Feb. 27, 2014, was a historic day -- not just for the NXT brand, but for the WWE as a whole. From an NXT perspective, it marked the first event in a series that would later come to be known as "TakeOver." These events would serve as the destination for the culmination of the brand's significant rivalries and the starting point for others, similar to RAW and SmackDown Live's journeys to their pay-per-view events. This initial event, called NXT Arrival, initiated the NXT revolution and took its popularity to the next level.
From a WWE perspective, NXT Arrival was the first live event to ever air on the WWE Network streaming service, which had just launched a few days prior. Needless to say, the show needed to stand out, and it did.
Since that time, the WWE Network has been the home for all TakeOver and weekly episodic NXT shows until Wednesday night.
Nearly four years after NXT Arrival, NXT made its national broadcast television debut airing its weekly show on the USA Network as part of WWE's Holiday Week. While the matches shown on Wednesday night were taped beforehand, new eyes were likely brought into the fold being on national television, so the pressure to deliver a quality product was high, just as it was on Feb. 27, 2014. Working with a much shorter block of time (less than an hour), NXT once again delivered.
How could it not? Two of the brand's brightest stars with championship aspirations clashed in the night's main event. Undisputed Era captain Adam Cole went one-on-one with Aleister Black. The winner of the match would join Killian Dain and Johnny Gargano -- who won qualifying matches last week -- as the third entrant in a Fatal 4-Way match to determine a new No. 1 contender for the NXT Championship.
The back-and-forth bout concluded with a picture-perfect Black Mass spinning heel kick from Black's foot to Cole's jaw.
While Cole losing cleanly is a bit surprising, this match may just be the beginning of what could be a promising rivalry between two superstars capable of carrying NXT for a long time. The match gave us some exciting sequences, and it did well in setting the table and leaving the audience wanting more. It felt like the beginning of sprouting conflict as opposed to a one-off encounter, and given the chemistry Black and Cole shared in this initial affair, no NXT fan would complain if that were the case.
The champ in action
What would NXT's national broadcast television debut be without its champion? Twenty-five days following the biggest win of his career in which he defeated Drew McIntyre to become NXT champion at TakeOver: War Games, Andrade "Cien" Almas faced off with Fabian Aichner in his first televised match as champion.
As he waits for a new No. 1 contender to be determined, Almas got the opportunity to show a national audience why he's the top guy in the brand. Aichner, a good worker in his own right, had a chance to shine in the spotlight as well, and, boy, he did exactly that with a couple of highly athletic springboard maneuvers. Together, they produced a short but entertaining match that saw Almas -- with the help of his associate, Zelina Vega, who distracted Aichner -- predictably secure the win.
Almas' storyline direction will be dictated by the outcome of the Fatal 4-Way match to determine a new No. 1 contender, but few individual directions are trending higher than his right now.
The road to Ember Moon's women's championship begins
The new NXT women's champion, Ember Moon, saw her first televised match since claiming the title at TakeOver. The match unfortunately did not appear on the USA broadcast likely due to time constraints, but it did air on the replay of the show on the WWE Network. Moon's opponent was one of the challengers in that TakeOver match, one-half of the charismatic Iconic Duo, Peyton Royce. The two continued to illustrate the superb shape of the NXT women's division with a fine effort that saw Moon come out victorious.
The loss didn't sit well with Royce, who, along with her partner in crime, Billie Kay, attacked Moon after the match. In an unexpected turn of events, one of Moon's foes, Nikki Cross, stormed the ring in a frenzy to make the save for the champ. Afterward, she eyed the championship belt before making her exit.
While there is no set formula in determining a No. 1 contender for the NXT Women's Championship the way there is on the men's side, Cross made her intentions known with a single glance at the title. The athleticism of Moon paired with the unpredictability of Cross would make for a fascinating feud should it come to fruition.
• Coming off a loss in the barbaric War Games match last month, The Authors of Pain got back to their winning ways with a victory over Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch.
• Two championships will be on the line next week when SAnitY defends its NXT Tag Team Championship against Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly, while Tyler Bate looks to reclaim the U.K. Championship from Pete Dunne.