In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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WELLS’S NXT TV REPORT
MARCH 18, 2020
TAPED IN ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY KELLY WELLS, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Triple H, Tom Phillips
Tonight after NXT, join me live with cohosts Nate Lindberg and Tom Stoup to break down the show with live callers and mailbag.
•STREAM LIVE HERE ABOUT 30 MINUTES AFTER NXT
•CALL: (515) 605-9345
•EMAIL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS: email@example.com
•IF YOU DON’T LISTEN LIVE, SEARCH “PWTORCH” ON YOUR PODCAST APP TO SUBSCRIBE AND THEN DOWNLOAD OR STREAM THE FULL SHOW AN HOUR OR SO AFTER TAKEOVER
-The show opened with a recap of the Tommaso Ciampa-Johnny Gargano feud, teed up by Triple H and Tom Phillips, largely stepping over the line of kayfabe. Ciampa and Gargano were rejected by WWE on the same day, and while Gargano was placed into the Cruiserweight Classic, Ciampa wasn’t planned for it. Ciampa talked himself into a match with Gargano to lose in the first round, which was a massive step in the direction we see today.
Gargano’s marriage to Candice LeRae was also covered, just in case you wondered whether we were supposed to forget it as the Ciampa-Gargano feud enters a new stage.
(Wells’s Analysis: They’re doing what they can with the state of the world. The show isn’t giving any indication as to when the TakeOver matches will happen yet, but uncertainty is the only certain thing at this point)
-After commercial, the Ciampa-Gargano business continued. The #DIY stage of their careers was outlined, with the two growing as a team even as they were tag team champions. The two of them continued to meld real life with kayfabe, heading into the Authors of Pain (AOP now, and called out as such by Ciampa) taking their championships.
That led into the first battles between the two, with more commentary blurring the line.
-After another commercial break, it was back to Ciampa-Gargano, with their TakeOver: Chicago main event ladder match against AOP for the NXT Tag Team Championships. The match is largely forgotten because it was all about the post-match angle, but highlights reminded us how strong a match it was. A good 3-5 minutes were shown before the highlights got to Ciampa destroying Gargano after the match ended.
In current interviews, Ciampa said he did what he had to do, and Gargano said Ciampa didn’t care because he had to go have surgery anyway. Seriously, Gargano continues to come off as 100% babyface if the company insists on having a long memory. The show went to commercial, with 33 minutes so far dedicated to the main event of TakeOver, or whatever it’s going to be.
-Back from that commercial, the hype for Ciampa-Gargano continued, with Ciampa “costing Gargano his career” against Andrade. This led into the match between Ciampa and Gargano at TakeOver: New Orleans, where Johnny got Ciampa to tap while doing the Gargano Escape with the help of Ciampa’s crutch.
Back to current interviews, Ciampa continued to frame himself as the winner of the match because he was the star. The company genuinely doesn’t care which one is supposed to be a face and which is supposed to be a heel. This led to Ciampa having to relinquish the NXT Championship. The show went to commercial at 44 after the hour, still focused solely on this feud.
-The show returned with Ciampa’s relinquishing of his championship after the 238 greatest days of his career. Johnny essentially teed up his best of three falls match (not the three stages of hell) with Adam Cole that was supposed to be against Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: New York. A good amount of this match was shown, leading to Gargano finally winning the NXT Championship. Ciampa, in current interviews, mentioned that Gargano still has trouble getting his feet under him, and lost the championship in his first defense. Gargano said he couldn’t figure out why the fans gave Ciampa a hero’s welcome when he returned from injury. Ciampa talked about coming back and targeting Adam Cole, who now held the championship, leading into the mid-show commercial.
-The next segment outlined Tommaso Ciampa wanting his championship back. Gargano said he got caught up in it. This led into highlights from the Ciampa-Cole match in Portland. Johnny brained Tommaso with goldie. Did you know?
-After 80 minutes plus, the show pivoted to Finn Balor, who was the longest reigning NXT Champion. This week was meant to be Adam Cole’s victory lap for surpassing it, but that’s not likely to happen now. If NXT is able to return to some new content soon, at least Cole will be able to frame this in a heelish way, with Coronavirus against him.
-Finn Balor’s draft to Raw was outlined, as well as his win in a four-way with Cesaro, Rusev and Kevin Owens, followed by a singles win over Roman Reigns in the main event, and then Balor’s win to become first Universal Champion over Seth Rollins before realizing he’s injured. He points out that Jinder Mahal, Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley all had the best matches of their career with him.
(Wells’s Analysis: Interesting and amusing of the show to admit the massive limitations of those men, but I’ll never land on the side of wrestlers in kayfabe wanting to have great matches over wanting wins)
Balor went on about ow the best place to show he’s the best wrestler is in NXT. He said he woke up at 4 AM craving the adrenaline rush, but it wasn’t worth pleasing everyone. He needs to do what’s best for him. He said he didn’t want to waste three more years in WWE, so he went back to NXT. He went back to the Prince to do what he felt was right.
-Highlights from the Gargano-Balor match in Portland. Phillips said that up next, Rhea Ripley lets us in on her road to WrestleMania.
-The pirate ship WrestleMania spot played. It’s identical to the way it was before, except now there’s no mention of Tampa. Tom and Triple H mentioned that Mania is in 18 days, but didn’t mention the two-night part of it that was largely reported today.
This led into Rhea Ripley in a sit-down vignette talking about her road to WrestleMania. She said she lost who she was by trying to please everyone, but she wasn’t her. Heh, this is almost identical to what Balor said. Highlights were shown of Ripley in both Mae Young Classics, as well as her run through the NXT: UK women’s championship tournament (which she won). She was in NXT: UK for about 18 months and said there was nothing more for her to do. Her spot with Shayna Baszler was shown. “I know what you’re gonna say. You’ve beaten everyone here. But you haven’t beaten me, bitch!” Commercial.
-Rhea said that after Survivor Series weekend, everyone knew who she was, and the one thing missing was the NXT Women’s Championship. This led up to her December 18th championship win on NXT TV. Then we got a few highlights of Charlotte Flair winning the Royal Rumble, and Rhea challenging Charlotte…to challenge her. Then we got a few minutes of the Ripley-Bianca Belair match from the time when Belair was easily commanding the room among the three before she was pushed out of the way.
Rhea said WrestleMania is still on, and we’re not in Charlotte’s world of huge stadiums – we’re in Rhea’s world…the Performance Center in Orlando. She said no one’s there for Charlotte…just her. The venue may have changed, but the result won’t. She’s walking out NXT Women’s Champion.
-Triple H said trust him – he knows what’s coming your way, and WrestleMania will be one to remember.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show was hard to connect with at times, which isn’t surprising since it was essentially a double-length PPV pre-show, minus the bonus match. The segments aired were strong, and kept to just a few main points (Gargano-Ciampa, Balor, Ripley) rather than fanning out across TakeOver. No mention of TakeOver was made period, nor did we get any insight as to where and when these matches might take place.
As of now, WrestleMania is in 18 days, and this show did a good job of marching toward it, though I’m still waiting for yet another shoe to drop and for the entire thing to be cancelled once a wrestler tests positive for Coronavirus. Until then, I’ll try to look forward to the show anyway.