Ladies and gentleman this could be one of the greatest Report Cards in the history of our great sport. A major Report Card announcement will be coming later and it’s so huge that I expect it will actually bring many of you to triumphant tears. That’s for later though. Anyway, is it just me or has this been a pretty damn good week in WWE land? RAW was very strong, including a segment that confirmed Samoa Joe’s position as the world’s manliest man and Smackdown was pretty solid too. Things are looking up and in NXT that’s particularly evident right now. We are just a week removed from Tommaso Ciampa’s standout opening promo segment and whilst that story is likely to be on the back-burner for a while, the intrigue in NXT is high.
With still over two months of TV left until the annual TakeOver: Brooklyn event, the direction is unclear and with a stacked talent roster, it seems that there’s no shortage of options for the show’s marquee matches. We do know what is in store for us on this show though and that includes Oney Lorcan vs. Hideo Itami as well as No Way Jose vs. Killian Dain. At least one of those things should be very good so with that in mind, let’s head over to the majestic Full Sail.
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.
Guys I have to concede something immediately. When I originally read the pair of announced matches I was unaware of their apparent magnitude. The opening video package here informed me that I’d in fact be seeing “two huge primetime showdowns” so I assume that we’ll be getting an appearance from a real star like Almas or Wesley Blake? No but seriously, I love all four talents but do any of them actual feel really important in NXT? I certainly don’t think so but regardless, credit to them for at least pretending these matches are important I guess.
Speaking of pointless complaints, last week I gave the new show opening a pass because it featured ‘The Velveteen Dream’. This week I actually watched it though and wow, it kind of sucks right? Then again, maybe I’m just out of touch due to the fact that I spend time writing a Report Card about a fictional wrestling program. Upon thought though, I’m not sure if this was even the same opening as last week. Maybe it will change every week? I don’t know but apparently I very much care.
Either way, this show starts the way every wrestling broadcast should, with the world’s greatest tag team (no not them) Heavy Machinery making their entrance. Just when I thought things couldn't get any better I noticed that already in the ring was the incredible Lars Sullivan and another young man named Victor Andrews.
Before Tucker Knight had even locked up with Sullivan, Otis Dozovic was going wild on the apron like he was a 1988 babyface, loudly exclaiming “Here we go Tucky”. It was at this point that I really fell in love. This was unsurprisingly fantastic in every way imaginable and after Andrews tagged in he was quickly destroyed by all of Machinery’s delightful offense including their wonderful bear-hug in which they throw the opponent to one another. I also very much enjoyed Otis’ spectacular belly to belly suplex, even if it was overshadowed somewhat by the follow up duo squash maneuver that is always a personal favorite. Machinery then hit their ‘Compacter’ finish and that was that.
I always grade these things based on how the talent did in achieving what they aimed to in that specific segment. This was a completely basic wrestling match but that’s what highlights Machinery’s potential as a unit. Regardless of the moves they’re doing, these guys are instantly memorable due to their look and more than that, their personalities. Dozovic in particular is so wacky that you can’t stop watching him but his size keeps him as a real threat. This was perfect for furthering these guy’s connection with the audience.
I’m not going to grade Sullivan and Andrews as a team because they weren't the focus here and on their side it was more a case of furthering Lars’ character. The big man moves a little rigidly and that perception isn’t helped by his knee brace but it’s impossible to know how good or bad he is as of right now. His look is awesome though as it’s imposing but also very unique. They also furthered the angry tag partner gimmick here with Sullivan destroying Andrews after the match. I really like the way they are introducing him as a character. It’s something different to the usual squash match route.
The man formerly known as ‘Mr ROH’ is out now for an in-ring promo and I’m going to assume that the crowd’s lack of response to his music was due to tiredness, or I’m hoping at least. I’m a Roderick Strong fan but unfortunately, my questions surrounding Strong’s future as a babyface were definitely not answered here. Even though Strong’s content was all very much believable and natural, he still came across as forced and uneasy. Babyface promos are difficult but at times Strong just seems to be lacking in energy and fire. He seems more comfortable monotone honestly as when he tries to shout or exclaim it just comes across very unnatural.
