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WWE NXT recap, reactions, video highlights (Sept. 5, 2018): Johnny doesn’t live here anymore

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For a more detailed recap, check our live blog here.

Kassius Ohno def. Kona Reeves via pinfall following a rolling elbow. In a post-match promo, he comments on how fans don’t buzz about him anymore and promises to be knock our new favorites to the back of the line when they show up in NXT.

Ohno’s speech was by the far the most interesting element of the opener. After a decent squash that sends a pretty clear message Reeves latest mini-push is over, Kassius took his veteran gatekeeper role from subtext to text.

In reality, he’s been the guy who puts over the new guy throughout his player/coach second run in Orlando. Now it’s his gimmick. This probably doesn’t change anything... he’ll likely be Keith Lee and Matt Riddle’s first “name” opponent, and do the job for both. But it makes it so even though we know he’s going to lose, his character has a little more motivation in those matches.

Unless of course he starts to beat some people. Then things get really interesting, and just that possibility makes me like this tweak to his act even more.

The Forgotten Sons def. Street Profits via pinfall with a knee drop/DDT combo after a distraction by The Mighty (in ski masks). General Manager William Regal interviews Heavy Machinery about the attack on Aleister Black and gets a story about Otis Dozovic clogging the Performance Center toilets before Tucker Knight steers him back on topic. They tell Regal they saw Tommaso Ciampa in the bushes near Aleister after he was knocked out. A recap of the finish of last week’s main event leads to the video of Ricochet and Pete Dunne’s backstage confrontation and the announcement they’ll square off in two weeks.

- Not even sure I can tell you why, but I like the Forgotten Sons. So far, it looks like another meta-gimmick. Steve Cutler, Wesley Blake and Jaxson Ryker have chips on their shoulder because they’ve been toiling on house shows for a while but couldn’t get on TV. Now that they’re here, they yell “FORGOTTEN NO MORE” a lot, and... I don’t know what else.

Maybe it’s that sense of mystery that works. Ryker (Chad Lail, who worked as Gunner in TNA) especially is being presented as an enigma, which may mean he’s in line for a singles push somewhere down the line.

Speaking of singles pushes, the sooner we can get Montez Ford one, the better. Maybe Angelo Dawkins can be his manager? I’d be okay if I didn’t see another hot tag from the less charismatic Street Profit for a while. Ford keeps adding things to his act as the existing moves in his arsenal become more precisely executed. Dawkins just... stays the same.

- They appear to be bungling mid-card heels, but Shane Thorne makes me laugh. So there’s that. The Mighty’s feud with Street Profits continues, it would appear. Perhaps Forgotten Sons move on to Heavy Machinery, or Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch after they return next week? Come to think of it, Thorne and Nick Miller vs. the Brit-Am Brawlers would be sweet.

- Maybe I shouldn’t have been giggling like an idiot during Dozer’s extended poop joke, but I’m here to tell you I was. The parting shot about how good it felt to get rid of that “load” might have been my favorite part. Knight’s attempts at stopping the inappropriateness train tickled me, too.

A video is shown of War Raiders calling out Undisputed ERA and vowing to take their Tag Titles. Kairi Sane def. Trish Adora via pinfall following an InSane Elbow in non-title action, then is interrupted by Shayna Baszler announcing her plans to use her rematch for the Women’s Title. Sane eventually gets the better of a brawl with the former champ. NXT Titleholder Ciampa films a promo backstage, bragging about having no challengers and telling the few who listen to him to follow their leader.

- Their name’s still dumb, and this “Join the Raid” catchphrase is dumber. But I’m ready for Hanson and Rowe vs. Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong.

- Sane getting an impressive-looking win in her first on-screen outing as champ was smart, even if putting it on an episode just a few minutes after the opening squash was so similarly structured was a weird call.

Just like that Ohno segment, the aftermath was the really important part. It continued the feud with Baszler and let us know another match between the two rivals is on the horizon (Evolution?), yes. Better than that, though, it demonstrated that “aggro Kairi” isn’t something it takes weeks for the champ to psych herself up to become. She can go from cute to cutthroat in an instant, and Shayna wasn’t any more ready for that than she was the long-simmering version she faced at Barclays last month.

- The various hints we got about Ciampa being the one who attacked Black are likely misdirection (it was Johnny). His lines acknowledging he has supporters have me plenty interested, though. Is he talking about fans and leaning into the mixed reaction he’s starting to get as his former tag partner loses his way? Or backstage followers?

Regal interviews Lars Sullivan, clearing him in the Black assault but informing us EC3 isn’t medically cleared after Sullivan attacked him backstage last week. Lars will wrestle the other man he assaulted, Raul Mendoza, next week. Velveteen Dream def. Johnny Gargano via pinfall following the Dream Valley Driver. Gargano struggled with not giving in to his dark side throughout the match, and was baited into the finish by Dream calling him “Johnny Failure”. He left the arena to dueling chants taunting and celebrating him.

After a bit of a slow start, the final match of the show built to near a near TakeOver-level of quality. Either outcome seemed plausible (I’d read spoilers but couldn’t recall exactly what happened, and the action convinced me at least a couple times that what I thought I remembered was wrong). The final third of the match especially lent itself to reacting viscerally to what was playing out on screen. Some of what triggered that may be a result of Dream still learning while on a pretty big stage; some a choice by the more experienced Gargano to wrestle a little more recklessly to demonstrate what his character is dealing with. Whatever it was, spots like Johnny’s blockbuster from the apron to the floor scared the crap out of me. He definitely took the brunt of the move, and was only a foot away from landing really badly on the ring steps.

Story-wise, I had to sit and reflect on what happened before I could decide if my frustration with Gargano was a work or a shoot. NXT is cultivating a mixed reaction - and succeeding, if Full Sail is any indication. Going strictly off the narrative, I want to throttle Johnny for continuing to sink deeper into a pit of his own making while pleading with him to climb out. Trying to critically evaluate the work, I can’t tell if the eye-rolling I’m doing is in response to his overacting or because he’s nailing the role. Hours later, I still can’t decide. Which I guess is good?

Just the fact I’m still thinking about it afterwards is a mark in the story’s favor. Ideally, I’d like to see Johnny Failure/Wrestling take a few weeks off. It’s not a coincidence Ciampa is the less annoying former do-it-yourself-er at this point; Gargano’s been at the top of the NXT card for a long time now, while Tommy Entertainment has either been out or just kept off screen for chunks of time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

But is that just part of the work? Has Johnny been a fixture in order to help inspire a backlash against him, like Roman Reigns or John Cena on the main roster?

There’s a lot to think about regarding the man who lost this match, but we shouldn’t overlook the victor. This was the biggest win of Dream’s career, and should be a springboard to a title program. Velveteen managed well in a tough spot where his cool heel was still called on to get heat (but not too much). His upcoming weekend in Evolve could be transformative for both his character and his skill as a performer; I can’t wait for the Indie Dream experience.


The main event saved the show in many ways. Not that it was bad before Dream showed up in his “Johnny Failure” shirt, but the in-ring action was pretty paint-by-numbers and the story not much more compelling. Velveteen’s big win and Gargano’s continued descent into madness took both aspects of the show to the next level.

Grade: B+