The NXT Report Card (8/8/18): Plans Change Pal

Ladies and gentleman, it’s time for a change. After rereading yesterday’s troublesome 205 Live Report Card, I’ve realized that my standards have slipped. It’s high time that I re-introduce some professionalism to this woeful series. With that in mind: TONIGHT, Keith Lee makes his NXT debut on the very same show that we find out WHO will compete in the Mae Young Classic: Taynara Conti or Vanessa Hulber….BORNE?! Close shave pal. ELSEWHERE, Aleister Black goes one-on-one with Johnny Gargano in what can only be described as an NXT DREAM MATCH.

Read that in Mauro’s voice if my wordsmith brilliance wasn't enough, that right there is the power of research!

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.

Before we get the action started, it’s time for a recap of the last fortnight’s drama. Very exciting, let’s finally get this party started!

Nikki Cross

Showcase match time now as Nikki Cross takes on the absolutely shredded Amber Nova. Cross got right to work regardless, muscling Amber into the corner and scoring a couple arm drags before a back suplex too. Nova then turned the tide though, landing some offense of her own and landing a little ground and pound too. She then grabbed a hold but Cross eventually fought to her feet, making a comeback and closing the show with The Purge.

This was fine but a slightly odd choice for opener in my view. Luckily, Cross’ popularity inside Full Sail is quite outrageous and that helped created an enjoyable enough affair.

Grade: B-

Elsewhere, Keith Lee is sitting around a wrestling ring alone, talking about his lifestyle. He’s limitless. Speaking of such, did you know that the X-Division isn’t about weight limits but instead, NO LIMITS. All hail Lord Cyrus!!!

Side-note: this was a brief lapse in my professionalism that I apologize for profusely. It won’t happen again…no promises though, especially if The Don comes to my mind.

Ricochet is set to be IN ACTION now but his body only emerged in lifeless form, with The Undisputed Era carrying him out under the usual lights show. Cole has a microphone and questionably claims that’s no coward as the four meanies stood over poor Ricochet. In other news, I’m delighted to report that Mr Manly Man Charm Bobby Fish was seen here walking without a crutch. Quite obviously, this is great news for all lovers of handsome devils that throw stiff strikes. Get in!

On a more serious note though, how terribly unprofessional are these Undisputed lads with their hand signals? I would know this as a real professional, it’s much easier for me to judge in that sense.

Backstage, Vanessa Borne explains that her game-plan tonight is “to win.” Hmmm, I hope this is a new plan because if not, it may be worth reconsidering things Ms Borne.

Kassius Ohno

Big Kassius is back again (still hard to hit) and he’s taking on Brazilian shooter Adrian Jaoude. During his entrance, there was more smiling from Ohno here but as the bell rung, his recent frustration re-emerged. Ohno dismissively ignored Jaoude’s attacks from the outset and early on, got shown up for it. Offensively, he fired back immediately though, landing a kick to the brain as well as a big senton before following up with even more violent kicks. There was some taunting here too, rubbing his success in before once again his arrogance got him in trouble, with Jauode scoring an impressive suplex.

However, the Brazilian then walked into a big elbow and one more closed the show, Ohno had won again and looked rather mean doing it. A heel turn is seemingly on the way here…if only there was an incoming babyface big man….

Grade: B

EC3 Experiences The Dream

Off poolside now as The Dream awaits EC3’s arrival. Right away, Dream offered a stroll before seemingly attempting to throw his foe into the pool. This then led to a face to face that included immense catchphrase usage. Dream was insulted by EC3’s cutting of an actual wrestling promo and responded as such before “dropping his glasses” and once again attempting to push EC3 into the pool. EC3 responded by throwing Dream in himself, and informed him that his panic was not worthwhile as it was only “3 foot deep.”

This was fun even if perhaps a little too silly for my liking. I still view these two as primetime players and they didn’t really feel as such here, Dream especially. On the other hand, most people aren't impossibly miserable and probably would’ve just smiled at this instead. Different strokes for different folks.

Grade: N/A (too negative to fairly rate)

Marcel Barthel

Serving as the opponent for Keith Lee’s NXT TV debut, I expected a squash here but as my notes grew, it quickly became clear that Marcel Barthel deserved a report of his own. His facials were immaculate from the very start and he had the feel of a rasslin television star, a trait surprisingly rare on this show. In fact, Barthel came in at 9.84 here on The William Regal/Alexa Bliss Facial Expression Scale!!!

What’s that? You thought I’d forgotten that very memorably named Report Card segment? FOOL!

To the match now as Barthel was floored early before quickly turning the tide and landing some strikes of his own. Lee fired back though and avoided a counter with his power but Barthel went to work anyway, getting real aggressive and scoring a little offense in the corner. Lee turned the tide from there though and soon closed the show with a wacky table gimmick that preceded some kind of cool fireman jackhammer thing.

