WWE NXT Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from August 31
Following an engaging NXT TakeOver, WWE NXT has attempted to reshape its future with a series of huge matches. The August 31 edition of NXT promised a lot for fans of the black-and-gold brand.
Johnny Gargano would face LA Knight in a first-ever matchup following an altercation in William Regal's office. Knight is on a mission to prove himself as a contender to the NXT Championship, starting with a former champion.
In the ongoing feud of Pete Dunne's group against Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher, The Blackheart stepped up to fight Ridge Holland. The former rugby player has dominated the competition to date, but Ciampa is another level of danger to his undefeated run.
NXT champion Samoa Joe and NXT UK champion Ilja Dragunov both were set to speak on their recent title wins as well as the next challengers to their gold.
Other matches promised for the night included: Kyle O'Reilly vs. Duke Hudson, Roderick Strong vs. Ikemen Jiro, Sarray vs. Mandy Rose and Raquel Gonzalez vs. Jessi Kamea.
This night was built on the back of great talent, allowing NXT's best to shine while continuing to build fresh opponents.
Sarray vs. Mandy Rose (w/ Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne)
Mandy Rose used his size and strength advantage against Sarray early. She threw around The Warrior of the Sun and wore her down with a series of submission holds. Sarray fought back, sending God's Greatest Creation hard into the ropes before hitting a dropkick.
Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne checked on Rose and decided the match was over. Jayne grabbed a towel to cover the face of Rose, and the trio walked out, getting counted out.
Later in the night, Dolin and Jayne attacked Sarray in her locker room.
Sarray def. Rose by count-out.
This was an odd match. While Rose showed some extra offense in the ring that she has not previously, she did not seem to show clear chemistry with Sarray. This may be because The Warrior of the Sun remains awkward for most of the NXT women to work with.
Sarray's particular style is unique to the black-and-gold brand. Unlike past signings from Japan, she is neither a top high-flyer like Io Shirai nor a technical specialist like Asuka. While both of those are high bars, her unique striking style has been awkward for others to adapt to.
Hopefully, the ending did not indicate that God's Greatest Creation was injured. It came off as a planned ending, but it was an awkward one all the same.
Kyle O'Reilly vs. Duke Hudson
Kyle O'Reilly walked into this match with a swagger despite his recent injuries and the size of his opponent Duke Hudson. Hudson took advantage of KOR early, but O'Reilly fought back with a confident focus on the left leg of the big man.
KOR trapped the left of Hudson in the ropes and then landed a diving knee right into the kneebar, which forced him to tap out to the veteran.
O'Reilly def. Hudson by submission.
While the NXT Breakout Tournament did not truly highlight many, it did serve as a solid introduction to Hudson, who had his best match to date with KOR. This was a strong physical match where the big man got to show off his dominance without ever taking O'Reilly out of the action.
While Hudson could very well be a bigger deal long term in WWE, KOR had to win here. He is on the precipice of a title match against Samoa Joe. While it is unclear when he will get his shot, he is clearly NXT's more immediate priority.
Ilja Dragunov Speaks/Kay Lee Ray Explains Why She Came to NXT
Ilja Dragunov promised that he was still alive and more alive than he ever has been before. The NXT UK champion challenged anyone to try to take him down now. He no longer had any fear about anyone challenging him.
Arash Markazi interviewed Kay Lee Ray, questioning why she came to NXT. Ray talked down about every other woman in NXT, stating that the division needed her star power. Later in the night, Ember Moon called out Ray for a match next week.
Two of NXT UK's top stars spoke on their future. Dragunov's promo was simple with no complications. He is not a great speaker in English, but he was able to confidently do his job in reminding the world of the importance of his victory.
Ray's interview was a combination of effective and largely unnecessary. She spoke her mind and set up a variety of potential matches to come. However, it's unclear how much NXT believes the crowd knows her history based on these frequent promos of her history.
Imperium vs. Drake Maverick and Grayson Waller
Carmelo Hayes talked about all the championships he could challenge for. When he brought up the NXT North American Championship, it brought out Elektra Lopez, followed quickly by the rest of Legado del Fantasma. Santos Escobar threatened Hayes to stay out of his way.
Before the match, Drake Maverick had to calm down the energetic Grayson Waller. This continued into the match, where Waller ruined the momentum of Maverick by tagging in too fast. The young cruiserweight found himself alone to take Imperium's signature elevated spinning uppercut finisher.
Imperium def. Maverick and Waller by pinfall.
Waller is no Killian Dain, but NXT did manage to recover admirably from awkwardly releasing The Beast of Belfast without losing track of Maverick. This new team dynamic has potential. It is great to see Maverick treated like a serious competitor, the veteran helping a rookie along.
Imperium need to continue building momentum. They remain a major tag team that could have a fantastic rematch with MSK at the right time. This was a good win that meant more than a pure squash.
