Tino came to the ring for a promo shortly after intermission and received a pop at first. Tino talked about how no one in the locker room "gave a s--t" about him while he was out with an injury, but that was OK because "they're all s--t" and they can't compete with him and his ESPN resume, according to our correspondent in attendance. Tino then said he's "the most elite" athlete in NXT, and he's back.
As noted, Tino has been out of action since May 2018 when it was announced that he had suffered a torn pectoral muscle during a live event match with The Velveteen Dream. Tino was originally expected to be out of action for around 9 months, but it was later reported in January 2019 that officials believed he would not be medically cleared any time soon as he was dealing with post-surgery problems. There was also talk in January 2019 of trying Tino out as a TV announcer, but nothing ever came of that. Tino signed with WWE in 2014 and has spent most of his NXT run with current WWE 24/7 Champion Riddick Moss, who is now on the RAW roster. WWE split the team up shortly before Tino's injury.
Friday's NXT live event in Tampa also saw several NXT UK Superstars make their main brand debuts.
The tag team of Pretty Deadly, made up of Sam Stoker and Lewis Howley, jumped Shane Thorne early in the show. Bronson Reed made the save and that led to a tag team match that saw Pretty Deadly take the loss. WWE announced back on January 31 that Pretty Deadly were among 5 new recruits at the WWE UK Performance Center in North London, along with Levi Muir, Candy Floss and Dani Luna. They made their NXT UK TV debuts at the February 22 tapings.
Irish talent Aoife Valkyrie also made her main brand debut on Friday night in Tampa. As noted before at this link, Valkyrie made her NXT UK TV debut on this week's episode, defeating Amale in a match that was taped in late January. Friday's live event in Tampa saw Valkyrie defeat the returning Aliyah.
This loss was Aliyah's return to in-ring action following her November 13 loss to Xia Li on the USA Network. WWE announced the next day that Aliyah suffered "a nasal fracture and a possible orbital floor fracture" due to the roundhouse kick to the face from Li. WWE also noted that she was not medically cleared to compete. Aliyah told fans on Twitter that she did suffer a broken nose, which was repeated on NXT commentary two weeks later.
Former WWN Champion and EVOLVE star JD Drake made his surprise in-ring debut for NXT at the Tampa live event as well. The surprise appearance saw Drake defeat Dio Maddin in a hard-hitting bout. This looks to be Maddin's second match since returning to NXT from the WWE RAW announce team back in November. He returned to competition on the February 1 live event in Orlando, defeating Cal Bloom. As we've noted, WWE brought the former Brennan Williams from NXT to the RAW announce team back in September, to call the red brand action with Vic Joseph and WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler. WWE did an angle in early November where Maddin was taken out by WWE Champion Brock Lesnar after standing up for Lawler. It was reported that Maddin was leaving the RAW announce team after a short stint as he wanted to resume training for an in-ring career.
You can click here for full results from Friday's live event in Tampa. Below are several photos and videos of Tino, Pretty Deadly, Drake, Maddin, Aliyah and Valkyrie, along with EVOLVE's congratulatory tweet to Drake:
Got any more of them big meaty men slapping meat matches...? pic.twitter.com/a2cQsbPjyX— JJ Williams (@JJWilliamsWON) February 15, 2020
Tino let it be known that there's nobody behind that curtain who can compete with him. He's back because he wants to be and he's the most elite athlete in NXT.— JJ Williams (@JJWilliamsWON) February 15, 2020
The rest ain't s--t. @TinoSabbatelli ?? pic.twitter.com/vRyNS21KYC
Congrats to JD Drake on making his NXT debut just now!— EVOLVE Wrestling (@WWNEVOLVE) February 15, 2020
See JD Drake at these upcoming EVOLVE events:
See EVOLVE Wrestling Live:
- February 29th - Queens, NY
- March 1st - Melrose, MA
- March 14th - Livonia, MI
- March 15th - Chicago, IL
Tix at https://t.co/J70u9L3Ajw https://t.co/vVm9e6hPPl