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By John Moore
NXT TV on the WWE Network
Best of 2017
The show started off with William Regal introducing viewers to the “best of…” episode of NXT with exclusive matches and interviews. Regal thanked the fans for a good 2017. The NXT intro aired…
John’s Thoughts: Sorry about the late review everyone. The two-hour format plus how I needed a nap before my real-life work after watching Wrestle Kingdom 12. That said don’t expect as detailed a review as I usually do since this is a recap episode. I will try my best to jot down a lot of the first run stuff which you can also check out piece meal on YouTube.
Mike Rome and Kayla Braxton opened the show. Rome said there was “Breaking News” on the End of the Year awards set for a few weeks. Braxton advertised Drew McIntyre vs. Adam Cole for later in the show. Rome then cut to a recap footage of Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode from Takeover: San Antonio where Roode won due to a Nakamura (kayfabe) injury this led to a rematch at Orlando. The match ended with Roode being the victor celebrating in front of a Canadian flag (somewhere out there, Scott D’Amore shed a tear of joy)…
John’s Thoughts: Roode had such an underrated year as champion due to a lot of hardcore wrestling fans being distracted by his sometimes-mundane singles work (which is justified, I agree with everyone that he is HHH’s doppelganger from the Earth-2 known as TNA). He did such a great job coming off as an unlikable and entitled douche in those video packages leading up to his feud with Roderick Strong and Shinsuke. The recap of the match was really good which also extricates the boring parts of Roode/Hunter matches…
The next video package was a Shinsuke Nakamura chronicle video package of his entire NXT run and farewell. Mike Rome framed the farewell as a transition to Drew McIntyre as they cut to the footage of the former Drew Galloway sitting in the crowd. They then ran a Drew McIntyre video package which included clips of the young Drew back in the Smackdown days and sound bites of Vince McMahon dubbing Drew a future world champion. Drew talked about how now he has all the “Raw” talent, can lay the “Smackdown” on everybody, but would not want to be anywhere but NXT. Rome and Braxton hyped up more segments for later in McIntyre vs. Roode and the Ember Moon documentary. Rome also talked about DIY vs. AOP… [C]
The next highlight package was the Authors of Pain vs. Gargano and Ciampa. The Authors won by hitting Ciampa with the Super Collider and Last Chapter to dethrone DIY as champions. They cut to the next commercial break with hype for a Johnny Gargano and a separate Andrade Almas interview… [C]
John’s Thoughts: I ended up not fast forwarding through that match. The NXT tag division was their saving grace in 2016 and continued strong in 2017. That AOP vs. DIY match was strong, great, and excelled in storytelling. The nearfalls were good and that spot with the Ciampa armbar and GargaNo escape was a nice climatic point. Go out of your way to rewatch these tag matches.
The next recap was Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Roode from Takeover Orlando. This was more of a highlight package as opposed to showing most of the match like they did with the Tag. The package focused on Adam Cole and Undisputed Era debuting…
Rome and Braxton talked about how Undisputed Era had a strong package throughout the year. Braxton talked about how the centerpiece of the group was Adam Cole and his mind. Rome comically did the Adam Cole hand sign. They hyped up Cole vs. McIntyre with Shawn Michaels as referee for later in this show…
Highlights aired of Fish and O’Reilly winning the tag team championships from a few weeks ago. They aired intro vignettes for several tag teams in the Tag Division like the Era, Street Profits, Sabbatelli and Moss, Heavy Machinery (Steaks and Weights Baby! Boo shacka loo!), and the returning TM-61 (holy shoot! They Live!). Mike Rome said in two weeks NXT was going to show a TM-61 video package to lead up to their return in 2018. Braxton reminded the viewers that there was EOTY breaking news…
The next video package was of my personal favorite feud in professional wrestling in 2018, the Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream (Patrick Clark) feud. They aired the second half of Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream from the last takeover show… [C]
John’s Thoughts: I’m glad after Takeover I didn’t sound like an idiot in how great this feud turned out. Go out of your way to watch this feud start to finish to see some very intricate and nuance storytelling.
The next video package was the hype package of Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade Almas at Takeover which was mostly a feud between Drew and Zelina Vega. Not that it was a negative, Zelina Vega is the next great old-school heel manager with a nice strong female twist…
Braxton and Rome transitioned to talking about the night before Takeover where there was a Drew McIntyre vs. Adam Cole match with Shawn Michaels as the referee…
1. Drew McIntyre vs. Adam Cole for the NXT Championship with Shawn Michaels as guest referee. Mauro Ranallo, Percy Watson, and Nigel McGuinness checked in on commentary (probably post produced). McIntyre manhandled the much smaller Adam Cole (most opponents are smaller than the giant Drew but Cole in particular is smaller than most of his opponents). Cole managed to get a punch and jawbraker in. Cole tried to say he hurt his head with the jawbreaker to allow Kyle O’Reilly to get cheap shots in, but Michaels didn’t bit on the distraction. Shawn Michaels then did what they do at house shows and he milked out/executed sending reDRagon to the back. McIntyre gave Fish and O’Reilly a DX “suck it”.
