4/8 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Ciampa vs. Gargano, women’s ladder match, fate of Cruiserweight and Tag championships

By Kelly Wells, PWTorch contributor


APRIL 8, 2020

Announcer: Mauro Ranallo


Tonight after NXT, join me live with cohosts Nate Lindberg and Tom Stoup to break down the show with live callers and mailbag.

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-Three(!) years ago, Tommaso Ciampa turned heel on Johnny Gargano after #DIY lost their tag team championship match with AOP. After that was shown, we got a hype video for tonight’s “TakeOver” main event. Check out Tommaso Ciampa’s twitter feed for a cool “TakeOver: Ciampa Bay” piece of art.

(1) SIX-WOMAN LADDER MATCH – #1 Contendership to Women’s Championship

Participants in order of entrance: Io Shirai, Tegan Nox, Chelsea Green (introduced by Robert Stone), Mia Yim, Dakota Kai (accompanied by Raquel Gonzalez), Candice LeRae. Last week I figured Io or Kai to win, though this was due to an assumption that Rhea Ripley would retain; I’d say LeRae or Yim come off as most likely now (I think it’ll be a while before Tegan gets to a championship match).

Three pairs go at it in separate corners. Kai dumps Shirai when she’s posing and Chelsea is dumped as well. Kai beats on the other three while Gonzalez gets her a ladder. The babyface women recover and circle Kai and beat her down, taking turns in the corner with elbows and cannonballs. All but LeRae headed out of the ring. Stone helped Green with a ladder and Io brought one in. LeRae tried to climb it as Io set it up, so Io let it go. The two traded shots until Green popped in and hit bulldogs on both, onto the ladder, leading into the first commercial.

Back from break, Green and Yim fought on the outside while Nox and Kai traded shots inside. Scorpion kick and a headbutt by Kai. Face wash. Nox blocked a pump kick and chokeslammed Kai. Nox fought off Green to grab a ladder and she set it up as Mauro sold it as inspiring that Nox was heading up with her surgically repaired knees. Everyone got involved and yanked each other from the top. Another ladder went up next to the first. Yim hit Seoul Food on LeRae and went up, but Green hit her with a chair. Yim recovered and wrapped up Green in another ladder. Io Shirai whipped Nox into a ladder and then went up, but Gonzalez knocked over the ladder she was on to go to another commercial after just two-plus minutes in the segment. Mauro’s voice was shot from the opening moments, so maybe he’s fighting something off.

Back again, Gonzalez cleared out the ring and picked up Kai in a fireman’s carry and took her up a few rungs. Mia Yim fought off Gonzalez and LeRae took down Kai. Yim was trying to powerbomb Gonzalez through a table outside the ring, and Nox gave an assist and they pulled it off. Kai broke Nox through a ladder on the outside to take her out of the action. LeRae and Kai fought their way up the ladder, and Shirai hit a springboard to clear out Kai. Shirai and LeRae went at it in the ring, and they bailed. Robert Stone talked up Chelsea Green, who was stil selling a bad leg, and she tried to go up the ladder but couldn’t. Stone ran up the other side of the ladder to assist Green up the ladder, despite her agony. She had her hand on the briefcase, but LeRae and Shirai hit the ring and took both of them down and out.

LeRae and Shirai fought their way up the ladder and exchanged shots when they got there. Shirai was able to toss LeRae backward and onto a table in the corner, and she unhooked the briefcase to win the match and become #1 contender.

WINNER: Io Shirai at 19:41, counting commercials.

(Wells’s Analysis: I overthought it and went against my own prediction, and here she is. I’m surprised they’re going to Charlotte vs. Shirai so quickly, though not necessarily against it. The match was pretty careful and measured by ladder match standards. With eight minutes of commercials, we likely saw almost all of the action, and it was kept safe which makes sense as it’s an empty-arena match anyway. There may actually be an interesting mini-storyline with Stone and Green here, with him forcing her through unimaginable pain despite her trying to beg him off, but it may have just been a story for the match alone)

-Last month, Finn Balor made threats to Walter on NXT UK. We were shown a recap of some of the events, as well as the majority of Balor’s match against Alexander Wolfe. It was nice, and almost jarring, to see and hear a crowd since this was part of a previous taping. Balor won with 1916 and the announcers said he had sent a message to Imperium.

Finn was shown in a vignette. He said he and Walter both controlled their own fates, but now the world is keeping them from making their next moves, but it won’t last…and Walter’s on borrowed time.

