The NXT Report Card (8/22/18): Mouthpiece Madness

Look guys, we’ve been down this road before. It’s the post-TakeOver episode of NXT and historically, this is a troublesome moment for me. However, after covering this ground so many times, I’ve decided that on this occasion, I’ll instead just produce a montage of my prior intros. Thank you for your support.

Well TakeOver: Brooklyn has finally come and gone and it’s now time to, reluctantly, move forward. However, before we do that we still have a little more New York fun to come. Yes, that’s right it’s that weird episode of NXT which is taped before TakeOver but airs afterwards, and often has minimal impact on the product’s general direction. Those of you that have read these silly articles long enough will know that historically, this episode of NXT has always been a dramatic one for me. In the past, I’ve turned to tiramisu talk, Wesley Blake love letters and most recently, I even timed a flight to avoid the whole thing.

Nonetheless, I’m keen to approach this week’s edition with some enthusiasm. I’m very excited for poorly edited voiceover commentary and I’m even more pumped for lengthy recap videos of matches that I watched just days ago. Hopefully along the way I’ll even see some good wrestling.

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 begin this week’s episode with a general recap of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV. I really appreciated this, and definitely won’t resent it when we spend another forty minutes doing this exact same thing, but in far more excruciating detail.

Bianca Belair

On the bright side, opening match time pal as Bianca Belair takes on Deonna Purrazzo. This is Belair’s in-ring return and after some early grappling exchanges, she shifted her approach and flurried big with some impressive athleticism. Bianca then evaded Purrazzo’s armbar attempt, and nailed a dope gut-buster too. She was in full control from there, grabbing a hold and talking trash. She continually cut Deonna off along the way also, dropping some big elbows and staying on top.

However, some taunting allowed Purrazzo to recover and she avoided Belair’s standing moonsault before making her comeback. In the end though, Bianca countered Deonna’s armbar and launched her into the ring-post, quickly closing the show with her finish. This wasn't Belair’s smoothest in-ring outing but she still has flashes of brilliance and more importantly, continues to project like an absolute star. Solid return match.

Grade: B+

Deonna Purrazzo

For the most part, I’m relatively new to Deonna’s work but right away, her presentation came across as pretty cool to me. Moreover, I appreciated the way that she immediately began to look for the Fujiwara armbar, it made her skill-set clear and planted the seeds for later also. She sold well during Bianca’s heat and her eventual comeback was strong too, including some chops as well as a big bicycle kick too.

This wasn't a long match and mostly focused on Belair, but Deonna did her job well and had an authentic style from start to finish. It’s now a matter of what direction she goes from here.

Grade: B-

Okay pal, I’ll do this quickly: every TakeOver: Brooklyn IV match was now recapped, including the post-match content that’s already been posted online.

Meanwhile in Gotham, new footage of Ali Black’s attack shows that Nikki Cross was watching on the rooftop. Well, what absolutely useless information that is. Thanks.

Before moving to our main event, we first get a video package focused on tonight’s challenger: Zack Gibson. Very effective little piece here.

WWE UK Title

Zack Gibson vs. Pete Dunne (C)

Okay, to the match now and after a glance at the run-time, I’ve decided to grade this one…TAKEOVER/205 STYLE. Unsurprisingly, Dunne is super over here and the action begun with your standard feeling out process grappling. However, in awesome fashion, Gibson didn't just stare at Dunne and instead seized, hitting a double chop to the throat before soon running into a big forearm himself. Pete was angry now, focusing on Gibson’s arm, hand and fingers as usual. The crowd popped for all of this which again, reiterates Dunne’s immense popularity stateside.

Either way, an exchange of slaps came next and led to a double crab which somehow allowed for even more slaps. The crowd was eating this up and Dunne quickly went back to the arm, forcing a desperate Gibson to return the favor, going after Pete’s arm himself. Some big strikes followed too, with Gibson really going to work before grounding the action with a hold. Dunne eventually fought free, or tried to at least before a back suplex floored him again.

It was all Gibson now, with him dominating Dunne and maintaining complete control until a forearm only fired Pete up. He then scored one of his own and run wild, making a comeback that culminated in an X-Plex which transitioned into the armbar. However, Gibson made it to the ropes and rolled to the floor, next eating a moonsault for his troubles. Dunne ignored Gibson’s begs for reprieve too, hitting a double stomp as well as a sit-out powerbomb for 2.

The challenger then turned the tide though, cutting Dunne off with a kick and hitting Ticket to Ride for a strong false finish. Pete fired back immediately, catching a double chop and stomping on both of Gibson’s hands. A massive strike exchange came next, and left both men floored for a well-timed double down. The action then headed up top, with Dunne’s superplex attempt being countered by Gibson for another 2 count. Zack then looked to hook his finish from there, and after some back and forth, he did just that.

After a real struggle though, Dunne bit the rope, dramatically breaking the hold. Enraged, Gibson followed up with a salvo of stomps, and even a lariat but Dunne stopped the challenger from throwing his mouthpiece away, turning the tide and hitting Bitter End for the win. Wow, this was an excellent main event and frankly, much better than I expected considering the circumstances. Dunne’s popularity allowed the audience to be super invested which elevated Gibson immensely and fortunately, his performance warranted that focus.

Gibson was excellent and Dunne too, putting in his best babyface performance yet in my view. Just a tremendous main event, I can only imagine what they would’ve produced with a little more time.

Grade: A

Final Thoughts

So look guys, here’s the deal: half of this show is absolutely not worth watching in any way, shape or form. However, the opening match is fun and more importantly, the TV main event was genuinely elite by any standards. Overall, this was probably one of the stronger post-TakeOver episodes on the UK Title match alone but on a whole, it’s obviously limited by the lack of fresh content. It is what it is in that regard.

Grade: B

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