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    Thursday, August 12, 2021

    Smark Hen-XT (8/10/21): Feud, Skit, Repeat

    NXT really feels like a whole different show nowadays. While some would attribute it to the pandemic effect, I believe it has also gotten worse due to the recent talent cuts. Imagine having a smaller roster to fill up two hours of TV time. That's probably how we got a segment-heavy show this week. Just look at how many times The Way and InDex (Indi Hartwell/Dexter Lumis) storyline appeared throughout the show. It was evident that NXT might be shifting from being the wrestling brand to being RAW/SmackDown Lite.—hence all those vignettes on the show.

    It might be an unpopular opinion because many people do enjoy InDex (as well as the Cameron Grimes/LA Knight skits from before). However, there are just too many pre-taped skits nowadays that they start to lose their novelty. I'm not saying they should remove the skits. But, this entertainment-heavy focus is not the NXT I've come to know and love. Plus, they contain the same characters and move the plot so quickly in a single show that everything feels overly fast-paced to digest.

    Not only that, what was the point of last week's match between Johnny Gargano and Dexter Lumis anyway? After winning last week's "Love Her or Lose Her" Match, they then pushed through with InDex anyway. Sure, love conquers all and all that jazz. But in an industry where stipulations are supposed to be a big deal, I just felt deflated because of the non-follow up.

    On a positive note, they've easily turned the angle into a more comedic fashion as Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae have evolved as characters. The slight comedic tones of the skits may be more palatable to more casual viewers. Indi Hartwell's new rebel teenager trope may be a cute fit to the Garganos' "strict parents" role. Still, I'm not a fan of this vignette-heavy approach though it might be good for the Gargano matriarch considering the news of her pregnancy.

    In all honesty, there were mostly vignettes, promos, and skits in the show. It was a good build-up for NXT Takeover 36 but otherwise, the in-ring action was very minimal—even if the opening and main event matches were longer than the usual TV standard. For someone who's used to watching the good old days of NXT wrestling, this is a huge shift. Perhaps it's safe to assume that the lack of bouts could be attributed to the thinner roster. One good thing they did this week was bringing Ilja Dragunov in. I think bringing in talent from other brands could be good from an exposure standpoint.

    It's great that they beefed up the opener and the main event, or this episode would have been a stinker. Seriously, go watch Pete Dunne vs. Ilja Dragunov. It was a solid match. With shades of NXT UK, it really gave a different vibe to the usual Black and Gold nights. I have reason to believe Ilja Dragunov will finally capture the NXT UK Championship after losing his match this week. After all, a common WWE trope is having a challenger lose a match just before his championship match for that surprise win.

    For what it's worth, Dakota Kai vs. Sarray was also good. I did feel the ending was flat because Kai totally no-sold that corner kick she got towards the end. I know this was more for Kai than Sarray, but that just felt a little wasted. Again, we go back to the sudden lack of roster depth. Why hand an up-and-comer like her a loss on regular TV out of nowhere? It just feels like a counter-productive way of building up your newer Superstars on the brand. In fact, there might be a lack of female babyfaces on the brand that could've done the job for Kai.


    Also, as a last note of the night, I have to reiterate this. Why the hell are we getting Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly again? Are they really going to treat this feud as being on the same level as Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa? It really feels like the same old stuff, but only staler. We've crossed the point where we have to do this match again because they're the only stars left capable of giving out five-star quality matches. Makes you wonder why Bobby Fish wasn't inserted here? He could've added more color here instead of being a casualty to the eventual KUSHIDA/Roderick Strong feud.

    With rumors of NXT shifting its direction, this might serve as a preview of what we'll be getting in the future. Odyssey Jones? Boa? No disrespect to these talented individuals, but if rumors are to be believed, we'll be seeing more big men highlighted in the evolution of NXT. The high-flying or technical NXT we've come to love might be going away soon. 

    Plus, with these silly skits taking over the TV time, I don't really know how much my eyes can stick to the show. I get that this approach worked positively for shows like Lucha Underground. However, with the NXT banner being the sole alternative to RAW and SmackDown's campier, more mainstream approach, this might be a blow to viewers who enjoy the more athletic approach of the Black and Gold Brand.

    Show Grade: D

    Match to Watch: Ilja Dragunov vs. Pete Dunne

    Not-So-Full Sails

    • Odyssey Jones is really an impressive specimen. However, with a lot of the releases from NXT, I wonder who he can feed off from—especially since the roster is now full of lower popularity rookies and complete Superstars who might not be down to take losses from rookies.
    • I wish the Cameron Grimes vs. LA Knight feud would end. Similar to my thoughts on the InDex skits, they used to appear at least two or three times per episode before, which led to viewer fatigue for me.
    • On that note, if they'd have spaced out the feud a little more, they could have given Ted DiBiase proper timing to join the feud once again. As it stands, this story feels rushed, especially with how everything has unfolded so far.
    • I'm impressed with the new crop of NXT female talents such as Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne. But I do wonder if they'll be able to break through the ceiling. I guess I'm missing the older days where the likes of Alexa Bliss and Carmella were able to catch up to established stars like Charlotte and Sasha Banks.
    Are you enjoying the direction that NXT is taking? Are you still excited after these many feud rehashes? Hit us up in the comments section below.

    Photos and videos from WWE


    Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your resident Young Rock reviewer here at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) Instagramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz), and streaming videogames on Twitch (@the_migz) while he pursues his musical career via his YouTube channel (Migz Llado) and courtesy of his band The Mox (TheMoxRocks). You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE 2K (or any PS4) skills.
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    Item Reviewed: Smark Hen-XT (8/10/21): Feud, Skit, Repeat Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Migz Llado
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