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Smark Hen-XT (4/26/17): Brawl


I can’t say this enough: when NXT is on its game, it’s really good. Sadly, it hasn’t been the same since its roster and creative team were culled during the draft last year, but this past few weeks, it feels like they’ve finally hit their stride.

Take for example this week’s brawls between Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross. It was so fun that they had to do it twice. From Cross slithering into the ring and calling out Riot to kick off the night, to Riot throwing herself from the stage for a diving crossbody on Cross, both brawls were exciting, violent, and fresh. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a proper pull apart brawl in NXT, and it’s always fun to see one.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that they were able to put in some solid character work in between. Riot delivered on a simple but effective promo in a backstage interview segment. You can probably pick up on her gimmick from her look, but it was nice for her to be clear that she’s all about individuality and nonconformity and tie it up with SAnitY’s gimmick. To be honest, she’d fit right in with the group, but for her to call out the stable for their bullying ways makes her a clear cut babyface and gives us a reason to get behind her. Good stuff all around.

This week, NXT smartly pushed this feud forward. Between the physical confrontations and the character development, the brand is building up on a feud that may as well carry the women’s division through the year. I cannot wait to see these girls just go at it again.

*****


The Rest of the Show:


  • Drew McIntyre def. Andrade “Cien” Almas: Despite being shorter than it deserves to be, the match between two of NXT’s top talents was solid. McIntyre looked like a beast, and Almas did a great job selling his opponent’s offense while slipping in his signature character spots. I’m not sure where this party boy gimmick is leading, but I’m willing to give it a shot as long as we’re getting solid matches. McIntyre, on the other hand, is clearly gunning for the top, and taking down everyone in his way. I love the intensity he's bringing to the ring, and it shows the growth he's had while travelling around the independent scene. 

  • Roderick Strong vignette: This is what Roddy needed so much. This felt real and moving that if this doesn’t get people cheering for him, I don’t know what will. They did a good job of establishing his rough path to get to where he is right now, but didn’t linger too much so we could pity him. By juxtaposing the rough childhood and how wrestling saved him, he becomes a conquering hero to his own story. Coupled with the fact that he’s now a new father, and you can’t write a better feel good story. 

  • Aleister Black def. Kona Reeves: Reeves got in some offense in this match, but it was clear this was Black’s show. The Dutchman’s strikes are some of the best in the brand right now, and seeing him cave in people’s heads with the Black Mass is fun. It’ll be interesting to see how they continue to build up his gimmick as the eccentric and cryptic striker. 

  • Tyler Bate def. Gentleman Jack Gallagher to retain the WWE United Kingdom Championship: If this is a preview for the upcoming WWE UK show, then I’m all in. Both guys put on a clinic on technical wrestling and made it look exciting. They make even the simplest looking locks look devastating, and the counters upon counters they pulled out were mesmerizing. Bate looked good even while fighting from behind, and it’s clear that they made the right choice in putting the title on the young man. It’s easy to cheer for the guy, and he has a bright future ahead.


*****

Everything about this week's episode was on point. The feud between Riot and Cross escalated perfectly. McIntyre and Almas put on a short but good match. Strong finally got some character development. Black continued to look like a star in the making. And the UK Championship match was great. Yeah, I can try to nitpick a bit, but that seems petty when the whole show was just entertaining. So much stuff happened, but it never felt forced or really lacking. You can't really ask for more from an hour of wrestling. This episode gets an 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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