Match 1 - Tag Team - American Alpha vs. Blake & Murphy with Alexa Bliss
Match 2 - Singles - Apollo Crews vs. Christopher Girard
Match 3 - Singles - Tommaso Ciampa vs. Bull Dempsey
Match 4 - Tag Team - Nia Jax & Eva Marie vs. Carmella & WWE NXT Women's Champion Bayley
american alpha defeat blake and murphy via pinfall
This week's WWE NXT kicked off with the main event, as the tag team division got another chance in the Spotlight with American Alpha's Chad Gable & Jason Jordan going over Blake & Murphy. Whilst technically sound throughout, this contest struggled to fully connect as the CFE Arena didn't seem particularly into the action for large portions of the contest. There was still things to enjoy, like Gable's lengthy arm lock sequence on Blake, but even that felt like it would have been more fitting for a longer bout and not quite suitable for the two teams current roles in the brand. The booking of American Alpha however continues to be very satisfying however, as Jason Jordan made short work of his hot tag sequence powering through both Blake and Murphy, before the babyface duo picked up the W with their Grand Amplitude double team move. Despite, the dominant finish the fact that Blake & Murphy haven't won on TV since they drop the WWE NXT Tag Team Championships to the Vaudevillains at Takeover: Brooklyn in August and that AA had already defeated the duo on NXT #181 took a little bit of the shine away from things, despite this being Gable & Jordan's sixth victory in a row on TV.
apollo crews defeats christopher gerard via pinfall
Whilst Apollo Crews still seems to be struggling to connect with the NXT audience, he was part of an entertaining extended squash match against the debuting Christopher Girard. Girard is perhaps better known as former CZW World Heavyweight Champion Biff Busick. Despite an almost silent crowd, Girard impressed me on his WWE debut, booked to hit enough of offence to show of his style. Lots of hard strikes from "The Manliest Man" and great moment where he held onto a chin lock as Crews flipped over his back, alongside a lot of angry facial expressions introduced Girard a something different to the rest of the NXT roster. It was a shame there was a slight slip by Girard as he got sent over the top rope and seemed like he was supposed to land on his feet on the apron to get leveled with enziguiri, as it meant the finish wasn't quite as smooth as it could been with Crews having to wait to hit his move. A spin out Powerbomb got the win for the former Uhaa Nation, setting his momentum rolling again following his defeat to Finn Balor on NXT #182.
fast-forward...Recap of Bayley vs. Carmella over the WWE NXT Women's Championship from WWE NXT #183, as well as the aftermath with Nia Jaxx, Eva Marie and Asuka...A pretty straight forward interview with WWE NXT Women's Champion Bayley & Carmella by Alex Reyes about their upcoming Tag Team Match with Eva Marie & Nia Jaxx, with the added interest of a question about Asuka intentions for the WWE NXT Women's Championship...CCTV footage from outside the WWE Performance Center of WWE NXT Tag Team Champions Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson attacking Enzo Amore, before Colin Cassady appeared to make the save and security separated them in a pleasingly different way of keeping the feud ticking over...
tommaso ciampa defeats bull dempsey via submission
Weirdly, Bull Dempsey was the most over character on the show so far with the Orlando crowd. They seemed to absolutely love him, chanting "Bull-Fit" and cheering when he finally managed to get his T-Shirt off. However, they went quiet pretty quickly when Dempsey and Tommaso Ciampa dropped the comedy and began to work a psychological match-up. Of course, I rather liked this part of the match, as Ciampa focused on Dempsey's arm for his Bridging Fujiwara Armbar submission. Dempsey sold things well, as the former ROH World Television Champion picked up a pretty straight forward submission victory. Off the top of my head, this might be my favourite Bull Dempsey match! Ciampa now has two victories in a row on NXT, maybe this is a sign that he'll be getting a full-time contract with WWE soon or maybe he's just being built up to put over a regular later down the line.
nia jax & eva marie defeat carmella and wwe nxt women's champion bayley via pinfall
A pleasantly surprising tag team, both in terms of content and the result. Nia Jax and Carmella both impressed me here, as both women seemed to have improved a hell of a lot with the two girls more than pulling their weight, alongside the hard working Bayley. The two were involved in the bulk of the contest, as Nia used her size and strength to dominate Carmella in the face in peril role. The Princess of Staten Island applying her version of the Guillotine Choke that allowed Bayley to retain the WWE NXT Women's Championship over Nia was a top quality addition. I hate to say it, because she does have a tremendous amount of heat, but Eva Marie still isn't ready for this kind of match and ended up letting the side down here. The bumps she took during Bayley's hot tag sequence off a handful of clotheslines looked awful and ended up taking me right out of what had been a well crafted moment. Nia was booked very strong in the closing stages, managing to save Eva from losing the match to a Bayley to Belly and Carmella's Modified Figure-Four Headscissors, take out Bayley, drag Eva to the corner for a tag and then hit three consecutive Running Leg Drops on Carmella. I have to admit, "The Flame Haired Femme Fatale" tagging herself in just before the third leg drop and getting the pin did raise a smile. The result blows the Women's division wide open, with previous Number One Contender Carmella, being pinned by Eva Marie, whilst Nia Jax has more than an argument for having won the match for her team, but neither managed to pin the Champion, Bayley (who was on the losing side of a match for the first time since NXT #148 aired in May 2015)
fast-forward...William Regal spoke to Finn Balor about edging closer to becoming the longest reigning NXT Champion, before revealing that he'd be facing the man who currently holds that record, Neville, in the main event for next week...
atpw scale rating - 4.5/10
Not a classic episode of NXT this week, as the highest profile bout, struggled to take advantage of the spotlight. American Alpha and Blake & Murphy put on a watchable tag team match, but it was still one that just didn't quite manage to find the right connection inside the ring for the majority of the contest. Apollo Crews and Tommaso Ciampa's extended squash bout opposite a debuting Christopher Girard and Bull Dempsey both provided some cracking action, but the CFE Arena only really cared for Dempsey's comedy Bull-Fit routine. The highlight of the whole show for me was the Women's Tag Team match as Nia Jax and Carmella showed signs of improvement and the result of the match opened up a number of different option for the Women's division heading into Takeover: Dallas.
With WWE NXT Champion Finn Balor scheduled to take on the man who holds the record for the longest NXT Championship reign in history, Neville (returning to the show for the first time since NXT #162 in September) next week's show should be an improvement on the strength of the main event alone, as we edge closer to Takeover: Dallas on 1st April.