The NXT Report Card (10/25/17): Being Cool and Staying Heel

Well, I think many of you probably already know where this is going. Believe it or not, I’m once again almost completely unaware of tonight’s proceedings which makes this intro rather tough. I am aware of a women’s battle royal though and that sounds….cool, I guess. Usually when I’m without much to discuss I’ll turn to Samoa Joe or Alexa Bliss but one of them is injured and I’ve never been very good at old jokes so with that said, let’s just head straight to Full Sail.

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.

Before we get to live action, ‘Lord’ Steven Regal announces an NXT tag title match for next week with The Authors of Pain challenging Sanity in their long-awaited championship rematch. I liked their TakeOver match quite a bit so I look forward to part two honestly, especially as it took longer to occur than I probably expected.

Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch

Our first match of the night comes in the form of tag team action as the two beloved bald blokes fight the pair of ex-footballers for manly man supremacy. Speaking of such, what a treat it is to hear Burch’s theme immediately after Oney’s already tremendous track. These two are the kind of men that you desperately avoid in a pub on a Saturday night and in this context, that’s a huge compliment. Anyway onto the action and Oney got off to a flyer by lighting Moss up with a flurry of brutal strikes and tagged in Burch who was quickly halted.

Burch sold for the heels a little but fired back briefly with a dropkick off the middle rope and eventually made the big hot tag to Oney. The small shooter ran wild with sheer violence and the people were eating it up when he was stopped in his tracks and pinned by Moss and Sabbatelli’s new tag finish. I’m a big fan of this Lorcan/Burch team going without immediate success and I think there’s a big potential payoff down the line as the audience follows their now shared journey up the ranks.

Grade: A

Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli

In all seriousness, the whole “ex-footballer” silliness aside I actually really like this team but often hide that fact out of fear of looking objective and/or fair. I wasn't sure how theses styles would gel but Moss looked instantly at home in his exchange with Oney before bringing Tino in to help work Burch over. The pair showed some nice tandem offense at times, especially with their new finish and just generally seem to be progressing. I find Moss particularly interesting to watch and I’ve really enjoyed watching him on these last couple of showings.

Sabbatelli is a little more stiff and rigid in his overall presentation in my opinion but he shows flashes of real potential simply due to his athleticism and even had a pretty cool lariat here too. His look is obviously great, he really exudes a fun heel presence and also seems to be consistently getting better. Happy to see these guys win here and look forward to watching them continue to progress.

Grade: B

Women’s Battle Royal Booked Purely to Ruin This Report Card

I know that at times you all may think I’m infallible and unstoppable but sadly, that’s just not the reality of this situation. We all hit road bumps at times and the report card and I have done that here as we’ve met what was obviously our worst enemy all along: the battle royal. I have no idea how to cover this and for that reason won’t grade it at all as let’s be honest with each other, it’s a battle royal, how good can it really be? I’ll try to answer that question to some extent anyway and will at least briefly recap things for anyone insane enough to actually expect that kind of professionalism from me and my “articles”.

There’s a whole lot of women in the ring for this match here and things get started with Nikki Cross immediately jumping Taynara Conti following their interaction last week. Elsewhere the usual battle royal banter rightly ensued as the women grouped up and threw punches and kicks in each corner of the ring. Cross quickly eliminated Conti but the Brazilian pulled Cross underneath the bottom rope and threw her into the barricade. Peyton Royce, who was ringside to support Billie Kay, then took advantage of the situation and chucked Cross into the steel steps.

Back to the standard battle royal antics now and this was unsurprisingly chaos as all but one of the women still remained. A bunch of them teamed up on Billie Kay briefly which was fun as she was generally quite hysterical here, standing out simply due to her always engaging character work. Kay survived but Bianca Belair soon secured some eliminations, getting rid of both Zeda and Rhea Ripley. Sage Beckett matched that feat though, eliminating Dakota Kai and Aliyah until Cross returned to the action and cross-bodied 391 women before forearming them all in the brain.

Cross continued to dominate and eliminated Vanessa Borne, Sage Beckett, Santana Garrett and Abbey Laith. Kay cut Cross off in obscenely awful fashion though and then started kicking her in the back as the crowd awaited something interesting to happen again. Mercedes Martinez removed Sarah Logan and six now remained. Candice LeRae (yes that one) smoothly eliminated Lacey Evans but was then launched out of the ring by Belair’s awesome military press slam. This gave Percy Watson an excuse to explain why Bianca is the “EST of NXT.” Why? Because “she’s the baddest and the strongest”. Brilliant stuff from our expert analyst Percy.

