NXT North American Champion Leon Ruff and Damian Priest def. Legado del Fantasma (Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde)
Ruff was originally supposed to team with Curt Stallion (the number one contender to the NXT Cruiserweight Championship) against Legado del Fantasma, but Priest stepped in for Stallion when Stallion was ambushed by the group outside of the arena before the show. Priest and Ruff have mostly been friendly with each other in recent weeks, so there was no need for them to tease tension here. It was a fun opening match, though my only nitpick of it was that a team like Ever-Rise should have taken the loss instead of Legado del Fantasma. Plus, Johnny Gargano was hilarious on commentary.
Cameron Grimes def. August Grey
Grey has impressed in the few matches he's had so far on NXT and 205 Live, but he needs a video package or something so he can tell viewers who he is and what he's about. This was all about Grimes and giving him a decisive victory ahead of his Strap match with Dexter Lumis at TakeOver: WarGames IV. Speaking of which, I'm hoping it exceeds expectations like the Haunted House of Terror matchup did at Halloween Havoc and that Grimes can be presented as a more of a serious threat once the rivalry is over.
Jake Atlas def. Tony Nese
This felt incredibly random on the go-home show before TakeOver, especially since Atlas has lost most of his matches lately on the show. He shouldn't be given another shot at the Cruiserweight title any time soon following his back-to-back losses to Santos Escobar, but this was a nice showcase for him, nonetheless. It was also cool that he got to dedicate his win to the late, great Pat Patterson and receive some rare mic time afterward.
Pat McAfee, Pete Dunne and NXT Tag Team Champions Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch Addressed Undisputed Era
McAfee is a master of the microphone and thus this was another gem of a promo from him. He's super old-school with his approach and that's why I love his promos. He didn't say anything new, mind you, but it was basic yet effective hype for their upcoming WarGames match with Undisputed Era. I'm glad Undisputed Era didn't interrupt/brawl with them because it's smarter to save that for Sunday.
Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Imperium (Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner) Ended in a No Contest
As I said last week, Grizzled Young Veterans being back can only be seen as a positive for NXT's tag team division. It's been fairly depleted for most of the year, but their return as well as the return of Imperium here is an encouraging sign. Grizzled Young Veterans were scheduled to take on Ever-Rise before Imperium attacked Ever-Rise, so we got this impromptu match instead. It had excellent energy and was going well up until the interference from Ever-Rise, so my money is on the three teams clashing in an NXT Tag Team Championship number one contender's Triple Threat sooner rather than later.
Timothy Thatcher Attacked Tommaso Ciampa
Thatcher was doing his usual "Thatch as Thatch Can" segment when Ciampa randomly showed up in the ring beside Thatcher's student. The way it was shot was well done. Thatcher and Ciampa exchanged words, and after Thatcher's student got physical with Ciampa, Thatcher took advantage and laid Ciampa out. It was a pretty simple setup for their TakeOver match that has the potential to be great on paper. My only concern is that Thatcher will continue to lose credibility the more he loses whenever it matters most.
Shotzi Blackheart def. Raquel Gonzalez in a Ladder Match to Earn the WarGames Advantage
Both of these women deserve credit for coming such a long way in the last year. They're at the point where they can headline an episode of NXT like they did here and no one will think twice about it. Like last week, however, this did not need the Ladder stipulation. It was still a strong main event and the effort was there, but Ladder matches just don't feel as special as they should because of how often the company does them. Blackheart earning the WarGames advantage was a nice swerve considering how the heels always get the advantage ahead of WarGames, and all of the babyfaces standing tall to close the show was an awesome visual.
The build to WarGames IV on Sunday has undoubtedly been rushed, but at least the brand has managed to put together a rock solid lineup for it. As a go-home show, this edition of NXT succeeded in getting me more excited for the event than I was previously. The video packages were well-produced and there were some quality matches and promos. The episode wasn't worth writing home about (especially compared to this week's AEW Dynamite), but it served its purpose and did what it needed to.