WWE week in review – April 27 2018

Another week in WWE has been and gone. Maybe not as eventful as last week but nonetheless a lot going on. Please note that I’m releasing this on Friday afternoon at around 3pm, so BEFORE the start of the Greatest Royal Rumble. Enjoy!
Friday afternoon: WWE will air a Bruno Sammartino tribute documentary on the network immediately after Raw on Monday. Lovely stuff.
Booker T will temporarily replace Jonathan Coachman on commentary for Raw Monday (Coach is away covering a golf even, as his WWE contract also allows him to cover other sporting events alongside his WWE commitments). THANK GOD! MAKE THIS A PERMANENT THING! If you thought Booker T was bad then my oh MY Coach is AWFUL! Just to annoying and his points he makes and delivery of them are abysmal.
Alexa Bliss has reportedly had a boob job. This is being given as a reason why she hasn’t gone on WWE’s tour to South Africa. oi oi…
Friday Evening: WWE announce Asuka & Becky Lynch vs The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) for Smackdown this week. Great stuff. Billie and Peyton worked really well with Asuka in NXT so this should be good.
Saturday: a selfie posted by Alexa Bliss (showing off her new ‘boosted’ … ‘assets’) now has more likes than posts of the Wrestlemania returns of Daniel Bryan and The Undertaker. Wrestling fans……………….
Sunday: WWE release a new promotional image for the Greatest Royal Rumble match. It features (amongst others) Gallows and Anderson, Mark Henry, The Great Khali and Rey Mysterio. Expected really beens as they NEED soooooo many men to fill this match, but the big names of Henry and more notably Khali (not good) and Rey (absolutely brilliant) are a nice bonus.
Sunday Afternoon: WWE reveal 8 athletes have been successful at the tryouts in Saudi Arabia. And at least one of them will compete in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. cough cough *MONEY* cough cough…. lets hope whoever they choose gets a nice pop from the home crowd, and doesn’t embarrass themselves in the match.
Monday: John Cena turns 41 today. Given recent events lets hope he has a good one.
Monday Evening: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has once again become a father. MY GUY!!!
Ronda Rousey vs Mickie James announced for the upcoming WWE European (UK included) tour. Great match up this. Mickie is one of the most experienced and best wrestlers on the female roster, so putting Ronda with her in a run of singles matches is a wise move.
Monday: RAW

