By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Aired February 28, 2018 on WWE Network
Taped February 2 in Atlanta, Georgia at Center Stage
The intro teaser had inspirational music playing when it looked like Johnny Gargano was going to become NXT champion; but when Tommaso Ciampa ran in with a crutch, the music became dire when Mauro Rannallo narrated the end of Johnny Gargano’s NXT career, complete with sad music during the “Thank You Johnny” moment. The teaser ended with Tommasso Ciampa giving an ominous and evil goodbye hand wave. The NXT intro theme aired. In fact, the clips of Johnny Gargano were replaced by evil Tommaso Ciampa clips…
Mauro Ranallo, Percy Watson, and Nigel McGuinness checked in from the commentary table. Mauro talked about how we now live in a world without Johnny Gargano in NXT and Mauro wished Gargano “the best in his future endeavors”. Nigel hyped up a promo from Andrade Almas, the man who ended Gargano’s NXT career, for later in this show. Velveteen Dream made his entrance wearing his casual clothes for the upcoming match he is participating in…
1. Velveteen Dream vs. Tyler Bate. Mauro pointed out the current pattern in Tyler Bate’s career in that he isn’t picking up wins. Nigel noted the similar age to both men. The crowd gave both men dueling chants. Bate showed off a nice mix of agility and chain wrestling on Velveteen which caused Dream to to have a mini tantrum on the outside. [C]
Bate had the technical and speed advantage which caused Dream to assess things from ringside. Dream surprised Bate with a lariat and gave him knees to the obliques. Dream waved his pelvis over Bate’s head to taunt him during a ground lift. Dream then locked in a sleeper while following up with elbow drops targeting Bate’s lower back. Dream locked Bate in a Camel Clutch.
Bate recovered and regained momentum with a pump kick and deadlift exploder suplex. Nigel noted that the shorter size and muscles give Bate an advantage due to the low center of gravity. Dream pushed off Bate but Bate rebounded into a lariat just like M-Dogg 20 would. Dream blocked Bate’s Tiger Driver with a back body drop. Bate caught a kick and hit a uppercut. Dream came back with a nice Arn Anderson spinebuster.
After the latest nearfall by Dream both men traded fatigued strikes. The two men ran into each other with Bate selling effects to the temple area since the collision included a head clash. Dream tried to ascend up the ropes but Bate ascended with his body with a dropkick. Bate made it to the top rope but was crotched on the top rope. Dream hit the Purple Rainmaker for the victory.
Velveteen Dream defeated Tyler Bate via pinfall in 8:39 of TV Time.
Mauro acknowledged that Bate’s losing streak continues. Nigel talked about how impressive Dream’s elbow drop is. Speaking of impressive elbow drops, Watson advertised Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler for later in teh show…
The camera cut to a low angle shot of Paul Ellering cutting a promo in a dark stairwell. Ellering said the last Dusty Classic immortalized the Authors. Ellering talked about how many people have stars in their eyes in this year’s Dusty Classic looking for a shot at the title. Ellering said this Classic serves as a road back to the Undisputed Era and the NXT Tag Championship. One of the Authors spoke in his European language (forgive me, I forget, Is he dutch?) He talked about how all will suffer. The other author spoke in his Indian Language and then said War is our Pace… [C]
John’s Thoughts: Great match as usual by Bate but it is quite precarious that Bate hasn’t won a match in a long while. During this losing streak he had to lose clean in under 6 minutes or so to Enzo Amore and sell the world’s worst looking Eat Defeat. Since Mauro is acknowledging it, hopefully it leads to better things for Bate or at least a story to come from the losing. Dream continues to be the rising star of NXT. The guy has the act down and people forget that this guy is also good in the ring. He’s also in his early 20s like Tyler Bate and like the Authors.
Mauro cut to the segment on YouTube where Johnny Gargano and William Regal were signing Gargano’s termination papers. Drake told Gargano he was sorry. Regal noted that Gargano will still have to do his live events that he was scheduled for. Referee Drake Younger had a depressed look on his face. Drake cut in and told Johnny that he made a mistake and the last thing he wanted to do is end Gargano’s career.
John’s Thoughts: If this were TNA, I would be expecting a Drake Younger heel turn but thankfully this is NXT and we don’t have to worry about that. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to see Drake Younger back in the ring again as he was a good independent wrestler and even wrestled in the area I’m currently residing in in the SF Bay Area.
After Cezar Bononi made his entrance the Undisputed Era made their entrance. Kyle O’Reilly continued to treat his NXT Tag belt like an air guitar…
2. Cezar Bononi vs. Adam Cole. The bell rang but Cole grabbed a microphone to cut a promo on Cezar. Cole pointed out that Bononi was the NXT “Future Star of the Year”. Cole started an applause with a patronizing applause. Cole tried to recruit Cezar to the era with O’Reilly handing him a shirt. Mauro noted how Cole betrayed former Brazilian Taynara Conti the last time. Cole used the distraction to hit a cheap axe handle shot on Bononi. Bononi came back and hit Cole with a Michinoku Driver. Fish and O’Reilly distracted Bononi which allowed Cole to hit Bononi with a superkick and Shining Wizard for the victory.
Adam Cole defeated Cezar Bononi via pinfall in 2:50.
A Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler vignette aired showing Sane’s road to the upcoming match and Baszler’s tear through the NXT women’s roster. Baszler hasn’t had too many matches but she has been beating up random people in the performance center. Mauro noted that Josh Barnett trained Baszler while Percy noted that she is a top 10 MMA fighter.
