Top 3 Performers of NXT (February 20, 2019)
This week's episode of NXT had lots of forewarnings about the content. Firstly, Undisputed Era's Roderick Strong faced Aleister Black after Black had attacked the Era as they were beating up Ricochet.
Meanwhile, the NXT North American title match would be the main event, between the holder, Johnny Gargano, facing his first challenger the Velveteen Dream. The Dream would win a title shot at Royal Rumble Axxess during the World's Collide tournament.
Aleister Black was the first to the ring for his match against Strong. Black had made his main roster TV debut, appearing on both Raw and SmackDown. Strong came to the ring flying solo and wasn't flanked by any members of the Undisputed Era, a point which was noted by Nigel McGuinness and the rest of the commentary team.
Black started the hotter of the two; despite a scrappy start, Black managed to land several stiff strikes. The match spilled into the ringside area, which Strong used to his advantage, knocking Black onto the ramp and throwing Black onto the steel stairs with a Backbreaker.
Aleister Black would win after slipping out of Roderick Strong's attempted vertical Suplex, hitting Strong with a Black Mass for the victory. Unsurprisingly, the end of the match brought out the Undisputed Era's Kyle O'Reilly, Bobby Fish, and Adam Cole. Ricochet would then come to make the save for Black, paying him back for last week.
The following match was between Mia Yim and Xia Li, with the Blasian Baddie facing off against WWE's first Chinese recruit who made an appearance at the Royal Rumble. Yim and Li are a part of, arguably, NXT's best ever female roster which now has an established mid-card division, to go alongside the great main event quality of their division.
The crowd tried their best to stay with the match but seemed to struggle at times. Yim would hit Protect Ya Neck, named after a song by the Wu-Tang Clan. Yim's victory brought out the NXT Women's champion Shayna Baszler and her stablemates Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke.
While the locker room cleared to help Yim, the Horsewomen overcame the odds and found themselves in the ring alone with Yim. It looks like Yim is being positioned to be one of Shayna's next opponents, with Bianca Belair being transitioned to a feud with the Sky Pirates.
Just before he came out for his match to defend the NXT North American title, there was a segment with Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, and Gargano's wife Candace LeRae. The spot was great, but seemingly poorly timed, as Gargano rejected Ciampa's help, despite the two of them teaming together on both Raw and SmackDown.
In between the video segment and the match, Matt Riddle had an interview where he spoke about a variety of topics including his unique style, his program with Kassius Ohno, and his goals in NXT.
Finally, the Velveteen Dream and Johnny Gargano collided in the main event for Gargano's new North American title. Heading into the match, Velveteen Dream was one of the few performers Gargano had a winning record against in 2018. However, those times saw Gargano wrestling as a face, and Dream wrestling as a heel.
The roles were reversed this time around, with the Dream in more of a face due to crowd reaction against the slow-burning heel turn of Johnny Gargano. The reigning champion controlled the majority of the bout, seemingly the pace methodical and intentional. As the fight continued, the crowd dueled between chants of "Johnny Champion" and "Velveteen".
Both wrestlers had several near falls. Gargano kicked out at 2 after he was hit with Swinging Spike DDT, and again after Velveteen landed an Avalanche Dream Valley Driver, which looked more like an AA.
Meanwhile, Velveteen Dream kicked out of Gargano's Springboard Swinging DDT and several Superkicks. The Velveteen Dream would hit Gargano with two successive Dream Valley Drivers before marking the match with an exclamation point, hitting the Purple Rainmaker before pinning Gargano to claim his first title on the Black and Gold brand.
The Velveteen Dream's victory popped the crowd, as he raised the belt in victory. Gargano would then crawl up the ramp after the match to end the episode.
On that note, let us now look at the best performers on the night.
#3 Mia Yim
Mia Yim has burst onto the scene, having signed with the WWE after her participation in the second Mae Young tournament. Yim has made appearances at NXT and NXT's spin-off in the United Kingdom. This episode saw Yim face off another former Mae Young participant in Xia Li. Li has become more prominent since making a splash after participating in the 2019 Royal Rumble earlier this year.
The match was an average match between the two Superstars who occupy positions on NXT's ever-growing female mid-card division. However, the excitement in the match and Yim's performance occurred after the bell had been rung. With Yim hitting Li with the Protect Ya Neck for the pinfall victory, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke hit the ring, followed by a significant portion of the female roster.
As the Horsewomen cleared house leaving Yim alone in the ring with the Horsewomen, Duke and Shafir pinned her arms as Baszler attacked her. This indicates that Yim will have a match against Baszler for the title, promoting her from the mid-card of the division to the main event.