The NXT Report Card (7/18/18): Triple Threat Treasure

With NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV now exactly a month away, it’s time for the card to take shape as this week, we find out Shayna Baszler’s opponent. Candice LeRae, Nikki Cross and Kairi Sane will meet in a rare all-babyface triple threat, looking to seal their spot on NXT’s biggest show of the year. Elsewhere, I have absolutely no idea as to what other wackiness is planned but let’s be honest, that doesn't really matter. As long as Andrade Ci….never-mind, well maybe Bobby Roo….nope. Well, hopefully Wesley Blake shows up then. Let’s go.

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 get things started with a big-time video package to preview this week’s main event. I’m glad to see this match getting treated with importance, it feels well-deserved here.

Dakota Kai

Staying in the women’s division, Dakota Kai is here and she’s set to take on Lacey Evans. Fired up by some taunting from Evans, Kai scored with a quick flurry, using her speed to take control. However, an early attempt at her big corner kick missed and Evans quickly took control. This heat segment was relatively prolonged, with Kai selling everything from submission holds, to athletic offense, to even the odd gut punch. She did it all well too, even if the crowd wasn't immediately behind her with great passion.

Eventually though, Kai avoided Evans’ moonsault and after walking through a big chop, she unleashed an onslaught of huge kicks. This included multiple face facewashes in the corner as Kai showed a level of aggression previously unseen. This was an immense comeback from Kai but Evans quickly turned things around and after a back and forth strike exchange, Lacey closed the show via Women’s Right. Dakota continues to be very good and this Bayley-esque booking continues too, we’ll see how well it works this time.

Grade: B+

Lacey Evans

The recent improvement in Lacey Evans has been genuinely impressive and that progress continued here with yet another strong showing. The cut-off spot here was brilliant, with Evans using the tag rope to tie Kai up in the corner before hitting the bronco buster in an inverted fashion of some sort. Evans celebrated this genius too, showing off a smug arrogance perfectly befitting of her character. Speaking of such, I’ll trade in any athletic showcase for Evans’ gut-punch, it’s a level of tremendous that I still can’t fathom.

I also enjoyed her intense yanking of Kai’s arms, making the most of the heat segment’s stalled portion. In the same vein, I like the growing range of Evans’ offense, going from simple stomps to slingshot elbows. Considering the length of Lacey’s heat segment, I was surprised to see her get the win here but I guess that’s just an indicator of how highly they think of her. I can see why too, her consistent improvement is getting rather impressive and long may it continue.

Grade: B+

Backstage now, as Ricochet talks to Cathy Kelley. He buried Cole’s lack of title defenses and reminded everyone that not long ago, he almost won the North American title himself. It seems that this is leading to some kind of wrestling match friends, this is cool.

Meanwhile, The Street Profits are back home and with some kind of ‘Rocky Montage,’ they seem set to break out of their recent ‘cold streak.’ They are fired up and so am I.

Speaking of such, we move to EC3 now and he’s talking about reminding The Dream of his recent betrayal. However, first he had to hand out both a t-shirt and a selfie before walking into Kona Reeves. An exchange of quips followed and resulted in EC3 verbally assaulting Reeves before asking him for a fight. It looked as though Reeves accepted….fun, maybe?

Staying out of the ring now, a lengthy video package about Aleister Black vs. Tommaso Ciampa is up next. This was very well-produced and I’d expect next week’s match to be rather excellent. Their opposing characters seem to be a perfect fit for each other and if anything, this feud probably warranted more promo segments before the first match.

Kassius Ohno

Showcase match time for the knockout artist (that’s hard to hit) now and he’s looking rather fired up. He overpowered opponent Rick Ramirez immediately and then closed the show with his Rolling Elbow. The big lad was in no mood to mess around here and exited straight away, just moments after his most dominant victory yet. I love squashes like this with all my heart, limits my note-taking so dramatically. Delightful.

Grade: A*

Off to The Undisputed Era’s lair now, and they are just hanging out talking to a camera. After celebrating last week’s victory, Adam Cole shifted the conversation to Ricochet’s earlier comments and basically dismissed him. They then did their wacky hand signal, but Fish admittedly couldn't achieve this feat as he was holding the quite hefty Dusty Rhodes Classic. This was fair and made me smile briefly.

In an increasing trend, it was time for another character piece now. War Raiders were the focus this time as they delved into their background and Viking fandom. Rowe spoke about his traumatic motorcycle accident too before a brief insight into their contrasting in-ring styles. I’m always a supporter of these segments but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure they work for everyone. I kind of liked the idea of Rowe and Hanson as just mysterious destroyers and I think that this may have made them a little too human for me. Nicely put together video package nonetheless.

Off to ambience, atmosphere and illumination now as The Dream speaks. He talked about his prior TakeOver heroics and concluded by saying that in Brooklyn, the spotlight will shine brightest on him.

Nikki Cross vs. Candice LeRae vs. Kairi Sane

Main event time now and because there’s only so many hours in the day, this one will be rated…TAKEOVER STYLE. Before the first bell, Shayna Baszler arrived to join the commentary team and the action quickly commenced. As is usually the case with triple threats, this begun with a sequence of roll-ups and a trade-off of signature offense too, eventually leaving just Nikki and Kairi in center ring. Cross came out on top, swinging Sane’s head into the ring-post.

Candice LeRae quickly seized though, regaining control with a big dive on Cross. Her attempt at a 2nd dive was cut off though, with Cross trapping her in the apron and unleashing before continuing to control things in center ring. She grabbed a submission too, but Kairi soon re-entered with a spear and kind of hit the double stomp on LeRae. She then applied The Anchor but Cross broke it up, and LeRae returned the favor as Nikki was caught in a choke, sending Sane to the floor.

Candice then unleashed with some strikes on Cross and hit a dive off the apron also, flooring Sane again before Cross dropped her with an inverted DDT on the ramp. Kairi then did the same to Nikki though, leaving all three women floored. Eventually, Sane looked set to hit her Insane Elbow but Cross cut her off, allowing for the CLASSIC tower of doom spot. A strike exchange followed as all three women fought to their feet but Candice came out on top, hitting a DDT/flatliner combo.

She then hit a Lionsault on Kairi’s back but Cross broke the fall and hit a swinging neckbreaker off the apron to the floor. That briefly left just Nikki and Sane with the Scotswoman hitting three straight belly to back suplexes. However, she hesitated on hitting her finish which allowed Candice to re-enter for a quick small package and the unprettier as a follow-up. A 2nd lionsault came next but as LeRae went for the cover, Kairi hit the Insane Elbow, pinning Candice for the dramatic win.

Baszler initially sold this result with awkward nervousness. This was either immaculate character work or the result of having very little time to talk when sitting alongside a 3-man booth. Either way, this match was incredibly exciting and worked perfectly considering the participants. No forced control portion, just three beloved babyfaces hitting their big moves in a sharply laid out fashion. Really enjoyable affair and the Sane/Shayna rubber match feels like a smart choice. We go off the air with a big stare-down between the two.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts

Interestingly, this show felt like it was produced within a slightly format. We had two women’s matches and a tiny Ohno squash but outside of that, this was an episode filled with a range of segments that allowed a lot of talent to be featured. We got some personality pieces, straight promos and even character vignettes. The main talking point of course is Sane’s win but overall, this felt like a steady build for Brooklyn as a whole too. I believe that this is the final episode before a fresh set of tapings lead us into TakeOver. Considering that, I’d say that it’s worth getting excited for what’s to come.

Grade: B+

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