Sitting back watching the end of NXT from this past week, waiting for NXT TakeOver: Portland (wrong one) to start was possibly the most excited I’ve been for a PPV in a very long time. Moving TakeOver to Sunday evening showed that WWE is taking NXT seriously, and could really unify the three brands moving forward, though I don’t want to lose TakeOver as a PPV as they are arguably the best wrestling on TV from the US there is. The heart, passion, support, and overall drive of everyone in NXT is next level compared to almost everything else we see in pro wrestling on TV these days. I’m giddy about this show and it hasn’t even started yet!
All that being said, this is NXT TakeOver on the Road to WM and we expect the best of greatness. Because of that I will be grading his show harder than I’ve ever graded any show. Please remember this when I nitpick things throughout the show. I know that nitpicking will be needed as this show will be stupendous!
Bask, Just Bask!
These two men leave me in awe every time they step into the ring, whether tagging, facing off, or separate from each other. Dij can fly and spin in ways that guys a foot shorter and 100lbs lighter sometimes struggle to hit. He is downright stupendous in the ring and flying out of it. Seeing Lee catch a flying Dij as he came out of the ring left me in awe as well. We all know that Lee is tapped to be a top WWE superstar, and I have to admit that I’m shocked McMahon hasn’t straight up stolen both of these guys. I think the only reasons he hasn’t is that Trip is fighting him, and it’s WM season and they have most of the plans lined up through the event and a few weeks after. It wouldn’t shock me to see either of these two on Raw or SD following WM.
I will admit that Dij coming off the corner with Lee on his shoulders was more of a fall off the corner with a twist, but Dij got Lee up like that and managed to make that work, so they deserve uber props for that epic move. The double-hands slap on Dij outside the ring was sick! I know that sweaty guys make for better slapping noises, but that was just fantastic.
Lastly, I’m not a Mauro fan and have been quite open about that, but he really did a solid job of announcing this match. He actually let Beth get some mic time in this one, and I loved her reaction to getting splashed with Dij’s sweat. I might not be as thrilled with Mauro through the rest of the show, but he did a great job of being the hype that JR would have been, and was on par with the match and not too over-the-top. Then again, this match was OTT and so he was in his normal mode and the match was just that insane.
The respect after the match was one of the most beautiful things, I’ve seen in a WWE ring in the past ten years. The way Lee and Dij talked and hugged was sweet, but Lee helping Dij up on the corner for the fans was something that tugged my heartstrings. We all know that the endings are scripted and at times it’s okay to break kayfabe, which is just one of the reasons NXT is the greatest brand in WWE.
Proof Is In the Marmite
That inverted senton was horrible! It was almost as horrible as Kai’s shorts and Nox’s pants. Both garments were too big on them. I have issue with high-waisted pants as I grew up in the 80s and it’s not a good look on 99% of the world, so Kai’s shorts looked horrible to me as they were too big, cut off in a strange way and looked terrible on her body. Nox’s pants were too big for her and she was constantly tugging at them. I’d guess that they were not made as wrestling pants by how the pockets her set in the side seams but I could be wrong on that. Either way, they were too big and a mess on her. I do love Kai’s hair. Much better look on her than before she turned heel.
Now that I got all that off my chest, I thought these women were in trouble coming off the opening match, but they went all at it from well before the bell and never stopped. The honoring of Kane and Molly two moves in a row from Nox was lovely to see. So great, then she caught the chair, held it there waiting, then tipped her head down to take the superkick through the chair. This match had some fantastic moments followed by things that looked horrid.
I loved all Nox did to Kai, really letting her have it, showing that passion, but as soon as Nox didn’t take the three and went after Kai for more, I knew something was going to cost Nox the match, I just didn’t expect that thing to be a really scary Gonzales!
Gonzales really threw a wrench in it all. She looked great, swerved us in a major way, but the way Kai sold her confusion after the match was really well sold. I know there’s a lot of storyline to come from this, which thrills me, but I honestly wish this had been a clean win. That being said, that swerve set up for so much more to come, and I’m thrilled for it.
Balor Without Valor
Right from the bell this match gave me grit. They were not overly-scripted, with lots of jockeying for position, fighting for where their hands want to be, and how they taunted each other. Both of these men are best in front of the NXT Takeover fans, and as we all expected, they went out there to steal the show. They did not start out with lots of speedy moves and high flying, as expected from these smaller guys, but showing their serious technical ability, which might garner them some chants of, “Boring!” if they were Raw or SD superstars. They showed their skills, heart, and ability to make the person they’re working with look that much better. It’s one thing when one of them is facing someone else, but against each other it’s jaw-dropping!
The pushups from Balor, gave me a bit of a Steiner vibe, but in the best possible way. I loved every moment of this match, but the fans were quieter than I expected from them. I know that they need to relax a bit after matches like the first two, but I always think of NXT fans as the ones who can last for two hours without cooling down as they have to be with the great wrestling in the ring. They finally bounced back and into the match, but I was shocked at how quiet they were through much of this match.
Their work over and through the ropes was inspired, but that rolling senton off the apron by Gargano left my jaw hanging open. That they did all this work but only just got to the first real and believable pin attempt of the match. Yes, there were other attempts, but the type that no one really expects would lead to a three. I’m going to nitpick for a moment – Gargano watching the ref and obviously gauging when to kick out was shown in his eyes. That’s something that takes me out of a match – but that’s really nitpicking!
