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    Sunday, April 29, 2018

    Smark Hen-XT (4/25/18): Black Heart


    Ugh. I just had to, again! When we all thought our favorite underdog Johnny Gargano was ready to move on to much better things like the NXT title, that monster, that snake Tommaso Ciampa comes at him fast. I was so angry! You were vanquished, Ciampa! YOU WERE FINISHED!

    Okay, now that's out of my system, apologies are in order for missing this column last week because life came at me fast (Just like that damn Ciampa. I'm sorry Johnny), but we're here again with a seemingly new chapter of NXT TV post-TakeOver: New Orleans!

    After sending Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega to SmackDown Live with sore shoulders and necks courtesy of last week's debut match between Candice LeRae and Vega, it looked like Johnny Wrestling was ready for anything, including another NXT title opportunity. Gargano made a challenge to the newly-minted NXT Champion Aleister Black after Candice's match (which I still have not forgotten. You stole Candice's thunder, Johnny, how dare you).

    Putting my kayfabe hat and disdain for the Psycho Killer aside, the last 20-something minutes of this week's NXT TV was quite a ride, and I believe it accomplished a lot of things:
    • Despite his ugly (well-deserved) loss at TakeOver, a sore loser and psychotic Ciampa still became a credible threat to Gargano, and heck, maybe even to Black. With this said...
    • They made developments to the Wrestling-Psycho Killer story and possibly even to the NXT title scene.
    • They delayed the inevitable Gargano-Black (or/and Ciampa?) match that--come on, let's just be honest--deserved to headline a TakeOver event!
    • Gargano is back to his struggling, underdog self that always makes a compelling story
    • And it made Tommaso Ciampa even more despised as a heel. This is nothing new, but if you think you couldn't hate Tommy Entertainment (Get it? Because Gargano's Johnny Wrestling) even more, then watch him wave goodbye to his former tag team partner on top of an NXT trailer truck, as Gargano was being wheeled out in an ambulance. Wow.
    Being a fighting champion that Aleister was, he tried to call out Ciampa for "eliminating his competition", making it look like Ciampa was next in line for the title, but SAnitY (Minus Nikki Cross, mind you!) came out and interrupted him.

    And suddenly, we had Aleister Black vs. Eric Young (which we'll get into)!


    Rest of the show:

    • Roderick Strong explains why he joined the Undisputed ERA: Before anything else, there are a few things that ticked me off in this segment. For one, Kyle O'Reilly and Roddy were introduced as tag team champions. If the ERA are Freebirding the titles, won't they all be tag team champions? And what was up with Bobby Fish not being introduced despite literally walking out with them? Is it because he's still under the injured list? I may be dwelling on these small things too much, but I guess it's an interesting wrinkle.
    Roddy's explanation as to why he turned on Pete Dunne mid-match at TakeOver made sense, and it was typical heel rationalization: why take on the world alone when he can take over NXT with the ERA? Him saying that Pete was very likely to turn on him eventually was a good heel thinking, and it further established Peter as a tweener rather than a full-blown babyface.
    • Adam Cole def. Oney Lorcan to retain the NXT North American Championship: This isn't up there with legendary title matches on NXT TV, but this wasn't so bad either. May I just say that I want something more for Oney Lorcan. Perhaps it's a good thing that he didn't lose cleanly, since Roddy and Kyle provided the distraction for Cole to deliver the Last Shot (Maybe that's what they're calling his shining wizard finisher now) for the win, but he and Danny Burch were used to further prove that the ERA are the guys. I'm not complaining, I just want to see Lorcan get a W. :(
    • Heavy Machinery def. Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli: Right. We got this. Again. But unlike their two (or three? Who's even counting?) previous matches, this served a certain purpose for each team. Sabbatelli finally walked out on Moss mid-match after a couple of will-they-or-won't-they in their breakup. I still maintain that they hopefully signed a pre-nup before, but kidding aside, Sabbatelli clearly is getting the push on this one. The reactions he got from the crowd when he walked out was huge, and it will be so much fun to hate on him. On the other side of the ring, Heavy Machinery called out War Raiders, and I know that it's their thing, but I wished that they didn't do their "steaks and weights" references in this promo, because they were fired up. They seem hungry to prove that they are tough, but the "steaks and weights" parts looked like their fire was subdued.
    • NXT Champion Aleister Black def. Eric Young: The melee between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa brought us to this match. It wasn't clear if it was for the title, but I personally didn't mind.
    The match didn't really pick up until the last 10-ish minutes, and it was a lot of fun. EY really is a veteran of the game, as he made Aleister look better. The exchange of words between the two was also compelling stuff, and I wished that a feud between them (With Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain in tow as well) was something that happened because it would have been loads of good stuff. After the match, Aleister sent SAnitY packing for SmackDown Live with painful jaws as they attempted a beat down on the champion.

    If I had any qualms though, maybe it was for the weird placement of this match. Maybe they could have ended with a face off in the ring to set up for next week's main event? Everyone was just too caught up on Ciampa's attack on Gargano that this match became an afterthought. But hey, I'm glad that EY got a high-profile match before going to the blue brand.

    Other thoughts:

    • Shayna Baszler is a big freaking bully and I love it. I cannot wait until someone takes the title from her.
    • Promo videos of the NXT women's roster were played all throughout the show, and it was a really good way to build who Shayna's next contender will be. Bianca Belair had a separate promo video, though, further proving that they have big things for the -EST of NXT.
    • Among the women, it's noticeable that Dakota Kai is the only one with a solid story going forward. Last week, Shayna barged in mid-PC class in a locker room and warned everyone about her reign. Kai walks out on her seemingly scared. For this week's episode, she's traumatized about an incident between her and the champion, refusing to tell Cathy Kelley what it was about. I'm honestly looking forward to what they make out of this.

    This week's episode was very much forward-looking. There weren't solid matches, but the Creative's obviously trying out a lot of things in developing existing stories and making new ones in the black and yellow brand. It was a good episode all in all, but not up there with really good episodes we had in the past. This week gets a B.

    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 (4/25/18): Black Heart Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ardelle Costuna
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