It feels like it’s been years since we were in Brooklyn but I’m glad to say that our road to WAR GAMES is finally coming to a close. With the upcoming TakeOver card pretty much set, it’s now all a matter of finalizing things and really building the hype and momentum as we approach Houston. This show is a unique one in NXT history even if solely due to the main event but it’s still important to ensure that the audience truly cares about the other bouts taking place and the following two weeks will obviously be key to that. With this very serious intro out of the way, let’s head 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.
We start things off with yet another showcase for our mates Otis and Tucker as they take on Chris Payne and Report Card favorite Sean Maluta. Early on Otis bullied both men and seemed to even spank Maluta before slapping himself to the crowd’s applause. He then “took a page out of Scotty 2 Hotty’s book” and afterwards literally squashed Payne with Knight’s assistance. Otis then prepared Tucker’s arm for a wacky springboard elbow drop and the team hit their finish on top of Maluta for the win.
Once again, Heavy Machinery made the most of their time here but things need to get moving soon as right now this act has somewhat stalled following their tag title challenge a couple of months ago and that’s a shame.
Time for a match that was set up last week now as MYC winner Kairi Sane takes on Peyton’s friend Billie. Kairi is straight to her wacky mannerisms here before getting on offense with a headscissors and front dropkick. However, a Peyton distraction led to her being floored by Kay and she then sold as Billie took control. She sold pretty well here too, even if it was a little hard to be overly animated in a torture rack.
Kay’s disrespect and trash talk cost her though as Sane speared her out of nowhere and scored a flurry of chops and that wacky corner offense she does (funny walk and all). She then kicked Peyton off the apron, hit a spinning back elbow and went up top for the elbow drop and the pin. Fine showing for Kairi and this served its purpose as she heads into TakeOver.
My main takeaway from Billie Kay’s performance here wasn't really anything new but even still, it solidified with me her ability to use the little things effectively to further portray her character’s personality traits. She sold Kairi’s…uniqueness here brilliantly and I also appreciate the way she even sold her own forearm after hitting Kairi with it. Her heat segment was better in this match too as she got a little more aggressive and even put on a torture rack which is always cool with me. Really solid performance for Kay here as made Sane look pretty good and shined quite a bit herself too.
We now move to ‘Lord’ Steven Regal who’s standing in his office when Kassius Ohno arrived wearing a Cesaro “We the People” shirt….no seriously, I’ve done my research as a journalist and this is actually what he was wearing. Incredible. Either way, he says he wants Lars Sullivan at TakeOver and Regal reluctantly agrees to the match. Steven’s shocked response alone here got Lars over even more as a destroyer. This should be a fun match in Houston.
My Heroes Talk about WAR GAMES
Time for the real main event now friends as three of my lifetime heroes sit down to discuss the greatest match type of all time. The three men are:
- Owner of the finest wrestling theme song of all time and a lover of gold: ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes
- 6-time World Champion and Wrestling Observer’s 2017 and 2018 Announcer of the Year: ‘King’ Booker T
- The finest man in the history of earth, owner of the spinebuster and spiritual father to DDT caretaker Alexa Bliss: ‘The Enforcer’ Arn Anderson.
Basically, these three legends discuss the WAR GAMES match and go into Dusty’s obvious influence on it as well its overall style and flavor. They rightly put it over as being awesome as well as hinting that it can pretty much end your life. Great stuff from three wonderful men.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas Stares Angrily Whilst Zelina Vega Talks
Wow, they are kind of handcuffing me here as far as grading and it’s tough to watch myself forced into so many A* grades. Another one is coming too as we now have a brief sit-down interview with Zelina Vega and her client (our god) Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. Zelina talks with such conviction and confidence, it really is a great character she’s establishing here. Relationship questioning angered her (rightly so) though and she explained that she knows “The Real Andrade” and understands that “The New Andrade” is “unbeatable” and “without peers”. I’ve been saying this forever so I’m glad she agrees.
Grade: A* (mandatory….my hands are tied!)
The Velveteen Dream
Oh wow this is now just the Joe Hulbert tribute show as another favorite is up next with The Velveteen Dream having another showcase match. His opponent is Report Card nemesis Cezar Bononi and thankfully, Dream quickly got the advantage and jumped the Brazilian with vicious strikes as he badly overwhelmed the dastardly ‘Cien’ hater. After arguing with the referee, Dream hit an ARN ANDERSON Spinebuster (beautiful) and his Death Valley Bomb for the win.
Following the match, Dream says that in Houston, Black’s lips will say his name. I struggled to enjoy this short promo due to the crowd’s disgraceful “WHAT” chants but even still, Dream once again maximized his minutes here.
Side note: Nigel McGuiness’ reference to the Muhammad Ali – Ernie Terrell fight was absolutely dope and I don’t care if I’m the only NXT viewer that understood it. Loved it.