The story behind Strong and the words he’s saying keep him relatable but in order for this to really work, he needs to find his voice. He needs to find a style of delivery that fits what he is trying to portray and if not, he’s better being used on pre-tapes. Perhaps my view is a little skewed due to the fact that I’ve seen Strong’s stronger heel persona though. One of main points from the promo were Strong reiterating the importance of his family and I think that should very wary of overdoing that, especially when opposite Roode. It feels a little too old fashioned white-meat babyface for me and I fear that people would rather cheer the cool wrestler than they would the good honest family man.
This just didn't work for me and I can’t stress enough how disappointed I am to be writing that. It wasn't offensively bad or a moment that will negatively affect Strong’s career but it just didn't connect for me and furthered my doubts about Roddy in this role. Nonetheless, a mention of the NXT Title brought out the champion.
Our champion is here and is wiping away tears, he must’ve heard my major announcement. Seriously though, this was a great example of why Roode is a main event player. He’s committed to every word he says and completely understands who and what Bobby Roode the character is. He took shots at Strong’s family and even called him a ‘good hand’ (pop the smart fans brother) and even though the content was likely more of a reach for Bobby than Strong’s was for him, he came across as much more believable and that in turn somewhat exposed Roddy. I feel like the NXT crowd is more likely to follow the company’s direction but on the main roster, I think Roode would be the babyface here.
Whilst Strong is talking about his family, Roode’s gimmick is basically that he’s awesome. He wears suits, is very wealthy and always wins. It’s a tough sell. Speaking of the main roster, I’m not usually one to say stuff like this but in all honesty, what is the point of Roode being in NXT? He’s approaching 40, has an already legendary entrance, a great look and can work and talk to a very high level. There’s a shortage of main event heels right now on both brands so why is Bobby not filling one of those spots. Either way, great stuff from Roode which showed once again why he’s a great choice for heel champion.
We followed this up with a very short segment in which Nikki Cross called out Asuka and Ruby Riot and basically just acted insane. We’ve been down this road before and whilst the gimmick isn’t for me, I do appreciate Cross’ commitment.
Next was another video highlighting the Authors of Pain whilst Ellering read from a book in a dark room. The focus here was actually shared with the rest of the division which was a neat touch as it even reminded the audience of the quite rarely featured team of Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli. Good stuff.
We now have a match between Sarah Logan and Peyton Royce. I’m very ignorant about women’s wrestling on the independent scene but I’m aware that Logan had previously built a reputation under the name Crazy Mary Dobson. The problem is I don’t really know what that reputation is. The research I’ve done suggests that the only times I’ve seen Logan before was when she previously put over Bayley and Alexa Bliss on NXT. My memory is pretty hazy but I recall that Bliss match being a bit of a mess. Nonetheless, I enjoyed her showing here.
Dobson was obviously limited due to the fact that her role was more showcasing Royce but I felt she maximized what she was given. I like the way her work and look gel too with the gritty strike-based offense that stands out in this division. The issue is that though it stands out to me, I wonder if that kind of wrestler is flashy enough for the glitz and glam main roster. That’s way down the road though of course and this was a solid performance from Logan.
I enjoy the Iconic Duo as a pair but for me, Royce always particularly stands out. I love that her offense is different but she still executes it with an impressive crispness. Good examples here were Royce’s use of the three amigos and of course her spin kick which always looks great. I have zero complaints about Royce’s in-ring performance and my only negative is that I find her character work a little exaggerated at times. I appreciate that she’s supposed to be over the top obnoxious but I still find it a little too grating sometimes. A very good short showcase for Royce here though, a talent that I could see becoming a real valuable member of either main roster brand’s women’s division.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Following this, we got a recap of Almas’ loss last week. I’m very angry that I was reminded of this defeat but that didn't matter as it led to wonderful footage of ‘El Idolo’ surrounded by women before Thea Trinidad appeared and slapped him. This is obviously the start of more interesting character development and whilst I wouldn't usually grade it, I have to stick to my previous promise.
