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Smark Hen-XT (6/6/18): Johnny Badass


Aaaand just like that, Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano once again held my heart hostage. I was honestly disenchanted with their segment with Candice LeRae a few weeks ago because I think it could still be executed better (or maybe I had a hard time accepting that she was knocked out by her husband who's the same size as her). But after giving it a break and seeing a bunch of tweets and Fallout videos, I’m now convinced that this feud is still far from over. And it’s still going to get better.

The past few weeks have been about the Psycho Killer getting inside the head of Johnny Wrestling, because why not? If Gargano bested him in a straight-up brawl, how about driving him to insanity? His game plan has been effective so far. From ignoring Candice’s wishes to interrupting a match just to tell Ciampa and the NXT Universe that he has signed the contract for their Street Fight at TakeOver: Chicago, Gargano has indeed lost it.


Ciampa further proved it this week with his segment that closed this episode. It might have cost him a lot of blood after Gargano threw him at the LED screen—And I mean a lot. They had to mop the floor during the tapings—but I guess that’s how crazy he is, too. The unicorn of a pure babyface, Gargano, has resorted to hurling security officials against the steel steps and jumping off high things just to murder Ciampa. Gargano is livid. He may have brought the hurt to Ciampa, but is he really winning the bigger battle? Even if he does, he has completely disregarded his well-being and his wife, all in the name destroying his former friend.

You all know how I hate Ciampa so much, but hey, I'm going to give this to him. That slimy, sly of a human being.

*****

Rest of the show:
  • Shayna Baszler is shaken AND stirred: Nikki Cross is now officially the #1 contender to Shayna Baszler's NXT Women's title. In last week's affair, Dakota Kai braved through her nightmares and challenged Shayna for the championship. Dakota was unsuccessful (for now), but maybe the real championship is the new friend she gained in Nikki?
Anyway, the champ opened the episode and called out Cross after she made a mockery out of Baszler. Apparently, when addressed to the crowd, Shayna's promo skills aren't her strongest suit yet, but it helped her character this time. She proclaimed that she's tougher, better, and stronger but she seemed unsure, and she should be. She hasn't faced anyone like Nikki Cross.


After a few exchanges of words (literally few, because Nikki only said like, four words over and over: "Do it" and "do it, Shayna, please!"), they got physical where Nikki "has literally drawn first blood," as Mauro Ranallo exclaimed. It seemed like Nikki and Shayna were shown as equals with their own respective weaknesses—Nikki's lack of focus and Shayna's arrogance—but Nikki definitely has startled the Queen of Spades.

The entire segment was loads of fun. Temperamental and explosive Nikki is an excellent foil for the calculating and technical Shayna. This segment alone already hyped me up for their match in Chicago.
  • TM61 def. Robbie Grand and Mike Hughley: This was a breath of fresh air from the typical heel shenanigans and typical squash matches. Obviously, Nick Miller and Shane Thorne aren't Braun Strowmans or the Bludgeon Brothers, but giving them matchups with easy, clean finishes is a way of making them even more credible. Sure, they're a bunch of douchebags who cheat, but they are also world-class athletes who can easily dispatch you if you're nothing special.
TM61 was surely at the point of no return in this match because they were straight up brutal. Instead of their finisher, Thorne ended them with a clubbing blow at the back of Grand's head. Post-match, they put the entire tag team division on notice, and declared everyone should kneel before The Mighty.
  • Lars Sullivan trains at the Performance Center: No Aleister Black and Lars Sullivan sighting in this episode after their first face-off last week. Instead of a physical confrontation, they aired a video of Lars murdering all his fellow trainees at the Performance Center. It was too long for my liking that I was actually a bit uneasy at one point, especially where he kept on forearming one guy into oblivion. But I guess that was the entire point of his video.
We also got a dark vignette from the champion Aleister Black, who said that Lars' actions last week "do not define the reality."

They're doing a great job in making Sullivan a credible threat to the champ, but I'm still personally not buying him beating Aleister. He's still a freaking monster, though.

  • Roderick Strong def. Daniel Danny Burch: Roderick Strong and his shitty little boots found its way to one half of the BritAm Brawlers (that isn't their official name, BTW) Danny Burch. I expected a hard-hitting, technical match, and we got that. But it wasn't about the wrestling this time; it seemed that the match was only made to further solidify the Undisputed ERA as the typical heels who never get clean wins, and it was successful in driving that point further. We also got a some sort of comeuppance from Pete Dunne's side after Roddy betrayed him, so that was a nice moment.
Overall a good segment, but there's nothing new to see here.

  • Ricochet and Velveteen Dream continue to trade tirades: Aside from the NXT Championship match, Ricochet and Velveteen Dream also got an excellent vignette that basically summarized their Twitter tussle. It even included the last shot fired by Ricochet when he called out Dream for getting eliminated on Tough Enough, to which Dream only responded with "I have no memory of that." It was great.
  • Kairi Sane def. Lacey Evans in a rubber match. Their feud seemed to depend heavily on Lacey's character work, and while she has done a great job with it, the best thing in this angle is definitely an angry Sane, where she turns up to 11 and becomes a scary, tiny lady who can kill with her forearms and flying Kabuki elbows.

*****

Would you believe TakeOver's already next weekend?! While this isn't as hyped as TakeOver: New Orleans (yet), the black and yellow brand just keeps on doing what it does best: consistent storytelling. A-.


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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