There’s a Spanish announce table. You know what that means.
TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: ONEY LORCAN & DANNY BURCH VS. KYLE O’REILLY & RODERICK STRONG (c)
Kyle O’Reilly got his parents’ permission to stay out late and play with his friends tonight. I love Danny Burch’s wrestling style, he’s a very exciting wrestler. The crowd is booing the hell out of them and firmly behind the heels. Of course, it’s Chicago and they have to be cool and different. Morons. It sadly makes me long for a Brooklyn or Philly crowd. But not Canada. Fuck them. And screw Britain too. And Uzbekistan, just because. Maybe I’m the jackass, but I love when crowds like this are disappointed because they fucking deserve it for being tools. I’m sure there will be a CM Punk chant at some point because they’re the most predictable losers among all wrestling crowds.
Anyway, the match is a really good opener. Undisputed Era do what the heels usually do and keep Burch in their corner while working on his arm to neutralize his strikes. Too bad he still has his head because he almost knocked teenybopper Kyle O’Reilly out with a headbutt before making a hot tag to Lorcan, who cleans house and gets a near fall on Roddy as well as some cheers from the crowd. How can you not love this guy? An awesome double neckbreaker leads to Lorcan and Burch hitting their tag team finisher on roddy but that snot-nosed kid O’Reilly made the save. Lorcan took a NASTY bump, falling from the top rope onto his side on the apron and bouncing to the floor, leaving Burch the only face standing. He hits some kicks on O’Reilly and he’s as wobbly ashe was when he broke into his parents’ liquor cabinet last week, but he recovers and locks in an arm bar on Burch, who in an exciting near-finish is able to roll to the ropes, do the dismay of the douche crowd, who at least gives them the “THE IS AWESOME” chant.
Lorcan recovers and hits another double neckbreaker, this one with the heels on the floor and Lorcan jumping from the apron. Lorcan then hits a corkscrew doomsday device/uppercut and it looks as if the faces may win but Adam Cole breaks up the pin and is ejected as the crowd chants “Bullshit.” Yes, Chicago crowd, you are bullshit. Amidst the chaos, Roddy tosses Burch into the announced table and O’Reilly locks a guillotine on Lorcan, who reverses it into a Northern Lights suplex. Lorcan locks in a single crab on Roddy, absorbs a kick from O’Reilly, but refuses to let go as Burch locks in his crossface on O’Reilly. They really make it seem like the faces will prevail in that moment until O’Reilly is able to kick up into Lorcan’s face and the heels break the holds.
We get a staredown and then all four men just start punching each other in the face to the delight of the dingleberries. Undisputed Era eventually gets the numbers advantage and hits a clothesline/leg sweep finisher for the win. Holy shit that was exciting. I hate the mindset of the crowd, but god damn they were hot, and you could not ask for a better opener. You really feel like either team could have won this match and really hope that the feud isn’t over (though it likely is). I rarely give this rating:
Match Rating: Ten Gold Medals
VELVETEEN DREAM VS. RICOCHET
Dream comes out dressed as Hulk Hogan and I love it. In case you didn’t know this crowd only cheers for heels, they immediately start a VELVETEEN chant. Just so you know they’re cool. Both of these guys are so ridiculously athletic and quick. Dream brings the aggression and gets in the referee’s face. I’m not sure what else this guy could try to get booed. A face turn may be in order, but then again there’s the Roman conundrum: why officially turn Roman heel when he already gets booed more than any wrestler on the planet? Why turn Dream face when he already gets a ton of cheers? It’s a crowd-created problem, but when you think about it, it doesn’t really have to be a problem, and the company seems content to run with it.
Dream is firmly in control for much of the early going. Nigel makes the point that Ricochet may be stunned that Dream is attempting to beat him with athleticism. We get dueling “Velveteen” and “Ricochet” chants, followed by a “both these guys” chants. Ok crowd, I’m warming to you a bit, but you lose me forever at the first “CM Punk” chant.
The match really picks up when Ricochet starts to fly. There’s a really awesome corner sequence that ends with Dream hitting a Death Valley Driver from the top rope, but Ricochet shockingly kicks out at two. We get a “THIS IS AWESOME” chant for the second time in two matches. Another corner sequence, and this one ends with Dream hitting a stalling suplex from the apron to the floor. “Holy shit” is right. As both men struggle to their feet in the ring after just beating a count out, Dream hits his rolling DVD out of nowhere, but Ricochet again kicks out at two. I like both guys selling their exhausting as they fight toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring. Counters, reversals, quick action in the middle of the ring, exciting, Exciting, EXCITING, and the crowd shows its appreciation with a standing ovation while both men struggle to get up after that awesome sequence. Dream tells Ricochet he belongs in a bingo hall before Ricochet hits Dream with his own finishers, the rolling DVD then the Purple Rainmaker.