-Two weeks ago, Matt Riddle was jumped and destroyed by Malcolm Bivens’s new tag team, Rinku and Saurav, known collectively as Indus Sher.

-Another Killer Kross apocalypse segment played, this one showing much more of his face than those before.

-Mauro talked about Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde getting kidnapped by luchadors. Refreshingly, he was concerned.

(2) EVER-RISE (Matt Martel & Chase Parker) vs. INDUS SHER (Rinku & Saurav) (w/Malcolm Bivens)

Indus Sher has fantastic, driving, drum-heavy Indian theme music. Surprising to see Ever-Rise back after so long off TV.

Rinku and Martel opened. Headlock by Martel. Rinku no-sold an armbar and tossed Martel to Chase Parker, who tagged in. Parker threw forearms and a chop, also largely no-sold. Parker kicked Rinku in the face and tagged, and some tandem offense staggered Rinku a little. Another quick tag, and Martel hit a slingshot elbow for one. Rinku popped up and hit a lariat and tagged the even-larger Saurav. Tandem block. Saurav hit a body slam and stared down Martel in the corner before making a tag. Tandem arm drag. Martel chanted “defense!” in the corner. Big boots by Rinku. Big side slam by Rinku, who tagged Saurav again. Irish whip and a lariat by Saurav. Another tag. Rinku hit a big right forearm to the back of Parker, then another. Rinku yanked Parker backward through the air to cut off a tag, cleared Martel from the apron, and tagged Saurav. Big boot by Saurav. Pundulum backbreaker by Saurav, tag and an elbow drop by Rinku for the pin. Finisher was reminiscent of Demolition.

WINNERS: Indus Sher at 4:41.

(Wells’s Analysis: this is an excellent monster team already. The music, the look, the offense, and Bivens all add up to a great collective. No idea if they can have a great match with an established high-end team yet, but this was a great opening squash. I did a little sleuthing: Indus is a river, and “sher” means “tiger” in Urdu)

-Adam Cole once again made warnings to Velveteen Dream. He said he may have gotten lucky once against Bobby Fish, but lightning never strikes twice (yes it does! Lightning strikes twice or more rather often).

-Up next, a recap of the Rhea Ripley-Charlotte Flair match from WrestleMania.


-A minute or so of the Ripley-Charlotte match was shown, up to Rhea tapping. In a WWE.com exclusive, Charly Caruso attempted to congratulate Charlotte Flair, who waved her off. This is the same “it’s the man that makes the suit” promo that aired on Raw. As always, good heel work by Charlotte. In the Performance Center, Rhea Ripley sold the agony of defeat, saying “She’s a lot better than I expected.”

-Next week, a tournament for “interim Cruiserweight champion” begins. It’s a very strange concept that will make the lineage of the title look a little weird, but with a despicable heel like Jordan Devlin holding the real championship, they should be able to pay it off with a fun unification match whenever this stupid virus takes a vacation.

-Just minutes into the hour, it was apparently time for Gargano-Ciampa. Outside, Gargano and LeRae arrived together. Gargano said “You know I have to do this.” LeRae wouldn’t look at him, but she reached into the car, gave Gargano some kind of small sphere that was wrapped in a paper bag, and drove off.

In the ring, Triple H said it starts here and ends here. He doesn’t care what else happens. Drake is just here to record a winner. When he walks out the door, it’s on. Triple H threw a chair into the middle of the ring and left.

(3) TOMMASO CIAMPA vs. JOHNNY GARGANO – Street Fight, essentially

Ciampa kicked away the chair. The two jawed and then threw hands. No bell sounded. Just thirty seconds into it, the show went to commercial. The match was shot in high-quality cameras relative to the rest of the show, in the same “event”-style as the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House manner, though this won’t get as silly as the former or insane as the latter.

Back to TV, Ciampa and Gargano fought on the floor. Gargano stomped Ciampa and demanded “How’s the ACL?” Many words were bleeped. He said this is where it ends as he attempted to put Ciampa through a table with a suplex. Ciampa reversed and suplexed an upright Gargano into the post, then dropped him. Ciampa cleared off the table, but Gargano headed back into the ring. Ciampa gave chase, but got dumped and Gargano hit a tope. Gargano sat on the apron and mocked the Ciampa clapping/self back-pat spot. Gargano tossed Ciampa into a pile of garbage and cleared it away to keep up the assault. He told Ciampa to get up in between forearms to keep him down. He took a trash can lid to Ciampa’s neck, then grabbed a can to slam it on Ciampa’s back. Gargano said he expected more and he’s a little disappointed.

