The NXT Report Card (7/19/17): A Full Moon at Full Sail

One year ago today, NXT legends Mojo Rawley, Nia Jax and Jason Angle were called up to the main roster and with them went the two greatest female wrestlers of all time, Carmella and Alexa Bliss. For many reasons, this is a sad day in the history of our little outlaw promotion with an acronym name that isn’t actually an acronym. As I wipe away the tears that are currently streaming down my face I ask you all to take a moment to remember these delightful performers and all of their incredible contributions to making young Hunter’s wrestling promoter dreams a reality. Thank you all.

Speaking of dreams, the responses surrounding Johnny Gargano’s handsomeness have been inconclusive at best and other than a few tweets, it seems that many aren't impressed. For this reason I can regrettably confirm that as of right now, I will NOT be describing ‘Johnny Wrestling’ as a “beautiful man.” As is probably evident by this point, I’m not particularly excited about this week’s NXT which is why this introduction is so erratic. Nonetheless, I’ll power forward like the proud solider I am and take my seat in the famed Full Sail arena. Why? Because the FUTURE IS NOW! ......Hang on, is that still the slogan for this brand? I don’t know, I stopped paying any real attention when Alexa left. Then Joe even moved up, that was the final straw. Either way, let’s get on with this.

AJ Francis: 'WWE's Most Wanted Treasures Isn't Scripted, It's Entertaining'

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.

Ember Moon

Our first match is the previously set up contender clash between Ember Moon and Ruby Riot. I feel like Moon becomes more confident and comfortable with each match and that showed in a lot of ways here. Firstly she absolutely radiated likability in her entrance. Forget all the mythical nonsense, she simply looked happy to be there and that goes a long way when you’re a somewhat nondescript babyface. Whilst we are on the topic of Moon’s entrance, her music is pretty dope right? Like as far as wrestling themes go I feel like it’s pretty different and memorable all things considered.

Regardless of that, the physicality here was really, really good. They started with a sequence of pin attempts and whilst that’s usually a good way to get me angry I actually quite enjoyed it on this occasion. It still had some of that overly choreographed feel but was just wacky enough to feel genuine. That’s a general trend with Moon actually. She’s super smooth athletically but there’s enough chaos behind her movements to make it look and feel authentic. As good as Moon’s offense is her bumping is equally impressive though and she elevated Riot tremendously here just be making her stuff look extra great.

Moon’s ability to up the pace and explode in an instant is absolutely unmatched on the female side in my mind. If you were to silhouette her movements she’d look like an elite male Cruiserweight and without making this a conversation about gender, that’s not particularly common (not that it matters). I know she has flaws but I have to say this whilst it’s still somewhat of a hot take: Ember Moon is a very, very special talent and it’ll all click in a big way at some point, I really and truly believe that. Either way, she won here with the always awesome Eclipse.

Grade: A*

Ruby Riot

If you’re crazy enough to read these things regularly, you’ll know that I’ve struggled to see Riot’s appeal as a wrestler in the past. Well I’m glad to say that she very much impressed me here and performed at a really high level when opposite Moon. Riot isn’t as smooth as Moon but few are and her offense still looked consistently crisp and sharp in this match. There were some nice strikes along the way too including a really solid looking back elbow that heightened the bout’s intensity a little down the stretch. I also really enjoyed the senton from the top as it fits perfectly with Riot’s hectic and wild persona.

Speaking of such, Riot’s character work has always impressed me and it was particularly strong here. The best compliment I can give her is that she genuinely comes across like a real person that’s reacting to each and every moment. Selling every up and down during each match purely with her face. She’s got a nice grasp on who Ruby Riot is altogether to be honest, even with little things like the intensity on her covers. That stuff absolutely matters. She really sold well too. Basically, I’ve done a complete 180 and decided that Ruby Riot is the best wrestler ever. No, but seriously, this was a really good showing.

Grade: A

We next get a segment in which Kassius Ohno is talking to the ‘media’ before Hideo Itami arrives to ask him about their apparent match next week. Whatever.

Another Street Profits vignette is up now and it’s absolutely tremendous just like last week’s. Big thumbs up……oh wait no hang on… intern is telling me that Percy Watson also likes these guys. Well, in that case, I hated this vignette and think it absolutely sucked.

Oney Lorcan

Mauro Ranallo informed us that Oney actually had something in common with me in that ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude is his idol. I’m all for Rude worship but in all seriousness, what went wrong here? I’m not sure there’s a wrestler walking earth that’s less like Rick Rude than Oney Lorcan. Nonetheless, Oney is a lunatic and this match was just another example of that. I enjoyed the way they squared up early and had some neat technical exchanges before the match descended into a wild brawl in which both men tried to murder each other. Oney is almost scarily aggressive in there and his intensity is absolutely off the charts.

His strikes are particularly ridiculous including those famed slaps that seem to be created purely to destroy others. If he did this in Japan I’d call him dumb but as a fraud and hypocrite, I have no problem with such offense occurring in NXT. Oney won here anyway and then the two psychos agreed to have a 3rd match. When was the 1st match? Was it on NXT? Did I grade it? These are genuine questions I have.

