The NXT Report Card (6/21/17): Ohno? Oh Yes!

It’s been a week and I’m devastated to say that ‘Cien’ Almas still hasn't returned any of my calls even though he’s continued to post on social media regularly. If I wasn't so confident in our tremendous unity as friends, I’d actually be a little worried right now to be honest. With that pivotal news bulletin now out of the way, I guess I should now probably write something witty about this week’s NXT TV. Unfortunately though, I’m feeling a little low on creativity. This episode looks very likely to feature two legitimately good wrestling matches and if we’re being honest, that does zero for me and the quality of these nonsensical articles.

Bad promos, squash matches, and silly characters are much more necessary in my world frankly but nonetheless, I’m glad that you guys can enjoy some good wrestling matches for once, even if my illustrious report card suffers dramatically. That’s enough about my very apparent mental deterioration anyway, let’s get on with this episode of NXT….I guess.

Sidenote: yes I actually chose “Ohno? Oh Yes!” as the title and no I don’t have any shame. At this point, you really shouldn't be surprised.

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.

Peyton Royce

This is the same opening video as the last couple of weeks right guys? Either way, it sucks. Regardless, the show starts with the previously advertised Peyton Royce - Ember Moon match. It’s at this point that I should probably make a very real, very sad confession. As many of you know I attended an NXT live event in Brighton two weeks ago and whilst there, I heard Royce’s theme in person. I can honestly say that it may well be one of the worst pieces of music ever created but that doesn't change the fact that for the last two weeks, it’s been stuck in my head to a comical degree. The worst part is that it’s impossible for me to recreate with my own beautiful singing voice as it’s literally just noise, this really frustrates me. Glad to get that off my chest.

In all seriousness though, I really enjoyed Royce here in a variety of ways. I would’ve liked the shoulder-focused heat segment to have gone on a little longer but what we did see was very good. Royce had enough aggression to make it work and anytime a weakened body part is focused on it only makes the heel look smart. As I’ve said before, I really enjoy the diversity of Royce’s offense and it’s impressive enough to make her appear very credible behind all the over the top character work. I will say that her strikes looked a little weak here though, especially compared to Moon’s.

That’s not too big of a deal though and overall Royce was very good, even spotlighting Ember’s offense with very effective bumping and selling. Considering Royce’s work, look, personality and the fact that she’s just 24, her future is very, very bright.

Grade: B+

Side note: in the middle of this match we saw the John Cena return trailer and I was reminded of his new ‘free agent’ gimmick. Just throwing it out there guys, how do we feel about a potential John Cena – Tino Sabbatelli program? Or better yet, a Wesley Blake mega match. Like printing money if you ask me.

Ember Moon

As Moon proudly exclaimed “I’m back baby” on the way to the ring, I was left so befuddled by some of her recent issues as a character. When she’s not over thinking things and simply following her instincts, Moon brings an energy and charisma that makes her stand out immediately and that’s definitely a special trait. Moon’s best skill will always come bell to bell though and her pure athleticism is a big part of that. It allows her to be flashy and dynamic in a way that many of the women simply can’t and more than that, there’s substance to her offense as it consistently all looks crisp and believable.

From my vantage point, Asuka is the only female under contract that’s even comparable to Moon as far as having offense that always looks both strong and sharp. The explosiveness that Moon brings on offense transfers to her bumping too and she really made a point of making all of Royce’s stuff look impactful. I do have one small nit-pick though, even if it’s not really a knock on Ember herself. Moon sold in-between spots well and that’s more than I can say for most but in my mind, ideal body part selling is when it actually affects someone’s own offense i.e. it prohibits them from doing one of their usual spots. That wasn't the case here unfortunately and the selling was instead limited only to moments in-between the moves.

That’s a very, very small complaint though and I have to say that in my opinion, they are doing Moon a real disservice with the lack of effort they’ve put into her character. Some talents are so good in other areas that it’s worth investing more time in them elsewhere and Moon is clearly a case of that. Put the effort in, protect her weaknesses and make a lot of money for both the talent and the company.

Grade: A

We now got a backstage segment involving Hideo Itami and Kassius Ohno in which Hideo apologized for his recent actions. This was followed by a GREAT BALLS OF FIRE ad that featured an image of Alexa Bliss as well as “Samoa Joe’s Diner”. At this point, I have seen this video 198272 times but it genuinely gets better every time. Vince McMahon, I love you with all my heart and soul.

Sanity (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe)

Up next was a tag match between Sanity and the Ealy Brothers. This was simply a way of establishing Young and Wolfe as a team and getting Sanity a win after some recent losses. However, this wasn't a huge showcase or anything as the audience obviously already know both talents so it was mostly a forgettable affair. Wolfe himself is a memorable character though, even if only due to his unique mannerisms. He definitely got some shine here regardless and he does have some good looking strikes. I like this team as it’s a smart usage of Young in my mind, he should really help Wolfe continue to evolve and progress.

