KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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NXT TV TAPINGS REPORT
APRIL 11, 2018
ORLANDO, FLA. AT FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
REPORT BY TOM STOUP, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Suggested headline inclusions so you don’t have to read through too carefully and potentially spoil anything for yourself: TakeOver fallout – Johnny Gargano’s unfinished business, Candice LeRae, Undisputed Era’s next chapter with Roderick Strong, War Raiders, what’s next for Ricochet, and more
The line for entry stretched south from the doors, on to the Full Sail property, as opposed to the adjacent Ale House parking lot to the north as has been the norm. This is pure speculation, but the much more private and guarded orientation could be in response to an incident preceding last month’s taping in which a fan – who had previously been arrested at the Performance Center parking lot in a situation that turned violent – showed up to film himself verbally berating Vince McMahon and D-Generation X to the gathering crowd before escaping security in a waiting vehicle. I made the choice to leave this incident off that month’s report as I did not want to prove the fan’s methods effective by providing the attention the fan was seeking. Either way, the line is now better shaded in most areas so I am not complaining about entering Full Sail Live without breaking a sweat for once.
Shirts for the new singles champions, as well as Roderick Strong, enjoyed the most prominent display at the Merch truck.
Appearances from all three new champions, ECIII, Ricochet, War Raiders, and Kairi Sane were announced, as well as a match between Candice LeRae and Zelina Vega, and a no disqualification match between Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain.
(A) Lio Rush (with Babatunde) pinned Bobby Adams in a dark match. Babatunde was not announced with his last name, Aiyegbusi. He has also ditched the mystic gimmick, appearing without his robe, staff, or face paint. He helped Rush set up a victorious frog splash via distraction. Perhaps notably, Jessika Carr has been the referee for most of Rush’s matches. The two are familiar with one another from their time before coming to WWE.
Kayla Braxton introduced a TakeOver: New Orleans replay package by calling the event the most-watched TakeOver to date. Fans responded positively to the contents of the video, especially Roderick Strong’s heel turn and Johnny Gargano’s victory.
Johnny Gargano appeared with Candice LeRae, visibly elated to be welcomed back. He looked as his graphics on various screens with a validated expression. He pointed out his goosebumps, and said dreaming of returning “home” got him through those 37 intense minutes at TakeOver. He reiterated in detail why he had been feuding with Tommasso Ciampa. He credited the crowd with “shoving those ‘Johnny Wrestling’ signs in Ciampa’s face,” and thanked everyone for having his back before pledging his love for LeRae. Gargano went on to suggest he and LeRae only have one last piece of unfinished business. LeRae said she will be wrestling Zelina Vega. Gargano threatened, “If Almas gets involved, I will drop him like his name was Tommasso Ciampa.” Gargano then challenged Aleister Black for the NXT Championship.
(1) Ricochet pinned Fabian Aichner. Ricochet dominated the flip-heavy bout despite playing to the crowd between early sequences, and picked up the win with a 630 senton. On the ramp, Kayla Braxton asked the winner how it felt to make his Full Sail debut, confirming that his excellent match against Chris Dijak at last month’s tapings was not for air. Ricochet said it felt great, and he has watched WWE’s top stars like Bayley, Sami Zayn, and Seth Rollins come up through NXT. He went on, “Now it’s my turn, and I’m here to take things up a notch. I am here to prove to the NXT Universe why there is one and only Ricochet.”
(2) War Raiders pinned the Metro Brothers. The War Raiders were welcomed by the crowd with stomps to the beat of their entrance theme, and chants of “War Machine.” The Raiders made quick work of the greaser-looking Metro Brothers (named Chris and JC), winning with a top rope leg drop team maneuver strikingly similar to New Day’s Midnight Hour.
In a rare instance of a referee or ring announcer overtly responding to adulation, Drake Wuertz smiled and gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he tucked away the tag ropes ahead of the upcoming match. Occasionally Jessika Carr will acknowledge cheers with a smile, and Mike Rome’s “socks” routine has become something of a ritual (at the chant of “socks” Rome will subtly raise a pant leg to reveal the design of his socks). Notably, Rome was present but Kayla Braxton handled all the ring announcing.
(3) Lars Sullivan pinned Killian Dain in a no disqualification match. Dain looked to take early control on the outside by launching Sullivan in to the steps, but Sullivan caught a subsequent suicide dive attempt and sent Dain in to the ring post. Sullivan drew blood by relentlessly clubbing Dain with forearms. He suplexed Dain out of the ring, and hurled himself at the prone Irishman from the top rope. Collecting a near fall, Sullivan then went beneath the ring for chairs. Dain used the time to recover, and leaned a table against a turnbuckle after getting Sullivan down. Dain softened Sullivan with a chair shot to the back, but Sullivan would not allow himself to be thrown through the table. Sullivan went for a diving headbutt, but only made contact with a chair as Dain evaded. Dain then hit a thunderous cross body, driving Sullivan through the table. Sullivan rallied to achieve a mere one-count on Dain. Equal exchanges of chair-centric offense led to Sullivan delivering the Freak Accident on a pile of chairs for the win.
