(ST. CHARLES, MO) WWE NXT, the developmental branch of World Wrestling Entertainment, launched their three-city October Midwestern tour at the Family Arena Thursday night and within the eight-match event, all three single title holders retained their respective championships after hard-fought battles.
In the main event in front of approximately 1,500 spectators, NXT Heavyweight Champion Tommaso Ciampa claimed the duke over Velveteen Dream in a 20-minute battle that contained a controversial, unseen tap-out, NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane topped up-and-comer Lacey Evans and NXT North American Champion Ricochet bested Adam Cole in a tightly-competitive match-up.
The traveling brand continues their trifecta trek to Southaven, Mississippi tonight and finishes in Owensboro, Kentucky Saturday.
1) The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) defeated The Forgotten Sons (Wesley Blake and Jaxson Ryker) at 8:35 via pin fall.
The opener featuring a pair of tag-team upstarts saw the Forgotten Sons fully take advantage of Ford’s visibly-noticeable wrapped knee with a continuous attack that grounded the charismatic high-flyer. The burly Ryker applied a Texas Cloverleaf to Ford at the seven-minute mark in an attempt to force a submission but Ford refused to tap. He eventually got a much-needed to tag Dawkins, who flipped the script back in favor of the Profits.
Following a flurry, Dawkins connected with a pop-up spine buster to Blake and tagged Ford, who connected with a frog splash off the top rope for the victory.
2) Kassius Ohno defeated Raul Mendoza at 8:40 via pin fall.
Ohno, who has recently shown signs of a potential shift in attitude, maintained a hero’s welcome to the vocal crowd. Mendoza, who received an indifferent reaction by the audience upon introduction, quickly gained favor thanks to an aerial attack that stymied the veteran. As Ohno paced his offense with thunderous elbows and kicks, Mendoza reciprocated with enziguris and a cork-screw plancha that almost netted victory.
Ohno claimed the victory with a move that had Mendoza stacked on his shoulders and then twisted his adversary mid-air that drove his shoulders squarely into the mat. Following the duke, Ohno, in a sign of respect, fist-bumped Mendoza, who received a nice reception from the audience.
3) Candice LeRae & Dakota Kai defeated Aliyah & Reina Gonzalez at 9:17 via pin fall.
This women’s tag-match was an inaugural leap for the 6-1 Gonzalez, a recent competitor in the WWE’s Mae Young Classic Invitational that is currently engaged in her fourth year within the sport and first upon the NXT circuit. She held her own against the well-liked, make-shift combo of the California LeRae and the Kiwi Kai.
An early attack by the chatty Aliyah and the bruising Gonzalez set the tone early and the ensuing wear down of Kai with a combo of the former’s body scissors and a bear hug by the latter put the crowd favorites in peril. At the eight-minute mark, Kai escaped and made the tag to an energetic LeRae. Following miscommunication by Aliyah and Gonzalez, which allowed Kai to hit a face kick that sent Gonzalez flying out of the ring, LeRae connected with a Unprettier/Killswitch on Aliyah that resulted in victory.
4) Johnny Gargano defeated Lars Sullivan at 9:35 via disqualification.
Prior to the unscheduled match-up, the 6-3, 300-pound behemoth lumbered into the ring, grabbed the house microphone, and claimed that he would challenge anyone that had both the courage and chutzpah to face him. This brought out the 5-10, 198-pound crowd favorite known as “Johnny Wrestling” that accepted the challenge. The quick flurry of kicks and strikes netted Gargano and early advantage.
That push was quickly thwarted as Gargano’s attempted tope to the outside three minutes in resulted in Sullivan catching him mid-air and planting him into the ring post. After throwing him backing into the ring, Sullivan continued with a beat down that consisted of multiple forearms across the head and a bear hug at the five-minute mark.
Gargano turned the tide and mounted a comeback. At the eight-minute mark, he countered Sullivan’s Freak Accident finisher into a DDT and collected a two-count. He then went to the top turnbuckle for a finishing move but Sullivan grabbed referee Eddie Orengo and shoved him against the ropes, causing Gargano to fall from above.
Orengo called for the disqualification that handed Gargano the victory. After the match, Sullivan continued to apply kicks in the corner to the fallen victor. Sullivan then left the ring and brought in a metal chair to inflict further damage. Gargano was able to connect a super kick to the giant and then connected with a pair of chair shots to force the beast out of the ring.
