By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT TV on USA Network
Aired live March 18, 2020 from Stamford, Connecticut at WWE Headquarters
[Hour One] Highlights from last week’s NXT TV show aired with the Slipknot theme in the background…
Tom Phillips and Paul “Triple H” Levesque checked in from the studio at WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Tom and Hunter sent things to a Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano video package…
This was a sitdown package with both Ciampa and Gargano being interviewed separately. Gargano and Ciampa ran through their early NXT history where they started out as complete strangers that became the best of friends. They talked about being at the same WWE tryout and being told that WWE wasn’t going to bring them it. Each man talked about their own experience right after being rejected by WWE. Ciampa noted that he got close to Gargano as friends after their rejection.
Ciampa talked about Johnny Gargano being brought into the WWE Cruiserweight Classic and not Ciampa. Ciampa talked about talking to Triple H and convincing him to put him in the opening match of the CWC to lose to Gargano. Clips aired of the Gargano and Ciampa match in the WWE CWC. Johnny pointed out that he thinks he’s a better wrestler than Ciampa, because he’s Johnny Wrestling.
The next part of the chronicle was both men talking about their run as DIY. Highlights of their epic tag team matches aired, mostly involving The Revival. The Revival ended up beating DIY in their first match with for the championships. Gargano talked about moving in with his new wife Candice LeRae and also moving in with Ciampa and how they became an awesome trio. Ciampa talked about sharing disappointment with everyone when they lost the tag title matchup. They aired clips of Gargano and Ciampa winning via submission at NXT Takeover Toronto…[c]
John’s Thoughts: So. We’re getting a promo type of show. Let’s see how this goes. It is a bit disappointing not to get the usual does of weekly high level wrestling, but this might be a good time for some character development. The sitdown chronicle interview setup looked good. I wonder if we’re also going to get some cinematics or vignettes too? Will we find out if Raul Mendoza is okay after getting kidnapped by luchador ninjas.
The next chapter of the interview was both guys going over their run as tag team champions were they both thought they were on top of the world and living the dream. Gargano talked about being lucky to defend the titles outside of the United States. Ciampa talked about the many injuries that were racking up for him during the run, all over his body. Gargano said that he felt that Ciampa’s heart might not be in DIY anymore. Ciampa talked about big ol’ dudes like the Authors of Pain being the worst opponents to face while hurt. Ciampa talked about how AOP won the titles in their first match between DIY and AOP and DIY couldn’t get them back. Gargano said he didn’t feel like his heart was there either, especially after the Revival, DIY, and AOP triple threat. Gargano said he does agree that the star of the night was Johnny Gargano. Gargano said he heard very few Ciampa chants and mostly “Johnny Wrestling” chants.
Ciampa and Gargano each brought up how both men had their own inner pride. Ciampa teased more drama after the commercial break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: While this is totally what WWE shoudn’t be doing on a regular weekly show, sometimes dire situations like this give you the excuse to do something both creative and beneficial. One of the weakest parts of Johnny Gargano’s run on USA-NXT, is that his entire story arc played out before the move to USA to the point where Gargano was pretty much a hyped up blank slate. This sitdown interview did a good job catching late-to-the-party viewers as to who Johnny Gargano is and why his career is so tied up to the badass Tommaso Ciampa. It’s also good for long time viewers, rehashing those memories.
Gargano said DIY’s entire story is built on big moments, at a lot of Takeover shows. They aired clips from the Authors of Pain (w/Paul Ellering) vs. DIY at NXT Takoever: Chicago for the tag team championships in a ladder match. My personal favorite moment from this match was when Gargano “took the bullet” for Ciampa. Gargano ultimately lost after getting hit by the Super Collider from AOP. This match also had the infamous post-match moment where Tommaso Ciampa tossed Johnny Gargano into the LED video wall.
Ciampa said he did what he had to do, it was business. Gargano said Ciampa was selfish because he wanted Gargano to also be gone while Ciampa goes off and gets surgery. Ciampa talked about the Johnny Gargano losing streak story that happened after Ciampa went for surgery (mostly involving Zelina Vega throwing DIY shirts at him). They showed the clip of Ciampa returning with a crutch shot after one of Gargano’s loses to Andrade Almas. Ciampa talked about costing Gargano his career after costing Gargano a luchas de apuestas “Career vs. Title” match against Andrade Almas…[c]
Gargano talked about how Ciampa returned, costing Gargano his career. Ciampa agreed that he was jealous of Johnny Wrestling. Gargano talked about forcing Ciampa into an unsanctioned match at Takeover: New Orleans. They aired clips from the Ciampa vs. Gargano unsanctioned match. Ciampa tapped out to the brace assisted GargaNo Escape.
