- Presented live on the WWE Network on January 27th, 2018, from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. Mauro Ranallo and Percy Watson are calling the action, with Nigel McGuinness out due to illness. Once again, the lineup on paper doesn't offer too high of expectations, but how many times have we said that in the last year alone, and been blown away?
Akem gets worked over in the corner. He tries fighting back, but gets the leg snapped around the rope. Fish chops him down to size and smashes the knee against the canvas. O'Reilly clips the knee, but Akem boots out of an attempted single-leg crab. O'Reilly sweeps the leg and hooks a knee bar. Fish with a somersault senton for a near-fall. Fish cheap-shots Rezar for the hell of it. Akem takes him over with a back drop and makes the tag. Rezar with boots and a press slam on Fish. Spine-buster to O'Reilly, followed by a flurry of strikes. Fish hops on his back but Rezar hits the Fallaway slam on O'Reilly anyway. O'Reilly counters a Powerbomb with a guillotine choke but is quickly thrown off. Rezar gets rocked with a knee and worked over in the corner. Fish with an assisted Exploder Suplex for two. Rezar fights off another double-team, turning O'Reilly inside-out with a short clothesline. Fish breaks up the Last Chapter and O'Reilly slaps on the knee bar on Akem. Rezar fights off a sleeper hold, slamming Fish across O'Reilly to break both holds. Akem with an Exploder on O'Reilly, followed by brutal knees to the side of the head. Akem with a Buckle-Bomb and more knee strikes. Authors of Pain set up for the Super Collider, but the impact causes Akem to lose balance. O'Reilly throws him into Rezar with a hurricanrana and rolls him up for three at 14:53 to retain. I wasn't sure what to expect, but they worked a solid match with believable heat on Akem getting his leg worked over throughout the match, and the Super Collider being the AOP's downfall played perfectly into that story. ***1/2
- Post-match, Baszler attacks Moon because that's what heels do.
Cole wipes Black out with a baseball slide and sets the ladder up in one of the corners. Black blocks another suplex but gets caught with a step-up enzuigiri. Cole with strikes in the corner. He wastes time posing, allowing Black to slip out into the electric chair position and throw Cole ass-first onto the ladder! We watch the replay as trainers tend to the wound on his hand. Cole nails Black in the midsection with a chair. Black counters a shining wizard and hits the double stomp. He sets Cole face-first across a chair, but Cole Super-Kicks it back into his face, knocking Black off the top rope, through the two tables at ringside! "Holy beep, indeed!" Cole rolls Black back in for a two-count. Cole positions two chairs together in the ring, then says screw it and sets them spine-against-spine. I've got a bad feeling about this... Black recovers and fireman slams Cole's back ACROSS THE SPINES OF THE CHAIRS. YOU CRAZY SON OF A BITCH. Icing on the cake? The crowd chants "You deserve it." That's Cold, Philly. Black knees the chair into Cole's face, but here's O'Reilly and Fish to save. They do a beatdown until Sanity makes the save, including Killian Dane hitting everyone walking with a tope suicida! Black fights Cole onto the announcer's table AND DRIVES HIM THROUGH WITH A DOUBLE STOMP. Back inside, Cole catches Black coming through the ropes with a Super-Kick. He desperately grabs another chair, but Black finishes him off with Black Mass at 22:02. Great match that paced out the spots with the weapons, reasonable interference, and a satisfying finish. I'm still not sure I would've done the one chair spot, but they earned their paydays that night, and a better match than I originally gave credit. ****1/2
Back inside, Almas with the first pin attempt for a two-count. Almas puts the boots to the back as the crowd rallies behind Gargano. He fights off Almas with rights and tosses him into the ropes. Almas hangs back and goes for the hanging armbar, but Gargano blocks. Almas blocks a forearm strike and instead hooks a guillotine choke across the top rope. Almas in with a sliding dropkick to the side of the head for two. Almas pulls back on a chin-lock, but Gargano fights to his feet, driving elbows to the midsection to escape. They both block suplex attempts until Gargano rolls Almas up and lands a roundhouse kick. Whip reversal and Gargano gets pressed to the apron. Almas catches a boot, locking up Gargano in a tree of woe. Gargano lays back to avoid the double stomp and overhead throws Almas into the turnbuckles! Gargano wins the forearm slugfest and knocks Almas into the corner with a step-up enzuigiri. He comes off the middle rope with a face-buster for a near-fall. Slingshot spear for another two-count. Almas counters a spinning head scissors with a sit-out face plant for two. Almas to the top rope. Gargano rolls away from the moonsault, but Almas lands on his feet and instantly hits a standing moonsault for two. Almas with left and right forearms, including a back-spin elbow strike to cut off a comeback. Gargano catches Almas coming off the ropes with a super-kick for two. They hit a pair of double clotheslines and slaps, putting both men down in a heap.
