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    Friday, August 3, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (8/1/18): I'ma Let You Finish But...

    I feel like I'm being led on a rollercoaster of emotions right now.

    Just yesterday, I was happily showing my dad Tommaso Ciampa's promo in the main event of NXT. I wanted him to see why this "vile creature," as Mauro Ranallo called him, is the best heel in WWE today. I was excited for the Triple Threat feud between the NXT Champion, his former BFF Johnny Gargano, and the former champ, Aleister Black. As I mentioned last week, all three guys have personal issues with one another, and their match at TakeOver: Brooklyn IV was going to be one big melting pot of vitriol and fury.

    I'm not sure if that's still going to be the case after the reports of Black getting injured at last Saturday's NXT live event came out. As we said in The Grapevine, we do hope we're just getting worked. I still want to see this Triple Threat match happen, even if Gargano vs. Ciampa for the NXT Championship is the big endgame in all this.

    All that said, this week's episode just showed how compelling a story can get when characters are written as human beings with shades of gray. I've harped about this before in my RAW reviews, but indulge me again here. There's always room for pure babyfaces and pure heels. In this case, you have Ciampa as the pure heel here. But a story is more interesting when you can have the viewers take sides and be correct, regardless of which side they take.

    Johnny Wrestling was once a pure babyface, but his descent into madness following TakeOver: Chicago II blinded him with rage, costing Aleister Black the NXT Championship in the process. I certainly can't blame Black for kicking Gargano's lights out on NXT. Ginusto niya 'yun. Johnny himself admitted that he was the reason why Ciampa is champion. Meanwhile, Aleister Black is incensed that he lost his title because this other guy can't move the fuck on and learn to let go. The dude even interrupted his own entrance because he could not move forward with his life. How can you not sympathize with the anger in Aleister?

    Meanwhile, we were also treated to one hell of a match between NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler and Candice LeRae. It was a rematch of the Mae Young Classic semis from last year, with callbacks like Shayna countering Candice from the top rope and locking in the Kirufuda Clutch. This time, there were more layers to their characters now that they're entrenched into NXT canon. Baszler has wasted no time in alienating everyone in the locker room on her quest to prove her dominance, while Candice has endeared herself even more as the new Sami Zayn of NXT. Candice LeRae is a pure babyface and I love her with all my heart. There, I said it.

    As much love as there is in me for Mrs. Wrestling, I've got nothing but hatred for Shayna Baszler, which is ultimately a testament to her strong character work both in and out of the ring. It's one thing to put Candice away at all costs. It's another thing to viciously attack her again after the bell had rung. Seeing Kairi Sane make the save was obvious, but it was a nice touch to have Shayna attack Kairi, too, while the Pirate Princess had her back turned as she looked after Candice LeRae. It made sense: Shayna wanted to get one over on Kairi heading into Brooklyn IV, while Kairi had prioritized the health of a fellow babyface—forgetting the presence of the enemy in the moment.

    The build for TakeOver: Brooklyn IV gets better and better, Aleister Black's injury notwithstanding. NXT continues to excel by doing what it does best: maximizing its time and its roster, while fleshing stories out logically. Yes, the matches in the first half of the show weren't all that great. But you can't have three straight "blow your brains out" main event-style matches in the span of an hour, unless you're running Lucha Underground. This episode gets a very solid B+.

    Not-So-Full Sails:

    • Seriously, what the hell was up with people interrupting other people this week?
    • On that note, I seriously have no idea where this 3-way tag team feud between the Street Profits, Heavy Machinery, and The Mighty is going. Do the two babyface teams just want to gangbang up on The Mighty?
    • EC3 calling himself the "BDE of NXT" just made my day. Kona Reeves wishes he could have one-tenth of EC3's BDE. That said, is EC3 too big for NXT?
    • I'm sure nobody was deterring Moustache Mountain from asking for a rematch against The Undisputed ERA, but I just have to nitpick on them saying "reinvoking" their rematch clause, when they were only "invoking" it.
    • Keith Lee debuts next week! Iiiiiinteresting.
    Images from WWE


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: Smark Hen-XT (8/1/18): I'ma Let You Finish But... Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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