16/4/2018 – What’s on my mind: I’M BACK!!!

Well I’m back!!! And… not much has happened in the world of WWE since I released my previews for Takeover and Mania… it’s been very quiet in fact……

So since I last wrote anything on here we had NXT Takeover: New Orleans, which was… the best WWE show there has EVER been!!! It was a brilliant line up to begin with and the card was sandwiched with 2 of the best WWE matches there has ever been; the show opener was the 6 man ladder match for the new NXT North American Championship that saw EC3 vs Killian Dain vs Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream vs Lars Sullivan vs Ricochet. It was simply incredible. All 6 men made entrances of stars, and they came out of it as MEGAstars. It would be hard to pick an MVP but I must give special praise to the performances of ‘The One and Only’ Ricochet and of course the eventual winner Adam Cole… BAY BAY!

Shayna Baszler is your new NXT Women’s Champion after dethroning Ember Moon in a great match. There was NXT Tag Team Championship/Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner takes all match that saw AOP vs Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne vs Kyle O’Reilly and the double duty-ing Adam Cole. The match ended in dramatic fashion with Roderick Strong turning heel and handing the win to Cole and O’Reilly as he joined the Undisputed Era. Aleister Black is the new NXT Champion after he beat Andrade Almas, despite the best efforts of Zelina Vega in what was a terrific contest. And in the match that surprisingly at the time but not in hindsight main evented the show (because how on EARTH do you follow this) Tomasso Ciampa faced Johnny Gargano in their Unsanctioned Match… Wow… expectations were high… but many are already calling it the best match in WWE history!!! So yes, Takeover: New Orleans was AMAZING!!!

AND THEN we had Wrestlemania 34.. and what a show it was! Brilliant, weird, bizarre, brutal… the adjectives you could associate with this LONGGGGGGGGG show are about as endless as the show seemed to be. But despite its time span it was possibly the most eventful event WWE has ever put on. I’ll do my best to summarize it:

– WOKEN Matt Hardy won the Andre Battle Royal. With a little help from Bray Wyatt as the 2 embraced after and so began what COULD be a WONDERFUL alliance. The match was a clusterfuck as it was always going to be (30 guys in a ring at once and all) but the finish and the spot this story was given I personally loved. The crowd going mad for it too made it all the more DELIGHTFUL!

– Cedric Alexander beat Mustafa Ali to win the vacant Cruserweight title. Decent match but they’ve done much better work on 205 Live before.

– Naomi won the Women’s Battle royal in another underwhelming clusterfuck.

And then FINALLY the main show began:

– Seth Rollins (cool blue contacts and all) became a grand slam champion as he won the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz, also bettering Finn Balor in what was a super fun Mania show opener.

– in an unsurprisingly brilliant match Charlotte BEAT Asuka to retain her Smackdown Women’s Championship. Shocking, 10 minutes too short maybe but in hindsight, in my opinion (although I was gutted at the time) the right call. Even with Charlotte losing her title 2 days later, this win at Mania only further cements her legacy. Special mention also for her incredible, spell-binding entrance. Charlotte Flair IS Women’s Wrestling.

– it was at this point in the show that John Cena (who indeed stuck to his word and watched Wrestlemania as a fan, and was shown to high hilarity throughout the show sat ringside watching on) was told by a referee something that made him immediately jump from his seat, over the barricade and then sprint to the backstage area. It was never stated what the ref actually told him but it was presumed, certainly from the huge reaction of the crowd, that Cena was being told that THE UNDERTAKER WAS HERE!!!

– next match was the 4 way for the US title; Bobby Roode vs Rusev vs Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton. Jinder won. Meh…

– following that was the best match of the entire show… no not Aj vs Nakamura but Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey… WOW OH WOW OH WOW!!! The very definition of exceeding expectations. The match was brilliant; it had every conceivable spot you could’ve dreamed of and then some. And above all else, Ronda Rousey was SENSATIONAL! Without question the best debut of anyone in Wrestling history. With all the pressure and spotlight that was on her I was so pleased. This was fantastic start to finish. Ronda tapped out Stephanie for the finish. Great great GREAT!

– Following that was always going to be tough, so spare a thought for the Smackdown Tag title 3 way of The Usos v The New Day vs The Bludgeon Brothers. Harper and Rowan’s ever-dominant triumph was sadly still in the shadow of the amazing bout before it.

– THEN… we had John Cena come out for a match. He was then told the match wasn’t on … and then the lights went out and… THE…. no, ELIAS came out. He sang a song, wound up Cena, Cena beat him up, and then Cena’s music played as he looked heartbroken at the prospect of his dream match not being on after all. It looked as if our dreams were over… and then… lights out, Taker’s hat and gloves appeared in the ring, a lightning bolt struck them, lights out… UNDERTAKER!!! 3 minutes, an indescribable entrance, 1 Chokeslam and 1 Tombstone Piledriver later and The Undertaker SQUASHED John Cena… and it was PERFECT.

– It was at this point the crowd seemed to die a little, and what had to this point potential to be one of the all time great Manias began to dip slightly…

– next match though saw Daniel Bryan make his long awaited in-ring return. As he and Shane McMahon beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Match was ok, Dbryan was as good as we all remembered, Yes yes yes!

– Nia Jax won the Raw Women’s Championship from former friend Alexa Bliss. Only real result really given this awfully bad tasting storyline. Finish was a tremendous Samoan Drop from the middle rope.

– AJ Styles RETAINED the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura (whose entrance was spectacular; Alice Cooper’s guitarist and a handful of Violinists and drummers featured). This was an underwhelming (given its incredibly high expectations) but still ok match. The headlines after though were all about Nakamura’s low blow and attack on Styles after the match and his apparent show of respect gone sour. A heel turn for Nakamura was certainly not something I predicted but I’m excited at the prospect of it going forward.

– Then Braun Strowman and a 10 year old boy called Nicholas won the Raw Tag Team Championship from The Bar. As you do… (they gave them up the next night due to Nicholas’ busy schedule… in the 4th grade…).

– and finally after what felt like 3000 hours of an event, it was time for the main event. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman defending the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns. Where to start with this one… one thing that was clear is the crowd in New Orleans had decided to absolutely shit all over this match from the beginning. There were a variety of derogatory chants, multiple beach ball appearances in the crowd… yeah this could’ve been a 5 star classic but nobody in the arena would even give it the slightest bit of chance to entertain them at all.

An absolutely brutal match saw Brock hit Roman with a plethora of German Suplexes, FIVE F5’S (including one to the announce table) to which Roman kicked out of each time. Brock then hit Roman with hard elbows to the head ala Randy Orton at Summerslam 2016. And just like Orton did so before, Reigns bled FOR REAL absolutely EVERYWHERE! It was like something from a horror film as Roman’s crimson face then showed his true fury as he went on to hit Lesnar with multiple spears! Lesnar would though then pick Reigns up for a SIXTH F5 and BROCK LESNAR WON! With seemingly everyone convinced otherwise the unthinkable had happened!

A variety of details about Lesnar’s contract and the change to the match finish have since emerged. Far too many for me to explain. but yeah it was… weird. Lets see how it goes down at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month when Lesnar faces Reigns for the title in a steel cage.

This was absolutely bizarre booking to me at the time and it still is now. I’m fascinated to see how it goes for Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar going forward. For once I have absolutely no theory or no idea that I’m willing to get behind enough to believe and that I could use to try and explain why this happened. There’s plenty of possible reasons why maybe but nonetheless it was absolutely astonishing to watch.

And my main emotion upon watching it back was a personal sadness and sympathy for Roman Reigns as a man irl. Imagine turning up at the arena the day of Mania, having for months and months heard every man and his dog claim that you’re the man and this will be your moment… only to be told the plans have changed and this is what’s happening… gutted for him personally. The characters, the storyline not so much but don’t forget that none of this is Roman’s fault. The blame lies solely with the bookers.

So to follow an… eventful… Wrestlemania 34 we had a pretty great Raw. Call ups for Ember Moon, AOP and No Way Jose, returns from injury of Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe, and a huge return to WWE for BOBBY LASHLEY! Smackdown gave us Peyton Royce and Billie Kay making their way to Smackdown Live from NXT and making an immediate impact…

The IIconics attacked Charlotte Flair and left the Smackdown Women’s Champion laying and prone for a Money in the Bank cash in from Carmella and FINALLY Carmella is the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. After her official retirement just 24 hours prior PAIGE was announced as the new General Manager of Smackdown Live after Daniel Bryan had resigned from the role in order to become a full time active roster member once again. Paige’s first act as GM was to make the main event for the evening as Daniel Bryan vs AJ STYLES!!! This dream match was cut short though by an ambush from Shinsuke Nakamura on both men.

A recap episode of NXT featured a win for Kairi Sane and the arrival of the War Raiders tag team (fka War Machine). I feel both will be making a big impression on the NXT Championship scene in the upcoming months.

This Monday and Tuesday we have the annual superstar shake up that will see stars of Raw and Smackdown swapping shows, which is always good fun. Plus we are a few weeks away from the Greatest Royal Rumble event from Saudi Arabia which is looking like it should be one hell of a show! So even though Wrestlemania is behind us now the goings on and drama of the WWE looks set to continue to shock and wow us all for the foreseeable future… And I cannot wait!!!

