The NXT Report Card (20/9/17): Experiencing the Dream

Hey guys, remember last week when I had nothing to say about NXT but “Road Dogg” Jesse James saved me by shooting a hot angle on SmackDown involving Vincent Kennedy McMahon? Well this week I’ve not been so lucky. RAW and SmackDown were fun but there wasn't anything with enough buzz to hide my own poor research and analysis. Then again, Bayley’s back! Oh wait, is that not a cool thing anymore? I struggle to keep up with this stuff honestly but at least Alexa pulled some funny faces on Monday.

Oh wait I’ve got it, today is my hero Arn Anderson’s birthday! To celebrate I’ll list some of my favorite Arn matches, moments and quotes throughout this NXT review. Why? Because I’m an insane person.

EJ Nduka Says His Goal In Wrestling Is To Shock The World

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.

Johnny Gargano

Our mate Johnny Wrestling is back now and he’s going to fight Riddick’s pal named Tino. He gets pushed around and basically bullied early which fires him up until he’s hit in the face…a lot. Gargano really bumped hard for Sabbatelli here and sold a lot during this brief heat segment but he eventually fought back with punches and a beautiful enziguri. The finish soon followed as Johnny won with the Gargano Escape. Much of the same as last week honestly even if in a more subtle fashion.

Grade: B

Favorite Arn Anderson Quotes: “You don’t jump a dog in his own backyard and you don’t mess with family.”

Tino Sabbatelli

As a leader of the Breaking Ground fan club, I’m always happy to see big Tino. He showed a great dropkick here and hit a super cool catch powerslam. I also liked some of his character work including the trash talk and him not going for the cover due to inexperience allowing his emotions to affect his performance. He obviously has a great look but other than the things already listed, there wasn't much else to see. That’s not exactly indicative of Tino though as just like Riddick last week, he wasn't the focus here, Johnny’s own story was.

Grade: C

We now head backstage to see William Regal informing Roderick Strong that he’s wrestling Drew McIntyre for the title in two weeks’ time. Cool.

Lacey Evans

Time for a women’s match now as Lacey Evans takes on Bianca Belair. Before that though we get a brief Sonya Deville promo which was actually quite solid. Firstly, this match started with a great lock-up and for that reason this was immediately intense. Big thumbs up for that. Evans sold a lot here and did it pretty well. Her facial expressions aren't natural yet but considering her experience level that doesn't bother me as she’s clearly really trying and that’s a very good sign in my book. She had some fun moments of offense too including a neat slingshot elbow and a great punch or “Shotei Palm Strike” as Mauro said….pretty sure it was just a punch but then again, what do I know?

Nothing. Nothing is the answer.

The finish eventually came when Bianca won with the Alley Oop but this was a solid showing for Lacey nonetheless. I actually really like her as a talent and think she’s progressing nicely but I’m still not sure about this character and presentation. It kind of feels odd to me and a strange fit for Lacey but maybe that’s just me.  

Grade: C

Favorite Arn Anderson Moments: Turning on ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes at Bash at the Beach 1994. Pure evil.

Bianca Belair

There’s obviously a lot of excitement surrounding Bianca right now and understandably so considering her youth and quite incredible lack of experience. There’s some really impressive explosiveness to her movements and she has some pretty cool offense that definitely stands out. Belair also has a great look and some genuine presence and charisma. The transitions between the moves isn’t particularly smooth yet but that’s not a big deal as she’s much better than she has any right to be considering how new she is.

She didn't have to do much selling here but did some pretty solid stuff facially even if that’s an area that she’ll obviously understand further as she gets more comfortable and experienced down the line. At this point Bianca is clearly one to watch and simply needs the polish that comes with time as she rounds out her act and performance. A real talent for sure though. Oh…and that hair whip spot rules too.

Grade: C+

Favorite Arn Anderson Matches: Starrcade 1986. Arn and Ole Anderson vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Cage match violence.

Aleister Black Talks Shop, Experiences the Dream

The time has finally arrived folks, Aleister Black is about to talk. The audience quieting themselves for him was a cool moment and this was pretty good stuff. Black has genuine presence and I enjoyed him discussing his tattoos or ‘scars’ and stuff. He’s a pretty cool dude honestly. The Velveteen Dream soon arrived and man, I wasn't kidding, this guy really is awesome. He discusses fading to black and coming to light before questioning the scar talk and saying that Black is scared of showing emotion. Great point from The Dream. Black eventually kicked the microphone out of Velveteen’s hand but the Dream was undeterred and dropped to his knees to blow a kiss at the unmoved Dutchman.

I genuinely loved this segment and so did the Full Sail crowd apparently. Black’s coolness maintained through his short promo and Dream’s charisma and presence was absolutely undeniable. He really shined and showed immense confidence and commitment. Great stuff.

