In one of the most brutal NXT Championship matches ever, Adam Cole emerged victorious over Johnny Gargano by the slimmest of margins, surviving a death-defying fall from the top of a steel cage and draping his arm over Gargano to win the third and deciding fall of a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match.
Cole won a coin toss and got to select the stipulation of the first fall, choosing a classic wrestling match. Both men showed that they had the other scouted incredibly well as they each went for similar moves at the same time. Gargano would take the early advantage after evading a running knee strike by the NXT Champion, sending Cole knee-first into the steel ring stairs. Cole would not quit, though, with momentum in this all-important first fall hanging in the balance. The NXT Champion fought back and slammed Gargano back-first into the ring apron.
Cole took control of the bout from there, but Gargano would not stay down. Eventually, a frustrated Cole would introduce a chair into the battle, though he could not use it without losing the fall. The NXT Champion first used it to distract the official to hit Gargano with a low blow, then to taunt Johnny Wrestling. However, Gargano seemed to be ready to move onto the next fall, as he grabbed the chair and clobbered Cole with it, giving the NXT Champion the first fall by disqualification and advancing the match to Fall 2 – a Street Fight, where anything goes.
Johnny Wrestling continued to attack Cole with the chair, then took the NXT Champion on a tour of the Scotiabank Arena, pummeling Cole along the way. Gargano let out his dark side as the battle made its way to ringside and atop the announcers’ desk, eventually slamming Cole through one. The plunder flowed freely from there, as Gargano hurled tables and chairs into the squared circle. The challenger continued to punish Cole, eventually launching the NXT Champion face-first into a chair, then locking on the Gargano Escape to win the second fall by submission.
With each Superstar having one a fall each, NXT General Manager William Regal’s chosen stipulation would take effect. A Steel Cage bordered in barbed wire ominously lowered over the ring, with all manners of punishing objects dangling from it – chains, Kendo sticks, steel chairs, ladders and more. Neither man could claim victory by escaping the cage – only by pinfall or submission.
As the fall started, both Superstars scrambled for whatever they could get their hands on, eventually settling on Kendo sticks, both wailing away on each other until they could no longer stand. Cole threw everything at his challenger – quite literally, in some cases, like when he tossed a ladder at Gargano – and even hit him with two devastating Panama Sunrises, though nothing would keep him down. Gargano eventually regained control of the battle, but turned his attention toward punishing Cole even further, grabbing a pair of wire cutters and snapping off a piece of the barbed wire that wrapped around the top of the cage. Cole scrambled to a platform atop the corner of one cage to escape from Gargano, but the challenger followed him, barbed wire in hand.
However, the challenger would never get the chance to use it. In the throes of combat, both men plummeted from the top of the cage, crashing through a table, sending splinters flying through the cage. Somehow, through the carnage, Cole had the wherewithal to drape his arm over Gargano and get the three-count to retain his title.
Adam Cole had his hand raised in victory, but he did not look like his usual confident, boastful self as the rest of The Undisputed ERA helped him out of the ring after the chaotic battle. If Cole could survive this war and still hang onto the NXT Title, one has to wonder what it will take to knock the champion off his perch.