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 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.