BRM Reviews the 4/8/2020 NXT (Ciampa vs. Gargano, Women's Ladder Match)

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Big Red Machine
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BRM Reviews the 4/8/2020 NXT (Ciampa vs. Gargano, Women's Ladder Match)

Post by Big Red Machine » Apr 16th, '20, 22:59

#1 CONTENDERSHIP LADDER MATCH: Io Shirai vs. Candice LeRae vs. Tegan Nox vs. Mia Yim vs. Chelsea Green (w/Robert Stone) vs. Dakota Kai (w/Raquel Gonzalez)- 7/10
They did their stuff and there was some stuff with Chelsea Green’s knee getting injured and also with Gonzalez interfering and needing to be dealt with, but for the most part this felt very disjointed. It’s a bunch of ladder spots so it was exciting and entertaining, but it’s on the lower end of the spectrum of competent ladder matches that get this much time.

Mauro described the winner as “flyer than someone on a hand-glider.” Why, Mauro? WHY would you say something like that?

Balor said that he and WALTER “both have creative control over our own worlds.” I have no idea what this could possibly mean in kayfabe, so I have no choice to take it as some sort worked shoot comment, which really annoys me because I was enjoying this feud until now. Other than that, he said nothing new or interesting. He and WALTER are similar, WALTER’s title reign is “on borrowed time.” Yeah. This was not just filler, but filler that broke kayfabe for no reason other than to get people to go “oooh! That sounded insider!”

KILLER KROSS VIDEO- snore. Show up already. It’s been months!

There wasn’t anything new here, but at least they said they are “investigating,” making it look like they actually care about their employees.
For those of you who are expecting me to be asking why NXT is doing the investigating themselves instead of calling the authorities about his abduction, the reason for that is because the Lucha masks indicate that these is almost certainly a pro wrestling connection here, and as we’ve seen on wrestling shows time after time, only heels call the cops; babyfaces get their own revenge, preferable in the ring. And that is the system that everyone seems to play by, be it a backstage attack or an outsider jumping the guardrail, so even though it’s wacky, I’m fine with NXT doing the “investigating” here, as this is just another case of “outsiders” (or at least they seem to be) coming in and going after talent.
And even if you don’t like that explanation, as the footage they just played shows, calling these “abductions” is being generous. There was some shouting at Mendoza and Wilde to “get in the car!” but while the masked men certainly grabbed them, there wasn’t much forcing going on. Both men walked to and entered the van 98% under their own power.

EVER-RISE vs. INDUS SHER (Rinku & Saurav) (w/Malcolm Bivens)- DUD!
While Indus Sher did their big, scary pose, Bivens is standing a foot behind them and dancing the best sh*t-eating “I’m f*cking untouchable because no one can beat these two monsters!” dance you’ve ever seen. This is why he’s been the best manager in wrestling for the past few years.
“Ever-Rise” is the latest name that “Matt Martel & Chase Parker” (better known as Shane Matthews & Scott “Jagged” Parker of 3.0) are using. Wikipedia claims they’re actually signed to WWE deals. I did not know that.
This was a bad squash, both in that there were some botches in here and also that it wasn't actually a squash because the squashees got way too much offense in.

Also, he has some sort of greenhouse or something that makes his yard look a lot cooler than last week.

First, they showed clips of the match, then they showed the same Charlotte promo they showed on Raw from after the match, then they followed it up with an interview with a distraught Rhea Ripley, which was also great. She said almost nothing, but she didn’t have to say much of anything. Her tears spoke for her.

I just got my first look at the full version of that “must be Monday” commercial for Raw on USA. It’s f*cking terrible.

EMPTY ARENA LOSER LEAVES TOWN MATCH: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa- 5.75/10
We open with Johnny driving up to whatever building Hunter told him to show up at. He gets out of the car, and Candice gets out of the passenger door. She is worried, but Johnny tells her “you know I have to.” She gets in the driver’s seat, but then comes back out and hands Johnny something that is all wrapped up, then drives off.
I loved the hell out of this opening bit. I could be forgetting things, but of all of the “cinematic matches” we’ve seen so far, I don’t ever recall anyone using this sort of time to build up for a specific item in this manner. Chekhov’s gun has now been loaded. I have on idea what could be in there, but you can bet your ass that when Johnny finally pulls it out, it’s going to mean a lot more than if he had just randomly found it on the floor.
Candice drives off, and I get a better look at Johnny’s shirt, which is a Ciampa shirt, but with the part with Ciampa’s name crossed out and “TJGW” written over it. Anyone have any idea what this mean? I assume that “JG” is Johnny Gargano, but I have no idea what the T and W are. “Tonight Johnny Gargano Wins?” “This is Johnny Gargano’s World?” Those were the two suggestions I came up with, but if there is some sort of Twitter-based significance to it, I’m in the dark.