I love how evenly matched these two are in the ring. Their size, technical ability, the array of moves, charisma, how they work the fans, one might think it could come off a bit boring, but they brought the grit to what could have been too-clean of a match between them. I was seriously worried about concussions because of it, but they obviously were working as safely as possible while still giving us a match that they hoped would steal the show. That welt under Balor’s right armpit showed just how hard they worked that ring, and out, together. I’m a true Gargano fan, but after this match, I was fine with whichever won as it was just that impressive. A totally different type of impressive as the opening match, but impressive just the same. I think it’s funny that the bigger guys had the fast and high-flying match while these smaller guys slowed things down, worked the match at a variety of speeds, and really gave us something beautiful and different from anything we’ve ever seen.
Beware The Hair (or Flair)
Those delayed vertical suplexes were hard to watch. I know Rhea is tall, but Bianca is STRONG! I had the feeling that it was Rhea who struggled to be up there, not Bianca who struggled to keep her up. There were a couple of other sloppy moments that left me a bit shocked as these two are of the best in the industry. That being said, I’d rather have things LOOK a little sloppy as it adds some realism to it all. It makes things look not as perfectly polished and boring.
These two strong women left it all in the ring. They went all out, gave us their all, and it was a great match because of it. It wasn’t the best match of the night, but it was solid. I think the end of the match looked a bit unbelievable in that Rhea finished Bianca with one finisher but I guess that’s better than kicking out of a finisher over and over.
I figured Rhea would retain and hoped that Charlotte would be there to set up for WM, but Charlotte did that bit more toward what I am hoping to see at WM. When Charlotte attacked Bianca after taking out Rhea my hopes went up that we might get the Triple Threat Match at WM that I think would show the world that both Rhea and Bianca are top superstars in the company and deserve the top billing that Charlotte has received too often for being blonde with big tatas and the last name Flair. Not saying Charlotte isn’t great, just that there’s more to the roster than the 4 Horsewomen.
When this match was going and UE had control of Dunne, I really noticed how grey Fish is. For some reason, in my head, UE was a young group of guys, but they’re 30-43 years old. I almost always think of NXT as the young guys, but these guys are not as young as I thought they were. That really doesn’t bode well for Strong developing a personality of any sort as he gets older and more comfortable in NXT. He’s as comfortable as he’s going to get and still has no personality or charisma. I don’t see things going well for him when UE dissolves.
I loved watching Dunne in this match. He took all that fire that he usually has and took it to a whole new level. I love watching Dunne when he’s wild like that but was shocked to see Riddle get as wild as Dunne and showing as much passion. They bring the best out in each other in a way I never thought possible. I will say that Riddle looked a bit sloppy dropping Fish on his head at one point, but obviously Fish wasn’t any worse for wear.
Seeing the teamwork between both teams, possibly better from the new team than UE, which is huge. When Dunne was in tears there, I knew that he and Riddle were going to win this match, but then things kept swerving back and forth and I knew they were not going to win it, and then they came back together and did just that.
THIS is what tag team wrestling should look like more often than not, but McMahon seems to have forgotten or stopped caring how great it really can be. I honestly don’t understand how McMahon can only focus on one division at a time and lets the rest slide while Trip manages to keep the CW, mid-card, women, tag, singles, etc. all going together every week. This right here is proof that there are serious issues with Raw and SD (though less now) compared to NXT. I cannot see anyone, booked as they have been, caring about putting on this good of a show out of pride for their brand, beyond NXT.
This match also started slow, but they showed so much more personality from the start than Balor and Gargano did, and that was really hard to write for me as much as I love Gargano. They were both working the fans as hard as the ring, which is why they are the main event. Between Cole on the apron working the fans and Ciampa kissing the bald guy rather than giving him a high five, they did what they did best in the middle of doing what they do best.
It drives me crazy to see a neck worked over when someone just came back from neck surgery, but that’s what pro wrestling is, I just don’t like seeing it. What I did like seeing was the back and forth between these two. They work so beautifully together. They have such trust in each other that they seem to hit moves most wouldn’t, like the air raid crash off the corner after hitting the same off the cage at WarGames, and those moves from Cole on Ciampa’s neck.
I think if Ciampa had hair a lot of his physicality would be lost to the fans. Hear me out on this one. The way Ciampa turns red and then sometimes purple is more poignant with the bald head is a huge part of the overall look of that adds to his matches. But beyond that, it’s the veins popping out all over his head that is already purple makes everything look that much more believable.
We all expected UE to get involved in this match which took the already fantastic storytelling and ring psychology to another level. Just when it looked as though things couldn’t get any more stacked against Ciampa, out came Gargano for some payback! I don’t like that two superstars were screwed out of wins by superstars not in their matches, but it’s still much better booking than we get from Raw and SD.
Shut Up Mauro, I’m Talking!
What a downright fantastic show, as expected. NXT did what NXT does best at Takeover, keep us at the edge of our seats, jaws slack, in total awe of the work we all watched. What a stupendous night that my writing cannot live up to. If you haven’t seen this show, go watch it. If you have watched the show, go watch it again, it’s just that amazing. I cannot wait to see what NXT has for us this Wednesday, and over the next couple of months through WM. NXT has always been the show to watch, but things are ramping up even more and the greatness will only get better from here.