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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (April 4, 2018): Blockers

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

After Charly Caruso catches us on the tourney so far and the latest news about the knee injury which has forced Bobby Fish out of TakeOver: New Orleans’ Title match, the episode starts with The Dusty Classic final of Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne. That ends in a double disqualification when Fish’s stable-mates Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly storm the ring. General Manager William Regal announces Undisputed ERA will still have a match on Saturday night, now facing both Dunne and Strong and the Authors in a Triple Threat with The Dusty Cup AND the Tag Team Championship on the line.

Was really getting into the opener when shenanigans happened. The early portion where AoP worked over Dunne was fine - noteworthy mostly for how well the Bruiserweight plays a never-say-die face-in-peril. The United Kingdom Champion took a knee from Rezar by folding over backwards which really convinced me he was out, and made his desperation comeback a few seconds later all the more exciting.

Strong’s hot tag is a thing of beauty, and once the pace picked up, we were reminded how much fun it is to watch Paul Ellering’s charges in a back-and-forth fight. The sequence of nearfalls from Rezar taking a double stomp from Dunne, the Authors responding with their double-team neckbreaker, then Roddy assisting with a Bitter End on Rezar was fantastic stuff.

So, of course, Undisputed ERA crashed the party shortly thereafter.

It makes sense, both as a way for the Future Shock duo to try and scheme their way out of a TakeOver defense with Fish on the shelf, and for the bookers to get all these deserving acts on the card for Saturday. And it definitely sells you on the idea of needing to see both sets of challengers wrestle each other some more.

Regal tsk-tsking Undisputed was pretty great, especially considering how long they’ve been thorns in his side. This promo and his later scene with Cole and O’Reilly basically represent him giving them their just rewards for a sub-plot that’s been running since Brooklyn.

And it’s that kind of attention to detail which explains why it really bugs me no one mentioned how Roddy and the Authors were tag partners just a few months ago at WarGames. Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson even spent time wondering how Ellering could game plan for Dunne and Strong since they were put together at the last minute... maybe use that Hall of Fame mind to think about the couple weeks when you coached him, Paul?

Sorry. Like I said, maybe it’s just me, but that really irked me.

After the usual excellent hype videos for the six-man North American Championship ladder match and the unsantioned bout between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, Kairi Sane def. Vanessa Borne by pinfall with an In-Sane Elbow. Lacey Evans meets the press and runs down the rest of the women’s roster as “human trash”, and promises to beat Sane when they next face off. Cole and O’Reilly plead with Regal to cancel the Triple Threat, but are told by the GM that either Cole pulls double-duty or forfeits his spot in the NA Title match, or O’Reilly can fight alone in the Tag match.

- Regarding the videos throughout this episode... they’re really good, as you’d expect. Check out the NA Title one for more of a taste of EC3’s NXT character, and a bit of an introduction to Ricochet’s mic work. Velveteen Dream and Cole also impress, while Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain do their best to sound ominous and menacing. As for the one on the #DIY feud... it’s so good. Go watch it.

- Ranallo and company basically tell us Sane’s match was here because she’s going to be among the first challengers for whoever leaves Smoothie King Center with the Women’s Title on Saturday. It’s the right call, and I’m definitely ready to see her work some longer matches - maybe even with a few more seasoned opponents. Borne’s wrestling is pretty rough. It seemed like she was out of position for some of Kairi’s offense on occassion, but she has good heel sass. She’s a work in progress; it just depends on how patient WWE wants to be (said another way - is she an Aliyah or an Abbey Laith?).

- Speaking of good heel sass, Evans’ arrogant Southern belle schtick is really starting to click. But like so many on the black-and-yellow brand, the question is if it’s leading anywhere any time soon. That she’s booked into the TakeOver dark/fallout episode match where she’ll be served up to the likely next #1 contender probably provides the answer.

Andrade “Cien” Almas’ feud with Aleister Black over Almas’ NXT Title gets a recap video. After a recap of their brawl last Wednesday, Ember Moon vows to defeat Shayna Baszler again in their rematch for Moon’s Women’s Championship. Lars Sullivan vs. Killian Dain gets waved off when Velveteen Dream, Cole, EC3 and Ricochet hit the ring for a show-ending staredown to sell the NA Championship match this weekend.

- Nothing terribly new in the NXT Championship video, which was also of high quality. Non-tranquilo Andrade is pretty scary, though.

- While being cast opposite Baszler the bully is still probably the best thing that’s happened to Moon during her NXT career, their feud’s lost whatever momentum it had for me at the worst possible time. Ember’s brief interview showed some fire, and I imagine it worked for her more ardent supporters. I kind of forgot it right after it happened.

- For a hoss fight so many fans were thirsty for after their moments together in the #1 contender Fatal 4Way which aired last December, Sullivan vs. Dain was underwhelming. A worn out crowd didn’t help, and the participants being booked in the ladder match - plus this match’s position on the episode - kind of telegraphed the non-finish and reinforced the notion nobody watching should bother getting too invested. And both guys feel a little cooled off from various times in the recent past.

Business picked up with the arrival of the rest of the ladder match line-up, but not too much. Like the opener, the idea was again to save the really cool stuff for TakeOver, so we didn’t get much beyond a few standard monstruo y monstruo standoffs from Lars and Killian, and a bunch of posing from everyone else. The live crowd did see a brawl, but they also saw a Ricochet match earlier in the taping. Triple H and team clearly want our first taste of the King on WWE Network to come on the eve of WrestleMania.

Which is smart! But doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting ending of a weekly edition of NXT.

Everything that happened here made sense, and there were some bits of good original action squeezed in between story advancing moments and video packages. Most of it can be consumed on YouTube or with liberal application of the FF button, though... the parts you won’t be shown again repeatedly this Saturday, that is.

Grade: C+

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