The NXT Report Card (11/1/17): “Utter Madness”

In life, you can run from the inevitable for only so long and this week, paper champion Drew McIntyre finally learns that lesson. Why? Because tonight the greatest athlete in the history of earth Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas confronts McIntyre once and for all and exposes him for the cowardly fraud that we all know he so obviously is. Elsewhere, I hear that apparently important wrestling matches will be taking place and whilst I concede that’s kind of cool, let’s be honest here this show is all about Andrade and that theme is only just beginning considering the upcoming TakeOver title match. Either way, let’s get things started.

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.

Apollo Crews Formally Introduces Commander Azeez On WWE SmackDown

Nikki Cross

We get things started here with the culmination of a recent mini-feud in the women’s division as Nikki Cross finally gets a one on one match with Taynara Conti. As you would expect, Cross immediately sprinted at Conti and a brawl quickly broke out as she chased the Brazilian around the ring before being briefly cut off and selling as Conti worked on her arm. Cross quickly made her comeback though and hit the swinging fisherman neckbreaker for the pin. Cross was spot on here from a character point of view but that’s obviously nothing new and this was simply a quick win on route to TakeOver.

Conti didn't do too much here which is why she’s gone without a grade but even still, her work on the arm was refreshingly aggressive and I do find it interesting how they’ve used Conti so far, establishing her with the audience whilst also making her spot in the hierarchy very clear. Interested to see what’s next for her in NXT.

Grade: B

Up next is Paul Ellering looking stern, followed by a Mercedes Martinez promo in which she discussed “winning all the big matches.” She then said something mean about Ember Moon and I’m always against that. Consider me unimpressed.

Fabian Aichner

Time for some hot wrestling action now as Fabian Aichner takes on everyone’s favorite, Jonathan Gargano. We began with some friendly technical wrestling until Aichner used his size to turn things around, nailing a huge powerslam and then catching Gargano out of the air and dropping him on the “unforgiving barricade” outside the ring. After being put back on the backfoot for a moment, Aichner attempted a double springboard moonsault but Gargano moved so he landed on his feet instead and a FIGHTING SPIRIT strike exchange soon broke out.

Aichner gained control with an insane backbreaker combination but his attempt at a moonsault was countered by Gargano getting his knees up in time. Johnny couldn't put Aichner away either though and in a big time upset, the Italian hooked a wacky roll-up thingy and pinned Johnny 1 2 3. Wow. There’s not really a whole lot of personality to Aichner as of yet but he was so absolutely spot on here physically that I can’t critique him at all. Simply put, a great showing.

Grade: A

Johnny Gargano

This was obviously much more than just an exciting match as far as Johnny’s character progression and for that reason, that aspect is what I took from this most. Gargano’s execution of cool moves is always awesome but the key here was the way he responded to Aichner kicking out of big moves like the slingshot spear and DDT. Johnny wrestled with a real sense of desperation and anxiety which got across the match’s overall message brilliantly. The ongoing story of Johnny struggling as a singles wrestler and more importantly, why he’s struggling is an intriguing one and I’m enjoying watching it develop.

I’ve said this before but I do sometimes find Johnny’s facials a little too strong, even though I completely understand that it’s very difficult to portray subtlety in professional wrestling of all things. The only reason I mention it at all is because considering Johnny’s character, the more understated his doubts are the more relatable he becomes. That’s a little thing though of course and regardless, Gargano is undeniably one of the best babyface workers in the world.

Grade: A

A vignette followed with the Street Profits surrounding a Maserati and shouting a lot. Sabbatelli and Moss interrupted though and informed the Profits that it is in fact their car. A whole bunch of words were now exchanged and I’m not really sure what happened but I must say that I find Riddick Moss to be very funny and I’m unsure as to why.  

Drew McIntyre Exposed as a Coward

The paper champ has finally arrived but he’s unaware of the plan. He thinks he’s here to cut a meandering promo but he’s actually here to be assaulted as Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas jumps him from behind and begins to put the boots to him in world class fashion. He then used Zelina Vega’s gum to stick the match contract on Drew’s chest in a show of awesome disrespect. I kid a lot but can we please actually put the belt on Almas as soon as possible? This act is tremendous and for my money, far more interesting than The Undisputed Nexus which is where the title is likely headed next anyway.

Grade: A* (mandatory)

Time for the Iconic Duo now, and they are very angry about Billie being flagrantly cheated out of the TakeOver women’s title match. They laughed at Kairi being a pirate which I agree is very funny but Sane then arrived and scared Kay before waving and leaving. I don’t know man, you tell me. She’s wrestling Billie Kay next week either way so there’s that I guess.

Sanity

Main event time now folks as the Sanity duo of Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe defend their tag titles against returning former champs AOP. Immediately, there was superb intensity with just the lock up here and Young threw an absolutely awesome right hand that really set the tone for what followed. Young and Wolfe used quick tags to control Rezar but Akam soon came in and the heels got the heat on Wolfe. Eventually, a double big boot spot led to Young’s tremendous hot tag as he ran wild on both big men to a strong reaction from the Full Sail crowd.

Wolfe now re-entered to hit a german suplex on Rezar which allowed Young to score his elbow drop for a false finish. A tag was made to Wolfe and he got real wacky with more tandem offense almost getting the champs the win again but AOP turned things around and hit the Last Chapter for what seemed to be the win until The Undisputed Era broke the fall and ended the match in a DQ. More on what followed later but as far as Sanity’s showing here, I’ve enjoyed this act much more since their babyface ‘turn’ and this duo in particular has really found itself in my view. Really strong performance from the champs.

Grade: B+

Authors of Pain

Akam and Rezar bring a great intensity to all their matches and that did show here but as I’ve said before, their heat segments aren't always to my liking. They often lack urgency and real consistency for me and the intensity that AOP carry themselves with as characters doesn't really translate to all of their work in this portion. There were some nice touches though, especially with Rezar’s guillotine attempt, a spot that I wish Mauro would’ve spotlighted a little more. They also did that cool double team move in which Akam stomps the opponent whilst Rezar holds him there. Yeah that one.

As I’ve already mentioned, AOP seemed to have the match won before it was halted and the reason for that was them absolutely destroying Sanity with just a short sequence of moves. That really is this team’s strength, the ability to explode with pure violence out of nowhere, that’s how they best stand out. A good showing from the Authors of Pain even if unspectacular.

Grade: B-

Now back to this Undisputed Era run in and the beat down here was admittedly pretty awesome as they even took out Killian Dain as he attempted to make a save. Roderick Strong soon arrived and pulled the Nexus armband out of his pocket and then shockingly put it on much to Percy Watson’s disgust. However, he quickly opted against the idea and attacked Adam Cole instead with the AOP weirdly helping him clear the ring. ‘Lord’ Steven Regal was now here and said things had become “utter madness” (thanks for title Steven) and with the assistance of an already prepared graphic, announced the upcoming three team WAR GAMES.

This announcement was actually made weeks ago, but Regal did it in such brilliant fashion that it genuinely sent shivers down my spine. Regal really is brilliant in this role and is probably the only authority figure ever that I feel is actually underutilized. Brilliant stuff from a brilliant man.

Final Thoughts

This is probably one of the weaker NXT episodes of late as the main event, whilst good, wasn't on the level of some its recent counterparts. The Aichner - Gargano match was tremendous fun, however, and more than that, the WAR GAMES announcement went over perfectly and that was the real key as they punctuated the announcement and tried to further the momentum once again as TakeOver slowly but surely approaches. A fun hour even if lacking in something spectacular to truly stand out.

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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