WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from March 7
The march toward NXT TakeOver: New Orleans continued this week as Aleister Black and Killian Dain jockeyed for position in the NXT Championship picture in the night's main event.
Joining them was Tommaso Ciampa, who made his formal return in a segment designed to be a promo. However, it was drowned out by a live audience infuriated by his actions toward former tag team partner Johnny Gargano.
Another impressive win for Bianca Belair and the first match of the Dusty Rhodes Classic rounded out what was another brisk and entertaining WWE Network presentation for NXT.
Dusty Rhodes Classic: The Authors of Pain vs. TM61
The finals of the 2017 Dusty Rhodes Classic saw The Authors of Pain defeat TM61 to claim the trophy. Wednesday night, in the first match of the 2018 tournament, the teams met again.
Shane Thorne and Nick Miller rallied off some lightning-quick offense early in the match, but Akam and Rezar seized control of the bout by isolating Miller from his partner. Thorne exploded into the match off a hot tag and had the former tag team champions reeling.
Miller broke up a near-fall, but The Authors of Pain proved too much for the returning duo, overpowering them and scoring a decisive and hard-fought victory.
The Authors of Pain defeated TM61
The Authors of Pain are so much better than they were a year ago at this time that it is almost staggering. Their timing is better, they have a better in-ring chemistry with their opponents and know when to use their signature moves in the right spots.
They needed a win to maintain credibility, and they got it. It came at the expense of TM61, whose grand return through video packages was deemed almost worthless with this defeat.
Where the exciting Aussies go from here is the biggest question coming out of this one.
Bianca Belair vs. Miss Drew Renee
Bianca Belair returned to NXT television this week with a one-sided squash of Miss Drew Renee.
The former fitness competitor bowled over the outmatched opponent, finishing her off with a reverse powerbomb.
Bianca Belair defeated Miss Drew Renee
None of these squash matches Belair has participated in are as effective as her loss to Kairi Sane in the Mae Young Classic was in terms of establishing some credibility for the 28-year-old.
In that match, she was competitive against one of the best wrestlers in the world. Here, she beats down an enhancement talent in matches that do nothing to better or worsen her position.
They are just matches she should win based on her performance against Sane.
There is nothing impressive about them.
Tommaso Ciampa Addresses the NXT Universe
After costing Johnny Gargano his NXT career, Tommaso Ciampa made his way to the ring to address his actions.
The heat that greeted him from the NXT faithful was so intense, though, he could not get a word in edgewise.
Frustrated to the point that he exited the ring again, he stalled in front of the audience until he spotted a Johnny Wrestling sign.
He grabbed it, ripped it to shreds and proceeded to beat it with his crutch.
An incensed Ciampa left to a chorus of boos to close out the segment.
Ciampa's heel run, to this point, has been a thing of beauty.
The manner in which he has presented himself, the reaction he has received as a result and the facial expressions he has utilized throughout have been a breath of fresh air in a day and age in which heels are oftentimes booked significantly cooler than babyfaces.
The crowd's reaction to him here was exactly what NXT management had to be hoping for. It should lead to an ultimate showdown with Gargano that ranks among the great matches in the brand's illustrious history.
Aleister Black vs. Killian Dain
In a match that would settle the differences between the Superstars, Killian Dain of Sanity battled Aleister Black in a hard-hitting main event.
Dain dominated the action, withstanding a fast-paced start to the match by Black.
Using his size and power advantage, Dain beat Black down and appeared poised to score a dominant and decisive victory.
That is, until Black unloaded his Black Mass kick, laying Dain out and earning him a huge come-from-behind win.
Aleister Black defeated Killian Dain
Considering the effort that went into building this match, it was almost disappointing to see how one-sided it ultimately was.
Dain dominating the action may have put him over in the eyes of management, but in reality he looks like a guy who exhausted his skill set only to fall victim to a single kick.
If anything, the match put Black's finisher over as a dangerous weapon capable of ending any match at any time. That will prove vital in establishing him as the new face of NXT, a lesson Diamond Dallas Page found out with his Diamond Cutter in 1997.
A good match but not one that lived up to lofty expectations that exist because of the quality of their performances.