Results & Observations
(Allstate Arena – Chicago, Illinois – May 20, 2017)
Hosts: Charly Caruso, Nigel McGuinness, and Peter Rosenberg. Interviewers: Vic Thomas and Kayla Braxton.
The audience is loudly and clearly chanting “DIY.”
After the package for the DIY v. Authors of Pain match, Rosenberg and McGuinness note that it is strange that Johnny Gargano and Tomaso Ciampa are smiling about the announcement of the ladder match. The AOP are larger, dangerous opponents and should be respected as such. Even though the challengers have each been wrestling for a number of years, it’s those small things that translate differently on tv. Especially when a mistake doesn’t last just for the live moment but is played over and over and over on television.
Ember Moon is out to discuss the NXT Women’s Championship match with the panelists. The experience in front of cameras and a live microphone is invaluable…but I felt that it subtlely chipped away at her aura. She came across as a little too “regular.”
The panel hangs the outcome of the NXT Championship match on whether Hideo Itami can strike down Bobby Roode with his “Go To Sleep” finisher. Rosenberg picks Roode to win. McGuinness feels it is a 50-50 tossup.
A thirty-minute preshow format is so much preferable to the WWE hour-plus show. It’s clean and concise. It does the job of enticing potential WWE Network customers to purchase a subscription without burning out the viewing audience before the main show even begins.
The opening package positions Chicago as a city of champions and underdogs.
I dig the “Bobby Roode’s NXT” line. It works simultaneously as a heel or face catchphrase regardless of how the fan views him.
Tom Phillips, Nigel McGuinness, and Percy Watson are calling the show.
Roderick Strong defeated Eric Young (w/ Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe).
Strong jumps Dain and Wolfe before the bell to help even his odds against Young.
“Let’s go, Roddy” chants fill the Allstate Arena.
Dain MURDERS Strong with a running crossbody block outside the ring.
The audience is doing the Tye Dillinger “Ten” thing as the referee is counting Strong and Young outside the ring.
Wolfe and Dain are pretty damn menacing flunkies.
“Let’s go, Roddy” chant returns.
McGuinness just name-checked The Missing Link.
Drake Younger is such a credible, efficient referee. How long until he is called up to the main roster?
Strong’s dropkicks are an absolute work of art. They have elevation and snap. I would not want to be on the receiving end of one.
Holy Hell—DAT BACKBREAKER!
Strong gets the first plausible two-count of the night.
Young hits his “Wheelbarrow Neckbreaker” outside the ring.
Strong pins Young after a double-knee backbreaker.
Phillips is doing a heckuva job selling tonight as “Strong’s Moment.”
Strong is so incredibly likable in this role. He has to be considered a contender for the NXT Championship after this, right?
WWE United Kingdom Championship
Pete Dunne defeated Tyler Bate (c) to win the title.
Jim Ross will be calling the match. He gets a full entrance, including music.
Ross’ voice has aged. It sounds strained. (To be fair, he has aged and he is in the midst of an astonishingly stressful year with the unexpected passing of his wife.
Audience: “Bru-zer Weight!”
Did McGuinness just say “Social Me-de-er?”
The crowd is hot, Hot, HOT for this match.
Chain wrestling—done well—is such a pretty thing to watch.
Dunne with a clubbing forearm outside the ring. His “X-Plex” is so gnarly.
Audience: “Let’s go Ty-ler!/Bru-zer Weight!”
Bate magnificently powers out of a triangle choke.
Audience: “This is Awe-some!”
Bate executes a BONKERS accelerated airplane spin that garners a two.
It just occurred to me that neither competitor wears kneepads.
Dunne hits a forearm/powerbomb combo. Bate barely kicks out.
The audience is on their feet.
The two start on the mat and trade strikes until they are both standing.
Dunne is killing it with the timing of his kickouts. So bloody dramatic.
Audience: “Fight For-ev-er!”
Bate counters a pump handle with a DDT and destroys Dunne with it.
Dunne kicks out of a “Corkscrew 450.”
Bat misses a dive outside. Dunne drags him back in the ring and locks him in “The Bitter End” to win the championship.
This is a star-making performance for both men.
I saw Pete Dunne early in his career when he and Mark Andrews did some shots with Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) and, I believe, MEGA Championship Wrestling. He is an entirely different performer than the young man I saw in Cleveland. The change is remarkable. Dunne has submerged himself in this character. His intensity is palpable. Everything is clicking.
This was a terrific match. It was action-packed and dramatic. However, being the second match on the card, did they do too much? We will see where the match falls in the context of the rest of the show.
NXT Women’s Championship
Triple Threat Match
Asuka (c) defeated Ruby Riot & Nikki Cross.
I just noticed that the announcer didn’t include the women’s weights in their intros. Is that normal?
The story of the match is whether Riot and Cross can put aside their hatred for each other long enough for one of them to defeat the freight train that is Asuka.
Asuka’s heel turn has been a miserable failure. People are cheering, laughing, and smiling as she makes her way to the ring.
Audience: “Ru-by Ri-ot!”
Rules: No countout. No DQ.
McGuinness name checks Manami Toyota and Lioness Asuka. I’m loving this.
Cross attacks Riot from behind. Riot’s head bangs off the floor.
The three wrestlers are thumping the hell out of each other.
