Well, well, well, I suppose I need to begin this whole thing with an apology. Last week, for the first time in this series’ iconic history I failed to cover an episode of NXT. Thankfully, I didn't seem to miss much of importance but nonetheless, I do apologize and vow to get us back on track with a dynamic and explosive Report Card this week. I say that with confidence too because I’ve done my research and am aware that this episode marks the first real sighting of Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas since his huge NXT title win at TakeOver: WarGames.
Translation: tonight marks a momentous occasion and you should all be very excited, with that being said, let’s finally head back to our beloved Full Sail Arena.
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 tonight’s show with our general manager Lord Steven Regal. He announces that Drew McIntyre’s injuries have opened up the number one contender spot and that spot will be filled by a star-studded tournament which will begin tonight.
King Almas Arrives
It’s finally time for our champion’s homecoming. ‘EL IDOLO’ is here and he looks incredible. Zelina Vega is no different of course and this act continues to impress me in every possible area with their presentation and look arguably being the finest in NXT history. This is a money pairing. Vega rightly calls Almas a legend and ‘Cien’ informs Full Sail that he is in fact “THE CHAMPION.” He then mocks former paper champion Drew McIntyre and continues to be very smug and mean before dropping the mic and showing off his shiny belt one final time.
Almas’ English obviously isn’t perfect yet but it is improving and it’s very important for him to practice cutting promos in-ring as an over-reliance on Zelina could hurt him in the long-term. Sheer charisma and presence makes Almas a worthwhile champion and as I’ve said a million times, if you want to be a star, act like one and ‘Cien’ is living proof of that.
Grade: A* (mandatory)
We now move to footage of Lars Sullivan talking to the ‘media’. He calls Roddy “handsome” and claims that he doesn't even have a family and is therefore very different. I still don’t want Lars talking much honestly but practice makes perfect and it’s all about finding the right balance with this character. Considering that, not bad.
Our first tournament match is up next as Moustache Master Trent takes on the big hairy man named Killian. Seven’s early offense was halted and he was quickly floored by a huge front dropkick from Dain. Trent now sold for a moment before firing up with chops and a DDT. He didn't even go for a cover here as he clearly has zero respect for this business or its legends like Jake, Arn and Alexa.
(Yes I’ve done that joke before but it’s one of the few almost funny things I’ve ever wrote in these things so cut me some slack guys.)
After kicking out of the Divide, Seven hit the Seven Stars Lariat for two but failed to pick Dain up afterwards and was quickly pinned by a Vader Bomb. Short match but solid nonetheless and Seven is always fun to watch.
The fact that this wasn't particularly long means that I don’t have too much to add as far as the winner but it was all much of the same for Killian whose main stand out attribute is always his surprisingly explosive offense. It was interesting to watch Dain in the sense that he felt more like his old self here to me rather than the more babyface Sanity dynamic we’ve been seeing recently. Intrigued to see how that element develops but elsewhere much of the same, though that’s certainly not a bad thing.
It’s now time for The Undisputed Era to promote holiday shopping on WWEShop.com.…oh no sorry I’ve jumped the gun a little, they are actually talking about WarGames instead….weird. Cole then discusses next week’s match against Aleister Black before Fish and O’Reilly previewed their upcoming match with Sanity. More promo time for Bobby Fish please Hunter.
More faction warfare follows as we get a No Holds Barred rematch between leader of the Riott Squad: Ruby and Absolution lackey: Sonya. Riott was rag-dolled early and sold fabulously before fighting back and getting the better of Deville with some strikes and a snap suplex. An attempt at hitting her finisher was caught though and turned into an Achilles heel lock which lead to more tremendous selling as the lack of rope breaks forced Ruby to get creative to escape. Riott’s own hold was halted though as Deville turned to an eye gauge as well as some violent strikes to the body.
Some more selling followed for Ruby before she turned things around with an STO, a big flurry of strikes and that springboard facebuster gimmick. The latter wasn't clean but that seemed to be more a case of Ruby purposely selling her ankle than anything going wrong. In which case, good stuff. TOPE SUICIDA followed for Ruby but she couldn't capitalize and was caught on re-entering before being choked out in a triangle choke over the bottom rope. This allowed for more great selling and it made for a cool finish overall. Absolution>>>Riott Squad I guess.
