It had been 39 days since the keys to the NXT kingdom were passed on from Shinsuke Nakamura to Bobby Roode. Roode defeated Nakamura for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: San Antonio in January in a grueling match that left Nakamura sidelined with a knee injury. We hadn't seen him in a ring since then. That changed this week.
Over the past few weeks, Nakamura trained and rehabbed, gaining strength with each passing week and on Wednesday night, he returned to take on 205 Live star and former WWE Cruiserweight Champion, TJ Perkins.
The crisp, fast paced encounter was filled with stiff shots and entertaining taunting sequences, similar to many Nakamura and Perkins matches. Perkins continually targeted the injured knee, but was defeated after Nakamura landed his Kinshasa finisher.
Both men looked tremendous, and Perkins was the perfect choice as Nakamura's return opponent. They know each other well, they have clear chemistry and Nakamura looked stronger than ever. That's a good thing as he will be invoking his NXT Championship rematch clause at NXT TakeOver: Orlando.
It was announced that the winner of next week's championship match between Roode and Kassius Ohno will go on to defend the title against Nakamura in Orlando where Nakamura will look to become the first ever three-time NXT Champion.
With the exception of sporadic interview and promo segments, the Tye Dillinger/SAnitY saga has been absent from NXT television for the past few weeks. This week, Dillinger was set to take on stable leader Eric Young in a rematch of the opening bout at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio. However, the opening bell never sounded.
Prior to the expected match, Young instructed his squad to head backstage. They quickly reemerged with Dillinger's ally Roderick Strong, who was beaten down and defenseless. Young screamed "You did that" at Dillinger from the ring as Dillinger and his other ally No Way Jose went to check on their fallen teammate. They then charged the ring in anger attempting to make SAnitY pay.
The attempt was a failure as SAnitY had the numbers and as a result, the advantage. Dillinger and No Way Jose were left lying in the ring. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are headed to a multi-member tag team melee as we near the big show in Orlando.
Ember Moon continues to rise
One week after Peyton Royce unsuccessfully challenged for Asuka's NXT Women's Championship, her Iconic Duo cohort, Billie Kay, squared off with another future championship contender, Ember Moon. Though short, the match was high octane and well executed. Despite repeated attempts by Royce to get involved, Moon snagged the victory via her incredibly impressive Eclipse finisher.
Kay remained on the ground after the match with an apparent neck injury. It's unclear whether it was supreme selling on her part or legitimate. She ended up walking to back under her own power. Here's to hoping the talented Kay's health is intact.
Shortly after, NXT commissioner William Regal stood beside Moon backstage. He made the announcement that Asuka will defend her Women's Championship at TakeOver: Orlando against Moon. . This epic clash instantly becomes one of the most anticipated matches on the TakeOver: Orlando card and possibly the most craved women's match in the history of NXT.
"At TakeOver, the NXT Women's Division will begin a new phase," Moon said.
Rounding out the show
• Cruiserweight classic contestant HoHo Lun took to the ring Wednesday night to take on someone we haven't see much of lately: Andrade "Cien" Almas. It was nice to see the talented Almas back in the ring even if it was in the form of a squash match. Lun got very little offense in before Almas nailed his hammerlock DDT finisher for the three count. This match had one purpose and that was to remind the NXT Universe that Cien is still in the mix.
• The tag team division made a brief appearance this week. The Revival were set to battle the Ealy Brothers, but the Authors of Pain had other plans. As The Revival watched the Ealy Brothers make their way down the aisle, Rezar and Akam stormed through the curtain to cause destruction. The Revival fled the ring as the Authors of Pain made a statement at the Ealy Brothers' expense. A WWE.com exclusive revealed that the Ealy Brothers will try to seek revenge on the Authors of Pain in a match next week -- "try" being the key word.
• A dark and intriguing promo was aired featuring NXT newcomer Aleister Black, formerly known as Tommy End. We got a sense of his abilities during the U.K. Tournament in January when he worked an excellent match with Neville. This is an exciting addition to the NXT roster.