We were now down to our final four and they quickly split with Belair going after Kay and Martinez after Cross. Billie seemed in trouble but saved herself on the apron by holding onto Bianca’s hair and pulling herself back up with it in what was a genuinely brilliant battle royal spot made only better by Royce’s selling at ringside. Belair responded to this by battering Billie with her aforementioned hair but Martinez stopped her and they switched dance partners as Cross and Kay fought to the outside by going under the bottom rope.

Meanwhile Belair speared Martinez and smartly tied her hair up before the pair fought on the apron. Cross soon eliminated both and Kay’s attempt to eliminate her failed as Cross turned things around and removed Kay for the win. I generally dislike the bulk of every battle royal but this one was fine and had its moments without featuring anything offensively bad. Good fun and the right person won. I don’t want to grade this as frankly, it’ll probably come across as harsh and that’s not my intention considering how limiting this match type is regardless of the participants.

Following the match, Cross and Royce squared off before Ember Moon and Kairi Sane arrived with William Regal standing between them whilst holding the NXT Women’s title. This fatal 4-way at TakeOver should be quite spectacular all things considered.

We now move to a pre-tape of Drew McIntyre answering some questions from the media when Zelina Vega interrupted and asked the coward why he was ducking the great ‘Cien’. Drew reiterated that Almas has to ask for a shot himself. Why? Because again, Drew is a coward.

The Velveteen Dream Asks Aleister Black to SAY HIS NAME

Time for another Aleister Black showcase now as he……oh my lord THE VELVETEEN DREAM has suddenly appeared behind him and is now beating him up. Dream has now tied Black up in the ropes and is slapping him across the face, demanding that Aleister say his name. Just before Dream can really do some damage though, Black kicks him in the face and fights free but Dream escaped without taking Black Mass and this feud continues to be awesome. Nothing has even really happened yet but I’m loving every minute of it, even if simply due to its freshness.

Andrade Almas vs. Roderick Strong

So it’s main event time and I’m genuinely unsure of when this was announced but regardless, it’s here and more importantly, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas is here and apparently, he’s wrestling our mate Roddy Strong. First though Zelina Vega cut a tremendous promo dissing the paper champ Drew and I’m now understandably very excited.

Strong jumped on Almas early and they went into some rapid grappling and strike exchanges. It wasn't long before Strong’s first backbreaker though and he was now in brief control with all his coolest chops. That control ended quickly though as Almas performed that move with a name I don’t know on the apron. Almas was now beating Strong up bad with strikes and even an armbar over the top rope as he began to really focus on Strong’s arm. Strong fought to his feet though and gained some distance with a couple of his more flashy kicks.

Roddy was now in the ascension, hitting a variety of cool moves until Almas kicked his head off of his shoulders. Strong soon used the apron to his advantage himself though and scored with his trademark big backbreaker out there. Things continued to swing back and forth regardless as the pair continually countered each other until Almas’ frankly terrifying back elbow allowed him to hit his big knees in the corner for a two count. Strong countered a 2nd attempt though, hitting an Olympic Slam, a pair of big knees and a wrecking ball dropkick to the outside.

As he threw Almas back in the ring though, Strong was suddenly caught by a hurricanrana from ZELINA VEGA and he went flying into the steps. Almas took advantage, threw Strong into the ring and hit a Hammerlock DDT for the win. Okay guys, it’s time for me to be miserable and transform into Joe Cornette. I love Zelina Vega. I really do. I don’t love Zelina for her ability to do cool moves though, I love her for her elite ability to play a truly awful character without any redeeming qualities. A truly hateable villain.

I’m not saying that the hurricanrana wasn't cool because it honestly was but in my opinion, the less to like about Vega the better as her ability to be anything but likable has been superb thus far. There’s the chance to make a real heel here and I hope that’s prioritized over sweet spots that in reality aren't needed. I’m certain I’ll be in a minority here but that’s just my genuine opinion on it, it was great but I just wanted to express this before it becomes a regular thing. As a one off, it was great. Either way, really good main event match.

Grade: B+

Following the match, Vega and Almas headed to the commentary desk and announced that ‘Cien’ will meet Drew face to face next week. This felt very WCW Nitro (in a good way) and I was waiting for ‘Mongo’ to say something outlandish before we went off the air. Instead we got Nexus who came out and offered an armband to Roderick Strong who sadly seemed to accept it as the show came to a close. All of this left the audience wanting more and that’s always a good thing.

Final Thoughts

I hate to keep repeating myself but once again, this week featured another very strong main event match and that’s basically to be expected at this point. Granted that wasn't surrounded by a ton of great stuff but the tag opener was genuinely exciting and the women’s battle royal had its moments too. To reiterate though, the real key was that it furthered things and made us look forward to next week’s episode which is always key. Personally, I’ll look forward to Andrade exposing Drew as the coward that he so obviously is.

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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