The NXT Report Card (1/31/18): Strong’s Style Shines Again

We are just days removed from the consensus greatest match in NXT history and luckily for us, this train just keeps moving forward as we already find ourselves at a brand new episode of TV. Historically, these post-TakeOver shows are very limited on original content but tonight’s show comes with three fresh matches including an exciting clash between Roderick Strong and Tyler Bate. That match looks certain to impress and if the rest is entertaining in the slightest, this should be a fun hour of pro wrestling.

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.

Bianca Belair Is Ready For A Rematch With Sasha Banks, Reflects On Opening Moment

Nikki Cross

We get the night started with some women’s division action as Nikki Cross looks to make Lacey Evans eat her words. This is a match that was set up by Lacey’s post-match promo from a few weeks back and Cross immediately jumped her for it, trapping Evans in the apron and unleashing a big flurry of strikes. Evans quickly halted her though, yanking Cross off the middle rope and following up with some aggressive right hands. However, her middle rope moonsault missed and Nikki took advantage, running wild with a big comeback and closing the show with her swinging neckbreaker.

Well, this was a short and conclusive win for Cross and the crowd was behind her all the way. I’ve seen the Cactus Jack comparison bandied around before and I have to say that this match highlighted those comparisons more than ever in my mind. This kind of endearing craziness is quite rare as it’s tough to pull off but Cross has been really nailing it as of late.

Evans looked solid here but due to the lack of length, her control segment was too short for me to really pick out much at all. She’ll go ungraded for that reason.

Grade: B+

Recaps of Saturday’s tag and women’s title matches followed and with it came the short Shayna Baszler interview that was released online. We also saw images of Ember Moon’s Royal Rumble appearance.

It seems all the recaps were coming at once this week as we then got footage of Aleister Black’s win over Adam Cole. This included an outrageously funny video of The Undisputed Era being angry. Not sure if this was supposed to be funny but it certainly was nonetheless.

Back to the ring now as…no never-mind, a Dream/Ohno video package is here first. The Dream’s fabulous WWE.com was shown after though and that was delightful.

TM61

Actual wrestling is back now and so are TM61. It was nice to see that the recent focus on this team’s personality had seemingly worked as they received a cool reaction from the Philadelphia crowd here. They are taking on the Ealy Brothers who I believe have changed their look a little since I last saw them. Nick Miller got the Australian duo rolling with a few big chops and some quite awesome tandem offense followed. The referee pulled Miller away from Uriel Ealy which allowed TWIN MAGIC to take place as Gabriel slid in and nailed him with a big boot.

A brief heat then ensued as the two powerhouses isolated Miller but he eventually fought free with a big lariat and made the hot tag. Thorne then ran wild and got the people going before bringing Miller back in to hit a nice dropkick. Thunder Valley followed and TM61 had won their return match. A positive return for sure and it’s nice to see this team back with a renewed direction and purpose.

As I’ve said before, I love the Ealy Brothers’ look but we’ve still yet to really see much of their actual work and that was no different here. They are physically impressive but have been understandably limited thus far in regards to match content. Hopefully that’ll change soon though.

Grade: B

It’s now time to take a look back at Saturday’s incredible main event as well as Tommaso Ciampa’s vile attack and KING ALMAS’ Royal Rumble showing. This recap still hooked me even though I’ve already re-watched the TakeOver match more than once. Speaking of such, if you haven’t gone back and re-watched Almas vs. Gargano yet, do it as soon as you can because honestly, I’m unsure I’ve ever enjoyed a lengthy match this much on the re-watch. It really is a masterpiece.

Roderick Strong

Main event time now folks and it promises to entertain as TV Match God Roddy Strong takes on Tyler Bate in the hunt for a UK Title shot. Now onto the match and after losing out on some grappling exchanges, Strong turned things around with one of his tremendous backbreakers and quickly took control. Roddy was working with a mean-streak here that I haven’t seen from him in quite some time and man did it make for some good pro wrestling. Aggressive and tenacious, Strong really looked great here as he launched Bate around and battered him with strikes along the way.

He then continued his attack by wrenching Bate’s back violently but the Brit was defiant and valiantly fired back. After being stunned by Tyler’s immense offense, Strong’s work on the back paid dividends as Bate was unable to hit the Tyler Driver 97. Strong took advantage too, scoring a big knee and hitting the End of Heartache to get the win. The idea of Roddy challenging Dunne is quite exciting, that much is simply undeniable.

Grade: A*

Tyler Bate

I think everyone that’s ever watched Bate perform is shocked by the maturity he shows considering his age and though this match wasn't overly long, that trend continued here. Whether it be his facial expressions or just the odd clutch of his back, Bate sells with quite admirable subtlety when fighting from underneath. That’s a really great trait to have as a babyface and when you couple it with passionate fire whilst fighting back, it makes for consistently great performances.

I also really enjoy his comeback too. It’s quite unique and employs more power stuff than you’d expect from a man of his size. This works even better when he follows it up with a standing shooting star press and that’s is why he’s so fun to watch, he uses more than one style within matches and at times, even within individual sequences. It really is exceptional.

Grade: A

Final Thoughts

As I’ve already mentioned, I enter these post-TakeOver episodes with tempered expectations and considering that, this was a fun episode of NXT. Nikki Cross and TM61 had nice showcases and the main event was genuinely very good, even if I wish it could’ve been a few minutes longer. I completely understand why it wasn't though as for the live crowd, this was simply an appetizer before the main course. Considering that, I had a good time watching NXT even if it wasn't stacked with fresh content in the same way most episodes are.

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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