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 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 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.