The NXT Report Card (1/17/18): Who Are TM61?

The road to Philadelphia has been a wild journey thus far and with just two stops left, that trend looks sure to continue. Tonight, a Report Card favorite takes a step up in competition as The Street Profits take on Paul Ellering’s Authors of Pain in a match for #1 contender status. What else we’ll see? I have absolutely no idea but that’s part of the ‘charm’ to these things and frankly, you should all be proud of me for mentioning NXT at all in this intro. Usually I just delve into Arn Anderson content. Speaking of the heroic ‘Enforcer,’ let’s get on with this and head to Centre Stage.

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.

AEW TNT Title Bout Set For 4/21 AEW Dynamite

Heavy Machinery

Friends, I can’t stress this enough: Otis Dozovic may have the greatest face in the history of humanity. Regal? Good. Boss Man? Strong. Bliss? Tremendous. All great faces but young Otis is just on another level right now. His standard face when not even in motion is absolutely obscene and I just love it. There’s also talk of wanting to “Marry Mandy Rose” and this moment alone made Percy Watson’s presence worthwhile….maybe? This match with Moss and Sabbatelli is of course due to Maserati shenanigans that occurred recently.

Early on, Otis completely overpowered Tino before Tucker came in to hit a *checks notes* Senton Atomico. Oh by the way, Nigel McGuinness compared Otis to Ole Anderson here….well either that or I’ve been watching far too much Jim Crockett Promotions as of late. Either way, Tucked continued the dominance but his inexperience allowed Moss to come in. That didn't stop their control anyway as they beat Moss up regardless including Otis hitting THE CATERPILLAR. The fun couldn't last forever though and Otis was soon cut off.

He sold briefly before a back suplex allowed the tag as Knight ran wild with a Big Cass style hot tag on both men. However, his split focus allowed Moss to roll him up from behind and with his feet on the ropes, Riddick got the pin on Tucker. Another tremendous showing from Heavy Machinery and this act continues to impress me. It just feels ready for the main roster and whilst we haven’t seen them do too much of that “wrestling” stuff, who honestly cares? They are simply fun to watch.

Grade: A*

Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been quite complimentary of Moss & Sabbatelli and my fandom continued here. I dug Tino’s initial dropkick cut off, especially with how it followed his solid selling of Otis’ power. I also absolutely loved the heel double team/chop-block entry into the heat and speaking of such, Tino showed more aggression that ever when in control, nailing big punches on Otis right away. That aspect has never been an issue for Moss either way and that was clear again in this match, I really have enjoyed his work as of late.

Actually glad to see these two pick up the win here as they probably needed it more and honestly, I’m glad that their improvements have gotten them on TV a little more. Good stuff.

Grade: B+

Up next is another promo in which The Undisputed Era talk over their own entrance music. Adam Cole talks about his upcoming match with Aleister Black before Kyle O’Relly and Bobby Fish discuss both AOP and The Street Profits. Fish is very good, I’ll continue to write this every week but overall, solid promo.

Roderick Strong

Leader of the TV Match Banger Clan (TVMBC for short) Roddy Strong is now here and he’s taking on the group’s protégé Fabian Aichner. They got going with a pretty cool sequence which Aichner punctuated with a devastating power-slam as we headed to our weekly 205 Live ad. The story became that Strong could only muster up the odd flurry of strikes before Fabian would again overpower him but he eventually made a comeback and almost scored the win with a spectacular backbreaker (shocking I know!)

Before long Strong closed the show too, hitting another backbreaker and getting the tap with a Liontamer (no interest in this Strong Hold talk thanks). Roddy then cut a promo on Sullivan and interestingly repeated what Lars said about Dain last week, he’s a force unlike any other but one he wants to destroy etc. Roddy’s delivery here felt slightly heelish to me but it was fine nonetheless. Good match even if not as standout as it may read on paper.

Grade: B+

Fabian Aichner

Mauro mentioned in passing that Aichner holds a relatively recent win over Gargano and I really feel like this should be a bigger part of his current character. I mean think about it, The Velveteen Dream couldn't compete and so Johnny was subbed in and then became number one contender. Where was Aichner though? Why wasn't he subbed in? I believe that he should currently be in the midst of a campaign all about this injustice and whoever his advisors are should be very disappointed in themselves.

Onto the match now and I thought Aichner felt more like a traditional heel here than usual. He seemed to be doing more power stuff and less acrobatics. I don’t necessarily mean that as praise or criticism, just observing for now. Speaking of such, I found it interesting that his downfall came when he took a big risk as it was an attempted springboard that cost him in the end.

Grade: B

Who Are TM61?

We now move to outtakes of TM61 delivering some kind of live event ad and this was very fun. Following this was footage of the team beating up Wesley Blake and this admittedly wasn't so fun. The pair then sat down and discussed their backstories. This includes their failed WWE try-out as well as their time in Pro Wrestling Noah. This was just part 1 of a look at TM61 and frankly, it was fabulous. I think many of us felt that Shane Thorne had certain star qualities but this package allowed me to enjoy their contrasting team dynamic much more. Excellent stuff.

