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    Saturday, September 15, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (9/12/18): It's Like You're Always Stuck In Second Gear

    Welcome to a special Saturday edition of Smark Hen-XT! Apologies for the delay in this week's column. It's been a busy week for ya boy, who's had to juggle several gigs over the last couple of days. Thanks, Philippine government inflation rate.

    There's a joke made to be somewhere about how the Philippines is also always stuck in second gear, much like The Rembrandts used to sing about. But then again, given the state of current affairs, I'd say the country's can't even get out of neutral. NXT, however, is a different story.

    Normally, the show is able to kick it up a notch, especially towards the main event. But for some reason, this week's episode wasn't really able to do that. I'd say it's a consequence of the two biggest stories being stuck in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment.

    You have NXT GM William Regal's "Whodunnit?" adventure and Tommaso Ciampa's reign of terror as NXT Champion. Regal's search has brought him to NXT Women's Champion Kairi Sane and Kassius Ohno this week. But let's face it. Kairi isn't the culprit. You know it. I know it. However, Ohno isn't the culprit either because not only has he been cleared by the Pirate Princess, he's also got bigger fish bros on his mind. He alludes to Matt Riddle being Regal's "shiny new toy," while ranting about his frustrations as a result of being mostly passed over by other "hottest free agent" signings. While that did advance Ohno's current arc, it didn't really move the larger arc of Regal's story a whole lot.

    As for the champ, he showed up this week with a brand new theme song, which I'll get to on next week's #ThemeSongTuesday. But it's been mostly the same old story for The Scourge of NXT. We already know he's pretty much the best heel in WWE, full stop. And he reinforces it here by arrogantly declaring that if he had a problem with anyone, he'd attack them head on—which isn't really true considering his past assaults on Johnny Gargano. But that's beside the point.

    Ciampa's promo game continues to be topnotch, while he adds to his IDGAF attitude by trying to punk Otis Dozovic out. Then again, in this case, Dozovic kind of deserves it for making fun of Ciampa's name. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? Anyway, this should make for a fun little singles match, given the size disparity and the flipped "David vs. Goliath" angle since Dozovic is the bigger face, while Ciampa is the smaller heel. It's a nice distraction for Ciampa, as he gets something to do. But we're almost a month removed from TakeOver: Brooklyn IV now. Why doesn't Ciampa have a challenger yet?

    I appreciate what NXT is trying to go with as a whole. Their storytelling techniques clearly have the long game in mind and I respect that. But the risk to doing that is you'll get episodes like this, where the show is clearly laying the cards down slowly, however the episode itself suffers from not really having anything explosive as a cliffhanger, main event notwithstanding.

    Speaking of that main event, we did get a fun little match between Bianca Belair and Nikki Cross. The key takeaway from this match is how NXT's Twisted Sister looks to be the first person to throw The EST off her game. I've always enjoyed Nikki Cross' manic and erratic in-ring game, which had some nice chemistry with Belair's natural swag. They told an interesting story here and even though there are no tangible stakes (i.e., championship opportunities) on the line, they gave us enough of a tease for me to want more moving forward.

    Actually, that's exactly what I want to do—both with the country and its sad state of current affairs and NXT—move forward. I can't wait for next week's episode, particularly the Champion vs. Champion match between North American Champion Ricochet and United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. I'm excited to see Kassius Ohno play gatekeeper for the debuting Matt Riddle. And I'm excited to see Aliyah in action again! Well, okay, maybe not that last part. Thank God Dakota Kai, Deonna Purrazzo, and Lacey Evans are all part of that match, too.

    I'm giving this week's episode a C just because it felt like we were mostly running in place.

    Not-So-Full Sails

    • God bless NXT for cranking out these vignettes that make us care about new gimmicks before they actually take off. I was wondering why The Forgotten Sons were depicted as heels, when they're ex-Marines who served the country in battle. But now I get it. They're resentful of the country because they feel like they didn't get enough recognition, when service to the country should ideally be done out of unconditional love. They're probably also lowkey suffering from PTSD and manifesting it in ways that can hurt people. Think Lewis Wilson from The Punisher on Netflix.
    • Man, was I glad to see The Brit-Am Brawlers back. I just wish they would actually be billed like that officially. The commentators already use that moniker on them anyway. Cezar Bononi and Adrian Jaoude had a nice showing out there, but it was really an exhibition match to remind us what Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch bring to the table. 
    • Poor Violet Payne. She just basically got fed to an angry Shayna Baszler. Given the latter's gimmick, I don't really see anything else working as a way to keep her relevant without sacrificing her heat. 
    • I'm tired of these Undisputed ERA backstage segments. They're too goofy and hammy. Can't they just do this in the ring in front of a live audience?
    • Raul Mendoza looked feisty as fuck against Lars Sullivan. It gives me hope that Mendoza could figure into NXT's long-term plans as a babyface they can build up. Or why not send him to 205 Live to give the show a boost? The Cruiserweights could use a new element on Tuesday nights. As for Sullivan, he's just beasting out there and I can't wait for him to be revealed as Aleister Black's assailant.
    • Ricochet's maroon suit, black shirt, and maroon tie outfit this week was ON FUCKING POINT. I'm taking notes. 
    Did you miss seeing Johnny Gargano, EC3, War Raiders, and Velveteen Dream this week? Did you also feel like you were just on a treadmill while watching this week's NXT? Let us know in the comments below!

    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 (9/12/18): It's Like You're Always Stuck In Second Gear Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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