It's an odd time of year in the wrestling calendar to be wrapping up rivalries, but for the second straight week in NXT we saw the end of a prolific blood feud as The Rivalry and #DIY had their final match -- at least as far as NXT is concerned.
After airing two-hour specials taped during their international tour during the past couple of weeks, action finally returned to Full Sail University on Wednesday night in the city that will host WrestleMania 33 (and what's shaping up to be another tremendous TakeOver special).
As much as last week's show from Melbourne gave Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe the proper sendoff in order start anew on the road to NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, NXT's return to Orlando provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the undeniable and transformative best tag team rivalry in the history of the brand.
For nearly half a year, the two premier tag teams in NXT have been The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) and #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa). Together, they have created masterpieces, including one of the best matches of last year -- a 2 out of 3 falls bout at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. Before that, they stole the show at TakeOver: Brooklyn II during SummerSlam weekend. Their chemistry is obvious, and boy has it been fun to watch both of these teams grow and excel during the course of this rivalry.
#DIY captured the NXT tag team championships at the aforementioned TakeOver: Toronto event by defeating The Revival, and after the interlude of the international tour this much-anticipated rematch ultimately determined which team would head into NXT TakeOver: San Antonio as champs to take on the still undefeated Authors of Pain.
Predictably, the rematch was another gem; while it couldn't have the atmosphere and energy of a full arena show, the match was dripping in rock solid psychology, fun sequences and close calls. Gargano and Ciampa ultimately hit their "Meeting in the Middle" finisher on Dawson and Wilder at the same time to retain their titles and seal their status as the new "top guys" in NXT.
They had very little time to celebrate as The Authors of Pain cut Gargano and Ciampa's down in impressive fashion after the match. After their battles with The Revival, who had a different but highly compatible in-ring study, the #DIY vs. Authors of Pain battle will be an interesting contrast with the clash of styles and sheer size when the two teams meet at TakeOver.
While tag team wrestling has always been an integral piece of NXT, from The Wyatt Family to The Ascension, Lucha Dragons, Blake and Murphy, The Vaudevillains, American Alpha and Enzo and Cass, ever since #DIY snagged the titles, the division has shined even brighter -- and its importance seems to have been elevated to yet another level. The efforts put forth against Tajiri and Akira Tozawa and TM-61 in the past couple of weeks, as well as the fantastic rematch with The Revival this week, point toward even more exciting times to come.
With the NXT championship and NXT tag team championship situations sorted out for San Antonio, this week shed some much-needed light on the path Asuka will take in defending her NXT women's championship.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce opened the show, via video package, by ambushing and beating down the champ as she made her way into the arena. The Australian duo continues to be one of the most heavily featured acts in NXT, and they've consistently proved their worth as a team by quickly establishing a sorely lacking heel presence in the NXT women's division.
Following the attack, Kay and Royce faced off against Sarah Bridges and Macey Evans. Royce picked up the win for her team by pinning Bridges using some shady tactics, but that wasn't the story here. After the match, they trash talked Asuka, who answered by hobbling to the ring only to face another double-team attack at the hands of Kay and Royce.
Enter Nikki Cross, the wild-card member of SAnitY who inserted herself into the melee to seemingly bail Asuka out. The reprieve here was short-lived as Cross delivered a terrific dropkick to Asuka from the middle rope, and with the tease we got last month with Cross staring at the women's championship, it seems like we're well on our way to a multi-way match at TakeOver.
- WWE (@WWE) January 12, 2017
It was all but confirmed as such when an emotional Asuka approached NXT general manager William Regal and demanded a match with all three competitors. It's a decision that can serve a number of purposes, as Kay, Royce and Cross have all impressed during the past couple of months, each deserves a shot at the spotlight and no individual among them presents enough of a challenge to the unstoppable Asuka to merit a one-on-one match at this point.
It appears as if NXT is really taking its time with Ember Moon, who finds herself as the odd one out in match. While Asuka was showing some signs of evil by showing up Mickie James at NXT TakeOver: Toronto back in November by refusing to shake her hand following their match, it seems as if, for the time being, being in the ring with three ostensibly evil characters has at least put that effort on pause.
It would appear as if Asuka-Moon is being held for Orlando, and if that's indeed the direction things are heading, it's likely worth the wait.
Hits & misses
I was hoping we'd get a little more than a brief Nakamura interview as we build toward his NXT championship match with Bobby Roode in San Antonio. Luckily, next week is the contract signing, but the most prestigious title and the two most prominent names in NXT need to be consistent focal points over the next two weeks so it doesn't feel as if we're rushing into a match that should be a very big deal without any real steam.
The man who I've referred to as NXT's version of Cesaro, Oney Lorcan, took on Andrade "Cien" Almas in a rematch from the Osaka show a couple of weeks in which Lorcan scored a shock victory. That match was good the first time around, and again as they ran it back. Lorcan continued to display his uniquely athletic and stiff offense, but lost to Almas who faked an injury only to surprise Lorcan with his hammerlock DDT finisher.
Elias Samson drifted his way to a pinfall win against Jonathan Cruz using a reverse neckbreaker (think Cody Rhodes' "Cross-Rhodes"), generating tons of heat as usual. Samson, who continues to fly under the radar, has tons of heel potential.
Despite taking the loss, it was nice to see Sarah Bridges -- known as Crazy Mary Dobson on the independent scene and in other promotions including Ring of Honor -- on NXT TV. She has made sporadic appearances in the past, but now that she's under contract she's likely to become a regular. She's very talented and incredibly charismatic.