More than a month has passed since Drew McIntyre became the 11th different superstar to hold the NXT Championship. That's all he has really done with it to this point -- hold it. Until Wednesday night, McIntyre hasn't had a title defense on television, or a match for that matter, since he dethroned Bobby Roode for the championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. His opponent would be Roderick Strong, who is coming off a big win over Roode in his final match as a member of NXT.
The bout was one of the best weekly NXT matches in recent memory, proving once again that both McIntyre and Strong are two of the best workers on the roster. It was worthy of a standing ovation, which is what they got from the Full Sail crowd.
It wasn't Strong's time, though, as he took the loss in this one, and that was the right decision. With Roode and Asuka gone, McIntyre has become the face of NXT. As the premier name within the brand, he could not afford to lose his first title defense and deserves the opportunity to defend the championship at TakeOver next month.
Following the match, another seed was planted into the blooming rivalry that is McIntyre versus the Undisputed Era. As Strong walked back up the aisle after the loss. The Undisputed Era walked out onto the stage to greet Strong and patted him on the back. Adam Cole then had a verbal message for Strong, one we could not hear, but which seemed congratulatory in nature. It bewildered not only Strong, but McIntyre, who was observing from the ring.
Coming off of RAW on Monday, which left us with a Shield reunion teaser, NXT closed out its show with a similar storyline tactic on Wednesday night.
What was Cole's message for Strong? Is Strong being recruited by The Undisputed Era to assist Cole in his eventual pursuit of McIntyre's NXT Championship? Was it simply a congratulatory message for a fantastic match? Time will tell, but it was a wonderful way to add a wrinkle to an already compelling fold.
The Velveteen Dream continues to toy with Aleister Black
It appeared as though the incredibly talented Lio Rush was about to enter the ring for his first TV match as part of the NXT roster against Aleister Black, but The Velveteen Dream had other plans.
As Rush awaited Black in the ring, he was blindsided by The Velveteen Dream and eliminated from the equation. However, as Black entered the ring for a potential confrontation, Dream exited.
"Say my name!" Dream exclaimed, as he retreated up the ramp while Black sat in the middle of the ring, staring in another direction, refusing to acknowledge him.
While it's a shame that Rush's debut was wasted in this fashion, the consistent mind games on display from Dream have cranked up the intrigue factor as it pertains to his impending battle with Black. That match seems likely to occur at TakeOver, though that's unconfirmed at this point.
An unlikely tag team prevails again
The road to the vacant NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver next month is wide open, with three spots remaining in the Fatal 4-Way for the title, so every match within the division means something. In a rematch from a few weeks ago, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay faced off with Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross, all looking to make a statement.
Much like its predecessor, this match started out as a handicap match, with Riot taking on the Iconic Duo, but Cross once again joined up with Riot midmatch, leading to another victory for the unlikely pairing.
With every match in the women's division between now and TakeOver serving as showcases, Riot and Cross would have to be considered two of the favorites to earn spots in the championship match, that is, unless the plan is to build to a program between the two of them, which would be just as appealing.
Kairi Sane makes her NXT TV debut
Speaking of the Fatal 4-Way match for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver, the only superstar who has punched her ticket to the event, Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane, was in action in her first match on NXT TV.
Her opponent was Aaliyah, but the match didn't particularly stand out, mostly due to the lack of time it received. However, it did serve its purpose in introducing Sane to the world of NXT. Judging by the red-hot reception from Full Sail, the crowd was happy to have her.
What's on tap?
Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas next week.
TakeOver Women's Championship qualifying match next week: Nikki Cross vs. Liv Morgan vs. Peyton Royce.
The Undisputed Era vs. SAnitY in a six-man tag match in two weeks.
Lars Sullivan accepted a match with Danny Burch at some point in the near future.
The next NXT TakeOver will be titled WarGames, a throwback to a match type featuring steel cages and multiple rings made popular by NWA and WCW throughout the '80s and '90s