Let me paint a picture: April 7, 2018, live from the Smoothie King Center at the biggest NXT event of the year, TakeOver: New Orleans, the #DIY implosion culminates as Johnny Gargano seeks revenge on Tommaso Ciampa. I challenge you to think of a main event more inclined to spark genuine emotion than that potential showdown considering the events that took place at TakeOver: Chicago in May.
After the immensely popular duo was unsuccessful in their attempt to reclaim the NXT Tag Team Championships via a ladder match against the Authors of Pain, Gargano and Ciampa paused atop the entrance ramp and acknowledged the crowd. It appeared that they were expressing their appreciation for the support in what was being depicted as a goodbye to the brand before a possible main roster call up ... or so we thought.
And then it happened.
Ciampa whipped his now former tag team partner into the stage set and followed it up with a series of vicious strikes. The confused Gargano attempted to collect himself, but Ciampa delivered some of his patented running knees. He finished off the assault by driving Gargano through a couple of tables.
Ciampa explained his actions following the attack, but we hadn't seen or heard from Gargano in nearly two months. That changed this week.
For the first time since that stunning incident, Johnny Gargano appeared on NXT TV.
Regarding Ciampa, Gargano claimed, "I never saw it coming. I never thought the guy I'd be willing to take a bullet for would be the one to pull the trigger on me."
However, he proclaimed, "I'm not here to dwell on the past. I'm here to move forward. I'm here to look at the future. Sometimes things happen in life you can't control but what you can control is how you react to them. I'm standing right here. I need to get back to doing what I love to do, being in this ring in front of all of you."
He concluded by shedding some light on his imminent goal: "TakeOver: Brooklyn is the biggest show of the year and I have to be there no matter what. I need to be Johnny Gargano again. More importantly, I need to be Johnny Wrestling."
While the extent of Ciampa's injury hasn't been confirmed, it appears that Gargano's NXT journey will continue toward TakeOver: Brooklyn without any type of retribution. However, whenever Ciampa does return, Gargano will be waiting.
The Authors of Pain meet their most imposing challenge yet
On Wednesday night, the Authors of Pain tied the Revival for third-longest NXT Tag Team Championship reign in history at 164 days. Rezar and Akam have quite a ways to go to reach the record 364-day mark set by the Ascension in 2013-14, but it has to be considered a possibility based on the dominance they've displayed since their arrival.
However, this week, they faced their toughest test yet from a physical perspective in the form of two 300-plus pound behemoths: Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight, Heavy Machinery.
As expected, this super heavyweight collision featured plenty of power moves from both teams. Heavy Machinery had the crowd firmly on their side, but it wasn't enough to dethrone the champs. The monstrous Authors of Pain finished Dozovic off using their Last Chapter Russian leg sweep/clothesline combination.
The Authors of Pain's crusade continues and there is no end in sight. Or is there?
A new challenge presented itself after this week's match when Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe along with Nikki Cross of SAnitY emerged and stared down the champions.
Sign me up for that program.
Bobby Fish makes his NXT debut
Despite no official word of an NXT contract being in place, former Ring of Honor Tag Team and Television Champion, Bobby Fish made his NXT debut on Wednesday night in a match against Aleister Black.
Fish established himself in the aforementioned ROH spending four years with the company -- and a few with New Japan Pro Wrestling by way of ROH's relationship with them -- competing against some of the familiar names who have made a similar crossover to the WWE including Roderick Strong, Mike Kanellis and AJ Styles.
If his match with Black this week was any indication, the WWE should strongly consider making Fish its newest NXT signee as the two talented superstars put forth quite an effort.
Heavy on psychological tactics -- as most of Black's matches are -- the two displayed great chemistry weaving in and out of mat base wrestling and stiffly executed striking sequences. Speaking of stiff strikes, the finish saw Black deliver his always awesome Black Mass standing spinning heel kick for the win.
Mae Young Classic qualifier
Two superstars looking to punch their tickets into the 32 competitor Mae Young Classic tournament, which kicks off Thursday, took to the ring as Vanessa Borne went one-on-one with Jayme Hachey.
Borne scored the pinfall victory using a modified spinning slam in a short bout earning the opportunity to participate in the tournament.
What's on tap?
In a backstage segment featuring NXT champion Bobby Roode and general manager William Regal, it was determined that the undefeated Drew McIntyre and Killian Dain will battle it out to see who the rightful No. 1 contender is for his title. That match will take place next week with the winner likely getting his shot at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
This week's bests
Match of the night: Black vs. Fish
Move of the night: Otis Dozovic hits his version of Mark Henry's World's Strongest Slam
Moment of the night: Johnny Wrestling's return