Back into the ring. Ciampa wanted the chair but Gargabo stood on it, then stomped a mudhole. Gargano asked how many surgeries there had been before taking the chair to Ciampa’s various injury spots. This cruelty is really working. Drake checked on Ciampa and asked if he should stop it, and Gargano mocked him and said Ciampa asked for it. Gargano used the chair again and said “I’m starting to feel a little bad, but don’t worry…it’s not gonna last much longer.” As Ciampa sold on the mat, the show went to commercial. Of note, though Mauro called the two previous matches, there’s no commentary for this match, other than the commentary done by Gargano himself.

Back again, Gargano did a springboard to the outside but Ciampa grabbed a trash can lid and hit Gargano out of the air with it. “Awww, you suck” Gargano said. Ciampa went at Gargano with the lid and the chair. He smashed Gargano’s fingers against the grounded chair as he went for it. He put Gargano’s head through the chair and tossed him into the post. Wuertz wanted some mercy. Ciampa did his clapping spot while yelling in Johnny’s face. Wuertz asked Johnny if he should stop it to no reaction.

Ciampa picked up the camouflage crutch and said it brings back memories. He yelled in Gargano’s face and threw feet and fists. Gargano was draped over a large laundry basket and as Ciampa approached, Gargano pulled out and used a fire extinguisher on Ciampa. They fought near one of the tables, and Ciampa fought off Gargano long enough to put him through the table. Both guys sold the pain. Ciampa got up and grabbed a pair of wirecutters to cut off the apron from one side of the ring. He continued taking apart the ring and removed the padding, starting to get to the wood beneath. Wuertz appealed to Gargano and asked how long they’ve been friends, and said he’s already beaten the hell out of him. It’s too far, he said.

Ciampa went out and put the boots to Gargano after exposing about half of the wood in the ring. Gargano fought to an exit, and after Ciampa followed, Johnny rolled a large crate into Ciampa. Gargano threw Ciampa into the side of a Performance Center semi a couple of times, then beat him down against one of the tires. Johnny rolled the crate hard into the wheel, where Ciampa barely escaped, and rolled under the semi. Gargano looked for him, and Ciampa went to the top of the cab, then up to the top of the semi. Ciampa said this was his world, and he implored Johnny to follow him up.

Johnny went up and the two stared each other down on the semi. Drake stood in the corner of the semi just barely on top of it, in the most dangerous spot. A nice-looking drone shot captured the first few shots that each took. Ciampa got the better of Gargano and tried to stomp on him, but he moved. Both guys were prone on the semi, still near the front, just over the cab. Gargano put on Gargano Escape as Drake stood over them. Gargano went for a thrustkick, blocked. Both guys hit superkicks. Another drone shot picked up both guys selling as the show went to another commercial.

Back at :35 past the hour, Ciampa crawled down off the semi and went back inside. He said “It ends in here, Johnny,” and walked a few steps in. Johnny was up on a platform and jumped down off of it to take Ciampa down. “You’re right…it does end in here.” He said it ends where it started, and that’s what Ciampa wanted. Gargano rolled Ciampa into the ring onto the exposed wood, then tossed in some chairs. He went at Ciampa with some lefts in the corner, then stomped a mudhole. He set up Ciampa on the top turnbuckle and threw fists, then surveyed the scene and went up. He went for a fireman’s carry, but Ciampa elbowed Gargano into oblivion, then picked up Gargano into Air Raid Crash, and he flew to the outside to the floor with it, not using a table to break the fall. Drake’s “oh god” sounded genuine as he went out to check on them to ask if they wanted to stop this. Again, neither said anything.

Ciampa recovered first and rolled Johnny into the ring and went for a cover for two. A cover feels so jarring after what we’re seeing. The match went to commercial again, for the last (or maybe second to last) time.

Back to the battle, Ciampa had the crutch and Johnny had the trash can lid. Ciampa swung and missed while Johnny connected, then leaned on Ciampa with the crutch. He used the crutch to choke Ciampa and told him to tap, but Ciampa reached the lid and hit Johnny’s face to break. Gargano came back with a couple of lid shots, including a big unprotected shot to the back of the head. Several shots to the body followed. Gargano used the crutch to steady himself and threw a superkick to Ciampa. He set up the crutch again and hit another superkick. He said Ciampa was a failure as a man and a husband and a father. Ciampa laughed. Gargano used the crutch to choke Ciampa, who still laughed. He said Ciampa’s a monster and would thank him for this. Ciampa exploded with rage and smashed the crutch into smithereens on Gargano’s back. Again, many bleeps. Ciampa backed into a corner to set something up, and indeed, there was one more commercial at :47 past the hour.