  • Bruno Sammartino tribute package airs to begin the show. Followed by a 10 bell salute. The tribute video was excellent, and also featured Vince McMahon SENIOR speaking about Bruno.
  • Lesnar and Heyman came out to open the show properly. Heyman cut a long promo, Reigns then came out and cut a promo of his own, standing face to face with Brock. The promo was good but long from Paul and not much of any difference to his pre-mania ones. And although it was obviously positive that Roman finally stood toe-to -toe with Lesnar, the lack of a physical altercation between the two was a tad disappointing.
  • Elias came out for another ‘performance’, he was though interrupted by Bobby Roode and the two had a match following. Elias eventually won with a roll up. A tad surprising that they had Roode lose after giving him the show closing spot when making his Raw arrival last week, but nonetheless this is surely only the beginning of an angle between these two so that should be fun.
  • WOKEN Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt cut a usual promo of theirs. they then beat The Ascension. No surprises at all here. Matt and Bray worked great together, their opponents are about as jobber as you could get.
  • Owens and Zayn presented ‘The Kevin & Sami show’ with Kurt Angle as their guest. They were very condescending with him, the gave him a tacky fold-out chair to sit on, and were just generally disrespectful to the Raw GM. He responded in kind (after they spoke of them winning the Greatest Royal Rumble match) by reminding them that he himself as well as Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho were also in the match and wanted to repay them for past grievances. He then also put Zayn and Owens in a tag team match later in the show against Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman. This was excellent simply put. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are just the best heel for a long time. HILARIOUS!
  • Bo Dallas and Curtiz Axel were backstage in the locker room with Seth Rollins. And as The Miz had departed to Smackdown the pair looked to Rollins to be the new team leader, with the idea they could be a 2nd version of The Shield. Seth said it was a “firm no”. This was pretty funny.
  • Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler beat Titus worldwide. Both then cut a promo afterwards with McIntyre being particularity vocal in his new heel persona. Drew also had new music (his old one with a heavy drum beat over the top of it). Drew’s was awesome here in his promo, so much fire in him. This guy is going to be a MEGASTAR! And he’s going to drag Dolph to stardom with him too for a time anyway.
  • Kurt Angle was backstage with Chad Gable (who it appears is a face now). Jinder Mahal eventually interrupted to set up a match after a brief ad break. The two had an ok match with Gable surprisingly getting the win. Jinder was furious as a result. 2 weeks on Raw, 2 matches, 2 losses for Mahal… hmm… when has a losing streak ever got anyone over? VERY rarely. Kind of obvious to me. Anyway at least Chad Gable is a great wrestler, so any chance he gets to showcase his stuff is a good time for me. So fingers crossed it continues and he build sup a decent character along the way.
  • The Riott Squad do a backstage interview with Renee, ahead of the 10 woman tag that will close the show. No thoughts really. It was fine. Ruby is great, needs to be a face though.
  • Samoa Joe did a cell phone promo. Fairly similar to what he said on Smackdown last week. Similar yes, but still really good work. Joe comes across as such a believable scary, monster, heel guy.
  • Finn Balor was in the locker room area with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Bo and Curtis were wearing the “OG BC” t shirts and attempted to too sweet and team up with Finn. Finn declined. This was jokes.
  • Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman faced Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. Finish came when Lashley did his delayed suplex to Zayn before tagging in Braun and he quickly did his running Powerslam for thew win. This was absolutely tremendous. All 4 guys played their role wonderfully. It was really entertaining. One conclusion that was clear as day for me after this though, was that Braun Strowman SHOULD be the guy. Not Roman. BRAUN. Now!
  • Baron Corbin was due to face No Way Jose (accompanied by his ‘conga line’, but after Jose came with his dancing friends to the ring Corbin came out and essentially said he wouldn’t be doing the match for fear some of the conga line would jump him. Corbin went to the back, Jose danced back up the ramp anyway before Corbin came back out and attacked Jose. This was fine enough, without being amazing.
  • Alexa Bliss was shown in a filmed segment, billed as a public service announcement, entitled: A Moment of Bliss. She cut a very solemn figure, and spoke very softly as she put across her “anti-bullying” message as she told a story about her ‘former best friend’ Nia Jax stealing a Burrito from a homeless person. This was one of the best women’s segment I had seen in a LONG time! Alexa Bliss acting here was out of this world good! I laughed. Maybe that wasn’t the intention but it was brilliant.
  • After their separate confrontations earlier in the show, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins beat Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (as they have done on the house show segment recently) in quick fashion. Meh.
  • Natalya held court in the locker room with her tag team members for the main event: Ember Moon, Nia Jax (who each spoke separately too) and Sasha and Bayley. As the 3 other women made their exit Sasha tried to smile at Bayley but Bayley returned with a glare and shrugged off her sign of reconciliation it seemed. This segment was straight out of BORESVILLE!!! And Bayley vs Sasha maybe the worst feud of the year. NOTHING is happening!!!
  • The Raw main event then saw the team of Natalya, Ember Moon, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks and Bayley take on The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan), Mickie James and Alexa Bliss. Match came to an end when Sarah Logan chop blocked Natalya and hurt her knee real bad, Mickie James then tried to further hurt Nattie. That was when Ronda Rousey’s music hit to make the save, she helped her friend but was then kicked down by James. This prompted Ronda to enter the ring and do a Judo Throw and locked the Armbar in on James (this ended the match on a DQ). So: match was a bit of a clusterfuck, Alexa did absolutely nothing in the match (further evidence they’re keeping her away from action as she recovers from her ‘surgery’), Bayley and Sasha had ZERO interactions to advance their storyline, Ronda was a megastar and her spots with Mickie James looked so natural it gives me great hope for what looks like a feud between thew two going forward. But most of all… WWE… don’t think I don’t see you… putting all your Raw women in a match that you’ve just thrown them all in to, putting it on last and having your top female star close the show looking strong… just a few days before a massive event your promoting… that women just so happens are NOT on. I see right through you!

