Big night for Johnny Gargano tonight as he faces Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas with the NXT Championship and Gargano’s NXT career on the line. We’re also due to see Velveteen Dream versus No Way Jose, and Nikki Cross versus Vanessa Bourne. Expecting Gargano versus Almas to take up the majority of the show, which should make it a great episode.
Velveteen Dream def No Way Jose
Nikki Cross def Vanessa Bourne
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas def Johnny Gargano – Gargano must leave NXT
The show opened with a video package detailing the feud between Johnny Gargano and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas. During the commentary housekeeping before the first match, we were told the there would be a special announcement from William Regal during the show, then we were into the first match.
Velveteen Dream vs No Way Jose
There are some matches where you have a rough idea of what you’ll say in a review before the match even happens, the type of match, the tone, the pace etc. This was not one of those matches. As it turned out, it was really good.
Velveteen and Jose are around the same height, but Velveteen Dream gives up a little in weight. Their both flamboyant and athletic, and their styles meshed well. After a little dancing about, the match quickly got heavy-handed.
I love seeing the bigger guys flying around like cruiserweights and they did a lot of that. Very fun pairing to watch. Velveteen Dream countered the pop-up punch into a dropkick and followed it up with a rolling death-valley driver. It was pretty much over for No Way Jose at that point.
Velveteen Dream hit the Purple Rainmaker and got the three-count. That match was much too short. It was good but, given another five or ten minutes, it could have been brilliant.
After the match Velveteen Dream said he should have won all the end of year awards. No-one cares about anyone else. His name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue tonight, and if you can’t see that he doesn’t have time for you. Interestingly, he mentioned Tyler Bate again. I’m guessing that match is coming soon.
Cut to a look at Andrade Almas’ preparations for the match, with Zelina Vega, and some more hype.
William Regal’s announcement was the return of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. It starts in two weeks, and the winners will face the tag champions at the WrestleMania weekend TakeOver. I wonder if that’s when War Machine will debut.
Vanessa Bourne vs Nikki Cross
Vanessa Bourne looks a lot more composed and put together than the last time we saw here, although how you look composed when facing Nikki Cross I’m not sure. Cross was her usual, unhinged, wonderful self. Happy to see the crowd showing her some love as well.
Nikki Cross only knows one way of starting a match, by leaping on her opponent and battering them. Vanessa Bourne fought back, with Cross grinning away at every bit of offence Bourne landed. Bourne even got a couple of pin attempts in before Cross had had enough and took back the control.
Sadly, this was the match that took the time hit to make room for Gargano’s match. After around three minutes, Nikki Cross hit the swinging fisherman’s neckbreaker (which is now apparently called The Purge), and that was it.
Recap of Aleister Black and Killian Dain’s confrontation next. No match announcement or further info.
Camera cut to Johnny Gargano pacing and Candice LeRae looking worried. They’re definitely giving this the big match feel.
TM61 have declared themselves as entrants into the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Another recap next, this time of Kairi Sane saving Ember Moon from Shayna Baszler. This one led to a match announcement though, Kairi Sane versus Shayna Baszler is next week.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs Johnny Gargano – NXT Championship match – If Gargano loses he must leave NXT
Gargano looked serious and focused. He had Candice LeRae with him, so at least Zelina Vega shouldn’t be a factor. LeRae is more than capable of dealing with that threat, and she wouldn’t think twice about taking on Almas either. You’ve got to question Gargano’s sanity for taking this deal. This is the fourth time he and Almas have fought, and Gargano is 0-3.
Tension was running high at the start of the match. Almas stated strong, with a quick roll-up attempt, and was getting the better of Gargano, to Johnny Wrestling took a break on the outside.
Zelina Vega stopped Johnny Gargano delivering a suicide dive to Almas, but in return she ate a suicide dive from LeRae. The two women brawled right out of the arena to the backstage area, while Gargano took out Almas anyway.
Properly one on one, they fell back into the incredible chemistry they’ve displayed throughout the feud. It could be argued that Johnny Gargano has had almost as big an impact of Almas starting to get some reactions as Zelina Vega has.
Gargano took some hefty punishment, as he does. He resisted, and fought back, with the crowd behind his every step of the way, but Almas seemed to have an answer for everything. He even put Gargano into his own submission hold, as if Gargano wouldn’t know how to get out of that.
Excellent match, and they put everything into it, but their last match together was a match of the year contender and that’s hard to follow. Gargano caught a break when he shoved Almas off the turnbuckle to the outside, then hit him with a suicide dive into a tornado DDT. He got the champ back into the ring and delivered another DDT, but only got a two count.
Things took a turn when Almas was accidently sent into the ref, knocking him out. With the referee down, Gargano managed to lock in the Gargano Escape. It looked like Almas might tap, but there was no-one there to officiate. Suddenly, Tommaso Ciampa appeared in the ring and hit Gargano with the crutch. The blow was powerful enough for Jose to get out of the submission and deliver a hammerlock DDT, just in time for the ref to come round. The ref counted a slow and reluctant three, and Johnny Gargano’s NXT career is over.
The crowd chanted ‘Thank You Johnny’ while he sat in the ring with LeRae. When the announcer reminded everyone Gargano had to leave due to the stipulation, the chant changed to ‘No’, before going back to the thank you’s.
They left the ring, and the final visual was Tommaso Ciampa holding the crutch and waving goodbye.
Well, that was a downer, but I’m sure it’s not the last we’ve seen of Gargano on NXT, unless they take the Ciampa feud to 205 Live, but I can’t see it. The attack by Ciampa gives them a nice easy loophole to reinstate him. We all want to see the culmination of Gargano’s redemption storyline and I’m convinced we will, one day. I wish we could have Candice LeRae versus Tommaso Ciampa as part of it, but I know that’s a step too far for WWE right now.
Not much else to comment on in this week’s episode. The return of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is awesome, there is plenty of depth in the NXT tag division at the moment, especially if War Machine get added into the mix. Velveteen Dream is going to be a huge star if he can stay uninjured and out of trouble. Nikki Cross should be part of the title picture in the women’s division.
Next week we get a rerun of the final of the Mae Young Classic, which should be superb.