WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from April 17
The April 17 episode of NXT gave fans a taste of things to come.
From the continuation of the NXT Championship program between Adam Cole and new titleholder Johnny Gargano to Dominik Dijakovic's challenge for a North American Championship match against Velveteen Dream to Io Shirai's tangle with Shayna Baszler in the women's division, the show represented the latest chapter in NXT's 2019.
What exactly went down and how might it affect the brand going forward? Find out with this recap of Wednesday's WWE Network broadcast.
North American Championship Match: Velveteen Dream vs. Buddy Murphy
After successfully retaining his North American Championship against Matt Riddle at TakeOver: New York, Velveteen Dream defended against the former cruiserweight champion, and NXT alumnus, Buddy Murphy.
Murphy took control of the bout after several minutes of back-and-forth by sending Dream face-first into the steel post. He followed up with a picture-perfect tope con hilo and then grounded the eccentric champion with a headlock.
A last-ditch superkick from Dream created separation and allowed him the chance to fight back into the match.
Dream and Murphy scaled the ropes, exchanged blows and tumbled to the floor. Later in the match, Murphy caught Dream with a kick to the face and dropped him with a powerbomb for a quality near-fall. He followed up with a jumping knee to the face.
The champion recovered and delivered the Dream Valley Driver, followed by the Purple Rainmaker, to score the win.
Dream defeated Murphy
Murphy may be the best pound-for-pound wrestler in WWE based on his body of work over the last year.
Whether he is delivering show-stealing performances against Ali, tearing it up with Cedric Alexander or making Tony Nese look like the next breakout star of the 205 Live brand, the Australian has been the most steadily excellent Superstar on any roster.
Add in this stellar performance against Dream, and you have even more evidence to support the fact Murphy is not only WWE's best-kept secret, but also the potential steal of this week's Superstar Shake-up.
Dream, to his credit, again delivered in a big-match situation. He was excellent, selling every one of Murphy's big strikes or maneuvers and really putting over the Aussie's threat to his gold.
New NXT Champion Johnny Gargano Addresses the NXT Universe
NXT champion Johnny Gargano made his first appearance since winning the title in Brooklyn, New York.
He basked in the chants of "you deserve it" and "Johnny Champion." But before he could address the crowd, Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish interrupted.
From the ramp, Cole refused to endure another "love fest" between Gargano and the fans. He claimed victory based on winning the first fall of their match.
He called himself the uncrowned champion of NXT.
Gargano answered, saying he wouldn't cry like a bay-bay, playing off Cole's catchphrase.
This brought the three Undisputed Era members to the ringside area. Roderick Strong attacked from out of nowhere, and the faction left Gargano lying following a superkick from its leader.
This probably would have been an even more effective segment had Gargano gotten to deliver the passionate, celebratory speech he deserved following his memorable moment in New York.
Undisputed Era getting its heat back and Cole ascending to the forefront of the brand as its lead villain have been a long time coming. From that perspective, this worked.
Gargano vs. Cole is a feud that should continue and ultimately result in the latter winning the title. This was a step in that direction, even if it could have used a little more spark.
Dominik Dijakovic vs. Aaron Frye
Dominik Dijakovic tore through Aaron Frye Wednesday, leveling him with a big kick and scoring the win.
After the match, the Ring of Honor export announced his desire to challenge Velveteen Dream for the North American Championship, setting up another program for the brand's secondary title.
Dijakovic defeated Frye
Dijakovic is an excellent choice to challenge Dream next. He has the history as a member of ROH, has proved adaptable over the course of his career and is coming off a great match against Harper as part of WWE Worlds Collide.
That is, if he wins.
A loss for Dijakovic at such a developmental point in his NXT career would hurt his credibility and potentially ruin any chance he has of getting over, and staying over, with the fans.
A dominant performance like this, though, will go a long way in building him up.
Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler
Kairi Sane entered Wednesday's broadcast realizing that if she lost to NXT women's champion Shayna Baszler, she would never get another opportunity at the title again.
It was against that background that The Pirate Princess delivered a ferocious, tenacious performance, staving off the concentrated attack of The Queen of Spades and a big spear. She unloaded with strikes and applied the Anchor, but Baszler made the ropes, forcing a break.
An arm injury suffered by Sane became the target of Baszler's attack. The referee repeatedly asked the challenger if she wanted to give up, but she refused, opting to fight through the agony.
Io Shirai appeared, concerned about her friend. She eventually jumped in the ring and shoved Baszler away, drawing a disqualification.
After the match, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir pulled Shirai to the floor and forced her to watch as Baszler stomped the injured arm of The Pirate Princess.
The Queen of Spades exchanged words with Shirai to close out the show.
Baszler defeated Sane via disqualification
This featured a solid story as Sane fought through the pain, realizing it was her last opportunity to challenge for the gold, but it leaves an open end that will never be properly closed with the call-up of The Pirate Princess to SmackDown.
Would Sane be resentful of Shirai for costing her a title in her last chance to win it?
The obvious answer is a resounding "yes," but that aspect of this story appears destined to go underdeveloped thanks to recent booking decisions.
Shirai is the obvious next challenger to Baszler, as she should be. Whether she can wrest the title from her is the question that bears watching in the coming weeks.