Grade: A*

Favorite Arn Anderson Quotes: “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

A brief Dakota Kai promo eventually followed this and that was….ok, I guess.

​​​​​​​No Way Jose

Time for my territory’s top babyface No Way Jose to get revenge on 1980s heel Lars Sullivan. Some nice aggression early for Jose before he got beaten up and began to sell. The people always respond to Jose’s selling and rightly so because he sells damn well. He soon fought back with some great punches and clotheslines before eventually being run over, destroyed by a diving headbutt and then pinned by a big slam. Jose obviously had to do the favors here before he left the territory to work on top in my booking office. It is what it is and he shined like a star regardless.

Grade: B

Lars Sullivan

The big man Lars is certainly an interesting watch thus far. His offense is violent and rigid, not pretty but nasty and that’s perfect. I also absolutely love immovable big man spots and powerful corner offense so you can imagine how much I loved this. A little more explosiveness would’ve allowed him to shine more at times but the big diving headbutt certainly added some flash of its own in fairness. Sullivan is interesting because I honestly have no clue where he fits into NXT or even into modern wrestling as a whole. He’s bizarre in that sense and it makes me love him even more to be frank.

Grade: B-

Favorite Arn Anderson Moments: Arn hitting a Spinebuster on The Undertaker at WrestleMania 18. Simply tremendous.

Tyler Bate and Trent Seven

Main event time now as the British duo take on Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish. Bate and Seven had some early success and even repeated that weird tandem offense that confused me a few weeks ago but Trent was soon cut off by Fish, a manlier man with more manly man charm than Seven himself. Trent then sold for a while before faking a strike to hit the DDT, therefore paying homage to….Arn Anderson. Oh my lord it’s all come full circle. Incredible stuff.  This seemed sure to lead to a hot tag but O’Reilly stopped it and the heat continued.

Seven’s big short arm clothesline eventually got the babyfaces an advantage and Bate came in, running wild on O’Reilly immediately. The Brits then removed Fish and teamed up on Kyle with some big moves for a false finish. Trent next hit his big dive on Bobby but it was made irrelevant by Kyle’s guillotine which Bate eventually fought out of. Bate’s struggles continued though and he tagged in Trent who scored some big strikes before getting caught in a cross armbreaker. Fish halted his counter too and after Bate was taken out of action, Seven was pinned following some cool strike combos. Very fun main event.

Grade: B+

Favorite Arn Anderson Quotes: “Over the course of history, the kiss of a woman has poisoned a lot of great minds.”

The Artists Formerly Known as ReDRagon

Early on we heard some of Bobby Fish’ trademark talking from the apron but sadly this didn't last long as the action became the focus. I know right? What a shame. Believe it or not, these two did a pretty good job in the heat segment, working both arms and throwing awesome kicks. These guys already seem to be solid at this teaming up thing huh? O’Reilly cheating extended this portion of the match and so did an Adam Cole distraction spot before the eventual hot tag.

O’Reilly is masterful bell to bell and I absolutely loved the way he caught Bate in a guillotine and then adjusted his grip to make it even nastier. Even better than that was Bate powering out only for Bobby to remove him from his base with a sharp low kick. They then hit their old finish for a two count but it would still be Fish’s awfulness that secured them the win in the end as he again cut off a counter with a swift kick and the heels soon got the pin following those aforementioned cool strike combos. Only after an illegal Cole superkick to Bate though of course. Good match, these two really are brilliant together.

Grade: A

Favorite Arn Anderson Matches: Fall Brawl 1995. Arn Anderson vs. Ric Flair. Horsemen mates finally collide.  

Before THE UNDISPUTED ERA can celebrate too much, Drew McIntyre arrives and the trio run off. Sanity cut them off though and beat THE UNDISPUTED ERA up a little until they scurried away. Fun stuff to close the show with.

Final Thoughts

There were a lot of forgettable segments on this week’s episode but I really enjoyed the main event and absolutely loved Black’s segment opposite the greatest wrestler in the world: The Velveteen Dream. Those two parts alone made this a very solid show and though they wasn't surrounded by much to remember, they were good enough to make the hour a more than worthwhile watch. A fun show for sure.

Grade: B

Favourite Arn Anderson Quotes: “People don’t ask how you won, they ask if you won.”

Finally, it’s been a pleasure to tribute the great Arn Anderson who turns 59 today and….oh wait, hang on a second….the interns are now informing me that by the time you’re reading this, it’s no longer even Arn’s birthday. Does this mean that though he has no real links to NXT whatsoever, I’ve wasted time on Arn Anderson when it wasn't even actually his birthday? Wow, in many ways that’s quite symbolic of this whole series honestly. Good intentions but poorly thought out and with even worse execution. Can’t win them all I suppose.

Please comment your thoughts on NXT/Arn Anderson below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 on Twitter like many others already do.

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