5) NXT Tag Team Champions Undisputed Era (Kyle O’ Reilly & Roderick Strong) defeated Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch at 12:40 via pin fall.
The quartet competed in a highly-praised tag-team battle at the NXT Takeover event held in Chicago this past June and this non-title pairing was the first-time the combos had met within the squared circle since that donnybrook. Many of the same patterns that were displayed recurred.
Antagonists O’ Reilly and Strong, who unsurprising received a hearty welcome from those that enjoy the sport, gained an early advantage with their combination of kicks, strikes and the ground and pound offense that O’ Reilly loves to implement. Their focus was on wearing down Lorcan, who had just recently returned to action following a lengthy layoff to an orbital bone injury.
Deep in the match, the underdogs simultaneously gained an advantage as Burch applied a cross-faced submission to O’Reilly while Lorcan cinched a single-legged Boston Crab to Strong. The tag champs were able to break out and then post a furious fury. The Undisputed Era’s Total Elimination/Sick Kick Combo on Lorcan resulted in the winning edge.
6) WWE NXT North American Champion Ricochet defeated Adam Cole at 13:40 via pin fall to retain his title.
In a highly anticipated match-up that had gold implications from the onset, the challenger, a prior holder of the belt, utilized chain wrestling early. Five minutes deep outside the ring, Cole sling-shotted Ricochet back-first into the ring apron that resulted in a decisive edge.
As the match went on, Cole hit Ricochet with numerous finishers, including as The Last Shot shining wizard and the kneecap brain buster, but could only record two-counts.
Ricochet then turned the tide with a tornado DDT at the 12-minute mark and then went on a multi-chain complexion of move sets that was punctuated by a top-rope reverse moonsault that resulted in victory.
7) WWE NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane defeated Lacey Evans at 8:20 via pin fall to retain her title.
On paper to the uneducated, it seemed like Thursday’s battle could have been an easy pick in favor of the champion. However, the challenger had defeated the charismatic pirate in prior battles and Evans’ current winning streak yielded momentum so the match-up for the belt was considered a coin-clip.
Evans was aggressive early and grounded the champion with numerous strikes. A multitude of knife-edges also slowed Sane and her swinging head-lock four minutes in was extremely effective. Evans went for a top-rope moonsault at the five-minute mark and missed, which handed the advantage back to Sane.
The pirate princess responded with multiple axe handles and a spear at the seven-minute mark set the tone for victory. An insane elbow at the eight-minute mark resulted in a successful title defense.
8) NXT Heavyweight Champion Tommaso Ciampa defeated Velveteen Dream at 20:00 via pin fall to retain his title.
Fresh off their verbal spat from Wednesday night’s NXT TV episode, the pair put on a twenty-minute clinic that had the Family Arena faithful nervously watching.
Early on, the charismatic Dream focused on the rehabbed knee of the champion and attacked with numerous methods, whether it was driving Ciampa’s metal brace upon the canvas or wrapping it around the ensuing steel-columned corners.
At the 14-minute mark, Dream wrapped Ciampa’s leg on the outer turnbuckle post and torqued the connection as he was positioned outside the ring. While the referee administered the obligatory “five-count” to the Dream while outside the ring, Ciampa viably “tapped out” in front of the audience, but unbeknownst to the official. As the official did not have clear sight of the submission, the match continued.
Ciampa attempted a victory with a handful of tights at the 16-minute mark but was caught by the referee. Dream hit a Dream Valley Driver at the 17-minute mark and many in attendance thought a title switch was on the horizon but Ciampa kicked out by a mere fraction. The defending champ hit a Project Ciampa double-knee backbreaker at the 18-minute mark but the Dream kicked out at two.
Shenanigans soon saw Ciampa’s NXT belt in the ring and Dream was able to hit Ciampa’s head with a reverse DDT onto the belt leading to a near-two count. Ciampa’s kick-off resulted in the Dream stumbling outside the ring apron. Upon return, the defending champ connected with his patented hangman DDT from the middle rope to claim victory and retain the Championship.
WWE NXT can be seen on Wednesday nights at 7 pm on the WWE Network.
(Additional reporting by Hannah Ledford)