Yes, we have the “Royal Rumble” this weekend. We all know that it’s one of the “big four” PPVs and that’s wonderful. However, the real show will occur the night before. Saturday night brings with it “NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia”. The NXT shows that precede PPVs are always better for those of us who love wrestling. The card has shaped up to be a really great one. I’m truly excited for the 1st ever Women’s Battle Royal but as a whole, I’m excited for “TakeOver”.
Backstage segment – Velveteen Dream
This was BRILLIANT! He was so subtly commanding. The staging was perfect too. Of course, he’ll be facing off with Johnny Gargano later tonight and I cannot wait!!! I like that this didn’t feel too scripted. He likely had bullet points and nothing else. It could have been a little better in talking department but it’s pretty startling how, at just 22 years-old, he could be this nuanced, confident, and…fun!
No Way Jose vs. Cezar Bononi
They attempted to talk Mr. Bononi up but there was no question fo which way this was going to go. Early in to the match, a couple of fools tried to start a CM Punk chant and when they did, they nearly got booed out of the building. THAT, kids, is how you handle THAT.
Bononi made a match of this with some offense but this was meant to reintroduce No Way Jose and it did its job. Now that he’s back, here’s hoping he doesn’t go anywhere. He’s got a tremendous upside and he’s A LOT of fun. Dig that! Two segments that were fun. I’ll take that!
Bianca Belair vs. Latoya
This was intended to be a squash and it was. Latoya didn’t stand a chance. I don’t know who Latoya is but apparently she’s had about 10 years experience. I’m happy to see her get some time on “NXT”. To her credit, she sold very well – making Belair look as merciless as she’s supposed to look. She got in a tiny bit of offense but that’s it, really. As for Belair, there’s no way that hair whip can feel good and I pity anyone who has to take it. It looks incredibly painful and I’m sure it legitimately is. Belair looked good here and both of them had everything to do with that.
Interview – Ember Moon and Shayna Bazsler w/ Percy Watson
Bazsler simply doesn’t care and I love it. Ember is all emotion and she cares so much. She almost overdoes it at times but it mostly works here. This confrontation was really well done. Percy did really well here too. Good stuff!
Backstage segment – TM-61
Miller and Thorne’s story continues to make us care about them. We really need similar approaches in “205 Live”. I love how they told the story of Thorne’s injury – using half work/half shoot to do it. They also said “their problem was trying to be something that they weren’t”. Now, we’ll get the more organic version of them, apparently.
Authors of Pain (w/ Paul Ellering) vs. Chris Brown & Damien Smith
This show is beginning to feel very much like GCW – all jobber matches. I did love hearing them talk. They didn’t say much but what they said, they said with a lot of fire and I liked it! They then went back to decimating Brown and Smith with a menacing Ellering looking on.
Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream (#1 Contender’s Match)
The crowd was lit for both of them. The Aleister Black match at the last “TakeOver” special made Velveteen Dream and he continues to amaze. I LOVE that he walked out with a tassled Johnny Wrestling t-shirt. Way to mess with Gargano’s head. Both of them were over like rover and I was waiting for the roof to blow off the way the crowd was combat-chanting their names.
One of the best parts of Veleveteen Dream is something that many workers don’t understand: psychology. Velveteen’s command of ring psychology is truly incredible. He also understand pacing on an almost savant-like level. This will serve him well going forward and it did its job beautifully here. He also knows how to “heel” an audience and he did it beautifully when he headed for the top rope ostensibly to take aim at a prone Gargano on the floor and…did nothing. Great stuff!
The match was just as good as you think it’d be. These two can flat-out GO and they gave it all to us here. This was just incredible. They were getting loud “fight forever” chants and I’d have been okay with that too. They were literally inventing moves in there. They have great chemistry together and I was literally breathless watching this. Interesting to note that it made even Nigel show emotion – something he rarely does. He was into it but how could you not be? Velveteen continuing to sell the left arm throughout told the story beautifully. This is everything a great match should be. ASTONISHING way to end the show.
Of course, Andrade Cien Almas had to come out with Zelina to assert his dominance. They also continued to show the “I won’t quit”-ness of Johnny Gargano. It was done beautifully. They’ll be a lot of fun together at “TakeOver” for sure.
Hope to see you all for our “Dignified Discussion – NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia”!