A persona change along with the addition of Zelina Vega has done wonders for Andrade "Cien" Almas.
After a promising debut match at TakeOver: The End last June against Tye Dillinger, Almas failed to gain his footing in his attempt to climb the NXT ladder. Over the course of the past year, he found himself on the losing side of battles featuring Bobby Roode and Roderick Strong, but the most troubling loss came in unexpected fashion to lesser experienced Cezar Bononi this summer.
Lessons learned from loss to Bononi combined with the addition of Vega as his "business associate" have allowed Almas to completely change the course of his character's direction. With Vega, Almas has taken on a less arrogant and more focused approach, leading to more success over the past couple of months than he had in his entire first year.
His ascension reached its highest point at TakeOver: Brooklyn III when he scored the biggest win of his NXT career against Johnny Gargano in what was arguably the match of the night.
However, while Almas' stock is trending up, Gargano's has fallen. At TakeOver: Chicago in May, Gargano was ruthlessly betrayed by his #DIY tag team partner, Tommaso Ciampa. Since then, Gargano has tried his hand as a singles performer and while he has chalked up some low-profile victories, he squandered the chance to take that big step forward in the aforementioned bout with Almas in Brooklyn. He looked to even the score and get his singles career on track this week.
Similar to the closing sequences of their TakeOver match, Vega was able to cause Gargano to lose just enough focus by revealing herself wearing a #DIY T-shirt allowing Almas to gain the upper hand to snag his second straight pinfall victory over the former NXT tag team champion in another quality effort.
The win will undoubtedly propel Almas onto bigger and better things as we head toward TakeOver: WarGames next month, but where does the loss leave Gargano? Could the #DIY reminder be a bit of foreshadowing of things to come? Perhaps Gargano's losing ways lead to Ciampa's return with claims that Gargano can't make it without him. That's one theory among a handful of others.
Peyton Royce is headed to TakeOver
Arguably the greatest superstar in NXT history and the unquestioned headliner within the women's division, Asuka, is gone. She'll be making her main roster debut in less than two weeks at the TLC pay-per-view.
One might think that leaves the NXT women's division in a tough spot, but that's not the case at all. The division is full of talent just waiting for the opportunity to break out. Add in the up and coming superstars who took part in the Mae Young Classic and the division has a great chance to flourish throughout the remainder of 2017 and beyond.
The first of a series of matches to determine which three superstars will join Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane in a Fatal 4-Way for the vacant NXT women's championship at TakeOver took place Wednesday night. Peyton Royce, Nikki Cross and Liv Morgan battled it out for the second spot in that match.
The solid match saw a surprising finish as the Undisputed Era continues to find ways to make an impact. Near the match's finish, Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly emerged alongside Mae Young Classic competitor Taynara Conti.
Conti proceeded to pull Cross off a virtually defeated Morgan. A furious Cross chased Conti around the ring, but when Cross got back in the ring, she was greeted by a spinning heel kick and a fisherman's suplex from Royce, who won the match.
Conti would be a welcomed addition to the Undisputed Era should she officially join. Her match with Lacey Evans in the Mae Young Classic was impressive and it would allow the group to expand the areas in which it can rule. However, a clip posted on the WWE's social channels after the show revealed that Cole may have just been using her to interfere only in this match and not add her in any formal way with the group.
As for Royce, she'll get the opportunity to take her career to the next level at TakeOver.
Velveteen Dream hands Lio Rush a loss in his first NXT match
After the Velveteen Dream ruined Lio Rush's hopes to make his NXT in-ring debut last week against Aleister Black, Rush got his chance to exact revenge this week against Dream. It was Dream, however, who made the ultimate statement.
Despite some incredibly impressive offensive bursts by Rush, who has become a fan favorite in the span of just two TV appearances, likely in part due to his successes in Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling, Dream expectedly came out victorious.
Following the match, Dream took a seat in the middle of the ring a la Aleister Black, continuing to employ the mind games that have made this rivalry so much fun.
Lars Sullivan continued his rampage with a win over Danny Burch.
The Street Profits maintained their winning ways over Damien Smith and Markos Espada.
Next week will feature an interview with NXT champion Drew McIntyre, Ember Moon vs. Ruby Riot vs. Sonya Deville in an NXT Women's Championship Fatal 4-Way qualifying match and SAnitY vs. The Undisputed Era.