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Smark Hen-XT (1/2/19): New Year, New NXT-pectations


Our first NXT of the year started off with a very clean slate by having a look back at 2018’s best NXT matches, presenting the nominees for NXT’s 2018 awards and focusing on the main event of the night—a bout left over from last year’s feuds: Matt Riddle versus Kassius Ohno. 

Personally, I’m a little sad with how Kassius Ohno has been treated. Yes, I have issues with the way he looks, but it’s Kassius freakin’ Ohno, guys. The man is talented as is and would probably produce a lot of great matchups with all the superstars in both NXT and on the main rosters but instead, he’s relegated to a gatekeeper role of sorts. Take a look at his win-loss record and that’ll say a lot. 


Anyway, the match itself was your typical hard-hitting bout, considering that these two are billed as heavy hitters (with Riddle having an MMA background). With strikes and suplexes left and right, it was fairly enjoyable and had the potential to be a longer PPV affair. It's interesting to note that the first time they met at NXT Takeover: WarGames II, Ohno was knocked out so easily in such a surprising fashion. However, even with a clean slate, Ohno still couldn’t get the job done and fell victim to Riddle's Bro-mission. 

After the main event, we would see Riddle try to squash the beef with Ohno, only for Ohno to tease a fist bump into a swerve post-match attack. Ohno might’ve gotten his heat back considering he has lost twice to Riddle now, but it feels like there’s still more to expect from this rivalry. One has to wonder where Keith Lee fits in this formula since he was present during the initial backstage confrontation. If Lee does show up, I hope that it doesn't end up as a tag team angle, but rather in a triple threat match at NXT Takeover: Phoenix. Maybe they can throw in a future title opportunity for the winner to give direction to any of these Superstars.


Grade: C (but only because it was mostly a recap of the past year)

Not So Full Sails 

  • Breakout Superstar of the Year: Ricochet. His 2018 debut up to his eventual reign as NXT North American Champion is noteworthy. Also, he’s had highlights all year round and has definitely shown that he is a main event star.
  • Tag Team of the Year: The Undisputed ERA. From winning the titles, to losing, and then winning them back, the ERA controlled NXT during the past year. 
  • Rivalry of the Year: Gargano vs. Ciampa. I don’t think this even needs an explanation. Gargano - Ciampa has been the focus of NXT in the past year.
  • Future Star of the Year: Io Shirai. I had originally picked Matt Riddle for this honor since I feel he's being positioned in a dominant future star spot, but upon much consideration, we're giving the nod to Io Shirai. The Genius of the Sky had shined during last year's Mae Young Classic, eventually reaching the finals, albeit losing to Toni Storm in a very impressive showing. Also, I get the feeling that diversity is needed in these awards.
  • Match of the Year: NXT North American Championship Ladder Match. While Gargano-Ciampa (Unsanctioned Match) was engaging, I’d have to give the nod to the Ladder Match because not only was it the debut of the title, but it also marked the debuts of Ricochet and EC3 on NXT. All chaos aside, the whole match was just chock full of highlights—that and I sense they'll distribute the awards to be able to tell more backstories for the superstars.
  • Male Competitor of the Year: Velveteen Dream. Seeing as there’s a different category for Overall Competitor of the Year (which is weird), I see them giving the nod to Dream for his unique performance all year round. 
  • Female Competitor of the Year: Shayna Baszler. While Bianca Belair has been undefeated, Shayna has totally been vicious for the whole year. The first two-time NXT Women's Champion was out for blood the whole year beating the likes of Dakota Kai, Nikki Cross and Ember Moon, to name a few.
  • Overall Competitor of the Year: Tommaso Ciampa. Like the rivalry of the year, Ciampa was at the top of his game in 2018. His persona was on fire all-year round and his act could be considered one of the best, if not the best, in the whole NXT or even the WWE landscape.
Photos from WWE

*****

Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your supposed fashion guru and semi-young boy at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of everything music, wrestling, videogames and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) and ‘gramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz) as he sets on his journey to completely do things spontaneously. You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills. When not being a smark, he lives his life being (and trying to be) an awesome architect, musician extraordinaire and armchair fantasy booker.

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