Monday: After Raw had finished WWE did indeed air a new Bruno Sammartino documentary on the WWE network. It was really good.
X Pac reveals on his podcast that had Bruno and the WWE not come to an agreement on his Hall of Fame induction in 2013, DX as a group were going to be the headline replacement instead.
Tuesday = A Backlash contract signing for Carmella’s Smackdown Women’s Championship defense against former champion Charlotte Flair AND Miz TV with guest Daniel Bryan are both announced as segments for Smackdown this evening. GREAT! Particularly the later announced segment will be enthralling!
Paul Heyman will reportedly NOT be travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Greatest Royal Rumble event this Friday. Hmm… this is interesting and potentially concerning… we shall see…

Along with Carmella vs Charlotte, Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss is also confirmed for the upcoming Backlash ppv.
Zack Ryder reveals on social media that (in his match against Mike Kanellis that was tapped for the Main Event show on the network, tapped before Raw) he suffered a knee injury. He was not flying to Saudi Arabia but instead to Orlando for an MRI. Gut wrenching stuff this. Particularly when he’s just moved brands. Hopefully it’s not too serious. Got loads of talent has Zack, sadly never given a proper and long enough chance to showcase it.
Tuesday : Smackdown
– Miz TV was supposed to be with Daniel Bryan, but instead Big Cass came out in a great looking suit. They both talked down about Bryan. I guess this delays the inevitable Miz – Bryan feud…