In terms of what I will be producing as content for my blog my time off has given me time to have a rethink about what I write. So instead of doing individual reviews of Raw, Smackdown and NXT each week I will be releasing a weekly review of all things WWE each Friday. I’ll also be doing previews and reviews of every NXT Takeover and main roster Pay Per view as well as a monthly ‘ranking list’ similar to my previous blog on The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania matches. On top of all that I will also be doing a weekly post called (as is this one) ‘What’s on my Mind’ (Credit to JR on his podcast before for the name idea). This will just be a random blog based on whatever I have… well… on my mind at the time of writing about whatever is going on WWE related at that time.

I’ll also every now and then be putting out some different types of content whenever I have the time or enough interest to do so. So yeah that’s about all up to date. Once again thanks to everyone for your words and retweets and likes on all my blog posts. I hope you like what I write going forward just as much as I’m sure I’ll have fun writing it.

Josh.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans Preview & Predictions

NXT is usually really good. NXT Takeovers are always great. NXT Takeover: New Orleans has the potential to be absolutely incredible. Much like Wrestlemania this year, the WWE have really gone all out to make this card as star studded as possible. 5 brilliant match ups that I will preview and predict the outcome of as will my good friend, and fellow NXT fanboy, Stefan. Enjoy the blog, and enjoy NXT Takeover: New Orleans!!! *SPOILER ALERT*: Me and Stefan are fairly alike with our wrestling views… just bare that in mind…

Ladder Match for the NXT North American Championship: Killian Dain V Lars Sullivan V Adam Cole V Ricochet V EC3 V Velveteen Dream

Six of NXT’s very best superstars in a LADDER MATCH for a brand new championship… not much more that needs to be said is there? This will be carnage of the best form and whoever wins it will be a worthy 1st holder of the long overdue 2nd NXT title. A very tough one to call but based on what I’ve seen and who I think could do with a championship the most… I’m picking EC3 to win. The 4 established NXT stars are already very over and well known to the audience, Ricochet and EC3 are still new and whilst the extravagant and pretty extraordinary in-ring abilities of Ricochet will impress people immediately, EC3 (as good as his presentation has been) I feel could really do wonders for himself and the championship if they let him. Give him a mic and people will come.

Prediction: EC3

Stefan: EC3 – Given that Adam Cole is now needed in the tag scene, this is not the time for his first title run in the company. this title needs a star, and for me, i cannot see past EC3, others like Ricochet or Dream are great options and great names, but this needs a 1 percenter…

Unsanctioned Match: Tomasso Ciampa V Johnny Gargano (if Johnny Gargano wins he is re-hired to NXT, if he loses he is banished)

What has become one of the most personal rivalries, and engaging and emotional stories in NXT history will finally culminate at Takeover: New Orleans. And in the time Gargano has become arguably the most popular superstar in NXT, Tomasso Ciampa has via some outstanding character work become the most despised heel maybe in the whole company. Often heel can be cheered as people think they’re cool, but people hate this guy and it’s all a sign that he’s executed his material perfectly. I’ve no idea what on earth these two may pull out the bag or what they may do to one another, but I have no doubt at all it’ll be absolutely thrilling. Result wise I can see reasons for both winning, but I’m going with Ciampa as I think it’ll only increase the sympathy towards Gargano and his character, and it’ll set up Ciampa for a title chase and Gargano (as is customary in NXT) will do a job en-route to a main roster debut some time next week.

Prediction: Tomasso Ciampa

Stefan: Ciampa – My gut says Ciampa, the brand needs a major legitimate heel in the upper card, and Ciampa fits that bill. Gargano to move onto main roster business

NXT Tag Team Championship & Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Undisputed Era (C) V The Authors of Pain with Paul Ellering V Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong

Another multi man match with stars a plenty. I don’t think anyone before the last set of tapings will have predicted this would be the tag title match for takeover. But what an amazing line up we have here in this winner takes all showdown. I can’t even fathom the spots in the ladder match, I can’t even more imagine what the competitors in this will come up with to delight the New Orleans crowd. Adam Cole doing double duty after his stablemate Bobby Fish’s injury will surely be a factor in how this match is presented, but his brilliance as a performer will no doubt do the role justice. If I had my way NXT would be the Adam Cole show, and as good as both Strong & Dunne are and AOP also (they’re main roster bound) I feel the Undisputed era are in their element right now, and even with Bobby Fish’s injury I feel the result here will be the same.

Prediction: Undisputed Era

Stefan: Undisputed Era – by process of elimination, 3 out of the 4 opponents are main roster bound for me, and Dunne will go from strength to strength as a singles star.

NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon (C) V Shayna Baszler

I am convinced this match will be great. Not for the faint hearted but good to watch nonetheless, and equally so I’m in no doubt about the outcome. Ember Moon has been a terrific servant to NXT and I’m glad she has finally had her much deserved title run in the post-Asuka era. But as it was Moon’s time after Asuka, it is time for The Queen of Spades to take her crown.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Stefan: Shayna – Time to build another big bad heel champ, Ember Moon main roster bound (rightly so). Now the Asuka hangover has gone, its time to make some new stars

NXT Championship: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (C) with Zelina Vega V Aleister Black

Much in the way that I think its Baszler’s time to dethrone Ember Moon and send her to the main roster, I feel its similar circumstances here. Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega have both been absolutely sensational characters in recent months since Almas was given the title, and in-ring Almas is superb so I’ve no doubt he will be more of a star on Raw or Smackdown. But if Wrestlemania 34 will likely crown Roman Reigns as THE GUY of WWE then NXT Takeover: New Orleans where Aleister Black confirms himself as THE GUY of NXT. The wonderful symmetry that 1 year ago, at the pre-Wrestlemania NXT Takeover, Aleister Black made his NXT debut against… Andrade Almas! From the time and production that was dedicated to his entrance, you knew right there and then Black was going to be a megastar in NXT. And a year later, against the same opponent who himself has had an incredible 12 months in that he has been rejuvenated and re-invigorated alongside Vega to a point now that he is a ready-made star, I feel the result will be the same. A great match, a Black-Mass kick, and Aleister Black as your new NXT Champion.

Prediction: Aleister Black

Stefan: Black – Firmly believe this is what the build up has been for, this moment. Give him the ball and let him run. Almas will be just fine being the biggest Latino star on the main roster, dont you worry…

Josh… and Stefan.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans go-home show Review: 4/4/18

So it is almost upon us, Wrestlemania weekend! But of course before Mania on Sunday we have the shear delights of NXT Takeover: New Orleans on Saturday. And much like Mania the card for Takeover is INCREDIBLE! So let’s see what the go home episode of NXT had in store shall we…

The show began with the Final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; The Authors of Pain vs Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong in what should be a great match. To begin with The Bruserweight was in a fight on his own against both Akam and Rezar, and after AOP initially had the better of it, Dunne then did his signature snapping of his opponents fingers on Akam before hitting him with a series of kicks and then making the tag to his partner Roderick Strong. Strong went on an absolute tear right away on both members of the Authors of Pain, almost winning the match on a number of occasions, before Pete Dunne re-entered the fold and hit Rezar with a triangle choke hold. But he only had this in until he was lifted by the monstrous Rezar and carried across the ring before AOP hit Dunne with their double-team neckbreaker. But after this both Dunne and Roderick Strong hit a number of double team moves on both AOP members (which looked really impressive) but their brief revival only lasted until Akam and Rezar hit both their opponents with kicks. And then with all 4 participants laying exhausted in the ring Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly of the Undisputed Era came out and attacked both Strong & Dunne and AOP. As a result the match was called off. NXT GM William Regal then came out and announced that at NXT Takeover: New Orleans we will see; The Undisputed Era vs Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong vs The Authors of Pain for BOTH the NXT Tag Team Championship AND the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic!!!

(just an fyi; the 3rd member of the Undisputed Era, Bobby Fish, was injured at a past NXT Live event and so will be unable to compete for some time. Hence the leader of the faction Adam Cole is the one in the tag team storyline here alongside Kyle O’Reilly).

Kairi Sane (my favourite wrestler) then faced Vanessa Borne in a decent match to be fair, whereas you’d expect this to be a bit of a squash Borne got a fair amount of offence in. Sane though did win with her exceptional Spear followed by a punch and an elbow before she climbed to the top rope and came down with her Insane Elbow (which is by far the best elbow drop I’ve ever seen) for the win. Should mention that Vanessa Borne has a new theme song and a new set of lighting during her entrance, this is a good sign if you’re a fan of hers (she’s got plenty going for her for sure) as it means they care enough about her to make some changes. As for Sane? I expect her to be the first challenger to Shayna Baszler when she wins the championship. Fingers crossed.

Lacey Evans was then shown backstage, she said she won’t be able to do anything until Mr Regal “disallows societal trash from walking around NXT”, she bemoaned a “complete psycho” like Nikki Cross getting opportunities before then talking trash about Ember Moon, Dakota Kai and Kairi Sane too. Decent little promo, again it’s clear they see something in Evans as a cocksure heel so expect her to be the cannon fodder for the females baby faces before they go for the title in the time after Takeover.

William Regal was then shown leaving the arena before Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly came towards him certainly not seeming pleased. They were furious about the predicament they were in going in to NXT Takeover. Regal explained that they had 3 options: Adam Cole competes in two matches in one night on the show (he’s also in the NXT North American Championship ladder match don’t forget), Kyle O’Reilly defends their tag titles by himself or Adam Cole forfeits his place in the North American title 6-man match. This conundrum once again didn’t leave Undisputed Era pleased.

