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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (June 27, 2018): Just living in it

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

Tommaso Ciampa interrupts NXT Champion Aleister Black to challenge him for the title. Vanessa Borne tells “reporters” that fans should admire her rather than Kairi Sane, setting up an angle between the two. Kona Reeves def. Max Humberto in a squash, finishing it with his Hawaiian Drop.

- They continue to limit Black’s time on the mic, which is good. Not because he’s not a capable talker, but because what Ciampa says in his promo about the champ needing his mystique is very true. Aleister’s been able to handle whatever promos NXT’s given him - even the funny ones. But delivering more than a few badass-sounding lines doesn’t serve his character. His social media game proves he knows how to respond to taunts and insults; they should script Black’s talking segments so he answers heel challengers instead of the other way around.

And, for the love of God (or I guess probably the other guy, in Black’s case), please stop working “fade to black” into every speech. At best it makes him sound like an 80s action hero, at worst like a company man being fed lines.

Tommaso’s act took a nice step forward, proving he’s capable of utilizing words as well as actions to play mind games. So much of the build to his first two matches with Johnny Gargano relied on his use of silence. Here he planted a few seeds of doubt in Black’s mind, including needling him about the fact Ciampa’s main evented each of the past two TakeOver events instead of the champion. Whether that’s a valid criticism of the Dutchman’s reign or not, it’s a perception that’s out there. Turning it into a kayfabe challenge for him to overcome is smart storytelling.

- There’s little chance Borne will be much more than a brief roadbump for The Pirate Princess, but if she can manage to not regress in the ring, she’s the kind of talent I could see on the main roster sooner rather than later. Vanessa obviously has a great look, and she handled this interview time very well. I got early BAMF Alexa Bliss vibes, and those are good vibes to be giving off.

- Probably because I watched Lio Rush much more comfortably and charismatically work the same gimmick on 205 Live this week, but I’m ready to move on from “The Finest”. It’s not a great fit of performer and schtick. Plus, Reeve’s primary in-ring attribute appears to be size, and WWE has a lot of big guys who can do a lot more, more gracefully. Even his big boot looks awkward. And don’t get me started on using a Samoan Drop finisher, regardless of what you call it.

Candice LeRae overcomes an “injured” left arm to defeat Lacey Evans via pinfall following a springboard quebrada. Johnny Gargano tells Cathy Kelley he’s still obsessed with Ciampa and what happened in Chicago, and willing to fight his former partner anytime, anywhere. Heavy Machinery calls out The Mighty from a backyard BBQ, and a tweet from General Manager William Regal denies Gargano’s request and books him in a match with EC3 next week. LeRae tells Kelley she’s still worried about Johnny, but is moving on to focus on her goal of becoming Women’s Champ.

- Nice match from the ladies this week. Evans entertains every time out, and Candice babyfaces as well as her man. Very much looking forward to the rise of LaRae, as her win and the interview later point to her being split off from the Gargano/Ciampa program. That will be good for her and that story, honestly. She was great in Johnny’s feud with Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega, but felt miscast in just about every possible way when working with her husband and their groomsman. Like Ricochet, her promos need some work, but that’s what The Performance Center is for. Besides, talking on her own behalf as a fighter will play better than the worried wife act any day.

Not sure where Lacey goes from here, which is the only issue I see for her currently. They don’t seem to want to move her into the title picture, and her character wouldn’t be a natural foil for the current champ, anyway. But she can only lose so many mid-card feuds before fans start to see her as, at best, a gatekeeper. Perhaps The First Lady should be cycled off our screens until after Brooklyn, or partnered up with another arrogrant heel-type?

- It’s personal preference, but I much prefer angry Gargano to “living the dream” Johnny. This was a good speech from J.F. Wrestling, laying out the path to what most of us figured we’d be getting - a rubber match with Ciampa. The follow-up tweet from the still absent GM (man, that’s starting to worry me) establishes Regal as an obstacle to the trilogy fight, which is fine. He was used in that role while they built to the unsanctioned match, but his motive of being concerned about Johnny’s future and career appears to be the same here, which fits even more at this point as Gargano gets more and more obsessed. And at least it’s not Candice nonsensically wringing her hands again. The man Regal’s booked as Gargano’s next opponent needed something to do anyway, and this also follows up on their brief interaction when Johnny walked through EC3’s match in the run-up to Chicago.

This is the kind of plotting/booking we expect from the black-and-yellow brand. Now have them fight in a grocery store so they can do Stone Cold/Booker T callbacks.

After Undisputed ERA take out their scheduled opponents, Ricochet comes to the aid of new NXT Tag Titleholders Moustache Mountain. A trios match is booked, and Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong def. Trent Seven, Tyler Bate and Ricochet via pinfall, and the numbers game, after O’Reilly saves Cole after he’s hit with a 630, then Strong connects with a version of his finisher that sends Ricochet into the apron so the North American Champ can cover him.

Hey look! An NXT main event you should just go watch instead of reading me telling you it’s great!

The ERA wiping out poor Dave and Carl was the most predictable thing on earth, but the height Strong got on the knee to the Homicide/Briscoe-looking dude’s head made it special. Ricochet’s run-in doesn’t have a whole lot of story behind it except that he and the tag champs are técnicos, but that’s nothing an interview next week can’t fix... and I don’t know about you, but I’m not gonna complain about anything that leads to a Ricochet/Cole North American Title feud.

No one looked bad in this six-man. It was just our latest look at the ridiculous amount of talent Triple H and team have stockpiled these days. Ricochet really shined, though. He shouldn’t always be in multi-person sprints or opposite someone else as fast and agile as he is (see: Ospreay, Will), but when he is - it sure is fun. His hot tag sequence and the Total Elimination evasion were worth the price of admission.

On top of that, we got Cole at his smarmiest during Undisputed’s entrance promo (“it’s our era, you’re just living in it”), KOR’s MVP run continuing with things like shadowboxing Bate to set-up the last in a series of Bops and Bangs, and taunting Tyler by twirling his moustache for him and Roddy carefully throwing people around and always being exactly where he was supposed to be, just when he needed to be. Moustache Mountain were able to get a crowd that was excited to see the cool heel trio back on their side very quickly, and everything built to the expected and needed finish... Undisputed stealing a win after taking a couple losses in London.

Bear in mind, too, this was O’Reilly and Strong’s fourth one of these in six days across three cities and two continents.

Go. Watch.

After a brief post-TakeOver lull, we’re off and running with another strong show building to August’s live event in New York. The Reeves’ match is a dud, but everything else is worth your time.

Grade: A-

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