Heading into TakeOver: Philadelphia, one of the most heated rivalries on the card was NXT women's champion Ember Moon looking to put a stop to the division's resident bully, Shayna Baszler. They told a fine story that night that saw Moon pull out a gutsy win despite the damage Baszler inflicted on her left arm throughout the match.
In the weeks that followed, Baszler seemed unfazed by the loss and seemingly pleased with the destruction she's caused, especially to Moon's arm. In just a couple short months in NXT, Baszler has solidified herself as one of the premier villains in the brand. She's a natural heel if there ever was one and is striking all of the right emotional chords. Baszler recently questioned Moon's courage to step back into the ring with her and the two squared off Wednesday night.
It wasn't as much of a match as it was the furthering of Baszler's vile persona. She targeted Moon's arm again, trapping it in a guardrail, stomping and yanking on it to further the damage. As Baszler was about to take it to the next level with the steel stairs, Kairi Sane, who Baszler choked out in her first NXT appearance late last year, arrived to make the save, adding another interesting component to the story. The win, however, was awarded to Baszler by disqualification.
When Asuka left NXT, there were some concerns as to how the NXT women's division would fair given the loss of its biggest star. We can officially put those concerns to bed. We have a strong women's championship rivalry in progress now and it seems to be gaining steam with each passing week.
Pete Dunne continues to roll and retains the U.K. Championship
Perhaps more than anyone in the United Kingdom division, Pete Dunne has truly established himself as a bonafide star. Despite finishing as the runner up to Tyler Bate in the United Kingdom championship tournament one year ago, it was Dunne who stood out above the rest by way of his brazen attitude and superb in-ring performances.
Dunne became the face of the division after an exceptional championship victory over Bate at TakeOver: Chicago last May and shifted the U.K. spotlight directly above himself. He has yet to relinquish it.
Following major championship wins over the likes of Trent Seven, Mark Andrews and the number one contender to the NXT championship, Johnny Gargano, Dunne entered Wednesday night on day 270 of his championship reign, the longest of the title's two reigns. He'd face a new challenge in Roderick Strong, who earned the opportunity by defeating the aforementioned Bate a couple weeks back.
Dunne and Strong are spectacular performers and the expectations made this match-up must-see. They didn't disappoint.
They put together a string of exciting sequences full of innovation and vicious strikes leading up to Dunne hitting what is one of the coolest finishing moves in pro wrestling today -- the Bitter End -- for the victory.
While the direction of the WWE's U.K. division remains scattered and reserved for guest spots on NXT television, whichever road the division travels will be on the back of its talented champion. It's a shame that more regular TV time for the division and its superstars haven't been carved out yet, despite the initial announcement that more was clearly on the roadmap.
As for Strong, this wasn't his only championship pursuit. Coming off a win against Hideo Itami on last week's episode of 205 Live, Strong will continue his quest to advance through the Cruiserweight championship tournament and become its next champion at WrestleMania.
Aleister Black entered the ring to address his future and NXT championship aspirations. "There is a devil on my back," Black stated. "And that devil is driving me because that devil is the NXT championship." Before he could continue, he was interrupted by another superstar who has made a name for himself as of late in SAnitY's powerhouse, Killian Dain. "The devil isn't on your back," Dain said. "I am. And I will not stop until the NXT championship is around my waist." We appear to be closing in on what would be an intriguing battle between two NXT's fastest rising stars.
TM61 scored a quick victory over John Skylar and Andrew Duckworth.
The stakes couldn't be higher for Johnny Gargano in his NXT championship match against Andrade 'Cien" Almas next week. Should Gargano win, he'd become the 13th different superstar to hold the NXT Championship. Should he lose, he'd be forced to leave the brand.
Also next week, The Velveteen Dream will face No Way Jose.