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NXT recap & reactions (Dec. 7, 2021): Breaking my heart

Johnny Gargano might be leaving NXT. Or maybe he isn’t? Real life meets wrestling on this week’s episode.

If it’s Tuesday night and the mood is right, then NXT 2.0 is on your television. I’m your host this evening, thanks for stopping by. As per usual, check out Claire’s blog and then come back here for more goodies.

Let’s talk NXT!

Rebel Heart

Professional Wrestling—sorry, Vince—works best when it feels, looks, and smells (maybe not smells) like real life. When we believe everything that happens before and after the bell, it reinforces everything that happens when the bell rings. When Johnny Gargano walks to the NXT ring in front of a packed house chanting his name and giving him flowers, we all know why. Or at least we think we know why.

Gargano’s contract situation with WWE is in flux. He might stay. He might go. He might move on to blue or red pastures. Either way, we believe Johnny Gargano is speaking for the man, not the character he plays in our version of highly-entertaining staged plays. When he talks about his NXT family, it’s real. When he reminisces on his journey from 2015 to this week, we don’t have to question it because we were there every step of the way. Johnny, like all of us, went through a lot in those six years. His specific journey put him in front of sold out arenas, in video games, and his face on action figures. And it’s not bragging because he acknowledged none of that is a thing without every single person who ever bought a ticket or chanted “Johnny Wrestling.” That’s real f’n emotion.

It’s also real when Johnny mentions the birth of his son, which is right around the corner. He doesn’t know where his journey will take him next professionally, but personally, he’s ready for “the most important job” he’ll ever have in his life. We know Johnny is leaving; he already said as much. No one holds it against him and no one is angry. It’s all love. Johnny loves the people and the people adore Johnny like no other. Not Johnny Wrestling the performer, but Johnny Gargano the man.

Remember what I said about this whole thing working best when it feels real? That’s why Grayson Waller’s attack elicited pure venom from the crowd in the arena and no doubt several households.

Waller was embarrassed earlier when he tried to flex his WarGames viral moment for a woman who wasn’t as interested as he wanted. To rub salt in the wound, she had date night plans with one LA Knight. I didn’t pay it any mind. Figured it was another page in the book that is their feud.

When Waller reappeared and interrupted Johnny, viciously attacked him, and tried to crush his neck with a chair, I nodded and applauded the storytelling. Waller wants his moment. He’s sick and tired of older cats like Gargano getting the respect and love he believes is his. He wants the whole world to look at him and marvel even though he doesn’t do anything to earn that type of reaction.

The fact that Johnny has more times than most of us can count—especially those of us who suck at math—eats Grayson alive.

Maybe Johnny comes back in a couple weeks with the rage of 1000 suns with sights on Waller’s head. Maybe Tommaso Ciampa tangoes with Waller while his former best friend nurses his injury and goes away. Maybe this whole segment was Johnny’s ultimate goodbye while getting someone else in the territory over. I really can’t call it.

What I do know is what NXT did tonight in its main event spot worked because it perfectly blended real life and pro wrestling, with an unpredictable ultimate outcome. That’s how this thing of ours should be all of the time. And it’s why we keep coming back.


Riddle Me This

In retrospect, I don’t know why most of us assumed the MSK Shaman was RVD. Riddle was always the most obvious answer. So yeah, it’s Riddle. He dispensed sage wisdom and then got into the bag with MSK.

Friday the 13th Part VI: A New Beginning

Trick Williams is ducking Dexter Lumis and it might cost Carmelo Hayes. Melo wrestled in his best friend’s place since Trick cited bad vision due to Lumis’ attack at WarGames. This is also another chance to mention how entertaining Trick is. The man can switch from serious to childish screams at the drop of a dime.

Lumis and Hayes put on a good show. A very good show, actually. The moment Lumis went to Silence his opponent, Trick interfered and the ref called for the bell. Trick can’t run forever but I’m looking forward to a very entertaining chase.