Asuka and Becky Lynch are shown backstage as they are about to make their entrances for their match, but they stop walking upon seeing Daniel Bryan in the floor being tended to by officials. He has apparently been attacked (presumably by Big Cass)
– The IIconics come out, cut a promo then beat Becky and Asuka in a tag match. Finish coming when Peyton pinned Lynch whilst her feet were on the ropes. Good for Billie Kay and Royce to get a big win early in their main roster career, but Asuka losing a match AGAIN?!?!?!
– Renee Young is shown outside Shane McMahon’s office, but instead AJ Styles comes out looking very pleased with himself. He reveals their will be a 6 man tag match in the main event later on, pitting him and 2 partners vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev and Aiden English. Intriguing… I hope it’s what I think this is… But strange how after weeks of Rusev and English beating in him, Nakamura is now teaming with them. Heel or not, some continuity would be nice…
– a hype video plays for the upcoming Smackdown arrival of former NXT Champion Andrade Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega. YES YES YES! IM ALL IN ON THESE TWO!!!
– Naomi and The Usos did a segment from the locker room. Naomi expressed her concerns ahead of Jimmy Uso’s match with Rowan later. So… they’re all in on showing Naomi as Mrs Uso on TV as well now then… ok…
— Rowan (with Harper) v Jimmy (with Jey). Rowan dominates until Noami makes her entrance (neon clothes and flashy lights and all). This distracts Rowan enough to allow Jimmy to get a shock win. You have to give The Usos a bit of build going into this match I guess…
– Renee hosts a contract signing between Charlotte and Carmella. Carmella makes her way out first, she gloats and then shows a video package showing her road to becoming champion… Twice! But half way through the 2nd showing Charlotte comes out. She takes her seat at the other side of the set out table, Carmella continues to talk trash which leads Charlotte to slam Carmella’s head into the table and then flip the table onto her. This went the way every single contract signing ever in WWE has gone, nonetheless it was good enough.
– Dasha Fuentes is outside Shinsuke Nakamura’s locker room, instead Aiden English comes out and tells her “sorry, no questions”FANTASTIC!
– Shelton Benjamin looked set to take on US Champion Jeff Hardy in a rematch from last week’s show. But instead Randy Orton passed Hardy on the ramp (reverse of last week) and he took the match instead. With Jeff at ringside throughout a masked man attacked him. Orton dragged the man into the ring and took his mask off to reveal it was Jinder Mahal’s ally Sunil Singh. Singh got an RKO for his troubles but this was enough to provide Benjamin with the chance to get the upset win. ANOTHER DISTRACTION WIN WTF IS HAPPENING?!
– New Day backstage segment featuring a candle lit pancake dinner (don’t ask, just go with it) … The Bar came in and played party poopers. Simple stuff. Fued been done before, but wouldn’t be against it on Smackdown.
– AJ is in the locker room… with… GALLOWS AND ANDERSON!!! HALLELUJAH!!!
– Sanity hype package video. I still am sad Nikki Cross is sticking around in NXT but nonetheless I’m so excited for their arrival to Smackdown!
– Renee Young interview backstage with Daniel Bryan. His shoulder was heavily bandaged up. He was really fired up and revealed Smackdown GM Paige had made Bryan vs Big Cass for Backlash. Awesome. MASSIVE opportunity for Big Cass.
– Samoa Joe pre-filmed promo. Same sort of content as has been recently. But still as good.
– Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson followed by WWE Champion AJ Styles came out. They were followed by their opponents; Aiden English, Rusev and finally Shinsuke Nakamura (who had new music. A take on his old one but with a Japanese singer and an electric guitar playing over it. It was cool AF to me). Decent match ended with Nakamura predictably pinning Gallows after a Kinshasa. After the match AJ brawled with Shinsuke, until Nakamura once again low blowed the champion and then hit Karl Anderson with his signature knee strike as Anderson took the BULLET for his friend. Simply put this aftermath was wonderful. Really builds the grudge match feeling going into Friday, stunning contrast to the ultra respectful build to their last meeting. But by a long way the build to this has been so much better from a storytelling standpoint. Nakamura has gone to even higher levels as a performer as a heel. And given how good he was before that’s saying a lot!
– 2 other segments related to the show were put out by WWE; Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose mocking a crestfallen Becky Lynch backstage (presumably setting up a match next week) and also Tye Dillinger on the phone to R Truth, who it appears didn’t find his way to the arena………. yeah…..
205 Live featured the gauntlet match to decide the challenger for Cedric Alexander’s Cruserweight title at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. The match saw Mustafa Ali beat TJP, Drew Gulak then beat Ali, Gulak beat former friend Tony Nese, and then finally Kalisto beat Gulak to book his ticket to Jeddah.
Wednesday morning: so it now appears Paul Heyman WILL be making the trip to Saudi Arabia, he just will do so later on the week. PHEW!
Wednesday: WWE has now officially confirmed Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry, The Great Khali, Shane McMahon, Randy Orton and Kevin Owens will be in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. Again not a massive surprise… a 50 man match, there isn’t going to be many names NOT in it.
Wednesday evening: Zack Ryder reveals his injury isn’t as bad as first feared, and that nothing is torn or broken just strains suffered. No surgery needed. Thank god! Would be last thing he needs. Hope to see him back soon.
Tye Dillinger points out on twitter that he is not featured in the advertising for the Greatest Royal Rumble event. Dangerous came you’re playing there Tye…
Wednesday: NXT