At this point security became strict about telling fans to remain seated, much to the displeasure of several regulars.
A new canvas was arranged to clear the ring of debris.
(4) Candice LeRae submitted Zelina Vega. Vega entered to Andrade Almas’ theme. Vega shoved LaRae, but LeRae quickly took control. Almas leapt the barricade to distract LeRae before the match had even gone 60 seconds. When Johnny Gargano soared in to respond, Vega dumped LeRae out of the ring and in to his path so he could not reach Almas. After some brief action, LeRae locked in the Gargano Escape. Almas attempted to interfere but found himself in a Gargano Escape as well, courtesy Gargano himself. Vega then tapped. Gargano took the mic to reiterate his challenge to Aleister Black, who immediately entered from stage left looking quite dapper. Aleister simply stated, “You want it? Then next week you shall have it.”
The three original Undisputed Era members entered. Bobby Fish was in a leg brace. Roderick Strong joined them in an Undisupted Era shirt. Adam Cole boasted about his performance at TakeOver, and said his group has overcome NXT’s efforts to prevent them from becoming champions. Fish had a turn on the mic, then handed it to Strong. Strong said, “Everybody wants to know, ‘why, Roddy, why?’” He said for once he did something for himself, and at TakeOver he made the best decision of his life. He said Pete Dunne would have inevitably turned on him, as Dunne only cares about his UK Championship. He went on to describe Undisputed Era as a group that has each others’ backs – something he wanted to be a part of. After O’Reilly had his go at the self-adulation party, Cole said he was about to defend his North American Championship against Oney Lorcan, and he doesn’t need anyone at ringside because “no one needs help beating Oney Lorcan.” This was a highly entertaining and humorous promo that promised good things for Strong’s new casting, and Undisputed Era’s near future in general.
(1) Adam Cole (c) pinned Oney Lorcan to retain the NXT North American Championship.
Lorcan targeted Cole’s bandaged ribs. Cole tried to stay away from the aggressor at ringside, rolling in once to break the referee’s count. When Lorcan came for Cole, Cole knocked him loopy with a kick to the head. Cole battled through pain, maintaining the upper hand for a while before Lorcan fed off the crowd to rally. Just as Lorcan was about to leap on Cole from the top rope, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong ran in under the guise of concern for their leader. O’Reilly threw up the “X” symbol. Strong attacked Lorcan as the officials were distracted, helping Cole collect the win.
After the fall, Undisputed Era continued beating down Lorcan. Danny Burch ran in to help his partner, but was left laying for his efforts.
(2) Heavy Machinery pinned Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. The ring almost appeared to move five inches when Dozovic & Knight ran the ropes simultaneously. Heavy Machinery dominated early as the match quickly broke down, at one point standing atop the felled Sabbatelli and Moss. Once the referee established order, Sabbatelli & Moss were able to isolate Dozovic. When Knight finally tagged in and Moss looked to tag out, Sabbatelli left the apron, abandoning his partner. He smirked from the stage as he watched Heavy Machinery destroy Moss. Knight took the mic to declare that Heavy Machinery is all about having a good time. Dozovic added, “and we never forget!” They called out War Raiders, saying they will raid all the buffets and eat all the steaks, and then raid all the gyms and lift all the weights.
Kayla Braxton announced a WWE UK Championship match between Pete Dunne (c) and Roderick Strong.
(1) Kairi Sane pinned Shazza McKenzie. Sane caught a blown kiss from McKenzie, threw it away, and mimed watching it disappear in to the distance through a telescope. Sane got in her signature spots, and earned victory with her diving elbow.
Lacey Evans interrupted Sane’s celebration to feign an apology for her prior statements. Sane debated accepting before Evans knocked her straight to the ground with a hard forearm.
(2) TM61 pinned Street Profits. The Profits’ synergy put them at an early advantage, but TM61 responded by exhibiting their own cultivated teamwork. Montez Ford got the hot tag, and began taking care of business with no nonsense. Ford almost looked like he could win the match single-handedly before getting caught in a pinning predicament in which one of his opponents held his feet from the outside. The referee did not catch the illegal tactic, inciting protest from the Profits.
(3) Kona Reeves pinned Patrick Scott. Reeves displayed his progress in an enhancement match that was not popular with the disagreeable crowd, but could signpost the beginning of greater relevance for the Hawaiian grappler as he looks to make a name for himself.
(4) Bianca Belair pinned Candice LeRae. LeRae entered, looking dejected, with no explanation for her demeanor. Belair made her way to the ring to a new theme that opens with a whipping sound effect. The contest appeared even until Belair deadlifted LeRae and planted her face-first in the turnbuckle. LeRae mounted a comeback but was easily swatted down. Following Belair’s celebration, LeRae remained in the ring, gathering her strength.
(1) Pete Dunne (c) defeated Roderick Strong via disqualification to retain the WWE UK Championship.
