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Smark Hen-NXT (12/6/17): The Purest Ever

 

It was another great main event in this week’s NXT episode. Meanwhile, water is wet.

It seems formulaic at this point: NXT’s main event scene continues to blow it out of the park. Kassius Ohno and Johnny Gargano proved that they are two of the best workers in WWE right now with a hard-hitting match that kept everyone at the edge of their seats, all for a spot in the Fatal 4-way that will determine the new number one contender to Andrade “Cien” Almas’ NXT title.

The match started out slow, but it immediately moved to the next gear every time Ohno hit a stiff elbow or a shot from the knee. Gargano would gain momentum for a while, but the much bigger Knockout Artist kept finding a way to press the brake. Ohno’s kicks, forearms, and knee strikes were no match for Gargano’s heart though, when he made Ohno tap out of a Garga-No Escape.

 

Ohno noticeably worked a bit more ruthlessly and brutally than normal in this match—I hope he continues doing this— but the spotlight is on Gargano who is a unicorn of a pure babyface like (pre-Hell in a Cell) Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger. Johnny Wrestling has the natural ability to make people root for him in times of peril.

NXT is doing something right with Gargano and there is no other person who could fill that spot but him alone. Ever since his former #DIY teammate Tommaso Ciampa turned against him, it didn’t come easy with him getting close wins and losing big matches. Odds aren’t always on his side—even when he got his spot in this match.

Ohno was supposed to face Velveteen Dream, but NXT General Manager William Regal announced that he was (kayfabe) hurt after his match at TakeOver, so he found a suitable replacement in Gargano.

While this was a weird way to set things up (tapings were done when the Velveteen Dream announcement was made), it sure still added to Gargano’s chip on his shoulder. He’s the wildcard in this whole thing. He wasn’t supposed to be where he is right now, but he’s now a step closer to facing the champion.

***** 
The rest of the show:

-The champ is here! Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega’s championship celebration was nothing flashy. It was a smug El Idolo showing off his title to the booing fans at Full Sail as he made his way to the ring and cut a bilingual promo that said “I told you so! I’m going to be champion!” He also (sarcastically) apologized for beating—no, sorry—hurting Drew McIntyre, who's currently nursing a torn bicep.

Although I didn’t understand more than half of what he said, Almas still made his promo work with his non-verbal cues. And as always, Zelina was a great hype woman despite doing not so much this time—as it should be—telling everyone to embrace the legend that is the new champion.

Almas and Vega are a match made in heaven, and I’m glad that they finally found the missing piece in El Idolo’s character.


-Lars Sullivan takes some q’s from the press: Sullivan cut a decent promo on his opponent for next week, Roderick Strong. He is a big man who uses big words, and I’m here for it.

-Killian Dain def. Trent Seven to earn a spot at the Fatal 4-way number one contender’s match: There are two things that I appreciated in this match: 1) They involved a battle royal match held in an NXT live event to explain how Trent Seven got his spot, and 2) Seven, a UK lad, had an opportunity to become number one contender for the NXT title!

This match was OK, but it was painfully short (literally and figuratively), perhaps to remind everyone that the SAnitY’s Beast of Belfast is an unstoppable force. I’m not sure if it did Seven and the UK division any favors though, but at least we know now that NXT can indeed be the UK division’s stage for the meantime.

 

-The Undisputed Era are coming: I found their segment a bit too stiff, but for some reason, it worked for the boys. Adam Cole announced that his opponent will be Aleister Black in next week’s qualifying match, and Bobby Fish said that he and Kyle O’Reilly will be getting a tag team title match against SAnitY in two weeks.

But the boys should stop with the hand gestures, methinks.

-Sonya Deville def. Ruby Riott in a no holds barred match: It’s just me being nitpicky, but I found it slightly weird to see a babyface Ruby Riott after making her SmackDown Live debut as a heel.

But that aside, the stiff Deville had to deal with a highflyer in Riott, but contrasting wrestling styles usually work well together, so their chemistry played off nicely. I have always liked Ruby, so Sonya was a revelation for me in this match. She’s actually pretty good, and I wondered why she was left out of TV tapings a lot.

The finish saw Ruby pass out from a triangle on the bottom rope. It is some smart booking as it “protected” the leader of the Riott Squad, and at the same time, established that Sonya was worthy of the call-up.



-Ember Moon answers some questions from the press but the Iconic Duo interrupts her: Okay, look: Ember Moon is excellent inside the ring, but this generic “I’m going to be the best champion” babyface she is portraying is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. I’ve only been watching NXT recently, but the mysterious wolf-esque character she had in the past would have been money. It’s too late for them to go back, though. Sayang lang.

As usual, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay are still great. They reminded Moon that Peyton wasn’t pinned in the four-way match at TakeOver: WarGames, hence she deserves a match with her.

*****
NXT also announced a Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne rematch for the WWE UK title in two weeks, which will surely be a banger.

They also began running a vignette for a debuting Superstar who uses spades in their gimmick. Gee, I wonder who it is?

This week’s episode was filled with good wrestling and decent backstage segments. And then the main event took it a notch higher. This gets an A-.

How did you find this week’s episode? Sound off in the comments section below!


Photos from WWE.com

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