Grade: A* (mandatory)
Next we have the first of our “two huge primetime matches” with Itami taking on Lorcan. Before the match begins though we get an interview in which Itami explains that he in fact will not be returning to Japan. That was kind of odd. Anyway, some of Hideo’s offense still doesn't connect with me but his strikes always look good and seemed to have extra spite against Lorcan. The finish was that there wasn't one as Itami opted to hit the GTS three times rather than ending the match. There’s still some kind of disconnect with Hideo but this was a step in the right direction, even if I wanted a little more ferocity in the end. Overall, very good showing though.
Itami’s actions led to Kassius Ohno making the save and I hate to say this but he couldn't have looked less like a wrestling superstar. The eventual match will be great though.
I don’t think that this is an overstatement: Oney Lorcan may the most underrated wrestler in the world. Even though Lorcan, like Logan earlier, is represented as a gritty wrestler he has enough flash to wow people. His insanely stiff looking strikes always get a response. I don’t know if Oney is actually murdering people with his offense but it sure looks like it and that’s an awesome thing. He also does that insane dive off of the top rope to the outside and that is just a perfect encapsulation of the style of wrestler Lorcan is. He sold the three Go To Sleeps perfectly too.
I guess my issue is that I don’t see what the end game is. Looking at the NXT landscape I struggle to see where Lorcan is going to get a major opportunity and the main roster looks like a particularly tough task for him. I just don’t want him to waste away years of his career losing brutal TV matches every once in a while. He definitely deserves better, I just don’t see where he’s going to get it.
We now get a Drew McIntyre video package before being told that he’ll be “IN ACTION” next week. Is this an episode of Monday Night RAW from 1994?
Remember everything I wrote about the last Ember Moon promo? All of that criticism works here too. I have no idea how I’m supposed to take Moon and these slower, more considerate promos aren’t working for me at all. There’s a lack of conviction and confidence that honestly makes me think that she just shouldn't talk. Then again that wouldn't be good for her chances on the main roster either as they will absolutely have her talking within weeks. She just comes across unnatural right now, unfortunately.
No Way Jose
Its main event time folks as we get our 2nd “huge primetime match” with Jose taking on Killian Dain. I love No Way Jose as a talent because he has a great look and a lot of charisma but as a wrestler he’s nothing spectacular, not that he needs to be of course. He sold pretty well for the bigger man here though and his strikes and size keep him legit even if his gimmick is somewhat goofy on the surface. Jose lost here which makes sense but I almost wonder if he’s hit his ceiling in NXT. The gimmick is over but do they think it has the potential to be on a higher level? If not I question why Jose is even still in NXT as I could see him getting over as a main roster midcard babyface.
I’ve seen Dain in person and I can confirm that he’s a very large human but honestly, I don’t know if his size has transferred as well to NXT. That wasn't helped here by Jose either, who’s a deceptively tall guy. I also really don’t like Dain’s current ring gear, I know that’s a nit-pick but it just doesn't seem to help his overall presentation in any way. Nonetheless, Dain is very capable inside the ropes and that definitely showed in brief flashes here. At times though, Dain seemed a little limited in this match and was wrestling a rather basic big man style. That’s fine and all but for me there was an intensity lacking.
Sometimes matches like this happen on long TV tapings though and Dain is definitely capable of more. This showing was still solid even if unspectacular and I’m interested in where Dain ends up in the NXT talent totem pole.
This was a solid show based purely off of the Lorcan/Itami match and Roode’s promo. Both segments were surrounded by some nice showings elsewhere too. It wasn't quite as must-see as last week but still had some moments worth watching and developed some characters along the way. Anyway, onto the MAJOR announcement. By the time that you’re reading this I’ll likely be sweating bullets in the Brighton center as I attend an NXT live event that’s sure to go down in the history books. It will not only mark my first in-person viewing of the world’s greatest wrestler: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, but I will also be bringing you all a historic report card based on that very event.
Considering my immense fame I probably shouldn't even be announcing my attendance but I’d like to think that my many fans will respect my privacy enough to only ask for two or three photos at a time. Either way, I’m sure it will be fun but then again maybe not, it could be completely forgettable. I don’t know but one thing is for sure, me and ‘Cien’ are going to become best friends and hit the town following the show. That I do know.