After a brief recap of her rivalry with Shayna Baszler ahead of their Takeover match, the NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon cut a promo saying she wasn’t sorry for getting into a fight, and that after Shayna Baszler disrespected a coach (she talked trash to a Performance Centre coach that was shown on a previous episode of NXT) she now deserved to be attacked. She went on to say that as Baszler walks around ‘like she owns the place’ and that’s not how you behave as a champion and although Baszler started the war, she is ‘going to end it’. This promo was fine, Moon as the fiery babyface is ok… but I’m presuming this is probably the last time we see Moon on a regular NXT show before the makes her ascension to the main roster… hopefully…

To end the show we had a real clash of the titans. As two of the 6 men in the ladder match for the NXT North American Championship faced off, with Killian Dain facing Lars Sullivan. Unsurprisingly this was a very hard hitting & physical contest, Lars was in control after launching Dain into the ring apron, latterly Killian Dain used the Belfast Blitz and then Lars put his knees up after an attempted Vader Bomb splash, they battled more on the top rope before the Beats from Belfast hit a headbutt, and this made them both fall to the ring floor. With both laid out 2 of the other ladder match participants came out to the ring as Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole came in and glared at eachother. EC3 then made his way out and joined in the staring contest, and was then followed by both Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan before finally the awesome Ricochet then came out and stared at each man individually. And that was how the show ended, with all 6 men in the ring and the match between Lars and Dain just… ended…. Not ideal… but hey at this stage who Cares? I just want this match NOW!

There were also a number of video packages during the show to promote the various Takeover matches; Gargano vs Ciampa, Almas vs Black etc. and it was announced for next week we will get Kairi Sane vs Lacey Evans (which will be filmed as the dark match before Takeover starts I imagine). Next week’s show, as post Takeover shows usually are, will have that match and then be 45 minutes or so of recaps from Takeover… just the way they do things whilst the tapings for future shows take place.

And that just about covers the go-home show of NXT ahead of Takeover: New Orleans. I’ll be doing a preview blog for Takeover (which will be out Friday or Saturday latest) so look out for that. But can we all just appreciate… IT’S NEARLY WRESLTEMANIA AND IT’S NEARLY NXT TAKEOVER!!!!!!!!!!!

Josh.

NXT 28/3/18 Review: UNSANCTIONED MATCH!

The show begins with a car pulling up outside the arena, and nearby fans instantly begin to boo as Tomasso Ciampa steps out of it. He ignores the ‘questions’ from the ‘reporters’ that were walking alongside him as Ciampa sought out NXT General Manager William Regal. He then berated him about Johnny Gargano and his recent pursuit of him that has seen Gargano attack Ciampa last week on NXT, A video emerged showing Gargano chasing Ciampa when he was in his car leaving the arena last week, and just yesterday a video was released by Tomasso Ciampa showing that Gargano was banging on his front door at his house in the early hours of the morning. Ciampa told regal that he had had enough of all of this, and asked the GM “what I gotta do”? William Regal would go on to make the match official, telling Ciampa “you versus Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: New Orleans in an UNANCTIONED MATCH, if Johnny Gargano wins he gets his job back, If you win he’s banished FOR GOOD”! NXT hasn’t even made it in to the arena yet and already we have a BLOCKBUSTER announcement, WOW OH WOW what a start!

After the show had properly begun William Regal made his way out to the ring. He then announced that at Takeover: New Orleans there would be the debut of the NXT North American Championship! Great news this, NXT has long since needed a mid-card belt to give more people on the roster something to go for, so this is a brilliant idea. Regal was about to talk some more but was interrupted by the arrival of EC3!!! For those of you unaware of who EC3 is, he was actually in the WWE a long time ago before getting his big break in TNA where he really excelled. He is a physically impeccable looking guy, with a gimmick that he things an awful lot of himself. And to be honest he has reason to because he’s really good, as you will see, and his gimmick in NXT appears that it will centre around (as his theme song suggests) EC3 being in ‘the top 1%’. He gets in the ring to a huge crowd reaction, with chants of “E-C-3” ringing around the arena. EC3 indulges this telling the crowd, who had told him that he deserves it, saying “I do deserve it; keep that chant going”. He then turns his attention to Regal ‘Mr Regal; this is too much… I come to the hottest brand in sports entertainment; NXT’. The crowd chanted ‘you deserve it’ some more, causing EC3 to respond with “that’s right, of course I deserve it!” (this made me laugh a lot). EC3 also said he had a “banger of a theme song, you guys hear that thing?… ‘Mr Regal, you created the North American Championship, and awarded it to me on the very first day?’, the crowd began to chant “NX3” which I enjoyed greatly, EC3 put himself over some more, before Regal interrupted him. He told him that ‘you are not handed anything here in NXT… at NXT Takeover: New Orleans you will be competing for the North American Championship, you versus 5 other competitors… with the brand new title suspended above the ring… in a ladder match!’. The crowd were delighted, and EC3 seemed pleased too saying “Thank-you-Regal… at NXT Takeover: New Orleans I’ll show the entire world why I am the top 1% of this industry”. He shakes Regal’s hand, his music plays, and that was it. Really enjoyed all of this, a 6 man ladder match with the best of NXT will be FANTASTIC, I just hope the names involved are such that don’t underwhelm. This was a great start for EC3 in WWE too, really good promo, he put his character over well, and he looks and feels like a big star. So pleased for him, after carrying that shithole on his back for so many years I’m glad he is in the big time at last.

Next the camera panned to outside the arena as apparently both Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his NXT Championship challenger Aleister Black will be here tonight.

We then had an update from Charley Caruso on the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; she recapped all of the action so far in the tournament, and reminded us that we will have both semi-final matches tonight: Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne vs ‘SAnitY’ and ‘Authors of Pain’ versus ‘Street Profits’, the latter of which is the next match up on the show.

TM61 were then shown being interviewed earlier in the day at the WWE Performance Centre. They expressed their disappointment in their exit from the Dusty Cup, and then came out with the line “we are the mighty, and the mighty don’t kneel”. The cameraman then hurried away from them and focused instead on an ensuing brawl in the PC between NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon and her challenger Shayna Baszler were involved in a pull-apart brawl. Simple and effective enough this, another good piece of build up to what will be a FIGHT at Takeover.

Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega were then shown arriving at Full Sail. They both looking like absolute megastars.

Then we had the match involving the first team to make their way to the ring; the extravagant, fun-loving ‘Street Profits’ (their gimmick is 2 guys who just seem to want to have fun and party, with an urban, rap vibe to it. I should add their both really good and athletic in the ring too, bright future if handled correctly). They were closely followed by their opponents; the monstrous Authors of Pain who were accompanied as always by their trusted leader, WWE Hall of Famer and former manager of many a successful tag team, Paul Ellering. The match lasted about 2 minutes, and unsurprisingly AOP won. A distraction by Ellering on Montez Ford of the Street Profits allowed Akam and Rezar to hit their Last Chapter finisher on Angelo Dawkins in the ring for the pinfall and the win for the Authors of Pain. Much expected result but I was really disappointed this only went 2 minutes or so, but I guess it did help build AOP up more for the upcoming final.

We were then backstage with Cathy Kelly waiting outside William Regal’s office, and when he steps outside he reveals that he has finalised the 2nd competitor in the North America Championship match; ADAM COLE! (GREAT GREAT GREAT NEWS!) He was then interrupted by the Velveteen Dream. HE goes on to say that although the North America Championship is ground-breaking, it is not truly “an experience the NXT universe can get behind, if the Velveteen Dream was in that match, that may just be the experience it needs, I mean what do you say to that Mr Regal?” Well, Mr Regal concurs the Dream, and after praising him for his work in NXT so far he then makes him the 3rd competitor in the match. Gain, another GREAT name added to it. Should be fabulous. Dream finishes by saying to William Regal that “you may have broken ground by introducing the North America Championship, but putting the Velveteen Dream in this match; you just set the stage!” The best way I can describe this segment was that the Velveteen Dream’s dialogue and delivery was as good as his fresh cornrow-like haircut and his FRESH shirt. Stylish guy.

Next match was Lars Sullivan. This guy is a big oaf, but a muscular and athletic one who much unlike some previous monsters WWE have had in the past, this guy can actually wrestle. Even from his entrance you can tell that literally this guy is a BIG deal! He won his match against a jobber, with a Military Press – Powerslam – a Diving headbutt from the top rope (yes LARS SULLIVAN flew off the top rope, it was one hell of a sight to behold), – Freak Accident – 1, 2, 3. A brilliant quote from Mauro Ranallo on commentary summed up the behemoth Lars Sullivan perfectly “Body of a Gorilla, Mind of a Professor”. GENUIS! Shortly after backstage Regal then announced that Sullivan was indeed the 4th participant in the North America Championship Ladder Match, tremendous stuff! Sullivan appeared beside him then and said “That sounds fantastic Mr Regal, I can assure you un-equivocally and categorically I will bring the destruction that only Lars Sullivan can, but this time not only by my hands but with a ladder! But that’s at Takeover; New Orleans … I WANT KILLIAN DAIN!” This led Regal to announce The Beast of Belfast as the next participant in the Ladder match, and also made Lars vs Dain for next week’s NXT. FANTASTIC, ABSOUTLEY BRILLAINT! This Ladder match is going to be incredible!

