We’re mere days away from NXT TakeOver: Phoenix, and that means Full Sail is hopping. Everybody in the locker room is anxious and full of energy. While a few matches on this week’s show are all about Superstars making their mark in the early part of the year, there are also a few things to settle before the weekend. For instance, last week Johnny Gargano called out Ricochet, telling him to show up this week so he could show him “all the respect you can handle.” Sounds nice, but it’s likely not. NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa has been avoiding his challenger Aleister Black at all costs, but will he respond to a request from Black for a face-to-face? Bad blood brews and boils over this week, so let’s get to the breakdown.
There’s hardly a better way to kick off the show than with the Velveteen Dream. He’s coming off a staggering 2018 where he made his mark at numerous TakeOver events, and he’s promised to make 2019 even better. “The Dream has a little sparkle in his eye,” he says as he gets into the ring. “A sparkle of championship gold,” he says before letting Full Sail know that he’s coming for the North American Championship in 2019. He doesn’t get to say much else though before he’s interrupted by Adam Cole and Bobby Fish, who are intent on making sure every member of The Undisputed Era have gold around their waist at the same time. Dream goads Cole and Fish into coming after him, throwing them both out of the ring and then escaping to the ramp. This is clearly just getting started, as Dream and Fish are set to square off later in the night, but give Dream the early
After an incredible hype package for Saturday’s championship showdown between Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair, with Baszler promising to choke her opponent out and Belair asserting that her undefeated streak will continue, it’s time for tag team action. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch take on Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel in a battle of two teams who’ve been making some waves in the division lately. Both teams are former singles competitors who’ve found new momentum as partners, and winning this week’s match could mean a promising future in the division.
It’s a hard-hitting match right off the bat. Lorcan and Barthel trade chops like dueling lumberjacks until Aichner and Burch tag in and beat each other silly with clotheslines and forearms. Lorcan and Burch seem to be in control for awhile, but a massive clothesline from Aichner turns Lorcan inside out. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Aichner hits a double springboard moonsault and gets the match’s first near fall. Who knew he had that kind of athleticism?
The action is fast and furious. I don’t think I can even do the match justice with these words. It’s loud, it’s exciting, it’s brutal. The teams trade european uppercuts and heavy chops, and Aichner punctuates it all with some shocking high-flying moves. In the end, it’s Lorcan and Burch who get the win, just barely. I’d love to see these teams lock up a few more times. They have show-stealing potential.
Another video package shows that Aleister Black is more than ready to take on Tommaso Ciampa and reclaim the NXT Championship that he lost largely because of Johnny Gargano. Ciampa won’t be going down easy though. He loves that title more than anything, and he’s prepared to do what he needs to do to hold on to it.
Then, we move back to the ring for women’s division tag team action, as Io Shirai and Kairi Sane team up for the first time on NXT TV, taking on Tanea Brooks and Amber Nova.
Io Shirai kicks things off, quite literally, with a handful of running flips followed by a dropkick, laying out Nova. Then, Sane tags in and sets up for the InSane Elbow, but a distraction from Brooks stops the match from ending early. Well, it stops it from ending too early. When Brooks revels in her very brief advantage, Shirai tags in and runs over Brooks. That sets up a cool sequence where Shirai and Sane adapt their finishers to make them work as a tag team, with Shirai popping up Sane for an elbow, and then Sane helping Shirai flip into a moonsault. It’s an easy, quick victory, and hopefully the first of many times we’ll see them working together.
Next up, it’s the aforementioned match between Velveteen Dream and Bobby Fish. The two are evenly matched to start, trading shoulder blocks and submissions. It’s back and forth for quite a while, until Dream takes control with a springboard double
Fish works over Dream’s leg from there on out, locking in deadly submissions and taking down Dream with a chop block whenever he attempts to get up. Dream only gets back on track when he manages to reverse a single leg crab, knocking Fish down with two knee strikes and a missile dropkick from the middle rope. He seems to have the match won when he lays out Fish with a huge spinebuster and sets up for the Purple Rainmaker, but when he comes off the top rope Fish reverses the finisher into a knee bar. Somehow, Dream escapes, throwing Fish through the ropes and into Cole. When Fish runs back into the ring, he hits him with the Death Valley Driver and climbs the ropes for the Purple Rainmaker, giving Dream his first win of 2019.
Ricochet is in the ring next after being called out by Johnny Gargano. He calls Gargano a coward for blindsiding him with a superkick, and says that he showed his true colors in 2018. That kind of talk brings out Gargano, who says he’s trying to be a more reasonable man in 2019. It’s all talk though, as Gargano goes right after Ricochet, followed closely by Tommaso Ciampa. It looks like Gargano had no idea his DIY buddy was going to be there, but he uses the attack to his advantage anyways. Then, all hell really breaks loose, as Aleister Black makes his way to the ring, beating down Ciampa until Gargano saves him.
It looks like a true DIY reunion, and just in time for NXT TakeOver: Phoenix. Ciampa and Gargano help each other out here. Does that mean they’ll have each other’s backs on Saturday? Their partnership is certainly tenuous at best. It looks like Gargano is willing to accept a handshake from Ciampa on the ramp, but Candice LeRae comes out to stop her husband from going down that road again. I’m not buying it though. Gargano has come too far. He might not be able to go back now. In Phoenix, we’ll find out for sure.
You can watch this week’s NXT on the WWE Network.