The NXT Report Card (7/12/17): Manly Man Charm

After the tremendous box-office success of the Great Balls of Fire Report Card, I’m sure you weren't expecting me to return home so soon. Many doubted that I’d ever discuss Hunter’s incredible 3rd brand again after Sunday’s historic showing but here I am, back again at the illustrious Full Sail. I actually have no idea what’s scheduled for this week’s NXT but if the last two episodes are anything to go by we are in for a real treat and by “we” I obviously mean you as I don’t really like good wrestling. We’ve discussed this before though so there’s no point hanging around as I’ve already wasted enough time this week. Let’s head to Florida and take a seat next to our trusty analyst Percy Watson.

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.

We began with a recap of Tommaso Ciampa’s dastardly betrayal of Johnny Gargano before briefly revisiting last week’s NXT Title match between Bobby Roode and Roderick Strong. I wrote an obscene amount about the tremendous match last week so if you missed that for whatever reason, I highly recommend you check it out here.

Aleister Black

Our first match of the night comes with Aleister Black wrestling a debuting Bobby Fish. This match kind of reminded me of Black’s match with Kassius Ohno as in many ways I felt like he again came across as the less interesting half of the pairing. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the way they started the match with hesitancy and caution as that’s always a nice way to make something feel immediately important. I felt that Black was a little more aggressive in the early grappling exchanges here too so that was a nice subtle improvement. His presence and aura still very much allow him to stand out and offensively his strikes are undeniably superb.

One thing I do like about Black is that there is also genuine variety to his work, even if much of it falls under the same umbrella. There was something off about Black’s selling here for me though and I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. It felt almost too basic and rudimentary for his character. I’m not sure, it just seemed off. Almost like he was torn between being stoic and playing an actual sympathetic babyface. He looked pretty good here either way and I’m eager to now see him in a real story driven match and program. That’s when we’ll really see how dynamic this act is long term. Another Black win for now though.

Grade: B-

Bobby Fish

I have to admit guys, I was very happy to see Bobby Fish and he was unsurprisingly really good here. Bobby has something that I like to call “Manly Man Charm”. What is that you ask? Well, “Manly Man Charm” is the ability to have a level of legit bad-assery whilst still being entertaining, engaging and endearing. Bobby Fish is a master of this. He can be throwing a combination of strikes or in the middle of a grappling exchange but there will always be some personality and swagger to his movements. Everything Fish does is befitting of his status as a well traveled, experienced veteran and that simply makes him a better and more believable wrestler.

Fish’s own strikes are very good and he sold Black’s superbly. Basically, Bobby Fish is real good at this pro wrestling thing and he and Kyle O’Reilly as a duo should probably be on the main roster right now. This was a real nice showing for Fish all things considered and he’s a tremendous addition to any roster in the world. He can talk, he can work and he carries himself like a star. Some more Bobby Fish would be much appreciated. Manly man charm.

Grade: B+

PUBLIC APOLOGY: Last week I made the comment that Buddy Murphy hadn't been since his Melbourne homecoming over six months ago. Well, folks, I have a very serious apology to make. In the middle of this match, we were treated to an advertisement for one of those embarrassing Performance Centre ALL ACCESS days. Upon reflection, I noticed that Buddy Murphy actually appeared in this trailer for a brief moment. Moreover, he’s been featured in Samoa Joe’s highlight reel for around a month now. I’d like to take this time to publicly apologize to Buddy himself and anyone that was concerned for the man’s health. I can confirm that Murphy is not only alive and well but that his life is actually much better than mine. Thanks for your time.

We then got a soap opera style segment in which Kassius Ohno and Hideo Itami argued. They need to dress Ohno in a more flattering fashion. There’s an art to it, trust me I know.

It was now time for the first ever Street Profits vignette and this was perfect in that it exposed two personalities to the audience in a fashion that left you wanting more. Look forward to seeing this team!

Side note: you don’t fool me Hunter, I’m fully aware that’s Team B.A.D’s theme song as I was once a huge Sasha Banks fan. All before she cut a shoot promo on the champ of course. Before you ask, yes I’m an Alexa Bliss stan and no I don’t actually know what a stan is.

Up next was a Velveteen Dream interview in which he refused to be interviewed. This was too short to be graded but I get the sense that this young man could become a real superstar in this industry. I genuinely do.

Vanessa Borne

It was apparently time for a Mae Young Classic qualifier now as Vanessa Borne took on Jayme Hachey. This was a short showcase for Borne but I do have some thoughts. Borne does have unique offense, not sure yet if it’s good or bad but it was different so there’s that at least. Her selling just before the comeback, however, was not so fun. There was a natural lack of smoothness and rhythm to much of it but that’s due to inexperience which makes me ponder what this tournament actually is. I don’t know enough about the rest of the announced talent to comment but I’d assume Borne will be the least experienced member of the tournament. Or I’d hope at least.

