After a historic week in which the Report Card went from Florida to Brighton all in about 24 hours, it’s now back to reality and another week of NXT TV. I’m still recovering from last week’s Pepsi Max-fuelled chaos with Almas and I’m disappointed to say that ‘Cien’ hasn't returned my calls since. In fact, if you’re reading this Andrade please call me back as I’m deeply, deeply concerned. That’s another story for another day though and for now, I need to focus on this episode of NXT. As has already been announced, tonight’s show will feature a rematch of the Women’s title triple threat match from TakeOver: Chicago.
Considering that I felt that was the event’s weakest match last month, I’m interested to see if they can improve on that already very solid effort this time around. With that being said, let’s jump back on the road to Brooklyn.
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.
Our live action begins with Drew McIntyre, who is apparently a part of NXT’s “new era”. I understand the reason for this is but it’s still pretty indicative of how silly this brand is at times considering that Drew was the Intercontinental champion almost eight years ago. Nonetheless, here he took on Rob Ryzin and this looked pretty much exactly like every other McIntyre showcase since his return. I’ve said in the past that Drew comes across slightly heelish in this role to me but Ryzin baiting him made his dominance a little more endearing here. McIntyre’s obviously incredibly impressive physically but I’d still like a little more babyface flash at times, even if I realize that he’s trying to portray something more serious and intense.
In putting over McIntyre’s commitment to wrestling, our trusty color commentator Percy Watson took the time to inform us that “most people after being released from WWE the first time would’ve given up.” He said this with a startling level of confidence, it was almost like he had prior experience with such a topic. (Please don’t post any kind of evidence of Watson actually wrestling on the indie scene following his 2013 release as it would very much ruin this joke as well as badly exposing my already established ignorance. Thank you.)
Side note: I was a little distracted here at times due to the announce team reminding me of Drew’s recent classic with the world’s greatest wrestler Wesley Blake. In all seriousness, it would be pretty cool if this led to a match with Buddy Murphy but that seems unlikely considering that from my recollection, we haven’t seen him on TV once this year. Wait until Total Divas gets rolling though folks, then see whose laughing. It really is a shame that Murphy isn’t being used though. (Considering that I’m currently writing a report card about a fictional wrestling show whilst Buddy lives in Florida with Alexa Bliss, I have zero sympathy whatsoever. Just wanted to make that absolutely clear. Thank you.)
I’m not going to grade Rob Ryzin as he really wasn't a focus at all here but he did his job very well so credit to him of course.
We now get a full recap of the angle between the Iconic Duo and Ember Moon from two weeks ago before finding out that next week we’ll get Moon vs. Royce which does sound very promising.
Next is a vignette highlighting Aleister Black’s awesomeness. Update: he is indeed very awesome.
Authors of Pain
Guys, this was amazing. Paul Ellering stood and coached Rezar on the outside whilst Akam murdered both opponents all on his own. This was a creative way to do a squash match and it was followed by a continued beat-down, this time with Rezar also getting involved. This was a rapid annihilation and I’m glad that regardless of AOP’s status, they aren't getting away from these showcase matches anytime soon.
Unfortunately, I didn't catch the two opponent’s names here. That isn’t indicative of them of course but more just where the focus was.
Following the match, Paul Ellering cut a promo and claimed that Heavy Machinery are “as foolish as they are large.” For any kids out there not paying attention, this would make them very, very foolish. Anyway, this promo leads to Otis and Tucker coming out and a stare-down before Ellering pulled AOP away. Good advancement of this inevitable feud here and a nice spotlight match for Akam.
We now got another recap, this time of Bobby Roode’s verbal assault on Roderick Strong from last week. This led to Tom Phillips reading a tweet from Roddy in which he explained that all he needs is “1 shot.” Ok I guess.
Up next was a really cool vignette focused on Sonya Deville that put her over as being a dangerous contender. I was very critical of this gimmick’s execution before but I still like the concept as well as the performer portraying it. Time will tell.
Oh my lord he’s back, the Dream is back. I can’t stress enough how much I love this theme music, guys. Wow. I have to be honest though, this match against Cruiserweight Classic alumni Raul Mendoza didn't impress me nearly as much as the Dream’s first showing a couple of weeks back. The guys seemed a little out of sync at times and Dream’s offense didn't look quite as crisp. There wasn't as much aggression from him either which was a little disappointing also. I still like how committed he is to the character though so definitely thumbs up for that once again.
One thing to note is that Watson seems to be more impressed by Dream than Nigel which is bizarre because I assumed that he was a heel. Perhaps that’s just going to be something unique to this character which would be interesting but I have my doubts. Once again I’m not going to grade the opponent here as it was short and Mendoza didn't really have a chance to do much. It should be noted that after 30 minutes, we have had nothing other than three enhancement matches. I’m not criticizing this but that’s rather indicative of the pros of NXT TV. The lower expectations allow you to protect talent in this way.
