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    Saturday, August 25, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (8/22/18): TakeOver Hangover

    I don't normally look forward to NXT episodes immediately following TakeOver live specials. For the most part, they're just glorified recaps of TakeOver, peppered in with backstage interviews from the Superstars who competed at the show. And then you'll get two matches, which were basically on the pre-show on that night. It's mostly a chore to watch, and prior to my stint as NXT reviewer, there would be times when I'd skip this episode altogether.

    This episode is not one of those skip-worthy ones, mostly thanks to the United Kingdom Championship rematch between Pete Dunne and Zack Gibson. This was a rematch of the finale of the U.K. Championship Tournament from a couple of months ago, so there was a bit of a backstory heading into this one. It wasn't as long as that match, either, but the story that both Dunne and Gibson told seemed tight and compact enough, that it didn't feel rushed nor bitin.

    I'm enjoying Gibson's work more and more and seeing him competing in the U.K. division is a breath of fresh air because he's got the size that a majority of the U.K. guys don't really have. I don't really blame it on the Superstars themselves, or on the WWE, even. It is what it is. A majority of the guys we'd seen from the U.K. division since last year—Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Mark Andrews, Jack Gallagher, Travis Banks, Jordan Devlin, Flash Morgan Webster—are pretty much cruiserweights. So seeing the likes of Gibson, Wolfgang, and The Coffey Brothers is a treat for me because I want to see the division quite literally hit heavy.

    Having said that, Gibson vs. Dunne felt like it belonged on the TakeOver card itself, if only it had an actual build and momentum behind it. Watching Pete Dunne play the underdog was interesting, mostly because it's as if karma is paying him back for all the bones and ligaments he'd broken while facing his challengers in the past. Meanwhile, I can't see myself cheering for Liverpool's No. 1, but I do admire how menacing and calculated he is, with his approach towards dismantling the Bruiserweight. Ultimately, Gibson's hubris felled him because he got too complacent with Pete Dunne, who was barely able to fight back, especially without his gum shield. That opening was all Dunne needed to hit the Bitter End for the 1-2-3 and another successful title defense.

    This match, along with an impressive outing from Bianca Belair and Deonna Purrazzo, made for a decent post-TakeOver episode of NXT. If you don't want to sit through an hour of the show this week, though, I really can't blame you. Just skip ahead to the matches and find the interviews on social media (or on YouTube) and you'll be fine. But do yourself a favor and catch the matches, at least the main event, because that was enough to lift this episode up into a solid B-.

    Not-So-Full Sails

    • I loved the angle of Deonna Purrazzo having a chip on her shoulder because she was just an alternate in last year's Mae Young Classic, while Bianca Belair was in the actual tournament. Even though it was only mentioned on commentary, it added to the plucky determination Purrazzo showed as she gave Belair her biggest challenge to date. The match also showed that while Belair has been dominant, she isn't without flaws and she can be taken down by the right opponent with the right opportunity.
    • This detective story of "Who attacked Aleister Black?" is getting wackier each week. It's crazy enough that virtually every recognizable NXT Superstar was somehow in the vicinity when it happened. But now, are we really reaching and adding Nikki f'n Cross to the mix? Why was she even perched up above a truck looking down on everyone? And why the hell is the area so poorly lit anyway? Why wasn't there security in the area in the first place? My only consuelo is that NXT GM William Regal seems to at least be on top of it, unlike this country, which seems to condone these attacks, err, extra-judicial killings.
    • EC3 outing Lars Sullivan as a prime suspect was hilarious, though. Yes, pretty much everyone prominent on NXT has a motive against Black, but I love how EC3 just blatantly pinned the blame on Sullivan because of how Black broke the Freak's jaw in their NXT Championship match at TakeOver: Chicago. Great segue, by the way, during the interview. Top one percent, indeed.
    • Watching Pete Dunne have Ricochet's back gave me some goosebumps because it got me hyped for next week's battle between these two and Roderick Strong & Kyle O'Reilly. I love how there seems to be mutual respect, and yet, Dunne had to remind Ricochet that they're not "mates." Of course you're not.
     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 (8/22/18): TakeOver Hangover Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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