The NXT Report Card (4/25/18): Finding Sanity

Well ladies and gentleman, it’s fair to say that we are about to enter a brand new era of NXT. For the first time ever, our subject matter doesn't involve the greatest human of all time: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. Now with King Almas and Queen Zelina off to SmackDown Live, we must rest, reset and look for some new heroes. At least we’ve still got Ember M…oh well, I guess we’ll have to make do with No Way J…never mind, we’ve still got Oney Lorcan and that’s all that matters.

In all seriousness, this week looks to be a pivotal one for NXT as Johnny Wrestling challenges Aleister Black for his NXT crown. As well as that, Adam Cole also makes his first title defense on this episode, defending the North American title against the aforementioned Oney Lorcan.

PAC To Replace Fenix In Tag Match, Jade Cargill Match Named, More Set For 12/3 AEW Rampage

It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. For me. And I’m feeling absolutely awful in every way imaginable.

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 Undisputed Era

For the first time since TakeOver: New Orleans, The Undisputed Era are here live and they look to be very happy about it. Cole and Fish spoke with confidence early, smugly celebrating their recent success. Roddy then got the mic, saying that for once, he did something for himself. He explains that Pete Dunne would’ve turned on him in the end anyway, which came to him in a mid-match epiphany. It used to be Roddy vs. The World but together, Strong thinks The Era can take over NXT.

O’Reilly then spoke before Cole transitioned to his North American title defense, sending the other three to the back as he doesn't need their help tonight. Just like Luke Gallows, I’m a faction man and this was a fun segment. I’m still not sure on the general presentation of this act but the talent is great and people are seemingly eating it up. The Roddy addition certainly made them stronger either way…..yep, I just repeated a bad joke, got a problem with that?

Grade: B

Adam Cole

Now onto Cole’s match with Oney Lorcan. The early grappling exchanges exposed Cole’s pre-existing rib injuries, and led to him stalling before turning things around with a big kick. Cole was now in control and roughed Oney up, even hitting Mauro’s favourite: the *checks notes* USHIGIROSHI. Oney fired back though and run wild, leaving Cole floored on the outside. The Era then quickly emerged, bringing a doctor with them to check on the fallen Cole.

With the referee now distracted, Strong took advantage, slamming Lorcan onto the apron. He then informed Cole that he was now fine, which allowed the North American champ to roll back in and hit shining wizard for the win. Short match but a fun one. It was dumb for Cole to send his boys to the back considering the injury but I loved the finish nonetheless. Following the match, The Era beat up Lorcan some more before also flooring his partner Danny Burch as he looked to make a save.

Grade: B+

Oney Lorcan

Is there a wrestler on earth more fun to watch than this guy? Okay fine, I’ll concede Alexa but other than that, Mr Lorcan is simply tremendous value for money. I always love his horrifically violent chops and the targeted knee to the ribs was awesome too. The big flurry of European uppercuts also continues to rule and so does the running blockbuster. I’m always pro-babyfaces targeting a body part and Lorcan did just that here, coming across like a smart and competent competitor.

It was cool to see them protect Lorcan too, hopefully he and Burch face off with Kyle and Roddy soon. To sum it up, another fun performance from the TV Match Banger Clan (TVMBC) captain.

Grade: A

A Shayna Baszler video package came next and a Bianca Belair one right after it, she’ll face Candice LeRae next week.

Heavy Machinery

Everyone’s favorite tag team are back again and they are taking on Heavy Machinery. I was there live for the last match these two teams had but couldn't cover it within a Report Card. Machinery overpowered their foes early and fought off Sabbatelli and Moss’ brawling response too. They then slammed their opponents into each other and stood on them like playground bullies that remain somehow lovable. Moss did eventually turn things around and Otis sold until evading Riddick, sending him directly into Tino.

This brought Knight in and he run wild until Moss cut him off. However, Tino opted against the tag, walking out on his partner and allowing Machinery to quickly close the show with their finish. They then called out The War Raiders in hysterical fashion. What delightful humans these two really are, another great showing for them (Otis).

Grade: A*

Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss

As you can imagine, there’s very little for me to say about this duo’s physicality here. Instead it was just an angle really, especially for this half of the match. Nonetheless, neat back suplex pal and I look forward to Mr Moss proving me right when he eclipses Sabbatelli within weeks. In all seriousness, I like both guys and whilst I’ve never understood the desperation to split up this team, I hope that there’s plans for both.

