By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT Takeover XXV Hits
Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole for the NXT Championship: Yep. An instant Match of the Year candidate. This match had everything: athleticism, brawling, anime cross counters, targeting body parts, great nearfalls, a REF BUMP!!!, and much more. There was a little bit of the formula of a good Petey Williams match on Cole’s end with him constantly trying to execute the Panama Sunrise/Canadian Destroyer on Gargano, which made his Destroyer attempts compelling. There’s so much I can say here, but I’ll just recommend you go out of your way to watch it because there was just too much to recap. In terms of the longer story of the match, it was a good move to have Cole injure Gargano’s leg early on and have Gargano injure Cole’s shoulder early on because it made a good match-long story to follow. The only nitpick I could make is the spot after the ref bump where Cole fake called out the Undisputed Era. I just felt it took a few seconds too long because we get the point. Maybe there was a reason it went so long which we’ll find out in an Undisputed Era promo. Anyway, Gargano losing the title gives them an interesting story going forward. Maybe he turns heelish again? Depressed again? Hopefully he doesn’t go to the main roster because nobody should want to be stuck in that booking.
Shayna Baszler vs. Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna has a formula to her matches, but her template usually leads to good storytelling. The matches always start off with her breaking an elbow, and that elbow spot always does a good job enhancing the pathos of the match in favor of the babyface. I like Baszler matches because it’s like her character to take a formula approach, a gameplan of a sport, to lead to her victories. I still argue that there should be two women’s matches on the shows, though. It’s not because there needs to be some more representation if you’re not a proponent of that argument, but if anything to get a non-Baszler women’s match on Takeover. How long has Baszler been in the lone women’s match on Takeover? A year?
Velveteen Dream vs. Tyler Breeze for the NXT North American Championship: While I thought the match wasn’t as good as it could have been (Ricochet vs. Tyler was a better return match for Tyler a few months ago), this was still really fun and it’s nice to see Tyler back in a good spot. What made things a bit odd this time around in NXT is Tyler is playing full babyface when he was a heel Derrick Zoolander the last time we saw him on NXT television. I liked the story of this being old Tyler vs. new Tyler in that both men play flamboyant characters. You also have to take into account that this wasn’t the match they were building towards; it was supposed to be Velveten Dream vs. Dominik Dijakovic (which was what the bad singing and sex couch was building toward). Good match and hopefully we see more of Tyler back in NXT. Getting called to NXT is almost like a call-up given how bad Raw is these days.
Street Profits vs. Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly vs. Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan vs. Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler in a ladder match for the vacant NXT Tag Titles: As much as I would have preferred a singles match between War Raiders and Street Profits, in retrospect this setup ended up having the better match quality. The key to that match quality improvement was adding Fish and O’Reilly to the mix. The MVP of the match was definitely O’Reilly with his perfect mix of unique ring style and personality. That and the camera wouldn’t let you forget that he had a giant gash on his back. Every team added something unique. Lorcan and Burch brought hard hits, Forgotten Sons brought the wrestling, Street Profits brought the athleticism and charisma, and the Undisputed Era brought everything else.
Jaxson Ryker: Ryker’s interference in the ladder match was extremely well done and it was a positive that it ultimately didn’t factor into the finish. It enhanced Ryker in a big way. Ryker looked like video game boss battle walking into the middle of a wrestling match. The person who sold this the best was of course O’Reilly with his “no! what the hell is that?” face. Ryker looks like Frankenstein, the tag teams didn’t look weak because Ryker made his interference when everyone had exhausted their energy, and it was smart to have the entire tag team division dispatch him.
Matt Riddle vs. Roderick Strong: It’s good to have Strong back in singles matches. Strong is deceptively good at working with larger opponents (interesting enough, most of his opponents are larger than him unless he’s wrestling 205 Live guys). Out of all the matches on this show, I thought this was the easiest to predict. NXT is usually in the business to protect Riddle, and Strong is teflon in terms of shrugging off losses. That predictability didn’t hurt the nearfalls or story that this match was trying to tell.
NXT Takeover XXV Misses
None: Maybe the lone Miss should have been that I was supposed to attend this show before WWE Blood Money got in the way and caused WWE to move it away from California (this is the running joke). The biggest part of this show being spotless is that the shorter length leaves fewer time for errors.
Check below for the latest Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Alexander Hammerstone, who discusses his background, how the underdog story has been overplayed in pro wrestling, the Dynasty faction, and more.