It’s our third title match in three weeks, but the opening video is all about one John Wrestling...
Anyway, by popular demand (or at least lack of any kind of outcry), I’ll be sticking with the format we rolled with last week and foregoing my attempts at match play-by-play (basic results are here), so let’s get to videos and reactions.
Reactions to the return of Johnny Gargano:
- It didn’t get the main event slot, but it probably should have. Gargano got a much better reaction to my ears than the tag titles and aftermath... but more on them in a moment.
- Everything about this worked for me. His slow, serious walk to the ring, some low key fan service about missing the crowd delivered with his signature Midwestern “aw shucks” charm, then switching to the heat for a big finish. I’m not as excited about whatever he’ll be doing in Brooklyn as I would be if it was a match against Tommaso Ciampa, but they did better than I thought they’d be able to do with re-directing Johnny in the course of one promo.
- “I never thought the guy I’d take a bullet for would be the one to pull the trigger on me.” How has this line never been uttered before? Has it? And I don’t just mean in wrestling - anywhere. Movies? Comics? A video game? It’s a great freaking line.
- Didn’t get enough of his new theme to really make a judgement, but my insta-take is that it sounded pretty blah.
- Long story short, Johnny Wrestling is here and he’s primed to be a big babyface star, even in an increasingly crowded WWE field. If they can resist the urge to ship him off to the cruiserweights, I could see fans at the next level getting behind him in a Daniel Bryan-esque way. Should be fun (and a little terrifying) to see how it goes.
Reactions to Authors of Pain’s win over Heavy Machinery to retain the tag titles:
- Credit to the “Steaks and Weights” crew. I’ve been slow to buy into their beefy charms, but they did pretty well here. Otis Dozovic in particular stood out as someone who would make a fun addition to Monday or Tuesday nights.
- Props to Rezar, as well. In addition to just being a little bit more precise than his AoP partner Akam, the taller Author is also the better actor of the two. Dozer and Rezar’s showdown in the early part of this match was the high point, and the champion made the challenger look like a star - especially by expressing amazement he couldn’t take the fire hydrant of a man down, and shock when Otis flattened him.
- Overall, the match fell flat, though. It had fun hoss fight moments, and everyone impressed in spots on that level. But we’ve spent so much time cheering for whoever the Authors face, we don’t really have any reason to hate them in a vacuum. And once the fun of chanting “HUZZAH” (or whatever) along with Tuckey and Dozer is done, we don’t have any real attachment to Heavy Machinery yet, either.
- That’s why Otis’ hot tag didn’t seem to get much of a response. Not sure where this fell in the taping, but everything after the Dozovic/Rezar stand-off left Full Sail less-than-impressed. A rather abrupt end to the title match and a too-clever-by-half taunt from SAnitY sealed the deal.
- When Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson have to explain the gimmick... “Wha? Are those... they look like pages? Maybe from a book? You don’t think... the Book of Domination!?!? You know, the one Paul Ellering, manager of tag team champions the Authors of Pain, is always talking about?”
- Understand why they tried it, though. Alexander Wolfe eating pages he caught out of the sky was almost worth it.
- Back to commentary for a second - I’m glad we’re getting the more focused Mauro from the CWC as opposed to the “pop culture reference” version from SmackDown, and I hope he gets more tuned in on subsequent tapings. But after years of it being a strength of WWE’s third brand, it makes me sad to say NXT announcing is something I actively try to tune out these days. Nigel and Percy just aren’t getting any better.
- So, SAnitY vs. AoP? Where does Heavy Machinery go? Shooting them to the top for a one-off title shot before moving the champs onto something bigger feels like a mistake. And the solution to Akam and Rezar not getting much heat is to put them against bigger heels? In Triple H I trust, but...
Reactions to everything else:
- Full Sail’s response to Bobby Fish is about what I expected, which is to say “HEY! ... oh” Really not clear on where all these pieces are supposed to fit, but that’s not my problem. It’s not even really WWE’s problem, as they’re probably just glad they’re not showing up on Pop TV, NJPW World or a Sinclair affiliate.
- Nice stiff outing for Bobby and Aleister Black. Even when I read that this was competitive in the spoiler report, I didn’t think it would be this competitive. Their styles meshed well and most folks were probably like me - just happy to see more of Black in the ring, so not too worried about him “looking strong” or whatever. And he still looked strong. Fish sold Black Mass like a million bucks.
- Pretty much match of the show by default, and would watch more Fish/Black any time.
- Vanessa Borne’s Mae Young Classic qualifying win over Jayme Hachey was every bit a developmental match. Borne’s a very attractive person who carries herself like a star, but she’s obviously new to this. Definitely interested in seeing how she fares in what will surely be a one-match stay in the tournament, but it’ll be back to the Florida house show circuit for a while after that.
- More Velveteen Dream big-timing and fabulous-splaining things to Kayla Braxton, less Nigel screaming about how he’s “flamboyent”.
- It’s rare that either Bobby Roode or William Regal are in a talking segment that doesn’t land, but the scene in the GM’s office which set up next week’s main event between Drew McIntyre and Killian Dain for a shot at Roode’s title didn’t work for me. The issue was with the script, as the material made it seem they were agreeing while Regal acted like he’d just outmaneuvered his champ.
- Street Profits... should be interesting. Hoping this is something that finally works for Angelo Dawkins. My man has been toiling in developmental for a loooong time. Can’t be worse than the time he played a backpack rapper, right?
A serviceable episode, but not one that stands out in NXT’s recent stellar run. Lots of good stuff to build on, but some questionable choices made for an edition which can be consumed with one finger on the fast-forward button, IMHO.