Well folks, we are now just days away. It’s been a journey of many Almas highs and very few lows but after it all we are almost there. NXT TakeOver is just around the corner and with it the return of WAR GAMES but first we need to valiantly fight through the final episode before the big event. Last week successfully got us fired up for Saturday’s two-ring chaos and I’m hoping that this upcoming episode will do the same for the other four matches on the card. That’s the real key to this week’s TV so with that in mind, let’s head to Full Sail and hope that Arn Anderson shows up 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 start things off with a match that’s been building for the last couple of weeks as the Street Profits take on the team of Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli. Early on Dawkins used his grappling skills which was neat and then a blind tag allowed Montez to come in and score with a nice flurry. The babyfaces then hit a double dropkick on Riddick and Montez nailed a 360 clothesline in the corner before being cut off and selling for a portion of the match.
Ford eventually slid under Tino’s clothesline and made the tag though which brought in Angelo who ran wild and after things broke down, pinned Tino with a jab. That may read as being very anti-climactic but I kind of like the idea of the Street Profits beating supreme athletes with punches rather than wrestling holds. Nice showing for these two and I’m glad to see them in a slightly longer match.
Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli
These two seem to get better and more confident with every showing and that was no different here. I liked their cut off spot as Tino nastily laid Ford out following Moss’ distraction tactic. It was clear in the heat segment that Riddick’s work is solid and crisp and Tino was refreshingly aggressive too. His trash talk was fun also. Though they weren't the focus in this relatively short match, I felt that both Tino and Riddick performed very well and I’m beginning to really enjoy this act.
Up next we get a video recap of Aleister Black’s feud with the greatest wrestler of all time: The Velveteen Dream. All of this stuff has been excellent and it’s left me genuinely wanting to see the match so I honestly can’t compliment the whole thing enough. Dream has been particularly brilliant and that’s a real accomplishment considering his youth and inexperience.
Everyone’s favorite 80s heel is here now and he’s taking on Raul Mendoza. After being caught off guard by Mendoza’s speed early, Lars headbutted him out of the air and then destroyed him with huge splashes in the corner. He then nailed a big slam and picked Mendoza up only to brutalize him with some strikes. He then hit…THE FREAK ACCIDENT for the win. This was perfection. Lars couldn't have come across more dangerous than he did here. He attempted to continue his attack too but this prompted his TakeOver opponent Kassius Ohno to arrive. Sullivan laughed at the chubby fellow and left the ring. This match could be amazing on Saturday.
We move backstage next as Johnny Gargano comes in to apologize to Lord Steven Regal for his recent struggles. Regal reassured Johnny though and informed him that he’d be wrestling Pete Dunne for the UK Title.
A video package all about Saturday’s WAR GAMES match follows and this unsurprisingly rules as it laid the groundwork for the whole 9-man feud beautifully. It’s actually been quite nicely developed and they probably haven’t delved into that aspect enough before now.
This match was developed in a recent episode of NXT as Martinez cut a promo criticizing Ember about her losses against Asuka. Early on Mercedes was a step ahead which was a fine story and direction but she felt a little half-hearted in this portion for me. There wasn't much intensity to it all as she instead seemed to just be moving from move to move. Her offense wasn't technically bad by any means though and she had some impressive moments but I found everything in between the moves to be rather un-enthused and bland.
She did throw one hell of a chop though and scored a three amigos with the third even being delayed for extra emphasis. After feeding her comeback, Martinez cut Moon off and hit a “running tower of London” to Nigel McGuiness’ understated delight. She couldn't capitalize though and missed a big boot which gave Ember an opening that quickly led to The Eclipse and the win for Moon. Martinez had her moments here but she just felt lacking in the character aspect in my view.
After selling early, Moon came back with a flurry absolutely filled with energy and explosiveness. Ember sold well, not brilliantly but still well and my judgment may be hindered by what I perceived as Mercedes’ lack of intensity. An enzuigiri and hurricanrana earned Ember the advantage and she hit a *reads notes* TOPE SUICIDA to floor Martinez. After a little more back and forth the finish soon followed and whilst this was a fun match, I can’t help but feel Ember should have gone over stronger considering the scenario. Nonetheless, Moon was very good as usual and it’s always a pleasure to watch her work a match with any length.
Following Ember’s win, Nikki Cross, Peyton Royce and Kairi Sane came out and all stared at each other. Hate to go on a tangent but I can’t help but feel that they may have missed a trick with this build up. I completely appreciate that the story here is simple and it’s all about the gold but there’s a few more layers with some of the participants. Other than Kairi, all three other participants challenged Asuka for her crown unsuccessfully and in the case of Moon and Cross, they lost matches that stand out in Asuka’s title run which means there’s worth to those stories.
They’ve touched on the idea that Ember can’t win the big one but I wish it would’ve been more developed as we head into Saturday. As I’ve already said, there’s a story surrounding Cross and Royce’s prior quests too but its Moon’s story that should be the real focus here and I think it’s a shame they haven’t tapped into that more. Either way you can bet the match will be tremendous.
Almas Confronts the Cowardly ‘Champ’
The NXT ‘champion’ is here to talk to us and I’m already very angry. He says that Zelina’s plan worked and then lies, claiming that Almas is in trouble this Saturday. I’ve covered this topic to death but Drew’s delivery is way too one note for me and this reign hasn't particularly captured my imagination thus far, though I don’t think that’s really his fault if I’m being fair. Nonetheless, he wants Almas to come and meet him face to face and after some more nonsense was spewed, ‘Cien’s music finally played.
It was only Zelina Vega initially though until suddenly, Almas emerged, took his jacket off, rolled his sleeves up and met Drew in the middle of the ring for a brawl. At first I feared that this approach wasn't heelish enough but my doubts were soon removed as Drew floored Almas quickly. Zelina then jumped at McIntyre from the top rope and Drew caught her but Almas hit a chop-block in the meantime like a real coward and then laid the ‘champ’ out with his Hammerlock DDT.
This feud is super solid and though it could be hotter, it’s more than strong enough for a show openly headlined by WAR GAMES. As much as it’s become a gimmick over the last five months, I honestly think Almas winning here would be great for the product and to be frank, if it doesn't happen this upcoming TakeOver Report Card will likely be the saddest piece of literature ever produced. With that out in the open, let’s all root on ‘EL IDOLO’ together….same as always.
Grade: A* (mandatory)
At the start of this Report Card, I said that the clear aim for this episode was to make the audience excited for the four non-WAR GAMES TakeOver matches. The closing segment was strong but other than that, there wasn't a whole lot to see. As I've already expressed, I sense that they've missed out on making the women's title match feel really special and the Ohno-Sullivan build has been very cookie cutter thus far which is admittedly fine as not every match has to have a dramatic backstory going on.
The Aleister - Dream video was excellent but nothing new came from that feud either so I think it's fair to say that I've seen stronger go-home episodes in my time but whilst it didn't really add much to the show’s build-up, it was still a fun 50 minutes and certainly didn't hurt my interest in TakeOver at all. This show Saturday will almost certainly be great and I look forward to celebrating ‘Cien’s inevitable win in my Report Card covering the event. See you all then folks.
Before that though, please comment your thoughts below or just tweet me abuse like many others already do @JoeHulbert5. Thanks.