  • Undisputed Era came out and each cut a promo. Adam Cole was last and spoke about his North American title match against Oney Lorcan. He said he would win by himself and even laughed about needing help to win the match. This was great. All 4 members are really into their role, particularly the newly turned Roderick Strong.
  • Cole retained his title against Lorcan. Cole had his ribs tapped up, and at one point Lorcan threw Cole onto the ropes on his ribs. Kyle O’Reilly ran down with a doctor to see if he was ok, in the meantime Roderick Strong came out and gave Lorcan a back suplex onto the apron. Adam Cole was suddenly ok, and he then hit his finisher on Lorcan to retain the title. After the finish Danny Burch tried to stop Undisputed Era beating down his tag partner, but he was beaten down too. This was expected, but I’m a big Undisputed Era fan so I loved it. Give me Adam Cole and his cronies beating people up and being arrogant dicks all day long pls.
  • Shayna Baszler video package.
  • Bianca Belair video package, She’ll face Candice LeRae next week. Great, should be a fun match.
  • Heavy Machinery beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. I love NXT, but I couldn’t be less uinterested in these two tag teams if I tried.
  • There was a video shown setting up potential challengers for the NXT Women’s Championship. Featured were Nikki Cross, Aliyah, and Kairi Sane. Aliyah? DPMO. Don’t even put her in the same conversation as my two girls!!!!!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU!!!!!
  • Dakota Kai was shown being interviewed by Cathy Kelley about Shayna Baszler earlier in the day. Kai didn’t want to talk about Baszler even though Kelley kept asking about her. Shayna then walked in. Baszler talked down to her and said that Baszler running the women’s division is Dakota’s worst nightmare. I like Dakota don’t get me wrong, but I hope this is just a TV feud, and they give Baszler another challenger for the next Takeover.
  • Kona Reeves with another hype package. ZZZZZZzzzzz…..
  • Lacey Evans, Vanessa Borne, & Candice LeRae also were shown saying they too would defeat the NXT Women’s Champion Baszler if they got the chance. I feel like there may be a multi women or battle royal type match in the upcoming weeks to decide the next main challenger. Far too many women talking directly about challenging the champion for it not to be for a purpose.

Next week we will have TM61 vs The Street Profits & Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong.

  • Johnny Gargano came to the ring for his NXT championship match with Aleister Black. But on hos way to the ring he was jumped by Tommaso Ciampa. Ciampa threw Gargano into the stage, Johhny fought-back until Ciampa gave him a low blow. Ciampa then kicked Gargano in the head and, ignoring the officials that had come out to try and stop the attack, then gave him an Emerald Fusion through some production tables off the stage area. (The same spot he did when he originally turned on his former partner almost 1 year ago). The medics stretchered Gargano away, Kassius Ohno was among those who cam to help out, Aleister Black too arrived to see what was happening. As the ambulance drove away the camera zoomed out and there Ciampa was pictured on top of a ring truck. This was heartbreaking obviously, but absolutely brilliant stuff. This incredible rivalry is NOT done then, so maybe a gimmick match between the two soon? Cage? HELL IN A CELL???
  • Aleister Black came out to the ring and took to the mic and appeared to be about to challenge Tomasso Ciampa (GIVE ME THIS MATCH PLEASE), but instead he was interrupted by SAnitY! Eric Young said that Gargano’s hope was taken away by chaos, but that ” we will find hope and we will find sanity”. As Young was about to continue Black saw what was coming and challenged Young to face him for his title! So the match took place, and it wasn’t spectacular but it was fine. Black won with a Black Mass. and as both Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain got in the ring to try and avenge their leader’s loss, they were both Black Mass victims too, as Black ended the show holding his title and standing tall. Presumably this was done to give Sanity there sendoff before they officially move to Smackdown. But it was fun enough, and the champion looking strong is something I will never be against, particularity when that man is Aleister Black, and he is cool AF!

Thursday:

Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) issue a challenge to the Undisputed Era for WWE’s UK Championship shows in June, via a video released on WWE’s twitter. If we could have Undisputed Era vs British Strong Style (the name on the indies for the collective group of Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) that’d be great. Thanks.
Triple H announces potential plans for NXT to go global via ‘global localization’ (the idea being there will be feeder-like promotions in countries all over the world, all feeding eventually towards the main NXT brand and the main roster shows). This information was actually made available during Triple H’s conference call over Wrestlemania weekend, but seems to have only come to light now. This is really exciting for WWE but does seem as if they are attempting to take over the world, which might not please some other smaller promotions over the globe.

Friday:
It’s the Greatest Royal Rumble later TODAY! They have extra comfy seats at ringside… the type you’d see in a posh lounge. This show is going to be CRAZY! I’m absolutely fascinated to see it!

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.

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.

NXT 14/2/18 Review: All so bright as we fade to Black

The best hour of wrestling every single week should be particularly good this week; Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler AND Pete Dunne vs Roderick Strong! My one true love giving me the perfect Valentine’s Day gifts!

