NXT North American Champion Ricochet Confronted Johnny Gargano; NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa and Aleister Black Brawled
Gargano addressed everything that has happened over the past month in this promo, from his controversial win over Black to to his rumored reunion with Ciampa. He also challenged Ricochet for the NXT North American Championship at TakeOver: Phoenix, which was accepted by Ricochet. Meanwhile, Ciampa and Black brawled to the back, and Gargano continued his heelish ways by laying out Ricochet with a superkick when he wasn't looking. This was a strong segment all around that managed to further two feuds and get me excited for both bouts at TakeOver.
Bianca Belair def. Nikki Cross
This taping took place after it was announced that Cross was main roster bound, so this was clearly designed to be her swan song from NXT. After all, she and Belair never properly finished their feud, and the timing was perfect with Belair preparing to vie for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: Phoenix in a few weeks. They work well together and this just might have been one of Belair's best bouts to date. She has certainly proven herself to be a worthy championship challenger and I would not at all be opposed to her taking that title from Shayna Baszler.
Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel def. Stanley Watts and Hector Kunsman
If you solely watch NXT, you know Aichner and Barthel as the brand's resident enhancement talent, but recently on NXT UK, they formed an alliance and have been riding a wave of momentum. NXT UK's first TakeOver is set to take place this Saturday in Blackpool, so this was designed to hype up the event and also give Aichner and Barthel a dominant win and establish them as a force to be reckoned with in NXT's tag team division. Here's hoping they stick around and this wasn't just a one-off appearance for them. By the way, this was a hell of a sprint and a ton of fun while it lasted.
Adam Cole def. EC3
Similar to Cross, EC3 is on his way up to the main roster in the not-so-distant future, so it was imperative for him to finish up his feud with Undisputed Era before leaving. I remember Cole and EC3 having an entertaining encounter the last time they went one-on-one and this was equally enjoyable. I was happy the interference from the rest of Undisputed Era was kept to a minimum and resulted in a win for Cole, thus protecting EC3 in defeat. Afterward, War Raiders returned to make the save for EC3, setting the stage for their upcoming NXT Tag Team Championship match against Undisputed Era.
I was already excited for TakeOver: Phoenix, but with two more matches being announced for the event on this episode (Ricochet vs. Gargano and Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders), I'm even more amped up for it than I was before. This edition of NXT featured plenty of above-average in-ring action, successful storyline progression, and build for next week's show, which will apparently feature Keith Lee vs. Kassius Ohno in addition to Aichner and Barthel vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. That looks to be a hell of a show as well. We're only two weeks into 2019 and NXT remains the most must-see brand in all of WWE.