Grade: A*

Aliyah

Women’s Division action up next as Aliyah takes on Lacey Evans. We got some nice grappling exchanges early in which both women looked good and they then run the Steamboat/Flair (yep, those are the words I’m using) power out of a pin spot. After being cheated to a disadvantage, Aliyah sold decently before making an admittedly clunky comeback. She then paid homage to the iconic Alicia Fox with a delightful Northern Lights Suplex but Lacey kicked out and got some space with a jawbreaker.

Poor Aliyah then half-heartedly ran into Lacey’s KNOCKOUT PUNCH and was pinned. Goodness gracious, Lacey is like a prime Tyson or Bliss, fabulous.

Grade: C+

Lacey Evans

Okay so I have to concede that I didn't follow the Mae Young Classic too closely but there’s a lot going on here guys. I thought Lacey was some kind of admirable role model but apparently she’s now a snobby pin-up girl of sorts. Now I know that this has been her look for a while but this very much felt like a new character from my view. I have zero issue with it either, I just don’t like that it’s supposed to correlate with a maintained reminder of Lacey’s past. It’s all just quite confusing for a simpleton like me and unless they intend to explain it, I’d rather they go with something more basic for now.

In-ring though, I thoroughly enjoyed Lacey here. I really liked how she continually looked for a shortcut after being unable to out-grapple Aliyah and the finish was pretty neat too. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn't a mat classic by any means but I quite enjoyed it and in her post-match promo, Evans really cemented this as a strong showing. She spoke disparagingly of “societal trash” like Nikki Cross, Ember Moon and Kairi Sane and it must be said, this was a pretty good promo. It brought out Shayna Baszler though and Lacey opted to leave at that point. Nice showing here from a promising talent, positive signs.

Grade: B

Ember Plans to "BEAT HER ASS"

After Evans had left, the big meanie Baszler attacked Aliyah instead and choked her out. This once again brought out white-meat babyface Ember Moon who received very refreshing “EMBER” chants as Shayna bailed. She dared Baszler to try and bully her but Shayna said she’d only do it for her belt. Ember then seemingly laid out an official challenge as she informed Baszler that she’d “BEAT HER ASS.” I’ve quite enjoyed this feud so far as I generally like simple babyface characters that try to do the right thing. The crowd helped too.

Grade: B+

Regal then confirmed the Women’s Title match but Zelina Vega soon arrived. She reminded Regal that Johnny Gargano has zero chance at TakeOver: Philadelphia and also sided with The Velveteen Dream, saying that he should put up his title shot against The Dream.

2018 IS NO WAY JOSE’S YEAR

NO WAY JOSE IS BACK NEXT WEEK

Grade: A*

Johnny Wrestling is Fired Up

Here to respond to Zelina Vega’s comments, Johnny Gargano says that he’s aware of the doubters (realists). He then lies and says that he’s not a broken man or a loser. The lies continue as he claims that this is “his time.” FRAUD. Now fired up, Gargano agrees to put his title shot up against Dream next week and this was an awesome babyface promo that got me pretty damn fired up.

Grade: A

The Street Profits

Main event time now and as their entrance showed clear as day, this Street Profits act has really connected with these crowds. They (Montez) sure do look great too. Speaking of Ford, he got started opposite Akam early and the power difference was obviously clear immediately. Montez kipped up valiantly but that didn't stop Akam from dropping him again as AOP went straight into tandem offense and isolated Ford straight away. Ford was already playing Ricky Morton here and doing quite a good job of it, though I wish he’d project a little more facially when fighting from underneath.

After a quite a few minutes, Ford tagged Dawkins in and he ran wild but for some reason quickly brought Ford back in for a big double team maneuver. Akam broke the fall though and they then beat The Profits flat, hitting the Super Collider and Last Chapter for the win. This was bold booking here as they established a clear level between the two teams and sacrificed Ford and Dawkins' undefeated streak for a longer story and AOP's renewed credibility. I'm not against what they did here at all as it obviously made Akam and Rezar look good but more than that, it made me interested in The Profits' next move.

Ford's charisma was once again the focus here for me though. I don't care how dominantly they were beaten, any new viewer would've still had him as their main takeaway. He just shines through the screen.

Grade: B+

The Authors of Pain

I’ve said this before but for me, AOP do plod a little when in control. On the other hand, they always have enough explosive tools to bring things up once they enter a bit of a lull. The lengthy guillotine spot seen here did look a little silly though as I don’t know what Rezar could’ve possibly been doing to allow Ford to still be alive after spending so much time choking him. AOP’s real skill was displayed in the match’s final 30 seconds though as they turned it up and absolutely destroyed The Profits with tremendous intensity and aggression.

They do have a quite genuine aura of dominance and that simply can’t be taught, even if it seems to grow every time I see Akam and Rezar perform.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts

Looking at it as a whole, this felt like an NXT episode that allowed less visible talent to get some time to shine. It was nice to see four young teams both open and close the show and I thought all of them performed well. Roddy Strong and Fabian Aichner did the TVMBC quite proud too and there was certainly some positive signs in the women’s match and the segment that followed it. More than all of that though, No Way Jose is back next week and add to that Johnny Wrestling’s superb promo and this was a fun hour of NXT.

Not one we’ll be looking back at when the year ends but an enjoyable hour nonetheless. Just one more stop remains on the road to NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia!

Grade: B

Please comment your thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. See you all next week.

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