Grand Opening, Grand Closing

If Kyle O’Reilly’s job was to get the Performance Center faithful to hate Von Wagner, then mission f’n accomplished. Their opening cage match was certainly a clash of styles, one that built to a very legal low blow from Wagner. Rather than take his victory and walk away, Wagner hung O’Reilly upside down on the ropes, and slammed the cage in his face for good measure.

And the boos rained down like they were in Philly and Von Wagner was Santa Claus. Look it up, it happened.

Job well done, Kyle, if this is indeed your NXT swan song.

LeBron Breakker

For those who don’t know, when someone calls you “LeBron,” it endows you with the same powers as LeBron James. One said power is the ability to make command decisions for the entire organization without actually holding a position of power. Those in the know call him “LeGM.” Malcolm Blevins knew this, so he went to the ring to help Roderick Strong move up in the NXT rankings and challenged Bron Breakker to a match on Strong’s behalf. Bron, or LeBron as Blevins dubbed him, hastily accepted. Bron sees it as one step closer to a third tango with Tommaso Ciampa, so he’s down for whatever. “Whatever” is next week.

LeGM has spoken.

Dirty Pool

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a tag match between four big men. The Creed Bros.—no relation to Apollo—took on Briggs x Jensen. Imperium stood upon their perch scouting the competition, while the Grizzled Young Veterans were on commentary. Of course, GYV didn’t stay put. Despite their chicanery with the tag rope, Brooks x Josh got the W. In fact, GYV’s entire plan backfired on them.

A rare loss for the Creed Bros, their first if I’m correct, a W for Briggs x Jensen, and NXT’s tag team scene is in good shape with a bunch of teams fighting for contention and with their own stories.

Queen B**ch

No one knows Elektra Lopez’s true allegiance. While Santos Escobar, Xyon Quinn, and the rest of Legado Del Fantasma battled, she plotted. Neither Santos or Xyon did much of anything without keeping an eye on la Primera Dama de LDF.

With Xyon looking at the ceiling after a Escobar’s tippy top rope Hurricanrana, Ms. Lopez put a pair of brass knuckles in Quinn’s hand. The ref saw it, everyone was distracted, and Escobar finished it.

Lopez’s face didn’t betray her feelings one iota. Was she trying to help Xyon? Was she holding down la familia? Intriguing.

Riddle Me This

In retrospect, I don’t know why most of us assumed the MSK Shaman was RVD. Riddle was always the most obvious answer. So yeah, it’s Riddle. He dispensed sage wisdom and then got into the bag with MSK.

Blonde Ambition

Cameron Grimes and Duke Hudson will go one more round. This time? No holds barred. Should be fun if they really lean into that stipulation.

Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

Welp, Persia Pirotta looks like she’s finally—finally—had enough of Indi Hartwell’s lack of focus. Persia finally called her best friend out and for a brief second, it looked like it was clicking with Hartwell. Then her husband walked in, along with her dad, and that was that. I like this story because it’s relatable and humans being human. Indi’s perspective is easy to understand. Indi garners a lot of sympathy and she’s clearly torn. We’re getting closer to a breaking point though.

Toxic Avengers

“Whoever has the gold makes the rules!” Props to Vic Joseph for (I assume) quoting Aladdin’s Jafar. If that didn’t originate from that movie, don’t tell me. Just let me live in ignorance.

Toxic Attraction steamrolled over alentina Feroz x Yulisa Leon.

This gave way to an okay promo from NXT Women’s Champion Mandy Rose. Mandy wanted to talk her trash and issue challenges. Cora Jade step to the ring, followed by Raquel González. At that point, Toxic Attraction bounced for the hills. Mandy has a lot on her plate, and that’s not even mention Kay Lee Ray. My money is on her feeding her two underlings stablemates to her challengers.

I really enjoyed this two hours of NXT. From top to bottom, everything meant something, felt logical, had stakes, and moved forward. Minus the Joe Gacy backstage segment which confused me more than anything else but hey, not everything is for everybody.

The energy of the show, along with the wrestlers feeling like real people for the most part, goes a long way. The closing segment put it over the top and that alone is worth an A in my book or anyone else’s.

Grade: A

That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.

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