By John Moore
NXT Takeover Hits
Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream: The match of the night that caught everyone by surprise. Going into the show, Black vs. Dream as I’ve comically reiterated for a month or so, has been my favorite feud in professional wrestling due to it’s simple build yet intricate depth. If you looked at the spoilers for the television tapings leading into this event or saw Dream vs. Black on paper, you would have assumed it was going to be an enhancement match with Black kicking the head off of Dream. Instead, Dream has moved away from the shallow Prince cosplayer and has added both a dark and flamboyant edge to it that makes him come off as unique. That said, I totally expected this match to fall short of expectations in comparison to the great build. Man, they shut down that apprehensiveness. Their great feud was encapsulated very well in match form. Black is unique and stands out as NXT’s lone kickboxer with Gothic undertones. Dream did not have to be carried. The best part of the match was the mind games and the references to the feud’s set pieces. I was hoping for a crappy finish, if only to prevent Dream from taking a loss. Dream lost the pinfall, but we got a result of Patrick Clark being protected since in the end (from Tommy End no less) Dream also won because Black finally acknowledged him by name.
The Undisputed Era vs. Sanity vs. Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong in a WarGames match: A fun modern iteration of the Jim Crockett Promotions classic. A lot of purists out there were decrying the three trios format and lack of cage, but you had to go into this knowing that they had something fun in mind which is why they structured the match the way they did. This was a fun garbage-style match that seemed to be gone from WWE in the PG era. It was also a garbage match that didn’t include gratuitous violence and unnecessary risks (there was an accidental, I assume, risk with Kyle O’Reilly accidentally giving himself a unprotected chairshot to the head). There was even a pool of blood via Alexander Wolfe. Not only was the novelty there with the gimmick, but you had several wrestlers coming out of the match looking better than they did going in. In particular, Adam Cole gained something by staying true to his chicken heel style but willingness to take chances when the opportunity arises. Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain also came out looking strong. Wolfe has been a pleasant surprise since turning babyface with the amount of enthusiasm he expresses in the ring. Dain impresses by showing off what made him famous on the independents as Big Damo, which was a high flying moveset in the body of a heavyweight juggernaut. Not to mention, the guy supposedly ingested a metal key. How badass is that?
Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade Almas for the NXT Championship: This was a great championship match and way better than the Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade Almas match from just a few months ago when it was just an enhancement match for Drew. I thought McIntyre was just great at selling since he is such a pro at selling to smaller opponents. Unfortunately, we have since learned that he likely suffered a torn bicep. Despite that, the story was great and we had a ton of fun nearfalls. Zelina Vega also deserves a lot of credit for the work she’s putting in. She stands out several ways. She’s comes off as a manager-coach and not an eye-candy valet. They also allow her to be different from the women of WWE in that she performs wrestling moves on the male wrestlers. I said in my report that she reminds me of former NXT wrestler and current Lucha Underground wrestler Ivelisse Velez in the way that she mixes it up with the men. As for Almas, the guy deserves it and I’m happy he’s finally being acknowledged as a upper-tier talent after lingering for so long as an NXT enhancement wrestler to every new indy talent that stepped foot in NXT.
Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce vs. Kairi Sane vs. Ember Moon for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship: The women were put in quite the precarious situation being scheduled to wrestle following the highly anticipated and well delivered Black vs. Dream match. The fact that we got a really fun four way shouldn’t be a surprise given that all four women in this match are good wrestlers. Royce has even developed into a strong storyteller in the ring in the past year even though she still does linger in Billie Kay’s shadow a bit. The women couldn’t surpass the Dream and Black match in terms of psychology and being compelling. So what the women did was work a very fun “indy/X-Division” style spotfest with a nice mix of ring styles. You could make arguments for all four women winning and I went with Royce because of all the fun storylines that could have came from a Royce title run. Moon was near the bottom of my list (just above Sane) because of her erratic and sometimes detrimental character development. Moon has delivered every single time on the big stage so that’s why it wasn’t a bad decision to put the strap on her, so as long as they can tell a great story from here on out. Another smart move in putting together the finish of this match was how they protected Sane by keeping her out of the finish.
Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan: This was a nice hard-hitting match with both men coming out looking good. Credit to the commentators here and throughout the night for expressing emotion. The broadcast team really put over how Lars is the first person in NXT to take the “Stone Golem” of Lars Sullivan off his feet. Lars plays his character well too. He also has the unique look. The right guy went over here since it wouldn’t have made much sense to give Lars a loss in his monster heel push. Ohno should be higher on the card given his main event talent level, but it also doesn’t hurt to have such a workhorse in the bullpen. And who knows, if the McIntyre injury is serious they might need Ohno to step up into his position as the flagbearer babyface with a high workrate.
NXT Takeover Misses
None: I actually tried hard to find a miss. It is interesting how they keep doing this with consistency. You would think that after so many Takeovers that we get at least one dud out there due to statistical probability and relative comparison. The way they put the matches together was masterful. Usually when you go to an all-star independent wrestling show, it’s easy for the matches to feel homogeneous because they devolve into high effort spot-fests. All these matches were performed at a high level but they all stood out as different. We got the hardcore garbage match, the four way spot-fest, the heel vs. babyface world title, the show-stealer, and the monster showcase. Each match was distinct and satiated a particular demand. That’s how you avoid getting diminishing returns. With NXT you get a nice multi-course meal with an appetizer, soup, steak, veggies, and dessert.