NXT returned to Center Stage in Atlanta on Thursday night for the post-TakeOver: Philadelphia television tapings.
The show was sold out. Unlike the last tapings, there weren't any backstage promos shown between matches to help our understanding of the stories being told. There will be another night of tapings at Center Stage on Friday.
Dark match --
- The Street Profits defeated Fabian Aichner & Raul Mendoza
The Profits are at the point that when the beat drops on their music, the crowd automatically reacts. This was a quick match, with Angelo Dawkins hitting a spinebuster variation on Mendoza and Montez Ford following up with a frog splash for the finish.
NXT TV tapings --
Airdate: February 7
- NXT Tag Team Champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly vs. SAnitY (Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe) never got started
Fish and O'Reilly came out with Adam Cole for their announced title defense against SAnitY. As all three of them faced the stage, Young, Wolfe, and Killian Dain ran in through the crowd and attacked them from behind.
Twenty or so security guards and referees broke them up. William Regal then announced that the main event of the first episode of the tapings will be The Undisputed Era vs. SAnitY in a tornado tag match.
- Heavy Machinery defeated Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss
There were some "Steaks and weights" chants to start things off, and the crowd loudly chanted "Tino sucks" whenever Sabbatelli was in the match. There was a spot that played off their last meeting where Sabbatelli & Moss cheated, but the referee caught them this time.
Late in the match, there seemed to be some dissension teased between Sabbatelli and Moss. Moss tagged in Sabbatelli by chopping him. Later, when it was clear Sabbatelli should have made a tag, he walked to Moss in the corner before turning around and continuing on, much to Moss' frustration.
Heavy Machinery won with the Compactor slam finish. After the match, Sabbatelli was on the ground and stuck out his hand to have Moss help him off the mat -- but Moss backed off. They are heading for a messy breakup.
- Johnny Gargano entered for a promo. He said when it comes to Tommaso Ciampa, he has bit his tongue since TakeOver: Chicago -- but now he is coming to fight Ciampa face-to-face.
Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega interrupted him. Vega cut a great promo about how Gargano is 0-for-3 against Almas and he is so bad that even his best friend left him. The crowd started chanting for Candice LeRae, and she came out and beat Vega up.
Vega and Almas retreated to the stage, then Gargano said he wants one more shot. Vega said they'll give him a title shot, but if he loses -- Gargano is out of NXT. Gargano accepted and LeRae freaked out over the thought of her husband being fired. Almas vs. Gargano will be the main event of the February 21st episode.
- Bianca Belair defeated an enhancement wrestler
Belair destroyed her quickly and won with a reverse powerbomb. The crowd is starting to react to Belair more.
- SAnitY (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain) defeated The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) in a tornado tag match
The tag titles weren't on the line. This went 15-20 minutes with two segments and was a fantastic brawl. There were several "NXT" chants and it received a standing ovation after.
For the finish, Dain hit the One Winged Angel on Fish. Before that, Fish and O'Reilly used their finisher on Wolfe but couldn't win. Cole also hit a neckbreaker on his knee on Young but couldn't win. Other highlights included Dain throwing Fish off the stage onto the four other men, O'Reilly doing running knees off the apron onto Wolfe (who was sitting on a chair), and Dain doing a front flip into a table.
O'Reilly possibly hurt a part of his lower extremities near the end of the match. There were kendo sticks, chairs, and tables used, and this was a very entertaining bout.
Airdate: February 14
- TM61 defeated an enhancement team (John Skyler & a partner)
TM61 won with their Thunder Valley finisher. There were lots of signs for them in the audience and they received a great ovation.
- WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne defeated Roderick Strong to retain his title
They had a fantastic match with tons of near falls before Dunne retained with the Bitter End. It wasn't quite at the level of Dunne vs. Tyler Bate from Full Sail two months ago, but it was still better than most NXT TV main events.
There were dueling chants of "Let's go Roddy" and "Bruiserweight" throughout. The story of the match was Dunne methodically working over Strong's right hand. He destroyed Strong's hands on the steps and tried it again on the other steps, but Strong gave him a backbreaker on the steel.
The pain in Strong's hand is what led to the Bitter End. The crowd gave both men a standing ovation following the match.
