With NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III just 17 days away, the stakes of each weekly edition of NXT continue to rise. Less than a month removed from NXT newcomer Bobby Fish debuting against Aleister Black, Full Sail and Black got another shocking debut in the form Ring of Honor veteran and long-time Fish tag team partner Kyle O'Reilly.
The energy and chaos built up even more than normal due to an unconventional lead-up to the main event. In a backstage interview, Hideo Itami had a message to deliver and angrily exclaimed, "Nobody, including Kassius Ohno, seems to be giving me respect. I deserve better, so why should I show respect to anyone?"
When announcer Kayla Braxton interrupted Itami attempting to move the show along, Itami grabbed the microphone and headed to the ring to continue his plea: "I deserve respect. Show me respect. Don't disrespect me!"
Moments later, Black's ominous entrance music hit and he made his way to the ring, causing Itami to back away, but given an opening, Itami attempted to attack Black from behind. Black avoided the onslaught by nailing Itami with his Black Mass standing spinning heel kick and proceeded to calmly take a seat in the middle of the ring. It set the stage for another TakeOver clash, as Itami-Black was officially announced for Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon.
O'Reilly made his way to the ring following the fracas, and the main event was underway.
Black and O'Reilly spent the early sequences of this match putting on a mat-based wrestling clinic, but it wasn't too long before both men began hammering each other with forearms, elbows, chops and kicks.
- WWE NXT (@WWENXT) August 3, 2017
After a competitive back-and-forth contest, the two traded a flurry of strikes and out of nowhere, Black connected with the Black Mass and covered O'Reilly for the three-count.
Black looks as strong as anyone in NXT right now, even the superstars holding championships. His tranquil demeanor combined with his fast-paced, strike-heavy offense has caught on with audiences in a big way. Black has become one of the most popular superstars on the NXT roster and all without saying a word. His character communicates through his actions, and that's an appealing attribute.
For O'Reilly, even in a loss he's finally back on the rise. After a somewhat confusing conclusion to his ROH tenure, which saw him hold their world title for the briefest of stretches between Adam Cole's second and third reigns, O'Reilly meandered through several independent organizations before finally getting his shot under the WWE banner.
O'Reilly and Fish, collectively known as reDRagon, are as decorated a non-WWE tag team as there was on the active independent circuit, and whether they compete as a team or individually going forward, WWE has picked up two talents with a lot of potential to help stabilize the brand in a time where more call-ups seem likely in the near-future.
Asuka/Ember Moon rivalry escalates quickly
Two weeks after defeating Ruby Riot to earn another shot at Asuka and the NXT women's championship at TakeOver, Ember Moon made another serious statement on Wednesday night.
For the first time since the championship match was made, Asuka had the opportunity to address her challenger.
"I've beaten Ember before. I will beat her again. Ember Moon is not ready for Asuka."
That brought Moon out to the ring and she proclaimed, "I know that I'm ready. These people know that I'm ready and you know that I'm ready, Asuka. Deep down inside, underneath all of that arrogance, you know the truth and you are afraid of the truth, Asuka. The truth is, is that Asuka isn't ready for Ember Moon."
- WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) August 3, 2017
Slyly, Asuka offered to shake Moon's hand, but slapped her instead. Cue the brawl.
The two traded some vicious strikes and Asuka tossed Moon out of the ring. However, as Asuka celebrated, Moon flew off the top rope and nailed her Eclipse flying neckbreaker, leaving the champ laying in the ring.
Roderick Strong confronts Bobby Roode
In a backstage interview segment, NXT champion Bobby Roode invited his TakeOver challenger Drew McIntyre to the ring next week to have a sit-down discussion, but not before he once again verbally ran down his previous challenger Roderick Strong, who has expressed his desire for one more crack at the title.
"Roderick Strong tried to play the Booby Roode lottery and he didn't have the right numbers. He lost," Roode said. "Roderick Strong doesn't belong in my NXT."
Roode then brought Strong's family into the equation and Strong had heard enough and burst onto the scene attempting to get his hands on the champ. Before he could do that, he was held back by a few of his fellow wrestlers and scolded by General Manager William Regal.
Strong pleaded with Regal to give him another shot at Roode, but Regal said that his hands were tied and that the TakeOver main event was already firmly in place.
Strong's involvement begs the question as to whether the TakeOver main event is really set in stone. He has unfinished business with Roode and these lingering issues need a culmination. Could Strong find his way into the match between Roode and McIntyre? Or will he have to wait until the dust is settled from Brooklyn?
NXT tag team title match made official
Based on recent altercations and, quite frankly, a lack of other serious challengers, the pairing for the NXT tag team championship match at TakeOver: Brooklyn has been pretty clear for weeks. The match has been made official, though, as the undefeated Authors of Pain will put their titles on the line against SAnitY.
Johnny Gargano returns to in-ring action
Johnny Gargano returned to NXT a few weeks back to shed some light on his mindset following the implosion of #DIY at TakeOver: Chicago.
He said, "I need to get back to what I love to do, being in this ring in front of all of you."
That journey began this week when he went one-on-one with Raul Mendoza.
The action was quick and crisp as the two former Cruiserweight Classic contestants gave an effort reminiscent of the type of bouts we witnessed in last year's tournament.
The finish saw Gargano lock in his over-the-shoulder chickenwing crossfire submission, prompting Mendoza to tap out.
Where Gargano goes from here remains to be seen, but he should find his way onto the TakeOver card.
Sonya Deville picks up a win
Sonya Deville went one-on-one with Jenna Van Bemel and it didn't last long, with Deville locking in a triangle choke for the submission victory.
The blooming rivalry between Andrade "Cien" Almas and No Way Jose comes to a head as they finally square off in the ring next week.
We'll get our first look at a new NXT tag team, the Street Profits featuring Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford, who should add some much-needed depth to the division.