Grade: A* (I appreciate that this is now obscene)
Finally time for something I can dislike now as we move to footage of Ruby Riot and Sonya Deville talking to each other. Ruby seems to be a solid promo. I’ll leave it at that friends.
Momentum soon picks back up though with more Street Profits content as they try to give the NXT Universe some “swagification” (there was no official spelling given) and they got right to it, quickly handing a suited gentleman a black cup. The man was now very excited. What a pair of gentleman these two really are. Their attention now shifted to a man delivering a suit to Tino Sabbatelli and Montez stepped in to take it for himself.
Ford is indeed “sensational” just as Angelo said but sadly our celebrations couldn't get started as Tino and Riddick Moss arrived to laugh at our street heroes and together they all agree to a tag team match next week. This was awesome fun for all the family and I look forward to their match.
Main event time now folks as devoted family man Roddy Strong takes on skinny Nexus leader Adam Cole (bay bay). An intense lock up immediately followed the first bell and we get straight into things. Strong has gotten so good at selling with his face and it’s made him an even better worker than he was before. The pair grappled back and forth and Mauro filled time by saying that NXT was “The Land of Opportunity”….hmmm. Some Cole chops only fired Strong up and he quickly took over with big strikes of his own but the referee inadvertently halted his progress and he was cut off by a big superkick.
When we return, Strong is selling as Cole is in control and working him over. Roddy sold well before eventually coming back with an awesome backbreaker that seemed to come out of sheer desperation and that is absolutely perfect. Great spot. Strong fired up with chops and forearms as he made his big comeback that he punctuated with an insane backbreaker for a two count. He simply couldn't believe Cole kicked out and I know this because he showed it with his face. Thanks for that Roddy, I really appreciate it.
Cole soon replied and they went back and forth as Strong narrowly survived some of Cole’s best offense before nailing a jumping knee out of nowhere and hitting a backbreaker onto the top turnbuckle. Just like I’m sure it sounds, this was absolutely incredible. Before he could go for a cover though, O’Reilly and Fish halted things and pulled Roderick out of the ring for a DQ Finish. A brawl followed and I’ll get to that in a moment but first, I have to say that I thought Strong was absolutely superb here. I understand that he has his flaws but man, when that bell rings he’s really is pretty masterful at this point.
Grade: A* (for real)
Though not quite as great as his brilliant counterpart, Cole put in a good performance himself here and did some things that I definitely appreciated. He was sharp early and aggressive in the heat segment, beating Strong into the ground and laying the platform for Strong’s eventual comeback. He did sadly turn to the dreaded headlock at one point but thankfully it was brief as he cut Strong off again and stayed on offense.
After feeding Strong’s comeback, Cole got a little more expansive with his move-set and I liked the idea that his enzuigiri was all a set up for his standing shining wizard. Nigel McGuiness is very good at that kind of detail as a lengthier match builds to its finish. Later in the match Cole hit a superkick as well as his old finisher and he sold Strong’s kick-out to a preposterous degree which is awesome because he’s a heel so in many ways, the wackier the better.
As far as the finish, I like that Cole is already booked as being vulnerable as it makes sense with his unavoidable lack of size. Cole was good here though and it’s probably his best NXT showing yet so hopefully he can build on this.
Back to the post-match action now and as The Undisputed Nexus Era arrived, AOP followed and Sanity weren't far behind them as they quickly come through the crowd. Suddenly it was a WAR GAMES preview as a brawl broke out that led to even Alexander Wolfe doing a huge dive. Strong then suplexed Cole out of the ring and onto all of the men standing below and we went off the air with everything floored as the hot Full Sail crowd chanted “NXT” repeatedly much to Hunter’s delight.
I’m sure the intention was for both Cole and Roddy to be caught here but Strong seemingly landed directly onto the floor anyway which further solidifies his spot as the insane workhorse of this outlaw promotion. In all seriousness though, wow what a great way to build the momentum for WAR GAMES. It’s hard not to be excited after watching this segment.
If the aim for this week’s NXT was to make people desperate to see TakeOver, then I think it’s fair to say that they did that brilliantly, even if only with one segment. Nothing else of real note occurred but that doesn't particularly matter and moreover, it only accentuates the impact of that big closing angle as it allowed the audience to completely focus on it. One more major moment would’ve taken this episode over the top but even still, the main event and closing angle made this a big success in my mind and the other fun showcase matches only added to that.
Finally, I want to make the real takeaway of this episode clear. It’s obvious to me and I’m sure it is to you now too. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, I know you’re reading these words that I’m typing. It’s clear that you read these Report Cards weekly and your booking of this week’s NXT made that more blatant than ever before. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for making NXT more to my liking and I look forward to celebrating Almas’ title win together in Houston.
Please comment your thoughts on Hunter's Report Card fandom below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. See you at Full Sail next week.