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    Saturday, March 31, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (3/28/18): Of New Titles and Percentages

    Hoo boy, there's a lot to unpack in this week's episode, I don't even know where to begin!

    NXT General Manager William Regal opened with two bombshells that were dropped in the first half of the show: the creation of the NXT North American Championship. Finally, a (permanent) secondary title in the very much stacked yellow and black brand!

    But even before GM Regal finished his announcement, EC3 interrupted him and made his NXT TV debut!

    Huh. Not bad after being fired from his former employer (and unceremoniously ejected) just less than a week ago.

    This segment was the first time I'm seeing the Artist Formerly Known as Derrick Bateman and Ethan Carter III (but just EC3 now, which means "the formula for success," as he told play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo), and he's already great in my eyes. His ability to inject the crowd's reactions in his promo is just so good, and his charisma makes it easy for people to love or hate him.

    Mr. Regal cut off EC3 mid-promo and corrected him: no one is handed anything on NXT, he says, so the Top One Percenter should first win the ladder match at TakeOver: New Orleans against five other people to become the NXT North American Champion.

    As the show went on, it was revealed that the five other people are going to be Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, and another debuting NXT Superstar in Ricochet!

    The match literally looks like it's something we can only do in a WWE video game in the best possible way. WrestleMania Weekend just got more stacked.


    Rest of the show:
    • Mr. Regal told Tommaso Ciampa he'll face Johnny Gargano in an unsanctioned match at TakeOver: New Orleans: Apparently, Gargano's beatdown of Ciampa last week didn't stop there, as he followed Ciampa after the show in the parking lot and to his house at 3 a.m. Ciampa demanded that Mr. Regal do something about it, hence making the match official. If Gargano wins, he's back in NXT, but if Ciampa wins, Gargano is gone forever.
    If you've been watching NXT over the past year or so, this was already etched in stone as soon as the Psycho Killer turned on his partner at TakeOver: Chicago. We just have to see Gargano murder Ciampa at some point, and the time has finally come. It was also brilliant how the former #DIY used social media to forward this angle, especially Tommaso, who was on the shelf during the majority of the build-up.

    This column's TakeOver predictions isn't due yet until next week, but I'm already calling it: our favorite underdog is going to slay the snake from his past and move on to much greater things. And it's going to be one of the most cathartic victories we're going to see.
    • Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) (w/ Paul Ellering) def. Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) to advance to the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals: If AOP can beat the Street Profits once, they most certainly can beat them again, but man, I didn't expect Dawkins and Ford to go down in such a disappointing manner.
    The Street Profits showed so much fire in the match, with Ford's seemingly passionate trash talking and Dawkins' mad strength (he was throwing AOP bodies around like a mad man!), until Ford got too excited with his partner's newfound fire. He completely lost his focus in the match, which AOP capitalized on for the win.

    I was hoping that we'd get to see more of the Street Profits' fiery side to get another dimension of their character, but we didn't get that, obviously. Perhaps Creative wanted to highlight how they aren't ready yet to be one of the prime time players, but the potential is already there.
    • Lars Sullivan def. John Silver: Not the biggest Lars Sullivan fan, but I realized that I missed him a lot halfway during this squash match. Poor John Silver, but Lars Sullivan is a scary man, and Silver became a tool to remind the NXT Universe of the things Sullivan can do. He was interviewed after the match backstage, and he displayed his wide vocabulary during the promo. I really like how they're making him a different monster character, who has both the brawn and the brains.
    • Andrade "Cien" Almas (once again) interrupts a match to beat up Aleister Black: Man, El Ídolo isn't playing anymore. And this is interesting to note because, as I mentioned last time, we are used to a tranquilo NXT champion, with Zelina Vega putting him in place. This time, he was all fired up and it's all thanks to Aleister Black's mind games from weeks ago. He is visibly shaken from the events of the contract signing, and we'll find out if an overly emotional Andrade will cost him his title or will up his game. Another bit of effective storytelling without taking too much time from the shows.
    And hey, he got the entire Full Sail to boo him!

    • Roderick Strong and WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne def. SAnitY (Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young) to advance to the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals: SAnitY gave Roddy and Pete a run for their money in this really good tag team match. Alexander Wolfe is becoming a favorite and he is continuing his impressive streak since after TakeOver: WarGames. EY is still EY, who still does great in his role of elevating people around him. Despite my glowing compliments to the former tag team champions, SAnitY really has to get back on track.
    The Roddy and Peter partnership continues to grow and for this week, they added tandem offense to their arsenal, finishing off with a tandem End of Heartache to Bitter End on EY for the win. It's long been established that the UK Champion is in business only for himself, so it's interesting to keep an eye on their team. Is Dunne going to turn on Roddy once they lose? What if their opponents become too difficult to defeat?


    The tag team main event was the only match that delivered this week, but EC3's segment alone is worth watching this episode, aside from the reveal of the other five men included in the ladder match for the North American title. The episodes these past few weeks failed to hype me up for TakeOver: New Orleans, but this week was like a caffeine shot that suddenly spiked my excitement up for WrestleMania Weekend. I give it an A-.

    Photo from WWE.com

    Ardelle Costuna works at a news organization somewhere along EDSA whenever she's not watching wrestling. As someone who just recently turned to Japanese wrestling (full-time ish), she is a sucker for no-sold German suplexes, kick-outs at one-count, and whatever the hell Tetsuya Naito is doing right now. Send her your (joshi) puroresu match recommendations and watch her swoon over Kenny Omega, and Jake Lee at @aandthejets.
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    Item Reviewed: Smark Hen-XT (3/28/18): Of New Titles and Percentages Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ardelle Costuna
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