Grade: B+

Danny Burch

As Burch made his way to the ring here Nigel mentioned some kind of United Kingdom Championship and this left me kind of startled. It must’ve been a World of Sport reference or something. Speaking of the UK, this was a proud moment for all us pale Brits as the Englishman was the substantially more tanned man featured here. Give this gentleman a knighthood. I’ve discussed a disconnect between Burch and his persona before but he certainly had some nice ‘character’ moments here including a nasty punch after becoming frustrated early.

At one point Danny hit Nigel’s ‘Tower of London’ maneuver for a 2 count and Percy Watson responded with “what is this?” I’m going to assume that was a rib because if not that’s just outright hysterical. If it was a shoot, as the kids say, can someone please send Percy some ROH DVDs from 2006. After getting bloodied up a little Burch hit a real nice flurry of European uppercuts and overall had a very strong showing here. Fun match.

Grade: B

Side note: These two men should absolutely become a tag team as soon as possible. Short, bald, tough men in black trunks is a money gimmick and let us remember something: the last time NXT put together two struggling mid-carders it resulted in the greatest tag team in wrestling history: Blake and Murphy.

No Way Jose

I’m always happy to see No Way Jose but he feels even more directionless than usual right now. In fact, it’s to the point where I actually forget he exists. That’s a real shame. Nonetheless, I’m a big fan of him dancing in grappling exchanges and an even bigger fan of him shouting “Hey Hey” when another man illegally grabs his hair. He also nailed a pretty nice forearm smash that reminded me of revered striker Nikki Bella too. This match was real short and as far as impressive offense goes, a pretty weak showcase for Jose but luckily, his personality and presentation is always phenomenal. Just put him on RAW and let us have some fun.

His opponent here was the biggest villain in wrestling: Cezar Bononi. I try to maintain professionalism so for that reason, I won’t hold his ‘Cien’ sins against him but there was too little for me to grade him on, unfortunately. He certainly has a tremendous look though and had some nice intensity too.

Grade: B-

Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas

Oh my god, he’s here! The world’s greatest wrestler is back at Full Sail and damn did he look cool beating up Bononi. Dressed sharp and with a new unnamed female by his side, Almas looked particularly awesome here. The man is a superstar, no doubt about it.

Grade: A* (Mandatory)

Drew McIntyre

Main event time now as we get Drew McIntyre and Killian Dain in a number one contender’s match. This was an interesting one as whilst the work was at the very least decent, I found it overall to be quite unremarkable. Either way, Drew had some nice fire early with strikes before being cut off for the heat. I guess McIntyre sold well for this portion of the match but I just don’t think I like him in this role. He towers over everyone (including Dain) and so him fighting from underneath just doesn't work for me.

On the other hand, Drew’s selling did elevate Dain as a monster but I hope that his matches don’t follow this formula too much going forward. There’s just some kind of disconnect that I have personally with McIntyre which stops me from enjoying him much as a babyface. It was the same in TNA/Impact/Global Force too though. He eventually went over nonetheless after Dain kicked out of the Future Shock DDT at 1 which led to Drew nailing two Claymores for the pin. McIntyre definitely did a good job of selling with his face though and that emphasized Dain’s shocking toughness down the stretch. To conclude, Drew looked pretty good and is now the number one contender.

Grade: B

Killian Dain

This was obviously a big spot for Dain and overall, I think he did a good job. He was adequately aggressive in the heat and threw some refreshingly good looking right hands. I hate to be “that guy” but for once in my life, I’m going to have to be. Before signing with NXT, Dain stood out on the independent scene due to the combination of his impressive size and speed. His offense was really innovative too all things considered. Now in NXT though, Dain’s size isn’t as startling and that doesn't pair well with his now slower style.

I’m absolutely all for big men working like big men but the issue is I don’t think Dain is big enough to pull that off and it’s his athleticism that originally made him stand out. I do understand why they are having him work this way though, it’s just not particularly for me. There were still some nice moments of explosiveness for Dain regardless and I do really enjoy the way he strings moves together in what feels like spontaneous fashion. Dain’s big kick-out at 1 moment was slightly spoiled by the crowd’s fatigue but Dain still garnered a decent response for sitting up after the 1st Claymore. Certainly a solid showing for the Scotsman.

Grade: B

Final Thoughts

This was a good episode of NXT and started particularly well with two really strong matches inside the first 30 minutes. However, the main event was just a tad under whelming in my opinion and never really had me hooked at any point, unfortunately. It was still a decent match though and that combined with the other two matches and a wonderful ‘Cien’ appearance led to this being a very enjoyable episode of NXT.

Grade: B+

Well, I guess I’ll see you guys next week for another episode of N…..oh dear my intern has returned with some more terrible news. I’m being informed that there is, in fact, a SmackDown PPV event taking place this Sunday and it involves flags, prisons, and love. It sounds absolutely awful and I couldn't be more excited. I may finally have some content to laugh at and as we all know, bad wrestling is my favorite kind of wrestling. If things go as I hope there should be a whole lot of material for Sunday’s Report Card and it may even be a mildly entertaining read. I doubt it though, to be honest.

Please comment any thoughts below or 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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