The Undisputed Era's affinity for mayhem has been well documented since their NXT arrival. From ruining championship celebrations to interfering in critical match-ups and instigating backstage attacks, the trio made a name for itself by way of chaos.
That placed them in direct opposition to the other agents of chaos, the anarchistic quartet known as SAnitY, and their battles over the NXT tag team championships and historic War Games clash were the high points in what's been a months-long war.
The conflict dates all the way back to the official formation of the Undisputed Era, when Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly ambushed Eric Young after their NXT tag team championship victory at TakeOver: Brooklyn III last summer (followed by a second ambush, of NXT champion Drew McIntyre, that brought Adam Cole into the fold). The Undisputed Era emerged from War Games victorious, and Fish and O'Reilly took the NXT tag titles from SAnitY just before the end of 2017.
One of the longest-running conflicts in NXT has been rather one-sided, all told, but the scheduled tag team championship rematch still loomed. After delaying the inevitable with an orchestrated backstage assault on the former champs, Wednesday's show finally offered SAnitY a chance at retribution and regaining the NXT tag team championships.
#TornadoTagTeamMatch rules are in effect for this explosive matchup between #SAnitY and The #UndisputedERA! #WWENXT@AdamColePro @KORcombat @TheBobbyFish @TheEricYoung @TheWWEWolfe @KillianDain pic.twitter.com/oaLwfIxv1f
- WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2018
They only got half of what they came for, as all hell broke loose before the Undisputed Era could make it inside the ring for the match. As the champions made their entrance, Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe stormed the ring through the crowd and took their frustrations out on Fish and O'Reilly. That prompted General Manager William Regal to attempt to contain the madness by way of a 6-man tornado tag bout -- and what a brawl it was.
While the tag team championships weren't on the line, SAnitY finally found their way into the win column in a match complete with tables, kendo sticks and unbridled pandemonium. Dain charged into the spotlight, particularly in the match's closing moments, as he fought off all three members of the Undisputed Era before nailing his Ulster Plantation finisher on Fish for the win.
The match signaled a couple of things. One, Dain appears to be the rising star of SAnitY. He was the standout performer in the War Games match late last year and dominated the match this week. He's big, athletic, has a unique look and is on the brink of stardom. It would not be surprising to see him go from fringe NXT championship contender to the next man up at some point in the near future.
Two, the conflict between SAnitY and the Undisputed Era will likely continue. SAnitY still hasn't gotten a rematch for the tag titles, so look for that down the road. Perhaps as part of the upcoming Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic? Regardless, the fireworks are destined to continue.
- WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2018
Johnny Gargano addresses TakeOver: Philadelphia
Johnny Gargano's journey as a singles competitor has been one of the most captivating storylines in NXT history. If you're looking for the template on how to book a sympathetic babyface, Gargano's recent run is it.
After quickly transitioning into tag team competition, with the exception of a memorable first round match in the Cruiserweight Classic, Gargano was unwittingly thrust into singles competition after NXT TakeOver: Chicago last year. Tommaso Ciampa shattered their partnership last year after one final tag team championship challenge by putting him through a table postmatch.
Life after #DIY was a bumpy ride for Gargano initially. He dropped multiple matches, which increased the sympathy factor even more. Finally, through grit, determination and one fortunate break, Gargano won his way into an NXT championship match at TakeOver: Philadelphia. Despite a stellar effort, he was defeated by Andrade "Cien" Almas. As he was given a standing ovation after the match, the heart strings were tugged on even more when Ciampa, gone for months after knee surgery, reared his ugly head again with a crutch shot to Gargano's back.
Gargano, who was popular before his recent surge, has truly become the heart and soul of NXT throughout this trek -- and that was clear in the reaction from the Atlanta crowd on Wednesday night.
"It's obvious to me now that what I earned that night [at TakeOver: Philadelphia] means more than a championship," Gargano said. "I earned your guys' respect. I had the match of a lifetime. And at my lowest of lows, you guys picked me up and made me realize, title or no title, I am exactly who I say I am. I am Johnny Gargano. I am Johnny fricking wrestling!"
As Gargano was about to address the Ciampa situation, he was interrupted by Almas and Zelina Vega. Vega called Gargano "Johnny Loser" and began pushing him, which brought out Gargano's wife Candice LeRae, who shoved Vega to the ground.
A frustrated Vega asked what it would take to get rid of Gargano, to which he requested one more opportunity at the NXT championship.
"We'll give you a championship match. But if you lose, you leave NXT for good," Vega exclaimed.
The match came together in an instant, and the winding road that is Gargano's quest for the NXT championship took another dramatic turn. But just as it was a question heading into TakeOver a couple of weeks back, where does Ciampa fit into the equation this time around? The slow build to their inevitable showdown continues.
Coming off a surprising loss to Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss last month, Heavy Machinery exacted revenge and came out on top this week. In an interesting twist, there were hints at friction between Sabbatelli and Moss during and after the match, especially postmatch.
Bianca Belair defeated Jessix Hill in a lightning-quick match. She didn't even have to use her hair as a weapon.
In a backstage interview, Shayna Baszler questioned Ember Moon's courage. Moon responded via Twitter by calling Baszler out for next week.
Also next week, Pete Dunne will battle Roderick Strong with the U.K. championship on the line, and Aleister Black returns to NXT TV.