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Smark Hen-XT (10/11/17): Once More unto the Breach


NXT’s been nailing its main events in the past month, and they continued the trend this week with a rematch between Johnny Gargano and Andrade “Cien” Almas. These two had a solid outing at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, and they built upon it to deliver another good match.


Johnny Wrestling’s current storyline wasn’t what I imagined when it started back in TakeOver: Chicago, but it’s winning me over. I would’ve thought they’d build Gargano up as a stronger wrestler, but he’s thriving in the role of underdog. Props to the Creative team for booking him into situations that really highlight this well, while making sure that Tommaso Ciampa’s presence is still felt, even when he’s on the shelf. Gargano’s storytelling was top notch in this match, and his reaction to Zelina Vega’s interference was great. That split second of doubt followed by a defiant shake of his head was a brilliant storytelling beat that shows how he’s been trying to overcome his past with Ciampa. He might not be completely over #DIY’s breakup, and the loss here will only fuel his angle.

Cien has also found his stride with his current partnership with Vega. I’m glad to see that NXT hasn’t completely given up on the Mexican Superstar after his rough start. Almas is great as an aggressive heel, and by pairing him with a manager, it tightens up his gimmick and adds another layer for him to draw heat from the crowd. Vega’s involvement in both of Cien’s matches with Gargano showed how the partnership works. While Cien’s aggression allowed him to dominate, it’s Vega’s presence that gave him that winning edge, and this plays off well with Almas’ previous angle.


Where does this match lead both men? For Gargano, his angle continues, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of situations he’ll find himself in. One would assume he’ll continue his downward trend before triumphantly rising again, as most underdogs do. This should build him up for his eventual feud with Ciampa when the latter returns. Almas, on the other hand, finds himself on the outside looking in at a very crowded main event scene. The good news for him is that while the Undisputed ERA are occupying the top heel spot, they’re currently busy with SAnitY. This should open up a spot for him to slide into the title picture, and it’ll be a great way to cap off his character’s reboot.

*****

The Rest of the Show:


  • Peyton Royce def. Liv Morgan and Nikki Cross to qualify for the NXT Women’s Championship match at TakeOver: WarGames: This wasn’t spectacular—most matches involving Morgan aren’t—but it did give us a good deal of storytelling moments. First, Royce winning was well deserved, as she’s definitely one of the better talents on the division. It also ensured that there will be a capable heel in the Fatal 4-Way at TakeOver. Second, it added another layer to the feud between the Undisputed ERA and SAnitY, when Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly got Taynara Conti to screw Cross over. The young judoka’s being thrown at the deep end of the pool by having to deal with the more established Cross, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • The Velveteen Dream def. Lio Rush: Man, it’s great to see Rush in a WWE ring. He has this frenetic energy, and the way he just blitzed all over the place was amazing. I cannot wait to see more of this guy. The Dream also did great work in this match, with his character work being top notch. His obsession with making Aleister Black “say his name” is a great character trait that adds an element of danger to his risqué gimmick. Good stuff.

  • Lars Sullivan def. Danny Burch: Burch has mastered the art of looking good while getting squashed. The man’s stiff technical style lends itself well to making his opponent look good, and Sullivan definitely benefitted from working with a man who can make others look tougher. Brushing off such painful looking strikes can make anyone look great. My only knock on this match is that it’s similar to the one Oney Lorcan had a couple of weeks back. I’m hoping this leads to a handicap match between Sullivan and the team of Lorcan and Burch. That should be fun.

  • Street Profits def. Damien Smith and Espada: At this point, I’m only watching Street Profits for Montez Ford. I’m not sure if Angelo Dawkins is still salvageable, but Ford’s a charismatic young talent with lots of potential. Still, this tag team is a great vehicle for Ford to learn and grow in front of a large audience while still being able to hide his flaws.


*****

This is a really good episode on the strength of the main event alone, but the whole show was a pretty well-rounded one. The Triple Threat match kicked off the show with solid action and big storyline implications for the Women’s division. The three squash matches in the middle of the episode weren’t great but did their job to put people over well. And Gargano and Almas delivered in an entertaining main event that showcased the best of NXT’s midcard scene. It goes to show how stacked the roster is, and if given the opportunity, even the Superstars outside the championship scene can give us great matches. This episode gets an A-.

Thoughts on this week's episode? Let us know in the comments section.

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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