Ciampa said that Johnny thought he won, but Ciampa was the star. Ciampa talked about actually winning at the next takeover. They then aired Tommaso Ciampa beating Aleister Black for the NXT Championship. Gargano talked about costing himself matches after with revenge on the mind. Ciampa talked about Gargano starting to think in the same dark mindset of Ciampa. Gargano said with his new mindset, he was two steps ahead of Ciampa. They showed DIY reforming (during their very short lived Raw callup). This reformation was cut short when Ciampa vacated the title due to another surgery that he needed…[c]
They aired the clip of Triple H accepting the title away from Ciampa. Gargano smiled, and said he didn’t see that coming. Gargano said fate put Gargano in a match against Adam Cole, a match which was supposed to be Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa. They aired clips from the Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano best of three falls match at Takeover: New York. This was Gargano’s “superman” match where he shrugged off finishers from Cole, Strong, Fish, and O’Reilly. This match ended up with Johnny Gargano as NXT Champion. An injured Tommaso Ciampa hugged with Johnny Gargano after the match. Gargano talked about finally seeing his legit best friend back at the top of the ramp. Gargano said he had nothing to worry about this time because Ciampa’s neck was broken.
Gargano said he was happy that moment and it was time to put all the hate behind them. Ciampa talked about walking on the road to recovery with rest and training. Ciampa said that Gargano lost his first title defense and didn’t do well afterwards. Gargano then ranted about being pissed off that the fans were so happy to accept Tommaso Ciampa and rooting behind him. Ciampa said that through his hard work, he became the face of the brand of NXT. Ciampa said that’s when he set his sights on Adam Cole and the NXT Championship.[c]
John’s Thoughts: They’re not retelling history. Gargano and Ciampa are doing a good job staying heel and face respectively through they way that they are telling their story. During Ciampa’s segments, he’s coming off as remorseful and honest in recapping his moments as a bad guy. Gargano is doing a strong job too, coming off as prideful and petulant. An odd NXT, yes, but they’re doing a solid job using the first hour of NXT completely to tell the multi-year Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa storyline.
[Hour Two] Tom Phillips and Triple H checked in from WWE Headquarters. Philips and Hunter recapped the last parts of the Gargano and Ciampa interview. Triple H said he empathizes with Ciampa because he had career threatening news from the doctor too…
They cut back to the Gargano and Ciampa interview with Ciampa talking about trying to get “Goldie” back from Adam Cole. Gargano continued to act pissed off at fans continuing to get behind such an evil person in Ciampa. They then cut to Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa from NXT Takeover: Portland, last month. They aired the closing moments. Adam Cole retained his title after Johnny Gargano cost Tommaso Ciampa the win.
Ciampa talked about how impossible it was to cause Ciampa to lose via pin or submission given his drive, but then Gargano showed up. Gargano said he was there to support his friend, but then he saw the man that betrayed him and spat on his wedding ring years ago. Gargano said that Ciampa is a liar and a cheat, the people just don’t see it. Ciampa said the brawl at the WWE PC last week was business. Gargano said that he just wanted to say his piece last week and Ciampa attacks him backstage for no reason. Gargano talked about how DIY’s bond was formed at the PC and they tore the PC appart. Ciampa said people can chant “Fight Forever” all they want, and when it comes to Ciampa vs. Gargano, they might just actually fight forever…
Philips and Hunter then recapped the WWE Performance Center backstage brawl from last week. Tom Phillips said that after the commercial break, the show will now focus on Finn Balor’s NXT history…[c]
John’s Thoughts: I didn’t expect them to go over an hour to character-build Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, but I ultimately think it was a good thing to do to reinforce their main eventers. It looks like they are about to do the same thing for Finn Balor too. Gargano gained the most from this with his great job acting petty. Ciampa also came out of this with a deeper backstory. All is good.
Philips and Hunter talked about Finn Balor next. Hunter said Balor surprised him with how he’s been acting in NXT and this is the “Prince” that Hunter initially wanted in NXT…
The show cut to a Finn Balor NXT career retrospective video. Clips of Finn Balor’s first NXT run aired, featuring plenty of matches with Balor as the Venom-like “Demon”. They then cut to Balor being interviewed in a dark room. Balor talked about how WWE signed the best wrestler in the world, Prince Devitt. Balor said he proved that he’s the best wrestler in the world. Balor talked about beating Nakamura, Owens, and Joe. he said he proved he’s the best every night. Balor said he proved that for 292 days as the champion, which proved he’s the best wrestler in the world.[c]
They aired Finn Balor getting drafted to Raw. Balor talked about tearing through the best of Raw, including Roman Reigns, to lead to a title match to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion. Balor said he beat Rollins to become the first WWE Universal Champion. Balor said the only problem was, he was hurting. They showed a clip of Balor telling Hunter that his shoulder is loose. Balor said he proved to everyone that he was the best wrestler in the world. They showed Balor relinquishing the WWE Universal Championship.
