NXT: 5/23/18 – A tied score

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Hey guys! Welcome to this week’s review of NXT. Tonight’s program featured a grudge match between Kairi Sane and Lacey Evans. This match comes as a result of numerous altercations that have occurred in past weeks, with the most recent incident happening last week. In addition to the grudge match, we heard a little backstory on one of the women division’s rising stars, found out Shayna’s first challenger, and we saw the continuation of Candice LeRae‘s role in the ongoing Gargano/Ciampa feud.

Before Evans’ and Sane’s match, a package aired that highlighted Bianca Belair. Belair scoffed at why there was any question as to why she was the “EST of NXT.” Belair informed the audience that she comes from a prestigious lineage and that we would find out the entire story next week.

Following the package on Bianca Belair, Lacey Evans and Kairi Sane met in one on one action. Sane started the match with an immediate dropkick to Evans, setting the tone for the match. Evans would take advantage of Sane and the matchup by using a springboard stomp to target Sane’s arm. Sane would eventually fight back. However, as Sane looked to finish the match with her InSane elbow drop from the top rope, Evans caught Sane mid-air with the Woman’s Right and ended up securing the win.

Later on in the program, it was announced that next week, Shayna would defend her title for the first time against the captain of Team Kick, Dakota Kai.

Following the announcement for next week’s title match, Cathy Kelley interviewed Dakota Kai to get her thoughts. On the one hand, Dakota stressed to Kelley how grateful she was for the opportunity. After expressing that gratitude, however, Kai acknowledged that this opportunity comes at the expense of having to face Shayna Baszler. Baszler would then appear, telling Kai she had no chance. Despite Shayna’s confident and intimidating tone, Kai appeared to find a shred of confidence, saying to Shayna, “we’ll see about that.” Kai walked off while Baszler stood there, seemingly a little off put that Kai wasn’t petrified like she has been in the past.

Tonight’s episode also saw the reappearance of Johnny Gargano. Gargano, who was taken out by Tomasso Ciampa a few weeks ago, was interviewed by Cathy Kelley as he and Candice LeRae arrived at the arena. Gargano simply stated to Kelley that he had an announcement that had to be made in front of the people.

At the end of tonight’s program, Johnny and Candice came out to address the NXT Universe. Johnny stated that he and Candice had an opportunity to discuss what was important, and whether or not it was worth it to keep chasing after Tomasso Ciampa. Gargano then emphatically stated it was indeed worth it, and called out Ciampa. Although Ciampa came down, officials ran down to the ring to keep the two men separate. Although Gargano was set to leave ringside, he was goaded to come back to the ring by Ciampa’s insults. Before Gargano could enter the ring, Ciampa knocked him off the apron and into Candice. The show ended with Gargano and officials checking on Candice while Ciampa quietly left through the crowd.

Thoughts: I have said this numerous times, so I am very sorry that I am repeating myself. But Bianca Belair is a dang star. I think she will be something really big in NXT and the main roster. Her demeanor and ring skills are slowly improving with each segment she has. The package that aired tonight gave a little preview for a backstory segment next week. It’s a segment I’m really looking forward to. These backstory segments can really help develop a person’s character. And I sincerely hope that is the case with the focus being on Bianca next week.

The ring work between Sane and Evans was fine. While I don’t think it was stellar, I loved that we saw a different side of Sane tonight. I can’t remember ever seeing an intense side of Kairi since she has arrived at NXT. Seeing that forceful side come out tonight was a welcome treat.

Evans needed this win tonight. Aside from her win last week, I don’t think she’s had a televised win against a member of the NXT women’s division since her win over Aliyah in January. Now that Evans has a solidified win over Sane, it gives her a little more bragging rights. As it stands, both Evans and Sane each have a win over the other. I am sincerely hoping that this leads to a tiebreaker between the two women. I have loved seeing a side feud in the NXT women’s division. And while I may be a little too hopeful, I’m all for seeing this feud last for as long as the writers are willing to let it play out.

I was a little caught off guard by the announcement of the match next week between Kai and Baszler. But I am intrigued to see how it plays out. I don’t see Baszler losing the title to Kai. The match is taking place on an episode of NXT TV, and it’s Baszler’s first defense. Not to mention that Kai has been intimidated by Baszler in the past. I am guessing that somehow, Nikki Cross will involve herself in the match. But I think it’ll be enjoyable to see how next week’s title match plays out.

The segment between Ciampa and Gargano was very effective. It reminds me of the altercation Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels had at Summerslam 2008 when Jericho punched Michael’s’ wife in the face on accident. Having Candice get hurt adds another layer to a feud that has already been so personal. There’s so much storytelling that can occur from what happened tonight. I definitely see Gargano and Ciampa meeting at TakeOver: Chicago, and maybe even TakeOver: Brooklyn. Regardless of how long this feud goes on, tonight’s segment was an effective way to further the feud by using a somewhat different approach.

Are you looking forward to finding out more about Belair? Do you want to see Sane and Evans face off one more time? Who do you think will win next week’s matchup? Let us know in the comments below!