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Smark Hen-XT (5/23/18): Driving to the Edge


Man, okay, I have to admit that I'm starting to get mixed feelings about the Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano feud.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the heck out of it. Everyone's still excellent in their roles: Ciampa is still the heelest of heels WWE has produced, dare I say, in the last decade? Good guy Gargano is still very much effective as the beloved babyface, and Candice LeRae is steadily improving in her part.

I'm not quite sure how to feel about this week's segment though. Neckbrace-wearing Gargano, with an overly-worried LeRae by his side, came out and teased a retirement or something? That was weird because I'm not sure if Tommaso's attack from few weeks ago was that severe, but it still made me tear up a bit so I guess that was still effective.


I may be overreaching here, but my favorite bit is how they juxtaposed Ciampa and Gargano asking the question "Is it worth it?" If you remember a few weeks back, Kassius Ohno asked Ciampa if everything that's happened has been worth ruining the life and career of his former friend. This week, Gargano asked the same question but with an obviously different context: is it worth fighting a former friend at the risk of his life and career?

The big spot at the end was also odd. Yes, I know the idea is that it was a metal ramp, but it's Candice LeRae, guys, and this is NXT. People fall on that ramp all the time. And Candice is the same woman Cody Rhodes once said was as strong as Brock Lesnar, the same woman who went out of Reseda wearing a crimson mask thanks to a thumbtack-filled superkick. She can physically beat the heck out of Tommaso Ciampa.

But I understand what they're doing. With Candice now (slightly) physically involved, thanks to Johnny Wrestling's stubbornness, what's the next move for Gargano?


*****
Rest of the show:
  • TM61 def. Heavy Machinery: This was a much better showing from Heavy Machinery that showed they are much more than the "STEAKS AND WEIGHTS" shtick. On the other hand, TM61 is settling quite nicely as heels. Their wrestling didn't change quite as much, but they cheat to win, and they are proud of it. I know heel TM61 is interesting, but I miss babyface Shane and Nick. I have it penciled in that face TM61 will be the ones to win the tag titles from the Undisputed ERA, but they obviously have something else in mind.
  • Lacey Evans def. Kairi Sane: STOP SLEEPING ON LACEY EVANS, GUYS. Anyway, this was a very physical match that established Lacey as a legitimate threat to Kairi. It wasn't also just a one-off feud; this was actually built all the way from New Orleans. Lacey was a sore loser, who kept on being a jerk to Kairi after that loss. Now that this was their second match after all the sneak attacks and trash-talking, Kairi got too fired up as the bell rang. The fire also made her dominant during most of the match, but it seemed that it also caught her off-guard with Lacey's finish. This is a very well-written feud, and I'm glad that they finally have something outside of the title scene.
  • Lars Sullivan def. Ricochet and Velveteen Dream in a handicap match: Oh for the life of me, it's only a couple of weeks in and I already love this feud. I really like how the build to this match convinced a lot of us that Dream was not going to do the thing we expected him to do, but he did it anyway, and it wasn't surprising. I didn't expect I'd want a Dream/Ricochet tag team, but here we are. They were fluid and solid as a team because they had the common goal of dismantling Lars, who attacked them last week. But then Dream's jealousy and hunger for the spotlight and self-validation caused the team to crumble enough for Lars to deliver the Freak Accident to Rico. With Dream and Ricochet now seemingly booked to look like equals, and Lars dominating both now that he's in contention to be Aleister Black's next opponent, this match placed everyone in their right cubby holes.


Some black-and-yellow banter:
  • Oh there's nothing new. My sons from the Undisputed ERA are still great at being little shits after "Peter Doon," "Oney Lorkhan," and "Daniel Burch" beat them last week. The lads are so good at being grating. I don't care if they are my sons, I just cannot wait for Mr. Lorkhan and Mr. Daniel Burch stiff the holy hell out of the ERA and take the gold.
  • After an encounter with Nikki Cross last time, Dakota Kai finally stood up for herself against Shayna Baszler! We know Dakota's not winning the title anytime soon, but the moment when she looked Shayna straight into her eyes and stopped quivering in fear was all we were waiting for in this feud. The big blowoff happens next week with Shayna's NXT Women's Title on the line.

*****
Another strong show for this week from the folks at Full Sail and we are definitely on our way to Chicago. It gets a B+ from me.


Photo from WWE.com


*****

Ardelle Costuna works for a news organization somewhere along Timog Avenue whenever she's not watching wrestling. A renewed fan, she only knew of Shawn Michaels' (her wrestling first love) retirement just two years ago. She's currently drowning in a lot of shows she missed, but she's loving every minute of it. You can catch her crying over some damn good wrestling and swooning over Kenny Omega at @ardellelledra.

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