The NXT Report Card (5/31/17): Why Ciampa Why?!

It has been a week since Wesley Blake’s tragic defeat at the hands of Drew McIntyre and I think I’m just about over it. Time to move on now and even for a miserable man like me, things in NXT are looking pretty exciting right now. The roster is stacked to a preposterous level and character development is actually kind of a thing again. I have high hopes and if I end up disappointed I’ll just remind myself that it could be worse and at least Mrs. Flapper isn’t involved. With that all being said, let's now head over to everyone’s absolute favorite wrestling venue: the beloved Full Sail University.

DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.

Tommaso Ciampa

We started with another new opening video this week and my only takeaway was that The Velveteen Dream was featured. For that reason alone it’s my favorite show opening of all time. Either way, it’s now time to discuss this masterful Ciampa promo.

 

I’m not one for hyperbole but this really was something special. After coming out on crutches to mostly boos, Ciampa spoke for almost ten minutes and made this whole turn all the more brilliant. Ciampa's character came off here as refreshingly complex. The tag partner feeling like an afterthought angle is nothing new but the way it all tied together on this occasion was perfect. Ciampa was angry at the way fans so quickly began to speculate his potential replacement and that had brought out a paranoia in him that led to DIY's end. He knew that he was injured during the ladder match and his fear of being replaced drove him to do something that he simply felt was necessary.

The material here was superb and Ciampa's delivery only helped it. He wasn't playing an over the top heel but instead just spoke naturally, his emotions pouring through no matter how hard he tried to mask them. I absolutely loved that they didn't just tear up Ciampa’s babyface character either as they really didn't need to, instead they just gave him a very real reason for a character-altering action. Gargano is such a pure babyface that Ciampa can play a more complex character and remain heel too, this feud really could be something truly memorable.

I wasn't a huge fan of the way some of the crowd reacted to this segment but it wasn't too big of a deal and overall, this elevated Ciampa and the rivalry immensely. I can’t wait to see what’s next and I love that I have to wait to find out. Simply put, this was a must-watch promo segment.

Grade: A*

 

Danny Burch

After a brief video package detailing Burch, we next move on to his match with Pete Dunne. I think there’s a slight disconnect between the way Burch looks and acts and the way he’s currently characterized but he’s definitely got a neat aesthetic and is in tremendous shape. His work here was absolutely excellent too. I’m not huge on mat wrestling, especially with how it can often look nowadays but in this case, both guys did a good job of keeping it all very believable which makes it much more digestible for me personally.

Everything Burch did offensively hit the mark and he actually did such a good job that he almost convinced people he might win, even though we all knew that he absolutely wasn't going to. That right there is good pro wrestling. Very strong showing from Burch here and he’s sure to be a valuable member of the eventual UK show’s roster.

Grade: B+

Pete Dunne

This was a great showcase of why Dunne is so popular right now. Simply put, he brings a real mean streak to all the offense he does. Whether he’s isolating a body part or throwing strikes, there’s an intensity there and that gels perfectly with the way he’s represented. Dunne deserves credit for the way they captured the audience too as his selling was strong and that automatically elevated Burch quite a bit. I can’t say a negative word about Dunne’s performance here and though I feared that I’d have to critique his promo, it was actually very solid and every word he said was completely believable. Tremendous performance from the UK champion here and he’s definitely the man to lead this emerging brand going forward.

I’m also delighted to announce that in this match Dunne scored a 9.75 on the illustrious William Regal/Alexa Bliss Facial Expression Scale. As I’m sure you all know, this tops his previous score of 9.7 so huge congratulations go out to the champ for this tremendous achievement.

Grade: A*

We then went to a Velveteen Dream interview segment. I was very scared that the Dream’s promo here would undo all of the goodwill he built up with me last week but fortunately, that wasn't the case. Unfortunately, I can’t really grade this as it left me completely confused and befuddled. I look forward to finding out more about this character, but I have to be honest, I fear that there isn’t really much depth and that’s it really just a shallow “he’s eccentric!” gimmick. Time will tell.

Then we were treated to a video about the Authors of Pain. This represented Rezar and Akam as the biggest, baddest and meanest men in the history of the Earth. Perfection.

