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WWE NXT #436 (2.21.18) Play-by-Play and Review

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You can scroll to the end for a TLDR recap of the show. Tonight, Johnny Gargano will put his NXT career on the line for one more shot at Andrade Almas and the NXT Championship. Before the opening, there’s a pretty nice video package with a look back at Andrade Almas and then the feud with Gargano. Additionally, Velveteen Dream and Nikki Cross will be in action. William Regal also has a special announcement.

Match #1: Velveteen Dream v. No Way Jose

There’s a big ‘Velveteen’ chant before the match and Jose gets some boos. The Dream does too much dancing and gets leveled by Jose. Jose charges into a back elbow in the corner, but then catches the Dream coming off the top rope with an axe handle to the chest. A big back body drop sends the Dream to the floor and then Jose hits a cross body over the top rope and onto the Dream.

Back from commercial, the Dream catches Jose with a hot shot and a swinging neckbreaker. Jose gets his feet up on a Purple Rainmaker attempt and grabs a roll-up for a near fall. Jose fires up with strikes and tosses the Dream across the ring and upside down in the corner. Jose goes for the pop-up knockout punch, but the Dream pops up with a drop kick. The Dream crushes Jose with the rolling Death Valley Driver followed by the Purple Rainmaker for the win.

Post-match, the Dream has the microphone and announces himself as the Competitor of the Year, Match of the Year, etc. He says no one cares about Aleister Black, Asuka, or Tyler Bate. There were lots of chants for the Dream here.

Winner: Velveteen Dream via pinfall

Thoughts: This was another win for the Dream who continues his push. NXT has a decision to make soon. No matter how much of a heel Velveteen Dream is, he’s going to be cheered. If he turns babyface, would he still be as popular as he is now or would that kill what everyone likes about the character? I think the move here is to not change anything, but also be conscious of who you put him in a feud with for right now. As you saw with No Way Jose, a typical crowd babyface is going to get humbled by the audience when they share the ring with him. You either have a red-hot babyface (Aleister Black, Gargano, etc.) that’s over with the crowd enough to overcome that or sort of an in-between guy like Eric Young.

Backstage: William Regal announces the return of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in 2 weeks. This year’s winning team will challenge for the NXT Tag Team Championship at TakeOver New Orleans.

Match #2: Nikki Cross v. Vanessa Borne

Nikki Cross mauls Borne at the bell and stomps her down in the corner. Borne catches Cross in a spinning pendulum slam of some sort for a near fall. Borne connects with a vertical suplex and then floats over for another near fall. Cross fires up with a cross-body and several forearms. Cross hits another cross-body from the top rope. Cross then delivers the Purge (swinging fisherman’s neckbreaker) for the win.

Winner: Nikki Cross via pinfall

Thoughts: Another Nikki Cross win. There is still no indication of where she’s headed next. She’s being kept relatively strong, so I suspect she’ll get a title feud later this year. As for Borne – she still has a ways to go.

Match #3/Main Event: NXT Championship / If Gargano loses, he leaves NXT: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas © (w/ Zelina Vega) v. Johnny Gargano (w/ Candice LeRae)

Let’s just be upfront here and say this isn’t going to top TakeOver. Then again, Joey Ryan’s penis just earned him a $500k+ home, so anything is possible in wrestling. The opening grappling is a lot like TakeOver, but Gargano decides to take a break out of the ring as we already cut to commercial. Back from break, Gargano eats a massive elbow. Gargano comes back with a step-up enzuigiri in the corner and a drop kick.

A clothesline sends Almas to the floor. Gargano wants a dive, but Vega shields Almas. Candice LeRae gets in the ring and dives to the floor to flatten Vega. Gargano hits a cannonball to Almas on the floor as LeRae beats Vega up the stairs and to the backstage area. Gargano wants a slingshot DDT, but Almas is a step ahead of him. Almas slams Gargano on the ring apron and rolls him back into the ring for a near fall.

Almas locks in an arm bar using the ropes and continues to focus on the arm and shoulder of Gargano in an attempt to lessen the effectiveness of the Gargano Escape. Almas maintains control headed into yet another commercial. Back from break, Gargano floats over a suplex attempt and scores with the roll-up kick. Gargano hits a flying head scissors from the second rope that sends Almas to the floor. Back in the ring, Gargano catches Almas with a slingshot spear for a near fall.

The two trade forearms and elbows before Gargano hits a low super kick. He lines up for another super kick, but Almas side-steps, rolls up Gargano, then deadlifts him for a buckle bomb. Almas crushes Gargano with the drive-thru knees, but Gargano kicks out. Almas wants the Hammerlock DDT, but Gargano blocks it. Unfortunately, Almas throws Gargano shoulder-first into the post instead. Almas tries for the drive-thru knees against the post, but Gargano cuts him off with a super kick.

Gargano tries another slingshot spear, but Almas catches him in a Fujiwara arm bar. Almas then transitions to the Gargano Escape, but Gargano quickly turns it into a pin attempt. Gargano tries for the Hammerlock DDT, but Almas gets a small package that Gargano also reverses for a near fall. The two exchange double clotheslines before Almas hip tosses a charging Gargano into the corner and right on top of his head. Gargano hits the drive-thru knees to the back of Gargano’s head for a 2-count.

Almas sets up Gargano for a hanging Hammerlock DDT, but he escapes. Almas sweeps his legs and goes for the double stomp to the floor like at TakeOver, but Gargano slips out and launches Almas to ringside. Gargano dives to the floor and lands a tornado DDT on the mats. Gargano hits the slingshot DDT, but Almas kicks out at the last instant. Both guys trade shots from their knees. Now standing, Almas hits a huge chop, but Gargano gives him a super kick. Almas counters the reverse hurricanrana attempt. Almas goes for a reverse elbow, but Gargano moves and Referee Drake gets leveled instead. Uh oh.

Of course, Gargano now locks in the Gargano Escape – but there’s no referee should Almas tap (he doesn’t). Tommaso Ciampa sneaks into the ring and smashes Gargano with the crutch again. Almas hits the Hammerlock DDT and the referee crawls over for 1… 2… 3. Johnny Gargano’s NXT career is, at least temporarily, over. As Gargano sits in the ring, he gets a Thank You Johnny chant and Candice consoles him. The ring announcer makes it official that Gargano must leave NXT. There’s a massive No chant from the crowd and more Thank You Johnny chants. After Gargano leaves, Ciampa is shown standing in the stands waving goodbye. What a heel.

Winner: Andrade Almas beat Johnny Gargano via pinfall to RETAIN the NXT Championship and end Gargano’s NXT career

Thoughts: That was also a hell of a match. Naturally, it wasn’t TakeOver, but I thought they did a great job creating some drama and building off the TakeOver match. For example, none of the reversals or moves that worked last month worked in this match. We knew Ciampa was going to get involved here because that’s the match that’s going to happen. This also now frees up Almas for Aleister Black. Anyway, great match by two of the best in the world. Now begins the build to WrestleMania weekend.

TLDR

  • Velveteen Dream beat No Way Jose
  • The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic will return and the winners get a title shot at TakeOver New Orleans
  • Nikki Cross beat Vanessa Borne
  • Andrade Almas beat Johnny Gargano to retain the NXT Championship and end Gargano’s NXT career after an assist by Tommaso Ciampa

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