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    Friday, May 5, 2017

    Smark Hen-XT (5/3/17): Are You Ready?

    Who’s ready for the champ? For better or worse, Asuka has dominated NXT’s women’s division for over a year and a half. She’s run roughshod over everyone, and in her last title defense, she showed she’ll do whatever it takes to keep the belt around her waist. It’s safe to say that no one is on her level in NXT. That said, she’ll need an opponent for TakeOver: Chicago, and NXT General Manager William Regal did what he does best and booked a great match.

    This week’s main event was a battle royal to determine the number one contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, and as battle royals tend to go, chaos was the name of the game. The match was messy, but it was fun to watch. There are a lot of bits in this match that I’d love to point out, so let’s go through them.

    First off, Candice LeRae was in the match, which is great. She might not have been given a lot of time to shine, but her mere presence in a WWE ring should get you salivating at the possibilities. She’s one of the better wrestlers in the indy scene, and she’ll be a great fit for NXT. I’m not entirely sure what her contract situation is, but it’ll be a damn shame if this is a one-taping deal. She’d be perfect for the Women’s Tournament WWE has been cooking up.

    For the most part, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce dominated the match and scored the most eliminations. That was a simple enough story to tell—they’re the only team in the field, so it’s expected that they would gang up on people to try and win the thing. Getting eliminated before the finish revealed just where they are in the division. They’re good, but they still have a long way to go before becoming the top level talent they think they are.

    Finally, the finish of the match was great. Asuka looked downright vicious when she threw Ember Moon out of the ring and into the barricade, and both Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross sold getting their heads kicked in well. That was a great statement made by the champ. The no contest finish might be confusing at first (I didn’t even know it was possible for a battle royal to end like that), but it was a good way to set up the Fatal 4-Way match for the Women’s Championship.

    I know we’ve just had one a couple of TakeOvers back, but the Fatal 4-Way stipulation does really give NXT a credible opportunity to take the title off Asuka without making her look weak. There’s also a different dynamic in place for this match. Unlike in San Antonio where Kay and Royce were a team, it truly is every woman for herself in this match. Riot and Cross can’t stand each other, Moon still has beef with Asuka, and the champ just downright hates everyone at this point. It should be a slobberknocker of a match.


    The Rest of the Show:

    • Killian Dain (w/ Eric Young) def. Danny Burch: It’s a bit of a surprise, but the squash matches we had in the post-TakeOver: Orlando have been solid. Danny Burch sliding into the role of talented, if generic, babyface jobber was a good call. His match with Andrade “Cien” Almas and this week’s with Dain were both good. He sold well and got enough credible offense even in losing efforts. Dain looked and felt like the beast he should be, so props to both guys for making the most of a three-minute match.

    • Heavy Machinery def. Ricardo Watts and Hector Kunsman: The hoss team literally squashed their opponents, then delivered an entertaining post-match promo. Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight have stumbled onto something good here, and their mix of surprising athleticism and comedic timing will do wonders for them. NXT have done a great job of making the most out of gimmicks with low perceived ceilings (see: Tyler Breeze and Enzo & Cass), so I have a good feeling these big boys are going to get a good run. I’m not too sure how calling out the Authors of Pain will turn out, but it’ll at least be a fun hoss fight.

    • Hideo Itami def. Kona Reeves: Rounding out the trio of squash matches this week, Itami slapped the taste out Reeves. Like Burch, the big Hawaiian has been hitting his stride when it comes to being fed to big-name faces. He came out aggressively and put his opponent through a bit of trouble, only to fall due to his arrogance. It’s a classic trope, but an effective one. Itami, on the other hand, continued to show the edge and intensity that he’d been incorporating into his ring work before his second injury. I’d love to see him in a match longer than two minutes as that’ll really show much he’s improved since his initial run on NXT.

    • The second Roderick Strong vignette: Holy fuck, this was just good. Juxtaposing Roddy the family man vs. Roddy the pro-wrestler was a great way to make Strong more relatable. Seeing him struggling to put up a crib and holding his kid makes him more human and vulnerable. At the same time, you see the hard work he puts in and the level of talent he’s worked with, and you realize this guy is a top-level talent. It feels genuine and inspirational, unlike with Kevin Owens who uses his status as a family man doesn’t mesh with his ruthlessness. Maybe it’s because Strong was a blank canvas while Owens was already a heel when he brought up his family that it was easier to attach the idea of him being an everyman babyface. It makes me want to actively cheer the guy next week when he gets a number one contender’s match against Itami for Bobby Roode’s NXT Championship.


    This week’s episode was a pretty solid show all around. Yeah, half of the episode was composed of squash matches, but they weren’t glaringly offensive. If anything, they were good short matches that got stories moving: SAnitY is back on track, Itami’s getting a push for the title, and Heavy Machinery is laying down the foundation for a feud with the Authors of Pain. We’ve got another great video package to make Strong look, well, strong. And the battle royal was a great main event that sets up a potentially great match. NXT’s a couple of weeks away from TakeOver: Chicago, so expect a lot more build-up as the weeks roll by. If this episode was any indication, it’ll be a fun ride. This episode gets a B+.

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

    Photo 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 (5/3/17): Are You Ready? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jocs Boncodin
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