Ciampa swung and missed with the crutch, but grounded Johnny and wrenched him into a crutch-assisted camel clutch. Wuertz got caught up in it and was selling pain when he got hit with an errant Ciampa knee and was tossed to the outside. Ciampa bailed and Gargano followed. They were on the side with all the wreckage, but both returned to the ring. Ciampa hit his draping DDT on the wood, but there was no ref to call it. Wuertz was established as still selling on the floor.

Gargano looked to reach for Ciampa’s hand in an extreme-closeup, and Ciampa yanked his hand away. Both grabbed parts of the broken crutch. Ciampa charged and got superkicked, but hit a thrustkick himself. They both connected with crutch shots in the middle of the ring.

Candice LeRae walked in and checked on Gargano, and was emotional. She told them to stop and begged to know what they were doing. She begged Johnny to stop. She faced Gargano and asked who he is. She charged up to Tommaso and said “I hate my husband. Are you happy?! Finish it, Tommaso.” She said if he’s not going to finish it, she will. LeRae kicked Johnny in the nuts and walked off. Ciampa didn’t look to be in on the attack. He sat back into the ropes and considered all that had happened. He knelt above Johnny and seemed to understand how far this had gone. He seemed to be helping Johnny and looking after him, though their words were quiet. Johnny got to his knees across from Ciampa and didn’t know whether to push him away or not. Ciampa said “I’m sorry.” He repeated it over and over.

Johnny said “I’m sorry too,” and LeRae showed up in the background, and sucker-kicked Ciampa in the back. Gargano smirked, pulled a cup from his pants, and said “you lose.” Johnny slammed Ciampa to the wood for the win.

WINNER: Johnny Gargano in 52+ minutes, including commercials.

Johnny and Candice embraced. Candice helped Johnny outside to their car and they drove away.

(Wells’s Analysis: Well, that’s certainly not the kind of thing you’ll see on any other episode of NXT. The story still isn’t seemingly over, though Triple H has warned the two against going at one another again. The tease with Candice handing something in a paper bag to Gargano before the match definitely set up some shenanigans, though it was far from obvious what that would be, and by the time she kicked Gargano I’d almost forgotten about it. You could gripe about why Candice would wait for so much brutality before she pulled off her stunt, but setting that bit of logic aside, this surprisingly never felt dull or overbooked to me despite the lengthy runtime, mostly because the feud has earned it. The drone shots outside during the truck segment were a lot of fun to look at, and a match that eats up this much time is in need of some different environs and editing. Wuertz also played his role to the hilt, and became a very important part of selling the brutality and emotion of the match since there were no announcers (which was also a very cool touch). Very cool all around.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: With just three matches, this was the lightest show for match count in a very long time, which isn’t a huge surprise given that the DIY match started just a couple of minutes into the second hour. Gargano and Ciampa continued to do great work together, and though this was marketed as the “final beat,” it’s impossible to fathom that the two are kept apart for much longer, unless Ciampa finally does jump to Raw or SmackDown, which I suppose is a possibility given the large number of babyfaces and tweeners that can hold down the fort in his place. I absolutely loved the Indus Sher in-ring debut, and it was nice to finally see the underutilized Ever-Rise as well. The ladder match was kept short(ish) and controlled, and sets up a very intriguing meeting between Charlotte Flair and Io Shirai.

The only hint that there will be new content next week came in the form of the Cruiserweight title picture, with the promise of a tournament starting next week. I’m a sucker for tournaments, so even though Jordan Devlin should really just be champion over there and it wasn’t really explained why he couldn’t be, this should lead to some fun TV and a big payoff with Devlin down the line. A lot of empty arena shows have been just okay – last week’s episode of NXT comes to mind – but thumbs way up for this one. Follow me on social media @spookymilk.

3 Comments on 4/8 NXT ON USA REPORT: Wells’s report on Ciampa vs. Gargano, women’s ladder match, fate of Cruiserweight and Tag championships

  1. Tremendous effort, kudos to all involved. Ciampa should take a well-deserved break and then debut as a monster face on RAW or SD.

    • I agree. It’s weird to think of Ciampa anywhere else, but without Goldie or Gargano in his sights, it’s time to move on to freshen up both Ciampa and the NXT main event scene.

  2. I’d agree too if anyone but Vince was in charge of Raw/SD. He has a history of misusing smaller guys who got themselves over in NXT.

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