WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from February 12
After being out of action since the September 18 episode, Velveteen Dream made his glorious return to NXT last week to take out his anger on the man who beat him for the North American title, Roderick Strong.
Unfortunately for Dream, Strong no longer holds the belt, as Keith Lee won it on January 22. Once he is done with the Undisputed Era member, he may be looking to get the title back from the powerhouse.
The lines between NXT and the other brands have continued to blur in recent weeks with Charlotte Flair appearing on NXT and Shayna Baszler showing up on Monday's Raw.
The black-and-gold brand is preparing for TakeOver: Portland on Sunday, so a lot of this week's show was designed to help build the event.
Let's take a look at everything that happened on this week's NXT.
Bronson Reed vs. Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong came out at the top of the show without his Undisputed Era buddies so he could address the return of Velveteen Dream.
He said Dream putting the faces of Strong's wife and child on his gear was disrespectful, and he demanded an apology.
Bronson Reed came out and said he had a score to settle after Strong and UE attacked him backstage last week. As soon as he hit the ring, a ref appeared out of thin air to call for the bell and make the match official.
The Aus-zilla took control immediately, but Strong fired back with some knees to the body. Every time he tried to take control, Reed would brush him off and use his strength to overpower him.
The former North American champion was not about to be outdone and showed off his power with an impressive superplex. Dream's entrance graphics distracted him, but Strong was able to score the win with a well-placed knee to the face. Dream taunted him from backstage after the match.
Having Strong come out by himself to call out Dream was a great way to communicate how angry he was at having his family used as tools of intimidation.
Bringing out Reed to get revenge for the attack last week was a nice bit of continuity. We often see people get taken out backstage and not seek retribution, so it was great to see the Australian Superstar take the fight to Strong.
The match had an abrupt start, but once it got going, the crowd was into it. Reed is one of those big guys who are capable of more than you would think. He was able to keep up with Strong's pace while using his own unique set of moves.
This was a fun and energetic way to open the show. It immediately made Dream and Strong's feud one of the storylines to watch in the coming weeks.
Dakota Kai vs. Candice LeRae
Candice LeRae dodged a running kick and took Dakota Kai off her feet to begin the match.
The former leader of Team Kick used her educated feet well, but LeRae was able to keep herself in the fight with a trio of suicide dives.
LeRae took a stiff kick to the face and began bleeding from her nose, but she refused to allow the match to stop, proving once again she is one of the toughest Superstars in NXT.
Kai leaned hard into her heel attitude throughout this contest and ended up winning with a dirty roll-up using a handful of tights.
LeRae tried to go after her following the match, but Kai grabbed the ring bell and used it as a weapon against her.
Tegan Nox came out to defend LeRae and beat down her former friend. It took several officials to tear them apart.
The match between Kai and LeRae was fun, and the accidental blood ended up making it feel more personal than it would have been otherwise.
Giving Kai the win was smart because it helps her build momentum before she and Nox have their eventual blowoff match. All said, this was a solid segment that highlighted three of the women who will carry their division in 2020.
Johnny Gargano vs. Cameron Grimes
Cameron Grimes took on Johnny Gargano in the third match of the night. They began with a nice exchange of takedowns and counters to show off their technical prowess.
The top hat-wearing Superstar was the first one to get aggressive with a knee to the gut after he managed to get out of the Gargano Escape.
Johnny Wrestling picked up the pace to match Grimes' and hit a series of quick moves that received a pop from the NXT Universe.
In the end, Gargano overcame a game Grimes to build momentum heading into Sunday's show.
Some Superstars work a different pace for TV and pay-per-view matches. Gargano is not one of those guys. He puts everything he has into every performance.
What could have been a throwaway contest ended up being the kind of bout that would not be out of place at a TakeOver event.
Grimes had a string of quick wins during the beginning of his push. And now that he is getting the chance to have longer matches, he is making the most of it.
This was a rock-solid performance from two guys who will be important to the brand in the coming months. Expect big things from Grimes.
Lio Rush vs. Angel Garza
At the end of last year, Angel Garza and Lio Rush were fighting over the Cruiserweight Championship. Now they find themselves competing for a shot at the title currently held by Jordan Devlin.
Both men are high-flyers, but Garza is a powerhouse compared to Rush. He used his size and strength to complement his speed as he dominated the first half of the match.
Rush was able to turn things around during the break and prevented Garza from hitting The Wing Clipper from the top turnbuckle. Unfortunately, Garza was outside the ring when Rush hit The Final Hour.
After several false finishes, The Man of the Hour was able to get the victory with a roll-up. Devlin came out to talk a little trash after the match.
Garza has been pulling double duty on NXT and Raw in recent weeks, and it's easy to see why WWE is putting so much faith in him. He has the kind of charisma and skill it takes to be successful in this business.
As usual, Rush was as precise as a surgeon with everything he did. Whether he was hitting a kick or a springboard stunner, The Man of the Hour hit his mark every time.
If the plan is to move Garza to Raw on a permanent basis, it was wise to have Rush go over in this match with an inside cradle instead of getting a decisive victory with his finisher.
Bianca Belair vs. Santana Garrett
Bianca Belair came into this match with a chip on her shoulder and immediately took Santana Garrett off her feet with a spear.
After about 10 more seconds, The EST of NXT hit her finisher for one of the fastest wins of her career. After she was done, she grabbed a mic and complained about Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair looking past her to WrestleMania 36.
The NXT women's champion came out to respond but The EST took her down with a KOD to get the upper hand heading into their title match on Sunday.
Grade: C (match), B+ (post-match fight)
The quick win over Garrett didn't do much to give Belair momentum because she is already one of the top stars in NXT. What came after is what matters.
Taking out Ripley before TakeOver makes it look like she has more of a chance to spoil a potential match between the NXT women's champion and Charlotte at WrestleMania on April 5.
Adam Cole vs. Kushida
The main event of the evening saw The Undisputed Era's Adam Cole battle Kushida before he defends the NXT title against Tomasso Ciampa at TakeOver.
Of course, Kushida is not the kind of Superstar to be overlooked. The former New Japan Pro-Wrestling star took control of Cole early and maintained a healthy advantage for the first few minutes.
This match was exactly what you would expect if you are familiar with these two performers: Both men used a lot of kicks and technical takedowns.
Kushida did not go down easy, but Cole was able to get the win with The Last Shot to the back of the head.
Ciampa came down once the dust had settled to stare Cole down to end the show.
Kushida vs. Cole could have been a program WWE saved for the future to headline a TakeOver event, but it was great to get it on a regular episode of NXT.
These are two men who can have a good match with anyone. Putting them in the ring with each other was never going to lead to anything less than a great performance.
The only criticism anyone can bring against this match was its length. They could have wrestled for an hour and nobody would have gotten tired of it.