Date: February 21, 2018
Location: Center Stage Theater, Atlanta, Georgia
Commentators: Percy Watson, Nigel McGuinness, Mauro Ranallo
We have a main event quality main event here with Andrade Cien Almas vs. Johnny Gargano in a title vs. NXT career match. Gargano lost to Almas in a classic at Takeover: Philadelphia and now he has one more chance. The stipulations would suggest an obvious ending, but that’s not exactly the way NXT tends to operate. Let’s get to it.
We open with a long recap of Almas vs. Gargano, including the champ’s rise and their match in Philadelphia. Two weeks ago Gargano asked for one more title match and was granted his request, albeit with his career on the line.
Velveteen Dream vs. No Way Jose
The fans are WAY into Dream and Jose happens to be there too. Dream pops him in the jaw to start and gets in some forearms in the corner. Jose is right back with an elbow and backdrop to the floor, followed by a slingshot dive. The fans aren’t against Jose here but Dream is just crazy popular. Back from a break with Dream hitting a hot shot and a swinging neckbeaker. Jose gets in a small package for two but the Toma Punch is countered with a dropkick. The rolling Death Valley Bomb and the Purple Rainmaker (Dream: “DREAM OVER!”) is good for the pin on Jose at 7:15.
Rating: C-. What the heck happened to Jose? He seemed ready to go to the main roster as the house show opening act and now he’s little more than a jobber to the stars. Dream on the other hand is the hottest thing in NXT right now and if it weren’t for Black and Gargano, would be the biggest face in the promotion despite being a heel.
Post match Dream says he was the Competitor of the Year with the Match of the Year and his name is on everyone’s lips. If people don’t get that, he doesn’t have time for you.
William Regal announces the return of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, which starts in two weeks. The winners get a Tag Team Title shot at Takeover: New Orleans.
Nikki Cross vs. Vanessa Borne
Cross goes crazy to start and jumps on Borne’s back with a choke. Borne manages to throw her down for some near falls before grabbing a chinlock. The fans are entirely behind Cross here, even as she smiles at being in trouble. Borne looks scared as Nikki hits a running crossbody and a splash in the corner. The fisherman’s neckbreaker ends Borne at 2:54.
We look back at Killian Dain coming out to face Aleister Black last week.
TM61 have officially entered the Dusty Classic.
We look back at Kairi Sane saving Ember Moon from Shayna Baszler last week.
Moon vs. Baszler next week.
NXT Title: Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Cien Almas
Almas is defending and Candice LeRae and Zelina Vega are the respective seconds. Gargano bails from an early hammerlock DDT attempt and we take a break. Back with Gargano loading up a dive but pausing when Vega steps in his way. Candice doesn’t mind diving onto her, leaving Gargano to cannonball off the apron and take the champ down. Candice fights Vega to the back and it’s one on one.
Almas is right back up and drives Gargano back first onto the apron for two before starting in on the arm. The shoulder goes into the buckle and Almas wraps the arm around the ropes to keep him in trouble. Back from another break with Gargano chopping in the corner but banging his arm up some more. The slingshot spear gets two but Gargano misses the superkick.
Almas takes him into the corner for two off the running knees. The hammerlock DDT is broken up again and they slug it out on the apron with Johnny getting the better of it. Another slingshot spear is countered into the Fujiwara armbar on the bad arm. With that not working, Almas reversed into the Gargano Escape, which is escaped pretty quickly. Gargano charges into a hiptoss in the corner and Almas loads up the Alberto top rope stomp to the apron.
That’s broken up as well and Almas shoves him to the floor, followed by a tornado DDT on the floor. The slingshot DDT gets two back inside for a VERY hot near fall with the fans buying into it the whole way. They slug it out from their knees but Almas decks the referee by mistake. The Gargano Escape has Almas ready to tap….and here’s Tommaso Ciampa to break a crutch over Gargano’s back. Almas hits the hammerlock DDT to retain at 22:23.
Rating: A-. It’s almost unfair to compare this to their first match but it was still very good as these two continue to have excellent chemistry together. You know they’re going to get to Gargano vs. Ciampa somehow (perhaps with Gargano as a visiting wrestler or a WWE wrestler or in an unsanctioned match etc.)
Johnny gets the big sendoff until the announcer says Gargano must now leave NXT. Candice consoles her husband and we get the THANK YOU JOHNNY chants. Ciampa looks on to end the show.
Overall Rating: B+. The main event carries this show of course and there’s nothing wrong with that. The Dusty Classic should be more than enough to carry the midcard all the way to New Orleans, meaning you can probably guess four matches from here, most of which should be quite good. It’s another strong episode though as NXT continues to have goals and the steps to get there.
Velveteen Dream b. No Way Jose – Purple Rainmaker
Nikki Cross b. Vanessa Borne – The Purge
Andrade Cien Almas b. Johnny Gargano – Hammerlock DDT
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