Gargano meets a boot in the corner. Almas sets him up across the top turnbuckle for the hammerlock DDT, but Gargano escapes between the legs and nails Almas with his head tucked between the legs. Gargano climbs up with him for a sunset powerbomb, but Almas flips to his feet and hits the double knees! Gargano avoids the knees on the second try and goes for a slingshot spear, but Almas catches it this time and hits a pair of inverted DDT's, including one from the turnbuckles, for a near-fall! Both men struggle to the apron, pulling themselves to their feet. Gargano blocks a hammerlock DDT on the apron and the two trade rights. Gargano with an enzuigiri and springboard DDT onto the apron. Gargano rolls Almas back in the ring, but only gets a two-count. Almas fights off the Gargano Escape, hitting Gargano with a jaw breaker. Almas with another back-spin elbow. Almas sets up for double knees, but this time Gargano explodes out of the corner with a clothesline. He lawn darts Almas into the turnbuckle and sets up in the corner, but Vega hooks the ankle to create a distraction. Almas dropkicks him into the corner and goes for the DDT, but Gargano cradles him for two! Almas covers up, so Gargano goes with a low Super-Kick and the Meeting the Middle Kick for another near-fall!
Gargano with another trip to the top rope, but Almas traps the legs and hits the double stomp onto the apron, taking a risky fall to the arena floor in the process. He throws Gargano backwards into the LED board to add injury to injury (that's not a typo). Almas hits him with the drive-thru double knees again, but it only gets two. Almas with a pair of slaps as Gargano struggles to get up. Gargano comes back with left punches, dropping to his knee on each strike. Gargano with a Super-Kick and reverse hurricanrana! He comes off the ropes and spins into the Gargano Escape! Almas struggles for the ropes, and here's Vega to lend a helping hand. The referee forces them apart, allowing Almas to rake the eyes to escape the hold. Gargano sends Almas to the floor, escaping a DDT, and follows with a tope suicida. He rolls Almas back in, but Vega comes off the apron with a hurricanrana, sending him into the post. Almas tosses him back in the ring and hits the Hammerlock DDT, but it only gets two! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How many false finishes can we take before the heart goes into cardiac arrest?
Gargano rolls out of the ring as the crowd craps their collective pants. Vega comes around the ring to interfere again, but Candice LeRae hops the rail and meets her with a spear! She lays into Vega with rights and tosses her into the security wall! They go on a chase to the locker room, evening the odds at ringside. Gargano with a step-up enzuigiri and slingshot DDT in the ring for two! Gargano Escape applied, but Almas hooks the bottom rope with his foot, forcing the break. Gargano follows Almas to the apron, only to get shoved back against the post. Almas hits the double knees against the post, scrambling Gargano's brains. I half-expected the match to be called, but the flag isn't waved. Almas drags Gargano's barely conscious body back up, pulls him over the top rope, and finishes with the draping Hammerlock DDT at 32:21 to retain the NXT Title. The drama. The execution. The near-falls. Calling back to their previous match. Having the crowd in the palm of their hands like putty. Making you believe in what you're seeing and erasing that element of suspending disbelief. These are all traits of an all-time classic, and this was easily the best match we've seen from any of the WWE brands in several years. If I believed in "breaking the rating system", I would do it here. *****
- Then to end the show on an even more down note, Tomaso Ciampa shows up and whacks Gargano with his crutch. What... a... jerk.
Final Thoughts: Just watch the show, dammit.