Dakota Kai then came out for what appeared to be a match for her, but instead we were quickly taken to a brawl outside the arena between Andrade Almas & Aleister Black. It was Almas who was well on top, pummelling Black all the way from the parking lot to the ring area. After the brutal attack concluded Almas and Vega stood tall over the fallen challenger as Almas held his NXT Championship aloft. Loved this, great to see whenever this side of Almas comes out. He’s a superb wrestler and a great shit-house heel, but when he’s angry as he showed in his promo last week he’s fantastic. Zelina Vega barking out orders as the attack went on too, she is also superb at her role.

It was then time for our main event; SAnitY (represented by Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe, sadly no Killian Dain or Nikki Cross accompanying them this time) against the alliance of Roderick Strong and the WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. Strong started the match as Dunne, not afraid to use questionable tactics himself, stopped Wolfe & Young throughout trying to take any advantages they could. When in the match himself The Bruserweight targeted the arm of Eric Young with some signature holds, only for Young to counter a double wristlock into a suplex. Strong and Wolfe then each tagged in: Wolfe used a German suplex and an Attitude Adjustment-looking move on Strong, but he was able to kick out of the pin at 2, Young used his wheelbarrow suplex and went for a pin of his own only for Dunne to break it up, all 4 men brawled, Young used his diving elbow on Strong, but he kicked out of the subsequent pin attempt, and then the finish came: Strong tagged in Dunne and the two performed a double team pop-up into a flapjack to give Dunne the pin over Young. Good match, everyone looked good here (no surprise, they are all great) but it was Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne who advance the final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic against The Authors of Pain next week. Should be great.

With the match over we were then taken to Cathy Kelly again outside of William Regal’s office as she aimed to find out the identity of the final participant for the NXT North America Championship Ladder match. Eventually William Regal did come out, and revealed the 6th participant was just inside his office, he then brings out… RICOCHET!!! One of THE BEST wrestlers on the planet (you may recall me putting him over in a previous NXT review)! WOWSERS; this Ladder match is going to be INSANE! This isn’t for a mid-card belt at all, it’s all the main eventers who aren’t in the NXT Championship match, fantastic stuff! On what will be an incredible weekend of WWE action in New Orleans, this match will take some beating!

And that was yet another terrific episode of NXT. Perfectly built up to ALL the matches on the card at Takeover, with the go home show NXT week it will be interesting to see what more they do to build up hype for an incredibly stacked show…

Key Points to Take Home

  • Ladder matches are great even with sub-standard participants, but with A+++ quality people in them they’re usually tremendous…
  • EC3 should’ve been back in WWE years ago
  • Black vs Almas should get at least half an hour… please…
  • When is an UNSANCTIONED MATCH ever not good?
  • I hope Cathy Kelly was getting paid per interview for this episode…

Conclusion

NXT is great. You should watch it. Takeover will be amazing. Lots of call-ups to Raw and Smackdown to come at/after Mania. Exciting times. Simple as.

Josh.

NXT 21/3/18 Review: BLEEP

NXT returned to Full Sail University for this weeks edition for what should be another amazing hour of wrestling, as the road to Takeover: New Orleans continues.

The show begins with Tommaso Ciampa making his way out to his usual music of boos from the crowd. Once again there are a huge amount of signs with the “Johhny Gargano moji” (thanks Mauro) in the crowd. Ciampa does his usual routine of getting in the ring and methodically putting the mic to his mouth to talk, before being stopped by the volume of boos and chants from the crowd. He eventually does speak this time, saying… well screaming “HE’S GONE, GONE!” and going on to say “newsflash, he’s not walking down that damn aisle, he’s GONE!”. He’s greeted with more chants of “Ciampa sucks” as he leaves the ring. He takes a particular focus on the crowd now and proceeds to grab and tear up 3 separate fan signs (one of those being that from an elderly woman who really got in his face… you go Grandma!)… he then takes one sign from a fan in a mask… who turns out to be… JOHHNY GARGANO!!!

To the delight of the crowd Gargano finally gets to unleash on his former tag team partner, as he jumps the barricade and into the ring before being dragged all the way out of the arena by security. Ciampa couldn’t believe he was back, crowd went ape shit, and it was absolutely tremendous. “LET THEM FIGHT” they chanted… be patient… it’s coming!

Next up Charley Caruso recaps the 1st round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. She also reveals the news that Tyler Bate has a minor knee injury, meaning his team Moustache Mountain will be withdrawing. But whilst it appears the identity of Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan’s opponents later on are unknown RODERICK STRONG has put out a social media message for NXT GM William Regal asking for the vacant spot for him and a partner. This should be interesting… this was followed by a short but very sweet promo by the Undisputed Era. They talked down Roderick Strong and his proposal, and continued to big themselves up with Adam Cole saying his match with his opponent tonight Kassuis Ohno would be ‘a walk in the park’ (this match being made as a result of a twitter exchange between the 2). Cole was so confident he even told his stable mates Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly to stand back. So without the NXT Tag Team Champions by his side will Cole get the job done? Probably but it’ll be great fun to watch 2 FANTASTIC workers go at it.

So then now was time for the tag team match between Lorcan & Burch and Roderick Strong and his partner… PETE DUNNE! You will recall it was Strong who made the save from Dunne’s attack from the Undisputed Era last week, and the ‘fiery’ mutual respect that was shown by the 2 former opponents has resulted in this team being made, and what a real dream-team it is! This was a really hard hitting and physical contest, with Pete Dunne showing the full array of his gloriously pain-enducing arsenal of moves. Strong also demonstrating his superb moveset, tremendous chemistry from these 2. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch too more than doing their bit to make this one a great watch. The finish coming when Strong hit the End of Heartache move on Burch whilst Dunne had Lorcan held on the outside. WOW! The dream team is off to a flyer! These 2 vs Sanity next round, that’ll be incredible!

A promo is shown revealing RICOCHET is coming soon to NXT!!! For those who don’t know he is one of the very best wrestlers on the planet, I’ve seen him live myself too. He is tremendous, trust me he will be one of your favourites!

Next out to the ring is long term NXT female Aliyah for a match against NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon. Big pop for the supremely talented champion. Great mutual respect between these 2, Aliyah too is a babyface with the angle her being Aliyah looking to finally make an assault on the Women’s Championship scene. Part way through the match though the current top contender Shayna Baszler makes her way to the nearby commentary table, and places her feet on the table as she tells them that it is in fact her that runs the NXT Women’s division. And that she can do what she wants simply because nobody can stop her. Moon now well aware that her foe is nearby proceeds to make light work of Aliyah and puts her away with the Eclipse. Moon and Baszler then standing tall and engaging in more trash talk. This match is going to be a real “Slobberknocker” for sure!

Next week we will have both the semi finals of the Dusty Classic. Should be great. Meanwhile rookie Raul Mendoza makes his way out for what seems like a match, but is instead jumped by the NXT Champion Andrade Almas. He then makes his way to the ring accompanied by his business associate Zelina Vega, and expresses to the NXT crowd his fury with his future opponent Aleister Black, and his displeasure at the lack of respect Black showed to Vega last week (you’ll recall the various small jokes). A fired up champion also calls Black a “piece of (bleep)!” … I’ll give you a clue, I’m presuming the bleeped word rhymes with “mit”. WOWSERS, A SWEAR WORD?! This just got REAL! Almas demands Black faces him next week and says he wll pay for his disrespect… well… there’s your headline act for next week then!

An advert is shown revealing the monstrous, unhinged beast Lars Sullivan will return to NXT next week. Shaping up to be one hell of a show next Wednesday!

NXT GM William Regal reveals now that next week he will have a “major” announcement… hmmm…

Main event time then; Kassuis Ohno vs Adam Cole. Those of you with any knowledge of these 2 don’t need me to tell you this match was great. Ohno’s hard striking based moveset vs Cole’s cunning yet physically appeasing style. Finish coming with Ohno dragging a seemingly downed Cole into the ring from the outside, only for Cole to play possum once again and roll Ohno up for a nearfall. Cole then hit a Superkick, a suplex/neckbreaker and then a Shining Wizard (Last Shot) for the win. No problem at all with this result. Adam Cole could be NXT or even WWE Champion and I wouldn’t mind, as for Ohno he can take losses anytime at this stage, and losing to top talents doesn’t hurt him too much.

And that was NXT. The first episode of the final set of tapings before Takeover: New Orleans, and the groundwork of the road their has been firmly set.

Key Points to take home

. Gargano vs Ciampa, street fight, BOOK IT!

. Dunne and Strong maybe my new favourite tag team in WWE! I hope they win the whole thing

. I kinda want Shayna to beat Ember now tbh

. Almas vs Black, potential 5 stars?

. Adam Cole is my man crush. No homo.

Conclusion

NXT is the best. The strength in depth of the roster is ridiculous. You should watch it as much as possible. Simple.

Josh.

NXT 14/3/18 Review: More of the same (aka it was great)

NXT will be headlined tonight by the official contract signing between the NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his challenger for the title at NXT Takeover: New Orleans, Aleister Black. Should be great stuff.

