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    Friday, October 26, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (10/24/18): Oh No, It's Johnny!

    It's the week that keeps on turning.

    No, seriously, the list of turns in wrestling this week just got longer. From Dean Ambrose to Elias, to Braun Strowman, to that asshole who runs MSG in PWR, it seemed like everyone picked this week to switch alignments.

    Apparently, even Johnny Gargano thought this was the perfect week to do so as he revealed himself as Aleister Black's assailant. I can't say I didn't see this coming because there were enough clues from the very first video to implicate Gargano. For starters, he was one of the first people NXT GM William Regal came into contact with right after the attack. On top of that, Gargano was slowly descending into madness before and after Black got taken out, so it's very well possible that Johnny did it at the peak of his insanity. Nandilim ang paningin, as our elders would say in Tagalog.

    Even Gargano's slow ascent back into the light prior to this week made sense. You could say it was the calm before the storm. Or it could very well have been part of the ruse so that he would be cleared of suspicion. Hell, even Candice LeRae left clues all around when she said that she and her husband had been having some problems at home.

    But was this the right call?

    Like most swerves and changes to the story arc, only time will tell. For now, I choose to keep an open mind and eagerly await to see where this one goes. The first thing I immediately thought of was the prospect of a heel version of #DIY, and I'd love to see that! Having a heel Gargano in the picture could also add a different dynamic to Black's pursuit of the NXT Championship. Remember, Aleister hasn't had his rematch yet because he got injured before his scheduled rematch at TakeOver: Brooklyn IV.

    Tommaso Ciampa's official statement on his Twitter account makes things even more intriguing. He says he "doesn't hate Johnny." So now that he's rejoicing that Gargano has turned to the dark side, do they reunite as friends—or at least, as allies? Do they continue to go at one another regardless of alignment? How does this all come together?

    I still believe that the endgame is the eventual Gargano vs. Ciampa match for the NXT Championship during WrestleMania weekend. But we have another half-year until then. I think that's enough time to tell this chapter of the story before Gargano sees the light once again and becomes everyone's favorite underdog to root for. But right now, I'm ready to see how dark this version of Johnny Gargano is willing to go. I'm going to miss cheering for Johnny Wrestling; but it's time to see a different side to my favorite NXT Superstar. Let's do this.

    Not-So-Full Sails

    • Yep, just as I'd been saying all this time, Regal's investigation was all for naught. Hell, he didn't even get to make his TakeOver: WarGames announcement. This is the very first time that anyone's actually made Regal look incompetent. It's frustrating, but amazing at the same time because it took this long to make Regal look like an inefficient authority figure.
    • I really don't get what Aliyah's character is supposed to be. So she comes from privilege and never has to work a day in her life so she decides to be... a pro wrestler? What's her motivation? With EC3, it's to prove that he is the best in his industry. But Aliyah is no EC3. She's more like Kona Reeves at this point—a wrestler who doesn't stand out, slapped with the gimmick of an affluent member of society who shouldn't give a fuck. However, it just isn't connecting.
    • I am so glad that Mia Yim is finally in the Performance Center. It's about time we had an Asian-American female Superstar representing her community, and the Blasian Baddie is as good as it gets. Plus, with her impressive showing in the last two Mae Young Classics, I'm really psyched to see what she can add to NXT. Congrats, Mia Yim!
    • Give me more brutal Kassius Ohno matches. Me want more. I can't wait for the Matt Riddle debut so these two can go at one another. Props to Justin Xavier and Ohno for not having a typical squash match. It was nice of Ohno to let Xavier get some of his stuff in.
    • As happy as I am to see all four members of The Undisputed ERA healthy and back together, I can't help but feel like Bobby Fish is out of place for now. You see it as early as their entrance; Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong have the two turnbuckles, while Adam Cole is front and center. Bobby Fish is just... kind of there like a chuwariwap. Then again, he made up for it by being the unhinged member of their group, when he went after EC3's knee with that steel chair. I just wish he was presented better during the entrance.
    • That said, I thought Adam Cole vs. EC3 was the best match on this week's episode. The opening and post-match segments also did well to plant the seeds for this year's WarGames match. Given The Undisputed ERA's feud with War Raiders, it might not be a stretch to assume that Hanson and Rowe will team with EC3 the way AOP aligned with Roderick Strong last year. The question is... will there be a third team in the mix and is that British Strong Style?
    This week's episodes didn't really add any hype to WWE Evolution, which takes place this Monday (Manila time), by the way. On the flip side, the major stories got a huge push forward, and that really helps us set the table for what should be an exciting TakeOver: WarGames 2018. All in all, NXT gets a very solid B+ for the week.

    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 (10/24/18): Oh No, It's Johnny! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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