On 28th February 2018, WWE aired its 289th episode of NXT, filmed at Center Stage, Atlanta, GA on 2nd February. Our main event match was a rematch from the Mae Young Classic finals as SHayna Baszler took on the woman who cost her a second title shot, Kairi Sane though the actual final segment was a speech by Zelina Vega and Andrade Almas. The card also featured action from Adam Cole & Cezar Bononi and Velveteen Dream taking on Tyler Bate. But was it any good?
Velveteen Dream def. Tyler Bate // Pinfall
Velveteen Dream is 22yrs old, Tyler Bate is only 20. Between the two of them, they are 6 years younger than Triple H and yet they are still putting on matches like this, even if this wasn't the best match in the world, still, consider it in comparison to how old they are. Sadly, this match semmed to just exist with no real emotion or verve behind it. Given ten minutes, the two performers worked a clean, well-structured match, playing Dream's lack of respect for Bate as Dream was surprised as he was out-wrestled at every turn early on. After the ad-break, the match became a bit more back-and-forth as both men threw their signature offence in, hoping to gain their upper hand. Dream eventually resorted to a cheap-ish trick as he pushed Bate off the post onto the top rope crotch-first before hitting the Purple Rainmaker for the pin. These two are young and I'm sure will have better battles in the future but this didn't quite live up to the hype for me.
Paul Ellering is backstage, he talks about how Authors of Pain won the second Dusty Classic and this is the road to them reclaiming the NXT Tag-Team Titles. Then up turn Ellering's lads and they basically say the same thing.
Adam Cole def. Cezar Bononi // Pinfall
Before the match started, Adam Cole offered Bononi a spot in the Era but it was a distraction to set up a sneak attack. This ended up being a quick squash m8 as Bononi had a brief spot of retaliation getting a Michinoku driver for a 2 but otherwise this was all Cole. This gets another win for Cole who's clearly going to be a big deal in NXT but Bononi in no way looks the 'Future Star' his NXT 2017 Award says he is. Maybe he'll do better in longer matches.
We get a Kairi Sane-Shayna Baszler video package. This tells the story incredibly well, especially for those who haven't been watching/just forgot.
Street Talk's back. Did you miss Street Talk? I know I did. They do a skit of interviewing each other as 'random people on the street' about who's going to win the Dusty Classic. They pick themselves obviously. We then get another look at the tournament bracket while a rockin' remix of Dusty's theme plays in the background.
Shayna Baszler def. Kairi Sane // Submission
I don't know what to think about this match. Baszler and Sane work well together, that much was clear from the Mae Young Classic finals but there was something lacking here, I don't know whether it was the lack of time lead to certain sections of the match feeling rushed or a lack of clarity over what they're trying to do with Sane who they seem to want to sell as one of the best in the world but also imminently beatable but much like the first match, this felt like it was lacking a certain intensity you want that gives a contest that 'big fight feel'. The work itself was well thought out as Baszler tried to keep Sane grounded but frequently was unable to keep down the Pirate Princess with the finish coming as Baszler was able to suddenly pull Sane into the Kirufuda Clutch for the tapout. It might not have been the best match but the result was right as Baszler is clearly not finished with Moon and this makes the eventual third match between Sane and Baszler all the bigger.
Post-match: Bazler having been pulled off Sane, goes over to the announce desk to tell them that Ember Moon is a coward and the next time she sees her, she's leaving with a title or a limb. Would love to see her just walk off with one of Moon's arms all casual like.
The Champs Have Something to Say
Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega came out and gloated about vanquishing Johnny Gargano from the NXT universe, it's like he's actually gone, Mauro Ranallo even used the 'future endeavours' line earlier, I miss him so much. Anyway, they went on to talk about how Andrade is the greatest NXT champion of all time and how they turned 'Johnny Wrestling' into 'Johnny Jobless'. It wasn't amazing stuff but it did get some actual response from the audience and that means something. Almas continues to improve on the mic but is still much better off leaving Vega to do the talking. They raised the title to close the show.
Next Week: Dusty Classic Quarter Finals start: and it's a rematch of the last classic's final as Authors of Pain take on TM61 in what's sure to be a-
Hold the phone, this was not the end of the show as A Challenger approaches in the form of the man who beat Almas at NXT TakeOver: Orlando, Aleister Black. Before he can say anything, up turns the Beast of Belfast, Killian Dain, they brawl with Dain standing tall as Almas flees to close out the show. The fake-out ending was a nice touch as it injected some energy and chaos to proceedings. If they can bring this energy to their eventual match, it could be something very good indeed.
On The YouTubes
Cezar Bononi is interviewed after his loss to Adam Cole. Christy St. Cloud asks him what he has to say to those who don't believe he's the 'Future Star' his award says he is after that (such as me, a few paragraphs ago), he says that they already know he is and one loss won't change that.
There was a lot here I wanted to like more than I did, sadly this ended up being just good or indeed, Ok. There was enough built here to suggest better things are around the corner though. Finally, thank goodness for Zelina Vega, she is, as is often the case, the real MVP of this episode.
Written By Jozef Raczka // @NotJoeRaczka