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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Mar. 21, 2018): Define insanity

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

After getting mostly booed down by the fans at Full Sail, Tommaso Ciampa mocks the Johnny Gargano supporters in the front row, but gets jumped by one of them who turns out to be... Johnny Gargano! Security drags Johnny from the building while Charly Caruso catches us up on The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, including the injury to Tyler Bate which forced Moustache Mountain to withdraw from the tournament. Undisputed ERA gets a promo to trash talk the eventual Dusty winner and Adam Cole to rundown his opponent on this episode, Kassius Ohno.

- Simple yet effective. I both feel like I have nothing else to say about the Gargano/Ciampa feud and never want to stop talking about it at the same time.

It’s not what Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are doing on SmackDown, or the kind of work Roman Reigns and John Cena are taking part in on Mondays. That’s not me throwing shade on main roster WWE programs, either. I’m enjoying all those stories. But they’re ones that get several segments across multiple hours to build, week after week. NXT’s made sure this rivalry’s been on our minds since TakeOver: Chicago, and they’ve had to use their time efficiently and creatively to do so.

These three episodes worth of watching the Blackheart try and fail to get his message out have been a great way to remind us of his paranoia and further his descent into madness. Having this be the week he literally wiped his ass with a Gargano emoji sign and yelled at a grandmother-type was the perfect crescendo to the reveal of Johnny Luchador.

Really, the only disappointing thing here was... why did this have to be the first time in recorded NXT history that security’s been effective in stopping a fight and removing a wrestler from the premises? It took twice as long to get Bo Dallas out of Full Sail, and more staff than this failed to keep Asuka and Nikki Cross apart before Last Woman Standing.

Ah well. After Johnny failed to get back in the building in this fallout video (major props to the fan who came up with “he’s just trying to visit his wife - she works there!” as a reason the guards should let him in, though), I’m anxiously looking forward to how Mr. Regal addresses Gargano’s actions... and whatever small-yet-smart turn this feud takes next.

- No complaints about seeing Caruso back on the black-and-yellow brand, or another another means of advancing stories from the creative and production teams. A quick explanation as to why Trent Seven didn’t get to pick a replacement would have been nice - just have him say he only wants to win the belts with Bate; that they didn’t bother might not bode well for his stock. Otherwise, Charly’s command center was a fresh way to summarize and move things along.

- Worth noting they’re holding out on discussing Bobby Fish’s injury for as long as possible. Reports didn’t make it sound like his working WrestleMania weekend was even an option, so I guess they just want to postpone tweaking the narrative further for as long as they can.

Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne def. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch via pinfall to advance to the second round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic after Strong hit Burch with End of Heartache. A “coming soon” video plays for Ricochet!

Really enjoyed this match, and am digging the Strong/Dunne partnership. They don’t seem to like each other, but their chemistry has been as strong together as it was when they were across from each other, and it could lead to interesting things long-term for both of them.

Roddy was the one to initiate the relationship, first by expressing his admiration for their United Kingdom Championship match, then by helping the champ deal with their mutual nemeses in the ERA. This was their first chance to work together without Cole, Fish and Kyle O’Reilly as foils. Not only did they click as tag partners, but we could see the Bruiserweight slowly accepting his first real ally in WWE. He’s still too cool to admit that he likes having someone by his side, but that’s to be expected from a 24 year old ruffian.

It makes sense Dunne might let his guard down around a former World champ like Strong, who’s widely recognized as one of the best in the world. A mentor-mentee bond seems attainable, and would be a great way to give the UK titleholder a character it makes sense for fans to cheer. Or to have him stab Roddy in the back after we think he’s embraced him as a big brother. Either works.

The cloud lingering over this otherwise sunny scene was the continued bummer that they don’t seem to have much in the way of plans for Oney. He’s so much fun to watch perform, yet we only get to see him once every couple months. I was excited for this union with Burch, but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Let’s get Lorcan to 205 Live, or into the mix for the thing Regal is going to announce next Wednesday WWE already spoiled.

Ember Moon def. Aliyah via pinfall following Eclipse. Afterwards, Ember has a staredown with Shayna Baszler, who crashed commentary midway through the Women’s champion’s win to trash talk Moon and hype their rematch at TakeOver. After we’re told both Dusty Classic semi-final matches will be next week, Raul Mendoza comes out for a match, but gets blindsided off the ramp by Andrade “Cien” Almas. The NXT champ is furious Aleister Black disrespected his business associate Zelina Vega last week during the contract signing for New Orleans, and dares the #1 contender to face him. After a Lars Sullivan hype video video telling us he returns next Wednesday, the announce team informs us Black will be here on Mar. 28 as well.

- Baszler/Moon feels like it’s treading water at this point, as the kind of pacing NXT’s pulled off so well for Ciampa/Gargano hasn’t been replicated for the Women’s title feud. Their characters and conflict are well established, but we’re not getting the new wrinkles we’ve seen from the #DIY break-up or even the kind of development we saw from Black a week ago. If you’re a bigger fan of Ember’s gimmick, this may be more entertaining, but it’s not doing much for me right now... and I’m loving Shayna’s heel swagger.

- That Aleister’s tactics during last week’s closing segment succeeded in getting under El Ídolo’s skin was a good advancement of their rivalry, and individual acts. We know Zelina can motivate Almas when he’s too tranquilo, so it should be fascinating to see how she manages her champion when he’s too invested.

- Hate to bring it up again, but Andrade’s English mic work is... not good. And it’s not just a limited vocabulary. I have a very hard time making out what he’s saying in a way I never struggled with promos from any of NXT’s Japanese speakers. This is developmental, and talking in his second language is something he’s here to work on. But isn’t Vega with him in part to ensure the audience doesn’t have to work too hard to follow the message? Let the champ deliver the exact speech he gave tonight, then give her a couple lines clarifying when/where Cien is demanding the #1 contender face him. He gets the practice, we get the meaning. Win/win.

General Manager William Regal tells us that next week he’ll make an announcement which will change NXT forever. Adam Cole def. Kassius Ohno via pinfall following a shining wizard to the back of the head.

- Next week looks like a loaded show, with Authors of Pain vs. Street Profits, SAnitY vs. Strong and Dunne, Black and Sullivan on hand, and the GM’s big announcement. Leaves plenty of room for the customary promo packages on the TakeOver: New Orleans ‘go home’, but that show should feature a few surprises, too, thanks to Gargano’s kayfabe status and Fish’s real-life one.

- Another in a string of strong performances from Cole in the main event, as he’s hitting his groove in WWE. This was a much needed unassisted, clean win, too... although it’s debateable how much a victory over Ohno means for the nominal title contender. Kassius helping to deliver a quality match is no surprise, but his taking the pin isn’t either. That not-so-young Knockout Kid is stuck in the same limbo as Oney, with another fallout video teasing he’s reached a breaking point... but don’t we get one of those every time he drops a high-profile match?

That’s another ‘ah well’, however. They entertained for ten-plus minutes, got me to bite on the first Last Shot nearfall, and the result was what it needed to be.

Ho-hum, another week of NXT doing pretty much exactly what it needed to do.

Grade: B+

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