We’re just over a week away from NXT TakeOver: Phoenix—which takes place during the Royal Rumble weekend—and that means things are really heating up at Full Sail. We’ve got the War Raiders set to challenge The Undisputed Era for the NXT Tag Team Championships, but that doesn’t mean other tag teams aren’t here making their mark. There’s Bianca Belair looking confident just before her bout for the NXT Women’s Championship, but is anyone really more confident than the champ Shayna Baszler? And there’s a ton of bad blood brewing around the NXT Championship. We’ve got a lot to cover this week, so let’s dive in.
Things kick off with a tag team that just last week promised to make their mark in 2019, the Street Profits. With plenty of swag in tow, they make their way to the ring looking like they really believe 2019 is going to be different. Their opponents are the Metro Brothers, a couple of dudes clad in leather jackets and aviators. To say they have a little less swag than the Street Profits would be an understatement.
Montez Ford begins the match by showing off his high-flying abilities, hitting a sweet dropkick and tagging in Dawkins to put his power to use. He lays out one of the Metros with a huge chop, the other with a clothesline, and then Ford comes in to finish it all off with his Frog Splash, which is known for its incredible airtime. It’s exactly the way they want to start the year, with a quick, decisive victory, but the party is short-lived. The Forgotten Sons jump Dawkins and Ford from behind, making it known that the Profits aren’t the only team looking to change their fortunes this year.
After an angry Aleister Black threatens Tommaso Ciampa from a smokey room, promising that he’s taking back his NXT Championship at TakeOver, we’re back in Full Sail to hear from Bianca Belair. Perhaps no one has a better chance of making a big statement in this new year than “The EST of NXT,” who’s still undefeated. That streak—and a win in a Fatal 4-Way match on Boxing
Next up, it’s a very quick match between Adrian Jaude and the man who’s got a lot of NXT hype behind him, Dominik Dijakovic. Mauro Ranallo calls him a “5-tool player,” the commentary team clearly impressed with his abilities. Jaude has a martial arts background though, and he spends some time trying to use his quickness to avoid locking up with Dijakovic. Jaude succeeds for awhile, driving his opponent into the corner and then hitting him with a double-leg takedown. He does his best to keep the big man down, but that only lasts so long. Dijakovic gains the advantage with a few strikes and a massive suplex where he tosses Jaude across the ring. Jaude gets in a few more strikes, but a boot to the face ends him. Dijakovic hits the Feast Your Eyes and it’s another win for the rising star.
Getting back to the tag team division now: Looking to top Aleister Black’s smokey room, the War Raiders record their threat to The Undisputed Era out in the woods, building a pyre out of hay and steel chairs with The Undisputed Era emblem on them. Then they set it on fire like the Viking badasses they are, a symbolic look at what they plan to do at NXT TakeOver: Phoenix. I’d be worried if I was Undisputed Era.
There’s another man in NXT who’s on a mission to burn things down heading into NXT TakeOver: Phoenix—it’s not Seth Rollins, sorry—and that’s Johnny Gargano. This week, before his pay-per-view match with Ricochet for the North American Championship, he gets into the ring with Humberto Carrillo, who’s been really impressive in his first few matches in NXT. Carrillo shows off his ability early on, maneuvering around a lot of Gargano’s strikes and hitting his own high-flying moves, including an impressive enziguri.
Eventually, Gargano slows the pace down and takes over with a number of submissions. Carrillo’s offense is largely high-flying, so it makes sense to try and keep the man grounded. Perhaps Gargano is too cocky though, or too focused on Ricochet, because Carrillo hits back with a ton of athletic moves. He twists and flips around the ring and over the ropes, getting the match’s first near fall. It’s one top rope move too many though, as Carrillo meets his end when he comes off the top and his face makes
Finally, we’re on to our main event, and it’s a feud that’s been brewing for some time. Kassius Ohno has had problems with Keith Lee ever since he showed up in NXT, but those issues reached their peak when Lee defended Matt Riddle from an attack at the hands of Ohno. Now, the two big boys are finally squaring off in the ring after days of trading barbs on social media.
An early shoulder block puts Ohno on the ground, and Lee follows it up with a crossbody that gets an early two count. That sends Ohno scrambling to the outside, collecting himself so that he doesn’t lose quickly like he did against Riddle at NXT TakeOver: WarGames II. Lee drops Ohno with a back body drop when he comes back in the ring, but then Ohno avoids a spear, sending Lee crashing into the ring post. Kassius gets truly vicious from there, keeping Lee on the ground by simply kicking him in the face again and again. It’s simple, but it works.
He’s “The Knockout Artist” for a reason; Ohno hits Lee with one strike after another. Knees, forearms, chops, fists, Ohno hits him with everything before locking in a few submissions to wear down the “Limitless” one. It takes Lee getting his knees up on a senton for him to regain control, then showing off his incredible strength by throwing his opponent all the way across the ring before delivering a springboard crossbody over the top rope. It’s scary to see what Keith Lee can do with that big body.
The two end up trading chops in the middle of the ring until Lee hits Ohno with a big
You can watch this week’s NXT on the WWE Network.