The Ealy Brothers got zero offense here so I’m not going to grade them but one thing is for sure, they have a tremendous tag team look.

Grade: B

Following this was a recap of Asuka and Cross’ brawl from last week and the announcement that next week they’ll be having a “Last Woman Standing” match. Another good wrestling match? It’s almost like Triple H wants these articles to fail.

Sonya Deville

Guys, I just don’t think this gimmick is for me. This was another showcase for Deville as she beat Rachel Evers and unfortunately, all of my prior complaints remained. She again put on a body lock without attacking the choke, she again shot a takedown only to attempt a pin and she again took off the gloves. It’s all so contrived and in my opinion is absolutely laughable in 2017. Everyone has seen an actual MMA fight, dressing her up like this isn’t going to immediately convince people that she’s different, you have to get creative with the match layout for this to really work. The Kimura finish was a nice touch though.

None of these criticisms are down to Deville and I usually grade talent only on their performance but it’s impossible to do that when I hate almost everything they are having her do. I’m not saying I’m right, far from it. What I’m saying is that as someone that watches a ridiculous amount of MMA weekly, I really don’t need to see poor attempts at replicating it in my pro wrestling. This is entertainment and for me, this just doesn't cut it. That’s just me though.

Just like the Ealy Brothers, Rachel Evers won’t be graded here due to the lack of offense given to her.

Grade: D+

The Bobby Roode/Roderick Strong Altercation

We now saw the Roode/Strong brawl which was incited by the champion using my favorite cliché heel line of all time:

“Whenever you feel like being with a real man you let me know”

If you’re a heel and you’ve never uttered those words, you suck. Seriously though, this was super short and I can’t really grade the individuals but this tiny segment was a homerun in telling this feud’s story. Big thumbs up…..oh wait they’re wrestling each-other in two weeks? ANOTHER good wrestling match? Hunter, come on man, give me some slapstick comedy nonsense every once in a while.

Grade: A* because I love pro wrestling

Kassius Ohno

It's main event time ladies and gentleman as we finally get Ohno and Black’s shoot fight. I have to mention that hearing Ohno’s theme live has had the opposite effect of Royce’s, I now absolutely hate it with an unnatural passion. It sounds so happy and as a miserable English man, that infuriates me. Onto the match though, I have to say that Ohno was particularly excellent here, even more so than usual. I really like the way he approached the opening grappling exchanges with a very sport like seriousness. This is nothing new but just with body language you can elevate something’s importance and Ohno did just that in this match, at times with the smallest of subtleties.

As is always the case, Ohno’s strikes looked fantastic but it was his character work that really shined here in my mind. He was portraying pro wrestling character tropes but it all came across very natural and organic simply due to Ohno’s impressive execution. Regardless of all of this, Ohno came out the loser and rightly so, this is his role after all. He’s here to lose excellent matches against younger talents and that’s exactly what we got here. I really don’t have much else to say honestly, Kassius Ohno is a truly elite pro wrestler and that’s been the case for quite some time.

Grade: A*

Aleister Black

I feared that a competitive, lengthy match would hurt Black’s overall aura but I’m relieved to say that wasn't the case here which is a credit to the man’s natural coolness. I will say this though, whilst I get that he’s purposefully stoic I actually felt that Ohno’s polish and poise somewhat highlighted the limitations of the Black character as he came across as the much less interesting half of this match from my view. This particularly showed in the aforementioned grappling exchanges where Ohno was always emoting and reacting to every move, something that wasn't the case with Black, by design or not.

It was at this point that the great Percy Watson interjected with some pivotal insight:

“I can’t help but look at all the tattoos on Aleister Black’s body” – Percy Watson, 2017.

Moving on. Just like Ohno, Black always brings great looking strikes but I have to say it again, they seemed a little less impressive when compared to Ohno’s famed forearms and kicks. None of this is an insult to Black by any means and instead simply a credit to the immense Ohno. Black definitely still performed excellently and this was a very good match either way but he just felt like the less interesting half of this matchup in my opinion.

Grade: A

Final thoughts

This show was bookended by two really good matches and did feature the Roode/Strong exchange but for some reason, that middle twenty minutes really didn't work for me. I made my thoughts on the Deville showcase clear but it wasn't offensive and the Sanity squash was solid too but those two matches hurt the episode’s overall feel in my mind and I’m not really sure why. Perhaps I’m just frustrated by the wasted potential of Deville’s character but regardless, this was a good show and featured two very enjoyable matches. Perhaps the lack of any real story or character progression was what made it less riveting to me.

Either way, next week we get the “Last Woman Standing” match and that should be very exciting. Beyond that though, hopefully Hunter throws me and my report cards a bone by putting on some good old fashioned sports entertainment in between all of these good wrestling matches. Back to calling Almas for me now and hopefully things will have changed by next week as who knows how bad that article will be if they haven’t. I apologize for turning a feature supposedly focused on reviewing NXT into a log of my own mental unraveling but honestly, I question you for even clicking on an article so poorly titled. Thanks anyway.

Grade: B

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