Damian Priest defeated Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver 31 on Sunday to retain the North American Championship.
Gargano went for One Final Beat with Priest on the proverbial ropes. Priest instead caught Gargano and countered into the Reckoning.
NXT general manager William Regal named Gargano the No. 1 contender for the North American title two weeks ago, and it didn't take long for his rivalry with Priest to get off to the races.
After Priest beat Austin Theory in a non-title match, Gargano attacked him from behind. Johnny Wrestling put an exclamation point on the beating by doing Priest's signature bow-and-arrow taunt in his direction as well.
Later in the show, Gargano and his wife, Candice LeRae, interrupted a backstage interview involving NXT Women's champion Io Shirai. Priest then showed up and laid out Gargano to exact some revenge for the blindside attack earlier in the night.
With Priest vs. Gargano and Shirai vs. LeRae scheduled for TakeOver, a mixed tag team match pitting Gargano and LeRae against Priest and Shirai was booked for the go-home episode of NXT prior to the pay-per-view.
Priest has been on the rise for quite some time, and The Archer of Infamy finally scored the biggest win of his career at NXT TakeOver XXX in August in a ladder match for the vacant North American Championship.
He went up against a pair of previous North American champions in Gargano and Velveteen Dream in that match, as well as two up-and-comers in Bronson Reed and Cameron Grimes.
After winning the title in a highly entertaining affair, Priest put it on the line for the first time a few weeks ago against Timothy Thatcher.
The hard-hitting submission specialist was a big-time test, but Priest prevailed and lent some credibility to his title reign in the process.
While Sunday's match was technically his second title defense, it was arguably the biggest match of his career since Gargano is a Grand Slam champion and unquestionably one of the biggest stars in the history of the NXT brand.
The fact that Priest was able to emerge from TakeOver with the title in tow says plenty about how the decision-makers view him, and it may suggest that he is in line for a long reign as well.
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