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Smark Hen-XT (12/6/18) : Ciampa, The Puppet Master


This week’s NXT focused on the epic saga that features Tommaso Ciampa, Aleister Black, and Johnny Gargano. The rollercoaster feud, which has dominated the brand in some variation or another has come back full circle to cast the participants in different roles now—Aleister Black as the moral compass, Johnny Gargano as the disillusioned do-gooder and Tommaso Ciampa as the master manipulator puppet master.

I liked how the segment started with Ciampa hyping himself and claiming how he will—and will always be—the sports entertainer that everybody desires to be (citing he was 2018’s and will be 2019’s sports entertainer of the year), only to elicit the crowd reaction he was aiming for. It served its purpose into goading Black to come out to challenge the egotistic NXT Champion for his long overdue and proper rematch at NXT Takeover : Phoenix.



Black as the “absolver of sins” feels like a natural progression of his occultic character with him claiming to have cleansed Johnny Wrestling of his sinful actions. Of course, just like clockwork, this would bring the disillusioned Gargano down the ramp to argue his case. Johnny, on point, began rambling about how he controlled his own destiny, his own actions and that the feud with Black was not over until he (Gargano) declares it over.

Ironically, Gargano would fall prey to Ciampa’s machinations as he would be tricked (again) by the champ into keeping Black at bay by setting up a Steel Cage match to settle their differences. It’s a good way to hold off on the Ciampa/Black match but I sincerely think that Ciampa (and Gargano, to some extent) will team up against Black to try and thwart his championship chase.

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This, along with the usual NXT matches (to advance the other storylines) helped give us an idea of what to expect come NXT Takeover: Phoenix and it looks like we have a lot on our plate once the next pay-per-view comes around.

Grade : B+

Not-So-Full Sails


• The Matt Riddle/Kassius Ohno feud continues this week with Ohno getting his heat back via a post-match appearance. My only gripe with this one was that it came at the expense of Punishment Martinez’s debut.

• Speaking of Punishment Martinez, he looked like a foe formidable enough to make Riddle look strong. However, I felt the finish made him look weak. We better watch out for him in the coming year as I feel he will be one of those who steps up to the plate once the call-ups happen.

• I’m a little sad that Dakota Kai lost to Shayna Baszler yet again. But the upside is, we get to see Io Shirai possibly insert herself in the title picture in the future.

• The Forgotten Sons are a promising team. I hope NXT builds them up to be top contenders, especially Jaxson Ryker.

• Ricochet’s open challenge felt a little flat to me. It’s a good way to keep him in the public eye, but it felt forced. Of course, this is the problem with having too many things going on with such a short time slot and so many talents to utilize.

• The Undisputed Era’s vignette felt very '90s to me, and that’s a good thing. I’m hyped up for Bobby Fish vs. EC3.

Images from WWE

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