Last week, the wrestling world changed forever. One of this industry’s icons returned to the spotlight and more than that, he came out victorious too. Wesley Blake is undeniably a first ballot NXT hall of famer but after taking a few years off to give others a chance, some questioned his ability to make a full return to the big-time. Well last week, Wes shattered all of those doubts, scoring a famous win and quite possibly changing the NXT landscape overnight.
It’s the start of a new era and with that in mind, let’s rock and roll 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.
This week’s episode begins with footage of Tommaso Ciampa finally arriving, but he ignored the cameraman’s questions anyway so it seems we’ll have to wait.
Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch
To the ring now as Oney Lorcan makes his return alongside Danny Burch. They are taking on the duo of Adrian Jaoude and Cezar Bononi but Burch immediately took control, landing some strikes including a missile dropkick before bringing in Lorcan. A double suplex followed but the Brazilian lads soon turned the tide, cornering Burch after some grappling success had halted him. This brief heat segment didn't contain much worth discussing but Oney’s eventual hot tag sure did, unleashing violent slaps and a couple vicious European uppercuts too.
Lorcan is an absolute wild-man and moments later, the babyfaces hit their elevated DDT finish to get the win. This team rules and I’m very glad to have them back.
“Follow the Lead of Tommaso Ciampa”
Taz’s intro played and Tommaso Ciampa arrived…god I love it! The champ is now running the Sandow impressionist gimmick, using other rassler’s themes to pop the crowd before arriving with a smug scowl. Brilliant!
Tommaso had a microphone in hand though and lied about this being his new music, calling it a personal message from him to the fans, telling them to ‘shut up.’ He then mocked all of the allegations regarding Black’s backstage attack and saying that when he wants to do something, he does it in front of the biggest audience possible. That said, he admits to wanting to know who actually did it before going on to talk directly to his title, just having a whirl of a time.
Finally, he instructs the NXT crowd to follow his lead…this new catchphrase is a little wordy huh? In all seriousness, Ciampa is a legit good heel promo and this was another example of that.
It’s time for the former champ to murder someone now, as Shayna Baszler takes on poor Violet Payne. Baszler scored an immediate takedown and some quick ground and pound too, including a violent kick to the chest. Obscene manipulation of the arm came next and a violent stomp too before the rear naked choke thankfully closed the show. Post-match, Baszler re-applied the choke twice as referees unsuccessfully pleaded with her to stop.
This squash was magnificent and in just a couple of minutes, perfectly highlighted Shayna’s rage post-TakeOver. Good stuff.
Off to the parking lot next as Heavy Machinery talk about Tommaso Ciampa. Mid-selfie promo though, the man himself turned up and within moments, Lord Steven arrived too. He called Ciampa to his office and suggested that Tommaso will likely be facing Otis in the coming weeks.
To The Undisputed Era’s lair now as Roddy discussed beating his son (hide and seek pal), O’Reilly claimed that he was too famous to get groceries and Fish joined in too as they talked some trash about The War Raiders. Cole then shifted the focus to Ricochet’s upcoming match with Pete Dunne and overall, this was more Era fun....#bars
Back to the ring next as Lars Sullivan takes on Raul Mendoza. This match was set up a couple of weeks ago and I must say, I have a somewhat sadistic interest in it. At the first bell, the big man was mocking Mendoza’s height but the little lad’s speed allowed him some success. However, Sullivan caught him soon enough and launched Mendoza around the ring for his troubles. After some standard big man offense, a violent cross-face floored Raul once more before applying a hold of some kind.
Incredibly, this wasn't the end though as Mendoza made a comeback until Sullivan caught him in mid-air, landing a pop-up powerslam out of nowhere. He then launched some more strikes before mercifully closing the show via Freak Accident. This was a thoroughly enjoyable little match and Lars’ power offense and general monster mannerisms were a big part of that.