The show opens with Sanity (who I like… A LOT) vs Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss (who I like not so much) in their first round match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe representing their team in this one, with the monstrous Killian Dain and the psychotic Nikki Cross at ringside. Wolfe and Riddick Moss starting this one, Moss and Sabatelli exchanged tags as they worked on the German, “Tino sucks” chants were indulged by Sabatelli as he responded by reminding them of his abs, Moss got a nearfall after a neckbreaker with a leg sweep, Sabatelli went to get the tag from Moss but he accidentally hit Tino off the apron. This brief miscommunication between the 2 allowed Eric Young to finally enter the match, he unleashed a set of strikes and a tremendous looking dropkick to Sabatelli, he hit a slam, followed by a big Elbow Drop from the Sanity leader but Riddick Moss pulled Young out of the ring to stop the pin count at 2.

Nikki Cross then reacted furiously to Moss’ interference by performing a flying crossbody to take him out (any time she does anything I’m going to like it because she is great), this prompted “Nikki Cross” chants from the Atlanta crowd. Meanwhile in the ring Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young performed their tag team finishing move on (which I’m reliably informed by the NXT lead commentator; the ultra-talented caller Mauro Ranallo, thanks Mauro, that the move was a ‘Belly to Back suplex with a Neckbreaker’). Sanity get the win, something I’m never going to take issue with so all good report from me because they are great.

Next we had Tommaso Ciampa making his way out to a chorus of boos. There were also a large amount of signs bearing the Johhny Gargano face/symbol on them. Ciampa goes in the ring and attempts to talk on the mic, he tries twice to speak but is stopped each time by the volume of boos from the crowd (just like last week). He eventually drops the mic and gives up which prompts the “YES” chants from the fans in attendance, he rolls out the ring, walks slowly around the outisde of the ring whilst looking into the crowd at all the Gargano signs as he does so, chants of “Ciampa sucks” and “we want Johnny” start, Ciampa looks furious and makes his way to the back, briefly pausing on the ramp way to look back as the fans start the “Hey, hey, hey, GOODBYE” song. This again was really well done. The crowd just hate this guy for what he’s done. He’s got so much heat on him, and that means he’s doing his job as a heel really well. And he is because the fans really hate him and they really love Gargano. This story is all being told SO well, I look forward to it continuing to unfold…

Lacey Evans is out next for her match. You will recall last week how she ran down her opponent for tonight in an interview, Dakota Kai, who makes her way to the ring next. She is sporting supportive sports tape in relation to the injury that was handed to her a few weeks ago now by Shayna Baszler (as was referred to by Evans last week, whom basically said she would target the inured arm in their match). And she did just that with strikes and then a submission hold. However this was reversed by Kai into a roll up and Dakota Kai got the win in less than a couple of minutes if that. Evans was shocked and Kai was delighted as her surprise win.

Kai’s celebrations were cut short then by the arrival of Shayna Baszler. Kai looked terrified as Baszler entered the ring and starred her down. But before any attack could take place the NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon came out (remember the champion has been called out repeatedly by Baszler for a few weeks now). Moon told Baszler that ‘you really wanna do this again? … you started it but I’m gonna finish it at Takeover: New Orleans!’. Moon and Baszler then brawled, Baszler hit Moon with a really strong looking punch (that Ember really sold well), the referees tried to seperate the 2, Moon hit Baszler with a strong kick, she went to the top rope but Shayna got up to hit her down, and then as Shayna had the Champion in some form of hold whilst trapped on the top turnbuckle, Dakota Kai came in and kicked Baszler down, and with The Queen of Spades laying prone in the ring Ember went off the top rope and hit her with a 1 armed Eclipse (a stunner flying from the top rope, its a great looking move).

Moon stood tall over Baszler and unleashed her warrior scream to end the segment. This was all really well done and advances the feud nicely. I look forward to Takeover and these 2 battling again. Who wins? I really don’t know but I wouldn’t rule out Shayna winning the title and then Ember winning the Women’s Battle Royal at Wrestlemania the next night… I’d REALLY love that to happen…

Street Profits (who I feel have potential to get over more than they already are) vs Heavy Machinery (who… well I DON’T GIVE A SHIT about to be honest) in the first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic action next. Match was ok. Crowd was into Street Profits as an act, not really the match or Heavy Machinery. The finish saw Angelo Dawkins hit a DDT then Montez Ford hit a frog splash to give Street Profits the win (thank GOD). My thoughts? I really like Street Profits as an act, Heavy Machinery powerful, babyface act I just don’t care about one bit. Them both as performers just bore the shit out of me.

Next up was ADAM COLE (with Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish by his side) coming to the ring, I quite like Undisputed Era. Collectively and individually excellent. There was a particularly enthusiastic ‘ADAM COLE BAY-BAY’ from the crowd which was cool, as was the huge pop the crowd gave Cole’s opponent in this championship match; the United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne. Now… this is another of those matches where I didn’t take too many notes, because I was sat back watching two of my absolute favourites having a fantastic match. Pete Dunne is just SOOOOOOO good, he’s unlike anyone else in WWE or NXT stylistically, and just as I write that he’s bending Adam Cole’s fingers back. Brilliant! Bobby Fish on the outside acting as Adam Cole’s coach and cheerleader was highly hilarious, Dunne showing off his wide variety of moves to punish Cole throughout, but Cole was responding in kind with some impressive moves of his own. These two just look so good in the ring, such smoothness and crispness with everything they do. Lots of superkicks, lots of strong forearms from both men, it was tremendous stuff. I urge you, even if you don’t watch NXT, watch this match because it was tremendous fun. The finish came when Pete Dunne had Adam Cole in position for his Bitter End finishing move, but Fish & O’Reilly came in and attacked The Bruserweight and the match was called off. RODERICK STRONG then came out to make the save, and Dunne & Strong cleared Undisputed Era out of the ring. Strong coming to save his opponent for the UK title just a few weeks ago was an interesting move, Strong too has had previous with Cole, Fish and O’Reilly and shares a distain for them with Dunne. Both men then face off with eachother in the ring, with Strong offering his hand to Dunne, but Pete Dunne would not shake his former foes hand but did show he held some mutual respect for him. This was all AMAZING stuff! Be good to see how this is played out in the next few weeks. I’ve a feeling this isn’t over…

The show concluded with what turned into a really fun and interesting segment. NXT GM William Regal was in the ring, he introduced Aleister Black to the ring for his contract signing of his NXT Championship challenge at Takeover: New Orleans. He’s really good isn’t he Aleister Black, as good and as well presented as the FRESH suit he was wearing. Next the music of the champion Andrade Almas hits, but it is instead his business associate Zelina Vega who comes to the ring as a confused Black looks on. Vega reveals that Almas isn’t here tonight, but that she is. Black refuses to look at her as Vega tries to get his attention, she says as his business associate it is her duty to make sure he [Almas] saves his beating to you [Black] until Takeover: New Orleans. She goes to speak some more but is stopped by Black putting his hand in her face. Black then moves the table that was in the middle of the ring for the contract signing, he goes and stands closely in front of Vega who is still berating him, before he then sits on the floor in his signature fashion and then says “at least now we’re on the same level” (BRILLIANT)! Vega doesn’t respond to well to this, she signs the contract and throws it over to Black, who then makes more jokes about Vega’s height that she responds to by slapping him. Aleister then signs the contract and hands it over to William Regal, he leaves the ring (Vega is STILL having a go at Black), and Aleister then says to her “I’m happy you came out alone tonight… because I didn’t…” …. AND THEN… CANDICE LERAE (AKA MRS JOHHNY GARGANO) comes running out and attacks and chases down Vega. She really went for her and finished off her attack with a bulldog out of the corner and she then stands tall over Vega in the ring. Candice then stands with Black on the rampway as the NXT episode ends. GIVE ME ZELINA VEGA VS CANDICE LERAE AT TAKEOVER PLEASE I BEG!!!!????!!!

And that was NXT. Great again? What a shocker…!

Key Points to Take Home

. Sanity are the best stable in WWE

. Tomasso Ciampa is the most despised heel in WWE (AKA HE’S DOING HIS JOB RIGHT)

. Ember Moon needs to go to the main roster after Takeover

. Pete Dunne should be the NXT Champion let alone the UK Champion, he’s that good

. Black vs Almas is going to be so good

Conclusion

I feel like a broken record, every week I say NXT was great and it was really well booked. So I’ll spare you the details and just say that of course there are a few acts I care little for but NXT have a pretty good ratio and percentage of making me care about a large majority of the product. And not just care but absolutely love and adore it! If HHH is running NXT then I cannot wait until he runs the entire WWE. Exciting times ahead!!!

Josh.

