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Smark Hen-XT (6/29/16): Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


This week, both the Tag Team and Women’s division delivered on entertaining matches, while Andrade Almas’ struggles continue.

The System Works


A year ago, I would have cringed at the thought of a long match between Alexa Bliss and Carmela. A year ago, they had a match that was not bad, but not exactly great. Now, though, they’ve grown into solid performers. There’s still a lot for them work on, but they can now deliver a good and entertaining match.


The bout was a pretty good opener for the episode. It was back and forth affair, but Bliss got the upper hand after hanging Carmella’s arm on the ropes. Bliss continued to work on the arm, before hitting a double-knee drop transitioned into the Glitz Flip double-knee. A short comeback from the Princes of Staten Island included a Bronco Buster, but Bliss hit her Choke STO and the renamed Twisted Bliss to get the win.

Again, props to both ladies for improving. A year ago, both women were still figuring out how to work in the ring, but now they’re a few tweaks away from carrying the division and the NXT Women’s Championship. There were sloppy moves, yes, but this match was much better than the one they had last year. By the time they get called up to the main roster, they’ll be bigger proof that the NXT system works beyond the Four Horsewomen.


The same thing can be said about Mojo Rawley. I’m not a big fan of his, but this week’s match gave me hope that he could be better. In the main event match between the CWC-bound duo of Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano against the Hype Bros, the former NFL linebacker showed up and delivered.

This was a pretty equal match for most parts, but the Hype Bros would pick up some momentum with some well-timed, intense moves from Rawley, including a stiff clothesline to Gargano outside the ring, and a double-powerbomb to both indy darlings. It wasn’t enough, though, as Gargano and Ciampa picked up the win with the Superkick-Running Knee combo to Zack Ryder.

I liked Rawley’s aggressiveness in this match. He dialed down on his mannerisms a bit and channeled his enthusiasm into intensity. This is a Rawley I can get behind and cheer for. If Creative continues to book him like this, coupled with Ryder’s veteran presence, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get called up.

The Rest of the Show:


Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Bálor Interviews



  • To build up their July 13 match, both guys had interviews. Funnily enough, Nakamura and Bálor had the same talking points. Hearing both guys say “He knows my family, I know his family,” makes me think Creative got lazy with the script here.

  • The match has a simple reason to exist: Nakamura wants to win the title, but before he does, he has to go through Bálor first. Why not just build the match around that? I get the need to discuss the friendship between both superstars, but we’re getting away from the simple fact that this is Swagsuke making a statement at Finn’s expense.

  • Something of note, compared to Kevin Owens’s quick path to the title, Nakamura seems to have his littered with "dream matches". Whereas Owens, the heel he was, decided to destroy the champ to make a statement, Nakamura appears to be the honorable face who would carve his path to the championship on his own way. Also, there was really only one big match Owens could have had when he debuted, and it was against Sami Zayn. With the breadth of top level guys right now, we have a lot of “dream matches” you could choose from that NXT can market before his destined title shot.

Andrade “Cien” Almas def. Noah Potjes



  • Cien got the win after hitting the Running Double-Knees in the corner

  • Remember when I said Almas had to get away from Tye Dillinger? I didn’t mean this. Good God, this was boring. He’s supposed to be this big star, and we’re not seeing that. I’m not sure if this is just him withering under the bright lights, or Creative trying to mold him into something he’s not, but something has got to change.

  • Almas’s situation reminds me of Solomon Crowe. Here was a talented indy worker who was forced in a position that didn’t work. A promising talent was reduced to jobbing to bigger stars. Crowe was one of the system’s biggest failures, and I’m hoping NXT has learned from that mistake. It’s still early into Almas’ run that I hope they can still turn this around, though.

  • How, then, do we fix Almas? Give him a feud, a real one, against a credible threat. If NXT’s so bent on making him a face, have him face adversity to create sympathy. If he’s a heel, make him terrorize someone that matters. Make me feel something else other than boredom when he’s on screen.

Ciampa, Gargano, American Alpha, and The Revival promo



  • This was a fun little segment to end the show. Gargano and Ciampa made their intentions clear: they want a title match. American Alpha interrupted the two to invoke their rematch. The Revival heeled it up and declared that they were calling the shots. William Regal showed up and set up a 2 out of 3 Falls match between American Alpha and The Revival next week. The Authors of Pain attacked the face teams to close the show. 

  • Ciampa and Gargano were good, but clearly not as good as the two teams they shared the stage with. American Alpha had fire in their words, and no team is better at talking trash at NXT right now than the champs. Seeing them acting like spoiled brats when Regal made his announcement was just icing on the cake.

  • A team that doesn’t need to talk is the Authors of Pain. They’re good at beating people up, and seeing them destroy two teams with ease is just a great statement. There was an awesome moment for Jason Jordan when he suplexed one of the hoss duo, but he was quickly put down with the STO-Lariat combo.

*****

A lot of ups and downs in this episode, but the good outshined the bad this week. The development of Rawley, Bliss, and Carmella is more important to the bigger scheme than the struggles of Almas. Hope is still there, though, and this was still a pretty solid show. The frenetic closing statement was just a great way to put an exclamation point on a good show. This episode gets a B+.

Thoughts on this week's episode? Drop us a comment below!

Photos from WWE.com

*****

Jocs Boncodin (@caboncodin) is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers tweets by day and watches wrestling by night. An aspiring writer, Jocs spends most of his idle time fantasy booking angles and overthinking wrestling storylines. A big fan of the WWE, his introduction to the local online wrestling community Smark Gilas-Pilipinas has opened his eyes to the wonders of puroresu and lucha libre. He currently handles Smark Hen-XT, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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