Dream rolls away as Ricochet sets up for a 630, but Ricochet attempts a Brock Lesnar-length Shooting Star Press halfway across the ring. After Dream gets his knees up, Dream goes for a Purple Rainmaker ALL THE WAY across the ring, which Ricochet avoids and hits the eye-popping 630 for the win.
To be honest I had expected more action from Ricochet in the early and middle parts of the match, but the last few minutes of the match were as exciting as anything you’ll ever see in the ring.
Match Rating: Eight Gold Medals
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: NIKKI CROSS VS. SHAYNA BASZLER (c)
For the first time tonight the heel is the heel and the face is the face. Nikki gets in Shayna’s head early with her insanity, which is the main storyline of this match. Obviously Shayna is more athletically gifted as has much better technical skills, but Nikki definitely has the psychological edge, and the question is can she frustrate Shayna enough that she makes a big enough mistake to drop the title? Shayna attempts to get her own psychological edge by covering Nikki’s nose and mouth then running her forearm across Nikki’s face. Even with Shayna getting in a ton of offense, you can see her getting more and more frustrated that Nikki not only continues to get up, but smiles and asks for more. Nikki’s strikes are not the best, but her suplex looks damn good. The crowd hasn’t let up and is still hot for his match. I had worried for a women’s match following two incredible contests, that the crowd would be down for this one, but they’re hotter for this one than the last match. Nikki hits something like the Big Show’s final cut on the apron and gets a really close two count. Though Shayna has the technical know-how, Nikki shows that she is ready for it as she counters a few of the moves until Shayna is able to roll though a pin attempt and lock in the Kirifuda Clutch. Nikki starts to smile as she loses consciousness as the referee calls for the bell.
This was really well-done from a psychological stand point, which professional wrestling/sports entertainment is at its core. Shayna kept her composure enough to use her skills and attacks to break Nikki down, and Nikki continued to take punishment and like it while jumping at her opportunities to get her attacks in on the champion, and smiling to the very end as she passed out.
Match Rating: Nine Gold Medals
EC3 and new signee Keith Lee are shown in the crowd. I hope EC3 gets a storyline soon, I really dig his charisma and think he’d be entertaining in any feud.
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: LARS SULLIVAN VS. ALEISTER BLACK (c)
You know what this means: with Ciampa and Gargano going on last, one or both of them are going through the Spanish announce table, and probably the regular announce table as well. I never get tired of Aleister Black’s entrance. Once again we get a clear heel and a clear face in this match. I’m almost coming semi-close to partially taking back what I said about the Chicago crowd earlier. Almost, maybe. With Black getting the upper hand early I have a feeling this match is going to get a lot of time, because I fully expect Sullivan to get an extended period of control. Right on cue he catches a dive attempt by Black and starts with the submission rest holds, slams, and pin attempts, keeping the pace slow and to his liking. Sullivan makes the mistake of going to the top and his diving headbutt lands squarely on Black’s knee. Now it gets exciting with Sullivan reeling a bit and Black’s adrenaline pumping. His offensive flurry gets a huge pop from the crowd, but Sullivan then smartly attacks the knee that Sullivan’s jaw landed on in the diving headbutt attempt before locking in a submission hold on said knee. For a big monster heel, Sullivan has very good technical skills and a pretty good ring IQ. His biggest mistake was going to the top rope, which big men never ever need to do because they normally don’t need any extra impact on their moves and it usually spells disaster. As I type this, Sullivan goes to the top again and this time hits the diving headbutt, but Black kicks out at two. I’m pretty sure Black whiffed on a Black Mass attempt because it didn’t look like he even touched him and Lars sold it way late, plus it sounded like a “You fucked up” chant from the crowd. A couple of finisher reverses later, Black hits two Black Masses square, the second one necessary because Sullivan sat right up after the first, as I predicted would happen, and gets the three count to retain his title.
This was a great match. Sullivan really showed what he can do and that he is deserving o the push he’s getting. The one thing he is missing is a mouthpiece like Heyman or Ellering. Really the only two qualms I have with this match are Sullivan going to the top rope three times and the botch on the first Black Mass. Other than that it continues one of the best wrestling shows I’ve ever seen.