Balor said it took him nine month of rehabilitation to come back to the ring. Balor said the atmosphere changed in WWE once he came back. Balor said he gave Jinder Mahal, Baron Corbin, and Bobby Lashley “The best matches of their career”. Balor said giving best matches is the common denominator. Balor then recapped his lost to Brock Lesnar. Balor said that Brock made him realize what he was missing, a feeling that he was missing from NXT. Balor said that Brock made Balor remember that he wants to wrestle and the only place to really wrestle is NXT. Balor said the merchandise, TV time, contract signings, and fame was good, but NXT is where you can fight. [c]
Balor said he couldn’t sleep at night at one point, craving a adrenaline rush. Balor said he just had to stop pleasing everyone, he had to please himself (I was going to make an immature joke there, but I’ll stop). Balor said he should stop caring about everyone else, it’s all about “me”. Balor said he can’t be wasting his time in WWE. Balor said it wasn’t about going back to NXT, but going back to “me”, going back to being the best wrestler in the world, going back to the Prince and what the Prince wants…
The show cut to the closing moments of Finn Balor vs. Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: Portland…
Balor said 2018 Finn Balor is dead and now he’s “The Prince”. Balor said he will stand in the ring with Walter to get what he wants. Balor said there’s a lot of other NXT stars like Keith Lee or Matt Riddle, addicted to the same things that Balor is addicted to. Balor closed the promo by saying, “let’s dance”. Tom Philips then hyped up some Rhea Ripley focus after the break…[c]
John’s Thoughts: Good career retrospective to Finn Balor. It’s also interesting, because with Balor’s “best wrestler in the world talk”, that has me thinking that WWE will go above and beyond in protecting Finn in the few times he’s going to lose. At least, that’s what I’m expecting. That’s not completely a bad thing. WWE and NXT need strong stars.
A pirate themed ad aired for WWE WrestleMania (which is now not happening at the presumed new home of Tom Brady). Tom Philips asked Hunter for his thoughts on the NXT Championship being defended for the first time at WrestleMania. Hunter talked about how prestigious the NXT Women’s title is when the Royal Rumble winner picks the NXT title as her pick…
Tom sent things over to a Rhea Ripley career retrospective package. They aired clips of Rhea Ripley 1.0, the one everyone said was an “Australian Charlotte Flair” due to her having the WWE cookie cutter look for women wrestlers. Ripley said the best part about her initial run in the Mae Young was to make Australia proud. Ripley said the problem was trying to make everyone happy. Ripley said people compared her to other WWE blondes like Charlotte, Toni Storm, and even Lana and that wasn’t right. Ripley talked about coming back to the Mae Young with a different look and just doing whatever the hell she wanted to do.
Ripley then talked about dominating NXT UK and winning the inaugural championship in a match against Toni Storm. Ripley said people totally expected Toni to win the tournament and she squashed to expectations. Ripley talked about being in NXT UK for a year and a half, most of the time as Champion. Ripley said she did everything there was to do in NXT UK because there weren’t many credible women in NXT UK. Ripley talked about Shayna Baszler tearing through the entire NXT US roster at the same time. Ripley said it was her chance to challenge Baszler, and she took that. They aired Ripley’s debut promo on NXT US where she told Baszler “you may think you have beaten everyone here. But you haven’t beaten me, Bitch!”.[c]
The next part of the Ripley retrospective focused on Ripley’s Survivor Series weekend where Ripley won all the matches she was involved in. Ripley said everyone knew who Ripley was after that weekend. Ripley said what was missing, was Ripley being the actual champion. Ripley said she finally got Baszler in a match. She said she was stressed, but she knew this was her time. They aired quick clips from Ripley winning the championship and the post match celebration with the Full Sail fans and the NXT Locker room.
Ripley said becoming the champion was a good christmas present to end 2019. Ripley then recapped being at the Royal Rumble and watching Charlotte Flair win. Ripley said she knew when Charlotte Flair won, that Flair was the person Ripley wanted to face. Ripley said it was clear nobody wanted to see Flair vs. Lynch or Flair vs. Bayley anymore because they’ve wrestled many times before. They showed the clip of Ripley confronting Flair on Raw. Ripley said to be the best she had to beat the best, and Flair is considered the best by many.
Clips aired of the Rhea Ripley vs. Bianca Belair match from Takeover: Portland. Ripley retained the title and was clocked from behind after the match by Charlotte. That’s where Charlotte formally announced Ripley vs. Flair at Wrestlemania. Ripley talked about all the COVID-19 issues that changed Wrestlemania. Ripley said they were moving away from Flair’s comfort zone of the big crowds, and to Ripley’s zone of being at the Performance Center, where Ripley was built. Ripley said that when Charlotte woo’s at stadiums, but at this year’s Mania, no one is there to Woo back. Ripley said she’s going to go into Mania and leave Mania as NXT Women’s champion…
Hunter and Philips hyped up Mania a bit and Hunter said that Mania is a Mania to remember. Philips closed out NXT…
John’ s Thoughts: Another good retrospective on a surreal episode of NXT which was more of a clip-show episode than an actual episode. Going back to Ripley, what really stood out here was the advantages of doing sitdown promos. Ripley can sometimes come off as very unnatural and scripted during a few of her in-ring promos (not all the time, but a handful of times). Here she was able to come off more authentic and un-nervous. It was solid.
Overall, this was a really good twist on the usual NXT episode. That said I wouldn’t recommend the live recommendation. In fact, I think you can watch all three of these videos at your own pace as opposed to watching two hours straight. That said, They focused on doing career retrospective on their main eventers and I think their main eventers came out stronger because of it. Johnny Gargano in particular really shined in this format.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...