NXT – March 18, 2020

NXT
Date: March 18, 2020
Location: WWE Performance Center, Orlando, Florida
Hosts: HHH, Tom Phillips

Things are all over the place now as we are on the road to….well probably this same building actually, assuming Takeover still goes down. I’m not sure what to expect from that, especially with Wrestlemania now taking place on Saturday night as well. Maybe they have something special planned, but we might be in for some big television shows in the near future. Let’s get to it.

Opening recap.

HHH and Tom are in Connecticut to host the show and talk about how awesome HHH was on Smackdown last week.

We get a long package on Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano, starting with their NXT tryouts, then getting turned down, then coming back and getting to come together into the Cruiserweight Classic. Then they went after the Tag Team Titles and after a few failed attempts, they finally won the titles in a classic match.

Post break, Johnny thinks he’s a better wrestler than Ciampa but DIY was a great team and they wrestled around the world with the Tag Team Titles. Then Ciampa was all banged up and they lost the titles to AOP because they just weren’t healthy. If winning the titles in Toronto was a dream, losing them in San Antonio was a nightmare. Ciampa knows Gargano was outshining him though, and that’s where things started going badly.

Post break again and we go to Chicago, where Ciampa wrecked his knee (again) in the ladder match and turned on Gargano after the match. Ciampa knew it wasn’t their moment and Johnny was furious because there was nothing he could do since Ciampa needed knee surgery. Gargano fought on his own and had success but he knew Ciampa was in the back of his mind. Johnny couldn’t win the title but after it was over, Ciampa jumped him from behind with the crutch shot.

Then it was off to New Orleans for the first showdown in an incredible match with Ciampa being absolutely hated by the crowd and Johnny winning a war. Gargano was proud of the moment and thought it was over but then they went back to Chicago for the street fight, which Ciampa won to even the score. Gargano went after Ciampa in an NXT Title match and accidentally made Ciampa champion. That set them up for a Last Man Standing match in New York but Gargano went too far and lost in the end. That caused Gargano to start see things Ciampa’s way, which resulted in him winning the North American Title.

Back from another break and we get to Ciampa having to vacate the NXT Title due to a neck injury. Gargano won it in New York against Adam Cole to finally become Johnny Wrestling again. Ciampa came out and hugged him because it was the old Ciampa back again. Then Gargano lost the title in his first defense, with Ciampa thinking that Gargano can’t win without him around. Ciampa came back from neck surgery in a hurry and the fans gave him a hero’s welcome. That was confusing to Johnny, but he helped Ciampa and reformed DIY because it’s what everyone wanted. Yeah Ciampa is back, but now he wants the title back.

HHH and Tom remind us that they’re here.

Ciampa got his title shot at Takeover: Portland and after thirty minutes, he knew Cole couldn’t beat him.

We see the last few minutes of the Cole vs. Ciampa title match with Gargano interfering and costing Ciampa the match.

Gargano says he meant to come out there and support his friend but he saw a look in Ciampa’s eyes and knew it was the old Ciampa. When Ciampa looked down at him, he knew what was going to happen because Gargano can’t let Ciampa have his own chance. They brawled at the Performance Center last week because Ciampa is a psychopath and Gargano didn’t get a chance to explain anything. It made sense to have them fight at the Performance Center last week because everything started there.

HHH and Tom are amazed by their rivalry and can’t wait to see them fight again.

Post break, we move on to Finn Balor, with HHH saying this is the Prince that he always wanted to see from Balor.

Video on Finn Balor’s initial NXT run.

Balor talks about signing with the company in 2014 because he was the best wrestler in the world. He fought the best wrestlers in the world and showed that he was the best around, including when he became NXT Champion.

Post break, Balor is drafted to Raw in 2016 as the #1 overall pick for Raw, making him an instant top star. Balor won a four way in his first night, then beat Roman Reigns and went on to Summerslam to become the first ever Universal Champion….but he hurt his shoulder (and almost everything arm related) and was out for the better part of a year.

Then he came back and was giving everyone the best matches of their career, capped off by a Universal Title shot at the Royal Rumble. He wasn’t winning much of these though and the Lesnar loss brought the passion back. Balor knew he had to go back to NXT, where the passion came from in the first place.

Then he got back, but things weren’t the same. Now he has to please everyone at once and that wasn’t going to last. What matters is getting where he wants to go because he’s 38 years old and wants that feeling again. It was nothing personal when he took out Johnny Gargano, because this is all about the prince.

We see the end of Balor beating Gargano at Takeover: Portland.

Balor says the Prince is back.

HHH and Tom talk about Rhea Ripley defending the NXT Women’s Title at Wrestlemania and how big it is for NXT.

We get a video on Ripley, who showed up here when she was 20 but wasn’t being herself with the long blonde hair and big smile. Then she started being herself and knew she was on the right track. She got over to NXT UK and beat Toni Storm to become the first ever NXT UK Women’s Champion and it was the biggest moment of her career.

Then it was time to move on to NXT, where she got in Shayna Baszler’s face, beat her at WarGames and then beat her for the title in December (she was so on fire at that point that they didn’t have a choice). Charlotte won the Women’s Royal Rumble and no one wanted to see her face Becky Lynch again. That brought Ripley to Raw to issue the challenge because people wanted to see it for a change. After Ripley dispatched Bianca Belair, it was time to face Charlotte and it turns out that it’s going to be in Rhea’s world at the Performance Center.

HHH and Tom wrap it up.  There was no mention of Takeover whatsoever.

Overall Rating: B. This show worked because they tried to do something and didn’t veer away from it. They were much better off not having more awkward matches in front of no fans so keep the fans updated while you figure out what you want to do next. NXT knows how to do these videos really well and I could easily see the first half being released before the eventual Gargano vs. Ciampa blowoff. Much better than Raw and Smackdown, mainly because it was doing something well rather than trying not to do something too badly if that makes sense. Even if it doesn’t though, this was a good show.

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