Pete Dunne comes out first to a big pop from the crowd (did I ever mention I was there when he made his main roster WWE TV debut in November? … Did I mention I squealed like a little girl when he came out too? … ), the challenger in this UK Championship match Roderick Strong follows. These 2 are amongst the very best wrestlers in NXT, WWE and the entire world so this should be a fantastic match.

Collar and elbow tie up to begin with, the animosity between the 2 is clear to see, it was a real chess match to begin with. They have a wondeful series of exchanges of moves, Pete Dunne then attacking the left arm of Strong with a hard kick, he bends his fingers back and stomps on them onto the steps on the outisde. The joint manipulation continues as The Bruserweight continues his typically methodical attack, Strong then comes back with a back drop onto the steps. That’s followed up by kicks to Dunne’s face, a pumphandle back breaker then earning a 2 count as the Messiah of the backbreaker zones in on the Bruserweight’s back.

More targeted attacks follows, Strong stomps Dunne in the corner before taking him to the other corner on the top rope before Dunne smacks Roderick Strong off and to the floor on the outside of the ring. That’s followed up by a stomp from the top onto Strong’s arm that was laying prone on the ring apron. Strong comes back with an enziguri to Dunne on the apron before slamming him down on the “hardest part of the ring” …

A wondeful enziguri from Dunne to Strong back in the ring which was returned with a big elbow. Dunne hits a step up enziguri after a wonderful leap frog-back flip over Strong in the corner which eventually leads to an armbar that transitions into a hammerlock submission, which is only stopped by a ruthless slam from Strong to put Dunne down as the ‘Bruserweight’ chants from the crowd echo the arena. Dunne hits a sit out powerbomb for a nearfall as the crowd chants for both men continue, Strong then misses a flying knee in the corner and falls into a German suplex from Dunne. The maniacal Dunne then flies off the top rope only to eat a dropkick from Strong for a 2 count. Quick pin attempts are exchanged before Dunne locks in a triangle hold that is powered out of as he is slammed onto the ring ropes.

Both men on the top rope ends with Strong delivering an avalanche Olympic slam but only gets a 2 count. 2 wondeful knees and a slam earns Strong, whom is well on top now, another 2 count. Dunne counters another move by attempting a Bitter End which is in turn countered by more vicious strikes from Roderick Strong and another high knee gets another 2 count. The former ROH star attempts to lock in his Strong Hold submission (aka a harsher walls of Jericho) but Dunne snaps Strong’s fingers again to escape before then hitting his Bitter End finishing move to claim to victory and retain his United Kingdom Championship.

Simply put this match was… FANTASTIC!

It’s then announced Johhny Gargano vs the NXT Champion Andrade Almas will take place NEXT WEEK (see my NXT review of last week) … the hype is soooooo real!!!

We’re then shown an “earlier today” backstage interview/press conference segment with the Velveteen Dream. He’s asked for his thoughts on his match against No Way Jose next week and says whilst he will bring the fiesta the Velveteen Dream will bring an experience. Dream then kind of calls out TYLER BATE! Those two in a feud?!?!?! YES YES YES!!! (The Velveteen Dream is THE future of NXT and WWE btw mark my words, potential future blog subject for sure).

Next out in the ring comes Aleister Black. Aleister Black, if Velveteen Dream is the future, is the PRESENT star of NXT. Gargano is the best wrestler, Black is the most brilliant character as the dark mysterious guy that has an incredible offence based around his ferocious kicks. In short: he’s great.

He comes to the ring in a FRESH all dark suit, and cuts a promo explaining his current and recent path in NXT (in which he has gone through Andrade Almas, Hideo Itami, Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole in the Undisputed Era) and that now the devil on his back that drives him is the NXT Championship. He’s the cut off by KILLIAN DAIN (Big Damo)!!!

