The Best And Worst Of WWE NXT 7/25/18: World Heavyweight Ciampa

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lol sorry cody

Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: The Velveteen Dream is now able to make the last word of any sentence appear on a screen behind him, so he can turn to the camera and dramatically whisper it. Also, Kairi Sane became number one contender to the NXT Women’s Championship!

If you missed this episode, you can watch it here. If you’d like to read previous installments of the Best and Worst of NXT, click right here. Follow With Spandex on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, where everything and everyone is terrible.

And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for July 25, 2018.

The Two Matches That Aren’t Tommaso Ciampa Winning The NXT Championship

Before we get to the thing you want to read about, let’s recap the remainder of the show.

Up first was Adam Cole (baby) taking on Sean Maluta, to set up a challenge from Ricochet. I think my favorite part of this is that Sean Maluta kinda reminds of what you’d have thought the guy playing Helios in Chikara would’ve turned into. He’s got the classic Young Boy Ricochet hair and everything. Plus, he’s not afraid to, say, jump into a superkick to the throat.

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RIP Sean Maluta, 1988-2018

A couple of gentle nitpicks:

– I really don’t like Adam Cole’s Last Shot as a finish, because a running knee to the back of the head with the kneepad pulled down kinda-sorta removes all the ways you can throw a believable knee strike without like, actually kneeing the guy in the head and giving him brain damage. So you get situations like this, where Cole completely whiffs him, and slaps his leg for emphasis anyway like Nikki Bella:

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A black kneepad grazing black hair at least helps us believe contact was made, instead of a bare-ass white knee flying by.

– Ricochet’s promos crack me up. Talking has never been his strength — he’s fine, he’s just not great — so they have him do that Roman Reigns thing where he shoehorns in a bunch of colloquial slang written by uncool writers to make himself sound more natural. So instead of, “I want a match with you at TakeOver,” it’s “AY LOOK DOG, PEEP THIS HOMEY, YOU AND ME ARE GONNA GET IT ON ALL NIGHT LONG AT TAKEOVER, MY DUDE.” Only a gentle exaggeration. Ricochet promos are the pro wres equivalent of Bella Hadid talking about “dope fresh homeboys” while shopping for shoes with Complex.

Oh, also, a supplemental Worst to Percy Watson for saying Maluta was “trained by the Wild Samoan, Alpha.”

The second match of the week is Lacey Evans, who I feel like is on the show more than anyone on the roster lately, taking on “Tenilla Price,” who reminds me a lot of pre-Crisis Emma. Like, pre-bubbles Emma, even. It continues this week’s popular in-match trend, which is a Jumping Nothing into Getting Your Goddamn World Rocked. Sean Maluta jumped into a superkick to the windpipe, and poor Tenilla got one (1) offensive move and went for a Great Muta cartwheel. Please to enjoy:

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It was good to see Evans actually kick somebody’s ass instead of tip-toeing around it — I really do think she’s going to rule, sooner rather than later — and Price was very good in her role as well. If you’re wondering, “Tenilla” is Tesha Price, who you might’ve seen in WXW or Shine. She’s only been wrestling for about a year, so here’s to promising Local Talent!

Elsewhere In The Women’s Division

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Real quick, as William Regal gets older and greyer and more barrel-chested, he looks more and more like Count Magnus Lee from Vampire Hunter D. Look at him. The suit is even perfect. I really hope he’s not a vampire, though … I can’t imagine how hard it is to find a source of blue blood.

I liked the idea of the very Japanese promotion-style tabled confrontation between Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler, but it went on for way too long. The entire point was Shayna reminding us that she’s not afraid of stuff and has beaten Sane once, and Sane’s response is “I know it. You know it. I can beat you!” And then they go through it again. And then they go through it again. Shayna leaves, and Sane looks at Regal and just repeats the phrase again. They really should’ve taught her more than one thing to say, or cut this down.

+1 to Shayna’s KISS shirt, though. And I even have to take that away from her, because later in the show she’s shown leaving the arena (when Candice LeRae tries to confront her again) and she’s wearing different clothes. Ugh, I’m the worst. “You guys have put on like five years of great shows costing millions of dollars of time, skill, and training, and everything’s wonderful, but [pushes up glasses] the t-shirt continuity is sub-par. Boy, I sure hope somebody got fired for THAT blunder!”

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My favorite non-Ciampa bit of the entire show is Bianca Belair backstage in a “Melanin Monroe” t-shirt explaining that she missed last week’s match due to injury, but shouldn’t have even been put in the match because she’s undefeated and has nothing left to prove. “Because I’m un. Duh. Fee. Ted. I’M UN. DUH. FEE. TED. WHEN I COME BACK I’MMA GET WHAT I DESERVE BECAUSE I’M UNDEFEATED. WHEN I COME BACK I’MMA GET WHAT I DESERVE BECAUSE I’M UNDEFEATED.” Just screaming it as she leaves the interview, leaving poor Backstage Interviewer staring into the abyss. You can almost hear ‘The Sounds of Silence’ playing in her head. Love it.

The One Match That Is Tommaso Ciampa Winning The NXT Championship

God bless this match. Not only is it the best NXT TV match in ages — it seriously could’ve been on a TakeOver somewhere — but it addresses one of my biggest concerns about TakeOvers. Back in the Hulu days, ever episode of NXT TV felt important because there wasn’t a “pay-per-view” to build to, and you weren’t trained to assume all the important stuff would happen there. WWE main roster has settled into the idea that the weekly TV shows are the “build,” and the pay-per-view is the payoff. Well, not the “payoff” anymore, really. Weekly TV is the unimportant build, pay-per-views are the IMPORTANT build, and one of the big four PPVs is really the only chance you might pay something off. Here, NXT subverts that idea by allowing the weekly show to be as important as the most important TakeOver, by not only featuring a marquee NXT Championship match, but a title change. You have to watch TakeOver, sure, but you also have to watch all the shows in-between, because this is a real pretend sports organization and important shit can happen at any time. Magnificent.

I didn’t love the ref bump stuff and all the interference, but it works for the story, and supplemented the 22-ish minutes of really good wrestling. Instead of being a non-sequitur to continue Ciampa/Gargano, Ciampa/Gargano INFORMS this match. The match becomes a part of that bigger story. Gargano’s been driven to absolute madness by this guy, and now he’s at the point where he’s working so hard to keep Ciampa from succeeding that he ends up helping him. It’s total tunnel vision. Ciampa knows Gargano’s losing his mind, so he tricks him into blasting Aleister Black in the face with the title belt with that shitty trick kids do with Stretch Armstrong. You know, where they tell you to hold one of the arms so they can “see how far he can stretch,” and then when they’re really far out they let go so it snaps back and the hard plastic body smashes you in the nuts. You know, that universal thing that didn’t only happen to me, probably.

I do love that if Ciampa and Gargano are going to be main-eventing every TakeOver until one or both of them leaves, that the NXT Championship is now part of it. Since arguably Kevin Owens, the NXT Champion has felt like a semi-main-eventer on NXT shows. The NXT Championship match is rarely the one you want to see the most on a TakeOver card, which is why it hasn’t even gone on last since Philadelphia back in January. It hasn’t main-evented TakeOver regularly since April of last year. Letting your two most important guys integrate your most important championship into your most important feud is probably a great idea, right?

Absolutely stellar main event here, and hopefully Aleister Black can move on to a big loss to Velveteen Dream (please) and get called up to Smackdown or whatever. Tommaso Ciampa is the worst person alive, and I’m so happy I get to watch him be this character every week now.

Next Week:

EC3 faces NXT’s Buddy Landel, Kona Reeves.