WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from January 9
NXT continued to set the stage for its TakeOver: Phoenix event on January 26 with another focused broadcast that spotlighted the stars who will play a key role in that show and featured a competitive main event pitting EC3 against Undisputed Era's Adam Cole.
EC3 was not the only main roster-bound Superstar on the night's card, as Nikki Cross renewed her rivalry with Bianca Belair in a match that would prove significant to The EST's momentum ahead of her championship clash with Shayna Baszler.
What else went down Wednesday night and how might it affect the brand as it heads toward its next live event spectacular?
Find out with this recap of the week's WWE Network presentation.
Johnny Gargano Promo Kicks Off First NXT of 2019
Johnny Gargano kicked off this week's episode with a promo in which he revealed that over the holidays, it became painfully clear to him that only titles and victories matter.
He addressed fans' chants of "DIY," revealing that the double-team beatdown of Aleister Black a week ago was but a one-time deal. See, Tommaso Ciampa is still a piece of garbage, and he still possesses a title Gargano values.
Gargano mentioned Ricochet, who interrupted the proceedings and told Gargano that if he wanted a shot at his North American title, all he had to do was ask. Ciampa made his presence felt, trying to stir things up, before Black appeared.
After some back-and-forth, the lights dimmed and Black appeared in the ring behind Ciampa. A physical brawl between Ciampa and Black ensued before they headed backstage, leaving Gargano to flatten Ricochet with a superkick.
We already knew Black vs. Ciampa was the main event for the upcoming TakeOver: Phoenix event, but the instigation of a Ricochet vs. Gargano program gives that show two high-profile singles bouts for top championships.
On top of that, the segment set up a potential blockbuster tag match that would reunite Gargano and Ciampa in DIY, a monumental moment for NXT given the rich history between those two.
Overall, this was a quality segment that provided fans with a look at things to come and the continued tease of a much-anticipated reunion.
Nikki Cross vs. Bianca Belair
The rivalry between Nikki Cross and Bianca Belair evolved into a physical war between the two late in 2018. Wednesday saw the two renew their rivalry, just weeks before the former makes her main roster debut and the latter challenges Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women's Championship.
Cross frustrated Belair early, trapping her in the ring apron and pounding away. The EST of NXT responded, driving her off the top rope with a gorilla press slam and following up with a standing moonsault.
Belair controlled the match, cutting off several attempts by Cross to mount a comeback. She even countered a sleeper attempt at ringside by driving the Scot back-first into the steel entrance ramp.
The tenacious Cross fought her way back into the match, but a high cross-body block missed, and Belair finished her with the K.O.D. for the victory.
Belair defeated Cross
Belair's best in-ring performances have come against Cross, and that is no accident. The Scot is among the most talented workers on any women's roster in WWE and will prove beneficial to whichever brand she lands on when she finally makes the jump.
She sold spectacularly for Belair and brought the type of psychology one hopes for in a performer of her experience.
At every turn, she made Belair look like the star she is destined to be.
That is no slight toward The EST, who continued to showcase the incredible physical gifts and blossoming in-ring arsenal that helped her earn the spot on the card she has now. Belair is a supremely talented young Superstar whose future is as bright as that of anyone.
This should prove a gateway to bigger and better things in the future, perhaps as soon as Royal Rumble weekend when she provides Baszler with an athletic matchup the likes of which The Queen of Spades has yet to experience.
Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner in Action
The debuting team of Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner looked to send a message to the entire NXT Universe as they squared off with Hector Kunsman and Stanley Watts.
Barthel and Aichner overwhelmed Kunsman and Watts from the opening bell, driving them down with spinebusters and stunning them with kicks.
A powerbomb/German suplex combination from Aichner and Barthel on Watts earned the newly formed tandem its first televised win.
Barthel and Aichner defeated Watts and Kunsman
We have seen Barthel and Aichner in singles competition in previous episodes of NXT, but this was our first real exposure to them as a team. Right out of the gate, they looked like a force destined to play a major role in the tag team division going forward.
They were quick, sharp and completely dominated the competition en route to a one-sided victory. Aichner, the current Evolve champion, has long had the potential to be a major star within the brand but needed the right opportunity. With Barthel, he may have found it.
The introduction of that team ensures one of the deepest, most talented divisions in all of WWE.
EC3 vs. Adam Cole
Just as he prepares to make his main roster debut, EC3 sought to settle his ongoing differences with Undisputed Era on Wednesday as he battled Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) in singles competition.
The story of the match featured Cole targeting the previously injured shoulder of his opponent. Like a gnat, he overcame EC3's attempts at a comeback, cutting him off by targeting the arm and dropping him with a backstabber.
A missed knee from Cole sparked his opponent's comeback.
The ever-present Bobby Fish, Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong provided just enough of a distraction for Cole to deliver a superkick and a knee to the back of the head for the decisive blow.
After the match, War Raiders hit the ring, laid waste to Undisputed Era and stood tall alongside EC3 as the heels regrouped to close out the show.
Cole defeated EC3
The match itself was OK, telling the story of a babyface forced to overcome injury and distraction, only to fall short thanks to well-timed interference. Cole winning made sense since he has a loss to EC3 on his resume already, and it also intensified the heat for the heels.
The return of War Raiders to television was a nice touch but positions them against an Undisputed Era they already vanquished back in WarGames. Sticking them with Cole and Co. creates somewhat of a booking treadmill for the team, though the allure of tag team gold slightly makes up for it.