Cole and Michaels argued. Cole walked into a lariat from McIntyre. The crowd wanted a Sweet Chin Music. McIntyre continued to manhandle Cole by tossing and deadlifting him. Cole yelled “you suck Drew!” which angered Drew enough to cause Michaels to get in between him and Cole. McIntyre ended up arguing with Drew to invoke another Sweet Chin Music. Cole took advantage of the situation with a chop block to Drew’s knee. Cole dominated heading into commercial. [C]
McIntyre went back to dominating and deadlifting Cole back from break. McIntyre gave Cole a sitout powerbomb for a nearfall. Cole lost a headbutt battle. McIntyre gave Cole a Super Celtic Cross. Cole broke the pinfall with his foot on the bottom rope. Nigel gave credit to Cole’s strong ring awareness due to his years wrestling. Cole kicked McIntyre in the hamstring to nail McIntyre with two consecutive Shining Wizards leading to just a nearfall. Cole turned his attention to argue with Shawn Michaels telling him “you had one job”.
Cole tuned up the horn to tease a Sweet Chin Music. McIntyre caught it and hit Cole with the Future Shock DDT. Cole kicked out of the pin.
John’s Thoughts: This is one of my pet peeves in NXT. Why are people kicking out of the Future Shock? Drew did such a great job outside of WWE establishing that as the finisher people didn’t kick out of.
Cole accidently gave Shawn Michaels a superkick for a ref bump. McIntyre hit the Claymore on Cole. It took Michaels about 10 seconds and McIntyre had the visual pinfall but Fish and O’Reilly ran in to break up the pin and put the boots to McIntyre. McIntyre held the top rope to prevent Fish from hitting Total Elimination on Drew. Drew disposed of Fish and O’Reilly. Shawn Michaels recovered and gave the crowd what they wanted all night. Michaels gave Kyle O’Reilly the Sweet Chin Music. McIntyre hit Cole with a Giant Swing Future Shock and Claymore Kick for the victory.
Drew McIntyre defeated Adam Cole to retain the NXT Championship.
HBK held up the hand of the victor after the match. Mike Rome then cut to footage from the McIntyre vs. Almas finish “24 hours later” where Andrade picked up the title and Drew picked up the bicep injury…
John’s Thoughts: The crowd was actually treated to a better match on this night in Johnny Gargano vs. Pete Dunne but this was a strong house show/dark main event that leaves the crowd satisfied going home. Michaels didn’t add much aside from the nostalgia moment, but this was a house show anyway. The match was strong enough that it was easy to overlook the size difference between Cole and McIntyre. That’s usually a credit to Drew for selling so well to smaller opponents (which are most of his opponents). Drew is a legit prototype babyface and if Vince really dubbed him this, Vince was right.
Kayla Braxton talked about Andrade Almas vs. Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia. They cut to a new interview with Almas and Vega. Zelina Vega laughed off Almas facing Gargano again after beating him several times. Almas also laughed it off. They showed Gargano running into Vega and Almas in the Gorilla position. Almas called Gargano a perro and Vega pointed and laughed at Gargano saying “you again? hahaha”.
Vega said to make no mistake, they are taking Gargano seriously. Almas said Johnny is nothing and he’s preparing for the future. They spliced in highlights with Almas’ music where Vega used DIY T-Shirts to pick up wins over Gargano. Vega bragged about knowing how to pull Gargano’s heart strings. Almas said to look at him because he’s “Tranquilo” and always tranquilo. Vega ended the promo by saying that no one can hold a candle to Andrade Cien Almas. Mike Rome hyped up an interview with Gargano for later in the show… [C]
John’s Thoughts: Strong promo as usual from Vega, who has been such a breakout talent playing the old school manager. There’s shades of Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar there.
The next recap package was an Asuka chronicle package. The video package had quotes of NXT talent talking about how great Asuka is. This included past NXT talent like Corey Graves and Bayley. Kayla Braxton talked about how Asuka’s title reign had to come to an end when she signed with Raw and gave the championship back to Regal due to injury. A Women’s Division vignette aired which featured the Iconic Duo, Lacey Evans, Mae Young classic winner Kairi Sane, Bianca Bel-air, Vanessa Bourne, Mae Young classic runner up Shayna Baszler, and Nikki Cross. Mike Rome recapped Shayna Baszler choking out Kairi Sane last week. Rome hyped up Baszler’s in-ring debut next week. A War Games recap aired… [C]
Rome and Braxton talked about how Tommaso Ciampa turned on Johnny Gargano. They aired the Ciampa heel promo after the breakup where Ciampa walked to the ring wearing crutches…
Highlights aired of the Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Killian Dain match where Gargano won the title shot. The highlights did focus on how Aleister Black had the visual win over Sullivan if not for Adam Cole running out. Rome advertised Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole at the next Takeover show.
