WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Highlights and Reaction from July 4
On the heels of a controversial loss to Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: Chicago II, Johnny Gargano sought to get back on the winning track as he battled EC3 in another quality episode of NXT television, exclusively on WWE Network.
That match headlined a jam-packed broadcast that also featured The Velveteen Dream in action against former Ring of Honor star Chris Dijak and the latest chapter in The Mighty's rise in the tag team division.
Relive all of the events and developments from Wednesday night with this recap of the July 4 show.
Dakota Kai vs. Santana Garrett
Hoping to continue building momentum for herself after a crushing defeat at the hands of NXT women's champion Shayna Baszler, Dakota Kai kicked off this week's broadcast against renowned independent star Santana Garrett.
Garrett got more offense in on Kai than expected, grounding the Kiwi and negating her speed advantage.
Kai fought back, delivering an enzuigiri kick and one of her trademark running corner kicks.
A backstabber earned her the hard-fought victory.
Kai defeated Garrett
This was a fun little sprint of a match that put Kai over as the resourceful underdog but also spotlighted the underrated Garrett.
She may not have fared well against Baszler, but Kai has tremendous upside and has the potential to be the lovable babyface champion the brand has not had since Bayley.
She can work, she brings a high-intensity striking offense to her mat game and she has international appeal. Whether she can jump someone like the immensely popular Candice LeRae or the red-hot Bianca Belair is the question.
Shayna Baszler Promo
NXT women's champion Shayna Baszler made her way to the ring and addressed the brand's faithful.
She questioned which NXT star can actually beat her after she put Nikki Cross to sleep at TakeOver. She claimed WWE was even holding a second Mae Young Classic and scouring the globe to find someone to face her.
She said the outcome will ultimately be the same: She will put them down and retain her title.
Short and simple, something that benefits Baszler's promo style.
That she foreshadowed the eventual Mae Young Classic winner getting a shot at her title was a nice nod to the future, all the while reminding audiences that she just put down the most credible opposition on the roster in Cross.
What was a quick promo segment not only gave fans a taste of what to expect and a look at what she has already accomplished, but also set the stage for her own hubris to get the worst of her and ultimately cost her the title.
Handicap Match: Otis Dozovic vs. The Mighty
Tucker Knight was hurt before the match, leaving Heavy Machinery tag team partner Otis Dozovic to go it alone against The Mighty.
Dozovic controlled early, using his size to his advantage until Shane Thorne attacked behind the official's back and seized momentum for him and Nick Miller.
The heels worked Dozovic over, including a nasty side suplex that grounded the big man.
A double suplex of his own allowed Dozovic to fight back and deliver his trademark caterpillar elbow drops to both of his opponents. As he tried for a Vader Bomb, Miller pulled Thorne to safety and Dozovic crashed to the mat below.
A running forearm by Thorne earned the heels the victory.
The Mighty defeated Dozovic
This may have been designed to get The Mighty over as heels, but what it really did was showcase just how bright a future Otis has in WWE.
The big man is a fun, energetic, exciting and charismatic worker whom the fans love. He worked this match brilliantly, fighting from underneath and having the audience genuinely invested in him winning.
That he did not does more to build sympathy for him than heat for Miller and Thorne.
Chris Dijak vs. The Velveteen Dream
Velveteen Dream returned to in-ring action Wednesday night, battling Chris Dijak in a match between two guys who have recently lost to Ricochet on an NXT broadcast.
Dream silenced an attempt by Dijak to get a "Feast Your Eyes" chant going and taunted the former Ring of Honor star.
Dijak surprisingly controlled the match, tossing Dream around like a rag doll as chants for both men broke out.
The eccentric Dream fought back into the match, but a big right hand by Dijak shut him down. He delivered a spinning kick that knocked Dream to the floor. A well-timed trip-up by the reeling star sent Dijak into the steel steps and allowed Dream to capitalize with a spinning DDT for the win.
Dream defeated Dijak
Like the handicap match that preceded it, the purpose was to put over Dream, but in reality, this did more to make his opponent look better. Dijak looked like a huge star here, controlling a match against one of the more prominent and celebrated stars on the NXT roster.
Dream is a future world champion in NXT, a charismatic star whose future is (maybe) brightest of all his peers. By hanging with him and coming one fluke trip away from victory, Dijak earned credibility and legitimacy with fans unfamiliar with his exploits in NXT.
Johnny Gargano vs. EC3
The main event, a showdown between NXT's elite in Johnny Gargano and EC3, featured an exchange of strikes early before Gargano delivered a spear and launched himself to the floor with a suicide dive. A big lariat by EC3 allowed the One-Percenter to seize momentary control of the match.
Gargano launched himself off the top but wound up in the waiting arms of his opponent and then proceeded to trap him in the Garga-No Escape. EC3 powered out and delivered a powerbomb.
A darker and more relentless Gargano refused to release his trademark submission as EC3 made it to the ropes, signifying the feud with Ciampa may have changed him forever. A straight kick to the face of his opponent followed and the draped DDT, the same move used by Ciampa to defeat him at TakeOver, ended the match and earned Gargano a disturbing victory.
Gargano defeated EC3
The character development of Gargano over the last year has been as dramatic and engaging as anything WWE Creative has accomplished in the last decade. No, that's not hyperbole. His arch has been brilliant and will only help him stay fresh and maintain the level of overness he has enjoyed from day one.
The only reason this dark turn for Gargano did not earn a full "A" grade is the fact that it came at the expense of EC3.
Yes, it means more coming against a credible opponent, but EC3 is new enough in NXT that he needs a signature win or five before he can be realistically accepted as the Superstar he has claimed to be. Remember, not everyone knows of his work in TNA. Fans unfamiliar with his work there may recognize his name or remember his face, but until he gets that one compelling story or win, he is still unproven.
Sacrificing him to continue Gargano's epic journey may not be the most responsible use of his star at this point.