Johnny enters the building to find Hunter in a ring. Ciampa is simultaneously entering from an opposite door. Hunter tells them that he doesn’t care what they do to each other. The only rules are that is must start and end in the ring, and the Drake Younger is going to be the referee. Hunter throws a chair in the middle of the ring, and tell them that the match starts the moment he walks out the door (thus truly leaving the two of them alone with just the other and a referee).

They start off in the ring and do some stuff. There were WAY too many camera cuts and zooms and crane-cam scens, and that terrible shot from behind Ciampa while he’s lying on the floor selling with his body blocking out most of the light from the lighting rig which was WAY too bright. Doing that sh*t doesn’t make you artistic just by doing it. It just makes it annoying to watch.
It can also make your product worse, as they were so obsessed with getting their artist shot that despite having what seemed like sixty-two camera present, they decided to use a shot of Gargano hitting Ciampa in the “neck” with the chair that made it blatantly clear that he actually hit him in the back, but Ciampa still sold his neck afterwards. There is no excuse for not having a good angle in something pre-taped and spliced to gather like this because you can just go back and keep doing it until you’ve got a good angle, but they didn’t.
Much beating each other up and talking trash about surgeries happened. Gargano’s work on the body parts Ciampa had surgery on didn’t really go anywhere as a story for the match. It seems like it was just done to make Gargano seem vicious and heelish. Ciampa eventually had Gargano vulnerable and went to pull the canvas off and expose the boards below. The referee told Ciampa to just go for the pin already but Ciampa insisted that what he was doing was “necessary” because “it’s all a charade.” Obviously we’re supposed to think that he is referring to Johnny allegedly playing possum right now, but I can’t imagine wording like that isn’t supposed to be more significant.
Gargano escapes (see what I did there?) by crawling out of the building. Ciampa follows him, saying that Gargano running away proves that he’s not the better man. Outside there was some NXT equipment crates. I’ll say that those crates are for the camera and sound equipment so his doesn’t expose that this is just the Performance Center with the lights off rather than some random abandoned building that Hunter purchased for this purpose like he said in the segment that set this match up.
Gargano took over outside and tried to smash Ciampa between one of the cases and the ring truck, and OH MY G-D JUST KEEP THE F*CKING CAMERA STILL! STOP MOVING IT AND STOP ZOOMING IN!
Ciampa avoided getting smooshed and climbed up onto the top of the truck. Gargano followed and hey brawled up there. I assume this was taped before Edge vs. Orton, but it’d be interesting to know if Edge and Orton saw this. Either way, at last Orton and Edge had the sense to go up there and finish their match up there. If you climb up a truck, you need to either finish your match up there or have some either get thrown off or dive (or at least tease it). Otherwise, why even go up there in the first place? These guys did nothing of the sort. They did trade finisher attempts and I think there was a Garga-No Escape, but I wasn’t sure because they were using an overhead shot from a circling helicopter and there were no f*cking lights so I couldn’t be sure what was happening.
We went to a commercial break with them both selling on top of the truck, and when we came back from it, Gargano was climbing down, with Ciampa following him soon after. That sort of loss of time, to me, is an admission of the creative failing that we went up the truck because we wanted to go up the truck, but we had no good way to come down, so we just did it “during a commercial” so that we didn’t have to think of one.
We got back into the building and Gargano dove off of a ledge to get the advantage. He rolled Ciampa into the corner of the ring with the exposed boards. Stuff happened. Ciampa fought back and eventually hit an Air Raid Crash off the apron to the floor. Drake checked on the them both and we went to another break.
When we came back, Ciampa got a crutch and tried to hit Johnny with it but Johnny hit him in the surgically repaired knee with a trach can, then tried to lock in the Gargano escape with the camo-patterned crutch. Ciampa fought out of with a trashcan lid to the head, but Johnny soon got the lid and beat the sh*t out of Ciampa with it. He then said Ciampa was a failure as a man, a husband, and a father and said that Ciampa’s daughter would thank him for what he was about to do. Ciampa obviously ducked that crutch shot and beat Johnny up with the crutch for saying those terrible things. Johnny wouldn’t give up so Ciampa locked in the Garga-No Escape with the Crutch but Johnny got out of it. Drake Younger got bumped, because apparently this match with no rules and which absolutely must be their final encounter needed a f*cking visual pinfall in it.
They did more stuff and each eventually got a piece of the now splintered crutch and hit each other at the same time (though it looked to me like Johnny made a lot more contact that Ciampa). Then Candice LeRae just… walked in the door. Wasn’t this supposed to be one on one?
Candice is aghast at what she is seeing and begs to them “stop! Stop! What are you doing?!” Oh come on, Candice! You’ve seen these two fight before and knew this was going to happen!
She gets all “who are you?!” at Johnny and then goes over to Ciampa and asks “are you happy? I hate my husband! Are you happy?” She tells Ciampa to finish it. Johnny grabs her hand, so she says “fine, I’ll finish it” and turns around and kicks Johnny in the nuts.” Then she walks off.