Next was the Johnny Garagno interview. Gargano said 2017 was a year he won’t forget. He talked about being at the top of the world as Tag Team Champion which his best friend Champa. Gargano talked about how DIY vs. The Revival was the 2016 match of the year. Gargano talked about how it came tumbling down. Gargano said he doesn’t remember the moment clearly because he doesn’t want to relive it. They aired clips of Johnny Gargano declaring himself a singles wrestler. Gargano said he wanted to repay everyone who believed in him but he couldn’t. Gargano said things got worse. They aired Gargano’s losing streak where he sold the depression and mental toll after the loses. Gargano said the only thing you need is one opportunity. They aired Gargano pinning Aleister Black. Gargano said he’s walking into Takeover: Pilly and will become NXT Champion to get back to the top of the world. Gargano said 2018 will be the best year of his life… [C]
John’s Thoughts: They are really building up towards Tommaso Ciampa being a real bastard soon and he doesn’t even have to appear on television. This feud is going to be great and already has the viewers awaiting it in anticipation.
In the “Breaking News” they announced that there were three new categories in addition to the past EOTY awards. They announced they were adding “Future Star of NXT”, “Rivalry of the Year”, and “Overall Superstar of the year”…
Next was the Ember Moon documentary. Ember Moon explained her Sailor Moon pose. She said it was three things: Skill, Honor, and heart. They aired a performance center press conference. Ember Moon had an emotional promo about how the women were making an impact worldwide. Ember Moon said the women of NXT are fighting and won’t stop. Moon talked about growing up in a small town of Garland, TX. Moon said her grandfather introduced her to Pro Wrestling. Moon talked about her Grandfather telling her to reach her dream of becoming a “sports entertainer” via her grandfather.
Moon’s parents talked about how Moon snuck away from her home to drive five miles to train at Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling School. Booker T said he saw Moon as a star but didn’t know if WWE would give her a chance. Ember Moon talked about having a great tryout match at FCW but was given a rejection letter. They showed the letter and highlighted the part that said “she doesn’t have the Diva look”.
John’s Thoughts: Oh hell naw. That sounds like such a Big Johnny thing to say though so I did get a little chuckle.
Ember Moon said that quote hurt her. Mickie James talked about how Moon had a good showing but the era was more about “pretty girls and fluff”. Norman Smiley said he didn’t seem much from Moon at the time but told her she had potential. They showed clips of Athena (Ember Moon) traveling the country and making a name for herself. Ember Moon talked about how she ran into Paige at Universal Studios in Florida (wait? What the hell was Paige doing at the Impact Zone? I kid, I kid, but it’s true that Universal Studios is the Impact Zone). Moon said she didn’t think that she was what WWE was looking for. Paige told her that Moon is exactly what WWE needs.
Moon talked about her tryout and how they put her in a group picture and told them that they were the lucky group signed by WWE. She was shown surrounded by Tough Enough wrestlers and Asuka. Moon talked about wanting a stronger name than her real name of Adrienne Reese. Moon talked about being nervous at her debut on the Takeover show. Moon said it was time to do what she was meant to do. Carmella said Ember Moon is the future of the NXT Women’s Division. Corey Graves said Moon can hang with anybody. Charlotte said she’s excited to see what Moon can do. They showed Moon challenging Asuka and Asuka telling Mike Rome “Ember Moon? She works here?” (great heel line). They aired the clips from the first match where Asuka cheated to beat Ember Moon. Asuka said afterwards “who’s left? I’m still champion! hahaha”. Moon said she lost a little pride and confidence after the loss.
Asuka said she beat Moon once and will beat her again. Moon said no matter how much she’s beat down she will get back up. They showed the contract signing where Moon declared she was going to end Asuka’s unbeaten streak. They aired the great Asuka vs. Moon match from Takeover Brooklyn. Moon said even though it was a loss it was a great moment because she won over the crowd. Moon talked about sitting next to Asuka on her first day in WWE (clips from the Breaking Ground show). Moon said Asuka was always nice behind the scenes but they knew they would have to clash eventually. Moon said she will face Asuka again in the future. They then aired the War Games show where Moon won the title. Moon explained her three-finger credo. Skill, in gaining experience. Honor, in fighting for can’t fight for themselves. Heart, something that’s her fire and drive. She said she knows things will turn out all right if she puts her heart to it. NXT ended with Moon celebrating her title win with Asuka and with her family backstage…
John’s Thoughts: That was long overdue. A really good Ember Moon video package that humanized her just like it did for Roderick Strong and Apollo Crews before and NXT hit yet another home run with these documentary video packages. This also did a good job at wiping away some of those mopey and terrible promos that Moon cut. I never thought it was her fault with the bad promos it was just NXT putting her in bad situations. I feel that she can be the next Gail Kim of women’s wrestling and like Gail Kim she can do it without delivering forced and whiney promos.
I usually don’t recommend recap shows, but since there was a lot of first run material here, I’d say go out of your way to check it out. It did a good job developing characters while also rehashing history like those great DIY matches. Credit to Mike Rome and Kayla Braxton for being good hosts. I won’t be back with an Audio for this show but I felt my review was enough. All in all, NXT had a great year with a good reset after WrestleMania.
Jason Powell and Jake Barnett co-host the Dot Net Weekly and Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast combo show and discuss Raw Underground and other WWE concepts, The Rock's group buying the XFL, the Marty Jannetty story, AEW Dynamite and NXT TV, and more...