Barthel absolutely maximized his time here, really shining and coming across as a talent worth focusing on even though Lee was the centerpiece. Really impressive, and I can’t wait to see more of him honestly. I’d go as far to say that he gave me 93’ Lord Steven vibes and that’s no mean feat.

Grade: A

Keith Lee

I’m going to be honest with you guys, my past experience of Keith Lee is somewhat unique. I recall first seeing Keith in ROH, where he worked alongside Shane Taylor in a team built on poorly fitted clothes. Lee was impressive back then but I must concede that I almost completely missed the super-indie run that followed. In this NXT debut match here, Keith felt important, partly due to the crowd reaction and also because of his natural confidence that makes him feel rather authentic.

His athleticism remains super cool and that was shown in spurts here, with a leapfrog/dropkick standing out in particular. Finally, I appreciated that as Lee got increasingly desperate down the stretch, he pulled out a headbutt and some big chops that upped the intensity a little. I don’t have a ton more to say honestly, Lee remains unsurprisingly impressive and as I hinted at earlier, a match with Ohno sounds quite delightful.

Grade: A

Street Profits time now as they speak a little about their recent interference opposite TM61. This involved all the silliness you’d expect, including Dawkins mocking TM61’s name chan…oh yes, The Mighty. Very sorry pal, these teams are wrestling next week either way.

Vanessa Borne

Time for the big MYC qualifier now, and this match was…interesting. After an exchange of quick pin attempts early, Conti took control but Borne soon turned the tide with a shoulder tackle before going to work with some aggressive strikes. Vanessa then grabbed a hold and talked some trash but Conti eventually fought to her feet, made a comeback and closed the show with a bizarre slam of doom.

For two young wrestlers, this was a tough challenge due to the simply inevitable lack of crowd intrigue. It felt like a heel vs. heel match and that didn’t help either. For Borne, she continues to feel like an absolute star even if her wrestling remains a couple of steps behind. Hopefully she’ll get there eventually though. Speaking of such, is her gimmick that of a loser now or am I missing something?

Grade: C

Taynara Conti

Firstly, wow at Conti’s theme song here…very scary for me as it sounded like something I hear on the bus whilst sweating nervously. In-ring, I enjoyed Conti’s martial arts stuff with the throws and such but the rest was quite a degree less impressive. On the selling front, which was rather prevalent here, Conti certainly has range but the issue is what’s missing in-between the opposing ends of the scale.

Conti is either stern and angry or wildly hysterical to the extent of tears. It’s pretty wacky and contrasts with the arrogant trash talker that for me, came across in her entrance. The finish was a mess too but ideally, Conti can focus on her strengths a little more in the Mae Young Classic, a tournament that I absolutely definitely watched from start to finish last year…

Grade: C

Before moving to our main event, we got a recap of last week’s Kairi Sane/Shayna Baszler confrontation as well as the news that next week, Tyler Bate will take on GODERICK STRONG….oh my, I feel my temperature rising.

Black/Gargano/Ciampa Wackiness

Main event time now as Aleister Black takes on Johnny Gargano. They immediately met in the middle with big strikes here before Gargano got the better of things, sending Black to the floor and landing a big dive. The slingshot spear wouldn’t find a home though, with Black landing a big knee and landing some follow-up strikes to boot. Double clotheslines came next which left both men floored, and brought Ciampa out to attack both men. From there a wild 3-way brawl commenced, bringing out referees as well as Mr Regal.

Aware that he couldn’t control this situation, Regal booked a triple threat for TakeOver: Brooklyn! WOW, that sounds awesome and I simply can’t wait. As for this match and closing segment, it was all very paint by numbers but who cares, this match will be incredible!

*tightly grips headset to ear* oh I’m sorry, what’s that? There’s more to this? But the shows off the air guys. Oh no, what do you mean there’s news? Check Fightful.com? Well if you say so I guess…..

Well, this week’s chapter is sadly befitting of the Report Card journey as a whole. Here am I, suit and tie, professionalism on my mind. Yet on the week that my outlook changed, NXT decided to go off the air with a match announcement that’s no longer relevant, leaving me rather embarrassed in the process. As for what this means in the grand scheme of things, it’s rather simple…next week, you can expect more silliness than ever. I refuse to take this programme more seriously than Hunter and considering that, get ready for some Wesley Blake content….it’s coming pal, simple as that.

Grade: F (unprofessionalism)

Side-note: in reality, this was probably a B for those that care. Have fun.

Final Thoughts

Much to my chagrin, this show was jam-packed which meant for a lot of note-taking. As I’ve touched on in the past though, sometimes less is more and in my mind, this episode was another example of that. For all the content featured, absolutely none of it was must-see in my view and the actual build for TakeOver could be recapped in a 30 second conversation or better yet, a 1900 word Report Card. This was a good episode but it lacked anything good enough to catapult it to the next level. Moreover, it let me down and that’s what matters most.

Grade: B

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