The NXT Report Card (8/1/18): “You Deserve It?!”

Last week, Tommaso Ciampa became the new NXT champion in a quite historic episode of NXT TV. Now with Brooklyn JUST under a month away, it’s time to enter a new era with the beautiful bald headed devil at the helm. Also this week, Candice LeRae takes on Shayna Baszler in a non-title match and at this point, you should be very proud. I’ve genuinely previewed two elements of this week’s show and that’s a level of journalism that I’ve not reached in the last 6 months minimum. Let’s get this party started pal!

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 recap of last week’s main event. Tears and all, this perfectly captured that episode’s greatness.

Heavy Machinery

Opening match time now as Heavy Machinery finally look for redemption opposite The Mighty. The Aussie lads didn't help their case here either, throwing their jackets in a move that only encouraged an early Machinery onslaught, eventually resulting in single-handed Otis dominance. This was as fun as you’d expect but Thorne quickly cut him off, immediately isolating big Dozovic. After selling for a handful of minutes, Otis had the people more on his side than ever and eventually fought free, making the hot tag.

Tucker run wild in a comeback that initially fell a little short for me but the crowd was on his side and it certainly featured some nice power stuff and even a dropkick too. He also hit a rolling cannonball off the apron but that didn't stop The Mighty from turning the tables, going after Knight’s bad leg. However, in the midst of this, The Street Profits emerged in the crowd, distracting the heels whilst Tucker made the tag. The Compactor followed and with that, Heavy Machinery had got the win.

Overall, this was a fun match that spotlighted Machinery’s strengths without telling us anything new. They had good energy on offense and sold well too, altogether making for an enjoyable affair.

Grade: B

The Mighty

There was a lot to like about The Mighty here, with just general heel goodness throughout. There was a desperation to Thorne’s cut-off also, with a big dropkick rocking Otis enough for him to be dragged to the corner. From there they just went to work, roughing Dozovic up with some nastiness even including a little gouging from Miller. They mixed it up too, scoring a double black suplex and maintaining control.

Even with Otis’ size, The Mighty felt like believable villains here and that’s a credit to their mean-streaks in the heat. Though they didn't win this match, it was cool to see the Aussies protected nonetheless. They even had a 2nd cut-off spot, attacking Knight’s leg in a final showing of intelligence before being distracted for the finish. Good showing.

Grade: B+

Moustache Mountain

Showcase match time pal as the former NXT tag team champs take on Matt Knotts and Brandon Taylor. Bate took control right away, using his technical wrestling before landing the big fake-out punch and bringing in Seven for some tandem offense. Knotts responded by attacking Seven’s leg though, allowing the opponents to briefly go to work. Trent soon turned things around though, landing a salvo of strikes as well as a neat snap suplex. He then brought in Bate who run wild, and they closed the show with a *checks notes* knee-drop burning hammer.

The lads had immense energy here and this was a lot of fun….they then grabbed a microphone. Seven said they are back at Full Sail but apologized for letting down the NXT universe last time out. They then announced that Regal has given them a rematch after completing some slightly un-confident dialogue. In all seriousness, this was fine and part 3 will be tremendous. In fact, I quite confidently expect it to steal the show in Brooklyn.

Grade: A

EC3

This match was set up a couple of weeks back and now it’s finally here! EC3 vs. THE FINEST…LET’S GO!!!!! To the action now as EC3 took control with the crowd firmly on his side. He overpowered Reeves too, and nailed an elbow drop after making the people gleefully say his name. Kona soon turned things around though, controlling things for a portion until EC3 fought free to land some punches as well as a big neckbreaker.

At this point, The Velveteen Dream showed up to talk some trash. He said that EC3 needs to come to The Dream’s world if he wants to talk. As he walks off though, Reeves seized, hitting the Hawaiian Drop for a tremendous false finish that popped the people quite a bit. EC3 fired back immediately too, hitting a frustrated Reeves with the 1% and scoring the win. This was a fine match and nothing more but EC3 continues to come across like a star regardless. He’s smoothly transitioned into a cool babyface also, and that’s no mean feat.

Grade: B

Kona Reeves

I feel like an insane person for saying this but my take remains: I like Kona Reeves. He’s a heel without a single redeeming quality, a man made for hatred…it rules. His cut off was great here too, using the ropes to his advantage and landing a big boot. He then switched it on in the corner, going to work with some punches and a snap suplex. Sadly, the match then became the ‘Kona Clutch’ tale, with Reeves maintaining that hold for quite some time.

Nonetheless, I think that a guy like Reeves is a neat addition to NXT. He’s a simple heel that’ll always be booed and I enjoy that. In fact, he reminds me a little of Elias upon his arrival in NXT. I remember a lot of hate for him back then but I see similar raw ingredients in Kona. Is he the finished product? Certainly not but he’s a big kid that’s trying really hard to nail his performance, from his physicality to his body language. I think he could be a dark horse, I really do.