Match Rating: Eight Gold Medals
STREET FIGHT: JOHNNY GARGANO VS. TOMMASO CIAMPA
Just over one year after Ciampa’s initial betrayal of Gargano, we return to the scene of the crime for what may or may not be the kiss off match of the best feud on any WWE show since Daniel Bryan vs. the Authority. It may be the best feud since Austin vs. McMahon. Candice LeRae stops Johnny on his way to the ring, hands him a crutch, and says “KICK HIS ASS!” Looks like my prediction of Candice costing Johnny the match won’t happen. I still think Ciampa gets the win somehow. Ciampa gets booed almost as badly as Roman Reigns. Most of the crowd is on its feet from the moment the match starts, and almost immediately they end up fighting in the crowd. They pull an old ECW move with a “fan” having a stop sign wrapped in a Gargano sign. I love it.
We see from the opening bell that neither guy is gonna hold anything back in this one. We wanted a street fight, and dammit we’re getting one. We get a little bit of in-ring action before they take it outside again. Ciampa shows his ruthlessness by tossing Gargano into the steel steps with a chair wrapped around his neck. It’s one of the best tried-and-true heel moves in the business as long as it’s not overused, and this was a perfect time for Ciampa to pull it out.
Ciampa continues to work Johnny’s neck in such an evil way, and he launches a garbage can right off the side of Johnny’s head. The relentless attacks on Gargano’s neck is excellent heel work by Ciampa, and he pulls out another classic heel weapon when he grabs a pair of handcuffs from under the ring, but thankfully Johnny is able to fight him off before Ciampa can snap them on. Gargano whips a shirtless Ciampa with his belt to the delight of the crowd, as they chant “YOU DESERVE IT!” at Ciampa.
Johnny puts the garbage can to good use, I really love the use of weapons in this one, because so often we get the promise of a street fight and we get two or three chair shots (thanks Brock and dean). This one certainly lives up to its billing and I can’t believe what these two are putting their bodies through to entertain us. Ciampa hits a slam to Johnny on the steel steps that looked absolutely brutal. Then he pulls out bolt cutters and cuts up the canvas that covers the ring, which I have never seen done before. He pulls up all soft parts of the ring exposing the wood underneath. Again, I have never seen that but I love it.
Ciampa bites Gargano’s ear. I LOVE his heel work so much and I fucking HATE him. They both tease getting slammed onto the exposed planks in the ring, which I expect will happen in the climax of the match. I think it took until this point for the first pin attempt in the match. Brilliant move by Gargano as he pounces as soon as he sees Ciampa adjusting his knee brace, attacking it with punches and chair shots. More great work from Ciampa as he continues to pound on Johnny’s neck once he regains control of the match. It looks like Ciampa put a merciful end to things with a crutch shot to the back of Gargano’s neck, but Johnny bravely kicks out and the brutality continues.
Adding to the psychology of the match and the feud, Ciampa helps Gargano to his feet and walks him up the ramp with Gargano’s arm around Ciampa’s neck while saying “we were like brothers, we traveled the world together. YOU DID THIS!” before throwing him into the entrance area and hitting him with a knee strike. Nigel observes this is eerily similar to Ciampa’s initial betrayal in this same arena last year. In the ultimate heel move, Ciampa pulls off Gargano’s wedding ring, spits on it, and throws it. Johnny recovers and hits the HOLY SHIT move of the night, a slam from the top of some boxes in the staging area through a pair of tables on the floor. Ciampa gets the stretcher job as Johnny sits on the boxes and stares. I’m speechless and agape. Johnny does what everyone hopes he will do and brings the stretcher with a strapped-down Ciampa in a neck brace back to the ring.
The guys from the back try to stop Johnny, but he knocks them out and cuffs Ciampa’s hands behind his back, kicks the shit out of him, and puts him in the Gargano Escape while he taps until a bunch of guys come from backstage and drag Johnny away while the crowd boos. He again fights them off, but Ciampa, while handcuffed, DDTs Johnny through the ropes onto the exposed wood that I said would come into play at the climax of the match. Ciampa gets the 1-2-3 and everyone is shocked. I predicted Ciampa to win, and even I’m shocked at that ending. What an incredible match. You could not ask for a better feud and could not ask for a better street fight. Well, yes you could, Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon 4evr. Ciampa laughs maniacally while he is helped, still handcuffed, away from the ring.
This was perfect. I put the action up against Kurt and Shane any day, and the psychology and incredible feud behind the match is the best thing NXT has ever done. The crowd chants “FUCK YOU CIAMPA” as the show goes off the air.
Match Rating: Ten Gold Medals
I have never done this for a whole show before, but this was god damn perfection:
Overall Show Rating: Ten Gold Medals