John’s Thoughts: I can see people not liking this segment because Adam Cole continues to look weak but I loved it and we got to see some of the Adam Cole that made him such a sought after prospect. The guy’s so great at playing an absolute worm and it moves through his ring work, mannerisms, and promos. People beating Bononi helps them because the guy is such a giant. For Bononi’s end, it is odd that a giant dude is losing so many matches but you know they will take care of him when he becomes more seasoned. Drew McIntyre had to take a ton of loses at one point. Lars Sullivan even had a losing streak (though it “wasn’t his fault” and that losing streak was one of the most entertaining things on NXT TV when he would beat up the tag partners).
The Street Profits youtube show aired, I forgot what it was called. They interviewed each other like they were fans. They said they think the Street Profits are going to win the Dusty Classic. They cut to a graphic showing the Dusty Rhodes Classic brackets. Mauro advertised the Authors of Pain vs. TM-61 in the first round of this year’s Dusty Rhodes Classic, which was the final of the last Dusty Classic…
3. Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler. Baszler pie faced Sane early in the match to taunt her. Sane tred to mount a rally but was taken down by Baszler. Baszler and Sane traded guards from the low knee position. Baszler made it to her feet to lock in a side headlock. The crowd was behind Sane. Sane escaped by putting Baszler in the corner. Sane tried for a rollup. Sane went for her signature basement lariat but her head ran into the foot of Baszler. Baszler hit Sane with some mean looking knees and kicks. [C]
Baszler dominated Sane back from the break. Sane initiated joint manipulation with the chickenwing. Sane gained breathing room with a rollup which Mauro noted was the same tactic Ember Moon used to escape the pain. Sane got a slap rally in with Baszler hitting her knee into turnbuckle. Sane pounced on Baszler with a surprise spear. Sane walked the plank for her signature basement forearm and went for the InSane Elbow. Baszler made it to her feet so Sane hit a flying elbow strike for a nearfall.
Baszler regained control and went for a suplex but ate a spinning backfist. Baszler staggered Sane on the top rope with a kick and then hit the kirifuda driver into the Kirifuda Clutch for the tapout victory.
Shayna Baszler defeated Kairi Sane via submission in 5:36.
Baszler walked over to the commentary booth to call out Ember Moon for calling her a coward. Baszler talked about wanting the title or taking Moon’s limb…[C]
John’s Thoughts: Great win for Baszler and Sane loses nothing in defeat due to her scrappy demeanor and underdog ability. I don’t want to state the obvious, but even though Ronda Rousey has the mainstream advantage, WWE does have a UFC legend who’s leagues ahead of her in pro wrestling ability and promos in Shayna Baszler. She’s just so mean and badass, yet mean enough to make the crowd hate her for just being a great bully.
El Idolo Andrade Cien Almas made his entrance accompanied by Zelina Vega. Mauro noted that Almas went 4-0 against Johnny Gargano. Nigel noted to give Tommaso Ciampa some credit for Almas’ last win. Zelina told people, ladies and gentlemen, welcome the greatest champion in NXT History Andrade Cien Almas. Vega said Almas is Mr. 4-0. Vega brought up how Gargano brought his family and wife to only see him lose. Vega said it was four times and in Baseball they call it a clean sweep. This drew a “Clean Sweep” chant in the Marty Scurll way. Vega sent a jab at Candice LeRae by saying she doesn’t feed off the success of a man, Vega creates it.
Almas talked about how he beat Gargano and how they all fall to El Idolo. Almas spoke in broken English. Almas said he turned Johnny Wrestling into Johnny Jobless. Almas said while they call Gargano Johnny Wrestling, they call Almas “Champion!!!”. The promo ended with the commentators hyping up next week’s first round Dusty Rhodes Classic Match between AoP and TM-61. Before the show could end, Aleister Black made his entrance from the crowd entrance under a fog machine. Black slowly walked to the ring with a microphone.
Before Black could get a word in, the Sanity theme of Killian Dain played. Dain came out of nowhere to meet Black in the ring. Black took off his vest and was ready for battle. Dain yelled “You’re… in… my… PATH!!!”. Dain and Black brawled with Dain coming out on top with a flying crossbody. Almas had a confused and shocked look on his face while Vega told told him not to worry about it and let the two big dudes beat up themselves. The show closed with Killian Dain standing tall over the prone body of Aleister Black…
John’s Thoughts: Simple and effective heel gloating work by Almas and Vega. Almas is still rough around the edges when it comes to speaking English. He’s no Del Rio who is extremely affluent in English, but he wasn’t horrible here because he got out the gloating that he needed to. Vega still should carry the bulk of the mic work. The post match stuff was great. Black maximizes his promo time, so much that he doesn’t have to let a word out to denote his intentions. Pitting him against Killian Dain is a nice pitstop on his road to WrestleMania weekend. I assume we’re getting Black vs. Almas because that’s the more blockbuster match. Black also doesn’t have the pinfall undefeated streak albatross hanging over him since Johnny Gargano pinned him 1-2-3, with help from Adam Cole and it being a fatal four way, so the singles Undefeated is still there.
A Jam-packed show with some good matches but ultimately a lot of forwarding of storylines. NXT continues to be the show in WWE’s line up that has the best efficiency of time utilization minute-to-minute. They also do a great job building up people in wins and in losses so we don’t see the problem of parity booking. NXT seems more like a simulated sport and a medium for storytelling more than WWE’s main roster at the moment, and NXT was a bit in the dumps around a year ago and prior. I’ll be by tomorrow with my NXT Audio Review for the Dot Net Members.