The Beast of Belfast then explains to Black that ‘the devil isn’t on his back, I am the devil!’ And that he wont stop until the NXT title is around his waist. Dain goes on saying that if Black has a problem with that then he warns him that “your path will be stopped by CHAOS” before making his exit from the ring. Before he can step off the ring apron Black tells Dain that now he has crossed him he must now “fade to Black”. Dain then makes his exit. So… we have a Killian Dain vs Aleister Black number 1 contenders match on the way then… YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!! TAKE ALL MY MONEY NXT YOU ARE WAY TOO GOOD TO ME!

Following this TM61 were in tag action. Decent showing from them. They’re good wrestlers and are slowly building their characters. They got all their stuff in en route to an easy win. Definitely a team to keep eyes on in NXT. Perhaps 1 big showing on a big stage will be all they need to begin their march to NXT glory. Their last big match before their long injury caused absence was against the Authors of Pain on a big Takeover show and they looked great. They’re more than capable of getting to that level again.

Shayna Baszler vs Ember Moon now in our main event for the NXT Women’s Championship. The futures and potential in WWE for these 2 women are absolutely limitless so this should be good if they’re previous encounters are anything to go by. The champion Moon shows very heavy tape support to sell her arm injury suffered at Baszler’s hands at Takeover: Philly. Plenty of smack talk exchanged during the introductions between these 2, should be a real “Slobberknocker” (J.Ross,199something).

Ember Moon immediately takes the fight to Baszler with a LOT of hard strikes to her opponent. Baszler attempts an armbar a few times during the onslaught from Moon but is unable to connect. Ember then hits a superb enziguri to continue her super aggressive start. She then goes to the top rope to perhaps set up her Eclipse finisher (a stunner from the top rope to the dazed opponent standing in the ring) but Baszler smartly rolls to the outside. She only then is flattened by a tope suicida.

Moon hurts her arm further in the process before Baszler drags her opponent into the ring and locks in a set of double wristlocks and does her gruesome kick/stomp on the arm move too. The champion is then able to roll The queen of spades through for a 2 count in an attempt to mimic her winning maneuver from their Takeover match. Baszler continues the assault on Ember Moon’s prone arm by wrenching on it more until a ropebreak gives the NXT Women’s Champion mercy.

A Moon roll up for 2 is followed by an outer ring attack as Shayna throws her opponent’s weakened arm into a steel ring post. Baszler’s sadistic nature is shown in full as she takes the cover off the guardrails that keeps the spectators back, she traps Moon’s arm in between the railings and goes to work; plenty of kicks and wrenching on the arm. It looks as if some serious damage could be done to Ember’s arm here UNTIL…. MY GIRL KAIRI SANE COMES OUT TO MAKE THE SAVE!!! Fyi Kairi Sane beat Shayna Baszler in the final of the Mae Young Classic last year, Baszler made her NXT tv debut by attacking Sane so these 2 have plenty of recent history (I should also be honest and say I absolutely adore Kairi Sane; male or female, WWE or anywhere else in the wrestling world she is one of my favourite wrestlers).

The Pirate Princess Sane launches her attack on Baszler which ends with Sane in the ring countering a potential Baszler reaction with an absolutely breathtaking spear to send Baszler packing. Baszler stood on the ramp, Sane stood in the ring as the two stared down. Ember Moon still hurting outside the ring was helped up by Sane as the show closed (this was sensationally well done to summarise).

And that was this weeks NXT. And it was SUPERB! Not enjoyed an hour of wrestling that much for a long long time!

Key points to take home:

– Pete Dunne needs to be on the main roster NOW

– NXT is fading to Black. And he needs to be champion for a LONG time

– Moon – Baszler – Sane. YES, YES, YES!

– NXT is the best

– NXT is the best

Conclusion:

When you consider on this week’s NXT there was no Undisputed Era, no Johhny Gargano and Candice LeRae, no Almas and Vega, no Nikki Cross etc. Etc. The strength in depth of NXT’s roster is amazing. It’s continuously such an excellent show all round, and Raw and Smackdown could learn a lot from this weekly hour of excellence. And as I’ve said NXT is continuing to fade to Black, and I could not be happier.

Josh.