Anyone that’s seen Raul Mendoza before can tell you that he’s certainly talented but wow, this match suggested that if wasn't on an all-star roster, he’d probably find himself on TV far more often. His initial flurry was executed beautifully and more than that, it was logical too. His offense came with all the necessary mannerisms also: a real desperation and urgency. Mendoza even reacted to his success in a fitting manner, a surprise of sorts as he looked to build some momentum.
After he was grounded, I thought that was all we’d see of Mendoza but he then began to really sell and with the crowd on his side, fight from underneath too. His fire was tremendous here and the comeback itself ruled also. It was once again grounded in reality and unsurprisingly came with immense energy. Just a great job by an incredibly underrated performer.
Before we moved to our main event, it was time for a recap of what started this Dunne/Ricochet drama, followed by a hesitant Pete promo in which he explained that he wants the North-American Title. Ricochet’s response came with much more confidence and whilst not exactly Dusty in 85, his promos continues to improve.
They Aren't Alone Pal
Stars and stripes.
Two of those men are good, but one of them is great.
Considering his place as the new face of NXT, I was waiting for some Wes on this show and I’m delighted to say that the legend delivered once again.
In all seriousness, this vignette was genuinely strong and did a neat job of explaining these characters. Honestly though, even if it wasn't, I’d still pretend it was. That’s just my job, it’s really that simple.
Staying out of the ring, Dakota Kai and Aliyah were shouting at each other when Lacey Evans and Deonna Purrazzo arrived. They then shouted at each other too, and I respect how thrown together this tiny build was…it was almost admirable to be honest.
Off to Lord Steven’s office now as he thanked Kairi Sane for her help re: Ali Black. His investigation was seemingly done at that point, but Kassius Ohno then showed up only to be informed by Regal that his service wasn't needed. This understandably upset Ohno, even though Regal explained that Sane had just given him an alibi only moments prior. Regal then changed his mind though and said that Ohno had a “perturbed” look on his face. Kass agreed and said that he’s always “perturbed” due to his recent place at the back of the line. He then repeated his take about NXT’s shiny new toy before dropping a ‘BRO’…hmmm, strange verbiage for Ohno but maybe I’m missing something.
Finally back to the ring as its main event time now with Bianca Belair taking on Nikki Cross. After some initial silliness, Belair hit a shoulder tackle before Cross responded with a monkey flip and headscissors takeover of her own. A sleep hold followed but Belair powered out, hitting a dope backbreaker and taking control. This included applying a bear-hug before next going full military press in an obscene show of strength. Cross soon fired back though, making a comeback until Belair threw her into the steps and unleashed a hair whip to the stomach.
As Bianca looked to get back in the ring though, Cross jumped on her back, forcing Belair to slam herself free on the ramp. I’ll get to what came next later, but as for the match: that was all, with a double count-out causing its end. For NXT’s high standards, I found this main event to be a little underwhelming but Belair herself was still rather impressive in my view. Her athleticism remains spectacular and her general progression is clearly continuing too.
There are times where I ponder how much I like this character and this was definitely one of them. The early shenanigans felt misplaced for a match of this stature and whilst Cross’ offense is always perfectly suited to her presentation, that doesn't necessarily mean that it entertains me in a standard singles match. It’s certainly hectic and wild but I’m not sure how well it helps in the production of a genuinely engaging 1-on-1 encounter.
Her comeback was in the same vein, suitably messy but effectively getting the people on her side either way. The no-finish makes sense and the fighting didn't end there either, with Cross eventually hitting a big crossbody off the announce table.
In a vacuum, everything on this show was good at the very least. Each individual segment was well executed and allowed the key talent to shine but looking at the episode as a whole, it felt as though it was lacking a central angle or match to make the whole hour more worthwhile. Whilst effective throughout, this wasn't an episode stacked with must-see segments for the more casual viewer and in fact, that’s the only criticism I can really have. Honestly though, it’s probably a pretty big flaw considering NXT TV’s 2018 form and for that very reason, this show’s ceiling was slightly limited.
Still a strong episode nonetheless.