The NXT Report Card (7/26/17): KENTA is Back…I Think

You’re absolutely crazy for clicking on this article. As most of you probably already know, earlier this week I covered WWE Battleground, an event that will now forever live in infamy. After taking 2000 words of notes, I then spent five hours transferring those notes into a 4100 word Report Card. It’s undoubtedly the most awful piece of wrestling media ever produced but worst of all, I don’t even get a break from this misery and I’m instead now already back covering Hunter’s outlaw promotion. This will almost certainly be dreadful but nonetheless, I continue to soldier on like the proud warrior I am.

(Editor's Note: They may take our lives, but they will never take our NXT Report Cards.)

As many of you many know, last week’s Report Card was an emotional one as we paid homage to the NXT legends that left us in the 2016 draft. This week there’s no time for tears though as we continue to move towards TakeOver: Brooklyn. Once again I have no clue what’s on this week’s episode but we do now know that Drew McIntyre is the new number one contender. That I know, the rest? An absolute mystery to me. Hopefully, I get some answers tonight as I take my seat in the sweat-stained Full Sail arena.

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

Just like last week, I think, we start with Ember Moon’s dope entrance as she takes on TNA/Impact/GFW alumnus Lei’D Tapa. Moon was floored early and sold well enough to really get the people’s sympy (shout-out to my boy Big Poppa Pump) before snapping back with sharp, crisp and aggressive offense. Moments later this was a wrap due to The Eclipse. Wow, I love this for so many reasons. Firstly, I’m always all for mixing up the wrestling formula and this almost felt like an MMA fight in the sense that it ended in an instant after some wild action. In fact, this is how they should be using my mate Sonya Deville in that her matches should be completely unique.

Back to Ember though, she couldn't have looked more awesome here. She was blindsided by Tapa’s best shot, took it and fought back to completely murder her just a minute later. Oh, and she gave a big babyface smile after the three count too. This was a money showcase for Moon who is genuinely gaining some much-needed momentum. I’ve sensed a lot more charisma in these last couple weeks also which is obviously an awesome sign for her and the division as a whole frankly.

Oh no she’s got a microphone, I better get ready to knock that grade down….oh wait no never mind, this was actually fine and kind of good…like really good! Passionate, to the point and energetic. Ember Moon is hitting her stride when it matters most folks and we may just have a MONEY-MARKED TALENT* on our hands.

Grade: A*

*Back story on a new unnecessary feature: last November I named three ‘MONEY-MARKED TALENTS’ to people unlucky enough to be my friends. These were talents that I felt could become true superstars in the industry but for whatever reason, weren't quite there yet. The names were Big E, Alexa Bliss and of course, ‘El Idolo’ Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. From now on please be aware that when those famed words are thrown out it’s a big deal, a very big deal.

Back to the real world now or in this case NXT and we are informed of something Roderick Strong tweeted. Oh and we then got one of those cool “Fade to Black” gimmicks.

Up next we were supposed to get the Authors of Pain ‘in action’ as they were scheduled to face David Ramos and Timothy Bumpers. However, Sanity jumped the two poor men and a brawl broke out with AOP. Rezar and Akam cleaned house in badass fashion and I cheered vociferously, almost spilling my alarmingly warm Pepsi Max in the process. Luckily, I held on and suddenly I realized that these FULL SAIL FOOLS were booing AOP. I sensed that they were the babyfaces here and I mean let’s be real, only a heel destroys another man’s BOOK OF DESTRUCTION. Full Sail apparently disagrees though. Whatever, this was fun.

Another fun Street Profits vignette was up now and I have to say, these guys look like they’d be a lot of fun to share a cold Pepsi Max with and that’s the biggest compliment I can give anyone.

No Way Jose’s another man on that list and he’s warned by ‘Cien’s female friend that he’ll soon be beaten up. Sorry for the lack of grades thus far folks, not my fault.

Velveteen Dream

My favorite wrestler is up next as he takes on my nemesis Cezar Bononi. Once again I love these clubbing strikes he throws as they’re super unique and look great. There was some unsurprisingly neat character work here too, as Dream spoke to the referee after being pulled away from Bononi in the corner. He sold his opponent’s offense well also before coming back and going up for his elbow drop finish. Just before dropping the elbow though, Dream hit a RICK RUDE HIP SWIVEL to confirm his place as the world’s finest professional wrestler currently in existence. He then cut a post-match heel promo and rightly insulted the NXT universe’s ugliness. Potential MONEY-MARKED TALENT right here.

