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NXT recap & reactions (Apr. 8, 2020): The Last Time

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NXT returned last night (Apr. 8) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Empty Arena

The empty arena match started with a ton of promise. In the end, it delivered so strong moments. But the middle ended up dragging a bit.

They showed both men arriving to find Triple H sitting in the middle of the ring. The Game put down the rules one more time. This would be the last time they do this. And after he walks out the door, the match starts. Then he dropped a chair in the middle of the ring.

Trips left, the door closed, and the match began.

However from there, some of that potential was not realized.

They started with some background music, which I felt helped. Making up for the lack of crowd buzz has been a challenge for promotions across the board. Some underlying music to go along with the action is a way about it.

But that was dropped after the first commercial break, and it just became a very long empty arena match. The lack of sound outside grunting and some smack talk wore out its welcome after awhile. I get whey they couldn’t have Mauro call this match, but I think something this long would have benefitted from someone calling the action. Especially Ranallo, who’s somewhat tied into this story. It’s a tough call because the beginning and the end benefitted from this being more of a movie, but the middle needed something to spice things up.

They filmed this more cinematically, with some different camera angles. That was appreciated. The drone angle used when they were fighting on a truck outside (no con-chair-tos) was really cool.

They had some call backs to their feud. Johnny Gargano called out all of Ciampa’s old injuries and hit those spots with chairs. The crutch made an appearance. They pulled back the padding on the ring again. They worked to try to connect this all together.

This match didn’t warrant the entire hour. They did all they could to make it personal, but it could have been half the time and probably just as good.

However, I thought the ending was fantastic.

When Candice LeRae walked in and asked both of them what they hell they were doing to each other, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. She wasn’t always the best actress in this feud. But she nailed it here.

Looking at Tommaso and saying “Are you happy? I hate my husband” was just fantastic. Then she kicked Johnny in the balls and walked off. This left Tommaso there to finally reflect. He realized his role in all this and finally, finally apologized to Johnny. And they sat there two broken men who had spent the last two years breaking each other.

If they faded to black then and there, it would have worked. But this is wrestling and the stories need to progress. Matches need a winner.

It turns out Candice was playing a part (a second layer of pretty good acting here). She had handed Johnny something when they arrived and it was the cup he was wearing. Of course Tommaso wasn’t wearing one when she kicked him below the belt.

In the end, LeRae continues to stick by Johnny, joining him in the heel territory. We’ll see how that helps her overall character within the women’s division.

There was no interruption from Killer Kross like I had thought, but as Candice helped her hubby to the car, they walked past another car with two people in it. Two people that looked like it could have been Killer Kross and Scarlett Bordeaux.

Overall, the match was something different. It didn’t completely work. It felt too long, especially without the lack of any noise outside what came out of their mouths. But they presented it different than the other matches we see and the story beats they did hit were very good.


Ladder match

Io Shirai won the women’s ladder match to crown a new #1 contender for Charlotte Flair’s Women’s title.

It was a good match that was loaded with the action you’d expect. It wasn’t too long. (Ended around 8:30 and there was time spent on entrances.) Keeping it short helps when there’s no crowd to feed the energy needed.

All the women had their moments. Io had her impressive rope walk after getting her ladder pushed that she turned into a dive onto the rest. Tegan Nox & Mia Yim had the chokeslam/powerbomb combo to Raquel González, putting Dakota Kai’s heavy through the table.

It was the first look at Robert Stone really trying to pay dividends as he attempted to pull Chelsea up the ladder from the other side. They were of course thwarted, but it established Stone as someone all of Green’s opponents need to keep an eye on.

Shirai winning has its upside and downside. The upside is we get to see her face Charlotte Flair in what can be an excellent match. The downside is, more often than not, a new champion wins their first feud. And I don’t see that changing here. Io Shirai has been rather protected, especially since her heel(ish) turn. But there’s still nothing to show they see her as a champion caliber talent.

I think it’s more likely she loses and moves to the main roster. Either way, the match should be baller.


The Voice of NXT

Mauro Ranallo was backing calling the action. This was welcomed.

Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton were pretty good. And they used to be an NXT announce team (with Corey Graves). But Mauro is the voice of NXT.

Plus, that man can talk. One of the things his detractors point to is that he may talk too much. That he’s over the top. But that’s exactly what’s needed right now. Without a crowd to bring the energy, Mauro has stepped into that role.

During the ladder match, I didn’t notice the lack of a crowd, which could be pretty evident in a match like that. Part of that is because Mauro kept the energy and didn’t let up too much. There were no long swaths of silence, which nowadays just makes the lack of noise noticeable.


Also:

- We learned Malcolm Bivens’ tag team has a name. It’s Indus Sher, with Rinku and Saurav. This new team got a showcase win over the team of Ever-Rise. They looked pretty good for this first outing.


This was a very basic episode with just two main points - the ladder match, which was very good, and the final showdown, which had it’s moments but dragged on awhile. But still a pretty good 2 hours of wrestling.

Grade: B

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