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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Feb. 21, 2018): Nothing to say

For a more detailed recap, check our live results post here.

A typically excellent package for this episode’s main event leads to the first match, where Velveteen Dream def. No Way Jose via pinfall following Purple Rainmaker. Dream addressed the adoring crowd, mocking last year’s NXT Award winners - including Tyler Bate - saying people don’t care about them, only him.

What stood out here more than anything was the reaction from the Atlanta crowd at Center Stage. There were a few pockets of fans shaking it to Jose’s music, but no one was line dancing. They were too busy cheering for Velveteen.

That made the match interesting, as well. No Way got in a lot of offense - to the point I questioned if we might not see an upset which could be part of a longer program and/or double-turn. In the end, Dream pulled it out with a nifty counter to Jose’s pop-up punch, but how VD mounted a comeback amidst the crowd support felt... strange.

Mostly, it’s weird that Jose, a performer we haven’t seen much of lately and who will likely be in a Tye Dillinger-type role on the main roster in a few months, was booked to be anything but a roadbump for one of the hottest acts on the black-and-yellow brand. In the end, I guess that’s what he was. But this didn’t seem like an ideal way to position Dream for a shot at a former United Kingdom champion.

Which, if the past couple weeks worth of name-drops didn’t clue you in, this fallout video of Bate spilling water on a thirsty Dream (you can cut the sexual tension with a knife!) makes it clear this match will be coming our way soon.

General Manager William Regal announces that The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic starts in two weeks, with the winner getting a tag title shot at TakeOver: New Orleans on April 7.

Woo-hoo! A(nother) tournament!

Mauro Ranallo rattled off four likely entrants while segueing back to the ring after Mr. Regal’s announcement - Authors of Pain, TM61, Street Profits and Heavy Machinery. Expect four more teams in addition to those, as they’re going to have to blow through the bracket to produce a winner for Undisputed ERA to face WrestleMania weekend.

Nikki Cross def. Vanessa Bourne via pinfall following The Purge. Recaps of last week’s segment between Aleister Black and Killian Dain and the end of the Women’s championship match are shown, and we learn that the latter was prelude to a showdown between Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler which will air next Wednesday.

Oh hai, Nikki. As pleased as I always am to see the Bannockburn Banshee, this was just here to remind us she exists. It’s a real bummer that’s all we’re getting after seeing what she’s capable of in the Asuka feud and during her on-again, off-again stints as a title contender in 2017. Cross looked good, her psycho act is always fun, “The Purge” is a great name for her finisher, but it appears you need to hit a house show to see her for more than two minutes at a time, either on her own or with SAnitY.

Bourne didn’t get to do a whole lot, either, but the offense she got in was much crisper than the last few times we saw her. I’d say “looking forward to seeing more of her”, but finding time for anyone - especially women - is becoming a challenge. I’m not holding my breath we’ll see her again until after ‘Mania.

Very recap-heavy show this week. Not that WWE’s video packages aren’t always great, but an interview or other talking segment with Sane, Baszler or Ember Moon would have been welcome in setting up next Wednesday’s rematch of the Mae Young Classic final.

Andrade “Cien” Almas def. Johnny Gargano via pinfall following a hammerlock DDT, and after a crutch shot from Tommaso Ciampa while the referee was down forced the challenger to release Almas from his Garga-No Escape submission. In addition to Cien retaining the NXT championship with the win, as a result of his loss, Johnny has to leave NXT. He and wife Candice LeRae exit to “Thank You” chants from the crowd while Ciampa waves goodbye.

Man. Not even sure I’m ready to talk about this yet. And I’d read the spoilers and knew what was coming. But, this is why I get the small bucks. Here goes.

The match itself was really good. Better than their television match from October, but not as good as either Brooklyn or Philly. This was a lot like their classic from last month, with callbacks to and escalations from TakeOver which made this feel like a worthy sequel without coming anywhere near overshadowing what came before. Candice taking out Zelina Vega early felt right, and proved she’d learned not to give Andrade’s business associate too many chances (aka, she’s smarter than your average babyface). Almas targeting Johnny’s arm again was a nice reminder, while each man trying for the other’s finisher was a cool new wrinkle. The importance placed on Gargano’s slingshot DDT throughout the match was smart, and really heightened the suspense when the challenger connected with it toward the end. The ensuing striking battle was intense, and made both wrestlers look like freaking warriors.

Almas and Gargano have something special. Then there’s that rat****er Ciampa.

Taking off the kayfabe hat for a second (which is REALLY HARD because everyone involved here has worked us so well and I love it), I had zero problems with how the end came about. Ref bumps usually get a big old eye roll from me, but the way this one occurred out of Cien and Johnny so convincingly depicting two fighters nearly blind with exhaustion, determination and frustration... it just made sense.

Spoilers or no, everyone knew Ciampa was showing up, right? That was why he was at TakeOver - to plant the seed for this. So he showed up at the optimal time to inflict the most pain. And it worked.

It also helped cement El Ídolo as a badass. In general, I’m not crazy about how the champion has been presented as a supporting character in someone else’s blockbuster storyline. But at least between the ropes, they’ve cut no corners in making Almas look like one of the best wrestlers in the world. Tommaso’s act of villainy only costs his #DIY partner a chance at winning. We don’t know if Andrade would have eventually tapped to Garga-No Escape, only that the Blackheart deprived Johnny of the chance to find out.

The aftermath was even better than the match. Vega and Almas wiping their hands of the whole affair in a understandable yet consummate act of douchebaggery. The Wrestlings’ heartbreaking acceptance of Johnny’s fate (still not sold on LeRae’s ability to emote in an angle like this, but it might just be that she doesn’t look good doing it in comparison to her husband, who is amazing in this role). And, last but certainly not least, the Sicilian Psychopath’s dead-eyed, smirking farewell wave.


This is a very good program.

Truly wasn’t blown away by this edition of NXT until the last 5 - 10 minutes, but I’m also not willing to give a show which contained those 5 - 10 minutes anything less than...

Grade: A-

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