The NXT Report Card (7/4/18): Psycho Johnny?

It’s July 2018 and the report card master Joseph James Hulbert is rocking and rolling. England won a penalty shootout, football’s coming home and 205 Live somehow makes me happy. Now in the form of my life, I’m ready to jump back onto my favorite road of all: the road to TakeOver: Brooklyn. For whatever reason, I always view Brooklyn as NXT’s biggest event and with the roster more stacked than ever, it’s hard to imagine a match card that’ll be anything short of immense. Enough with the small talk though, seatbelts on and let’s hit the road.

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.

NJPW The New Beginning USA Night Two Results (2/26): Jon Moxley Battles KENTA

Dakota Kai

We begin tonight’s action with Dakota Kai who’s taking on Santana Garrett. Some back and forth grappling exchanges got us started here until Kai’s speed came to the fore, dropping Garrett with a neat dropkick. Garrett fired back in response and caught some sweet submissions, including a Muta Lock but Kai soon came back, hitting her flurry of big kicks and closing the show with that cool backbreaker she’s being doing recently.

At the risk of sounding ignorant or uninterested, this match was very short and gave me no new takes (SAD). Kai is a great babyface and Santana made her finish look awesome after showing off some nice offense of her own. Nothing else to say really, my bad friends.

Grade: B

On the bright side, we now see EC3 arriving at the arena and high fiving people like a hero. Meanwhile in Gotham, Johnny Gargano made his way in whilst ignoring the crowd, looking rather troubled.

To the PC now as Heavy Machinery have the weight room all to themselves. However, as Otis headed out to check on their steaks, The Mighty apparently assaulted Tucker and scurried away.

‘And Still’

Shayna Baszler is here now and she has a microphone in hand. She explained that after all the talk about Cross’ insanity, Baszler answered the people’s questions. You see, when the dog goes rabid, you put it to sleep. THAT RULES. I half-expected Asuka to arrive when Baszler crowned herself the most dominant force the division had ever since but instead, Shayna simply ran through her list of contenders. She dismissed Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane and Candice LeRae, who she claimed should stay home and look after her husband.

Seriously though, this was an immensely confident heel promo from Baszler. Nothing overly bold or memorable but that wasn't the intention, this was just a chance for Shayna to talk in-ring and she showed genuine progression in doing so. Really positive signs.

Grade: A

After this, we saw a photo of Oney Lorcan’s injury from TakeOver: Chicago. This led to a Danny Burch interview in which he said that Oney should be back in about 3 months. In the meantime, The Undisputed Era interrupted things and said that next week, they are using their tag title rematch clause. Burch then told them to wind their necks in (it’s coming home) and challenged Cole to a match next week. The armband wearer accepted.

Video package time now as we saw some War Machine highlights before a recap of last week’s Ciampa/Black confrontation. They are apparently wrestling each other in 3 weeks.

The Mighty

Time for our advertised tag match now but sadly, The Mighty’s earlier attack has changed this into a handicap match as they take on just Otis Dozovic. At the first bell, Thorne threw his towel at Otis for an early distraction but that didn't help much as both he and Miller were dispatched to the outside. After sustaining some wildness from Otis, The Mighty used their numbers advantage, taking over whilst the referee was distracted.

They went to work from there, hitting a double back suplex for 2 and controlling things until Dozovic made a comeback. In the end though, after evading Otis’ Vader Bomb, Thorne floored Dozovic with a big lariat to the back of the head, giving The Mighty the win. By design, this was different as far as match layout but the Aussies bumped beautifully for Otis nonetheless, and got aggressive when necessary. Effective match that advanced this conflict if nothing else.

Grade: B+

Otis Dozovic

Everyone’s favorite wrestler Otis was an absolute ball of fire here, running wild early and selling convincingly during the brief heat. His initial comeback counter of the double suplex was absolutely terrifying and I was slightly concerned about big Otis’ energy levels at first but his comeback came packed with energy regardless, sharing massive lariats all round. There was a big suplex in there too as well as the double caterpillar (an actual thing that happened).

What I love about Otis is that he takes about 30 seconds to make an impression and he’s not a guy that the casual viewer will forget easily. His offense is usually super fun too. I love the man, that’s what I’m basically saying.

Grade: A

We now move to Bianca Belair, who’s on her honeymoon. She ran down every girl in the division, and came across like an absolute star whilst speaking nothing but facts. All hail.

Elsewhere, Kairi Sane is talking to the media. She says that she heard what Vanessa Borne said and that next week, she’ll wrestle Borne and make her ‘walk the plank.’ This person is impossible to dislike.  