Ruby was great here and I maintain that it’s a mistake she isn’t moving up as a babyface but either way, I think she’s been impressive on SmackDown thus far and it’s good to see her getting such a strong focus on the blue brand.
This was a good match once again and Deville seems to gel really nicely with Riott overall. She did a great job in control early and I liked the aforementioned finisher catch spot. Her strikes are always good but they looked even better than usual here and that’s becoming a nice standout attribute of hers. I would like a much more unique heat segment but the finish was good and Deville’s general offense seemed more considered this time around.
I’m not sure this character will ever allow Sonya to show much personality and that may well be by design. I suppose that could work well for her RAW role in Absolution too but long term I fear that Deville will be hindered by it and could quickly become an afterthought in that stacked main roster female group.
The ‘media’ are now talking to Ember Moon but this is soon hijacked by Billie Kay and Peyton Royce of ‘The Iconic Times.’ They remind Moon that she didn't pin Royce at TakeOver and Ember quickly agreed to a match next week with either. The duo couldn't quite agree on who it would be though which may well be foreshadowing something coming soon. On the other hand, glad to see the continued progress as far as making Ember more human and less mysterious as the actual performer has a natural likeability worth tapping into in my opinion.
In two weeks we’ll get another match between famed foes Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate. Before that though we get a video package all about the pair’s original UK Title match.
A vignette tells us someone is coming soon. Cool.
Kassius Ohno vs. Johnny Gargano
Main event time folks as the knockout artist that’s hard to hit takes on whoever will be replacing The Velveteen Dream….oh yeah, that’s a thing that we was informed of earlier, Dream is unable to be in the tournament and will need a replacement. That replacement will in fact be, drum-roll please…..JOHNNY GARGANO!
(I know that I’d already wrote his name above but I had to still pretend this whole thing had suspense. Again, please cut me some slack guys.)
Either way, let’s go TakeOver scale on this one as if we’re being honest, none of you need my stamp of approval to know that these two are very good at the wrestling so let’s get started.
We have a red hot crowd with dueling chants here as Ohno overpowers Johnny early before the pair moved into some unsurprisingly smooth grappling exchanges. Kassius gained control when he caught the slingshot spear, trapped Gargano in the ropes and nailed a huge forearm to send him to the ground. Ohno was still dominating after the break and even hit some knee drops with his “EXPOSED KNEE” as he turned up the aggression. Johnny soon fired back briefly but Kassius’ striking was too much again although he would get frustrated after Gargano somehow kicked out of a big elbow.
He then got his knees up to block Ohno’s senton attempt and his strikes finally had some success as he overwhelmed Kassius and soon successfully hit the slingshot spear for 2. A wild sequence then broke out and it culminated in Ohno finally hitting his senton almost out of nowhere. Ohno then seemed to show remorse for a moment before kicking Gargano straight in the face to send him to the floor once again. However, Kassius’ attempt at a dive was avoided and Johnny took advantage, hitting TOPE SUICIDA into a DDT on the ramp.
Gargano continued to have success, hitting a step-up enzuiguri until Ohno cut him off with the Cyclone Kick for a dramatic false finish. Somehow still fighting, Johnny almost got the win with a victory roll out of the electric chair but he was halted again, this time by a big kick and elbow to the back of the head. Somehow Gargano kicked out once more and Full Sail was now understandably exploding. Out of nowhere, Johnny hit a salvo of kicks to suddenly stun Ohno before making him submit with the Gargano Escape.
A post-match show of respect followed and wow, I have to say that this match was absolutely phenomenal and one of NXT’s finest of 2017. I usually hate matches between two babyfaces but there was enough emotion, story and meaning to all of this great action that I genuinely cared as they built to the extremely satisfying finish. Fabulous stuff and the perfect next chapter to Gargano’s continuing redemption story. Loved it!
We are now in the final month of 2017 and I have to say that in my view, this was undeniably one of the year’s best episodes of NXT TV. It had a spectacular main event, a fun opener, a strong women’s match and the real coronation of our heroic champion and Scotsman conqueror: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. Some would suggest that I credit this show’s two main eventers but that wouldn't be on-brand in any way, shape or form so I’ll instead credit the brand’s leader ‘Cien’ as he’s clearly impacted everyone else’s performance in a major way. All Hail King Almas, the valiant champion that will lead NXT into its finest era yet!
Please comment your thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. See you at Full Sail next week.