WWE NXT Review: Episode 494 (Shayna Baszler, Mia Yim)

February 27, 2019 – Winter Park, Florida

Johnny Gargano starts the show by bragging about his Raw and Smackdown appearances last week, but laments his subsequent loss to the Velveteen Dream. He likes when the crowd calls him Johnny Champion, but he doens’t have the North American Championship anymore. He starts to hint that he wants another championship, but he’s interrupted by Tommaso Ciampa. The crowd points out that Ciampa has a title. Ciampa points out that Gargano and Ciampa won when they were together on Raw and Smackdown. He also points out that Gargano refused Ciampa’s help last week against Dream, leading to his loss. But now the Dusty Classic is back, and the two of them debuted years ago in that tournament. He wants them to team to win that tournament and get a tag title shot at Takeover New York. Gargano shakes Ciampa’s hand, sealing the deal. Later, Candice LeRae shows she’s frustrated with Gargano’s decision, but less intensely than she has been before.

Ricochet, wearing a bright tuxedo, is happy about his success with Amsterdam Black on Raw and Smackdown Live (which I’ll keep reviewing as long as they, Gargano, and Ciampa are billed as NXT wrestlers on that show), but he knows he still has to finish his business against the Undisputed Era. He announces that they’ll be getting to the Dusty Classic so he can get his revenge there.

Aliyah & Vanessa Borne def. Taynara Conti & Xia Li
The heels won with a double team neckbreaker on Li at 4:55. I saw Fighting With My Family a few days ago. In that film there’s a scene where four women successfully carry out a stereo suicide dive spot and then smile at one another on the floor in full view of the nearby fans. I thought at the time that it was the only moment in the movie that felt like something wrestlers would never do (it’s a pretty solid movie). Aliyah, who never expresses with her face what’s happening to her in the ring, seems like someone who would do that. Couple that with Borne’s completely unconvincing strikes and you’ve got a lousy team that carried out an awful finish. The rest of the match wasn’t a total disaster (mostly because Li is fun), which I was surprised to find myself thinking. *¾

The Undisputed Era interrupts an interview with Dream. They say Adam Cole is coming for the North American Championship, while Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly are going to with the Dusty Classic. Dream doesn’t have time for them, but I certainly have time for their funny side comments: “We’re not an entourage, we’re best friends!” and “You’re farting up the wrong tree there buddy.” Meanwhile, Bianca Belair and Io Shira yell at each other backstage until a referee and Serena Deeb break things up. William Regal’s twitter account books them against each other in a number one contender match for a title shot in New York.

Dominik Dijakovic dco. Keith Lee
These guys got counted out at 6:55 after the kind of match that probably should have been each guy’s debut match, because it was a lot more fun than anything else they’ve done in NXT to date. It reminded me a lot of Lee’s Beyond Wrestling match against Brian Cage in 2016, wherein both big guys moved around the ring as if they were half the size. We’ll definitely be getting a rematch. ***

They officially announce that the remaining four Dusty Classic teams will be DIY, Mustache Mountain, Ricochet & Black, and Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. The quarterfinals start next week.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks & Bayley come out to the ring. This is Banks’ first time in NXT since October of 2015 and Bayley’s first time since August of 2016. They’re going to be defending the tag titles in NXT also. Bayley says that maybe they’ll defend the titles next time they come to NXT, and then Banks says we can bank on that. That’s a mixed message, and a sloppy use of a catchphrase.

Shayna Baszler def. Mia Yim
Baszler won in 8:02 with the Kirifuda Clutch. These two are (or at least were) roommates, so it’s not surprising that they did a good amount of creative biz in this match. Some of Yim’s taunting was too cute by half, but holy hell she sells like a champion. Baszler was her usual great menacing self, but I’ve realized that she’s not great at kicking out in a way that makes her look desperate, which diminishes the impact of near-falls on her. Nitpicks aside, there was way more good than bad here, and I wish they’d gone a bit longer actually. ***½

I can’t remember the last time NXT put on a dud of an episode (outside of maybe a post-Takeover episode) and this was no different. You had two good matches and some great storyline advancement, and that’s on a cool-down episode after last week’s insane main event. Well done.

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