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Smark Hen-XT (3/7/18): Back to Black

(Sorry Amy Winehouse)

Howdy y'all! Apologies for missing last week's column, but we're now up and running this week, just like the Superstars of the black and yellow brand as TakeOver: New Orleans draws closer!

With the departure of *sniff* Johnny Gargano (thanks to Tommaso Ciampa, that bastard. But more of him later), the search for NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas' next challenger marched on as the Dutch Destroyer Aleister Black battled the Beast of Belfast Killian Dain in this week's main event.

It was an unofficial number one contender's match that only had two weeks of build, but that's all they needed. Last week, Black and Dain had the chance to face off as they interrupted Almas' gloating after beating Gargano for the fourth time.

Their match started out strong, with Black immediately getting a missile dropkick from Dain right after the bell. While it was good, it wasn't exactly an NXT good main event like the ones we got in the past few months. Maybe it's because we've been spoiled a lot? Maybe it was the exhausted crowd? I expected a brawl from the two best Europeans in the business, and we got a methodical match. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing though, maybe I just failed to manage my expectations.

Once again, Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, and Percy Watson did a great job in establishing why Dain had to target Black's ribs (it's because apparently, kicking requires a lot of core strength. We learn something new everyday). Despite Dain's efforts though, the finish saw Black kicking his head out of his shoulders after a Black Mass out of nowhere.

So we'll be getting Almas vs. Black at TakeOver: New Orleans. It will be official in the next couple of weeks, and it's going to be gooooooood.


Rest of the show: 
  • Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar with Paul Ellering) def. TM61 (Shane Thorne and Nick Miller) to move on to the semifinals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in a really fun opener. Akam and Rezar truly have improved leaps and bounds since their first meet up at the 2016 Dusty Classic finals in TakeOver: Toronto. I have already seen the spoilers, but I'm still salty that they went over, especially after the amount of efforts exerted into reintroducing Shane Thorne and Nick Miller.
Despite the outcome, I'm optimistic that TM61's setback is just something that will add to their character arc and make them connect with the crowd more. They are still tag team champs-in-waiting for me.

  • The segment between UK Champion Pete Dunne, Roderick Strong, and the Undisputed ERA is interesting. We'll learn later on that this segment could actually move puzzle pieces in a major way (*SPOILER ALERT*), starting off with a WWE UK title match between Dunne and Adam Cole next week.
  • Bianca Belair def. Miss Drew Renee: It was another squash match for the "-EST of NXT", so there is nothing to see here, to be blunt about it. Two points, again: 1) Bianca really needs a new finisher; and 2) We all know she's headed for greatness, but her squash matches should lead somewhere. I guess we all just have to wait and see.
  • Removing my kayfabe hat here for the meantime, but Tommaso Ciampa's segment was so good, and he didn't even have to do anything. The bastard He is such a heat magnet, that he was welcomed with a chorus of boos when he came out. Heck, even Mauro hated him so much ("I don't even want to say his name, Nigel."). His breakdown in front of the NXT Universe was excellent: he tore up a Johnny Wrestling sign he got from an audience member and beat it up in the ring with his crutch. I'm going to put this segment up there with--what else--Johnny Gargano's promo before TakeOver: Philadelphia. The Sicilian Psychopath is one of two of the best heels right now (the other one being Cody). This is a widely accepted fact, so don't @ me.

This week's NXT TV episode was alright. No major developments (yet) in terms of existing story lines, but some seeds were already planted for new angles. Matches were not on the NXT great side on the scale of things, but the first Dusty Classic match was a good way to open the show and tournament. B.


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