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Smark Hen-XT (7/25/18): THE CIAMP-A IS HERE-A


Damn.

There really was no other way to react after that rollercoaster ride of a main event. Damn. Just...


I mean, I'm sure we can let a couple rounds of "TANGINA MO, CIAMPA!!!" ring through the Smark Henry offices, but it doesn't change the new status quo of NXT: Tommaso Ciampa is the new NXT Champion.

There's so much to unpack here, but let's start with the biggest gamechanger of the main event—Johnny Gargano's interference, which directly led to Ciampa capitalizing on Aleister Black, who had just taken the NXT title to the head. For weeks, we'd seen Gargano spiral into madness following his loss to Ciampa at TakeOver: Chicago II. And given his obsession with his former BFF, he was bound to get involved in this title bout. But seeing the effects of his run-in should be a sobering reminder for anyone fueled with hatred: sometimes, you could be so blinded with your rage that you directly enable what it is you swore to prevent from happening.

It's a tier below what happened with Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, in which he lives long enough to see himself become the villain. Gargano isn't exactly a villain just yet because, let's face it, there is no bigger heel in WWE than Tommaso Ciampa right now. And between now and TakeOver: Brooklyn IV, I'm willing to bet Johnny Wrestling realizes the can of worms he'd just opened. That being said, there's a moral lesson here: don't let your rage consume you. It could lead to consequences you'd never want to happen—in Johnny Gargano's case, his mortal enemy just won the top prize in NXT. That should sicken him to the core.


As for Tommy Entertainment, his showing in the main event was basically a greatest hits compilation of all the dick moves he'd done through his two violent bouts with Johnny Wrestling. From the use of the crutch, to removing the thin padding outside the ring, to the eye-gouging, we've all seen this before. It shouldn't really be surprising, but it doesn't make any of these actions any less heinous. Ciampa has proven that you can be a traditional heel in 2018, which is a tough task given the respect the wrestling fanbase has for his body of work. Mauro Ranallo said it best when he called Ciampa "a vile creature" during the match. Jeez, Mauro couldn't even refer to Ciampa as a human being!

Give Aleister Black his due here. He'd had a spectacular run dating back to his debut at TakeOver: Orlando last year. Prior to this championship loss, he'd been undefeated in singles action. The only thing that works against Black's legacy as NXT Champion is that he'd turned into this generation's CM Punk. If you'll recall, Punk may have had a 434-day reign as WWE Champion, but through most of that reign, he wasn't even in the main event/storyline on the card. He defended the title against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 28, but the headliner of that show was the first Cena/Rock match.

Aleister Black had to deal with a similar situation throughout his run in the NXT Championship picture because his story had to take a backseat to the Gargano/Ciampa feud, which arguably deserved to be NXT's top rivalry. What this title change does for Black is it not only inserts him into the Gargano/Ciampa blood feud, but it also gives him a personal stake to hate both men in the process. He naturally wants to get back at Ciampa for winning the title in an underhanded fashion. But Black also has an axe to grind with Gargano, who directly cost him the championship—when Black wasn't even doing anything to Johnny in the first place.

There's no other way to settle this than to have a Triple Threat NXT Championship match involving all three men at TakeOver: Brooklyn IV. And when it happens, it should be nothing short of amazing.

Not-So-Full Sails:

  • I noticed Sean Maluta got leaner compared to when we last saw him on NXT. It should be interesting to see him break the mold of your typical Samoan wrestler as a more svelte and athletic competitor.
  • It appears the rest of the TakeOver: Brooklyn IV card is shaping up as well, with Adam Cole and Ricochet settling into the North American Championship feud. Sign me up for a 3-way tag title match between The Undisputed ERA, Moustache Mountain, and War Raiders, too! These are simple stories anyone can get behind. Hell, if you want to convince someone to follow NXT, now is as good a time as any.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about The Woman's Right being booked as an "outta nowhere" finisher like the RKO. On one hand, it literally can come out at any time and knock you the fuck out. On the other, Lacey Evans is such a powerhouse that I'd rather have her execute a powerful move instead of a knockout punch. Then agaaaain, Bianca Belair kind of has that archetype filled for now, even though she's currently on the injured list.
  • One of these is more annoying than the other: NXT's refusal to have a manager like Funaki speak on behalf of Japanese talents like Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kairi Sane or Shayna Baszler's voice. You know what, I can live with Asuka, Nakamura, and Kairi eventually learning how to cut promos in English. But I do wish they'd also be allowed to just drop some bombs on the mic in Japanese, too. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about the Queen of Spades and how she sounds like a little girl pretending to act like a toughie. 
  • Why is Candice LeRae just allowing Sara Amato to hold her back? Why doesn't she just slap the taste out of Shayna's mouth right then and there? WHAT'S STOPPING HER?
Overall, this episode is riding off the strength of its main event alone and it's more than enough to give it another solid A

Images from WWE and friendlyrecords.co.uk


*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.

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