We're in Cali almost as much as Florida again tonight, so we've got red and a blue state action for you...
Charly Caruso introduces our first Dusty Classic semi-final of the night, which comes our way from the Los Angeles house show on Oct. 30. Tommaso Ciampa starts off against Akam and gets driven viciously into the corner, prompting a quick tag to Johnny Gargano who tries to bring down the Author of Pain with dropkicks. Rezar comes in, but Paul Ellering's charges miss clotheslines and end up taking leg striked and getting knocked to the floor. #DIY tries for dives after the heels huddle, but Gargano's is caught and then he's thrown into Ciampa when he tries to launch himself through the ropes.
After a commercial, Johnny is getting worked over - including by Ellering who slams his head to the mat. Gargano gets free by countering a slam into a tornado DDT, and then breaking Rezar's hold on his ankle with an enziguri. Hot tag to his partner, and Ciampa knocks Akam off the apron before lighting the other Author up with kicks & forearms and winning a battle of open-hand strikes with the larger man. After failing to get Rezar up for a German Suplex, Tommaso fights out of the corner and throws him with the move to a big cheer.
Johnny Wrestling tags himself in while Ciampa is hoisted up by Rezar, but his crossbody just lands him in the Author's arms, and they both are thrown across the ring by a fallaway slam/Samoan drop. That earns a nearfall, and AoP goes for their powerbomb toast, but #DIY reverses and ranas them down for a double pin that gets two. They soon isolate Akam for their superkick/high knee combo, but Ellering distracts the referee while they cover him.
Dash & Dawson appear from under the ring and eliminate Gargano with a DDT on the floor before fleeing through the crowd. That leaves Ciampa all alone for the Last Chapter, and the Authors win in nearly ten minutes to advance to the finals of the Dusty Classic.
We get a teaser for the mysterious "return" next week at Full Sail, and then Tye Dillinger is interviewed about facing Bobby Roode in Toronto. He runs down the Glorious One as a liar and backstabber before promising to turn Roode's hometown into "Perfect Ten City" when he wins.
- Appreciate the right to the action vibe of the show this week. Don't think they planned it knowing their audience would be experiencing one kind of hangover or another, but maybe they did. This recapper was exhausted, and just wanted to watch some wrestling, so the final four of the 2017 Dusty sure did hit the spot.
- For a variety of reasons, my love affair with the Authors was back in full bloom this week. Some of it is likely because there was more uncertainty about the result, so there big spots didn't feel as paint-by-numbers. A lot of it is because Gargano & Ciampa are operating at an insanely high level right now. They've both always been talented guys I enjoy watching, but the motivation of being in the 'E combined with the chemistry they've developed over the past year is something to see.
- Or, it might because I agree with Corey Graves and thought their throwing Johnny Wrestling into the Sicilian Psychopath to stop his suicide dive was the GREATEST THING I EVER SAW.
- Also, shout out to Corey for correctly pointing out that #DIY (do it yourself) doesn't make a damn bit of sense for two guys who rely on each other. Somebody get that guy who started the Reigns' body armor petition to move we change their name to #DIT (do it themselves) as Tom Phillips suggested.
- While I'm talking announcers, gonna go ahead and do my quarterly hand-wringing about WWE possibly changing voices at the NXT announce desk. With Graves adding 205 Live and Phillips doing SmackDown, I feel like its worth getting worried about again. And I am really worried, because they play a huge role in making this my favorite wrestling show. Maybe this "Return" business is Rich Brennan?
- Seriously, though... what's this "Return" business?
- While I remain a big Tye Dillinger supporter, I don't think he's knocked any of his promos out of the park since this angle with Roode started his current push. They're not bad or anything, but there's not a lot of fire at best and they're sometimes pretty awkward at worst. "Perfect 10 City" is not much of a big finish to the go home interview for your first big feud. Is it a Suplex City reference? Something about Toronto's "The 6ix" nickname? Why am I thinking about this this much?
Back to the Sunset Strip, and SAnitY attack TM-61 while they're doing their pre-match poses. Shane Thorne takes a nasty bump off the apron to the floor. Even Eric Young & Nikki Cross get a few licks in, and Thorne ends up having to start because Nick Miller isn't recovered at the bell. Shane battles both Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton, but they get a long two count early with a Hart Attack variation.
Fulton works a rest hold, then puts him down with shoulders and some-kind of diving headbutt to the mid-section for a nearfall. Wolfe comes in and thrash dances before applying a neck crank. Shane almost makes it to the corner when Miller recovers, but is cut off and Nick broke down to the floor again. Thorne gets worked over a bit more, but eventually makes the tag.