Grade: A* (Moss has a tremendous back suplex)

After this, we saw a video package about three of NXT’s top female contenders: Nikki Cross, Aliyah (lol) and Kairi Sane. Smart use of time here.

Following this, Cathy Kelley interviewed Dakota Kai and she was very uncomfortable about discussing last week’s confrontation with the champ. She came across like an absolute dork here which works I guess? Shayna then walked in and was very mean. This is all great provided it gets the eventual pay-off that we all assume it will. Kai needs to show some fire soon as this presentation can quickly become dangerous in my opinion, borderline un-cheerable.

That same, awful Kona Reeves video package came next before another contender spotlight: this one focusing on Lacey Evans, Vanessa Borne and Candice LeRae.

Next week’s episode will feature Roddy Strong vs. Pete Dunne as well as TM61 vs. The Street Profits…heel turn alert pal.

TOMMASO CIAMPA IS A MONSTER

Main event time now but as Johnny makes his way to the ring, THAT ABSOLUTE ANIMAL TOMMASO CIAMPA JUMPS HIM FROM BEHIND. He then attempted to kill him on the table but Gargano fought free and a full out brawl was now commencing. Ciampa then kicked him low and kneed him in the head. No clue where Ali Black is at this point by the way but either way, Tommaso then slammed Johnny off the ramp and through an announce table.

Candice arrived to check on him whilst Ciampa admired his work and Gargano groaned as he was dragged onto a stretcher. Unknown to me, LeRae was also a medical professional, telling Johnny to breathe. Always sound advice. My god, what’s wrong with these people? He’s fine, he’s sustained worst in the middle of 40 minute matches. Just give him some space and he’ll be back doing somersault plancha’s in no time.  

Nonetheless, as he was loaded into the ambulance, Black appeared and stared on with confusion. Ohno was there too, another revered medical pro. As Gargano was drove away, Ciampa waved proudly but we quickly cut back to the arena and a very angry Ali Black was making his way to the ring. He grabbed a microphone but was immediately interrupted by Sanity, who walked out to pure silence. Eric Young then rambled about chaos until Black cut him off, agreed to his “challenge,” and put the title on the line right now….I think.

The commentators were still focused on Gargano though, Mauro got emotional and he’s not ashamed to say it. Jumping to his defence, Percy explained that it’s hard not to get emotional. Guys, ‘Cien’ literally kneed this man’s brain into the ring post and he was walking within minutes. Relax, he’s Johnny fricking Wrestling.

In all seriousness, this was well done and felt like a genuinely unexpected attack. My only complaint is that I wish someone would’ve come to Johnny’s aid when it actually happened. An Ohno coming out during the attack would’ve helped make things feel real but nonetheless, this was a good angle made better by Black coming to the ring after. Now onto our new main event match.

Grade: A

Aleister Black

The champ had to sell early before turning the tide with a single knee. Black then grounded Young before flurrying with some big strikes. However, an Alexander Wolfe distraction halted Black’s momentum and he went back to selling. A big strike exchange followed, leading to a double down before Black’s super cool comeback. He then hooked some kind of octopus hold but Young countered. In an instant though, Black closed the show with Black Mass, retaining his title.

He then floored the incoming Wolfe and Dain too, leaving all of Sanity floored as he sent them off to the blue brand. This was a decent match hurt by the lack of suspense. Black’s flaws remain the same, but they don’t really matter as long as his major matches follow the kind of dynamic pacing that the Almas match did.

Grade: B

Eric Young

This wasn't a long match but Eric did hit a Rude Awakening which immediately makes him the best wrestler on this show. His Death Valley Driver looked cool too but other than that, not much to see. Nonetheless, I always enjoy seeing Young work as he’s just a tremendous pro. Not sure how often we’ll see him work singles matches on SmackDown either so in that sense, this was fun if admittedly unremarkable.

Grade: B

Final Thoughts

Due to its very nature, this was a unique episode of NXT. I enjoyed all of The Undisputed Era stuff and the major angle was well done but outside of that, very little stands out. The tag match was decent and the impromptu main event too but overall, this was probably a weaker episode of NXT. That’s not really a criticism though as the Ciampa angle should disappoint by design. Overall, more solid stuff that served its purpose. 

Grade: B

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