The NXT Report Card (10/18/17): AOP Start a New Chapter

Last week was a momentous occasion for us all. Together, we watched through our fingers as the great ‘Cien’ fought to prove his brilliance against NXT golden boy Johnny Gargano. After some moments of fear, Andrade pulled through in the end and continued his hot streak but the focus now turns to me as I try to persevere through an Almas-less episode of NXT. Sadly, this week will bring an end to my own recent hot streak of actually knowing what will occur which therefore allows me to return to my prior form of incompetence and un-professionalism. That’s enough about my flaws anyway, let’s get on to NXT’s.

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.

Sonya Deville

Just like last week, we get things started with another women’s triple threat to decide who is headed to TakeOver. We didn't actually get a result in this scenario last time so let’s hope that the trio of Deville, Ember Moon and Ruby Riot will lead to something more conclusive. In the end that would be the case and this match was more cohesive than last week too but even acknowledging that, still a little too chaotic for my liking. There were some quick pin attempts before going into the usual triple threat layout of 1-on-1 matches that are interrupted by the 3rd participant every couple of minutes.

As far as Deville specifically, she again showed some good strikes at times, especially when combined with Ember’s standout bumping. That pairing had other strong moments too, particularly with the springboard catch spear Deville used to take Moon out of the air. This was a genuinely cool spot, her selling of the false finish on the other hand? Not so much. Deville and Riot had some solid exchanges too and I did like her being cerebral enough to focus on Ruby’s injured ankle. Sonya’s ankle lock led to Moon hitting an Eclipse out of nowhere but Deville instinctively rolled out of the ring, forcing Ember to pin Riot instead.

Deville performed pretty well here physically but to reiterate what I’ve said over and over, this gimmick just doesn't work for me and only serves to highlight Deville’s inexperienced and somewhat awkward facial expressions and mannerisms.

Grade: C

Ember Moon

For obvious reasons, I’m a big supporter of what Moon brings to the women’s division as an in-ring talent and I think she showed why here at times too. Moon and Riot had a very good match a few months back and they briefly continued some of that in this one with a really nice striking exchange after removing Deville together. Just in general Ember is so much more explosive than her peers and that will always show in matches of any kind, let alone ones like this.

However, I would say that she’s capable of much, much better as far as tying spots together and using her body language/facial expressions to work in between them. Her offense was still mostly on point though and her bumping was visibly enthusiastic and committed. She also had the aforementioned Eclipse out of nowhere too which was undeniably brilliant. I’m nit-picking with my slight critique of Moon in this match but I think it’s only fair considering her obvious bell to bell skill level.

Grade: B

Ruby Riot

I don’t have a ton extra to add as far as Riot’s performance here but I would say that her offense looked good against Sonya as well as Ember which is important as she sometimes seems to wrestle to her opponent’s level slightly. Those that are insane enough to have been reading this whole time know that I wasn't always a huge fan of what Riot does in-ring but she certainly brings her own style to the division and seems to be finding herself in NXT more and more by the week.

This isn’t a point about Ruby specifically but I would say that the crowd was almost completely silent for much of this match and that hurt it for me a little. I’d assume that was more due to a long set of TV tapings though rather than it being indicative of any issues with the work itself. Either way, it hindered portions of the match for me slightly.

Grade: C+

We now see some grainy footage of Roderick Strong talking to the UNDISPUTED ERA and seemingly handing their shirt back to them. I always appreciate when they represent potentially standard segments in a unique fashion though.

Following this, my hero Lord Steven Regal informed a very upset Billie Kay, and Peyton Royce, that there would be a battle royal next week to decide the final female competing for the vacant NXT Women’s Title at TakeOver: Houston. Fun.

Aleister Black

Time for another Aleister Black showcase now as he takes on Raul Mendoza. First though The Velveteen Dream is here and wants to wear Black’s jacket. Cool. This distraction allows Mendoza to take over with a quick flurry of offense, all of which looked great but I’m not going to grade him here as he was purposely the afterthought. Black soon turned things around with a salvo of kicks and some other cool moves before ending things with a particularly awesome looking Black Mass. Standard stuff that served its purpose and furthered the ongoing story with Dream.