Grade: A*

Cezar Bononi

If you read these things every week (why?) you’ll know that I don’t usually grade folks that play the role Bononi played here. However, I’m genuinely tired of not grading things this week and more than that, tired of ignoring this poor Brazilian man. Here’s what I got from this: he has a legitimately great right hand and that’s far rarer in the business than I’d like it to be. He has a nice dropkick too. There’s certainly a little clumsiness to his movements as of right now but it’s nothing too dramatic and more than that, he really does have a tremendous look. Take your grade and be thankful for it Cezar, many green brothers envy you.

Grade: C+

We are now informed that Ember Moon will challenge Asuka at TakeOver: Brooklyn. Cool.

Drew McIntyre

Drew McIntyre is out to cut a promo next as discusses his past failure in WWE as well as why we changed his ways. Drew has a great look and genuine charisma but I don’t think his promos are ever going to be for me at this point. He shouts a lot and that’s not a problem for me generally but with McIntyre, it often comes across as unauthentic and forced. Nonetheless, this was a pretty good babyface promo.

Grade: B-

Oh my lord it’s another Aleister Black vignette. This is followed by a very funny Raul Mendoza interview as he looks ahead to his match with Johnny Gargano next week.

Hideo Itami vs. Kassius Ohno

Main Event time folks as Hideo Itami makes the walk for his match with Kassius Ohno. We all know that these two guys are very good at wrestling at this point so let’s go with THE TAKEOVER SCALE for this one. Mauro Ranallo referenced Pride FC here and that was dope because as we all know, PRIDE NEVER DIE. We had some nice grappling exchanges early even if they felt a little dance-y to me and I really dislike that as it makes me feel less manly as a viewer. Luckily, Hideo upped the masculinity quickly with a really violent forearm smash ala Nikki Bella and Ohno responded with some awesome chops. Wow, it’s like we’re in SUMO HALL!

I loved the way the forearm almost got Ohno to switch on mentally and he showed that subtly with his facial expressions throughout the match. Hideo soon cut him off with a violent knee and basically began to absolutely batter him. There was a real swagger and venom to Itami’s movements which really added to his time in control of the action. Ohno sold very well throughout this portion too. Big Kassius fired back eventually and annoyed me greatly by running directly through a kick in a spot literally designed for my hatred. He won me back over with an awesome shining wizard though.

Ohno was rolling now and went through some his super dope offense like the Cyclone Boot followed by a big Senton. Itami regained control though and again began to aggressively brutalize his foe, including a vicious delayed dropkick. KENTA IS BACK!!!!!!!

(I’ve only ever watched Hideo in NXT but I assume that this comment will make me look cool)

Ohno returned the favor with a big boot and sensing trouble, Itami got desperate and kicked Ohno in his great balls of fire. That wasn't all though as he then murdered poor Ohno with a bunch of kicks to the chest and brain. He’d even use the steps too before leaving his former friend laying with dribble streaming down his face. We’ve all been there Kassius, don’t worry about it bud. I mean after all, if you haven’t had a small Japanese man beat you to within an inch of your life have you really even lived? Good match and some nice character stuff for Hideo.

Grade: B

Final Thoughts

This was a show that very much exposed how silly my grading system is as whilst I loved both the Moon and Dream squash matches, they don’t really make for an overwhelmingly great show overall. The tag team brawl was fun though and the main event was genuinely strong so all things considered, this was a solid NXT even if a little unspectacular. NXT has improved as a weekly show but it still hasn't recaptured that buzz it had two years ago. In fairness, that was a special time and the landscape has very much changed with the brand split’s return last year.

Grade: B

I now have a real problem as this show has left me a little low on title ideas. I would use Ember but I ran through all of my puns for her name last week. I guess I’m going to have to be a real sell-out and just pop the smarks with ‘KENTA is Back’….ugh what a shame, hopefully I’ve come up with something better by the time you’re reading this. Either way please comment your thoughts below or just do what many others already do and tweet me abuse on Twitter @JoeHulbert5

See you lunatics next week...hopefully.

More