It’s the go home show for TakeOver Philly, which means it’s also WWE NXT 01/24/18. Once again emanating from Center Stage in Atlanta, we’re promised Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream with the #1 Contenders spot at TakeOver in the balance. Beyond that, we’ll likely find out what the fifth match will be since all three title matches and the Extreme Rules match between Cole and Black have been confirmed at this point. Let’s get to the recap!
WWE NXT 01/24/18 Recap
WWE. Then. Now. Forever. Cold open on Velveteen Dream in the PC. He’s facing away from the camera. He asks for “ambiance” and the lights dim. He asks for “atmosphere” and purple smoke happens. The music during his “coming soon” vignettes fades in as he asks for “illumination” and the lighting changes. Dream cuts a promo saying we all dream of being a champion but life lets us experience different paths. Gargano dreams of one day being NXT Champion. Velveteen doesn’t doubt that will happen – but not yet. Not when the choice is between Velveteen and Gargano. Johnny’s rise was tainted with doubt, while the Dream’s experience was pure. So, the way Velveteen Dream sees it, tonight a dream will be over.
Standard NXT opening credits and we’re taped from Center Stage (originally taped 01/04/18). No Way Jose’s music hits, he’s out, and Mauro welcomes us to the show. Nigel throws the typical “heel commentator” shade at Jose during his entrance. Cezar Bononi’s music hits and he’s out next.
Match #1: No Way Jose vs. Cezar Bononi
No Way Jose returns to TV for the first time in what feels like an eternity. He doesn’t appear to have lost a step and looks good putting Bononi away relatively quickly here. Bononi gets in some offense and he feels like a guy who may get a push somewhere down the road since he has good size. Bononi gets a decent offensive sequence in, but Jose comes back with a power slam and hits his pop-up punch to get the win.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – A strong start to this week’s show and it was good to see Jose back on weekly TV again.
Post-match, No Way Jose dances in the ring.
Later tonight? We’ll see a face to face interview Percy Watson conducted with Shayna Baszler and Ember Moon.
Next, we see a hype video for the Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black TakeOver match.
After that, Bianca Belair’s music hits and she’s out. She’s facing someone “already in the ring” who doesn’t get a chyron.
Match #2: Bianca Belair vs. “Latoya Alsop”
So, I know the opponent’s first name was Latoya and it sounds like Mauro said her last name was “Alsop”. It really doesn’t matter too much since this is a showcase for Bianca. Belair gets to show off her strength in a few spots before Latoya gets a fleeting bit of offense in. It comes to a crash when Latoya comes off the ropes and meets Bianca’s braid. From there, Belair hits a reverse powerbomb (can’t remember the last time I saw one of those!) and gets a convincing win.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Bianca Belair is definitely one to watch this year and she looked great in this match.
Next, we go to Percy’s sit down interview with the competitors in Saturday’s Women’s Championship match. Baszler and Moon stare each other down through the whole thing. Moon begins by calling Shayna a bully and asks if Shayna is overcompensating for something. Shayna counters that her actions against Kai and Sane, etc. are not about any one person. You’ve got to stir up the water to catch fish and Ember is the big fish at NXT. Ember responds by saying she knows what Baszler is up to and at NXT they live by a code of sportsmanship, skill, honor, and heart. As the champion you have responsibilities to the women’s division and if Shayna ever becomes champ, she’ll possibly understand that one day. But, it won’t be happening at Philly on Saturday. Shayna sarcastically congratulates Ember on winning the title but says the difference between them is that Shayna doesn’t care that people know about the struggles she went through. Shayna worked just as hard as Ember and at Takeover, when Ember wakes up and sees Shayna leaving with the title, she’ll also be leaving with Ember’s dreams. This causes Ember to stand up and the rest of the interview is a face to face that ends with Shayna telling Percy that the NXT Universe is just going to have to get used to her.
Later tonight? Gargano vs. Dream. Winner faces Almas at TakeOver!
Up next? Part 2 of the TM61 feature.
Back from break, we get the second TM61 video package. This one focuses on the injury to Shane Thorne and the team’s comeback. We learn at the end that they’ll return to action on next week’s show – so I suppose they’re working one of the TakeOver dark matches.
The Authors of Pain’s music hits and they’re out (w/ Paul Ellering). They’re facing two guys in the ring who don’t get named. It doesn’t matter since before the bell they eat stereo rolling Death Valley Drivers into the corners. AoP get a mic and Akam and Rezar actually cut a promo! They say that the two guys in the ring they’re taking out represent Undisputed Era and at TakeOver it’ll be UE’s turn. They pick up the two unnamed dudes and hit a Super Collider on them.
Up next? The main event already!
Next week? Nikki Cross vs. Lacey Evans.
Gargano’s music hits and he’s out for the main event. Velveteen Dream is out next and he wearing a Johnny Wrestling t-shirt that he ripped into a half-shirt. Brilliant.
Match #3: Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream (#1 Contender’s Match for the NXT Championship)
I first saw Velveteen Dream at a house show in October 2016. He was still known as Patrick Clark, but had started dressing up like Velveteen Dream. He was okay, but it still seemed like the character still had a way to go. Fast forward to 2018 and wow, not only does Clark own the character, but his in ring work is impeccable. Dream is great here with Gargano and they tear the house down in a near-twenty minute affair that continues to set the bar high for the weekly main event for the yellow brand. Just flawless execution from both guys, the right amount of selling, and enough near falls to make it feel like this could go either way. The big finish comes when Gargano had done enough damage to Dream’s “elbow drop arm”, that Dream has to attempt to hit it with the other arm. He can’t pull it off and that gives Johnny the opening to hit a superkick and slap on the Gargano Escape to get the win. The crowd was super into this match and both guys were really over with Center Stage.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – The TakeOver title match stays as advertised. Also, after the show-stealing match with Black at the last TakeOver, Dream has another classic here with Gargano. Velveteen Dream is definitely someone set to have a break out 2018.
Post-match, Gargano celebrates in the ring. This brings out Almas and Zelina Vega. Almas holds up the title in front of Johnny, hands it over to Zelina, and beats Johnny down. After some knee strikes, Almas tosses Johnny out of the ring and poses with the title. Johnny pulls himself back up to the apron and hits a kick and slingshot DDT on Almas. We go off the air with Gargano holding up the title over the fallen champ.
Well, no fifth match named for TakeOver, but apparently Triple H announced to the media earlier today that we’re getting Kassius Ohno vs. Velveteen Dream. We got this “YouTube exclusive” clip that I suppose will be the basis for that match.
See you later this week for the NXT TakeOver Philadelphia Drinking Game and a recap of TakeOver after the event!