These NXT fans are genuinely invested in Ruby Riot.
Sharp sequence in which Riot is trapped in the “Asuka Lock” and Cross flies in, seemingly from nowhere, with a splash to break it up. Talk about vicious…
Riot attempts to pin Cross. Asuka rolls in the ring and knees Cross in the temple. The champion pins both women simultaneously to retain the championship.
The match was fine but nothing spectacular.
It feels like Asuka has been the champion for too long. It is time for her to go up to the main roster.
A teaser video for the “Velveteen Dream” airs. How many times are they going to debut this guy?
“Glorious” Bobby Roode (c) defeated Hideo Itami.
So the tag title match is the main event? Interesting.
Itami is a getting a surprisingly lukewarm reception. It consists of light cheers mixed with boos. These injuries have killed the guy’s momentum.
The audience is chanting for Roode.
Itami nearly scores a “Go To Sleep” to end the match quickly.
Itami’s kicks and punches are measured and effective.
McGuinness mentions Itami taking on Daniel Bryan (for Ring of Honor) in New York City.
Itami mocks Roode’s pose.
This match is getting stiff, quick.
McGuinness references that Itami used to be Kenta Kobashi’s “young boy.” Nigel is on fire tonight!
Roode is making it clear that he is deathly afraid of the “GTS.”
Itami gets a two with a “Falcon Arrow.” He is driving the offense.
Roode is doing a credible job selling the left shoulder. He is fighting with one arm.
Itami kicks out of a “Glorious DDT.”
Both guys are using every possible trick to make an Itami win look to be possible.
Itami hits the “GTS,” but Roode rolls to the floor. Itami drags him back in but the champion kicks out of a pin attempt.
Itami is stunning Roode with palm strikes. He pulls his kneepad down. Roode reverses the “GTS” into a PAIR of “Glorious DDTs.” The champion retains.
This was a well-plotted match with a fantastic finishing sequence.
Roode is so supremely magnificent in this role. It’s such a pleasure to watch him.
I’m worried for Itami. He got a cold reception heading to the ring. How will the crowd treat him at the next tv tapings? He is such a talented performer. I’d hate to see him wasted this late in his career.
The aftershow will be on Facebook Live. Triple H and Asuka will be featured. Smart move. NXT has a younger, hipper fanbase who will know how to use and understand Facebook Live. Trip’s is so smart about how he presents the brand.
NXT Tag Team Championship
Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) (c) (w/ “Precious” Paul Ellering) defeated #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa).
The announcers are trying their damnedest to sell this as a “homecoming” for #DIY. It’s a weird move considering neither guy is from the area.
#DIY enter to a rockstar’s welcome. WOW!
Gargano is flying around the ring like he has a pilot’s license.
#DIY is working the early advantage. They are tearing up AOP with ladders.
The crowd wants to see tables.
The momentum has shifted. AOP is pouring on punishment.
#DIY are back to back on a ladder outside the ring. They leap off onto Akam and Rezar, who are prone on their backs on separate ladders. It’s a total “holy shit” moment.
Gargano almost has the hanging belts when Ellering hits the ring and interferes. He superkicks the legendary manager.
Gargano takes a horrific ladder shot under his chin. He pushed Ciampa out of the way to protect him. His head snaps back at a nasty angle. It was an unyielding shot that could have broken his jaw and teeth, or given him a concussion. I chose not to watch the multiple replays.
A ladder snaps underneath Akam and Ciampa.
Gargano is crawling on the mat trying to continue. He manages to get to his feet and superkicks Rezar.
Stereo-superkicks to Rezar, who’s head is trapped between the rungs of a ladder.
#DIY are on top of a ladder unhooking the belts when…AOP kick the ladder from under them. Both men are hanging from the cable supporting the belts. AOP get under them and powerbomb them. They hit the “Super Collider” on the challengers, climb the ladder, and retrieve their belts to win the match.
The AOP are awash in jeers from the audience.
The Gargano “chin” spot is played multiple times at varying camera angles. It’s an ugly piece of business.
The AOP are probably the worst, most uncharismatic, and boring acts on televised wrestling. They have had some great teams in NXT carry them but they are mostly just dreadful.
The challengers are on the stage soaking in the love from the live crowd when…
…Ciampa turns on Gargano.
He runs his partner face-first into the video screen. He pelts him in his damaged face with shot after shot.. Ciampa exposes his right knee and levels “Johnny Wrestling” with repeated blows to the head.
Audience: “Fuck you, Ciampa!”
He throws Gargano onto the announcer’s table before giving him a “DVD” through a pair of tables a number of feet below.
The live crowd is livid as they chant “asshole.”
Medics are out to attend to Gargano as the former “Psycho Killer” icily stares down at his former partner.
This was a big, big angle. Both men have essentially run the course as a duo. The story of them as the scrappy underdogs was fun—but ultimately unsatisfying.
The NXT audience has taken to Gargano almost from the get-go, chanting “Johnny Wrestling” week after week. It is time for him to be a babyface singles star.
And Ciampa needed that little something extra to pique interest in him as a solo player. A vicious turn on the crowd-favorite Gargano at a high-profile event is just what the doctor ordered. This is going to be a war. I’ll be shocked if one, if not both men, doesn’t end up with the NXT Championship around their waist before all is said and done.