NXT Tag Team Champions Undisputed Era def. Authors of Pain
Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish have always been exceptional professional wrestlers, but it was unknown how they would translate to the WWE style when they signed last year. Well, it hasn't taken them long at all to come into their own as wonderful heels, doing anything it takes to retain their titles and find a way to escape unscathed. Here, they focused on the "hurt" leg of Akam, and in the end, that was what helped them walk away with their titles intact. Authors of Pain continue to make great strides and should be main roster bound as soon as this coming week.
The Velveteen Dream def. Kassius Ohno
For a match that had next to no build aside from a brief backstage segment that aired on WWE's YouTube channel after NXT this past week, this was a ton of fun. The start to the bout with Dream teasing that he would knock out Ohno in a matter of 30 seconds was especially entertaining. The guy just has the complete package, whereas Ohno is the perfect person for up-and-comers like Dream to go up against and prove their worth. It might have lasted a little longer than it needed to, and there were a few flawed spots here and there, but on the whole, this was a good match.
NXT Women's Champion Ember Moon def. Shayna Baszler
Baszler hasn't been a part of NXT for more than a month yet she already feels right at home in NXT. Sure, she could be better in the ring, but she'll only improve in time. More importantly, her legitimate badass persona is so organic and it makes her a detestable albeit believable heel. The first half of this match wasn't anything too special, but they told a solid story with Baszler dominating Moon throughout and targeting her arm, preventing her from hitting the Eclipse at full capacity. That finishing sequence with Moon managing to get out of the armbar multiple times before rolling up Baszler out of nowhere was well done because it protected Baszler and kept the feud alive.
Aleister Black def. Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules Match
It's actually amazing to note that NXT rarely does Extreme Rules/Hardcore matches. This is the first one I can recall in quite some time, and they surely made the most of the stipulation by producing an excellent match. It fell victim to some of the tired troupes of your typical Extreme Rules match early on, but they successfully switched it up down the stretch by executing some sweet spots with the chairs and tables that kept the crowd engaged. I'm not usually one that's in favor of interference, but it made sense for this match considering there were no disqualifications, and it also furthered the feud between Undisputed Era and SAnitY. Needless to say, Cole loses nothing in defeat here.
NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas def. Johnny Gargano
I'm aware that I'm biased because I was in attendance for the event, but this very well might have been the best NXT match I have ever seen, or at least in the top three (and this is coming from someone who saw Sasha Banks vs. Bayley live from TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015). Everything about this was amazing: Gargano fighting from underneath and being such a likable babyface, Almas acting like a cocky prick, their phenomenal chemistry, the drama, the suspenseful nearfalls, Candice LeRae taking out Zelina Vega, etc. They had the crowd eating it all up and I had trouble staying put in my seat because everybody was on their feet for a majority of the matchup. Gargano capturing the championship would have been a cool moment, but it was way too soon to be taking that title off Almas, so I was happy he retained. Plus, Tomasso Ciampa returned afterward to attack Gargano on the ramp to end the show on a high note and plant the seeds for a future TakeOver clash between the two.
This marked my seventh NXT show since 2015 and all of them have been awesome, but this was a strong show from top to bottom. I'd argue Ohno vs. Dream was the "worst" matchup of the night, but even that was better than most of what we see on the monthly main roster pay-per-views. The Philadelphia atmosphere was electric and we were treated to a handful of quality contests as well as an outstanding main event that you absolutely need to go out of your way to check out. Better yet, several matches have been seemingly set up for TakeOver: New Orleans: Almas vs. Black, Gargano vs. Ciampa, Undisputed Era vs. SAnitY, and a possible Moon vs. Baszler rematch. Not to mention EC3 has also signed with NXT, and that received a huge pop as well! Man, just when you think NXT is down and out after a bunch of top talents are called up to Raw and SmackDown Live, the black-and-yellow brand bounces back in a major way and this event was proof of that. Huge thanks to my brother-in-arms RJ Marceau for suggesting we go to TakeOver: Philadelphia, because I would have totally regretted it if we didn't!