By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Aired February 21, 2018 on WWE Network
Taped February 1 in Atlanta, Georgia at Center Stage
The intro teaser focused on Andrade Almas with clips of him as La Sombra. The teaser then showed clips from his entire NXT career where he was on a losing streak and overpartying. This led to his association with Zelina Vega where his fortunes turned around. The NXT intro teaser ended with Zelina Vega getting Johnny Gargano to put his career on the line for a final title match…
Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, and Percy Watson were on commentary. Mauro hyped up a “special announcement” from William Regal for later in the show. Velveteen Dream made his entrance wearing a high cut shirt with a rainbow logo on it…
1. Velveteen Dream vs. No Way Jose. Dream mocked Jose’s dance while taking off his shirt. Dream started off the match with European Uppercuts and stiff forearms in the corner. The crowd was mostly behind Dream. Dream did some more dancing to mock Jose but Jose blindsided him in the back of the neck with a lariat. No Way caught Dream with a punch as Dream was flying. Jose gave Dream a back body drop and baseball slide. Jose caught Dream with a plancha heading into the break. [C]
John’s Thoughts: I’m surprised we’re getting prelim matches and commercials in the undercard. Is the Gargano/Almas match shorter than expected or are we in for an overtime episode?
Jose caught Dream during a Purple Rainmaker attempt with his boots. Jose put the boots to Dream in the corner. Jose laid in some punches on Dream in the corner. Jose went for his pop up punch finisher but ate a dropkick from Dream. Dream hit No Way with his signature cartwheel DVD. Dream hit the Purple Rainmaker for the win.
Velveteen Dream defeated No Way Jose via pinfall in 3:31 of TV Time.
Dream got the favorable reaction throughout and after the match. Dream got people to chant his name during the promo. Dream called himself the male competitor and overall competitor of the year. Dream also said he had the match of the year. Dream addressed the real winners, Aleister Black, Asuka, and Tyler Bate, and said no one cares about them. Dream talked about the crowd chanting for him instead of them. This fired up the crowd both in his favor and in favor of the other favorites. Dream left the ring and Andrade Almas was shown psyching himself up in front of a fashion mirror. Almas’ theme played…
John’s Thoughts: Dream is still over, so much that fan-favorite No Way Jose got a tepid reaction. I’m surprised Jose got so much offense in as the outcome was not in question with Dream looking past to Tyler Bate in the pre-match promo from last week. No Way Jose is really good in the ring but is really hampered with the cheesy gimmick. He plays it well, but it might be time for a character shakeup because of how this gimmick doesn’t have next level potential (and we saw that he can take things seriously in his feud with Austin Aries)
William Regal making his huge announcement. Regal announced that in two weeks NXT will be bringing back the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic. Regal also announced that the winner of the classic will get a Tag Team Title shot at NXT Takeover: New Orleans… [C]
2. Vanessa Borne vs. Nikki Cross. Cross quickly put the boots to Borne early on in the match. Cross then locked Borne in a sleeper. Borne managed to hit her weak looking putdown finisher for some two counts. Borne managed to get some boots on Cross. Borne hit a suplex on Cross for a two count. Borne shoved Cross to her knees which drew seething and smiles from Cross. Cross exploded with a crossbody and some forearms. Cross slapped herself and gave Borne a corner splash. Borne did her gorilla chest beat and hit the Purge (Paige Turner) for the victory.
Nikki Cross defeated Vanessa Borne via pinfall in 2:50.
The commentators stressed that Cross’ finisher was called “The Purge”. A replay aired from the Aleister Black and Killian Dain promo from last week…
John’s Thoughts: Good enhancement win from Cross. Bourne did look better than she usually does because she’s looked bad in past matches. She showed some good aggression here and didn’t look like she was lost. There is still some work for her to do in the ring but it doesn’t hurt to be cannon fodder for the next level talent until she’s ready to move to the next level.
Johnny Gargano was shown pacing in the Gorilla Position area along with Candice LeRae. Nigel hyped up the main event Title vs. Career match… [C]
Mauro reminded the viewers that TM-61 made it to the finals of the Dusty Classic last time. Nigel then advertised Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler in a grudge match for next week’s NXT episode. Andrade Almas then made his entrance for the upcoming Luchas De Apuestas. Candice LeRae accompanied Johnny Gargano wearing a “Mrs. Johnny Wrestling” shirt. Mike Rome was back for the formal ring introductions. Drake Wertz was the referee…
3. Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/ Zelina Vega) vs. Johnny Gargano (w/ Candice LeRae) in a Title vs. NXT Career match for the NXT Championship. Almas quickly went for early pinfalls combined with some chain wrestling. Thee show cut to commercial. [C]
Almas gave Gargano a big back elbow. Gargano came back with an enziguri and leg lariat. Gargano used a lariat to send Almas outside. Zelina vega stood in the way to prevent Gargano from executing a Tope Suicida. Candice LeRae snuck in the ring and gave Zelina Vega a clean looking Suicide Dive. Gargano gave Almas one of his signature cannonballs from the apron. Vega and LeRae brawled to the back.