NXT 7/3/2018 Review: NXT is the best(EST)

This week should be another fun, action-packed episode of NXT. A brief video package promoting the start of the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Classic tag team tournament, with TM61 vs AOP beginning this year’s edition how we ended the 2016 tournament. Also on this episode will be the inevitable encounter of Aleister Black vs Killian Dain. I’ve a feeling I might enjoy that one…

So we begin the show with the Authors of Pain and their manager Paul Ellering on the way to the ring, followed by their opponents Shane Thorne & Nick Miller. This was as expected, AOP showing off their power & both members of TM61 demonstrating their fight and athleticism. Akam and Rezar took turns at different points to isolate both Miller and Thorne, although Thorne flying over the ropes onto both of AOP on the outside and later a lariat followed by a cannonball and a rolling suplex from Shane Thorne that got a nearfall looking really impressive. However the Australian tag team were met with a PAINful downfall; Shane Throne was powerbombed onto the apron before Nick Miller was a victim of the Last Chapter tag team finishing move and the Authors of Pain picked up the win. For a 5 or so minute match this was pretty entertaining stuff. But it was as expected and AOP march on, and whatever push TM61 were being given to promote their return (they missed over a year of action due to injury) seems to be over for now…

Next we see NXT General Manger William Regal in a typical NXT impromptu press conference/interview… thing… somewhere in the parking lot area of the arena. He’s asked for his thoughts and favourites for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic but stops short of offering his tips, Pete Dunne then walks by and is asked by the “reporters” about his UK title status? The Bruserweight says his title isn’t going anywhere, his former challenger Roderick Strong then enters the fray and admits Dunne was the ‘better man’ in their previous match but says he cannot wait to do it again. ADAM COLE ‘BAY BAY’ then walks by with his Undisputed Era stablemates (the NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) and greets both men, winding up Strong to a point in which Pete Dunne tells Cole that “You haven’t won anything since you’ve been here”. The apparent tension prompts Regal to re-enter the picture and ask if there was a problem. Cole smugly says there isn’t…… OOOOOOOOOOOO I LIKED THIS! … Wonder where it will lead us…

Bianca Belair is briefly shown warming up and preparing for her upcoming match backstage. Before that though we see Sanity cut a promo in the inner-area of the arena, Eric Young promises ‘CHAOS’ as he talks up his team’s chances in the upcoming Dusty Classic, Alexander Wolfe similar, a possessed Nikki Cross at this point jumps on Wolfe’s back and does her usual, sadistic laugh at the prospect of her team unleashing more destruction. Finally a typically angry looking Killian Dain tells his opponent for later in the evening, Aleister Black, that “CHAOS WILL WIN”. I really do love Sanity, collectively and individually they are so, so great! Next back in the ring we have Bianca Belair’s match against a jobber. She does some really impressive looking power moves, all whilst swinging her oh-so-long Ponytail in delight, before winning the match rather quickly with a Fallaway Powerbomb. Another showcase for the “est” of NXT (the gimmick being that whatever superlative you can think of can be applied to her; strongest, fastest etc. you get the idea). She’s getting some kind of push, what the end game is and how far it goes remains to be seen. I’d like to see her now against more established competition before I’m fully convinced by her as a performer and by this gimmick though.

Next we have the ‘Lady of NXT’ Lacey Evans talking backstage at an NXT live event, her gimmick is that she is a class above everyone else and is not afraid to flaunt her glamour and class in her opponents faces. She’ll face fellow Mae Young Classic competitor Dakota Kai next week on NXT and in this interview she claims she will ‘test how much her arm has healed’ following the gruesome stomp on it by Shayna Baszler a few weeks back in their match. And right on time enters the Queen of Spades herself, this quickly prompts Evans to leave, as Baszler explains with no surprise to her that we are now in “another week without a word from Ember Moon (the NXT Women’s Champion that Baszler called out for another match against last week)”. She says the silence makes it clear what Moon’s answer is. Not much to say about this really, Evans character is a good one that she pulls off well, and the same and then some for Shayna Baszler. Good stuff all round.

We then were ‘treated’ to a short promo of Heavy Machinery at the Performance Centre gym talking up their chances in the Dusty Classic. I was always told not to say anything if you have nothing nice to say, so my thoughts on Heavy Machinery: .

Tommaso Ciampa then appeared dragging his crutch on the entrance rampway, to a chorus of boos from the Atlanta crowd (you’ll be more than aware by now that Ciampa had previously cost his former tag team partner Johnny Gargano the NXT Championship and his NXT career). He would then make his way, methodically-slow, to the ring with his crutch over his shoulder, not to any music by the way with only the fury of the NXT fans to accompany him (something which I thought worked really well here). As the chants of “WE WANT JOHNNY” ring around the arena Ciampa attempts to speak through the microphone he had grabbed on a number of occasions, only for each time to be stopped by the volume of boos from the crowd (think Roman Reigns the night after Wrestlemania when he had beaten The Undertaker, this was a similarly negative reaction and situation for the man in the ring). Furious at this response Tomasso Ciampa threw his mic to the floor and left the ring without saying a word, he’d try again only for the same reaction to stop him from speaking. He gazed at some fans in the crowd that were wearing Johnny Wrestling T-shirts before throwing his mic once more and making his exit. “HEY HEY HEY, GOODBYE” was the crowd’s thoughts on this or as one fan in particular was clearly heard saying “you’re so bad, you’re so mean” which I found very amusing. Ciampa would then tear up and then beat with his crutch a fan’s sign of Johnny Wrestling before marching his way out of the NXT arena area. This whole segment was BRILLIANT! It’s a really interesting story they are telling here, this will really help build the hatred towards Ciampa, as will his outstanding work via his official twitter. More super stuff.

It was then announced that on next week’s NXT we will have the following matches: Pete Dunne defending his United Kingdom Championship against Adam Cole (WOW, YES), Sanity vs Riddick Moss & Tino Sabatelli (only half brilliant, and I don’t mean Moss & Sabatelli) and ‘Street Profits’ vs Heavy Machinery (meh, who cares) in the Dusty Rhodes Classic. Before it was finally time for our main event!!!

Perhaps the coolest superstar in the whole of WWE right now Aleister Black made his entrance first, closely followed by the Beast of Belfast himself; Killian Dain. These are two of my absolute favourites in the whole of wrestling, so forgive me if there isn’t too much technical analysis of this one. I just wanted to sit back and enjoy it to be completely honest. As you may expect this match was a battle of Dain’s power and surprisingly high athleticism against the pure striking and technical wizardry of Black, demonstrated by a move more commonly used by Finn Balor (who is almost 200 pounds smaller in weight) when Dain dropkicked Black into the corner of the ring for a nearfall in the opening exchange of the match. Black though showed plenty of what he had to offer, in particular a glorious (Roode, 2016) looking moonsault from the top rope to take down Big Damo (he will always be Big Damo, his name before he came to WWE, to me) on the outside. The Northern Irishman would continue to utilise his ferocious power but a now wounded Black would continue on the offensive, Dain repeatedly telling his opponent that this was “my path” (to the NXT Championship). Dain would hit a Vader Bomb but only got a 2 count, he then would place Black in an electric chair position but this was countered into a roll up nearfall. And then as the monstrous Dain returned to his feet he was greeted with the ever vicious–looking Black Mass kick and that was enough to give Aleister Black the win. Good match this one, both of them outstanding talents and showed off their impressive move and skill sets here. So with this victory it is surely now Aleister Black who awaits the NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas in the championship match at NXT Takeover: New Orleans the night before Wrestlemania.

And that was yet another episode of NXT in the books. If you’ve read all of my reviews of this wonderful show so far you won’t need me to tell you how good it is. This episode didn’t disappoint.

Key Points to Take Home:

. AOP should be on the main roster yesterday. Would be a great answer to The Bar’s Wrestlemania open challenge.

. ADAM COLE VS PETE DUNNE, NEXT WEEK!

. I REPEAT: ADAM COLE VS PETE DUNNE, NEXT WEEK, AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!!!

. Tomasso Ciampa may be the most despised man in the company. Which means as a heel he is doing his job, and doing it very, very well.

. The Black Mass is the best finisher in WWE right now, FIGHT ME!

Conclusion

NXT as I have said never fails to disappoint, and this week was no exception. The way it is booked, the weight of the card each week is just really well done. And, in my opinion, the 2 key parts of any wrestling show are both done here tremendously well; the storytelling and… the wrestling! The story that is being told with Tomasso Ciampa is really something special, who knows how it’ll conclude and where Johnny Gargano factors in. And as demonstrated by Aleister Black and Kilian Dain in the main event, the quality of wrestling on display is out of this world! Next week promises to be more of the same, with 2 of the very best going at it; Pete Dunne vs Adam Cole. 1 year ago Adam Cole was Ring of Honor World Champion, and Pete Dunne was still a few months from claiming his UK title. Now next week they will face each other in a WWE NXT ring, crazy! But WWE is a good kind of crazy at the moment, and NXT is the epitome of that. Who knows what awaits us as the weeks go on and we get closer to Takeover; New Orleans, and a Takeover means after there will be new arrivals to the brand as others depart for the land of Raw or Smackdown. With abundance of talent in WWE’s “developmental” brand at the moment it could not be a better time to be a fan, and if you don’t already; start watching this show now! I assure you it will not disappoint!

Josh.

NXT 28/2/18 Review: Really Good

So we begin this week’s edition of the best hour of weekly wrestling content on the planet with a recap of the main event from last week; where of course the heart and soul of NXT Johnny Gargano was forced to leave the brand after his former tag team partner Tomasso Ciampa cost him his do-or-die match for the NXT Championship. We will be joined later in the episode by the victorious Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his associate Zelina Vega. They will be in full heel-gloat mode I’m sure… perhaps a new challenger for the title will emerge too…?

