of the ring.
Once they’re on their feet, they trade blows, too tired to do anything else. That is until Black hits the ropes and lays out Gargano with a nasty knee to the face, followed up by one boot after another while his opponent is trapped between the cage and the ropes. Gargano falls to the apron, and he nearly escapes because of it. He’s dazed but aware enough to ask for the cage door to be opened. He gets his hands near the floor, but Black drags him back in before he can get his feet out.
It’s back and forth from there, with Gargano nearly getting a win after hitting Black with an insane Russian Leg Sweep off the middle rope, which he rolls through to the Gargano Escape. Black doesn’t tap, instead throwing Gargano against the cage multiple times to get out of the submission. The two fight to the top rope, where Gargano misses a move and falls to the mat, allowing Black to hit him with flying double knees, setting up the Black Mass. Black raises him with his foot, but Gargano’s not done yet. He throws Black’s leg into the ropes, hits him with a superkick, and then lawn darts him into the steel not once, but twice.
The brutality is off the charts. These two hate each other, and neither man can get the upper hand. They keep finding more fight, somewhere deep down. Even after Black hits Gargano with the Black Mass, he doesn’t have enough energy to pin Gargano. Instead, each man tries to claw his way out of the cage. Gargano heads over the top, and Black for the door. But just as Black gets to the open door, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa slams it in his face, enters the ring, and begins to beat the hell out of him.
Gargano pauses at the top of the cage, watching his former tag team partner and friend beat down Black. He climbs back in the ring, and you can’t help but wonder if he’s coming to Black’s aid. After all, Gargano’s gone to war with Ciampa multiple times since Ciampa attacked him back in January. They’ve been through hell and back. Ciampa was Gargano’s number one enemy. “Was” is the operative word here, because Gargano stands across from Ciampa and signals for their old double team finisher, connecting with DIY’s combination superkick and running knee.
That lays out Black, giving Gargano the win as Ciampa heads up the ramp, a huge grin on his face. Gargano, on the other hand, looks conflicted. Or perhaps just transformed. His face is difficult to read. Is he really ready to see things in the way Tommaso Ciampa does? That’s a scary thought and one that will leave us thinking about the fate of Black, Gargano, Ciampa, and the NXT Championship for weeks to come.
You can watch this week’s NXT on the WWE Network.