The NXT Report Card (12/20/17): Merry Christmas from Santa Helmsley

It's the holiday season folks and for that very reason I've come today with gifts to share! With Christmas just days away I thought I'd bring you all a jam-packed NXT Report Card for you and your kin to both share and enjoy! The only issue with that of course is that the quality of this "article" is highly dependent on what Hunter and co have to offer on this week’s NXT. Basically, if you like this Report Card please consider sending me a gift but if you don't, know that Santa Joe isn't to blame here, Hunter Hearst Helmsley is.

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.

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A big time intro gets us started here and I’m suddenly reminded that we are getting two title matches tonight and more than that, we’re even getting started with one right now…

NXT Tag Titles

Sanity (Eric Young and Killian Dain) (C) vs. The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly)

Seeing as its Christmas, let’s do something a little special. Let’s give this historic Report Card not one, not two but three matches with the illustrious TakeOver Style grading. As you can now probably tell, this is sure to be a momentous occasion folks and we should all be thankful to be involved (you guys especially). Now to the action as the heels frustrated Dain early until Fish’s attempts at offense were rapidly halted and the duo begged off as they considered their game-plan. Sanity continued to dominate regardless with Eric Young soon running wild but the Era pair eventually cut him off by smartly using the numbers game.

With sharp strikes and quick tags, Fish and O’Reilly controlled the action in refreshingly intense fashion. Fish especially showed a real urgency here and that’s something I always appreciate during the heat segment. The heels continued to work Young over until he got the relatively quiet crowd to care and a double down then followed. EY would be unable to make the tag this time though as Fish out-thought Dain and kept Sanity’s leader isolated. Before long he’d fight free regardless, making the big hot tag and allowing Dain to destroy both challengers. Dain’s hot tag is always pretty awesome and I really enjoy the way he strings his offense together.

The ‘babyfaces’ briefly had O’Reilly all alone and so Young came back in but in the meantime Fish removed Dain and distracted the referee, giving Adam Cole the chance to run down and interfere. He yanked Young off the top rope and Kyle capitalized with the Ax and Smash for a big false finish. Out of nowhere Nikki Cross emerged to floor Adam Cole with a big cross-body and she had to be dragged away whilst the action continued. Young fired up with a flurry but couldn’t get the pin even though Dain stopped Cole’s attempted interference. The Undisputed Era’s centerpiece would turn things around anyway, countering Dain and sending him head first into the post.

EY responded with a big dive onto Cole but walked right back into Fish and O’Reilly’s finisher as we got a title change out of nowhere. This was a good tag match that worked for me on a lot of levels. I liked the way both teams slotted into their roles and particularly enjoyed the heel unit’s work here. The finish felt fittingly shocking and I’m a big fan of Fish and O’Reilly as NXT tag champs. Good stuff all around.

Grade: B

Following that match it’s now time to look ahead to what’s coming next: Roderick Strong vs. Lars Sullivan. For that reason we get another viewing of some of the memorable “Who is Roderick Strong” video.

We see Shayna Baszler pulling funny faces for 15 seconds.

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We then see Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic pulling even funnier faces as Otis looks to move Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss’ Maserati. Comedic brilliance followed as four of the world’s greatest professional wrestlers went back and forth “jaw jacking.” Otis is particularly spectacular and this whole thing ruled. Incredible.

Grade: A*

Sonya Deville is up next and she cut a fine promo about her apparently upcoming title match with Ember Moon. Not a big fan of matches in which one participant is already on the main roster but regardless, I’m sure it’ll be fun.

After Strong’s vignette earlier, we now move to a video highlighting Lars Sullivan’s penchant for violence. Perfect.

Lars Sullivan vs. Roderick Strong

Time for our 2nd match with TakeOver grading now as we find out the final participant of the upcoming fatal 4 way to decide King Almas’ next challenger. Strong jumps on Lars immediately with strikes here and Sullivan sold this perfectly as he tried to clinch Roddy and get a grip on the match. He couldn't do it though as Strong’s speed continued to find him success with multiple big strikes landing. However, an attempted Olympic Slam was ill-advised and allowed Sullivan to turned things around with a massive lariat. Lars was suddenly in control and began to batter Roddy with violent strikes.

The power advantage was now even more apparent as Sullivan manhandled Strong, even with an old-school bear-hug. Strong fought for space though and briefly maintained it with some more rapid strikes. This whole portion made Strong look skilled and smart which is always refreshing with a modern babyface. Speaking of stuff that’s cool to see, Roddy then superplexed Sullivan but somehow only got a 1-count for it. This is now becoming insane as Lars is basically a horror movie villain somehow rising to his feet. Strong had more tricks up his sleeve though and eventually hit the aforementioned Olympic Slam.

