Controlled chaos: Nikki Cross throws Vanessa Borne out of the ring during a women’s battle royal. PHOTO: WWE

Shots on shots on title shots: this week’s episode of NXT is bursting with matches to determine who will get a match to determine any number of NXT championships. William Regal grants the Authors of Pain a title rematch because Adam Cole can’t keep his nose out of everybody’s business. Nikki Cross’s shot has been revoked, but have no fear, she’s getting a shot to gain it back in the Battle Royal against fifteen (FIFTEEN) other women.

Let’s kick things off with a little tag team action featuring my favorite dynamic: good best friends versus mean best friends.

Best Friend Tag Gestures vs Big Beefy Best Friends

Danny Burch came out after Oney and held up TWO fingers, because Oney holds up one finger! It’s cute. They faced off against Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss, who have a catchy theme song and the strange muscular backs of a Rob Liefeld drawing. How many tag teams in the inevitably approaching Dusty Classic will go on to break my heart the way DIY did?

This is a solid match, not just because Moss and Sabatelli are solid dudes with surprising speed. Oney Lorcan is a weird and delightfully charismatic dude who hopefully has found his niche in his charming team-up with the Gov’nor Danny Burch, and Moss and Sabatelli are delightfully hateable bruisers. The beefy boys get the win, but hopefully the Dusty Classic (when is that happening) will give Lorcan and Burch a shot at retribution.

Women’s Division Battle Royal

Peyton Royce, Ember Moon, and Kairi Sane are already on their way to the Fatal 4Way Women’s Championship Match at War Games. In the spirit of showing off the sheer number of women on the NXT roster, Commissioner Regal has left another spot up for grabs in a sixteen-woman battle royal. See if you can spot your favorite from the Mae Young Classic before they take a spill over the top rope!

It’s nice to see both the depth of the NXT women’s roster and some appearances from Mae Young Classic favorites, including Mercedes Martinez and a big pop for Candice LeRae after everyone else’s entrances got cut for a 2K18 ad.

Same, Taynara.

This match is dominated by Nikki Cross seeking vengeance against Conti for costing Nikki her spot in the title match. They don’t rush the eliminations, and despite the chaos it’s exciting to see a women’s battle royal get the bulk of the time on this week’s show. Up-and-comers like Bianca Belair get memorable spots before Nikki cleans house and leaves us with an interesting core group: Sarah Logan, Bianca Belair, Mercedes Martinez, Candice LeRae, Lacey Evans, and Nikki and Billie Kay. Belair was a standout during the Mae Young Classic, and her outing in tonight’s battle seems to bode well for her future in the division.

Nikki Cross unsurprisingly gets the win. With luck this is leading to Cross winning the belt and giving Sanity the championship hat trick. Also with luck, this won’t lead to Billie Kay and Peyton splitting up.

Please Let Ember Moon Be A Werewolf

Look, if you’re going to let Kairi Sane roll out in dope pirate gear all the time just let Ember Moon be a werewolf. Ember and Kairi come out to confront Peyton and Nikki as William Regal stands in the ring and never gets a word in edgewise, looking befuddled and surly by the chaos surrounding him. Big mood, Commissioner.

Zelina Vega Is The Coolest Person On NXT

She confronts Drew McIntyre in front of a bunch of WWE reporters. He’s incredibly handsome and charming and also being a big petty baby who doesn’t understand how lucky is to get to deal with Zelina Vega. So mean, so cool, I’m so conflicted. Andrade is still having Zelina manage his contract for a championship match, which seems pretty reasonable, but Drew has forgotten how a manager works and insists on talking to Andrade face-to-face. In the wise words of Donna Meagle, “Ya fine but ya simple.”

Aleister Black Gets Confronted By Is This Gimmick Homophobic, I Can’t Tell Yet

Until last week I was pretty into the Velveteen Dream gimmick. A solid gimmick with a clear point of reference that was heelish but didn’t seem to be overtly trading on homophobia. Apparently I’m too naive, because the folks around me at a recent NXT live show made it pretty clear that at least to them, the joke was definitely that he’s gay, and it’s gross to get beat up by a gay guy.

All that to say when he comes out to confront Aleister Black tonight, all I could remember was the gross dudes at the NXT live show. Velveteen Dream has a lot of charisma and this feud with Black is surprisingly engaging. I want to trust that NXT isn’t intentionally following in wrestling’s long history of queercoded villains, but maybe my hopes are too high.

Battle of the Better Off Not Being Talkers

I said it. Roderick Strong should take a lesson from Cien: he needs a manager.

With the help of the incredibly cool but utterly ruthless Zelina Vega, Cien has been on a roll. He’s got two victories over jilted best friend Johnny Gargano under his belt. She’s a fantastic manager, great on the mic, and Almas is way better off in NXT as a smug, silent heel. To the same NXT live show crowd, chanting “No Way Jose” at Andrade Almas is racist and makes you sound like an asshole. Kudos to Full Sail for once for not being the worst WWE crowd experience.

Watching Roderick Strong and Almas go at it with swift and hard-hitting offense. Roderick Strong always looks like he’s absolutely destroying his opponents in the ring and makes every match look like an all-out war. Even if he isn’t the most interesting dude to listen to, he’s an incredible wrestler to watch; you can feel him constantly clawing his way to a victory, one more match closer to the championship he desperately craves.

It doesn’t matter how much Roddy wants that belt though, because Vega wants it more. Zelina hits an absolutely incredible hurricanrana from the apron, and Andrade gets him into the ring for a quick roll up to get the win.

She steals a startled Mauro Ranallo’s headset right off his head, and she and Andrade demand Drew McIntyre meet them face to face next week. Don’t worry though, Roddy: CFO’s here to lift your spirits. “You are not a loser, Roderick!” Adam Cole is just too sweet. He offers Roddy a CFO armband and Roderick reluctantly accepts, closing the show in sweaty confusion.

That’s it for this week’s episode of NXT. Tune in next week for the debut of Roderick $trong and CFO$.