 

Andrade ‘Cien' Almas

‘El Idolo’ is finally back. It has been two weeks and that’s far too long for me to go without having this beautiful man in my life. Thankfully, it looks like he’s about to get a squash match win under his belt. Things start tremendously with Almas absolutely murdering this poor Brazilian man with all of his cool moves. I’m smiling from ear to ear. Then suddenly, small package, 1 2 3 and ‘Cien’ just lost to a man that I can’t spell the name of. It’s ok though as Almas apparently just doesn't care which makes me much happier. In all seriousness, this is actually rather unique storytelling and as long as it has a payoff, I’m genuinely all for it.

That’s the reasonable side of me though, what I really think is that it’s a disgrace that ‘Cien’ isn’t currently squashing Lesnar for the Universal title. For those reasons I reiterate the hashtags:

#CienDeservesBetter

#GiveAlmasAChance

I promised two weeks ago that regardless of his involvement, Almas would always be graded A* and that tradition will proudly continue here. I’m not going to grade Cezar Bononi (Googled it) because he was more of a plot device here as far as how he used. I’ll say this though, he has an absolutely tremendous look and his nationality immediately makes his unique. I look forward to seeing more of him for sure.

 

Side note: Percy Watson claims to have multiple friends that own nightclubs and he regularly discusses Almas’ activities with them. Isn’t he the weird one here or am I just very out of touch with humans?

Grade: A* (mandatory)

We next saw a vignette that was previously filmed and featured Billie Kay, Peyton Royce and Ember Moon. I like that they’re doing unique segments with Peyton and Billie at the Performance Center as it gives them their own little character feature. With that being said, while I appreciate that they’re supposed to be grating and obnoxious heels, this is a little too much for me. There’s nothing wrong with being over the top but sometimes I find that it goes so far that it’s no longer entertaining. That’s just me though. Moon didn't really say anything in this segment but the point was, she’s now cleared and will probably beat up one of the Australians in the coming weeks.

Then we got another viewing of Itami's post-match tantrum at TakeOver: Chicago. Cool idea but the execution was pretty rough in all honesty. It just didn't feel very organic.

Sanity (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe)

It's now main event time as we get Sanity taking on the team of Roderick Strong and Kassius Ohno. This was a very standard TV tag match and there isn’t really all that much to say other than No Way Jose returned to help the babyfaces win. It was a decent match though and as far as Sanity’s performance, I rather enjoyed Wolfe’s character work and mannerisms here. I appreciated that he was always doing something and the way that his facial expressions never stopped when the focus was on other people. It’s for that reason that I’m proud to announce that Wolfe scored an impressive 8.9 on the William Regal/Alexa Bliss Facial Expression Scale. I know what you’re thinking, two scale scores in one week? Yep, consider it a gift for that Ciampa promo earlier.

Young did his usual thing here and he’s always at worst inoffensive and at best very entertaining so I don’t really have any complaints. They were fine.

Grade: C+

 

Kassius Ohno and Roderick Strong

As I just said, this wasn't anything spectacular and nor was it supposed to be but as far as the babyfaces are concerned, they performed at a level that shouldn't surprise you considering the amount of skill between them. Strong’s hot tag sequence was particularly good and that makes sense considering his plethora of flashy strikes and moves. Strong definitely has the offense of a babyface star but whether or not he has the personality and charisma is still somewhat unclear. One thing is for sure though, those recent ‘Who is Roderick Strong’ videos certainly did help him, even if his ceiling in NXT is still uncertain.

I’m always happy to see No Way Jose and I absolutely love the energy he brings. With that being said, his return here really shows how overloaded this roster is as he wasn't even missed in his absence. There’s simply too many people on the roster right now and as I’ve previously written, I feel bad for talented guys like Oney Lorcan and Buddy Murphy as they simply aren't going to get a real chance in this climate. That’s two rather seasoned performers too, it’s going to be even tougher for some of the younger Performance Centre products. It’s a problem and call-ups will definitely be needed soon.

Grade: B-

Final Thoughts

Based purely off of the opening segment and Dunne’s match with Danny Burch, this was an excellent episode of NXT TV. We had a brilliant promo, a very good match, some solid storytelling and even a nice return at the end with Jose. The only thing holding this back from being an absolute standout episode was probably that it lacked a truly memorable main event to really take it to the next level. Either way, this was a very strong hour of programming and continued NXT’s recent momentum.  There’s certainly a lot to be excited about in NXT right now.

Grade: B+

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