NXT Women's Champion Io Shirai def. Shotzi Blackheart (Non-Title)
I was worried this would be booked as a glorified squash for Shirai, but it was actually the exact opposite. Blackheart not only scored plenty of offense but also came close to winning on a few occasions. She's already had several strong showings, but this was easily her best to date. Seriously, this was stellar stuff from both women and an excellent way of kicking off of the night. Blackheart is going places and Shirai continues to kill it.
Tommaso Ciampa def. Desmond Troy
Man, is everyone not established on NXT getting a new name? First Tehuti Miles (rechristened as Ashante "Thee" Adonis), now Denzel Dejournette as Desmond Troy. Regardless, this was all about Ciampa and reestablishing him as unhinged and intense. I'm curious what Ciampa's direction is going to be now that he's failed to regain the NXT Championship. Maybe he'll go back for the belt, but it doesn't look like it will be at the next TakeOver special. We do know he'll be facing Jake Atlas in a rematch next week, but I don't see the feud extending beyond that.
Kushida def. Austin Theory
Theory called out Bronson Reed following his loss last week but got Kushida instead. It wasn't just business as usual for Kushida, either; he was much more aggressive here than he normally is and it was so refreshing to see. He'll need to tap into that aggression more if the plan is for him to feud with Velveteen Dream. The match was fun for what it was and Theory put in another commendable effort here. His return to NXT isn't off to an amazing start with two losses, but he's played his role well each time, so I can't complain and I'm sure he'll get his due eventually.
NXT Tag Team Champions Breezango def. Imperium (Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner)
A few weeks ago, it looked like Legado del Fantasma was being set up for the next shot at the NXT Tag Team Championship, so while the outcome to this contest was never in doubt, it was very entertaining. In fact, I found it to be better than their last match against each other when Breezango won the belts initially. They constantly kept things moving and it was perfectly paced as well. Now that they've failed to regain the gold, expect to see Imperium back in NXT UK at some point (at least once the travel ban has been lifted/made easier).
Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter def. Xia Li and Jessi Kamea
Li and Kamea are such a random team, and while I understand this was designed to give Catanzaro and Carter their first win as a team, it was weird that Li was put in a position to lose instead of almost anyone else signed to the Performance Center who isn't a regular on NXT. Li hasn't been featured a lot lately, but there was a time NXT seemed high on her (and rightfully so because she's pretty good despite not being terribly experienced). That said, it looked like she turned heel afterward by refusing to shake the hands of the babyfaces, so we'll see where that goes. This was a decent match. I'd say Catanzaro and Carter could be building momentum for an eventual opportunity at the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship, but I fear Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax would crush them and not make it worthwhile.
Drake Maverick and Killian Dain def. Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish) by Disqualification
The story here is that Maverick wants to team with Dain and be his friend, but Dain wants no part of it. In fact, Dain told Maverick beforehand that he wasn't going down to the ring. He was shown sitting in the back watching Maverick get his ass handed to him by Undisputed Era until William Regal demanded he help Maverick. I thought he was going to show up and win a la Roman Reigns, but Undisputed Era got themselves disqualified before that could happen. This was less of a match and more of an angle, but it played out nicely. I'm not sold on Maverick and Dain as an oddball tag team yet, but if nothing else, it gives both guys something to do.
NXT North American Champion Damian Priest def. Timothy Thatcher
Priest has really come into his own as a performer and as a character since his breakout performance against Finn Balor at TakeOver: In Your House, while Thatcher never ceases to deliver regardless of who he's in the ring with and what their style of wrestling is. They brought the best out of each other here and it was a truly hard-hitting affair. Priest holding onto the title was the right call, but I almost wish this would have been saved for TakeOver in October because it was that superb. My only issue with this is that Thatcher is fresh off losses of Dexter Lumis in July and Finn Balor at TakeOver XXX and could use a notable victory. I'm not saying he should have won here, but there's no doubt he needs to win his next program.
In addition to everything above, William Regal announced that a Battle Royal will be held next week to determine the number one contender to the NXT Women's Championship at the next TakeOver, as well as a Gauntlet Eliminator to determine the number contender to Finn Balor's NXT Championship. Much like last week, there was an energy to this show that NXT hasn't had in a while and it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the episode. The TakeOver coming up in early October feels like it's too soon and that the build will be a bit rushed, but if the matches make sense and it's on par with past installments, then you won't get any complaints out of me. I'm stoked NXT has been more motivated lately to compete with AEW and put out their best product possible, but I still say they'd be better off on either Tuesday or Thursday nights.