The SmarK Rant for NXT–02.06.19

The SmarK Rant for NXT – 02.06.19

OK, everyone has been telling me I need to watch this episode, so let’s check it out.

Taped from Orlando, FL

Your hosts are Mauro, Nigel & Percy

Johnny Gargano joins us to start, fresh off winning the North American title, and the crowd is already chanting “Johnny Champion” at him. Tommaso Ciampa quickly interrupts, and I gotta say that his new entrance music is already growing on me. Ciampa is SO PROUD of Johnny, for following his lead, and now they’re a pair of champions! Sadly, Johnny still denies that there’s a “we” and insists he’ll never need Ciampa, which brings out Velveteen Dream. He points out that he’s the one who stole the show at NXT Takeover just by showing up, and then won the Worlds Collide tournament. Dream spurns the lust in Ciampa’s eyes (“I’m gonna need you to back up”) and decides to cash in his title shot on Johnny Champion instead. Johnny’s on top of the world and feeling DANGEROUS, so bring it on. Dream thinks it might just be Johnny Jackass when they get in the ring. Really good promo from Dream here, as he’s getting better by the week and I don’t know how much longer they can resist calling him up. I still have no idea what the endgame of the Gargano-Ciampa storyline is going to be, but it’s gotta climax on Wrestlemania weekend, I’d assume.

Jaxson Ryker v. Mansoor

Are we sure Mansoor isn’t Bryan Alvarez with facial hair? Apparently Ryker’s claim to “fame” is that he used to be Gunner in TNA, so, uh, good for him. He hangs the kid in the tree of woe and uses the clobbering forearms on him, but Mansoor fights back briefly. And then gets caught and hit with a spinebuster at 1:28 for the pin. This “angry white guy redneck survivalist” gimmick, or whatever it is they’re going for exactly, is a complete loser.

Meanwhile, the Undisputed Era interrupts a Ricochet photo shoot to remind him that Adam Cole is obviously the next challenger for the NXT title. So next week, they shall engage in fisticuffs to determine the true contender.

Drew Gulak v. Eric Bugenhagen

So Bugenhagen makes his debut here, rocking out with air guitar and air drums while looking like a jacked up Dave Grohl and he’s instantly over. He’s air-playing all his own instruments! Just like Dave Grohl! Dulak sadly cuts off the nonsense with a dropkick and stomps him down, then slams him into a snap suplex for two. Bugenhagen manages to reverse into an abdominal stretch and plays air guitar on him ala Tanahashi, but Gulak continues to ruin everyone’s fun with a side suplex and dragon sleeper to finish at 2:33. Oh lord, Vince McMahon is going to bring this guy up to the main roster the moment he becomes aware of the gimmick. Afterwards, Drew gets all insulted because they fed him “Ben Stiller from Dodgeball” and insists on getting some real stretching competition instead. So he gets it.

Drew Gulak v. Matt Riddle

Riddle quickly works into an armbar, but Gulak reverses out by using the hair. So Riddle takes him down again and tries another armbar, but Gulak reverses out again. So Riddle nails him with a kick to the back and follows with a senton, then throws a forearm in the corner before Gulak cuts him off with a dropkick. Gulak ties him up with a headlock on the mat and keeps him down there, then goes to a painful surfboard where he nearly bends Riddle’s arms over his head and then adds SMALL JOINT MANIPULATION to boot. Snap suplex gets two. Riddle fights back with a cradle suplex, but Gulak cuts him off again with a legwhip. Riddle tries a sleeper and then turns it into a german suplex for two, but Gulak hangs on with a Fujiwara armbar. Riddle fights out of that and they slug it out, which leads to Riddle deadlifting him into a powerbomb and a knee strike for two. And then he throws the elbows and finishes with the Bro-mission at 9:23. Really cool technical match that was totally different from anything else on TV as of late, and Gulak even offers a handshake afterwards. ***1/2

Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane & Io Shirai v. Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir

I still don’t get what everyone sees in Belair. The hair whip is a neat gimmick but otherwise I just don’t see it yet. Belair cleans house on all three heels to start and brings in Sane, press-slamming her onto Duke with an elbowdrop. Kairi gets caught in the heel corner and Shafir beats her down, but the Sky Pirates double-team her. Have they explained the face mask on Shafir yet or is it just one of those things? Shafir slugs away on Sane while the crowd snarks “Please tag Shayna” at her. They are SO BAD. And it’s not like they have a really good look or gimmick or anything to compensate. Baszler briefly comes in for some punishment, but then it’s over to Duke as poor Sane keeps selling for these super-green rookies. Shayna comes in and goes to work on the leg with a half-crab, but Shafir comes in again as the crowd boos every tag and chants “You can’t wrestle”. Poor Mauro has to try to get “The Muldovian Unicorn” over as a nickname, which I’m not feeling. Hot tag Shirai and she hits the heels with double knees in the corners, and a springboard dropkick on Baszler gets two. Sane goes up for the flying elbow, which gets two. Belair comes in and prevents Baszler from tagging out, and hits the KOD for two. Sane gets rid of the other two heels and Shirai finishes Baszler with the moonsault at 9:28 to set her up as the next challenger, I’d assume. The Sky Pirates and their celebrations continue to be the best thing about this show, even as Belair gives them bitchface. Sane did her best but the heel side was somehow even worse than the last time I saw them, as they have no sense of timing or charisma yet. ** Also, I again have to question why they bothered having Toni Storm win the Mae Young tournament and then shuttled her off to NXT UK while they put Io Shirai on TV weekly.

Anyway, we all know what this episode was about: MANSOOR. Or that Bugenhagen guy, I suppose.