He just couldn't keep Sullivan down though and the big man finished him with a pop-up powerslam as well as the Freak Accident for the win. Absolutely awesome match that helped everyone involved and excited for its whole duration. Great stuff.

Grade: B+

Footage of The Street Profits being awesome follows and then it’s main event time…only after Bate cuts a bland promo first though of course.

WWE UK Title

Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne (C)

For all of my silliness, the first two encounters of this series have been excellent and now 11 months after their initial meeting, this rubber match promises to be absolutely spectacular…even if Full Sail seems a little tired. Grappling exchanges got us started and they were as smooth as ever with both men going back and forth with brief advantages. This isn’t really my style but crowds like it when these guys wrestle this way and their execution is undeniably sublime so it’s hard for me to complain. Dunne’s viciousness was a factor as always though and he looked for some quick pin-falls, firing Bate up in doing so.

The champ was happy to see Bate getting angry but it wouldn't gain him an immediate advantage as Tyler floored him with a big left hand. Dunne came back with a strike of his own though and dropped Bate with a huge Nikki Bella style forearm smash. Bate flurried regardless, sending Dunne to the outside only to be hit with another Nikki Bella style forearm smash. Dunne’s attempt to focus on Tyler’s hand backfired though as the challenger turned it around and did the same to him. ‘The Bruiserweight’ came straight back nonetheless and then suplexed Tyler off the steps and onto the floor.

Bate did make it back in before 10 but that didn’t stop Dunne’s onslaught as he turned it on with a flurry of brutal strikes and even a tight headlock. The nastiness Dunne showed here is clearly his best asset and really allows him to stand out from all the world’s other smooth grapplers. Dunne then began to absolutely destroy Bate’s finger and this was simply superb stuff from both men. Dunne was a fabulous heel, mannerisms and all and Bate sold perfectly whilst briefly fighting back with fire all the way. Eventually he’d come back in a big way too, nailing a beautiful exploder suplex to shift momentum.

Some big European uppercuts followed, as did a standing shooting star press and an incredible dead-lift belly to back suplex. Bate got the better of a strike exchange too but his attempt at hitting his finisher was countered by Dunne who quickly applied a triangle choke. In case that wasn't enough violence though, Dunne added to it by smashing the challenger with punches and forearms as he tried to escape. Bate’s initial attempt at powering out failed also but he’d get three in the end, driving Dunne throat first into the top rope.

The airplane spin came next and that was great as always and allowed both men to catch their breath briefly. Bate then quickly got back on the job and suplexed Dunne from the apron to the center of the ring with a huge exploder whilst standing on the middle rope. Dunne survived and both men began to kick each other really hard in the head. The champ seemed to be out of it but fired back with a sudden Bitter End. Bate kicked out in a moment that I feel deserved more acclaim from the crowd but nonetheless, the drama here was profound.

A wild exchange of lariats left both men grounded and they began to brawl from a kneeling position. This match is basically perfect thus far but this spot is one that I’d rather they never do again, it simply didn't look too good. Either way, Bate dropped Dune with a big right hand but it was too injured from earlier and that meant he couldn't capitalize. Another strike exchange then occurred and Bate got the better of it again but his tope rope attack was then met by Dunne’s Alexa Bliss style forearm smash. This wouldn't get him the win though and nor could the big sit-out power-bomb thingy that followed it.

In a throwback to their TakeOver match, Bate went for the previously ill-fated dive to the floor but this time it landed and he followed up with the Tyler Driver 97 for an incredible false finish. Now desperate, Bate would go up top and half-hit a corkscrew for 2. His final attempt to claim the gold would come in the form of a german suplex from the top rope but Dunne landed on his feet and hit a 2nd Bitter End for the win. A spectacular match to cap off a quite extraordinary trilogy that will likely stay with people for a long time to come.

Though they’re both still insanely young, I’m unsure Dunne or Bate will ever find more fitting foes throughout their whole career. That’s how special these matches have been.

Grade: A*

Final Thoughts

Well at the start of this Report Card I said that we needed Hunter and co to deliver and my oh my did they. The opening tag title match was good, the Sullivan - Strong sprint excellent and the main event simply astonishing. I know I'm prone to hyperbole but this has to be one of the absolute best episodes in NXT’s history. It’s certainly the strongest since I started writing these “articles” as not only did it have a brilliant headline match but it also brought other standout showings underneath it as well. Just a great 75 minutes of wrestling and an episode that’ll probably forever stand-out.

A wonderful Christmas present from Santa Helmsley and his NXT elves!!!

Grade: A*

Please comment your thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. Have a wonderful Christmas folks.

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