The first match sees the Velveteen Dream (who, if you’ve read any of my previous NXT blogs you will know I kind of like… A LOT) against former United Kingdom champion Tyler Bate (someone who is insanely talented for his age, and someone I have had the pleasure of witnessing wrestle live at a British wrestling show just months before he came to WWE. The pleasure was all mine). The crowd in Atlanta seemed to really like these two, as chants of “VEL-VE-TEEN” and “Let’s go Tyler” amongst others were prevalent throughout. The match begun with some beautiful looking tie ups and opening holds, Bate dropkicking Dream to the floor on the outside that frustrated the vainglorious one early on. More really good mat wrestling followed, then Velveteen Dream began his focus on Tyler Bate’s back with a series of vicious knee attacks. Bate was able to somehow get back into it and later delivered his signature Airplane Spin which Dream was able to elbow his way out of. Bate would respond by using the ring ropes to bounce off of as a platform for another attack to the Dream for a nearfall. Dream hit a great looking spinebuster for a nearfall, they exchanged more strikes as their tiredness began to show, Dream was on the top rope but Bate would join him, only to then be pushed back down and in doing so falling onto the ropes, leaving the Dudley-born Bate prone for the Purple Rainmaker Elbow drop form the top rope and The Velveteen Dream picked up an impressive win. These are 2 very good, very talented superstars and they showed it here. Really good stuff this one. Commentary made points of Bate’s continuing losing streak and how Velveteen Dream is continuing his own list of names he has defeated. Expect both to factor into their own storylines in the weeks and months of NXT tv to come.

So Shayna Baszler vs Kairi Sane is happening tonight also. A rematch of the Mae Young Classic final. Happy days. A Paul Ellering promo follows, he is flanked by the tag team he manages, the gigantic Akam and Rezar; The Authors of Pain. They speak about the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and how it will lead them once again to the tag team titles and the Undisputed Era. Should point out both Akam and Rezar spoke also in a mix of broken English and their respective mother tongues… Just get these lot to Raw already PLEASE!!! We were then briefly shown some footage via WWE.com of NXT GM William Regal, along with an apologetic referee whom counted the fateful pinfall last week, as Johnny Gargano signs his NXT release forms in what was a very solemn situation… *cry*

Next match will see WWE Performance Centre standout Cezar Bononi in action against one of my favourite wrestlers in the world, Adam Cole. He is flanked by his stable mates in the Undisputed Era, the NXT Tag Team champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly. Seen these 3 live before too and I also own an Undisputed Era t shirt. So that tells you what I think of them. Anyway, as the match is about to start Adam Cole gets a microphone; he asks the crowd to show their appreciation for the NXT 2017 Future Star of the Year Bononi, he then says the future star only belongs in the Undisputed Era! Fish and O’Reilly on the ring apron throw Cezar an Undisputed Era T shirt but as the Brazilian is contemplating the offer he is blindsided by the faction’s leader. Cole does his “Bay Bay” chant with the crowd as he gleefully gloats his double cross on the young upstart, god Adam Cole is just so good and hilarious at what he does. But as Cole is celebrating Bononi retaliates with a big boot before fending away Fish and O’Reilly as the match is finally underway. Cezar hits a Michonoku Driver for a 2 count, but is then distracted by the NXT tag champions enough for Adam Cole to hit an impactful Superkick which was closely followed by his knee to the back of the neck to get the victory. Undisputed Era then beat down Bononi after the bell. Short stuff here but it more than served its purpose, Undisputed Era’s characters are further cemented and anytime they are on my tv screen is a good time for me. They’re great. This was great. Great stuff all round!

Another great video package then plays, this time showing the WWE careers so far of both Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler and their ongoing rivalry. Then was a pre filmed promo from tag team the Street Profits, followed by the reveal of the bracket for the Dusty Rhodes Classic that was as follows;

Street Profits vs Heavy Machinery

Tino Sabatelli & Riddick Moss vs Sanity

TM61 vs Authors of Pain

Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch vs Moustache Mountain

TM61 VS AOP will be happening next week by the way. A repeat of the final of last edition of the tournament.

So Kairi Sane is on her way to the ring next for her match. She just fills me with so much joy and happiness every time I see her. Shayna Baszler follows. And the match itself begins with Baszler disrespecting the Pirate Princess, whose fightback is stopped ferociously by the Queen of Spades. Baszler is on top for the early going culminating in a series of hard kicks and a particularly hard knee to Sane on the floor for a 2 count nearfall. Shayna stays in control until Sane rolls her up out of a double wristlock for a nearfall. Baszler delivers another hard kick before Sane responds with some offensive strikes of her own, before hitting Baszler with a Spear to bide herself some recuperation time. Sane now is defiant in her approach and follows a sliding attack to a prone Baszler in the corner with a flying Kabuki Elbow that gets her a 2 count. Sane then hits a spinning backfist hard to Shayna, and makes her way to the top rope possible looking for her Insane Elbow finisher but Baszler quickly goes on the attack and hits a Kirifuda driver (a vertical suplex type move followed by her rear-naked choke submission) on Sane for the win. Kairi tapped out fairly quickly after Baszler got the submission in, something I really don’t mind as it makes the move more realistic as in MMA when a submission is locked in like that fully, it often finishes the contest in seconds. Particularly for former MMA fighter Baszler, this helps her character greatly. After the match Baszler approached the commentary table and called out once again the NXT Women’s champion Ember Moon. Decent stuff this from 2 of the best women in WWE. Sane got her stuff in and isn’t weakened by this loss at all, and Baszler can now push on to another title opportunity against the champion after avenging her loss in the Mae Young Classic final to Sane.

And to end the show Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega make their way to the ring, as you’d expect looking pleased with themselves. Vega is on the mic and tells everyone to welcome the greatest NXT champion in history, or as she likes to call him “Mr 4-0”. She goes on to tell the NXT crowd that “you all thought Johnny was gonna win, Johnny thought he was gonna win” before reminding us all that he allowed his family to see him lose not once but four times. She says that as Johnny ‘goes on about earning their (the fans) respect, but “who cares about their respect?”, she says Andrade earns money, fame and power and unlike most women she doesn’t feed off her man’s success, she creates it. This was, as always, really good heel stuff from Zelina Vega, whose fast becoming one of the best and most convincing promos in the company.

Andrade gets the mic and gloats about how Johnny faced him again and again and again and again, and lost. He says that “Johnny talks about being ‘Johnny Wrestling’ again, so I make him Johnny ‘jobless’” before laughing further to himself (I thought this line was pretty good). Some people may critique the fact Almas’ English was broken but I actually think his delivery is such that it’s really effective for his heel character, so props to him for that. Zelina Vega then says “so if they call him Johnny Wrestling, what do they call you [Andrade]?” Almas responds by saying they call me “THE NXT CHAMPION” as El Idolo happily raises his championship with Vega smiling approvingly. Vega and Almas then gloat some more on the rampway before the entrance music of ALEISTER BLACK plays!!! The confused pair look on as Black makes his way to the ring from the other side of the arena. With the lights dimmed as is customary for his entrance, Black simply stands in the ring and stares across at Vega and the NXT Champion, and as chants of “AL-EI-STER” ring around the arena Black goes to speak before the music of the Beast from Belfast KILLIAN DAIN plays!!! A confused Black and Vega/Almas look on as Dain comes through the crowd, gets in the ring and brawls with Black. It ends with Dain hitting his running crossbody move to down the Dutchman, and as Vega and Almas make their exit Dain stands tall over Black, so a future Number 1 Contenders match that I called last week looks a certainty now then…. YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!!!

And that was yet another very good and fun to watch edition of NXT. It really never fails to entertain me.

Key Points to take home:

  • Velveteen Dream and Tyler Bate are really good
  • The Undisputed Era, collectively and individually, are really good
  • Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler are really good
  • Zelina Vega has quickly become one of the best all-round performers in the entire WWE
  • I want to see Aleister Black AND Killian Dain face Almas for the title, I WANT THEM BOTH!

Conclusion

As is the same with NXT each week, it seems an abundance of talent doesn’t make it on tv everytime, but that is only to the strength of the roster. In recent weeks Smackdown has struggled to find a good balance, but NXT does it expertly despite being half as long. So let’s focus on those who were on the episode this week; the potential of the Velveteen Dream really is the sky. I pray and hope it will not flounder like so many successful NXT gimmicks have when he eventually makes his way to the main roster. In a year or so time I expect The Undisputed Era to have recruited a female to join their ranks and to eventually hold all of the championships in NXT. Adam Cole for one could well be an outside bet to have a record long reign as champion, a big call that I know but he really is that good. Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler are just the perfect opponents for each other, in-ring and character wise they mix so well. I would expect to see them in a future encounter for the NXT Women’s Championship later down the line, and I’d be absolutely delighted with that because they are both fantastic talents; Kairi Sane may well be one of my favourite wrestlers in the world and as for Shayna, the quickness that she has shown in adapting so smoothly into becoming a top class pro-wrestler has been stunning. I wouldn’t be too upset if she indeed does take Ember Moon’s title from her in New Orleans.

And finally… well… what more can I say about the NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, his business associate Zelina Vega and the two potential contenders for the title Aleister Black and the monstrous Killian Dain? I will just say then that there is a reason these ended this episode, and an abundance more as to why they are in the top championship contention on the best wrestling show in the world, because they are all… really good!!!

Josh.