Grade: C+

Backstage now as EC3 gets some post-match interview time. He says that he’ll play Velveteen’s game, happily engaging in the experience because he knows that a fight is inevitable.

Candice LeRae

After some recent confrontations, it’s finally time for Candice LeRae to take on Shayna Baszler inside the ropes. Some taunting early only fired Candice up too, dropkicking Shayna to the floor and maintaining the momentum, scoring a jawbreaker and arm drag before being cut off on the top rope. LeRae went right to selling at this point, and she did it rather well until eventually earning some reprieve, slinging Baszler into the corner and kicking her to allow for some WACKY selling.

A flurry of strikes came next as Candice made her comeback, eventually heading up and hitting some kind of rasslin maneuver off the 2nd rope. Shayna rolled to the floor in response but LeRae’s onslaught didn't stop, hitting tope suicida and a tornado DDT off the top. Some 2nd rope weirdness followed and it resulted in Baszler catching the choke but Candice was close enough to grab the rope, quickly turning things around.

She even evaded an attempt at re-catching the choke, landing the unprettier and looking for the lion-sault. However, Shayna evaded, kicked LeRae in the chest and closed the show with the choke. This was a good match and Candice’s fire in the comeback was a big part of that. She sold well but really kicked into the next gear down the stretch, allowing this match to have much more drama than you’d expect considering the circumstances. LeRae remains a sublime babyface.

Grade: B+

Shayna Baszler​​​​​​​

It’s easy to overcomplicate wrestling but if there’s one ingredient that should never change: its horrible heels. Shayna is refreshing in that regard, taunting from the outset here and being overconfident until her mean-streak came to the fore. She certainly did just that soon enough too, launching Candice into the steel steps and then assaulting her shoulder back in center ring. With all that positivity established though, we now must move back to the aforementioned WACKINESS on the selling front.

Shayna is very good for her experience level but it must be said, the selling a clear weak-point for her at the moment. On the bright side, this wackiness does show that she’s trying even if it suggests that her effort is slightly misplaced in my view. In the final portion, Baszler really returned to form regardless, showing off her improved striking whilst coming across as a formidable champion even after LeRae’s huge flurry of offense.

Post-match, Baszler re-applied the choke which brought out Kairi Sane as Shayna bailed…or pretended to anyway before kicking Kairi in the back. This fired Sane up but the referees prevented her from jumping Baszler, allowing the champ to smugly depart.

Grade: B-

Off backstage now as Moustache Mountain are walking around talking about tricks. Before they could finish though, The War Raiders turned up in full gear and said that no matter who leaves Brooklyn as champs, they are taking the titles next. Cool, I guess?

To William Regal’s office next as he officially announces EC3 vs. Velveteen Dream as well as Ricochet vs. Adam Cole for TakeOver: Brooklyn.

Oh and one final thing, Keith Lee makes his debut next week!

Champ Ciampa

(Yes, I know that this was my title last week too, so what? It rules)

THE CHAMP IS HERE pal and this crowd is inexplicably upset about it. Ciampa doesn't care though, talking to his belt and even kissing it (all hail) before saying that this is his NXT now. Ciampa then got in the face of that famous fired up female and reminded her that he’s now her NXT champion too. This brought out “asshole” talk from the crowd but Tommaso was unmoved, talking about Gargano being a failure and somehow causing trading chants of Johnny Wrestling/Johnny sucks….wow.

Either way, Ciampa says that Black and Gargano can bicker amongst each other whilst he’s the main event. He moves on to call NXT the A-show because he’s the greatest sports entertainer of all time. His words, not mine. It was at this point that Aleister Black arrived but Gargano showed up too, running past him and assaulting Ciampa with some clotheslines. In response, Tommaso bailed through the crowd as Johnny pointed out that Ciampa is only champion because of him.

However, he then walked himself directly into a Black Mass out of nowhere. The crowd reacted to this by chanting “you deserve it.” My god, I thought I was the mean one here…very sad. Aleister then grabbed a microphone and said that Johnny is right, he really is the only reason that Ciampa is champ. Well, that was…interesting. Honestly, I’m stunned by the direction they are taking this IN but as far as Ciampa’s promo, it was excellent. The whole thing came across perfectly in this setting and Tommaso remains on fire.

The rest….I’m currently unsure but I’m hoping that this is as far as they are willing to push Gargano’s shift. Call me old-fashioned but I’d rather he just be good old Johnny, different isn’t always better in my view. Strong closing segment nonetheless.

Grade: B+

Final Thoughts

Well, I must say that I entered this episode full of excitement but unfortunately, it failed to live up to my personal interest going in. The Ciampa segment was fun but nothing else stood out for me even if I certainly enjoyed Baszler/LeRae. I’m not sure, it just fell a little flat for me personally, a good episode but slightly lacking considering what it was following up on. I’m interested to see how the build to Brooklyn will ramp up in general though to be honest as everything is already in place. We’ll see.

Grade: B

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