Zelina Vega and Johnny Gargano Promos: Now this is the Johnny Gargano that I and other fans of NXT have been waiting to see. I wrote before how Gargano speaks with no emotion or drive. This week was totally different. But he received a major assist from Zelina Vega and her promos. She set up the narrative of how Gargano is a fraud and does not deserve to be the number one contender to the NXT Title. It painted the picture of the underdog who the world has counted out but is not going out without a fight. In addition, the Velveteen Dream last week also threw an assist by stating how Gargano benefited from his absence and how he is not deserving of this opportunity. During this interaction, you could see the doubt on his face as the Dream went on to characterize him as being lucky and fortunate of his absence. So, when Gargano came out to address the crowd, it served a major purpose. He was fired up, stated how it was his time, and that he deserved this shot. He even went as far as to put that shot on the line with the Dream to prove his worthiness. He spoke as a man on a mission, ready to redeem what is rightfully his. This only thing I thought he should have addressed was Tomaso Ciampa because that is one of the major catalysts that Vega uses when debating that Gargano does not belong in this position and how he chokes when it comes to his former tag team partner. Also, Gargano’s promo should have been saved for next week’s go home show as it is good to see that he finally realizes and believes that he is deserving of this, in addition to making it the perfect set up for Takeover: Philadelphia, but its better late than never.
The Authors of Pain vs. The Street Profits (Number One Contenders Match for the NXT Tag Team Championship): This match was really a waste of time. Not only as a match, but the weeks leading up to it. Anyone can see that the Street Profits are majorly over with the NXT universe and the promos over the weeks show that they are ready for this opportunity. So, for an undefeated team to get squashed and lose in this fashion is somewhat deplorable. As for the Authors of Pain, what is next for them? After dominating the tag team division, what is left for them to prove? They should have been called up to the main roster months ago and another run with the tag team belts is not going to put them in a better position. They could really make an impact on a show like Raw that is lacking in the tag team department, possibly reigniting their feud with the Revival. The NXT Tag Team Championship is in good hands with Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish, so let them run with it and possibly face new competition like the Street Profits, TM-61, the newly signed War Machine, or just another up and coming talent; there is no need to see a team like the AoP in the running when they are clearly ready for prime time.
Aliyah vs. Lacey Evans: This match was not terrible, but it wasn’t good. What made this a miss, though, were the ending results. Once again, we see Shayna Baszler come out to squash another opponent in their downstate. It seems like this is a reoccurring theme. And then, once again, Ember Moon came out to make the save, but there was no physical action between the two, so it seems that this feud is somewhat on repeat. I know that it is a set up for their title match at Takeover: Philadelphia, but it could have been done a better way that would draw more heat. Kairi Sane could have even been added to the mix possibly making it a three-way challenge as she is vying for the title and has issues with Baszler which could have added a hint of drama to this storyline. As of right now, there is no true excitement to this upcoming Women’s NXT Title Championship match.
Roderick Strong vs. Fabian Eichner: Again, it wasn’t the match that made this a miss. In fact, the match was very good and technically sound. Each wrestler looked good and played off each other well, but what brought it down was Strong’s promo and Strong himself. After the match, he issued a challenge to Lars Sullivan. Now, this seemed rather pointless as he was already beaten by Sullivan in the NXT championship contenders’ match not too long ago and beaten in decisive fashion. So, what is the point of him challenging Sullivan again? Its almost seems like the writers don’t have anything else planned for Strong, so let’s throw him in a match that we have already seen before. Everyone is more hyped up to see Sullivan battle Killian Dain as this is evident in the reaction to Strong’s announcement; there was none. This issue with Strong is the same as the Authors of Pain, what is left for him at this point? He has challenged for the NXT Title in a very good feud with Bobby Roode and he also fought Drew McIntyre for the same title to no avail. Then last week he lost to the Undisputed Era with a very over Aleister Black. Strong is an outstanding wrestler with a strong pedigree, so at this point, there is nothing left for him in NXT. He needs to be called up to the main roster as well, to either 205 or Smackdown to where he can challenge for a new title and face many more entertaining foes.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: NXT HITS & MISSES 1/10: Baszler vs. Kai, Lio Rush vs. Lars Sullivan, Undisputed Era vs. Strong & Alelister, Street Profits