Strong entered to his own theme, which transitioned to the Undisputed Era theme as Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly joined him. This match of the night was, of course, an exceptionally stiff contest from the bell. Cole and O’Reilly emoted at ringside. Strong taunted Dunne, and leaned on his signature aggression to make Dunne appear vulnerable. Cole and O’Reilly stayed out of the action, but the referee’s split focus due to his concern about them served as a detriment to Dunne. As the hot proceedings neared climax, Dunne finally rallied and hit the Bitter End. Before the three could fall, Cole and O’Reilly interfered to break up the pin. Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan ran in to even the odds, and the three Brits stood tall as Undisputed Era fled.
Ricochet entered in a maroon suit jacket. He said everywhere he goes, he is remembered, and that he wanted to make sure he was the main subject on fans’ lips coming out of WrestleMania weekend. The crowd obnoxiously harassed him for noticeably not wearing socks with his fashionable shoes. Ricochet acknowledged the socks issue, and deftly transitioned in to a challenge for the NXT Championship.
Velveteen Dream interrupted, aghast, asking how Ricochet has the authority to insert himself in the title picture. The wrestlers exchanged effective barbs as they battled the unwarrantedly irreverent crowd.
This competitive rivalry feels precisely where these two talents need to be right now, and should serve as an excellent showcase for them both – on the stick and between the ropes.
(2) ECIII pinned Raul Mendoza. ECIII made easy work of Mendoza. As ECIII mouthed along with his theme’s lyrics, he was interviewed on the ramp by Kayla Braxton and called himself a mythical deity. He said he will collect “victory after victory after victory after victory,” and that he will change NXT to NX3.
(3) Dakota Kai pinned Vanessa Borne. Borne instructed the fans to “shut up” as they chanted for Kai. Kai went for her finishing kick early and Borne evaded, leaping at the window of opportunity. Borne demanded the crowd cheer for her. Each wrestler took a turn on offense, and after successfully chaining two of her signature kicks in a row Kai emerged victorious with a sunset flip lumbar check.
Shayna Baszler entered and confronted Kai, but instead locked a chokehold on Borne. Kai watched, wanting to help but knowing it wouldn’t end well either way. Kai exited, no desirable solution available.
Kayla Braxton threw an autographed shirt to “the loudest fan.”
Johnny Gargano entered to wrestle Aleister Black for the NXT Championship, but Tommasso Ciampa attacked him on the ramp. Ciampa, his right eye adorned with medical tape, looked to send Gargano through the announce desk. Gargano saved himself with a flurry of furious strikes, but wound up taking a knee to the face that was also made to appear as though it broke a stage fixture. Fans derided Ciampa, who then slammed Gargano in to the floor from the stage and waved goodbye as Candice LeRae and Kassius Ohno came to Gargano’s side. Gargano was carted out on a backboard.
On screen, Gargano was shown being loaded in to an ambulance. Aleister Black strut past and silently surveyed the scene. As the ambulance drove off, Ciampa was revealed atop a nearby equipment semi, waving.
As the vocal crowd expressed displeasure at what they thought was the night’s final segment, Kayla Braxton slyly signaled that two matches remained.
(4) War Raiders defeated Heavy Machinery. The crowd attempted to stomp to the beat of the War Raiders’ theme again, but sounded like Steve Martin trying to find his rhythm in “The Jerk.” The brutish pairs went blow for devastating blow for a short period. Once Dozovic was eliminated from the action by a suicide dive, Knight fell to the Raiders’ team finish.
(5) Tommasso Ciampa pinned Kassius Ohno. Ciampa entered to no music, and wore his golden knee brace and a fresh medical patch on his upper right thigh, but no eye tape. Ohno wasted no time bringing the hurt to Ciampa on the outside. Once between the ropes, Ciampa found enough openings with which to even the odds. Ohno removed an elbow pad and a knee pad and began decimating his sniveling opponent with impactful strikes. Ciampa cowered behind the referee, and used his wrist tape to choke Ohno. Ciampa ducked an elbow and scored a near fall off a shining wizard. The two exchanged blows, once connecting forearms. When Ohno spun to hit a discus clothesline, Ciampa struck him to the ground and picked up the win. After the bell, Ciampa removed his knee brace and used it to choke the crestfallen Ohno.
Aleister Black stormed out to no music. He took the mic to address the Tommasso Ciampa situation, but was immediately interrupted by Sanity (without Nikki Cross). Eric Young began saying that Johnny Gargano brought hope to NXT and was eliminated by chaos, but Aleister cut him short. “Are you looking for this?” Aleister asked, holding up his title. “Then let’s do this.”
(6) Aleister Black (c) pinned Eric Young (with Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe) to retain the NXT Championship in what felt like a dark match. After Young needed to collect himself on the outside, Black looked to dominate before the suddenly heelish ringside members of Sanity distracted the referee and gave Young an opening. Young relied on submission holds to wear the champion down. Eventually Black hit a Fade to Black out of nowhere and scored the pinfall. Dain and Wolfe pounced, and also ate Fade to Black roundhouse kicks for their efforts. Black made the rounds greeting fans as his music played.