- Aleister Black came out to cut a promo. He said the devil that drives him is the NXT Championship. Dain interrupted him, saying "The devil isn't on your back, I am. I won't stop until the NXT Championship is around my waist."
Black responded with, "You crossed me, so now you must fade to black." They had a staredown, which seems like it may possibly lead to a number one contender's match.
- Shayna Baszler defeated NXT Women's Champion Ember Moon by DQ
Moon retained the title with the disqualification. At the last set of tapings, the crowd loved Baszler. But tonight, she was the most booed performer on the show.
The match was built around Moon's arm still being injured, though she spent the first minute or two kicking the living hell out of Baszler. Baszler spent the whole match attempting the armbar to no avail. Moon went for The Eclipse, but Baszler rolled out of the ring in front of the announce table.
Moon hit a suicide dive that drove both of them onto the table. They recovered, with Baszler attacking the arm. She ripped off the guardrail banner and went to break Moon's arm with an armbar between the guardrail, but Kairi Sane appeared and attacked Baszler for the DQ.
She speared Baszler, with Baszler then retreating. After the match, Sane helped Moon to the back -- but Moon looked her deep in the eyes knowing Sane will eventually be seeking a title match.
Airdate: February 21
- Velveteen Dream defeated No Way Jose
Dream received the loudest ovation of the night, getting tons of "Velveteen" chants throughout the match. He won with the Purple Rainmaker.
Following, the match, Dream proclaimed himself as the NXT Superstar of the Year, the NXT Male Superstar of the Year, the winner of the Match of the Year, and so on. He said there was a reason his name was on the lips of everyone in attendance.
- Nikki Cross defeated Vanessa Borne
Borne has added a whip to her gimmick. She also licked Cross' ear during a submission hold, which got a reaction from the crowd.
- Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake defeated an enhancement team
Cutler and Blake are now going by the "Forgotten Sons" and have new gear. They cut a promo after the match about how they're the outcasts of society and the forgotten sons.
They also said they're entering the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, which was news to everyone in the crowd.
- NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas (w/ Zelina Vega) defeated Johnny Gargano (w/ Candice LeRae) to retain his title
With Almas retaining, Gargano is forced to leave NXT in storyline. The match went 16 minutes and was great, but it obviously wasn't near the level of their TakeOver match.
Two minutes in, Gargano went for a suicide dive on Almas -- but Vega stepped in Gargano's way. LeRae jumped in the ring and dove onto Vega, with Gargano then doing a diving flip off the apron onto Almas. Later in the match, Almas put Gargano in the Gargano Escape -- but Gargano returned the favor by attempting Almas' DDT finisher.
Almas went for his double foot stomp on Gargano to the outside near the end, but Gargano did a sit-up and flipped Almas back-first onto the apron and down to the floor. Once Almas got in, Gargano hit the springboard DDT for a huge false finish.
At the end, Almas ran into referee Drake Wuertz, then turned around into the Gargano Escape. As the referee was down and Almas was about to tap, Ciampa ran in (he didn't limp but was still in is knee brace) from the crowd and nailed Gargano across the back with his crutch. Almas hit his DDT finisher and the referee counted the pin. There was even hesitation in the referee's final count because he knew the ramifications.
The entire crowd, including the NXT announcers, then gave Gargano a standing ovation. Gargano sat in the middle of the ring looking heartbroken. LeRae came back and they hugged while sitting down in the middle of the ring. The crowd was chanting "Thank you Johnny" and "Please don't go." I even saw a child crying in the audience.
They made their way up the stage and Gargano hugged his wife again. William Regal came out and embraced Gargano. As they hugged, Ciampa reappeared from across the building and smiled as he waved goodbye.
The cameras went off the air as Ciampa exited the crowd.
After the cameras were off the air and the announcers left their booth, Gargano got on the mic and thanked the fans. He then closed the show by saying he was going to celebrate his tenure in NXT by going out to the fans who made his career there so special. LeRae and him then went in the crowd for a good 10 minutes and took a million selfies and signed everything presented to them.
After they exited, Mike Rome announced that the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic begins at tomorrow's tapings.