On 21st March 2018, WWE aired its 292nd episode of NXT, filmed at Center Stage, Atlanta, GA on 7th March. Our main event saw a pair of PWG Champions face off in the form of Adam Cole and Kassius Ohno. The undercard featured Raul Mendoza taking on NXT Champion Andrade Almas, Ember Moon against Aliyah and Dusty Classic First Round action in the form of Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch taking on Roderick Strong and a mystery opponent. But was it any good?
Ciampa Still Has Something to Say
Ciampa did his routine that he's done the last two weeks but this time actually said something as he told the crowd that Johnny Gargano was gone and he was never coming back and that all the people in the crowd with their signs should get used to it. He went around the crowd tearing up signs and squaring up to Nans till he went to tear up a sign near a man in a snazzy black and gold Lucha mask who turned out to be Johnny Gargano! Gargano leaping barricade would wail on Ciampa till security were able to separate them. This was well thought-out as clearly Gargano wasn't looking to wrestle, he just wanted to Ciampa in his stupid, bald face (definitely no bias here). If this isn't building to an Unsanctioned Match at TakeOver: New Orleans, I'll be damn surprised.
Charly Caruso gives us a recap of the Dusty Classic First Round thus far and 'exclusive' footage of Tyler Bate talking about his injuries forcing Moustache Mountain to drop out of the tournament. Roderick Strong does a mobile phone camera promo requesting a shot in the Classic in their place and thank goodness the production team don't add any word graphics to this.
Adam Cole & Kassius Ohno have a Twitter spat. The Undisputed Era, they talk about Roderick Strong being a loser, how no-one likes him and how whoever wins the Dusty Classic is heading for a loss, as is Ohno later.
Dusty Rhodes Classic First Round // Dunne & Strong def. Lorcan & Burch // Pinfall
So we get the debut of the team that Across the Pond Wrestling would like you to know as either Roderick Strong Style or Strong x Bitter, as I like my tag-teams like I like my coffee, I'm going for the latter (if anyone can organise Omari & Joe Coffey aka Black Coffey to face Strong x Bitter at Fight Club: PRO, please do). This wasn't quite the masterpiece I'd expected from these four who are capable of delivering some of the best performances in modern wrestling but for the time they were given they made the most of it with team Strong x Bitter working a technical masterclass and team Lorcan x Burch going for striking really, really hard and really, really often. It started strong and finished well but seemed to lose an amount of excitement in the middle section as Strong x Bitter worked on top, leading into the Lorcan hot tag but the crowd didn't seem willing to split their sympathies away from the de-facto heel team. The finish came as Strong got the pin off an End of Heartache on Burch. These two against Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe should be a lot of good, a lot of good indeed.
We get a video package for Trevor 'Ricochet' Mann who is coming to NXT TV soon.
Ember Moon def. Aliyah // Pinfall
Quick squash m8. Shayna Baszler came out and did guest commentary duties for this one and as often is the case with the WWE guest comms. style, there was no actual play-by-play, it was just an interview with Baszler while Moon and Aliyah grunted in the background. Moon won with the Eclipse if you cared.
Next Week: The Dusty Classic Semi-Finals come to town as Authors of Pain face Street Profits & SaNitY face Strong x Bitter.
Andrade Almas Vs. Raul Mendoza // Never Happens
As Mendoza was making his entrance, Almas jumped him and threw him off the stage before delivering an intense promo, calling Aleister Black a 'piece of shit' and telling the man in Black to face him in the ring. He doesn't, probably because he wasn't just hanging round backstage on a day he wasn't booked. While normally I prefer letting Zelina Vega do promo duties over her charge, Almas, he did a good job here of selling his seething rage. Keep going like this, he might not need Vega soon. Who am I kidding? Everyone needs Vega.
William Regal announces that next week he'll be making an announcement. Hopefully it will be announcing a best of seven series of him making announcements.
Adam Cole def. Kassius Ohno // Pinfall
There was one very annoyingly loud Adam Cole fan near one of the crowd mics, I will never not give credit to whoever created Ohno's current black and gold look outfit with 'boxing hoodie/wizard robe', I will continue to give no credit to this crowd who were about '60-40' split in support Cole-Ohno. Boo. The Heels. I'm getting bored of saying this because I think it's part-crowd response, part-Cole's performance style but whenever anyone calls Cole over as a heel, he is over, yes, but he never gets boos, this was basically face vs face. If you ignore that theoretically Cole was meant to be the villain here, this was very good in-ring action as two of the American Indies best quite simply beat the piss out of each other with a refreshing lack of interference by Fish and O'Reilly forcing Cole to step his game up to make his clean victory seem more convincing. While the intensity had a good build, for me, the match peaked in the first few minutes when during a running-the-ropes, leapfrog segment, Ohno booted Cole out of the air. It was nice seeing competition for competition's sake, beyond a few tweets, these two men were both just fighting to prove that the victor was worthy of more opportunities. The finish came as Adam Cole hit a Shining Wizard to the back of the neck for the pinfall. We all know that when it comes to violence, Cole has earned his stripes, now NXT needs to just work out if they can make people boo him or if it's worth making him the hero Atlanta clearly wants him to be.
On The YouTubes
Johnny Gargano shmoozes with the fans outside but security stop him getting back into the building, he points out that they are selling his merch but not letting him inside and announces he's staying out there till Ciampa comes to him. See you next week, Johnny.
When the video says Kassius Ohno is speechless about his defeat, they aren't kidding.
This was one of those weeks where a lot of what happened seems like it was more to push the story into the next act than it was to present a compelling section of the story in itself. Cole vs Ohno was definitely the match highlight of the show but it can't be argued that the biggest response of the show was the surprise return of Johnny Gargano. While they weren't here, I can't help but feel big things are on the horizon for the yellow brand. I'll see you when we get there.
Written By Jozef Raczka // @NotJoeRaczka