Johnny Gargano vs. LA Knight
Indi Hartwell struggled to convince Johnny Gargano to give Dexter Lumis a chance. This continued to the ring as Gargano and Lumis almost high-fived before Johnny Wrestling realized he was not next to Austin Theory.
LA Knight took advantage of the distractions at ringside to take an early lead. Johnny Wrestling fought back with a combination of speed and smarts, but Knight showed how dominant he could be against even a top opponent with pure power.
Knight went for a slingshot spear, but Gargano ducked and hit one of his own for a near-fall. Johnny Wrestling went for the One Final Beat right into an uppercut that sent him into the arms of Lumis. Gargano took too long to deal with Lumis and ran into the BFT to seal his loss.
Knight def. Gargano by pinfall.
While Gargano vs. Knight seemed to be a heel vs. heel match on the surface, Knight has shown repeatedly that he can help turn any heel babyface, even temporarily. Johnny Wrestling has been straddling the line between heel and face for a while and fully played the crowd favorite here.
So much of this match was perfectly done. It was a battle of charismatic performers where both men popped the crowd. Gargano kept things smooth while Knight gladly taunted the crowd and his opponent throughout.
Knight needed this win if he is going to challenge Samoa Joe soon. Gargano can take the loss, especially given his attention is clearly divided because of In-Dex.
Raquel Gonzalez vs. Jessi Kamea
Jessi Kamea impressed by pushing Raquel Gonzalez early. She managed to do some damage to the NXT women's champion's left knee that left her limping. The comparable size of the two women forced Gonzalez to dig into her bag of tricks.
She hit a dropkick and slammed Kamea into the ropes before hitting a big boot. This set up the single-arm powerbomb while glaring toward Franky Monet, winning with renewed confidence.
Gonzalez def. Kamea by pinfall.
This was a solid showcase for Kamea. She has not gotten a chance to show her talent individually to date, so it was interesting to see how she played off Gonzalez. The NXT women's champion let her show out for a few minutes before turning the match around.
The champion ultimately had to win quickly while tension builds for the serious clash to come. Gonzalez vs. Monet is a money match that NXT needs to use at the right time. It cannot just be thrown onto a random NXT. WWE should set a date at least a few weeks out before the match.
Samoa Joe Challenges NXT/Roderick Strong vs. Ikemen Jiro
Wade Barrett asked Samoa Joe about his legacy as NXT champion. The Samoan Submission Machine promised to pave a path for the future stars who would challenge him. He wanted the best to compete against him.
Ikemen Jiro sent Roderick Strong reeling outside early, but The Messiah of the Backbreaker used his surroundings to his advantage, throwing him into the steel steps. Strong hit a backbreaker and then taunted Jiro as he wrenched at the arm of his opponent.
New members of Diamond Mind, The Creed Brothers, watched closely as Jiro seemingly got The Messiah of the Backbreaker reeling. Frustrated and insulted, Strong responded with a pair of suplex backbreakers to win. Strong called out Kushida afterward.
Strong def. Jiro by pinfall.
As always, Strong is a good wrestler, but his style lacks a certain charisma. He needs the right opponents to push him more than Jiro did here. It never felt like Jiro had any chance, so he should not have gotten nearly as much offense as he did.
After a recent loss to Ilja Dragunov, combined with the constant delays for his match with Kushida, NXT needs to build Strong with more focus. He needs better matches than this or at least more dominant ones.
Joe's interview before this match made a clear statement. He is a transitional champion for someone special. It's just a question of who will be the one to prove themselves by dethroning The Samoan Submission Machine.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Ridge Holland
Tommaso Ciampa promised to get his revenge against Ridge Holland. Pete Dunne's crew continued to make confident declarations on their future, ending with Holland promising to put Ciampa in the hospital.
MSK set up a NXT Tag Team Championships match against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch for next week. Cameron Grimes got into an argument with Grizzled Young Veterans.
Ciampa came out striking, blasting the former rugby player on the announce table. Lorcan and Burch helped distract The Blackheart to help the young star gain back momentum. Ciampa tried to fight back with the Fairy Tale Ending, but Holland reversed it into an Alabama Slam.
The two men traded blows in the ring. Ciampa won after hitting an Air Raid Crash for a near-fall. A head-butt from the bigger man sent the veteran reeling, who then ran Ciampa clear into the barricade. The Blackheart responded with Willow's Bell for a big win.
Ciampa def. Holland by pinfall.
This was a surprising result. Holland has been built well since his return. He had the air of a young star who might just be able to dethrone Samoa Joe in time. However, he still lost clean to Ciampa with help at ringside.
The Blackheart is clearly one of NXT's biggest stars. Even in a new era, he should remain so. Win or lose, he can compete at the highest level. It is questionable that he would beat the same man that defeated Timothy Thatcher last week.
Still, it was a good match where the veteran helped Holland continue to improve in the ring. In time, the former rugby player will be one of NXT's biggest rising stars.