Velveteen Dream

In what feels like a massive compliment to all involved, it feels genuinely cool to just see Velveteen Dream wrestle a cold match. His opponent here is Chris Dijak and after being pushed to the corner, Dream stopped ‘feast your eyes’ talk with a taunt of his own. A brawl broke out in response and this was good intense stuff immediately. Dijak soon flurried with some big power offense, but Dream cut him off, going to work with some tremendous aggression in center ring.

Trading chants quickly emerged but Dream was now in control, hitting Rude Awakening, a leg drop (brother) and grabbing a hold. After one last Dijak fire up, Dream yanked his leg out on the apron, sending him head first onto the steel steps. Dijak just made it in before the count of 10 but Dream immediately closed the show, hitting his awesome DDT thing for the win. Delighted to finally see that used as a finish, it really is about time.

I really enjoyed the work here, it was super physical and made Dijak look great without being reliant on his wacky athleticism. Dream continues to project huge, especially in Full Sail where he feels like an absolute megastar.

Grade: A

Chris Dijak

As far as body language and mannerisms, this is the best Dijak has ever performed. He played off of Dream nicely and showed an aggression that felt pretty organic and believable. His strikes are absolutely tremendous and it was nice to see him maximizing his size with some good old fashioned power stuff too. His athleticism is never in question and even showed at times here just with his bumping but it’s the other elements that matter more to me and in this match, Dijak showed an improvement in that regard. As strange as it may sound, this may prove pivotal down the line.

Grade: B+

Post-match, EC3 arrived much to Dream’s shock and disgust. According to Nigel and co, Dream deserted EC3 in London which is the cause of this conflict. News to me pal but I’ll pretend that I’m fully aware nonetheless. Dream bailed but EC3 is here for the main event anyway, and that main event is in fact….NEXT!!!!!!

But first, Moustache Mountain spoke calmly about The Undisputed Era using their rematch clause. This ranged from hilarious (Trent) to awkward (Bate) for me. Perfect wrestling really.

EC3

Back to the ring now as EC3 awaits Johnny Gargano for our main event. After being chased around ringside by a fired up Johnny, EC3 eventually took control and looked to make Gargano ‘settle down’ by grabbing a hold. He halted a brief comeback too, maintaining his grip on things as trading chants commenced. The big comeback eventually arrived from Johnny but EC3 quickly fired back, flooring Gargano with a massive lariat.

EC3 then came out on the losing end of a strike exchange but rolled out of the Gargano Escape and slammed his way free. That didn't deter Johnny though, as he dived on EC3 with ground and pound and after securing Gargano Escape twice, closed the show with a rope hung DDT. More on the big angle here soon but EC3 did his job well, and effectively ramped up his intensity in response to Gargano’s aggression. He’s generally tremendous too and without overly objectifying him, has a pretty decent physique.

THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOU JUST YOU AND HIM HIM!

Grade: B+

Johnny Gargano

From the first bell, Johnny was all over EC3 here, landing strikes from every angle in pure rage. After being worked over just like usual, Gargano’s comeback was unsurprisingly well received. It included his standard big dive to the outside even if his usual offense of the more intricate variety was fittingly absent. The finish was the real story though, with Gargano getting more enraged than ever in an instant and simply assaulting EC3 down the stretch.

He then exposed his knee and looked to close the show but after EC3 countered, he settled for Gargano Escape instead. EC3 scrambled to the bottom rope but this new Gargano didn't care, reapplying the hold and kneeing EC3 in the brain with his exposed knee. It was the closing rope hung DDT that sealed the deal though, with a direct flashback to Ciampa’s finish in Chicago.

I’m going to be completely honest in saying that whilst I thought Gargano performed it rather well, this actual angle isn’t really my thing. I can see what they are going for but it’s all a little too dramatic for my liking and is a little overdone I feel. It’s the cliché next step and just feels unnecessary for a character as beloved as Johnny. He did a good job with the content regardless and we’ll see where it goes.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts

If you only took a quick glance at each of my individual grades, you’d probably think that I loved this show. However, whilst everyone performed well, I found this show to be a little lacking overall. Dream/Dijak was a lot of fun and the main event served the purpose that they’d hoped for but other than that, there wasn't much to see here. As of late, NXT has been so incredibly strong that it was almost weird to see an episode without anything that really felt must-see.

Then again, that may just be due to my lack of personal interest in the Johnny shift. Either way, a fine episode even if a somewhat unremarkable one by comparison to last week.

Grade: B

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