Nick clears house with suplexes and clotheslines. Sawyer eventually catches him from behind when he tries to clear Wolfe off the apron, and SAnitY tries for a double team but Fulton ends up hit with an uppercut in the back from his partner. He's dropkicked out and Miller rolls up Sawyer to advance in roughly six minutes. Young & Cross freak out and try to attack, but the Australians escape to celebrate.
General Manager William Regal requests a moment to make an announcement from his office, and reveals The Revival will defend their titles against Gargano & Ciampa in a two-out-of-three falls match at TakeOver. Graves and Phillips run down the rest of the card.
Bobby Roode gets a similar sit-down interview to the one Dillinger had earlier. He says Tye should be embarrassed of how he represented Dusty Rhodes in the tag tourney. In Toronto, he'll prove he's not close to a ten, and his win will be glorious.
- So, I think I've isolated one of the things stopping me from getting more excited about Thorne & Miller. Their trunks fit weird. Judge me if you will, but I get distracted from cheering for good guys if it looks like they're wearing brightly colored diapers.
- Their match with Wolfe & Fulton was fine, and I think they deserve most of the credit for what I liked about it. The SAnitY duo have inspired moments but need work on telling a longer story that's more varied than "we're vicious!"
- Hollywood seemed a bit more behind them in this round than past crowds have been, so hopefully they're catching on with American audiences. Toronto will be a big moment for them, and I don't think the Authors are the best partners for this kind of spotlight match (still pretty gutted they didn't get to face Austin Aries & Roderick Strong)... but I'm often wrong and hope this is one of those times.
- Another thing not working in TM-61's favor will be being compared to what should be an AMAZING tag title match. I'm looking forward to almost everything on Survivor Series weekend, but maybe nothing so much as the latest installment of Revival/#DIT.
- Roode is such a great jerk that I can cheer him and still root against him.
Women's action, as Rachael Evers (who worked NXT before under her real surname Ellering) gets a shot at Ember Moon. Evers starts aggressively, but Moon taunts her as the camera zooms in on her red eyes and fang-y teeth. A headscissors takeover and back elbow looks like Ember might end it quickly, but she misses a springboard crossbody, and Rachael delivers a gutwrench suplex and returns some trash talk during a chin lock. Moon fights back with a flurry of chops and a roar before climbing up to hit an Eclipse after three minutes for the win.
After learning Cedric Alexander will get his match against Andrade "Cien" Almas next week, it's main event time. Regal introduces the champ first, and then the challenger. With Shinsuke Nakamura in the ring, Samoa Joe stays on stage and heads backstage again. He returns with a table, saying he's staying there because he doesn't trust the GM to protect him the way he would Nakamura. Joe forced Regal to bring the contract to him, mocking the Englishman's accent in the process.
Once the contract is in Shinsuke's hands, he drops it and proceeds to take out all six security guards in the ring. After putting one of them through the table with a powerbomb, he signs before showing Joe his title and screaming that he'll still have it after TakeOver. The challenger looks shocked, but then feigns heading to the ring, but some officials cut him off, and that's a wrap.
- Evers is on my list of women they should sign, or use more often, right alongside Santana Garrett. Thought the Lance Storm-trainee looked good last time she was on the Network, and nothing here changed my mind.
- She helped Ember to one of her cleanest, most cohesive bouts on television, too. This was a good squash for Moon. She got to look like a boss, sell a little and comeback strong... all in just a few minutes and without any slip-ups or awkward pauses.
- If you've ever read my thoughts on a Samoa Joe promo, you can just cut and paste those here. He's consistently my favorite heel in WWE, and he delivered in a big way here. If he's not on bigger stages by the Rumble... I'll whine about it right here.
- Aside from my sadness/frustration that we'll never get the Regal/Joe feud we all deserve and they keep building to even though they can't give it to us due to the condition of the Villain's neck... I'm a little confused on the portrayal of the King of Strong Style. I get that, like Joe did while he was out, the champ is going to take out his anger on whoever he can until he can get his hands on his nemesis. But why are Regal and the brass okay with that? Sure, he looks like a badass, but also kind of a dick? Are they positioning him as a shades of gray, tweener-type and the crowd reaction to him is obscuring that?
- Good stuff from Nak, regardless. I prefer his eccentric assassin work more than when he's an off-putting goofball, as he was heading into Brooklyn.
- And Regal's simmering rage at Joe's disrespect? SO GOOD!
Another solid show which, as I said above, was just what the doctor ordered for this writer. The Dusty didn't exactly go as I thought it would or should, but they did well considering the injuries... and buring through it with time to build the final a bit (as they did with the announcement AoP's manager is getting the shark cage treatment) was a smart play.
And, as always, Joe is the man. Vote Joey Headrocker in 2020.
Did NXT punch your ticket this week?