WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from May 18
WWE NXT has not held back on giving big title matches every single week, and the May 18 edition was no different, as Johnny Gargano put his NXT North American Championship on the line against Bronson Reed in a steel cage match.
The Way has taken over the black-and-gold brand, but certain stars have been a thorn in the group's side. The Colossal is certainly a problem for Johnny Wrestling, and Gargano was not looking forward to being trapped with the big man.
The other big match promised for the night was the rematch of Zoey Stark and Toni Storm. At NXT TakeOver; Stand & Deliver, Stark pulled out an upset victory. This time, she wanted to prove she was always on The Lightning Down Under's level with a clear decisive win.
Ted DiBiase has decided to come to NXT after tormenting Cameron Grimes for months. It was unclear what he wanted specifically, but Grimes was sure to listen closely.
Pete Dunne has made his desire to be NXT champion abundantly clear. Arash Markazi interviewed The Bruiserweight about his past, present and future plans with the brand.
This week's NXT had much mystery to be revealed throughout the night, though there was no doubt the main event had every intention of stealing the show.
Zoey Stark vs. Toni Storm
Zoey Stark sent Toni Storm reeling early until the former NXT UK women's champion threw her hard into the steel steps. From there, she began to beat down the NXT newcomer.
Stark landed elbows on the back and neck of Storm that nearly set up a stolen win thanks to a series of pinning combinations.
The former titleholder responded with the Storm Zero that took a shocking near-fall only. In frustration, she pulled out a bold new finishing maneuver, a modified brainbuster, to score an emphatic win.
The lights went out as Storm was trying to celebrate, and Franky Monet arrived to promote her debut next week.
Storm def. Stark by pinfall.
This match did far more than expected. After months of falling short, Storm introduced a new finisher that allowed her to finally get back in the win column. The action was fast and physical, allowing both to shine throughout.
While Stark is clearly a standout, her opponent needed this victory so much more to remain a star in NXT. The former champion has not looked like the dominant star she once was until now.
Her new finisher can be the opening for Storm to rebuild herself as a title contender. She has the talent to challenge just about anyone and just needs more victories. There may be a third match between these two women, and the winner will be in line for a golden opportunity.
Prime Target for Karrion Kross vs. Finn Balor
Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell took a spa day to enjoy their championship reign.
Hartwell agreed with LeRae that Dexter Lumis was a freak and not right for her, hurting The Tortured Artist who had taken over her massage. Later, Hartwell found out LeRae bought the flowers and ran off to find Lumis.
The NXT Prime Target segment focused on the rivalry of Karrion Kross and Finn Balor. Analysts questioned if The Prince was truly ready for The Herald of Doomsday, but the Irishman was confident he could make his opponent snap and take advantage.
This vignette put more hype behind Kross vs. Balor than the first match had. Paul Heyman, Pat McAfee and Jimmy Smith all made clear how big this bout is. It gave a legitimacy to the whole presentation of a contest that has an obvious winner.
The Prince particularly benefited here as he has plenty of hype behind him that will go past losing to Kross. He can begin putting new challengers in quality matches beyond the NXT Championship.
The continued drama of InDex is unique to NXT. It is hard to say where it will all lead, but it seems LeRae may be losing Hartwell one step at a time.
Cameron Grimes vs. Jake Atlas
Cameron Grimes told Jake Atlas to park his car like a valet. In response, Atlas taunted Grimes about Ted DiBiase.
Before their match, Grimes showed a video making fun of The Million Dollar Man's worst moments in his career.
The Technical Savage took too long to taunt in this match and was met by Atlas' most physical offense. A bicycle kick and clothesline nearly allowed Atlas to steal the victory. Grimes responded with a Spanish fly that set up the Cave-In.
However, before Grimes could go for the run, The Million Dollar Man hit the ring. He distracted The Technical Savage, allowing Atlas to stack him up for the three.
Grimes ran out to catch DiBiase, but he got in his limo too quickly and reminded the young star he was "no Million Dollar Man."
Atlas def. Grimes by pinfall.
Atlas is one of the rare stars in NXT who have rarely been used well, but the black-and-gold brand does trust him. This was a nice moment to give him. Grimes has enough credibility and did not need a win against a man who cannot catch many breaks.
Grimes vs. DiBiase has evolved more than expected. At the start, it just seemed like a silly one-off joke. Now, it seems like there has to be a payoff. Will DiBiase truly crown Grimes as the next Million Dollar Man or choose someone else?
Killian Dain vs. Alexander Wolfe
Pete Dunne explained in an interview with Arash Markazi that he was entirely focused on gold and would take every championship in his own time.
Alexander Wolfe was finally cleared to compete against Killian Dain. While he was aggressive against The Beast of Belfast, he could not make a lasting impact. Marcel Bartel gave Wolfe a steel chair, but he ran into a running crossbody that took the win.
Drake Maverick celebrated with Dain, and Bartel and Fabian Aichner laid out Wolfe with the Imperium Bomb for his failure.
Dain def. Wolfe by pinfall.
After all this build, Wolfe vs. Dain was a miniature fight for no reason. The two barely got going before it was over. Wolfe is a talented performer who can bring more out of The Beast of Belfast than he did here.
