The NXT Report Card (8/16/17): One Last Stop Before Brooklyn

Well, folks, it's been one hell of a journey but we're now finally nearing our destination. We've had some ups, some downs and at times, I wondered if I'd even make it to Brooklyn. As very few of you know though, last week was a turning point. Not just for me but for you, for everyone. Andrade 'Cien' Almas brought a smile to our face and a tear to our cheek in a moment quite symbolic of his impact on our emotional journey thus far.

We aren't quite done yet though friends and it's instead time to buckle our seat belts for one last stop. It's the go home show and Drew McIntyre is going to fight Roderick Strong for the love of the game. Other stuff will probably happen too and hopefully, it's either very good or super bad because as we all know, something in the middle really helps neither of us.

Chris Masters (Chris Adonis) Reflects On Being Considered For A Run As The Youngest WWE Champion

Side note: due to the importance of this week’s edition of our beloved NXT Report Card, I’ve employed the help of a real expert to help guide me along the way. My eldest brother Sean is here for the ride this evening and will hopefully also be joining me for Saturday’s TakeOver extravaganza. He’ll have hot takes throughout the night but just so you guys are aware of his tastes he thinks that John Cena sucks and will forever claim that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is the greatest professional wrestler of all time. He’s also a big Steve Blackman fan and has never watched NXT in his life. With that information now public, let’s roll.

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.

Asuka and Ember Moon Contract Signing

So we get started here with a Hunter Hearst Helmsley special: the old women’s title contract signing on the go-home episode gimmick. I admire this trend even more considering how many of them have involved Asuka, a woman that struggles with the English language. Just tremendous. Ember’s promo here seems to have been a divisive one and I will concede that she was a little shaky at times but I have a quote of my own work to go along with this analysis and yes, I absolutely am a mark for myself:

“People’s cadence can be different and their delivery shaky but regardless of all of that, the key is making someone believe. If the words coming out of someone’s mouth sound sincere then it will work, even if the content is weak. Whether it be due to the slightly confusing characterization or a lack of confidence, right now I just don’t believe what Moon is saying. I really hope this can change soon because down the line, I still see Ember as a potential superstar on the main roster. Hopefully, it will come eventually” – Joseph James Hulbert, May 25th 2017.

I would argue that Moon’s cadence was still a little off and her delivery still slightly shaky but there was a key difference to this promo from that one I reviewed back in May. I really, honestly believed her here. Her words had authenticity and there was enough intensity to make me honestly care. I also liked her feeling the crowd and waiting for them to respond half way through. That’s good stuff. Babyface promos aren't easy and I felt Moon actually did a very good job here. Frankly, she’s single-handedly got me emotionally invested in this match. In fact, other than the SummerSlam hoss quartet main event, this is my most anticipated match of the coming weekend.

Sean’s Take: “Ember is cool but those red contacts make her feel like a villain.”

There is definitely something to this astute point made above and honestly, one has to ponder why she’s still wearing them now that the mythological side of her character has pretty much gone. Asuka shouting in Japanese is never going to be my thing but I get people dig it so that wasn't my issue here. That part can’t be the exclamation point to the go-home segment though. I need some physicality otherwise it was just words that I don’t understand. This didn't end satisfyingly and their last segment together was much better but overall, it built towards the match pretty well.

Grade: B

We now go backstage to Lord Steven Regal telling stories about Robert Plant before Lars Sullivan came in and asked for another tag bout. Apparently singles matches are off the board but nonetheless, Regal allows it.

The Street Profits

That tag match was actually up next too as Ford and Dawkins took on Lars and his new partner, for now, Chris Silvio. For some reason, Silvio opted to ignore Lars’ advice and started the match before quickly losing it within minutes whilst the hulking Sullivan just watched on. Love the theatrics of The Street Profits who shined here in a big way personality wise including Ford jumping into the crowd at one point. They also sold Lars’ physicality well. The focus wasn't solely on them tonight though of course.

Sean’ Take: “Oh yeah, Vince can have some fun with these guys”….I promise he’s not John Bradshaw Layfield guys.

Grade: A

After the match Lars took Silvio out of the building and threw him in a dumpster which was obviously awesome. I’m pretty sure that Hunter and the lads read these so I’m officially pitching now that this should lead to Buddy Murphy’s return to television. Have Regal assign Buddy to the role of being Lars’ partner considering his prior tag team success and you could suddenly have a fun odd couple babyface team in which Murphy sells and Sullivan destroys on the hot tag. These are the kind of ideas that earned me the Wrestling Observer award of ‘Best Booker’ back in 1987….allegedly.

