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Smark Hen-XT (8/2/17): Fade to Black


Aleister Black is a beast.

First, dude straight up murdered Hideo Itami. Second, he had a barn burner of a match against Kyle O’Reilly. How good a week can you have?

The Dutch striker is one of the best things going on for NXT right now. They’ve struck gold with Black. He has a mix of great in-ring skill, quiet charisma, and an imposing look, and it’s being utilized well by the Creative team. By being booked against guys with similar styles—Kassius Ohno, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and, to a certain extent, Andrade Almas are all technically sound strikers—Black’s being given the opportunity to do what he does best, and that’s being a tough SOB who kicks people’s heads off. His insane entrance alone should tell you that management is high on him, and his booking this week leaves no room for doubt: Aleister Black is going places.


Pairing Black with the debuting O’Reilly and letting them go at each other was a stroke of genius. Both guys have very similar shoot-esque Strong Style move sets, and they have great chemistry together. The MMA callbacks worked well here, as it presented the match as a war of attrition. It looked like both guys were out there to beat the living hell out of each other, and that created tension and drama—even if the outcome was predictable. It wasn’t Tanahashi/Okada (nice name drop, Mauro Ranallo, but no), but it served as a great introduction for O’Reilly and another incredible notch on the belt for Black.


After that impressive outing, Black now has Itami to contend with. Itami is putting on some of his best work in NXT as a heel, and he’s a guy whose style should mesh well with Black’s. A match for TakeOver: Brooklyn III’s been booked, and it should be a great pairing on paper. This should be the match that’ll push Black over the moon.

And hey, we might see more of this, and that’s always good:


*****

The Rest of the Show:


  • Johnny Gargano def. Raul Mendoza: Pretty good match to kick off Gargano’s singles run. He got to showcase his ring work and babyface charisma, so that’s always good. The new theme is not my cup of tea, though. The instrumentals are based off his Cruiserweight Classic theme (that itself is a mix of #DIY’s theme) while the singing is an acquired taste. It also follows the same repetitive formula CFO$’s been churning out, and we all know how our Editor At Large Stan Sy feels about that.

  • Paul Ellering reacted to the Authors of Pain/SANitY title match announcement: This wasn’t like the rambling “Book of Pain” schtick Ellering’s been spouting, so that’s a nice change of pace. I like that they chose to do this in a different venue than “somewhere in Full Sail/Performance Center/a dimly lit sound stage,” and the dark warehouse is a great set piece. That last line, though, was brilliant. “Monsters are real” is pretty apt line for Akam and Rezar.

  • Asuka and Ember Moon had a face-off: Cocky Asuka is damn fun to watch. It’s weirdly endearing to see her work even the simplest of pranks, and her facial expressions are fun. Moon’s work on the mic is still a bit wonky, but it serves well to provide some motivation to the match. The brawl was fun as well, and we had a great character moment for Moon when shestared at the title before declaring that she’ll get it when she’s earned it. Her character's still generic, but that moment of humility distinguishes her from every other generic babyface in the company, especially when everyone else act like dicks. Now if only Asuka sold the Eclipse better.

  • Bobby Roode’s backstage interview: For such a short segment, this was great. Roode was his awesome arrogant self, and bringing back the lottery analogy was a great touch of continuity. Calling out Drew McIntyre might look like be a babyface thing to do, but in the context of Roode’s character, it makes him look so arrogant that he thinks he can take on anyone. Roderick Strong’s run-in after the interview was great as well, as it allows Strong to stay in the title scene (which I like,) while letting NXT continue with the McIntyre/Roode feud.

  • Sonya Deville def. Jenna Van Bemel: Deville’s getting more comfortable with her gimmick, and it shows. It’s not perfect, and she still looks a bit lost every now and then, but she does have great character moments, like taunting Van Bemel, as well as that sweet flying triangle armbar. It’ll be interesting to see her development as the months pass by.


*****

There were a lot of good story beats that went on in the episode. All three champions were presented as badasses, as they should be, and their stories were pushed well. We also see movement in the Gargano story with his win and new theme. A match in Brooklyn should help his story along, even if it’s not against Ciampa. The main event between Black and O’Reilly was boss in every way. All in all, this was a solid episode that hits the right spots as they build towards TakeOver: Brooklyn III. This episode gets a 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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