On 7th March 2018, WWE aired its 290th episode of NXT, filmed at Center Stage, Atlanta, GA on 2nd February. Our main event was a Number One Contender's ICW FIght Club rematch as Aleister Black took on Killian Dain for a shot at Andrade Almas' NXT Championship with New Orleans. The show also featured first round Dusty Classic action as the Authors of Pain took on the men they defeated in the final of the last Duty Classic, TM61, as well as appearances by Bianca BelAir and Tommaso Ciampa. But was it any good?
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic First Round // Akam & Rezar vs. Nick Miller & Shane Thorne
After the mild disappointment that was their Dusty Classic final, I wasn't expecting much here but slightly surprisingly, this delivered the goods, hitting a hot opener that wasted no time and got the crowd really going by the end. Working off a reasonably classic tag formula (if you haven't worked out by now, if I'm being nice I call it classic, if I'm being mean, I call it standard), the four men worked hard, throwing in some classic hits from their repertoire while throwing in some new touches like a devastating out of the ring on to the apron powerbomb onto Nick Miller. With a lot of people expecting the redemption story of the newly returned TM61 to continue here, the finish worked well, playing off this as Thorne nailed a big slam setting up Miller for a top rope moonsault but Rezar was straight in to break up the pin, sending Thorne out of the ring and hitting The Last Chapter legsweep-lariat combo for the win. The match was very well thought out and packed a lot into its nine minutes but it did seem like maybe it needed just a few more minutes of good action to really make it stand out.
William Regal is backstage being interviewed about if he has a particular favourite going into the Dusty Classic, obviously he says no because that would make the entire tournament pointless, he could just make his favourite number one contender. Pete Dunne turns up and says that the UK title isn't leaving the UK, Roderick Strong turns up and says he beat him but he'd love a rematch sometime, The Undisputed Era turn up and taunt Strong for losing in big matches, Dunne reminds Cole he shits the bed in big matches too. Regal breaks it up before the kids start scrapping.
Bianca BelAir hangs out backstage before her match.
SaNItY talk about how they're going to win the Dusty Classic and Dain is going to beat Aleister Black but they do it in a crazy way like. Nikki Cross steals the segment by just maniacally laughing at everything.
Bianca BelAir vs. Drew Renee
Quick squash m8. If Renee got any offense in, I missed it. BelAir won in less than a minute with the AlleyOop Powerbomb. I'm expecting big things this year from the 'EST' in NXT.
Christy St. Cloud is talking to Lacey Evans about her match with Dakota Kai and talks about her lack of class and her arm that was broken by Baszler, till Baszler turns up and Lacey Evans bails. Baszler demands Moon respond to her challenge.
Heavy Machinery talk about beef.
Tommaso Ciampa segment
Ciampa entering to a chorus of boos and a crowd of Johnny Wrestling signs, would pull from the Zack Gibson playbook, refusing to talk until the crowd stopped, only making them louder every single time. He repeatedly walked away from the microphone, refusing to give them the satisfaction. Sadly for Ciampa, this made them even louder still. As he walked around the arena, he grabbed fan's Johnny Wrestling sign, tore it in half and beat it down with his crutch before leaving, making it quite clear he didn't need the crutch anymore. Somehow, without uttering even a single word, Ciampa just delivered the best promo of the year thus far.
Next Week: UK Championship action as Pete Dunne takes on Adam Cole and two more Dusty Classic first round matches in the form of SaNitY vs. Sabbatelli & Moss and Street Profits vs. Heavy Machinery.
Aleister Black vs. Killian Dain
This was never formally announced as a number one contender's match but with both men having made their intentions clear in previous weeks, we may as well treat it as such, though this is not the two fighter's first encounter having competed before in ICW and SWA with Dain coming out on top in both encounters. Things started off hot with Dain getting a near fall off a John Woo before things would go mostly back-and-forth with Black utilising his superior striking ability while the man the crowd once chanted 'fuzzy wuzzy' for, used his obvious size and strength advantage, keeping Black grounded with submissions work and standing splashes. While this wasn't quite the wild, violent spectacle we were promised, it was still a very good, little match, playing off the classic David vs Goliath dynamics but never making Black look beneath Dain with some of the near falls including a buckle bomb-vader bomb combo looking incredibly close. The match came to a close as Dain had Black up for the Ulster Plantation electric chair driver but Black managed to slide out and nail the Black Mass spinning roundhouse kick for the pin. I'm still unsure that Dain is really the breakout star of SaNitY and the one they should be pushing so hard as a solo star but if they are intent on doing so, I will say that this here is easily his best singles encounter in NXT and another good notch on the winpost for Black. Lovely stuff but still, never felt like it was quite the war that the last few weeks promised us.
On The YouTubes
Authors of Pain and Paul Ellering are backstage with Christy St. Cloud, Ellering puts over the rest of the tournament, stating it is stacked from top to bottom but that they will still come out on top. He also tells The Undisputed Era that they've seen the tag champ's best but they haven't seen theirs. So Ellering's also seen ReDragon vs Young Bucks, it has a 9.02 on Cagematch.
So it was a Number One Contender's match. The contract signings next week by the way. With four announced matches and a contract signing, expect at least one DQ finish.
This was probably the most consistent episode of NXT this year, even if there wasn't a standout match like Gargano-Almas IV, everything delivered and mre importantly, it all set up for more good things. This week was really good, next week looks like it could be even better. What more could you ask for?
Written By Jozef Raczka // @NotJoeRaczka