The NXT Report Card (12/27/17): Who's Next for King Almas?!

Twas two days after Christmas and…too far? Yeah you’re probably right. Either way, I hope that you’ve all had a truly wonderful time in this Holiday season. I assume that just like me, you’ve greatly overate all whilst devoting an obscene amount of time into studying Samoa Joe’s greatness. If not I question if you’ve even really experienced Christmas at all. Nonetheless, Santa has come and gone now and so it’s time to return to reality. For you that reality is apparently reading this silly article and for me that reality is writing it…basically, we both suck.

With that established, let’s head to Full Sail for what on paper, looks to be a very important episode of NXT as we finally find out who’s next for our King, champion and hero: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.

Rachael Ellering Revealed As Jordynne Grace's Tag Team Partner For Title Match At IMPACT Rebellion

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.

The Street Profits

We get things started here with yet another showcase match for the Street Profits and overall, I have nothing to add. Other than the hilarity of Nigel McGuiness claiming that one of their opponents was JBL, this was all more of the same and my conclusion remains unchanged: this team is awesome. If you’d like more in-depth coverage of their in-ring performance, click here, here, here or here. Thanks.

Following the duo’s quick and impressive win they headed into the crowd and cut a post-match promo. They claimed that in 2018 they’ll conquer and this was fun with Ford especially standing out as usual. He has an almost obscene amount of charisma and I can’t wait to see where it takes him long-term.

Grade: A*

Sonya Deville

Ever wanted to see a taped title match where the result was so obvious to everyone on earth that it was immediately uninteresting? If so, this was the match for you.

In all seriousness, that half-hearted critique is not something these two women can control and I have zero issue with this match being booked but it does have to be said, the circumstances here really limited any potential intrigue. Nonetheless let’s get to the action and Deville quickly went to her grappling advantage, catching a heel hook immediately. She’d narrowly get the better of the strike exchange that followed too and maintained control briefly with a test of strength fake out…for real.

As much as all of this stuff sounds tremendously fun, this Full Sail crowd just wasn't having much fun thus far and I’m not really sure why. I’m hesitant to place blame on the two women considering the length of some of these tapings but either way, it was a startlingly quiet crowd here at times. Deville’s heat segment wasn't her best work either to be fair and its biggest flaw was its lack of energy and explosion which in turn took away Moon’s best asset as a selling babyface.

Ember soon made her come back until Sonya cut her off again but she missed with a sliding knee strike and was pinned just moments later after being nailed by The Eclipse. Decent match and a fine showing for Deville even if weaker than her recent stuff with Riott in my opinion.

Grade: C+

Ember Moon

Firstly, Ember’s whole look and presentation with the belt here was fabulous and she looked like an absolute star whilst making her way to the ring. I also liked the way that she, along with Nigel on commentary, portrayed the pressure on her as champion. As always Moon looked terrific on offense here and even pulled out a cannonball off the apron for the simple ‘after the break’ spot. Her selling in the heat was fine even if admittedly hindered by the lack of creative offense from Deville opposite her.

On the other hand, Ember’s comeback looked good and had some nice flash as usual. I would say that these two didn’t seem to gel perfectly at times and that made things look less smooth than you’d like but regardless, Moon’s handspring elbow smash looked spectacular and perfectly laid the platform for the finish. Another great showing from the champion in my opinion.

Grade: A*

Following the match, Kairi Sane’s music hit and she wandered to the ramp for a stare-down with Moon…only until SHAYNA BASZLER emerged to choke her out though. I assume we’ll be seeing this MYC final rematch at TakeOver and that’s cool, I guess.

Authors of Pain then stood with their backs to us whilst Paul Ellering talked about Mr Cole and co. Fun.

An Ember Moon interview followed and I thought it was actually pretty good. The more Ember’s character is human the better it works I feel.

Up next we got a neat video package highlighting the four qualifying matches leading into tonight’s main event as well as the announcement of a tag title rematch in 2 weeks’ time.

Killian Dain vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Aleister Black

Main event time now folks and Black got the better of things real early until Lars somehow caught his moonsault attempt and slammed him onto the apron. Sullivan then also caught Johnny and did the same but believe it or not he couldn't catch Killian Dain who laid him out with a huge dive to the floor. Dain was now in control and briefly focused on Johnny until Lars re-entered to batter Gargano himself. Black soon returned to the action as well though and he rocked Sullivan with some big kicks before being thrown off the ramp.

The same fate followed for Johnny who was launched directly onto Black and the delighted Lars then shifted his focus to the poor announce table. Gargano blocked Sullivan’s attempt to power-bomb him through it though and he and Black rocked Sullivan, leaving him prone on the table. Then out of nowhere Dain re-emerged, sprinted off the ramp and splashed Lars through the table for a big pop in an absolutely insane spot. This left Black and Gargano to have a good old fashioned rasslin’ match and with that clear, dueling chants quickly followed.

They traded awesome looking strikes (other than Black’s odd wacky sell) and moments later Johnny caught the Gargano Escape in transition. Dain returned to halt the hold though and then laid out the already damaged Black. Gargano was next as Dain continued to dominate without getting a pin. His control of the action soon ended too as Johnny and Black teamed up to floor him with a big avalanche power-bomb. All three men were now floored inside the ring whilst Lars slowly rose to his feet and began to walk back to the squared circle.

He ran wild on all three men but was unable to get the win and a stare-down with Dain followed. This got a pretty solid reaction as the two big men went toe to toe until Black came back with huge strike flurries to remove them both. He then hit Black Mass on Lars but The Undisputed Era’s Fish and O’Reilly suddenly appeared and yanked him out of the ring. He fought them off but was then halted by Cole who floored him with his old finish on the floor.

Johnny then sent Cole flying with a big dive and shifted his attention to Black after valiantly removing Lars and Dain from proceedings. The Slingshot DDT followed and as crazy as it sounds, Gargano then pinned Black to a big pop and in doing so, set up a TakeOver: Brooklyn rematch with King Almas. I couldn't be happier with this result and I love the direction they took it. It all felt suitably shocking and really furthered Gargano’s engrossing ‘Cinderella Man’ story.

Grade: A

Final Thoughts

I came into this show expecting the main event to impress and thankfully it did just that. It was a quite dynamic fatal 4-way and the finish was so fulfilling that you couldn't help but smile. Elsewhere The Street Profits were fun and the women solid so overall, this was a very good episode of NXT. I don’t think it quite reached the lofty heights of last week or some other standout showings but nonetheless, this was still a tremendous way to close out 2017, a year that has ushered in the most consistently excellent NXT TV product we’ve ever seen. They may not be as strong on individual star-power nowadays but match for match, they’ve never been stronger.

Grade: A

Next week’s episode is a Best of 2017 edition and I’m unsure as to how that’ll impact this silly review series but either way, happy New Year to you all and here’s to more silliness in 2018!

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

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