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    Thursday, August 30, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (8/29/18): Whodunnit?

    We've begun with the latest cycle of NXT episodes, and now, the Yellow Brand has doubled down on the mystery behind Aleister Black's assault. Truthfully, I have every reason to believe that this storyline will get hokier as we go along. But for some reason, NXT has managed to treat it with the right mix of comedy and gravitas for me to take it seriously, while simultaneously poking fun at it.

    I get what NXT is trying to go for here. Aleister's going to be out for quite a while, so they might as well draw this story out and milk it for what it's worth as he recovers. But there are certain elements that are beginning to feel a little too silly, like the presence of Regal's legal aide and how the GM's office has become the de facto interrogation room.

    Yes, I'll give credit where it's due. The interrogation segments helped in giving screen time to Superstars like Bianca Belair and Nikki Cross, whose interaction in their segment gave birth to a match scheduled for next week. (Am I really supposed to believe that either Bianca or Nikki would attack Aleister though?) It also introduced us to The Forgotten Sons, the trio of Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler, and Gunner Jaxson Ryker, who will be making their NXT debut in a tag team match next week. And of course, it helped tie into the interaction between Johnny Gargano and Velveteen Dream at the top of the show—while incorporating Gargano's storyline of self-doubt in the process.

    We're only in the first week of the investigation proper, as Regal himself mentions, so it's too early to say that this story is stupid because it singles certain Superstars out. For one thing, the likeliest suspect—Lars Sullivan, whose jaw Black broke in their last match at TakeOver: Chicago—hasn't been interrogated yet. Although, he did attempt to have an alibi by declaring that if he wanted to attack someone—as he did to EC3 this week—he'd do it in plain sight.

    If there's one thing this investigation storyline does, though, it sets William Regal apart as the most proactive among all the GMs in WWE. Drake Maverick has Cedric Alexander's Lesnar-like booking pre-SummerSlam as a count against him. Meanwhile, Paige has Becky Lynch's recent turn on her hands, Kurt Angle is currently "on vacation," and Baron Corbin is just plain old petty. Despite having been the NXT GM for over four years, his character hasn't really gotten stale because he's only around whenever he's needed. And when he is out there, he makes the most out of whatever time he's given to make an impact and make sure everyone else falls in line.

    We got some decent storytelling this week, highlighted by a solid tag team main event, and another Keith Lee showcase. All in all, that should give this week's NXT a B, as we kick off this cycle of episodes.

    Not-So-Full Sails

    • I'm surprised Regal was alright with The Undisputed ERA invoking the Freebird Rule even in a non-title tag team match. It made sense to have Adam Cole in there since he wanted to prove that he could defeat Ricochet somehow, especially after the latter won the North American Championship in Brooklyn. Give all five men involved points for consistency in storytelling. They stuck to the theme of the uneasy alliance between the babyfaces versus the tried-and-tested heel team. With that finish, it wouldn't surprise me if Ricochet and Pete Dunne eventually go at one another. Who cares if The Undisputed ERA made them inadvertently attack one another? This is wrestling. If you hit your teammate and if you're not really a tag team, expect to get a receipt soon.
    • WAR! WAR! WAR! WAR! WAR! I can't wait to see Rowe and Hanson throw down with the Undisputed ERA. I would want to see how War Raiders end up earning their title shots, though, especially with teams like Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, The Mighty, Heavy Machinery, and the Street Profits in the mix. Sure, they can bypass all these fuckers, but that wouldn't make much sense within the context of "earning your title opportunity"—viking or not.
    • I can watch Tommaso Ciampa promos like that all day. Short and sweet—that's how you do it.
    • This Keith Lee match wasn't as mind-blowing as his debut against Marcel Barthel. However, I felt his magnetic charisma through the screen more than I did last time. There's something about Keith Lee's presence on-cam—and I'm assuming that also translates in the ring when you catch him live—that just draws you to it. He saunters in with a swagger that walks that fine line between confidence and arrogance. He grins, but it's not a cocky grin. He looks like someone you could actually trust, and someone who you'd want to get behind. It also helps that the fans at Full Sail are singing, "Oh, bask in his glory," as if it were a soccer chant. Man, this guy's potential at this point is... limitless.
    • Poor Raul Mendoza had to get fed to Lars Sullivan this week. On one hand, I'm happy that he's at least still employed on NXT, both in real life and in kayfabe. On the other, I've actually enjoyed his work, so seeing him get squashed by Lars like that was a downer. Oh well, at least we now know who EC3 is getting fed to going to feud with next.
    • Has anyone bothered to ask Aliyah what being the "Cat's Meow" is supposed to mean? Is it even provocative? Does anyone even care what it means? At least, I got to see me some Dakota Kai. 
     Image 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 (8/29/18): Whodunnit? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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