I watched this promo three times and I’m still confused. Granted that may be because I’ve drunk far too much Pepsi Max as well as the fact that its 2:12 am as I write this but the point still stands. Ok so let’s break this down, Ohno admits his regret at pushing Hideo Itami and says that Hideo isn’t a bad guy but simply frustrated. Makes sense to me. He then explains that Itami needs to get over it and that he’ll lead by example. Ok fine. This then leads to him announcing that next week he’ll be wrestling Aleister Black in an opportunity to prove himself. He then smacked his lips and walked off to our interviewer’s confusion.
After writing it down I guess I now understand this a little more. Ohno wants to show Itami that all he needs to do is move on and face a dangerous Dutchman that kicks real hard? I guess that kind of makes sense. Either way, for the sake of this derailed joke I’m going to continue my claim that it was completely illogical and make it clear that I hope Itami eventually destroys this self-absorbed man with long hair and a funny name. To be clear, Ohno’s delivery wasn't bad but I just found the content somewhat odd.
Up next is an Ember Moon video package. They just don’t get it do they? I understand that Ember has cool moves and is coming back from an injury. That’s awesome but you guys still have to give me a reason to actually care about her. Either make her a mysterious mute or explain to me who she is and why. That’s all I ask before we continue down this road to the Asuka rematch. I reiterate that this isn’t indicative of Moon’s talent level because as I’ve said before, I genuinely think that bell to bell she’s spectacular. More effort needs to go into this character though.
It’s main event time folks and the women’s title is on the line. I loved the way that Cross simply crawled into the ring unannounced here and thought it was a genius touch to her character. What I didn't love so much was Cross swinging her jacket wildly during the pre-match introductions. Sometimes subtlety isn’t a bad thing and I already knew that Cross was crazy, I didn't need the point to be smashed over my head. As was the case at TakeOver, Cross’ strikes looked great, especially when going back and forth with Asuka. All of Cross’ offense looks good honestly and I particularly loved her dropkick from the top rope as it had an aggression fitting for the character.
Cross got some shine eliminating Ruby Riot and continued to thrive when opposite only Asuka, upping the intensity even more. Whilst this character isn’t always for me, I absolutely love the way Cross portrays the craziness within her actual work. There’s a desperation to her facial expressions and in this case her forearms specifically, she’s actually trying to win and that’s an important aspect of making people care. Unfortunately though, just as things were really escalating we had a no contest finish as Asuka and Cross brawled to the back. I appreciate that this is all likely leading to a singles match but this finish still came across really odd in my opinion, especially when the cameras followed them to the back anyway. I obviously can’t hold that against the talent though.
Either way, this backstage brawl was fun and ended with both falling through a table. The image of them destroying each other simply out of competitive rage was pretty cool and did send the show off the air strong.
I like the idea and presentation of Ruby Riot but I felt she came across as the clear weak link here. I touched on this in last week’s Brighton Report Card but I felt it was particularly evident in this match that there’s a certain lack of sharpness to Riot’s offense. It doesn't seem crisp, especially when compared to Cross or Asuka and that’s not a good sign when wrestling in a small building like Full Sail as historically, flashy offense thrives much better in that setting than it ever does on the larger main roster shows. I want to make it clear that I’m not saying Riot is untalented or bad as I’m simply not educated or knowledgeable enough to make such a comment but this is simply my own thoughts thus far.
If someone can point me elsewhere I’d have no problem watching some of Riot’s pre-NXT work if that would give me a better perspective. I do definitely appreciate the way her character is portrayed through her work though. There’s a chaos to it, an unpredictability and that’s portrayed with moments of insanity like her front dropkick to the outside. However, this style does come with its pitfalls and can make for some clunkiness at times. To be fair, Riot wasn't bad here but when sharing the ring with Asuka and Cross I felt she looked slightly out of her depth at times. I’m not saying that’s the case by any means but it’s just simply what I saw here in this particular setting.
Though the language barrier hinders her somewhat, Asuka’s charisma and presence is undeniable and it seemed particularly highlighted here for whatever reason. I really don’t have much more to say about Asuka as it was very much a performance that spotlighted all of her best traits. Her offense always looks great and she brought her trademark intensity and aggression that always elevates the match’s physicality and drama. I also love the way Asuka seems almost offended when people actually to try score offense on her. That’s awesome. I’ve critically commented on Asuka’s main roster prospects before but her work is obviously superb, especially in this environment.
Other than a strong main event, this was a rather forgettable week of television. There were three enhancement matches and a slight advancement to the new tag title feud but this show very much hinged on the main event’s quality. Luckily that match was definitely good, even if not outright spectacular. This is another case of NXT benefiting from lower expectations though and those of us crazy enough to watch weekly accept the reliance of squash matches and such. This show was dramatically hindered by the lack of Andrade Almas though and that was rather heart-breaking. Speaking of such, I better get back to calling his number as honestly, I’m somewhat concerned that we may no longer actually be best friends. Until next week folks.