By John Moore
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NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III Hits
Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre for the NXT Championship: I was afraid that the Law of Diminishing Returns was going to kick in during the Ember Moon vs. Asuka match. Interestingly enough, the lower returns settled in here due to the women blowing their match out of the water with depth charges! I’m not saying this was a bad match. It was a great main event on a show that was great top to bottom. McIntyre is this huge anomaly of a man in that he’s a big man who fights from peril while also making most of his smaller opponents look credible. McIntyre can also do one hell of a Tope Con Hilo for a big man. Roode might as well be Triple H’s avatar in how he works the same pace (as evidenced Mania weekend when Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura mirrored Hunter vs. Seth Rollins). The advantage of using dramatic structure as a framing device is that compelling stories are told. Hunter and Roode are masters at this. Roode has also evolved to the greatest heel NXT has seen in ages. He’s a hated, entitled douche. What more can you wish for? One thing I would have changed is the way that Drew’s been utilizing the Future Shock. In TNA the underhook DDT was something that no one ever kicked out of, but in WWE Killian Dain and Bobby Roode have both kicked out of the DDT.
Asuka vs. Ember Moon for the NXT Women’s Championship: The match of the night from where I’m sitting. I’m still not completely sure why, but every time I see Ember Moon wrestle, I see her as a younger version of Gail Kim. She has the moves, attitude, strengths, and even weaknesses of Gail. It does not hurt to be compared to arguably the best female wrestling pioneer of the 2000-2010s era. Asu-Berg is another story. She’s magic and a joy to watch wrestle anyone. Triple H is right in promoting her uniqueness when hyping her up. This was one hell of a nice piece of business. There was some great ground game. Nice submissions! Nice armbars! Nice every single damn thing from wrestling. The nearfalls were sweet. Even the cheating by Asuka was well positioned in the match composition. The right woman went over here too. There’s more stock in Asuka being the indestructible kaiju behemoth than there is in rushing the belt over to Ember Moon. WWE also didn’t do Moon any favors by overexposing her weakness in prolonged monologues (another parallel to Gail who is not great in stretched promos). This was sweet all across the board. The only negative I can point out is Mauro Ranallo, who had a great night otherwise, had one call that completely ruined a nearfall. Mauro did the classic Vince McMahon “we have a new champion” spoiler call just before Asuka’s great kickout of the Eclipse. Even if you don’t know that this is a spoiler, it does invoke a Pavlovian response when the viewers hear it that takes away from the drama.
Aleister Black vs. Hideo Itami: Itami and Black had a match that went through some amazing phases. The first phase was a martial arts battle which entered a brutal/stiff stage. Itami then showed some great catch wrestling after the Super Michinoku Driver. The match was topped off with a nice finale phase which put together a great package. Itami is night and day in his current form compared to his debuting self two years ago. Itami was so generic and vanilla compared to this current version, which is a legit main eventer akin to his KENTA persona. He’s also a different type of heel. He’s bitter, but not chickenshit. People don’t boo him because he cheats, but because he shows no mercy to his opponents. Itami is Samoa Joe with different packaging. Props to the commentary team for putting in a good call. The Hit there was Nigel McGuinness and Jim Ross doing a great job calling Black’s knockout kick and how Ross enhanced the match by building a solid excuse for Black not being aware of the knockout. Ross did a great job there supplementing the wrestlers and enhancing them.
Authors of Pain vs. Sanity for the NXT Tag Titles: My expectations were set very low here. It’s not due to their talent since I think the Authors have grown into great monster champions while Eric Young and Killian Dain can go in the ring. It’s due to the oddball heel vs. heel matchup built when there was probably a better option on the table with Heavy Machinery as the hot/rising babyface act. My expectations were dropped further when they decided to go with Young and Alexander Wolfe as opposed to Dain and Wolfe because of how dynamic the big man beast can be. Not only was this a great match, but the low expectations made the surprise refreshing. Wolfe has done nothing in NXT other than get beat up a lot, but he had a sudden appearance of a strong hot tag run. We even got a good taste of Dain with that nice crossbody which produced a Nikki Cross sandwich with the table. NXT finally put some heat on a Sanity faction with so much potential. So many times when Sanity should have gone over to develop heat, WWE has fed them to other teams as enhancement talent. Another underlying positive story is Young getting a championship after he sadly missed out on most of the build to the match due to the passing of his mother.
Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Almas: Almas finally winning something deserves a Hit by itself since the guy has so much upside but has been utilized as enhancement talent for almost a year to nearly every debuting wrestler in NXT. This current push of Almas seems to be a reward to him having the patience of a saint while eating a lot of dirt. As for match quality, it was great and set the bar high for the rest of the show. The fun thing about Johnny Gargano as a singles is that he brings all of those main event set-pieces from DIY’s tag matches and brings them into the singles division. Gargano is great. The t-shirt finish was silly and the PTSD was a bit much. That aside, I’m fully behind the push of Zelina Vega as well. She has the potential to be the next Lana and then some. I love how she’s a manager and sideline coach with attitude. She’s not your traditional valet.
Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, and Adam Cole: The Takeover debut of these three Ring of Honor alumni served as a good plot thread woven throughout the show. ReDRagon had a nice beatdown of Sanity following the title change. Cole’s debut was also well done like a Marvel post-credits scene since they had him debut right after the credit signature aired on the bottom left of the screen.
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III Misses
None: This NXT show was damn near perfect from top to bottom. There’s a little nitpick here and there, but those nits were buried under great edge-of-your-seat television. NXT’s hard reset post-WrestleMania has been a solid success in reviving what at one time was looking like a dull TV product. Nothing deserved to be spotlighted as a spotlight miss. This show also brings hope to the future. NXT has utilized a derivative of the “Smackdown Six” formula really well with a main event scene of Drew McIntyre, Bobby Roode, Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Hideo Itami, Aleister Black. All of those guys can pivot into new fresh and compelling feuds coming out, and if any are being called up you can port Cole, Almas, or others to fill in those holes.