NXT 21/2/2018 Review: THANK YOU JOHNNY

NXT tonight begins with a great video package on the evolution of the NXT career of the current NXT Champion, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. This is, of course, ahead of his championship vs NXT career match against Johnny Gargano later in this episode. We certainly have an absolute BLOCKBUSTER NXT ahead of us…

We begin with The Velveteen Dream (you may well be aware but I quite like The Velveteen Dream… A LOT) as he makes his usual provocative, flamboyant entrance, he’s followed by his opponent, another showman, NXT veteran No Way Jose. Should be fun indeed this one. “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants from the crowd as the match begins with The Dream starting with some real hard hitting attacks, he does a dance move where he shakes his hips to mock the moves that No Way Jose usually exhibits. No Way Jose responds with an attack before sending Velveteen over the top rope before flying over to topple his opponent and reclaim control of the match.

Both men are then back in the ring now and Dream hangs Jose on the ropes, hits a neckbreaker and then after going to the top rope he then only runs into a raised foot from his opponent and then a small package that got a 2 count. Dream is hit by multiple shots, he’s slammed down, hit in the corner, slammed down again, tossed into a turnbuckle before he finally comes back with a missile dropkick followed by a rolling Death Valley driver from the Velveteen Dream. He then goes to the top and hits his Purple Rainmaker elbow drop and the Velveteen Dream claims the win. Good little match this, Velveteen’s development continues, he is THE future of NXT and WWE, mark my words! After the match he cuts a promo and (with more “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants from the adoring Atlanta crowd) explains that with all the awards he won at the NXT awards for 2017 that nobody cares about fellow award winners Aleister Black, Asuka or Tyler Bate. And that, acknowledging the crowd chants, that his name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue here tonight and if you can’t see that “I just don’t have time for you”… Velveteen Dream is great. Simple as.

Next Andrade Almas and his associate Zelina Vega are shown in the locker room with Vega giving him a motivational talk. After this NXT GM William Regal announces the return of the ‘Dusty Rhodes Classic’ tag team tournament. This was set up in honour of the NXT founding father that it is named after, and has run twice previously in 2015 and 2016. Regal announces that the winners of the tournament will receive an NXT Tag Team title opportunity at NXT Takeover: New Orleans. I must admit I am surprised they are having the tournament over and done with this quickly BEFORE Takeover, especially given the team I believe will win the Classic have only just arrived in WWE, and therefore I’d be surprised if they got the title opportunity immediately, but saying that I would be PLEASANTLY surprised if that were to be the case.

Random point but I must just comment on how absolutely excellent the NXT commentary team are. Mauro Ranallo may be the best lead announcer in the game, Nigel McGuinness the best colour commentator and Percy Watson has really come into his own in the past few months. Just another reason to watch NXT every week. Anyway on with the rest of the show… Up next is Sanity’s Nikki Cross vs Vanessa Borne (I’ve a feeling I might like this one…). The Mae Young Classic competitor out first followed by one of my absolute favourites, to a big crowd pop; the Glaswegian, twisted sister Nikki Cross. One of the best characters in NXT right now and her commitment to the role is first class, basically she is a psychopath. And her in ring work is sound to say the least (I’d advise watching her last woman standing match with Asuka when you can), and I absolutely love her.

Nikki Cross immediately charges Vanessa Borne and unleashes on her in the corner. The unhinged Cross then climbs the back of Borne before a 360 slam from the former dancer gets her a 2 count. Vanessa hits a strong forearm for another 2 count. She then stomps repeatedly upon Nikki before burying her shin in Cross’ neck following up with a great suplex for another nearfall. Cross tries to get out of a rest hold but Vanessa slams her down to the canvas for yet another 2 count. Nikki Cross, with her signature sadistic smile, is hit repeatedly by Borne, a banshee type scream from Sanity’s leading lady is followed up with a crossbody and a series of forearms from Cross. Cross then finds herself on the top rope and delivers a diving crossbody followed by a swinging neck breaker to give her the win. A typical NXT structure to this match, but it was still good. Nikki got all her stuff in and Vanessa looked good in what she did too. With apologies to Drew McIntyre, Miss Hooley and Amy Macdonald it could well be Nikki Cross who is my favourite person from the Scottish isles. She is really, really, REALLY great!

There’s then a brief recap of the Aleister Black – Killian Dain confrontation from last week. I’m all for everything to do with this. Johnny Gargano is then shown with Candice LeRae backstage looking very focussed ahead of his big match tonight. They’re my favourite wresting couple, so much love for them both. A tweet from TM61’s Shane Thorne is then shown in relation to the Dusty Rhodes Classic. TM61 actually got to the final of the last rendition, and it was after that match TM61 were off TV for over a year due to injury. Another brief recap then shows the Ember Moon – Shayna Baszler match from last week and the intervention of Kairi Sane. It’s announced following this that the Queen of Spades will next week go one on one with The Pirate Princess as Baszler will face Sane in a rematch of the Mae Young Classic final (YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!).

Well here we go then; out comes the NXT champion Andrade Almas with Zelina Vega by his side (these two just ooze star power). They are then followed out by Mr AND Mrs Wrestling as Candice LeRae accompanies her husband Johnny Gargano to the ring, Candice sporting a ‘Mrs Johnny Wrestling’ t shirt (this was too many levels of adorable). The match begins with Almas trying to win quickly and failing. Almas then kneeing Gargano, before Gargano hits a step-up inziguiri in the corner, a lariat and a clothesline then sends Almas to the outside, Johnny then goes to perform his signature Tope Suiceda move but instead it is Vega who is stood in Almas’ previous position which causes Gargano to pause. In frustration Candice then chases after Vega to the back of the arena. Finally Almas doesn’t have his trusted aide by his side.

Johnny hits a flurry of punches to Andrade on the outside, he throws him back in the ring but Almas eventually slams him down on the ring apron. Back in the ring and ‘El Idolo’ gets a 2 count. He then delivers a brutal-looking armbar using the ring ropes for leverage, followed up with another flurry of punches. Almas then shows some good foresight with a hammerlock submission move and then driving Gargano’s shoulder into the turnbuckle, the commentary team noting this damage to his shoulder will make it more difficult for Gargano to lock in his Gargano Escape submission later in the match. Another Almas nearfall is greeted with a chorus of “JOHHNY WRESTLING” chants from the crowd, much to the champion’s annoyance although he is well in control now.

Almas then has an armlock locked in, but Gargano counters with knees to Almas’ mid-section, a suplex and a kick from Gargano, he chops away at Almas in the corner, then the same in another corner, a hurricanrana and then a beautiful Slingshot Spear, all of which ONLY gets Gargano a 2 count. Both men exchange strikes, Johnny goes for a superkick but it is countered as Almas powers up and hits a Bucklebomb followed up with his running knees in the corner but Mr Wrestling is somehow able to kick out of the pin attempt (all terrific stuff from Almas whilst on offence here). Almas goes for his finisher but Gargano drives Andrade into the corner, only for that to be reversed and Gargano’s shoulder again taking more damage. With both men on the ring apron they exchange strikes before Gargano, having put Almas back into the ring, attempts a slingshot DDT that is caught and turned into a wonderful-looking Fujiwara armbar from Almas. Gargano only escapes this by rolling Andrade up for a nearfall pin attempt.

Johnny Wrestling himself then goes for a hammerlock ddt of his own that is turned into a small package from Almas, Gargano then does one of his own with both getting 2 counts. Almas then does his double knees in the corner move again for another nearfall. Unsuccessful with this, Andrade then places Gargano on the top ropes, but Gargano responds with headbutts to knock Almas down, Gargano then performs an exquisite Tope Suiceda into a tornado DDT followed by a slingshot DDT on Almas in the ring, but this still only gets a 2 count.

With both men on their knees inside the ring exchanging strikes, this continues when both men return to their feet. Gargano then finds himself on Almas shoulders but escapes, and as Almas charges at him to retaliate he instead charges and knocks down the referee. With the authority figure in the match down Gargano locks in the Gargano Escape looking on the verge of the NXT Championship… but then…

TOMASSO CIAMPA (Gargano’s former tag team partner, see my Johnny Gargano blog for the back story here) is in the ring. He hits Gargano with a crutch before escaping through the crowd. Almas then hits a Hammerlock DDT and with the ref back up, much to the verbal horror of Mauro Ranallo on commentary, Almas wins the match. Johnny Gargano’s NXT career is OVER!

It seems secondary given the quality of the story being told but the match itself was really good. Almas and Vega go to the back as they celebrate, as Candice LeRae returns to the ring to console her despondent husband. Crowd seems in shock. Standing ovation for maybe the finest wrestler we have ever had in NXT. “NO NO NO” chants the crowd as the ring announcer proclaims, per the match stipulation, that Gargano must indeed leave NXT. “THANK YOU JOHNNY” they chant as Gargano and LeRae make their exit. The final shot of the show is of a content looking Ciampa waving his former friend goodbye. What this all means and where it all goes remains to be seen, but this storytelling has been first class.

And that was yet another fantastic episode of NXT.

Key points to take home:

– Velveteen is a Dream

– Nikki Cross would be fine on her own if it came to it, she’s that good

– War Machine… that is all

– What now for Gargano?

– What now for Ciampa?

Conclusion

The people who run and write Smackdown should watch NXT. That’s how you tell compelling stories utilising all your top talents whilst not even having to have them appear on TV every week. NXT does this beautifully. It really does fill me with joy every time I watch it. I’ll always be grateful for you NXT, you’re the best!

Josh.