Billie Kay

Up next is Billie Kay vs. Ruby Riot and this wasn't quite as fun as me fantasy booking ideas that will never happen. Early on Billie was pretty aggressive and I was kind of impressed but then things quickly turned to a half-hearted rest hold and some super sloppy transitions. Billie’s over the top character stuff is often enough to keep me mildly entertained but she just looked super off here at times and this was a rough showing all around, unfortunately. She eventually lost after a very underwhelming kick thingy thrown by Ruby.

Grade: D

Ruby Riot

I love Ruby’s energy from as soon as she walks through the curtain and I actually think it’s pretty infectious. However, some of my criticisms of her before that recent match with Ember Moon very much reappeared here. There’s a real lack of smoothness to her movements and I just don’t find that much of her offense looks particularly crisp. This simply wasn't very good sadly.

Sean’s Take: “Both these ladies are a little rough around the edges.” Indeed Sean, indeed.

Grade: D+

Authors of Pain vs. Sanity Video Package

Up next was a super cool video hyping Saturday’s AOP vs. Sanity match. This isn’t the easiest program to get over verbally or story wise but this package did a great job of making both team’s motives and purposes clearer. Really good job.

Sean’s Take: “I’m actually very excited for that match now.” Hunter will be happy about this.

Grade: A

Roderick Strong

Main event time now folks as these two main event babyfaces collide. Roddy did a great job in the pre-match portion of really selling Drew’s physicality and presence well which in turn elevated not only McIntyre but the actual match itself too. Early on there were some nice "babyfaces-being-smart" spots as they both had the other “well scouted” but then this quickly lost me when Roddy started getting the heat. I’m personally not against babyfaces working a body part, I actually really dig it but this was a miscasting and the quality of Strong’s performance just wasn't going to change that.

Roddy did sell well down the stretch though and his strikes had real fire behind them before Bobby Roode (glorious) came down to interfere and end the match without a winner.

Grade: B

Drew McIntyre

Big Drew did some great power stuff early and there was a tremendous spot in which he launched Strong into the post. They really should’ve gotten more out of that spot as in many ways it could’ve been a key turning point in the match. For some reason though, it was Drew that did more selling and while he does it pretty well, it still just doesn’t work for me at all. I don’t see him as a sympathetic figure, especially against a guy Strong’s size. This was the perfect match for him not to sell in too as he was working another babyface. It really frustrates me.

Sean’s take: “You can barely see his face half the time due to his hair.” I promise that he’s not Vincent Kennedy McMahon guys.

Drew’s brief comeback had some nice spite to it but I found much of his side of this match kind of half-hearted but that’s just me I guess. As I’ve already said Roode came down and beat up both before laying McIntyre out with the Glorious DDT which looked great by the way. The champ is such an incredible heel just in how he carries himself. His presence here was that of a star and that’s ideal for his role on top. Unfortunately, though, they’ve done a poor job of building this match and I have no interest in seeing him fight Drew.

Roddy is clearly the match and although I know that I need to be patient, this is a pretty big show so I feel that they really should’ve put their best foot forward. I’ve been critical of aspects of Drew’s NXT run so far and whilst I think that he’s actually very talented, I’m really just struggling to connect with him here. If you disagree then please enlighten me as to why in the comments below as I’m just struggling to be excited about him at the moment.

Final thoughts

This was a pretty average episode of NXT in all honesty and in many ways felt like an unnecessary extra week of TV. The only TakeOver match that got real build-up this week was the women’s match and frankly, excitement was already high for that and this segment added little for me even if it was entertaining regardless. This actual match card is pretty great but there isn’t too much emotion going in as far as conflict. Gargano and Almas have interesting stories individually but there’s literally nothing between them and there’s very little story wise with both the tag match and Black vs. Itami.

I’m not saying this to be overly critical as I’m sure that the show will be sublime but let’s be honest, they’ve had three months to build this card and in reality, the women’s title match is the only one with any real fire behind it. In my mind, that match should clearly be the main event in Brooklyn, regardless of its result. Either way, I’ll be here to “review” it and hopefully my new co-analyst Sean will be here once again too. Oh and there’s also SummerSlam this weekend which means that my brain will probably explode, in all likelihood making this the last NXT Report Card of all time. Hope you all enjoyed it guys, I certainly did…I think.

Grade: B-

Please share your thoughts on the show in the comments below or just tweet me abuse like many others already do @JoeHulbert5

See you in Brooklyn friends....well not really but you get what I mean.

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