If Imperium is kicking out Wolfe, it will be interesting to see where he goes. He is a talented performer in need of a fresh start and could join forces with Dain and Maverick or forge his own path. Either way, it will be to his benefit.
Imperium did not need Wolfe, but the group makes the most sense with four members. There could be an opening here for several members of the roster, and it could be a huge moment for the stable to evolve.
Legado Del Fantasma vs. Tomasso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher
Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai explained that they had moved past Mercedes Martinez and wanted the NXT Women's Tag Team Championships as well. Ever-Rise interrupted and got a slap in the face from the NXT women's champion.
Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde explained Santos Escobar was taking time away and would be back. They wanted to focus on the NXT Tag Team Championships, which set off Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher who also want the belts.
Early in the match, Ciampa nearly broke the nose of Mendoza with a running elbow. He was cleared to continue, and Legado del Fantasma took over, isolating The Blackheart throughout.
Thatcher could not get involved conventionally, so he had to run into the match. During the commotion, Grizzled Young Veterans blasted Ciampa on the apron. This set up Legado del Fantasma to take the win with their tag team finisher.
Legado del Fantasma def. Ciampa and Thatcher by pinfall.
Ciampa and Thatcher continue to bring their all to every match. This was primarily The Blackheart's contest, and he made Legado del Fantasma look spectacular. He and Mendoza were great together and were not afraid to get extra-physical.
This is a match to revisit down the line, but the teams have different rivals to handle immediately. It looks like we will get at least one more match between Ciampa/Thatcher and the Veterans, while Legado del Fantasma have to be in position for a title match sooner rather than later.
Sarray vs. Aliyah
Bobby Fish called out Pete Dunne, demanding a match next week to pay for the damage he did to his elbow in WarGames. Another video package was shown for Diamond Mine.
Jessi Kamea distracted Sarray early to allow Aliyah to land a few impressive strikes against The Warrior of the Sun.
However, the match quickly got out of hand. Sarray caught Aliyah with a missile dropkick and a running dropkick in the ropes. This set up the victory off a modified Saito suplex.
Sarray def. Aliyah by pinfall.
This match served its purpose, but it wasn't great. Aliyah has little chemistry with Sarray and often mixed her spot in the match. Even when she got a few moments of offense, The Warrior of the Sun could only do so much to sell her as a threat.
It is important to build a competitor before she takes her step into a major rivalry, but Sarray seems more than ready to compete in a serious rivalry. Toni Storm may be free to help her get to the main event.
Hit Row's Ashante 'Thee' Adonis and Top Dolla vs. Tony Nese and Ariya Daivari
Top Dolla powerslammed Ariya Daivari while flipping Tony Nese off his shoulders. Ashante "Thee" Adonis lost control in this match, talking smack and beating down Daivari until he had to be pulled away by Dolla. Dolla finished this match with a fireman's carry suplex.
Hit Row made their statement afterward, focusing on Isaiah "Swerve" Scott's desire to be NXT North American champion.
Hit Row def. Nese and Daiviari by pinfall.
Hit Row delivered in their first action as a group, though the execution was not perfect. This squash was messy in moments, especially in the delivery of Adonis' new attitude. He almost cost them the match, and it was unclear whether the group could co-exist because of that.
It is a shame that Daivari and Nese remain a step below the competition at this level. The two have worked hard to make their spot. The cruiserweight division from 205 Live just doesn't get the recognition it deserves anymore.
Steel Cage NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Bronson Reed
Bronson Reed talked about what this moment meant to him: an opportunity to make his destiny a reality. Johnny Gargano made clear with Austin Theory that he would be sending his opponent to the back of the line.
Johnny Wrestling dived for the exit immediately, but Reed caught him. The Colossal One brutalized Gargano, slamming him and stretching him against the cage. The NXT North American champion only took over when he tripped Reed off the top rope.
Theory tried to help from the outside, but The Colossal One was too resilient. Reed planted the champion with a second-rope Samoan drop. In response, Gargano hit a top rope powerbomb. This set him up to start crawling to the exit where Theory nearly pulled him free.
Theory grabbed the door and was sent hard into the cage wall for his effort. Gargano found an opening for a poisonrana to set up the One Final Beat, but Reed countered and knocked him into the cage.
Theory slammed the door in Reed's face, sending him careering back into One Final Beat for the near-fall. Gargano tried to escape but got a top rope powerbomb for his trouble.
After Theory again tried to get involved, Reed changed plans and hit a springboard splash into the Tsunami to win.
Reed def. Gargano by pinfall to win the NXT North American Championship.
Gargano and Reed have better chemistry than anyone has had with The Colossal One to date. These matches have made him look like a much bigger star than he was before. The two know how to deliver the monster face vs. conniving heel match with panache.
This was not as good as their encounter at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver, but it was still a strong emotional title clash from start to finish. The finish especially made a lasting impact where Reed truly redefined himself.
In the end, the future is bright for NXT because of the talent at every stage. Reed earned this opportunity thanks to his work over the past year, and he now gets the chance to show he is more than a secondary player on the roster.