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Smark Hen-XT (12/21/16): Race to the Top


This week’s main event felt special, and it’s been a while since that happened in NXT. With much of regular (read: non-TakeOver) episodes feeling like mini-RAWs, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find something that truly stands out in an episode. With Samoa Joe slowly being phased out of Full Sail, a spot opened up on the top of the card, and we weren’t just given one man to fill the need; we got four.

NXT doesn’t really have much time to spread around the roster, so seeing the creative team giving this many guys the shot to prove their worth was a solid call. We knew Bobby Roode was a shoe-in as the top heel of NXT—he’s been building up to that role since he debuted. Tye Dillinger, without a doubt, is the purest babyface in the brand, and he’s being groomed as the next loveable underdog to get behind with. But it was Andrade “Cien” Almas and Roderick Strong who stepped up big time this week.


Both guys are coming off a rocky start to their NXT careers, so seeing them just go at it at the start of the match was great. Cien displayed a mean streak that just meshes well with his new arrogant heel persona. His cockiness doesn’t feel forced—if anything, he’s backing up every taunt with a vicious strike. He’s owning the pretty boy douchebag gimmick. Give him a string of solid feuds, and he’ll be knocking at the doors of the championship sooner or later.

Strong, in the other hand, might have a face turn in line, if only because he just worked well with the heels in the match. I’m still surprised (and annoyed) Full Sail is sleeping on Strong; the Messiah of the Backbreaker is a former Ring of Honor Champion for crying out loud. He’s slowly picking up momentum with a great showing in this match, and that should help him carve a niche for himself in the NXT landscape.


That being said, Roode going over, and pinning Dillinger of all people, made perfect sense. As I’ve said, Roode’s a superstar, and he might be the only guy in the roster to even come close to NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura’s level. Dillinger once again falling short just gives him more sympathy, and that’ll only make his eventual redemption arc sweeter.

For over 14 months, the main event scene had been dominated by three names: Nakamura, Joe, and Finn Bálor. This week’s main event is a reminder that the roster is deeper than you think, and it’s filled with stars just waiting to breakout. It’s quite possible that we’re at the cusp of seeing a new renaissance of sorts for NXT’s men’s division, just like when we had the NXT Five back in 2014.

*****

The Rest of the Show:


  • Billie Kay (w/ Payton Royce) def. Daria Berenato: All three women are a work in progress, to be honest. Kay and Royce might talk big, but they don’t really have the credibility to back it up, and Berenato is just plain awkward in the ring. Add the fact that Nikki Cross and Ember Moon are just more interesting than the rest of the pack, and these girls are in a bad spot right now, especially the Aussie duo. They need to start excelling, and they need to do it soon.

  • The Authors of Pain (w/ Paul Ellering) def. John Ortagun and Anthony Bowens: Oh god, why did they keep this on the show? Akam fucked Bowens up real bad with that powerbomb spot. If this was meant to show how threatening AoP could be, then this was just in bad taste. Terrible decision by creative here.


*****

This week main event was just great. Putting four talented guys together and giving them the time to really just strut their stuff was an excellent idea. Everyone had the time to shine, and everyone came out better after the match. That being said, everything before it was borderline unwatchable. Between a boring women’s match and just a trainwreck of a tag team match, you might as well just skip to the main event. This episode gets a B- even if the main event was a solid A.

Thoughts on this week's episode? Let us know by dropping a comment below!

Photo 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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