|WE ARE BURNING HAMMERS
What's this? Ty Dillinger on TV two weeks in a row? And beating both halves of the former tag champs Blake and Murphy? Do I smell a Perfect Push? Perfectly acceptable TV match.
It's Fake Injuries Are Real Night on NXT, as we're pretending that Shinsuke Nakamura dislocated Samoa Joe's jaw and he can't compete, and that The Revival injured Johnny Gargano's leg and he can't compete. The Revival then beat the ever-loving shit out of Tommasso Ciampa, which is a very good thing, because it keeps the heel heat on The Revival and adds to the intense desire to see Ciampa and Gargano win the belts.
Next up is a Who's Getting Pushed match with two guys we've never really seen before, Steve Cutler and Kenneth Crawford. Based on the match and the outcome, I'd like to welcome Steve Cutler, with his military background and his Generic Angry Heel attitude, to the NXT midcard. Elias Samson will send you a postcard.
Hideo Itami shits ALL OVER Austin Aries' and his busted eardrum (which I think is legit) from Takeover Brooklyn. I like this no-nonsense Hideo Itami. And in more upper midcard shuffling, No Way Jose gets a "sorry you lost" win against Angelo Dawkins, and Austin Aries incurs the wrath of Andrade "Cien" Almas backstage. Jose gets insulted by Bobby Roode backstage, so it looks like a square dance is in full effect.
Liv Morgan solidified her position in the next generation of NXT women with a win over Aliyah, who has new entrance music.
And finally, NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura is out to celebrate his win in Brooklyn. It's a pretty good promo given Nakamura's language limitations, but that's all that happens. I was half-expecting Joe to DEFY THE DOCTORS and pull shome shit, but that didn't happen.
Akira Tozawa vs. Gran Metalik kicks things off. Striking and grappling vs. high flying. The first five minutes of this are pretty standard stuff for the CWC - very good back and forth one-upsmanship, with both guys showing they can work the other styles. Then the match starts to build. And build. And build. I really love Tozawa in this match, the way he works the crowd, the way his character is so different from the other Japanese wrestlers we see on WWE. He's nuts. Gran Metalik wins, but Tozawa is the one I want to see on Raw.
Our second and final match features Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi. Kendrick is the closes thing to a heel this tournament has at this point, and the only guy with a story - he's older, desperate, and in his last chance at redemption. The match isn't quite as good as Tazawa-Metalik, but it has a good central throughline about Ibushi's necsk and some incredible spots, including a release German from the bottom rope and a sick, probably less than fully safe Burning Hammer delivered by Kendrick to Ibushi. Ibushi wins with the Golden Star Powerbomb - he's been portrayed as the favorite, booked as the favorite, and has largely wrestled as the favorite. Kendrick gets a post-match ovation and a hug from Daniel Bryan as we go off the air. It's impressive that Kendrick can still go at this level.