After five months of producing these questionable report cards, I can unequivocally say that this is the most important week of hot wrestling action yet. When we started this journey, our hero Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas was a struggling man. In the midst of a losing streak and ravaging his own career with a wild party life, many questioned if the great ‘Cien’ would ever return to his former glory. Then a saviour came along. Her name? Zelina Vega, and with her presence, suddenly Andrade was a new man. That change was punctuated by Almas’ win over NXT golden boy Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
We thought we had reached the mountain top, but this week represents a threat to the kingdom as ‘Johnny Wrestling’ (a silly nickname to begin with) looks to avenge his TakeOver loss just months after our ascension (no not that one) to the top. Tonight it could all end, the empire could collapse. However, this all started with us believing in ‘Cien’ and there’s no reason to stop now. So with that being said, let’s head to Full Sail and watch together as our hero Andrade destroys poor old Johnny Wrestling…again.
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.
We get things started tonight with a triple threat between Peyton Royce, Liv Morgan and Nikki Cross to decide who’s competing for the NXT Women’s Title at TakeOver: Houston. This match was kind of a mess, a fun mess but a mess regardless. So for that reason this one is a little tough to cover in my usual format. Nonetheless, I have to say that Peyton’s facial expressions towards Cross early were tremendous before Liv and Nikki briefly removed her. Royce soon re-entered and showed some nice aggression towards Liv until Nikki dragged her to the floor head first in a quite scary moment. Thankfully, she was fine.
We then of course got a VINTAGE tower of doom spot. Things were picking up when Taynara Conti suddenly appeared with The Undisputed Era and interfered, distracting Nikki and running her directly into Peyton Royce’s spin kick, which she then followed up on with the fisherman suplex for the pin. Peyton Royce is very good and I’m glad that she’s going to the TakeOver title match.
I don’t have a ton to say about Liv individually here but I will say that her offense looks increasingly better every week and that she seems to be getting much smoother in transition. There was also some tiny character stuff early as Liv seemed to feel almost disrespected by Royce’s focus on Nikki, which was pretty neat. It’s very hard to gauge too much in a match put together like this but I mostly liked what we saw from Liv here, especially as far as her fire in the brief brawling with Peyton.
More of the same from Nikki here who continues to impress as a character and shows a strong understanding of that aspect in all facets. I would say that the dynamic between her and Liv was kind of odd, especially for the live crowd. When Cross was featured here it was all offense as she ran wild on both women regularly. She was highly protected and seemed to have the match won on multiple occasions until Conti’s interruption. Speaking of such, that should be an interesting new layer to SAnitY’s issues with The Undisputed Era so thumbs up there too.
It’s now time for Lio Rush’s actual NXT debut (I hope, anyway) as he takes on Report Card favorite Velveteen Dream. I absolutely loved the whole portrayal of Rush here and it begun perfectly with Lio immediately slapping the Dream across the face. Rush’s speed and athleticism is quite frightening and anyone that’s seen him before would likely agree that regardless of his size, there’s something a little special about him. I really dug how defiant his offense came across too, especially with that awesome DDT and the way he sold his desperation to win was perfect.
The end soon came when The Dream hit the Purple Rainmaker but I don’t think that Rush could’ve possibly made a better impression which suggests that a bright future awaits the recent signee.
We’ve seen The Dream win a lot of short matches since his debut, but this was quite unique and required different skills which in my mind, Velveteen showed in a big way. He sold Rush’s offense brilliantly and after cutting him off really turned on his spiteful side with a big lariat and backbreaker that really highlighted his crispness when in control. He’s always working in between the spots too of course and that’s probably his greatest asset. Also, that Death Valley Bomb that Dream has been doing is very, very cool. The whole sitting cross-legged, intending to call out Aleister Black was tremendous too. Just great stuff all around.
A continuation of the recent story of Lars destroying small bald men now as the big guy (no not that one) takes on Oney Lorcan’s new mate Danny Burch. After being punched in the face a little, Lars just beat Danny up, hit a suplex and his finish for the win. This was much quicker than I expected, which I guess shows how highly they think of Sullivan. I’m very interested to see what this push leads to as honestly, I don’t really have any idea as of right now and that’s rare for NXT.
Up next is another Street Profits showcase and maybe their quickest yet. Montez mocked and clowned one of the opponents early and danced a ton before tagging in Dawson. Angelo punched the other man in the face and this got Montez very excited. He then started going crazy and they hit their combo finish for the win. Following this, they went into the crowd and everyone had a jolly good time. More Street Profits greatness here friends.
Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Main event time now folks and the moment of truth. So with that being said, TakeOver grading time. The first time these two met they had one of my favorite TakeOver matches of all time and this started just as you’d hope with the pair grappling back and forth in intense fashion. Johnny’s speed was the difference early but Almas’ mean-streak soon shifted things as he nailed a back elbow but once again, Johnny’s speed was the difference maker. They did the always solid rematch story of both being a step ahead of each other a couple of times, or they did until ‘Cien’ kicked Johnny in the face at least.
From this point forward, Almas’ maintained control for a moment via more kicks to the face and I can’t stress enough how much I love the ongoing story of Andrade trying to truly remove his own bad habits. Johnny had consistent bursts of offense too, many of which were focused on Almas’ shoulder, a spot he’d targeted early. With the ‘well scouted’ aspect now fully established, it was time for Almas and Gargano to bust out awesome moves and they did just that for a couple of false finishes before going into all out brawl mode with big strikes including a great superkick which made for a dramatic two count.
Almas used the referee to crotch Gargano in the corner and that allowed for some violent chops, but Johnny had some chops of his own and more awesomeness soon followed. Johnny eventually hooked in the Gargano Escape out of nowhere but Zelina Vega again distracted him, this time by wearing a DIY shirt. The distraction allowed Almas to make the ropes and after countering the attempt to reapply, ‘Cien’ literally destroyed Johnny with knees to the back of the skull and then hit the Hammerlock DDT for the win. 2-0 baby!
This was a tremendous main event match, they told a great story. It shouldn't be ignored how good Zelina Vega was either as she really conveyed each layer of the psychology perfectly.
Early on this was a squash match heavy show but luckily, those squashes were a lot of fun, all things considered, and add to that the absolutely superb main event and you have a very strong hour of pro wrestling. Though it’s obviously not perfect, NXT is undeniably packed with great in-ring talents and that’s allowing them to churn out exciting main events weekly. The general direction is very solid too, so overall things are certainly going well in Hunter’s outlaw promotion with a silly name.
Please comment your thoughts below or just tweet me abuse like many others already do @JoeHulbert5 and I’ll see all you next week….maybe.