I understand what they’re getting at (Candice needs to end Johnny’s NXT career and get him away from Ciampa to save him from his own inner darkness) and while that did tell that story and I will even go so fa as to say that I appreciate the fact that it gives us a reason for Johnny and Candice to be apart and for her to not be part of his character on the main roster until they’re ready to call her up, the fact remains that that is one hell of an unsatisfying ending for a wrestling feud.

Obviously I wrote that before the finish, but I left it in there for two reasons. First was to show that I appreciated the fact they went to such lengths to make Candice’s actions not feel like a swerve for the point of a swerve. The second reason I will get to later.
What happened was that Gargano and Ciampa were both kneeling on the mat and Ciampa said “I’m sorry” (a nice Flair/HBK callback) before going to end Johnny’s NXT career, and Johnny said “I’m sorry” too… and then Candice came back and kicked Ciampa in the nuts from behind, and Johnny revealed to us all what Candice had given him earlier: it was a cup.
Here is the part where I give them a lot of credit. First, I had briefly wondered earlier where Johnny had stashed the thing Candice had given him, because he didn’t seem to have it when he walked into the building (I figured his earlier crawling out the door was him going to get it). Secondly, when I saw the low blow I thought it looked like she didn’t make full contact, but I figured it was just Candice working light because she needs those things in working order to provide half of the DNA for her future babies. In reality (well… you know what I mean), it looked that way because she didn’t actually get the whole way to Johnny’s junk, and she wasn’t actually trying to hurt him. I don’t know if they actually had her not try to make full contact on purpose or if it was just a happy accident that happened to make the match better, but either way, it made the match better.
Johnny hit the Fairytale Ending on the exposed wood and got the win, ending Tommaso Ciampa’s NXT career. Candice helped Johnny you of the ring and asked him if he was good, at which point he replied “I’m better than good,” signifying that he is now truly a heel.

The other reason that I left in that paragraph that I wrote right after Candice kicked Johnny in the groin was that even with what they actually wound up doing, I think my final point still stands. This was not a satisfying payoff for what we were promised! This was supposed to be a one-on-one battle to the end, and instead, the longest-running and most intense feud in NXT history is settled and Tommaso Ciampa’s NXT career is ended due to a f*cking run-in.
The only other “option” that despite this being billed as the loser leaves NXT final battle, they’re going to continue feuding. And the pieces are actually all in place for that. It justifies Ciampa getting the visual pinfall while the ref was bumped, and, if you’ll remember, Gargano had to leave NXT when Ciampa cost him a match back in early 2018, and Johnny hounded Ciampa enough that he was eventually granted the chance to earn his roster spot back, which was how they set up the first match in this feud, at TakeOver: New Orleans, so it’s only poetic that after costing Ciampa the NXT Title due to run-in leading to Ciampa losing a match and being kicked out of NXT as a result of a run-in, Ciampa should get a chance to earn his way back in as well, especially seeing as how he actually had the match won, and oh my G-d I think I just talked myself into being okay with this. You know what, I’m going to put this in that special basket where I’m okay with them going back on a stipulation if they have the right storylines reasons for it and do it right. Off the top of my head, the only time I’ve ever really felt that way before was Gargano getting the chance to earn his way back into NXT, and the as of now still hypothetical idea of some sort of kayfabe fan petition allowing Cody to ignore the “Cody can’t ever challenge for the AEW World Title” stip of his match against Jericho because he was screwed by someone throwing in the towel for him who later proved to have been untrustworthy.

So in the end I liked the direction of the story a lot more than I thought I would, but I did not like the match much at all. On the scale of these “cinematic matches” that we’ve seen so far, this was by far the one with the least special effects. It didn’t even have any of that mood music, aside from one moment right before the match started where the music they chose felt woefully out of place. The only things that made this different from any of the other (non-cinematic) matches we’ve seen in this COVID-19 “empty arena” setting were the lack of announcers (which all of the cinematic matches share), and the cinematic-style camera cuts… and this match was actually pretty light on those.
What it unfortunately wasn’t light on was the needless camera cutting and zooming in and out things like that which, when combined with the lack of light (or, unless you were staring at the side of the ring opposite the door, way too much light), made this very difficult- and at times even nauseating- to watch. If they had shot this like a regular match with two or three cameras I would have liked it a lot more, though I do think they suffered at times from way too much punch-kick while they were outside of the ring (as opposed to making good, creative use of the uniqueness of the setting), and the “doing something just to do it” by fighting on top of the truck. As a cinematic presentation this was disappointing (compare it to the Boneyard Match, which I thought was very well-shot but I hated watching because I had no idea what the rules were or why 99% of the tings that happened were happening), and as a match, the middle of it was very meh (similar flaws o Edge vs. Orton, thought at least they had other matches to call back to), and it was only made harder to watch by the terrible cinematography.

EDIT: Apparently this wasn't a Loser Leaves Town match. Am I the only one who was under the impression that it was?

Anyway, this was an okay episode of NXT. Your opinion of it will mostly be dependent on whether or not you like Ciampa vs. Gargano, so… what did you all think of it?
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