Grade: B

Drew McIntyre Meets Zelina Vega

We now move to a sit-down interview with the champ (apparently) Drew McIntyre as he explains that this is his dream (Not the Velveteen kind). He spoke with great sincerity to be fair to him, especially when discussing his prior struggles. This format actually really played into his babyface character nicely as be came across natural and genuine, much more so than in his in-ring promos of late in fact. Things only got better when Zelina Vega arrived too as she called Drew out on his known cowardly avoidance of Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.

McIntyre explains that she should get Andrade to come to him if he truly wants the match. If it isn’t obvious already, Drew doesn't know what he’s messing with here. Strong segment that really over delivered in my mind.

Grade: B+

Kassius Ohno

Cezar Bononi (recent ‘Cien’ victim) is back again and this time for a match with Kassius Ohno. I sense that this will be very similar to Ohno’s match against Fabian Aichner and that’s what we see early as Bononi dominated with the offense he has until Ohno eventually hit a big boot and a wrecking ball dropkick to take over. He then hit another kick to the brain before a rolling elbow to the back of Bononi’s head. This was one of those weird NXT matches in which the guy winning was only spotlighted for the final sequence and in reality, nothing was actually achieved. Ohno’s performance was unsurprisingly solid though.

Grade: C+

The Undisputed Era

Main event time now folks as THE UNDISPUTED ERA make their debut as an in-ring trio and take on the tag champs (apparently) Sanity. My actual favorite of the three (yes I’m that guy) started things off here for the heels as Bobby Fish began to kick Alexander Wolfe a ton before being hit in the face and tagging in Kyle O’Reilly, who walked into some tandem offense. A distraction got them back in control though and O’Reilly’s trademark kick combo led to the heat segment which was punctuated by a beautiful roundhouse kick from Fish.

The heat segment of course involved Cole putting a headlock on Young and the crowd did soon get behind the babyfaces but Fish and O’Reilly halted him again with kicks. I loved Fish’s compact offense here particularly. The team of Bobby and Kyle really is a tremendous one and they showed that at times here as they continually stopped the hot tag. Young eventually made it though, tagging in Dain who went crazy on the pair with some cool moves whilst Cole simply looked on, waiting for the perfect moment to superkick him in the back of the head.

Cole then attempted to leave after both Fish and O’Reilly had been left laying but Sanity cut him off and were ready to hit their finish until The Authors of Pain arrived and battered them to cause a DQ finish. AOP destroyed all three members of Sanity and we went off the air with them holding the tag team titles. The Undisputed Era were good here and probably always will be but I need a little more from this whole thing so far, more promo time is likely the key. The finish of this match was really neatly executed on all levels though.

Grade: B

Sanity

I felt that as a trio, Sanity completely clicked here and together were a super fun in-ring act. Firstly, I’ve been a long-time supporter of Alexander Wolfe and he really is doing a great job in this stable. Every possible opportunity he has to stand out he does just that, even with the smallest of things. His offense is completely in line with his characterization and that is such a pivotal thing as far as getting over with a wider WWE audience. Add to that his ability to work in between spots with mannerisms or facial expressions and he’s become a really well-rounded performer.

Everything he does is so natural and authentic to the character and that’s no mean feat. That wildness contrasts with Eric Young’s almost throwback approach to selling and building to a hot tag and together it really works. Young gives his absolute everything to selling for the heels and simply put, that just helps everyone. In this match for example, Young’s selling dramatically helped Killian Dain who got that hot tag and made the most of it with a tremendous flurry of offense. Just a really nice showing and it culminated in a pretty strong angle. Good stuff for a stable I’ve not always been a fan of.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts

This was a solid episode of NXT that featured a fair amount of worthwhile segments but it did admittedly lack anything truly stand-out, which has become somewhat of a rarity in NXT as of late. The women’s opener was fun and the main event pretty good but there wasn't a whole lot in between other than the segment with McIntyre and Vega. Though those other aspects were quite unremarkable, they were still enjoyable and didn't bring things down too much. Overall, things are going well as we move towards TakeOver: Houston.

Grade: B

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.

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