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    Friday, May 19, 2017

    Smark Hen-XT (5/17/17): Windy City Jams

    We’re days away from TakeOver: Chicago, and it’s time once again for predictions. The card for this Sunday (Manila time) is one of the more promising cards in the past year, and the Creative team did good work at building up the matches, even if there was a quick turnaround from TakeOver: Orlando. Let’s look at each match:

    • Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young: NXT had done a good job at giving Strong a bit more character and give us something to latch on to. They came out with excellent vignettes that show Strong both as a family man and as a competitor; and he had a great outing during the number one contender’s match from last week. Letting him work with SAnitY will only solidify his babyface run, especially when the Messiah of the Backbreaker will have to fight against unfair odds. Expect Young and friends to play the numbers game as they’ve had in the past, but Strong needs this win more.

    • WWE United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate vs. Pete DunneWe’re getting a rematch of the UK Championship Tournament finals, and it makes perfect sense. Bate’s run as a champion has shown him to be a great worker and charming performer. It’s as easy to cheer for the champ as it is to boo his challenger. The Bruiserweight is the real star of the UKCT crew, and his work during the tournament shows us why. His give-no-fucks attitude mixed in with his brutal ring style makes him the perfect monster heel for the division, and it won’t be long until he’s the champ. I’m not saying Bate’s a bad champion, but with a new show scheduled in the future, I think Dunne winning here and taking his spot at the top of the United Kingdom wrestling scene makes a lot more business and storytelling sense.

    • NXT Tag Team Champions the Authors of Pain vs. #DIY in a ladder match: The tag team division is a bit shallow at the moment, with only #DIY credible enough to be challengers. Word coming out right now is that Tommaso Ciampa was injured during a live event this week, but as I write this, I haven’t come across any updates on the severity of the injury from Ciampa himself or the WWE. If it’s really bad, we’ll probably get a backstage angle that will write off #DIY. Assuming the match goes through, you can expect #DIY to make the champs look strong as they’ve had in their previous outings, and for AoP to use the ladder match stipulation to play up their roles as dominant hosses. AoP will walk out of Chicago champs; I’m just not sure if we’ll have a match to begin with.

    • NXT Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Nikki Cross vs. Ruby Riot: This match was supposed to be a Fatal-4-Way, but with Ember Moon on the shelf for a couple of more weeks, her coronation will have to wait. Pairing up Cross and Riot is a recipe for beautiful chaos—just check out their pull apart brawl three weeks ago—but I don’t see either woman being able to stop the Empress of Tomorrow. I see Asuka retaining her championship for now.

    • NXT Champion Bobby Roode vs. Hideo Itami: Finally, Itami gets a shot at the NXT Championship. After three years and two major injuries, he’s finally hit his stride. With him reclaiming the Go to Sleep and using it to great effect, we’re seeing the Japanese ass-kicker we were promised when he debuted. However, I don’t see him winning the title now. Bobby Roode is a better fit at the top of NXT, and having a heel champ surrounded by great babyface workers like Strong, Kassius Ohno, and Drew McIntyre makes much more sense. Expect Itami to work a great and stiff match, but ultimately fall to the Glorious One. Roode retains.
    NXT had been on a roll since Dallas, and I don’t see this ending anytime soon. The Creative team had done a good job at fleshing out most of the matches, and with a hot wrestling crowd like Chicago, you can expect a great show on Sunday.


    The Rest of the Show:

    • Drew McIntyre def. Sean Maluta: Just like McIntyre’s last outings, this match was a hard-hitting affair. Maluta busting open McIntyre with an MX gave this match an extra edge, and made the Scot’s comeback look more menacing. All in all, it was a pretty solid way to open the show, even if it was a squash match.

    • Sonya Deville def. Lacey Evans: This was a bit painful to watch, as both girls are really green in the ring. There were moments that showed promise though. Deville’s MMA schtick—if harnessed properly—can give her an air of legitimate danger, but right now she’s really awkward and a bit comical. Evans’ size and look will help her get heads turning, but there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to her putting moves together. That said, part of NXT is about developing new stars, and I’d love to see where these women will be a year from now.

    • Kassius Ohno def. Andrade “Cien” Almas: I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Creative trying to explain Cien’s terrible booking by describing him as this uncontrolled party boy. It’s believable, but it also comes off as a lazy excuse to write off the way they’ve packaged him. Unless this ends with a great rehabilitation/face turn arc, they’ll end up writing themselves into a corner. That aside, this match was bomb. Ohno and Cien have great chemistry, and both guys looked awesome in the match. Ohno hulking up at the end looked a bit comical, but it did it’s job and gave us an exciting finish. Now if only they can give both guys some good programs to work with.

    • Bobby Roode’s promo and Hideo Itami’s run-in: This was another solid segment from the champ and his challenger. Roode looks every bit like a privileged douchebag, and Itami came out to defend his honor. Having Roode try to attack Itami after the latter took out the security and still get laid out by a GTS makes the Japanese superstar look like a legitimate threat to the title. That’ll be the story of their match come TakeOver, and that’s a pretty easy story to nail. It can either lead to some interesting counters and false finishes, or a massive pop when Itami hits it. You can’t go wrong either way.


    It’s been some time since I’ve seen a go home episode that I really enjoyed. NXT did a good job at mixing up their hype material while still delivering on mostly good in ring segments. McIntyre/Maluta and Ohno/Almas were matches you’d want to watch, and the closing segment was properly executed and continued to add to the title story. TakeOver: Chicago looks to be a solid show, and this episode did the a good job adding up to the hype. This week’s show gets an A-.

    Thoughts on this week's episode? Let us know by dropping a comment below!

    Photos from WWE.com

    Jocs Boncodin (@caboncodin) is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers tweets by day and watches wrestling by night. An aspiring writer, Jocs spends most of his idle time fantasy booking angles and overthinking wrestling storylines. A big fan of the WWE, his introduction to the local online wrestling community Smark Gilas-Pilipinas has opened his eyes to the wonders of puroresu and lucha libre. He currently handles Smark Hen-XT, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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    Item Reviewed: Smark Hen-XT (5/17/17): Windy City Jams Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jocs Boncodin
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