It’s been almost two weeks since NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, an event featuring both massive changes and a few superstars cementing their legacy. Tommaso Ciampa and Shayna Baszler once again showed that they’re on top of their respective divisions, retaining their titles. War Raiders made their biggest mark yet on the tag team division by defeating The Undisputed Era for the NXT Tag Team Championship. Perhaps most shocking was Johnny Gargano not only beating Ricochet for the North American Championship in nasty fashion, but then celebrating at the top of the ramp with his old DIY pal (and bitter rival) Ciampa. It looked like Gargano had finally gone into business for himself, and it paid off in spades.
Gargano brings that new attitude of his to the ring as he kicks off this week’s show. He’s all swagger as he makes his way to the ring to address Full Sail. The crowd welcomes him with chants of “Johnny Champion” despite his behavior over the last few months. “That’s got a really nice ring to it,” he says. He claims to be representing the NXT fans, and that they were all vindicated at TakeOver: Phoenix by his win.
At least one person agrees: Tommaso Ciampa. He comes out to “celebrate the moment,” and to congratulate Gargano on “following the champ’s lead.” It looks like DIY is running the show once again; they’re both at the top, and it doesn’t matter what they had to do to get there. Gargano insists that Ciampa is overstepping though. “There is not our moment,” he says before underlining that he doesn’t need Ciampa’s help to win championships, and that he won’t ever need his help again.
Next up, we have our first match of the week, as The Forgotten Sons’ Jaxson Ryker takes on the much-smaller Monsoor. The Middle Eastern
Speaking of people making their mark, 205 Live’s Drew Gulak is here to preach his “No Fly Zone” ideology and clean up the black and gold brand. His opponent is Eric Bugenhagen, a man who looks like a cross between a character in Magic Mike and a band member of The Darkness. It’s all air guitar and air drums as he comes to the ring, and that immediately gets the NXT Universe behind him.
In other words, it’s everything Gulak hates. He goes right after Bugenhagen, suplexing him into the ropes and keeping him down with a few chops and headlocks. Bugenhagen strikes back by putting Gulak into an abdominal stretch, which gives him plenty of time to play air guitar on Gulak’s body. It’s so, so wonderful, but it just angers Gulak, who breaks out of the submission and locks in the Gu-Lock. Bugenhagen has no choice but to tap out, meaning that Gulak’s campaign in NXT is off to a great start.
It’s not enough for Gulak though. He feels disrespected by the competition, and he wants someone else to come to the ring and “get stretched.” One man is more than happy to answer the call: Matt Riddle, who’s a submission specialist in his own right. He takes umbrage with Gulak’s digs at the NXT talent, and offers to tap him out to get rid of him. Gulak accepts, and suddenly we’ve got a match!
Predictably, it’s a technical wonder. Riddle and Gulak battle to ground each other early on. There’s counters at every turn, with Riddle continually trying to lock in a deadly armbar. Riddle’s more than just submissions though. He lays out his opponent with running forearms too, but he’s goes to the well one too many times. Gulak sees one coming and he gets his feet into Riddle’s face. He slows the match back down, keeping his opponent on the mat with a tight side headlock. Gulak thrives on the mat, something Riddle learns quickly.
Gulak surely comes close to making Riddle tap when he traps his arms behind him and begins manipulating every joint he can find. Riddle somehow battles out though and finds his momentum by delivering an impressive cradle suplex. He follows that up with barefoot roundhouse kicks that resonate through the halls of Full Sail. The match goes back and forth from there. Riddle hits Gulak with a German Suplex and gets a two-count on the bridge. Gulak hits back with an armbar that weakens Riddle’s ability to grapple. They trade chops in the middle of the ring, bruising chests in the process. Then, Riddle really turns it on. He deadlifts Gulak into a powerbomb, rolls him through to a running knee, and then locks in the Bromission, which forces Gulak to tap out. It’s a brutal, beautiful match that ebbs and flows through technical prowess and sheer power. For now, Matt Riddle remains unbeaten in NXT.
Then, in another bit of business that takes us back to TakeOver: Phoenix, it’s the main event tag team match that sees Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke take on Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane, and Io Shirai. You can read all about that match here, and then come back next week for more action from the black and gold brand.