Her strikes didn't look too bad though and she definitely has a cool look. I don’t want to be too harsh here because she’s obviously very new but yeah, this wasn't so great. Not grading Hachey due to her limited role but she wasn't offensively bad or anything.

Grade: D

We now saw the WWE.com clip of Drew McIntyre getting beaten up by Sanity. All I have to say is that Alexander Wolfe is really doing a great job with this character. Very believable.

Following this, William Regal informs Bobby Roode that next week Drew will face Killian Dain to decide the number one contender.

Johnny Gargano

It’s an emotional day for Earth as our hero has returned. Johnny Wrestling is back folks and he’s looking somewhat handsome. Out of interest, is Johnny Gargano officially considered a good looking man? He really confuses me in that department so if anyone can give me any better insight on the topic it would be much appreciated. Based on the response I’ll decide whether or not I should start describing him as a “beautiful man”. This is very important to the future of these report cards.

This was the standard defiant babyface promo in which Johnny announces his intention to wrestle at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. He white-meat baby’d it up and the old women in the studio audience screamed “Johnny Wrestling” as he spoke into the microphone being held by a perplexed looking David Crockett. Oh wait, that didn't happen because wrestling sucks now.

No, but seriously this was a nice babyface promo and Johnny continues to get more comfortable in this area. Good stuff!

Grade: B

NXT Tag Team Titles

Heavy Machinery

Main event time now as four big blokes are about to fight for the tag team straps. It’s Heavy Machinery vs. the Authors of Pain. First things first, Otis Dozovic’s energy is off the charts. It shines through the screen in his entrance and even when he’s standing on the apron yelling “OH YEAH” as his partner Tucker Knight hits offense. Speaking of Tucker, I thought that in the heat segment he sold quite well for a big man, that’s not an easy role to play. Tucker is definitely the less dynamic and memorable personality but he seems solid fundamentally and threw a pretty nice clothesline prior to tagging in King Otis.

From there Dozovic ran wild, steaming around the ring like a lunatic (not fringe). It's one thing doing a hot tag but it’s another to do it whilst shouting and screaming as loud as possible. Otis certainly isn’t just shenanigans though and looks to be rather capable, even scoring a tremendous belly to belly suplex that really looked impressive considering the size of his opponent. Heavy Machinery eventually came up short here but I really, really like this team. Their energy, look and overall personality is that of an act that could get over huge on the main roster. I really mean that. These guys are silly brutes and that could be a major act with the wider audience.

As always, when I grade in this format it’s about how well the talent maximized their opportunity and how good of an impression they made. Heavy Machinery did a really strong job here of making themselves almost must-watch, regardless of result.

Grade: B+

Authors of Pain

It was very interesting to see the champs in this spot. They were actually outweighed here and for the first time had to defend their belts against a team that was newer than them to the NXT audience. How did they do? Pretty damn well. I want to specifically credit Rezar for doing a really nice job of selling Otis’ physical success over him. He didn't bump in any spectacular way but with his face, he sold genuine shock really well and that brief moment elevated Heavy Machinery and Otis specifically in a big way, establishing them as a real threat. Really impressive instincts from the big man.

One thing I would say about AOP here was that I found their heat segment to be a little mundane. I’ve never really focused overly on this aspect before but it all seemed a little formulaic and flat on this occasion. I find it’s a problem I have quite often nowadays where it feels like the talent views the heat as just the middle of the match, an inconsequential segment to break up the cooler looking stuff. That’s just not the way I see it though and I personally like a heel to be a little more aggressive, purposeful and violent when in control.

I wrote a whole lot about this last week but the real key, of course, is that in kayfabe, Rezar and Akam should see this time in the match as pivotal to their eventual victory. As characters, they obviously don’t know or believe that Otis will make a hot tag so that’s how it should look visually. In fairness, it is a little different when it’s two guys of this size working as they don’t want to rush or de-emphasize their big man status. Shout-out to Akam for a dope DDT though, it’s always cool to see young talent pay homage to wrestling legend Alexa Bliss. Another successful defense for AOP here and a pretty nice showing.

Grade: B-

Final thoughts

This week’s NXT was certainly a level below the last two episodes but it was still very much enjoyable. The main event was fun and it was a treat to see Bobby Fish make his NXT debut. At 40 years of age, he’ll fit right in, especially considering that the “Future is NOW!”

I know, I know, “it’s a 3rd brand!” In all seriousness, this was a good episode with some neat character moments along the way too. No ‘Cien’ Almas was a travesty though and I’ll be sending a viciously worded email to Hunter first thing tomorrow morning. On the bright-side, this was probably my shortest NXT Report Card yet and that’s good news for all of us. The insight is getting worse and the entertainment value is vanishing but at least we’re both getting through it quicker!

Grade: B

Please comment any thoughts below, especially if you have insight on whether or not Johnny Gargano is considered a good looking man. On the other hand, you could just tweet me abuse on Twitter like many others already do. @JoeHulbert5 on Twitter in case you were wondering by the way, guys.

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