By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Andrade "Cien" Almas def. Tye Dillinger
I was first exposed to Almas in April (then known as Manny Andrade) at the NXT live event in Lowell and he impressed me probably more than anyone else on the show. Thus, I expected to him have a stellar showing here and he did just that. He has a great look and is just so crisp in the ring. Dillinger, meanwhile, is a star himself and looked credible in defeat. It amazes me more isn't being done with him considering he's one of the most over acts on the roster right now, but I suppose officials feel he's always successful in putting over fresh faces. Still, he deserves an opportunity at super stardom soon, and hopefully he'll get it following the next batch of call-ups. At any rate, this was a perfect way of kicking off the event (and yes, the pun was intended).
The Revival def. American Alpha to Win the NXT Tag Team Championship
I just finished rewatching the match between these two teams from Dallas and previously thought that was the best tag title match in NXT's history. Well, we may have a new number one after this encounter. Needless to say, American Alpha are a tremendous tandem, but Revival are pretty underrated themselves. The psychology both of these teams have is off the charts, so a rubber match must be in order. The title change was a pleasant surprise, but I didn't mind it one bit. American Alpha's title reign barely lasted two months, but this clears them up for a main roster call-up in the near future. Plus, they can put over the debuting duo of The Authors of Pain before they depart. Speaking of whom, them having the legendary Paul Ellering as their manager is damn cool and makes them stand out from the start.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Austin Aries
We all had our expectations set rather high for this "dream match" of sorts, and it's safe to say those lofty expectations were met if not exceeded. Nakamura followed up his phenomenal performance versus Sami Zayn in Dallas with another exceptional matchup here with Aries, who also came away from this looking super strong. He is still one of the very best in the ring and the audience recognized that, so all he needs to do now is become a full-fledged heel and he'll be golden. It will be interesting to see whether he uses the midsection injury he had as an out for losing or if he will whine and complain until he gets a rematch which he can cheat to win and cement his heel turn.
NXT Women's Champion Asuka def. Nia Jax
While Jax has improved immensely compared to when she initially arrived in NXT in October, I still didn't think she was ready for this opportunity. That said, she looked far better here than I thought she would and it was easily her best singles match to date. It wasn't that tough of a task given she faced Asuka, but she had an equally excellent opponent in Bayley in London and that match fell flat for me. Thus, I liked the story they told in this bout and the fury Jax showed before ultimately going down to Asuka. She has a ways to go before she is championship material, but breakout matches such as this one will be put her in the right direction.
NXT Champion Samoa Joe def. Finn Balor in a Steel Cage Match
It's hard to say where this ranks among their past battles, but what I can say for certain is that this was the greatest Steel Cage match I've seen in a long time. Granted, the Steel Cage matches on main roster aren't much competition, but it was worth mentioning. Regardless, both men put forth a strong effort and made effective use of the surrounding steel. Their rivalry has been so well constructed over the past eight months that they couldn't have blown it off any better. They delivered another awesome match with a fantastic finish; that Muscle Buster off the top will be one for the highlight reel. I could see Balor sticking around for a while longer, at least until Brooklyn in August, but it would make much more sense for him to get called up to Raw sooner rather than later. I guess we'll find out in due time.
We have had 11 live NXT specials since February 2014 and every single one of them has ranged from good to great to amazing. Personally, I would rank this installment under the "amazing" category. The opener was a blast and Almas showed his star potential, the tag team title bout was arguably the match of the night and the title change and subsequent debut were both newsworthy, Nakamura vs. Aries was every bit as brilliant as I assumed it would be, the women's match was what it needed to be and the main event capped off the evening on a high note. What more could you ask for? The backstage Bobby Roode appearance was also very cool. Obviously, I'm intrigued to see where everyone at this event goes from here, and having just bought my tickets for Brooklyn today, the months leading up to that anticipated special should be extremely exciting to say the least. In so many words, I love NXT.