Almas regained control after a backbreaker club combo. Gargano blocked a whip by slipping over the top rope. Almas caught Gargano with a Crossarmbreaker over the top rope which had to be broken in five. Mauro noted that it was a smart strategy to target the arm because it will encumber the GargaNo Escape. Almas put the boots to Gargano’s arm and used the ropes to stress the arm in a triangle. Gargano tried to fight back but Almas hit another one of his backbraker forearm combos. [C]
John’s Thoughts: I’m wondering why there are so many commercial breaks tonight. Last night on 205 they allowed Ali and Gallagher to go 17 minutes with no breaks.
Almas continued to attack the left arm of Gargano. Gargano managed to get a listo kick in to start a rally. Gargano hit Almas with a slingshot spear for a nearfall. Mauro noted that Gargano couldn’t hook with the left arm. Almas hit Gargano with a deadlift bucklebomb and the meteora to the corner. Almas got the nearfall with Mauro selling the career stipulation. Almas tossed Gargano’s left shoulder into the turnbuckle after a hammerlock DDT attempt. Gargano and Almas traded chops on the apron.
Almas escaped a fireman carry and caught Gargano during a slingshot spear into a Fujiwara Armbar. Almas converted the hold into the GargaNo Eacape which Gargano escaped. Almas blocked a hammerlock DDT attempt. Almas hip tossed Gargano into the corner and hit him with a reverse meteora. Gargano kicked out of the subsequent pin in two and three-quarters. Almas went for the draping hammerlock DDT but Gargano locked his feet on the top ropes.
Almas gut punched Gargano to go for the good version of the Del Rio footstomp but Gargano got out of the way and sent Almas outside. Gargano hit Almas with a ugly looking but good tope into a tornado DDT. Gargano hit Almas with the slingshot DDT that defeated Aleister Black. Mauro said we have a new champ, which meant we didn’t have a new champ. Gargano and Almas traded fighting spirit strikes. Almas went for a back elbow but accidently hit Drake Wertz. REF BUMP!!!
Gargano landed La Mistica and locked in the GargaNo Escape. Because he’s an evil jerk (which is great) Tommaso Ciampa ran into the ring and hit Gargano with his crutch. This allowed Almas to hit the Hammerlock DDT for the victory which thus ended Gargano’s NXT Career.
Andrade Almas defeated Johnny Gargano via pinfall in 15:16 of TV Time to retain the NXT Championship. Johnny Gargano’s NXT Career is over.
Andrade Almas celebrated up the ramp while Zelina Vega continued to coach him. Gargano rolled in the ring with the shocked and concussed look on his face. The crowd gave Gargano a “Thank You Johnny” chant. Mike Rome announced on the speakers that “per the stipulation of the match, Johnny Gargano must leave NXT”. That announcement invoked a “no” chant. Gargano made it to his feet to invoke a standing ovation and Thank You chant. Gargano walked up the the stage and turned around to soak in the ovation. The camera cut to Tommaso Ciampa in a darkened area who received boos. Ciampa gave Gargano a patronizing goodbye wave.
John’s Thoughts: While not as epic as the takeover match, it didn’t have to be. That match was something special and this match was more angle. The payoff to the angle was expected somewhat but extremely powerful given the legend that Tommaso Ciampa has built up for himself as a relentless d-bag. As the person at Dot Net who reviews Impact Wrestling, I’m used to gratuitous ref bumps, but this one made sense and wasn’t used as a crutch (no pun intended). Almas continues to look strong. He’ll let cheating happen around him but that doesn’t get in the way of his in ring credibility. This was a good payoff to the feud and most likely leading to Gargano moving up to the main roster or 205 Live. Triple H keeps calling the guy the best babyface in wrestling so it had to happen soon right? Ciampa is being built up as a huge heel too and he’s barely been on TV in about a year.
A good show with a strong show closing angle. This wasn’t the ending of an angle but moreso solid progression in the DIY saga. Almas continues to be presented as a strong champion. They are also building towards a Candice LeRae vs. Zelina Vega clash down the road. Knowing how good these two tomboy personalities can be, this should be a great feud on the mic and in the ring. Hopefully they give LeRae some promo and vignette time. I’ll be by tomorrow with my NXT audio review for the Dot Net Members.