SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NXT TV REPORT
FEBRUARY 21, 2018
AIRED ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY JUSTIN JAMES, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
[Q1] Very lengthy pre-credits video on the NXT Championship Match between Andrade “Cien” Almas and Johnny Gargano. The announcers promise us a “special announcement” from NXT General Manager William Regal. Velveteen Dream comes out with yet another tweak to his hard and outfit to start the in-ring action.
(1) VELVETEEN DREAM vs. NO WAY JOSE
Big pre-bell chant for Dream. Jose and Dream dance at each other for a moment and then Dream takes over with European uppercuts. Dream dances at Jose to gloat, and eats a lariat when he turns around. Dream wants a turnaround move over the turnbuckle and takes a beating. Jose dances, then low bridges Dream. Slingshot plancha takes Dream out at ringside. [c]
Dream is on offense post-break. He poses up top, and Jose is able to block the Purple Rainmaker thanks to the delay. Hip toss sends Dream across the ring. Jose is on a roll with punches in the corner, then he throws Dream into the corner. The crowd tries rally Dream. Dropkick from Dream counters the popup punch, followed by a rolling Death Valley Driver. Dream to the top, Purple Rainmaker ends it.
WINNER: Velveteen Dream in 4:12. While I agree with the outcome, I disagree with the booking of Jose to get the majority of the offence in this match. Dream should have steamrolled the low-card gatekeeper Jose in two minutes.
Post-match, the crowd chants for Dream. He has a mic and reminds us of his accolades from last year. He says no one cares about Aleister Black, Asuka, or Tyler Bate getting a chuckle from the crowd. He tells us that his name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, getting the crowd to chant for him.
[Q2] Almas is shown backstage preparing for his match. Zelina Vega gives him a pep talk.
Regal announces that the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic starts in two weeks. The winner gets a shot at the NXT Tag Team Championship at Takeover: New Orleans. This tournament has become an (almost) yearly NXT tradition, one that I look forwards to.
Vanessa Borne will try to take on Nikki Cross next.
(2) NIKKI CROSS vs. VANESSA BORNE
Cross with a hot start out of the bell. Sleeper on Borne. Spinning side slam gets two for Borne, and then a second cover gets another two count. Borne stomps on Cross in the ropes, then crushes Cross against the ropes with her legs. Borne with a suplex into a cover for two. Cross finally shakes free of Borne. Crossbody then a hair yank puts Cross on the attack. Cross to the top crossbody. Spinning neckbreaker ends it.
WINNER: Nikki Cross in 2:42. This was what the Dream – Jose match should have been.
Recap of the confrontation between Aleister Black and Killian Dain.
Johnny Gargano is shown backstage. He looks nervous but Candace LaRae is trying to encourage him.
Tweet from Shane Thorne vowing to win the Dusty Rhodes Classic.
Flashback to last week, when Kairi Sane stopped Shayna Baszler from ripping Ember Moon’s arm off. Sane is booked to face Baszler next week.
[Q3] Almas is making his entrance at the 30 minute mark, promising a length match or post-match nonsense. LaRae comes out with Gargano, wearing a “Mrs. Johnny Wrestling” shirt. I love the booking here, I just cannot pick a winner.
(3) NXT Champion ANDRADE “CIEN” ALMAS (w/Zelina Vega) vs. JOHNNY GARGANO (w/Candace LaRae) – NXT Championship Match, Gargano leaves NXT if he loses
Quick rollups by Almas are not productive. Gargano rolls out of the ring to escape the hammerlock DDT. That was a hot 40 seconds. [c]
Almas has Gargano on defense, but Gargao turns it around. An enziguri, dropkick, and clothesline send Almas outside. Vega stands in the way to prevent a suicide dive, so LaRae dives through the ropes to take out Vega out of the picture. Gargano with a cannonball to Almas on the outside. Watson thanks LaRae from the booth, perfectly playing the face color commentator. Almas cuts off the slingshot DDT and hits the backbreaker/embow drop combo on the apron, cover for two. They reverse each other’s moves, then Almas with a cross-arm breaker through the ropes to the five count. Vega and LaRae are long gone at this point. Almas wraps Gargano’s arm up, then throws him into the corner. Stomps on the mat. Almas wraps the arm in the ropes again. I feel like the roster has been watching the recent Shana Baszler and Pete Dunne matches (can we get Dunne and Baszler in the mixed team tournament?) and taking notes. Backbreaker/elbow drop combo through the ropes, cover for two again. Gargano is suffering badly. [c]
Gargano is working to turn the tide, and a flying head scissors off the top, followed by his slingshot spear, get him two. Gargano is heavily selling the left arm. They trade forearms in the ring, and a kick drops Almas down, he dodges a superkick, catches it, delivers a one-arm deadlift bucklebomb followed by running double knees for a nearfall. Sweet sweet sequence.
Almas wants the hammerlock DDT, but Gargano drives Almas into the corner twice. Superkick on the apron stuns Almas. Gargano stuns Almas with blows on the apron. Almas dodges a slingshot spear to lock in an armbar mid-ring. Gargano tries to reverse into the Gargano Escape, Almas gets to the ropes. Hammerlock DDT attempt, Gargano rolles into a cover, Almas rolls into a cover. Arm drag thoughs Gargano into the turnbuckcle, double knees to the back of Gargano’s head as he is face-first on the turnbuckle draw a very close nearfall.
[Q4] Almas wants a hammerlock DDT with Gargano up top, but headbutts break Gargano free. Gargano is clutching the second ropes, Almas climbs over, Gargano slips under and pushes Almas off headfirst, dives through the ropes, tornado DDT/suicide dive, slingshot DDT, Almas barely kicks out!
Gargano’s chin is bleeding. A single blow to Almas knocks him down. They trade some weak blows from their knees. They get to their feet. Huge right from Almas, superkick from Gargano, Almas accidntally clocks the ref with an elbow. Gargano escape, but the referee is knocked out. Tommaso Ciampa shows up and lands a crutch shot on Gargano. Almas breaks free, hammerlock DDT, just as the referee comes to life, and the match is over, despite a slow count from the stunned referee.
WINNER: Andrade Almas in 16:57. A heck of a match until the dirty end. Rather fitting that the match had a “Dusty Finish” given Regal’s announcement tonight.
Post-match, Almas celebrates. Gargano finally sits up in the ring, and LaRae comes out to sit on the mat with him to console him. The announcer reminds us that Gargano must leave NXT. The crowd is chanting “No!” and some of the members of the audience are clearly quite emotional. LaRae helps Gargano to his feet. They hug in the ring to a “thank you Johnny!” chant. LaRae is crying. Ciampa is shown holding the crutch waving to Gargano as the final shot.
FINAL REAX: The Ciampa interference was obviously on the list of options to lead to the expected Gargano – Ciampa match at Takeover: New Orleans, but it was my least-favorite possible outcome, especially with the “Gargano leaves NXT” stipulation involved. Fantastic post-match segment to pull the emotions right out of the gut. Well done all around.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 2/14 NXT TV Report: Ember Moon vs. Baszler, Dunne vs. Strong, TM61 in action, Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream