NXT Takeover: New York – Review

This is either going to be the best or worst blog I’ve ever written. So here we go…

So the kick off show was your usual stuff of the panel previewing the matches for the upcoming event. Charley Caruso was leading it and with her you had Sam Roberts and Pat Macafee. It was fine… and then Sam (after his slagging off of Bianca Belair at the last Takeover pre show) decided to really out of nowhere say Matt Riddle would ‘CHOKE’ tonight and that he had been handed everything since he came to WWE… seemed like to get heat for the sake of heat and it seemed really uncessary to say it. He would go on to, when the panel bought on NXT UK commentator Vic Joseph to discuss the UK Championship match, asked ‘who is this guy?’ when talking about WALTER and ‘how’d he end up in this match?’… which all credit to Joseph he did a great job of putting the match over. Then we had O’Reilly, Strong and Fish of the Undisputed Era cut a very entertaining backstage interview with Sarah Shreiber (Era wore new t shirts that STILL HAD THE STICKY WWE LOGO YOU GET ON NEW WWE SHIRTS ON… these guys are the best)!

AND THEN…

We had the WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge. Essentially a guy who beat a load of other guys to get here faced the game’s cover star AJ Styles in a match on the game, and if he won he’d win a million dollars. This guy was a complete asshole and was cutting funny yet really obnoxious heel promos and the crowd HATED him. Corey Graves and Xavier Woods were out to oversee things and they just stood back as this guy took every second of his big moment. They stood on the top of the entrance ramp and played on the titantron. The guy (who dressed in an all gold suit went by the moniker of Real Golden Voice; Stephan Benson) played the game as Brock Lesnar and AJ was himself.

WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge: Brock Lesnar (controlled by Stephan T.Benson aka The Golden Voice) defeated AJ Styles (controlled by… AJ Styles) 

YES I’M REVIEWING THIS MATCH. JUST ACCEPT IT OK!?

It very quickly became apparent why this guys was in this spot… because he was really good at the game funny enough. Props to him for using Brock Lesnar as he would wrestle IRL. He did a tonne of suplexes as Benson continued to act like the biggest of assholes. The live crowd that was in the arena at this stage HATED this guy and DID NOT want to see him become a Millionaire in front of the world. The crowd went pretty dead as the guy F5’d AJ and won the computer game match. He was an asshole after too and even took digs at AJ and said Orton would beat him at Mania. He held the big novelty cheque after and the crowd hated him.

Dear Triple H,

Your shows are excellent. But please never sell your sole for this kind of thing ever ever again.

Regards,

Everyone who watched this.

*

That was basically the kick off show.

The main show began with an AWESOME video package looking back at the history of NXT Takeovers before leading into the matches ahead tonight. The “record attendance of 15,697” was announced by a delightful-Salmon coloured suit sporting Mauro Ranallo with Percy and Nigel by his side.

NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) (C) defeated Aleister Black & Ricochet to Retain 

We got another super cool Viking themed War Raiders entrance. It may have been as cool as their one for Takeover: Phoenix. The crowd very loudly chanted along with the “One and Only” part of Ricochet’s song and sang the first part of Black’s theme too. The live crowd even given the computer game stuff some of them just endured were really fired up for the start of the main show and this first match. The theme of this match was that the two very popular babyface teams had a lot of respect for eachother but still wanted to have a killer match and leave the seemingly obvious result in doubt. They did that and then some! If you want big spots, this match had loads. If you like good old fashioned ‘rasslin, they gave us that at times too! At one stage during this match there was apparently a very bright light that was shining directly into the upper deck of the building, so much so that when it was turned off the crowd went wild for it and chanted ‘you deserve it’ and the YES chants. Although momentarily the attention was away from the match I thought it a good sign that this crowd was excited by a light being switched off, it turned out I was not wrong… There were so many ridiculous spots and exchanges in this match it wasn’t really a match you could watch and take notes on as there was not a second to catch your breathe! By far the most unbelievable spot of an insane match was the surely 300 pound-odd Hanson doing a SENTON SPLASH off the top turnbuckle to the outside to take everyone out! Not to mention Ricochet picking up and slamming Hanson to the ground (Ricochet is a cruserweight and Hanson a heavyweight so bare that in mind). They teased a possible countout and a draw but Ricochet and Rowe JUST made it in the ring in time. Aleister Black then soon after hit the Black Mass on Rowe and Ricochet a shooting star press for a nearfall. Ricochet then missed a 630 and the War Raiders soon then hit ‘Thor’s Hammer’ before Hanson got rid of Black with a Suicide Dive and then they hit the Fall Out on Ricochet for the 1, 2, 3. Medical staff seemed to tend to Ricochet right away after this. Black checked on him to and it seemed War Raiders stopped celebrating for a moment also. It was unclear how badly or what was hurt but Ricochet to me at least looked somewhat dazed when he looked up. But both members of each team embraced after and then Hanson and Rowe put their belts down and bowed to Black and Ricochet before leaving. The fans gave the beaten main-roster bound challengers a giant standing ovation that brought Ricochet to tears. The fans chanted ‘You Deserve It’. If this was main roster someone would have come out and beat them up. Not in NXT. This was all absolutely wonderful all-round. 

****3/4

They showed NXT UK’s Piper Niven and Women’s Champion Toni Storm in the crowd. This made me happy.

NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (C) defeated Matt Riddle to Retain

This match was extraordinary as well! So in the early stages it was clear Dream was going to be the cocky one and Riddle the fighting babyface. But (and I’m not exaggerating) this crowd was probably 85-90% in the corner of the Velveteen Dream. So I’m not sure if this was planned or if they decided to call it in the ring, but as the match went on they completely switched the way they both acted to suit the crowd response, so it was Dream who played babyface and Matt Riddle who acted more of a heel. It was amazing to witness. Riddle came out first and then Dream came out in typically understated fashion… he was dressed up as the STATUE OF LIBERTY and was carried on top of a platform by people in his t shirt. It was awesome and made him with that belt look like a megastar, which he already is. For the first few seconds of the match the crowd were so loud and pretty split with “BRO” and “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants. This was a really unique match were both guys showcased their styles really well and told a fun story. It may have dragged in the middle but the crowd noise along with the start and finish made it a great match overall. Dream stomping on Riddle’s foot (he wrestles barefoot) was a spot I really enjoyed as I’ve never got why more people don’t do that against him. Riddle showed pretty amazing levels of strength throughout using various throws and holds. It was clear towards the end he was the working heel of the match with his much more aggressive approach to Dream, and the crowd really took Dream’s side. Be it via an Ankle Lock or a crazy looking German Suplex from the outside of the apron into the ring there were many occasions it looked like Riddle would get the win. Dream also coming back by HULKING UP with the point and the “YOU” and the powerslam and leg drop ala Hogan was super cool too.  But in the end the finish came when Riddle locked in the Bromission but Dream managed to roll through and get the pin. A finish clearly designed to protect Riddle somewhat even in defeat so I applauded that thought. Dream celebrated after as a clearly upset Riddle stood and watched. I was convinced Riddle was about to turn heel and beat the shit out of him, but to my pleasant surprise Riddle extended his fist out to Dream and they did the Bro fist bump to a HUGE pop. At the beginning of the match Dream has turned down a bro fist, but by now he had grown to respect Riddle. And then Riddle applauded him and left. So no heel turn at least for now. So that (given the amount of HEAT gaining segments we see on main roster) was a welcomed surprise. I loved this. Dream is great, Riddle is exceptional.

****3/4

They recapped from WWE’s social media a few hours before the show began the news that former New Japan Pro Wrestling star KUSHIDA had signed to NXT. He was then shown in the Barclays Centre sat in the crowd which got a huge pop. He’s really, really good trust me.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: WALTER defeated Pete Dunne (C) to become the NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion 

The crowd popped HUGE when the graphic for the match was first shown. Their noise only continued as they chanted along to WALTER’s theme and gave Dunne a huge ovation when he came out. NXT UK Commentator Vic Joseph replaced Percy Watson to call this match with Nigel and Mauro. In the least surprising thing probably of the entire weekend this match was brutal, really really good, and… BRUTAL! They started at a methodical pace and then began pretty much a constant exchange of really nasty looking submissions and strikes. WALTER chopped the piss out of Dunne, and Dunne bent and twerked WALTER’s fingers in places and ways human fingers should not go. It seemed everytime Dunne defied belief and seemed to hurt the big Austrian WALTER would comeback with a power move, such as the avoidance of Dunne by jumping over him and then seemingly kicking him into WrestleMania weekend next year with a huge big boot. WALTER putting the champion on the turnbuckle and standing on his HEAD looked absolutely vile as did he later stomping on his head and then hitting a powerbomb. There were just so many spots and moments in this match that looked horrible to have to take. Dunne did in fact at one stage hit his Bitter End finishing move but WALTER somehow kicked out. The finish was by far the most insane moment of a long but brutal looking match; the absolute giant WALTER climbed to the top turnbuckle, Dunne went up to and locked in a triangle hold, but WALTER gave Dunne a POWERBOMB OFF THE TOP ROPE and Dunne went absolutely flying across the ring!!! Then WALTER went back up and hit a big Splash off the top.. 1, 2, 3! The 685 day reign of The Bruserweight is OVER and your NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion is WALTER! WOW! This was everything I wanted it to be. In one word this was a WAR!

****3/4

Edge and Beth Phoenix were shown in the crowd. Both of whom the crowd liked a lot.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (C) defeated Bianca Belair & Io Shirai & Kairi Sane to retain

They, in the spot they were in, did about as good a job as they possibly could have done. The 3 challengers all got decent reactions, and the champion was seen backstage walking with her accomplices Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir but they did not accompany her to the ring for the match. The four of them went 100 miles an hour but did a great job of it not looking like a clusterfuck. After Baszler and Belair cleared The Sky Pirates out to brawl amongst themselves both Sane and Shirai would team up after to then return the favour and do the same. Baszler did the stomp-on-the-elbow spot she does to Bianca, who in turn would later get her own back when on the outside Shayna tried to pull Belair into the ringpost by her hair, but Bianca kicked her foot off the post and pulled back to send the champion colliding with the post instead! Later in a crazy spot Belair and Baszler were on the top rope with Bianca looking to hit a superplex, but then Kairi Sane came underneath to try and throw them down but couldn’t manage it, so then Io Shirai helped and the gave Shayna a double-powerbomb who in turn gave Bianca a superplex all at the same time. Later on something extraordinary happened; Shayna had Belair in the Kirifuda Clutch but in what I believe is a first Bianca Belair POWERED OUT of it! She would follow up with a KOD but Io Shirai came in to only allow for a near fall. Io and Kairi then seemed to fall out after Sane broke up a Shirai nearfall on Shayna, so then they went at it, which lead to Kairi picking her friend up and hitting her with an Alabama Slam on to Shayna Baszler! Kairi then hit her finishing move the Insane Elbow on Baszler but again it was Io Shirai that broke up the pin! Then in another crazy Bianca moment she knocked Sane off the top by whipping her with her hair then lifted BOTH Kairi Sane AND Io Shirai on her shoulders at the same time for a double KOD… but then Shayna came back in and with both the other challengers OOA she locked in the Kirifuda again and got the win. The crowd seemed in a stunned silence. All the challengers looked visibly upset as Shayna was then joined by Duke and Shafir (who surprisingly didn’t get involved in the match itself at any stage) to celebrate. In my group chat to say one of my friends was unhappy with this result would be like saying it would probably be a bad idea to jump off a cliff. Taking away my personal disappointment at the result here and looking at it objectively this was probably as good a match as they could have put on in this spot and with this result. Although as my friend Dan pointed out, after weeks and weeks of Shayna and co basically burying the entire NXT female roster each time… she then won this match fairly clean. Which I don’t think is a great reflection on them…

****

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano defeated Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to become the NEW NXT Champion 

The video they showed before the match, considering it was a change from the original match with Ciampa, was exceptional. Gargano came out to a mixed reaction sporting an Iron Man inspired attire, Cole came out with the rest of the Undisputed Era and got possibly the biggest reaction for an entrance of the entire show, he was like a God to this crowd. The ‘boom’ and the ‘ADAM COLE BAY BAY’ chants during his entrance were absolutely thunderous. The chants were duelling as the match started at a slow pace with Cole and Gargano eventually colliding in the air as they both hit a crossbody, Gargano later hit a Flatliner after moving out the way of a superkick and got a nearfall, and not long after got another with an inside cradle pin attempt. There was then a really fun spot where they both went to superkick one another but both stopped at the same time realising what one another was going for, but it was Gargano who reacted quickest after hitting a kick to the knee of Cole instead. Gargano then went for a Sunset-flip but Cole rolled through it and connected with his Last Shot knee strike to score the pin and the first fall. 1-0 to Adam Cole.

Adam Cole continued to be in charge as the second fall began. He pretty soon hit the Last Shot a 2nd time but somehow Johnny Gargano kicked out. Later Adam Cole tried to get a powerbomb off the top rope but Gargano hit a form of body-drop instead which got a nearfall, and not long after that Gargano hit his signature slingshot DDT on to the apron which looked as good as always. Cole was on the verge of having the match tied at 1-1 but chose to break the refs 10 count as Cole was on the outside. And so then of course Cole immediately got back in to it by sending Johnny into the ring post. After they both went for submissions Gargano was able to transition into the Gargano Escape and Cole tapped frantically almost right away after the hold was put in. 1-1. I felt at this stage the match was good, but not a classic… that changed…

They had a brutal looking exchange of strikes in the ring before Gargano got the better of it with a big Clothesline for a 2 count. A notable cut then appeared above Gargano’s eye I wasn’t sure where from the cut was caused to be honest. In retaliation Gargano picked Cole up and launched him half way across the ring, head-first into the middle turnbuckle on the far side. Ouch. There was then a great spot where they simultaneously hit one another with Clotheslines and then Superkicks to the side of the head which the crowd loved. Cole after hit another Superkick then a German Suplex for a 2 count. Johnny Wrestling came back with a beautiful reverse Hurricanrana and then a Superkick… only for Adam Cole to roll out of the ring. Cole then pulled Gargano to the outside and gave him a big German Suplex into the apron which looked horrid, but Gargano cameback with a draping DDT and tried for another slingshot Spear only to be caught with a Superkick by Cole. He then hit an exquisitely executed Canadian Destroyer for a very, very close 2 count. So Adam Cole as the heel went in on the heroic Gargano and called him a ‘failure’… so Gargano got mad and launched him over the Spanish announce table at ringside. But with both men on the announce table it was Adam Cole who got the better of it and of ALL the moves in professional wrestling… Adam Cole hit Johnny Gargano on the announce table with… THE FAIRYTALE ENDING (the finishing move of a certain TOMASSO CIAMPA)… beautiful stuff!!! Cole made his way back in the ring as the ref began the 10 count. I legitimately thought this COULD be the finish and I don’t think I was alone! Gargano though made it back in to the ring at probably 9 and 1/2! Cole not long after hit another Superkick for another close nearfall which everyone again bought as a possible end of the match. They then traded kicks again before Cole eventually went for another Canadian Destroyer… only for Johnny TAKEOVER to transition into the Gargano Escape again… and just as the crowd went wild the rest of the Undisputed Era made their presence known. Roderick Strong came running out to divert the referees attention and allowing for Kyle O’Reilly to get in the ring and despite Cole tapping out the ref was dealing with Strong so didn’t see it and O’Reilly instead raked at the eyes of Gargano to break the hold. Cole then pushed Gargano in to the ref to take him out, and then Bobby Fish came in and he and O’Reilly hit their tag team finisher on Gargano before they all retreated. This though only got a 2 count! In his anger Johnny Gargano threw Cole onto all 3 other Era members outside the ring, and then one by one fought them all off. Adam Cole then hit two superkicks and then the Last Shot but Gargano kicked out again! The crowd by now were going wild and by far the loudest they were all night (and they were pretty loud all show to be fair to them). AND THEN COLE WENT FOR THE LAST SHOT AGAIN BUT MISSED, GARGANO PUT IN THE GARGANO ESCAPE, COLE NEARED THE ROPES BUT GARGANO ROLLED OVER WITH THE HOLD STILL LOCKED IN SO THEY WERE AWAY FROM THE ROPES ONCE AGAIN… AND ADAM COLE TAPPED OUT!!! JOHNNY GARGANO HAD FINALLY DONE IT AND WAS THE NEW NXT CHAMPION!!! That 3rd and final fall was probably over ****1/2 on its own! Despite the fact upon the entrances and all show it appeared Adam Cole was the most popular guy with the fans, when this match was drawing to the end and then for the finish this crowd was so desperate for Gargano to win you would not believe it. It was pointed out to me Gargano may have lost a tooth in the process to but I’d presume he wont mind too much. They laid this match out so well to ensure Gargano got the biggest of babyface pops at the end. Johnny Gargano it was noted was now the only man to have won the NXT Championship, the NXT North American Championship and the NXT Tag Team Championship. This was one of the all time great NXT Takeover matches. And that is saying something!

*****

As Gargano was celebrating his wife Candice LeRae came out as Gargano got a massive ovation from the crowd. The two went in to the crowd to celebrate with Johnny’s family including his parents which was super cool. And then just as they made their way to the top of the ramp… out from behind them came… TOMASSO CIAMPA!!! He hugged them both as everyone went wild… and I’m not going to lie when I said I cried my eyes out at this. I, after seeing an incredible match and a guy I’ve seen in over a dozen Takeover matches finally win the big one, was not ready to see the injured former champion as a total surprise, and then for him to embrace his IRL best friends on the ramp was an absolutely surreal moment. One of those that if you know the full story transcended professional wrestling. This was one of the most special moments I think I’ve seen in wrestling for a long long time possibly ever. Yes as a grown man I cried at this. But FUCK YOU if you think that is not a worthy reaction. This was absolutely beyond belief cool. The final shot we saw of the show was Gargano, Ciampa and Candice embracing to end what may be the best story in the history of NXT and one of the best in the business for many years.

There was a lot of talk online after the show of ‘best Takeover ever’. Right now in the immediate aftermath I think it was. One thing I don’t think is up for debate is in terms of the quality of the matches this was the best NXT show I’ve seen EVER. Yes this time last year we had two ***** matches but the matches in between I didn’t feel were as consistently strong as this show had. The crowd was certainly one of the best and Takeover crowds are usually good but this one was exceptional and credit to them. The ‘Mamma Mia’ count from Mauro tonight was off the scale! I’ve never seen a bad Takeover and with the historic implications of what took place on this show: Ricochet and Aleister Black’s NXT swansong, Matt Riddle being pinned for the first time in WWE, the arrival of KUSHIDA, the ending of the reign of Pete Dunne and the beginning of WALTER’s, the women’s 4 way being great and of course the main event with the embrace of Ciampa/Gargano/LeRae to end the show… this once again took me on an emotional rollercoaster maybe even more so than NXT Takeover New Orleans this time last year. And after that show was over I thought that was the best Takeover I’ve ever seen. But this bettered it. ANOTHER absolutely incredible show, and considering the standard NXT Takeover shows set, to say this was the best one EVER says all you need to know. If I’m ever going to have to convince someone to like professional wrestling I’m going to get them to watch this show. And I think that’s maybe the biggest compliment I could possibly give it.

Josh. 

NXT Takeover: Dallas – REVIEW

So you are probably all wondering why I am reviewing this show? Well it was my very first Takeover, it was the Takeover before Wrestlemania 32 and the first time they did what has now become a staple of the big PPV invasion of a city having the NXT show open the weekend. I had heard so much fuss about NXT so finally got round to checking it out for this show and chose to watch it live. And well… I’m now the biggest NXT fan you could get so that tells you everything. This show was… well… I’ll explain… and you’ll see a lot of familiar names along the way which I hope gives you some insight on where they were at 3 years ago compared to now, and how well they were used in NXT. So without further or do here is my review of what was one of the best NXT shows in history.

There was a great video package to open the broadcast; it outlined the history of Texas wrestling, and then told the stories around all the matches on the card. Tom Phillips and Corey Graves are the commentators for NXT at this time, and they were on this show as they always were during their time together in NXT; absolutely tremendous. Greg Hamilton (who in 2019 is the ring announcer for Smackdown) was doing the introductions for the show.

NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) defeated The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) to become the NEW NXT Tag Team Champions

Talk about a ‘hot-opener’! It pretty much always happens nowadays that the tag match opens Takeover shows and off the back of this match it is easy to see why. American Alpha were SOOOOOOOO over with the crowd and alternatively The Revival were very much booed when they came out. The wrestling throughout was great even with a couple of botches along the way. The Revival executed great heel tactics for the whole match and Alpha played the underdog babyfaces so well and none more so than when Gable went for a hot tag to Jordan… but Dash Wilder went under the ring and stopped the tag from happening which was great. The finish was really hot with the crowd; Jordan tagged in Gable as Scott Dawson didn’t realize what had happened, Jordan did his big running charge to Dawson in the corner, he tagged in Gable and then they did their tag team finisher Grand Amplitude (which sees Jordan lift the guy up for a backdrop and then Gable almost carry the opponent down to get some extra impact on the slam… it looks great basically). American Alpha get the win and the crowd pop huge! Gable and Jordan were both in tears and very emotional at the win, it came across even years later as a great babyface moment of 2 underdogs that have fought for so long finally getting their big moment. This was a very good match.

****1/4

The showed ESPN’s Michelle Beadle (her from the video where Lesnar announced he had re-signed with WWE just prior to WrestleMania 31) and also WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross sat ringside in the crowd. Jim’s late wife Jan was next to him also, which in 2019 is both warming and sad.

Elsewhere in the crowd were shown former WWE star Funaki and also Kota Ibushi, who was shown ahead of the then-upcoming Cruiserweight Classic (the idea of Kota Ibushi in WWE is still incredible to me, for those who don’t know he was one of THE best wrestlers in the world in 2016 and is such still in 2019).

They showed video footage of Bayley meeting fans at WWE’s Axxess event. She got a big pop from the crowd when she appeared on screen. They also showed footage of Asuka training by hitting the pads with strikes, which also got a big pop.

Austin Aries defeated Baron Corbin

The pre-match video package reminded me of just how big a deal it was at the time when Aries signed, and also how well NXT built Corbin to be a big, bad dickhead. Corbin was booed when he came out and Aries was cheered in what would be his WWE NXT in-ring debut. When Aries stood in the ring with Corbin it became apparent just how small in comparison he was. The match itself was what you’d expect between these two… it was OK… it did exactly what it should have in that it got Aries over as a fighting guy who can move about well, and it got Corbin over as a powerhouse heel. They traded strikes in the early stages, Corbin then just punished Aries as he demanded the ref ‘ring the bell’ as he had an anti-independent wrestling gimmick going at the time (and still does today to a certain extent). Aries then got back into it with strikes, big chops, more strikes, a neckbreaker with the 2nd rope, a flying dropkick off the top, a dropkick into the corner and a Tope Suicida through the ropes that sent Corbin crashing into the barricade. Corbin then caught Aries with a Deep Six on the floor, before rolling back in the ring and telling the ref to count Austin Aries out. Aries only just beat the count in time. They then exchanged strikes once again, before Corbin went for the End of Days but Aries rolled him over into the pin. The crowd were happy as Corbin was in disbelief at the result. This was a fine match, the crowd were kind of flat but it was about as good as these two were going to produce. Aries looked good in everything he did and Corbin played his role really well. Just for some context by the way, Baron Corbin would win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 32 two nights later and start on the main roster on Raw that Monday.

***

NXT Champion Finn Balor was shown arriving at the arena. Shockingly… he was very popular…

There was a BIG pop from the crowd when the match graphic for Zayn vs Nakamura was shown. This was followed by a GREAT video package not only hyping up Zayn’s work in NXT but also that a match with Nakamura was his reward for all his hard work. It also put over the stardom of Shinsuke and just how big a deal it was that such a big worldwide star was in WWE.

Scott Hall and X-Pac were shown in the crowd.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Sami Zayn

Zayn got a big pop coming out, as the crowd sang along with his theme. And THEN… A real-life rockstar walked into the Hutchison Convention Center… Shinsuke Nakamura came out with one of the coolest entrances you will ever see. This crowd went absolutely crazy for him; there were ‘NA-KA-MU-RA” chants, “HOLY SHIT” chants, and the crowd knew every one of his mannerisms and slight movements he’d do as part of his entrance. As big a fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling as I am now, back then I had no clue. I had never seen Shinsuke Nakamura wrestle before, so when this guy who seemed too cool to be from this planet came out I was mesmerized… and the match hadn’t even begun yet.! Sami Zayn just smiled as he had a front row seat for the arrival of a Megastar. There were dueling chants from the crowd as the match started, Nakamura was every bit the showman from the start, Zayn dodged some Nakamura strikes which the crowd appreciated, they exchanged arm drag holds, Zayn did an arm-drag takedown of his own as the crowd loudly chanted ‘NXT’… and rightly so! Nakamura hit some HARD strikes and knees and got a couple of nearfalls off the back, he then got an armbar in which Zayn couldn’t get out of even with elbow strikes as Shinsuke hit him back with a knee and then a headkick, followed by another not long after, they both got nearfalls, Sami Zayn then took over with some chops and then he rammed Nakamura into the corner and then did a great looking dropkick off an Irish Whip, only for Nakamura to kick out at 2. Nakamura hit some more strikes and then Zayn knocked Nakamura to the outside from off the top rope. Nakamura was then able to hit a series of hard knee strikes with Zayn laid out on the apron, they then were treated to more dueling-chants when they both got back in the ring. Nakamura hit his ‘Good Vibrations’ move in the corner and then Nakamura hist a hard knee to Zayn’s gut which got a 2 count. Not long after Nakamura went over the ropes and then Zayn did a big dive over and onto him on the outside, this got a huge pop. Zayn hit a crossbody off the top for a 2, Zayn then did a suplex but couldn’t pull it off and Nakamura hit him with some knees on the ground before Zayn caught him after and hit a Michinoku driver which looked great. They then both had a BRUTAL striking exchange which led to Nakamura having a busted up nose, the crowd showed their appreciation for the two exhausted guys efforts. Nakamura hit knees on Zayn when he was laid on the ropes which got a “KING OF STRONG STYLE” chant, Zayn hit a couple of big clotheslines, Nakamura then spun into an Armbar which looked super cool, although Zayn was able to get his arms locked so Shinsuke couldn’t get the hold in fully. Nakamura then transitioned into a Triangle, but Zayn stomped on Nakamura’s head to escape, followed by punches, more stomps with Nakamura on the ropes, this was countered with a HUGE right hand strike from Nakamura, a Zayn Koji Clutch hold (the crowd chanted “NO, NO, NO” clearly not wanting Nakamura to tap), Nakamura hit a step-up Enziguri kick to lay both guys flat on the floor as the crowd chanted “FIGHT FOREVER”. Nakamura hit a dropkick to Zayn in the corner, Zayn missed a Helluva Kick (which if he had of hit he may well of beheaded Nakamura such was the speed he ran into it with), Nakamura hit an inverted Exploder Suplex but missed a Kinshasa, and Zayn hit a Belly to Back Suplex for a 2 count. The crowd went absolutely wild for this and loudly chanted “NXT, NXT, NXT”! Zayn then flew into a kick on the outside as he went for a DDT that was patterned for him back then, this got “HOLY SHIT” chants. Zayn then hit a Tope to Nakamura, Nakamura hit some strikes, both men were hit down, Zayn missed an exploder, Nakamura hit some brutal looking elbows to Zayn, he then went to the top rope and hit Zayn with a knee strike to the back of Zayn’s NECK which knocked him down… and then after the big set up which the crowd went wild for he hit his big knee strike, the Kinshasa, for the 1, 2, 3! The crowd applauded and gave the match a standing ovation after, Nakamura then did his poses before going over to Sami Zayn in the corner and offering a handshake before helping him to his feet. The crowd chanted “THANK YOU SAMI”, both the competitors embraced, and as Nakamura was leaving they both held one another’s arm up in the air, Nakamura then left allowing for Sami Zayn (in what was his NXT farewell) to soak in an amazing crowd show of appreciation for him. It was a really emotional thing to watch a crowd show a guy this much love and adoration. Zayn would be in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 32 two nights later.

This was one of THE best matches in NXT and WWE history. 

***** 

Samoa Joe (ahead of his challenge for the NXT Championship later in the show) was shown backstage.

There was a great video package ahead of Asuka Vs Bayley. Bayley got a big pop when she was shown on the graphic. The video really put over Bayley as the most ultra of babyfaces and a hero to young girls. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Carmella and Sasha Banks all put her over. Asuka was put over as a vicious and tough competitor and had Dana Brooke and Emma talk up her case.

Stephanie McMahon (the creator of women’s wrestling…) was shown sat ringside. She got the biggest heel reaction of the entire show which was hilarious.

NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka defeated Bayley (C) to become the NEW NXT Women’s Champion

Asuka got a pop coming out, Bayley got a bigger one. Crowd also did the “heyyyyyyy, hey Bayley, ooo, aaaa…” chants and “Bayley’s gonna hug you” in the very early part which made me smile. They traded offence in the first part of the match as Bayley was put over by commentary for keeping up with the undefeated challenger, even getting a nearfall with a good-looking Flying Crossbody. Asuka tried to get an armbar in but Bayley got her leg on the ropes, and not long after following some attacks in the corner Bayley got another nearfall. The crowd did dueling chants for both, Bayley got another nearfall with a hurricanrana off the top, Asuka rolled beautifully into an Ankle Lock but Bayley was able to get her to the outside, they traded more strikes, Asuka hit a HUGE kick and then a knee for a 2 count, Bayley rolled her over for a 2, Bayley caught Asuka after an attempted hip attack and then hit her with a suplex. Asuka hit an enzuigiri that sent both women down, they did a tonne more moves which all looked really good and crisp, Asuka exquisitely rolled into an Armbar, Bayley tried to not let her lock it in fully but Asuka transitioned almost into a Dis-Arm-Her and then Bayley rolled over for a nearfall. The crowd chanted “both these girls”, Bayley got a big clothesline for a 2 count, crowd chanted “hug me Bayley”, Bayley prepared herself then went for a Bayley to Belly but Asuka striked out of it, Asuka hit a spinning heel kick, and then a suplex into an armbar. Bayley fought and fought as the crowd willed her on but Asuka transitioned it into the Asuka Lock. Bayley rolled and fought so much as the crowd were really behind her still, but after being in the hold for SOOOOOOO long the ref checked Bayley and determined she had passed out. The crowd audibly gasped as the bell was rung (Corey Graves commentary of the finish was really great and very much encapsulated the magnitude of the moment). The much-beloved babyface had lost her title. Videos have since come out of young girls crying as their favourite had lost. Asuka was the champion now and the era of Bayley was over. A new one was beginning, and it ended up being one of the all-time great championship reigns maybe in wrestling history let alone WWE or NXT. As sad as the crowd were that Bayley had lost they did cheer for Asuka celebrating as Bayley, perfectly selling how gutted she was, looked on. This was a good match and would probably be considered one of the better women’s main roster matches of the year in WWE if it were to happen in 2019. It was always going to be tough following Nakamura Vs Zayn but these two did about as good a job as anyone could have. 

***3/4

The video package ahead of the main event looked back at their previous match at Takeover: London. The story seemed that, and Finn said as much himself, that Balor just got the win in what was a brutal war (remember that statement). It did give the rivalry a real intense feel.

They showed BOBBY ROODE in the crowd and everyone went crazy. Commentary put this over as a huge deal (it was at the time trust me). Tom Phillips called him ‘one of the hottest free agents’.

NXT Championship: ‘Demon’ Finn Balor (C) defeated Samoa Joe to retain

The crowd loudly chanted ‘JOE, JOE, JOE’ as he came out. And then the champion came out. Following up from his Jack the Ripper homage entrance in London, Balor kept up his murderous theme by coming out here as the Demon with a CHAINSAW (as in like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre star)!!! This was spectacular and in my opinion the best Demon entrance there’s ever been, seek it out on YouTube immediately I implore you. I was equally as mesmerized watching this at the time as I was by Nakamura’s entrance. It was incredible. There really was a huge big fight feel as there were dueling chants during the introductions and as the bell rung. They began with a hard exchange of strikes as Joe kept throwing Balor to the outside, Joe was bleeding already from the head. Joe was then on the outside and Finn did a huge dive over the ropes. The ref held Joe back as he was bleeding heavily as he was trying to destroy Balor. Joe looked like an absolutely psychopath as the blood ran down his face in an amazing visual. He then absolutely launched Finn into the fans, even taking out a security guard in the process. As the ref kept Joe away there was a great camera shot of Balor coming up from behind the barrier (think Vince McMahon Wrestlemania 19 if you know that one), and he then dove onto Joe over the barricade. They exchanged more absolutely brutal strikes as Joe kept talking smack, an enzuigiri by Joe sent Finn to the outside, SAMOA JOE DID A DIVE TO THE OUTSIDE THROUGH THE ROPES which was an amazing thing to see given Joe’s size. Doctors then tended to Joe with towels to try and stop his bleeding, to which the crowd booed as ‘let them fight’ and ‘Bullshit’ were the chants. Then immediately after Joe had a cut on his head tended to he went back in the ring and Finn Balor striked Joe… in the head… wrestling… Joe then really took charge of the match… and then the ref put the X up which the crowd were fuming at (the X from the ref usually means the match is done so I think they thought the ref was calling it). The doctors came in the ring to try and wipe the blood again from Joe’s head, crowd chanted “Bullshit” and “Fuck PG”. When the action resumed Joe went back to work on Finn until Balor ended the dominance with a dropkick to send Joe down… and then the Docs came over to Joe AGAIN with towels as the crowd booed and chanted “Let Joe Bleed”… Christ!!! Finn later hit two running forearms to Joe, Joe was dropped and fell into the corner, Finn hit some huge chops eventually sending Joe to roll to the outside, Finn then hit a missile dropkick and a running kick as the crowd cheered, and with both now back in the ring Balor looked for a slingblade but Joe caught him and launched Finn with an overhead Belly to Belly suplex which got a nearfall. Joe punished Finn some more until Balor rolled out of a crossface and hit a double stomp, a slingblade and the dropkick to the corner to set up for the Coupe de Grace, but Joe got up in time and tried to hit Balor with a Muscle Buster, but Finn fought out only Joe was quick enough to regain control and hit the Muscle Buster… 1,2… FINN KICKED OUT! Joe was in disbelief as he continued to bleed, they exchanged strikes again until Finn hit a Pele kick that sent both men to the floor as the crowd applauded. Both men got up at a count of 8, Finn roared and then hit a series of strikes, the dropkick, the Coupe de Grace and then set up for his 1916 suplex (his old finisher) but Joe was able to transition it into the Coquina Clutch! Crowd went wild for this thinking Joe could win the title, but Finn was able to push against the ring corner with his feet and roll them over for the 1, 2, 3! Finn Balor once again survived a match against Samoa Joe and retained his NXT Championship. Joe was furious afterwards with Balor looking exhausted. The show closed with Joe on the ramp and Balor in the ring with the two starring at one another. It was clear that this was not over. And FYI Joe would win the title at a HOUSE SHOW in Lowell, Massachusetts 3 weeks later and retain in a rematch at Takeover: The End in a cage match in June 2016 in what was the only defeat of the Demon Finn Balor in WWE. Finn went to the main roster not long after and Joe began a feud with Nakamura over the championship. In the first 5 minutes this match was 100 miles an hour, but the cut to Joe (caused by a headbutt in the opening exchange) and the necessary but near-constant interruptions of the Doctors to tend to Joe’s cut killed the rhythm of the match and stopped it from being a classic. It was still super fun to watch though.

***3/4

I remember this show being excellent and super fun and I wasn’t mistaken. It was off the back of this show I started watching NXT and have had the time of my life as a wrestling fan following NXT ever since. If you now are like me then and have heard about the buzz from NXT and want to give it a try then I’d say there’s no better time to start than the biggest Takeover show of the year, before Wrestlemania. And luckily for you this year they are having the Takeover show on the Friday night and not the Saturday as usual, so just as I did in 2016 you have Saturday to recover and catch up on sleep after late, late nights on Friday for Takeover and Sunday for WrestleMANia. But this show was incredible and showcased everything good about NXT then, and I say this quietly but NXT now in 2019, and the line up for Takeover: New York the Friday before Mania this year, has the potential to be EVEN BETTER! I am very proud to be able to say that my very first NXT Takeover was excellent, and widely viewed as great and one of the best Takeover shows there has ever been.

Josh.

Evolution 2018: Preview and Predictions

Before I start and you can read the blog I’ve written to preview the Evolution PPV, I couldn’t write about WWE at the moment and not mention Roman Reigns. For some reason I woke up at about 2.30am on Tuesday morning and checked my phone for the time, and I found a good dozen or so notifications telling me things I couldn’t believe I was reading. Seeing it was even more shocking. Roman Reigns announcing to the world that he once again has Leukaemia and is vacating the Universal Championship whilst he battles this form of Cancer for the 2nd time. His speech was an incredibly brave thing to do in front of the world on live TV. And when Dean and Seth came out to join him on the ramp and Rollins was in tears I know it was too much for me that’s for sure. I only cried more as I watched the video of him backstage being greeted by the likes of Triple H, Paul Heyman, Nia Jax and Braun Strowman. But if any of us take anything from this I think we should watch an incredibly brave and strong human being who as he was leaving the arena was still able to make jokes and smile with the cameraman as he was making his way to his rental Car. If that doesn’t show strength in adversity I don’t know what does. This is so far beyond what any of us (me included) may think of him as a performer or a character, I’m sure we can all agree as wrestling fans he has given us all so many memories and moments none of us will ever forget. And I know for one I am already looking forward to seeing him beat Leukaemia and come back and do what he does best. Like he alluded to himself be it boo or cheer EVERYBODY watching WWE reacts to Roman Reigns, he makes us invested in the product more than anyone, I think it’s the least any of us can do is to give him a few extra thoughts and prayers in the times ahead. Us as fans all owe it to him to ensure we are still here as passionate as ever towards the product ready to welcome him back when he is able to return. Thank you for everything you gave for us Roman and I speak for us all when I say I look forward to seeing you back in a WWE ring soon.


Well, it’s finally time! So let’s for the sake of my own sanity forget about that show where none of the women on this card will feature and instead look forward to the first ever all women’s WWE PPV event. When this was first announced I did think it was a bit forced, in the sense it’s doing it for the sake of doing it. But I’m not against it completely, and have long been an advocate and a glass-half-full person when it comes to women’s wrestling. We should all be grateful both women’s wrestling and the WWE female roster is at a place of strength, enough to be able to put this event on. It’s a pretty strong card too as expected with each match featuring some kind of hook; great story, ongoing rivalry and a few huge name stars returning along the way. SO without further or do let’s get right in to it and preview WWE Evolution!!!

Natalya, Bayley & Sasha Banks V ‘The Riott Squad’ (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan)

Wow talk about a filler, run-of-the-mill, nothing kind of match. If this exact match was on any random episode of Raw it wouldn’t exactly jump out to me as a big deal. It was probably this match that jumped out to me as showing how little some of the more talented female performers on the roster have to do in terms of stories as of late. Yes the top end and the title feud’s are often done well or at least made to feel like they’re a big deal. But below that? Not too much going on is there really. The Riott Squad for starters other than messing up a few papers and getting sauce on a door backstage haven’t exactly gone close to starting a ‘riot’ any time recently. They just come across as 3 mates together as opposed to a heel female faction and a major threat. Just look how easily Ronda and The Bellas put them in their place. As for the babyfaces it was pretty clear as soon as WWE stopped and started and never pulled the trigger on what seemed like an impending Bayley – Sasha split and feud for about 3 month straight that they had no idea what to do with two of the most popular and talented performers on the entire women’s roster. They haven’t even gone close to teasing a Natalya – Ronda feud as they seemed to be doing when Rousey first cam in, I guess there’s still time but in the meantime Natalya has become another of those women that just… appears on TV every week without much of story for them. Result wise? I can’t even pretend that I think it matters too much, would it surprise anyone if they did the same match on Raw the next night and the other team won? Or maybe… there’s a very slim chance they do a heel turn for someone here. It’d certainly be what i’d do to salvage it for all involved. Riott Squad win (they DEFINITELY need it more) and someone on the losing team turns heel? That’d be nice.

Prediction: The Riott Squad to win

Mae Young Classic 2018 Final: Toni Storm V Io Shirai

This is just going to be a tremendous wrestling match. My only fear is they don’t give it much time, however I have no doubt both of these excellent talents will put on a great show. And it’s only now as we approach the event that I’m so pleased they made the choice to put the MYC2 final on a big PPV as they have done. It will present both Io and Toni to a much wider audience than they may have got previously exposed too. I imagine Io will move on after to make big waves in the NXT women’s division, and Toni has already made appearances on the NXT UK show so I would presume she will be a mainstay of that brand. But I will presume that some, if not most of the audience for the Evolution PPV may not have seen or heard of either woman before. So I will offer a brief explanation; Io Shirai is regarded as the best female wrestler in the world, and would’ve competed in the first Mae Young Classic last year had it not been for an injury issue, and her apparently getting cold feet on the idea of moving to Orlando and the PC etc. But then I also heard how she was a bit upset when she saw Kairi Sane (who she’s actually good friends with if you follow them both on social media so take this with a pinch of salt) presented as WWE’s big female Japanese new signing. I don’t know personally if she’s better than Kairi but it’s very close and I’ve no doubt that is a future NXT Women’s championship match. Toni Storm on the other hand at 23 YEARS OLD is seen as a potentially huge star of women’s wrestling. And trust me she’s one of the top all round workers right now in the women’s division so with even more years behind her she will be an absolute world beater. This is simply 2 really popular babyfaces in probably the biggest match of both their lives, on the biggest stage both have probably ever performed on. So there’s a lot of spotlight, attention and pressure on them. I hope, pray and do actually believe they will do just fine. I would give Shirai the edge as I see them pushing her more on the main NXT and Toni will be on the UK brand, so purely for that fact alone I’ll say we get a Japanese winner of the Mae Young Classic for the 2nd year running.

Prediction: Io Shirai wins the 2018 Mae Young Classic

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler V Kairi Sane (C)

In my personal opinion this match seems a foregone conclusion result-wise, I just don’t see why they would take the title from Shayna and give it to Kairi just to switch it back again. Maybe they could, there is yet to be a 2 time NXT Women’s Champion it should be noted, but I’d see it unlikely. And whilst I have no doubt that it will once again be a great match (their Takeover: Brooklyn 4 match was the WWE women’s match of the year so far to me) I just can’t see Sane losing the title so soon. It’s not completely clear though what is the future for the NXT Women’s Championship in terms of contenders as, especially with the Mae Young Classic bringing in so many new talents, it’s not clear totally who will be next in line for a shot. I’d presume Bianca Belair if Sane was to keep the belt, and unless they want to go with Sane vs Baszler again if they do the switch back maybe they give the MYC winner the next shot? Anyway they’ve done a really good job in making Sane a top babyface and Shayna the top heel in NXT Women’s division as the female roster as a whole has gone from strength to strength and the depth now is absurdly strong. Maybe we get a few call ups on the female side sometime after Evolution to make room, and then we have a whole load of new match ups possible. Overall with everything taken into account I’d say Kairi to retain… and POSSIBLY Baszler finding a new home not long after… MAYBE to link in some way to another Women’s champion whom she has an affinity with… or MAYBE a couple of her friends make an appearance on this show to give her a helping hand… Intriguing indeed…

Prediction: Kairi Sane retains the NXT Women’s Championship

Alexa Bliss (or Alicia Fox) & Mickie James V Trish Stratus & Lita

Well this will be fun. I’d have this to open the show, just for the pop for Trish and Lita. And unless one of the regular roster women is next in line to challenge Ronda (unlikely at the moment) then the two hall of famers kind of have to go over. The reason by the way I have it listed as Alexa OR Alicia Fox is that after she was kept out of action after he rematch with Ronda in which she got an injury, Bliss returned last weekend at a live event… and got injured again. Some reports said it was a concussion and some said it was a broken nose but regardless her status for Evolution is very much up in the air. This was why Alicia Fox was the one who attacked Trish and Lita on Raw with Mickie James and Bliss was nowhere to be seen. As a match I’d presume Trish and Lita (who both certainly look in shape and both performed more than admirably in the Women’s Royal Rumble in January) have been training an awful lot for this match, and whilst Alicia as a worker has been around a while without being really good she is at least passable, James is about as solid an in-ring performer on the women’s roster so no surprise they have put her in this match to make it as good as possible. Given most of the early build was the angle between Alexa Bliss and Trish Stratus it would be a shame if Bliss couldn’t make the match. I guess you could have Bliss as a manager for the heels or even do a run in, but I really don’t see them bringing Trish and Lita in to do the job… unless they want to do the Bliss vs Stratus and/or Lita singles match later down the line, which I would certainly be all for.

Prediction: Trish Stratus and Lita win

Battle Royal for a future Women’s Championship Match: Alicia Fox V Asuka V Billie Kay V Carmella V Dana Brooke V Ember Moon V Lana V Mandy Rose V Naomi V Nia Jax V Peyton Royce V Sonya Deville V Tamina V Torrie Wilson V Michelle McCool V Alundra Blayze V Ivory V Kelly Kelly V Maria Kanellis V Molly Holly V Zelina Vega

Oh boy… firstly where are all the NXT women at? Secondly… this really is just a ‘everyone gets a slice of the pie’ sort of match isn’t it? I don’t know how they’ll go with it, I’d hope it’s taken semi-serious and we have one of the bigger names in the match win it; Asuka immediately jumps out to me as a choice. But this match just comes across to me as the Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal Mark 2, and that did next to nothing for Naomi’s career other than the moment itself. I think the shorter this is the better it’ll be for us all, at least I’d hope they get it down to the contenders to win the whole thing fairly soon in. But yes it is what it is, I imagine it’ll come just after one of the big matches on the show and the crowd will have little or no investment in it (aside from the nostalgia of seeing some of the returnees). I don’t know if you can tell but I don’t harbor much expectations for this match.

Prediction: Asuka wins the Battle Royal for a future Women’s Championship Match

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair V Becky Lynch (C) – Last Women’s Standing Match

I stand corrected. As a story they’ve really done well with this. But it’s blatantly obvious that this feud has done as much good for Becky Lynch as it has done BAD for Charlotte Flair. Becky has shone so brightly during this feud, I think we’ve move past the stage where we can moan about her being a face or a heel. I think they saw the error of their ways when they removed the stuff where she slagged off the fans from the YouTube clip of her very first promo after the initial turn. This Stone Cole-like no F’s given, just go around and kick ass character that she has become, referring to her struggles and journey to get where she is, it really doesn’t take much for them now to turn her back face when they need or want to. It does feel even before this feud began that the crowd had started to change from Team Flair to Team Lynch. I know me for example as a huge Charlotte fan was amongst a group of people watching Summerslam, we all wanted Becky to win. But she didn’t, and as is normal for wrestling fans when they don’t get what they want, they can often take it out on the person’s whose fault it absolutely is not. And that person is the talent in the spot that the ‘favorite’ of the people is. In this situation it’s clear that the company before wanted Charlotte as top female to counteract a certain Rowdy one. The people slowly started to want Becky instead, reality is people will take this out on Charlotte. Charlotte Flair whom has long been rumoured to be one half of a possible Wrestlemania main event… and she’s been the absolute second fiddle. You shouldn’t have anyone who you want to main event Wrestlemania playing second fiddle to anyone. So you either change your main event, or you change your booking. The volume of the voice of the people and the support of Lynch has already meant Charlotte by being booked against Becky is indirectly losing potential supporters. So my question is this, at this stage now how on earth could you still get to Charlotte vs Ronda whilst Becky (the most popular woman on the roster with Rousey) is in another match? You can’t surely? People would reject it. And nobody wants the big Ronda Wrestlemania match being filled with boos. They’ve booked themselves long term into a corner. And as has been the case for me in this whole story and long term now, Charlotte Flair loses, Becky Lynch wins.

Prediction: Becky Lynch retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Raw Women’s Championship: Nikki Bella (with Brie Bella) V Ronda Rousey (C)

You know what? They’ve actually done a really good job of building this match up and making it feel like it is worthy of main eventing this historic event. They’ve got very personal in the build up and it has really shone as spotlight on the two very contrasting sides in this tale. On one hand you have the fiery yet fierce babyface champion of the people Ronda Rousey who stands for woman empowerment and is presented as a champion for the ‘new’ generation of female athletes. On the other we have the pioneer of the previous incarnation of women in WWE, the ultra ‘diva’ mainstream-crossover star Nikki Bella. The ‘cool’ kids will be on Ronda’s side and the villainous, mean-girls side of the support will be with the Bellas. A classic tale really. The promo work from both sides has been surprisingly excellent, rumours abound that Paul Heyman no less has been working with Rousey to come up with lines that sound very real coming form the former UFC champion and all time great mixed martial arts athlete that she is. Ronda has also taken shots at the Bellas essentially living off their men to get to the top in WWE, I particularly rated her line regarding the John Cena – Nikki Bella split (No I’m absolutely not over it, love isn’t real). Nikki has definitely shown in recent weeks she is the more accomplished an perhaps confident one of the two twins in-ring, and is undoubtedly the bigger star of the two. But it remains to be seen if the chemistry between Rousey and Nikki Bella that has been evident in their verbal wars will crossover to in between the ropes. I think it will, I don’t know if it’ll be a classic but it’ll be fine I’ve no doubt. Given Rousey is the biggest star in the company and Nikki Bella is the one the company want to be their big ‘homegrown’ cross-over female star it’s hardly a surprise this match up was rumoured a long time back, lets just hope it ends up being as good as WWE seem to ant us all to think it will be. Oh and for the record Ronda will retain, I say that with around a 98% certainty.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey retains the Raw Women’s Championship

All I feel going into this show is that it has kind of been forgotten and hidden behind Super Show Down, Hell In A Cell, Crown Jewel and the weekly shows in terms of a build up. Neither Raw or Smackdown this week (the go home shows, although Raw could probably be excused this week for obvious reasons) closed with an angle to go into Evolution. But the card whilst some matches are a bit… erm… shoved together… there is a great deal of good wrestlers on this card. Every match features one or more very good to excellent in ring-workers so as long as each match ois given enough time then it SHOULD be a fine show. And my oh my I do hope it is good, if this show sucks (it wont) then it would really set the women’s division back a bit after all they’ve done. Be prepared for plenty of patting on the back as per WWE with these sort of events but besides that be as equally prepared for a great show of women’s wrestling.

Josh.

NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 4 Review

This is my first review blog written live during the show, so bare with me and forgive any gaps. I think it’s more interesting to read my thoughts as they were watching the event as it unfolded than when I’m reflecting on it the next day for example. So here’s what happened @ NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 4.

NXT Tag Team Championship: ‘Undisputed Era’ (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) (C) v ‘Moustache Mountain’ (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)

Crowd shockingly seems great tonight to begin the show…

Big reaction for Era. Ok ish reaction for Bate and Seven.

This is really fun to watch and the rasslin is really good. Simple as that.

Strong and O’Reilly executing some brutal looking submissions at various points. Bate and Seven with amazing strength. Seems like these 2 tag teams could have a good match against one another with their eyes closed.

Strong kicks out of Bate’s finisher which was the end of a fabulous sequence on both Undisputed Era members from him.

Kyle gets a heel hook on Bate with Seven looking on for the tag, …

Seven goes to throw towel in (a throwback to when Bate threw in the towel to save Trent Seven in the last match between these two teams) but throws it in crowd. Bate pushes towards Seven and gets the tag, Seven strikes Kyle HARD, now Kyle kicks out of Seven’s finisher!

MM double team finisher but KOR kicks out. THIS IS SICK AF!

Bate taken out by a Roderick Strong knee, ERA finisher on Seven. Era retain.

That

Was

AWESOME

**** 1/2

WAR RAIDERS ATTACK ERA!!! And fucking Destroy them!!!

Gargano shown backstage in locker room and the crowd cheer.

Velveteen Dream v EC3

Crowd cheers as both are shown to advertise the match. A good sign for their level of interest and liveliness during a match I feel will need their help to be great, and I mean that in a good way.

Dream comes out up through the stage and wearing a quite… colourful outfit. A big pop too. He’s the best.

DREAM HAS THE WORDS “CALL ME UP VINCE” ON HIS BACK OF HIS TIGHTS. I’D LIKE TO DECLARE HE MAY WELL BE IN MY END OF YEAR TOP 10 OFF THE BACK OF THAT ALONE!

EC3 is also very popular.

I so hope this is good…

EC3 is beating Dream up in the early stages. I’ve told Stefan I’m having a vodka if I give this ****, which I deem a success for this match.

EC3 dances ala dream whilst stood over him which was funny.

Dream does a twisting ddt on the rampway. Dream playing to the crowd…

Dream getting back into it now… EC3 powers out of Dream’s move but he gets it back on and gets a 2 count with a neckbreaker.

Dream just threw water at EC3… no really…

EC3 with a sit out powerbomb for a 2 count. Shock as EC3 shows he is strong.

Crowd seem more behind Dream tbf. Superplex by EC3 and gets a 2 count from it.

Super kick then a rolling DVD by Dream. 2 count again.

Ec3 pulls Dream BY HIS EAR to the apron, Dream hits a perfect rolling DVD on the apron and follows up with his Rainmaker elbow to EC3 on the apron. 123 Dream wins. This match was fine.

Im having a vodka anyway haha.

*** 3/4

MATT RIDDLE IS IN THE CROWD!!!! HAPPY HAPPY DAYS! This energetic and charismatic former UFC fighter was one of the most popular acts on the independent wrestling scene, and rumours had been everywhere that he’d been coming to NXT. He is awesome (and another I’ve seen in the flesh wrestle live in the past).

Ciampa shown backstage staring at his belt.

Adam Cole and Ricochet both with good crowd responses when shown on screen.

NXT North American Championship: Ricochet v Adam Cole (C)

In one of the least surprising things to happen so far; Ricochet gets a reaction worthy of and comes out looking like a megastar. Ricochet’s gear is a beautiful white design.

Adam Cole is popular. Another shock. The “Bay Bay” from the crowd was very loud. Shock.

It already seems like these 2 could have a great match one on one in their sleep.

Adam Cole ruthless in his offense so far. Ricochet showing off his athleticism as usual whilst Cole maintains his advantage.

Ricochet with a series of high front dropkicks sending Cole to the outside before an ott jump onto Cole on the outside whilst landing on his feet (I kid you not that’s what he did).

A springboard European uppercut from Ricochet gets a 2 count.

Fyi Ricochet is jokingly athletic. Mauro just called Ricochet “a cheat code” . He’s not wrong.

Ricochet handspring into an Adam Cole backbreaker gets a 2 count. That looked real smooth.

Ricochet moonsaults off the rope and Cole superkicks him MID FLIP!!!! Then follows up with a firemans carry kneebreaker but only gets a 2. That was SICK and crowd loved it. Apparently Cole did the same spot or similar to Will Ospreay in their PWG match.

After a few moves more each the crowd have woken up from their nap.

Ricochet is scrambling to the top rope as opposed to covering him but Cole rolls out the way.

Ricochet does a leaping hurricanrana… and then the 630 splash… 123… RICOCHET IS THE NEW NXT NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPION!

Awesome laser light effect on him stood on the ramp with his newly won belt.

**** 3/4

Mark Henry and Kevin Owens in the crowd at ringside.

NXT Women’s Championship: Kairi Sane v Shayna Baszler (C)

Apologies in advance for lack of notes on this match. I’m suddenly really nervous and really really really want Kairi to win…

OH

MY

GOD

KAIRI SANE IS THE NEEEEEWWWWW NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPION!!!!!!

In short that was one of the best women’s matches I’ve ever seen. Certainly the best I’ve seen since Asuka v Charlotte at Wrestlemania.

**** 1/2

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano v Tommaso Ciampa (C) – Last Man Standing Match

Gargano comes out with gear featuring an “angrier” version of his ‘Gargano face’. He looks FOCUSED.

The boos for Ciampa are absolutely thunderous. This really does have a BIG FIGHT FEEL!!!

Gargano jumps Ciampa before the bell and we are off and they are GOING FOR IT immediately!!! Gargano on physical offence from the get go, until Ciampa pushes Gargano into ringsteps.

Gargano exposes a large part of the concrete floor, Ciampa gorges at the eyes of Gargano, Gargano dives onto Ciampa off the apron before sending him into the broadcast area as the ref begins a 10 count.

Gargano is on the announce table with Ciampa but Ciampa reverses it and instead launches himself and Gargano through the spanish announce table next to it. Gargano is down only for 6. We’re about only 5 minutes in!

Ciampa grabs a chair and brings it into the ring, he boots Gargano in the face after he tried for the chair. He later delivers two brutal looking running kness to Gargano slumped in the corner. He presses a chair against him but Johhny is able to throw the chair into Ciampa’s knee brace before going on the assault with the chair.

Ciampa choke hold on Gargano gets a 6 count. Before Ciampa puts the sleeper hold on AGAIN! … crowd try to urge Gargano to escape… GARGANO managed to get Ciampa above him to break the hold and long dart him into a chair previously wedged into the corner. He barely staggers to his feet at 6.

Gargano gets TWO tables from under the ring!!!! A madness INCOMING… commentary really selling how Gargano is not the same man he once was and is a lot darker than before. Gargano tries to launch Ciampa through both but eventually Ciampa wrestles into 3 German suplexes back in the ring.

Huge knee with his brace on from Ciampa before he goes on the attack with the steel chair. Ciampa hits his former finisher ‘Project Ciampa’ THREE TIMES! Ciampa sets the chair and sits on it waiting… but Gargano gets to his feet at NINE and hits a massive superkick to Ciampa.

They exchange strikes… really REALLY hard strikes, … both men get up at ONE and exchange more strikes… this is a great match… a lot more plain wrestling in this than their 2 previous Takeover main events.

Gargano misses a dive and lands HARD on the floor, before Ciampa hits his finisher on Gargano onto the steel steps!!! Johhny up at 9 after commentary super sold that could be the finish.

Ciampa is cutting the ring apron to expose the wood (he beat Gargano last time with a ddt onto the exposed ring floor btw), in between ramming Gargano’s head into the steps again, … suddenly Gargano sprays Ciampa with a fire extinguisher!!!!

Gargano hits Ciampa with a crutch multiple times (another feature into this match from previous spots in this feud).

GARGANO DDT’S CIAMPA ONTO THE EXPOSED RING CANVAS!!!! Crowd: “you deserve it” … Ciampa up at 9! Tope suicida immediately from Gargano. And then ANOTHER! This match is a MADNESS!!!

Gargano accidentally superkicked a timekeeper, then Ciampa grabs literally EVERYTHING at ringside and covers Gargano in a pile of EVERYTHING!!!!! THIS COULD BE IT… CIAMPA IN DISBELIEF AS GARGANO GETS UP!

Ciampa gets handcuffs for Gargano (another spot from this feud) … eventually though after a back and forth Gargano waves goodbye and superkicks Ciampa and sends him falling through the stacked 2 tables below him… Ciampa is up at 9.

Ciampa gets up using the crutch for leverage. Very clever.

Gargano now pounds away then launches Ciampa into the stage (just how Ciampa ended DIY). Gargano escape is locked in, Ciampa taps. Gargano handcuffs Ciampa to the stage, then rams his head repeatedly into the stage and then superkicks him.

Ciampa says he’s sorry but Gargano tells him it’s too late… and kicks him some more… Gargano is hesitating but takes his knee brace down and hits him but takes himself out and over some boxes and crashing into some cases due to the momentum of his run. After hurting his knee… the draw maybe?!?! NO CIAMPA GETS UP 9.9… CIAMPA WINS!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!

So after all the teasing of Johnny going to the dark side and a potential heel turn to have to overcome Ciampa, in the end it was his own viciousness towards his opponent that cost him victory. What a heartbreaking end to what could well be the final chapter in this historically excellent rivalry.

Crowd seem stunned.

*****

They’re selling that Gargano has seriously hurt his knee, possibly dislocating it. As Gargano is tended to as Ciampa walks away slowly with his title.

Gargano is being caried away by officials with Ciampa still stood on the rampway looking on.

Ciampa strolls BACK out… and holds up his title, with an injured Gargano not too far away to close the show.

This was a very good show. But one that leaves us with lots and lots and LOTS of questions.

Josh.

NXT Takeover Brooklyn 4: Preview & Predictions

This is going to be one of the shows of the year, and maybe one of the best WWE shows of all time. Watch it. It’ll be good. and It’s my birthday. Here’s the matches, here’s what I think will happen, and here’s who I think will win. Enjoy! (Apologies for the lack of an intro…. BUT IT’S MY FUCKING BIRTHDAY TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!)!!!!!!

NXT Tag Team Championship: ‘Moustache Mountain’ (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) v ‘Undisputed Era’ (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) (C)

To give you all the info you need to know about this match I will say this; If you are aware of who Dave Meltzer is then know that in all the years he has been observing pro wrestling and rating matches with his famous star-ratings then you should also know he has awarded ***** to ONE regular WWE weekly-programming match (non-ppv or Takeover/network special) ever… and it was the 2nd match between these 2 teams. And now this is the 3rd in the series. As for the first match, it took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and to the shock of everyone Moustache Mountain won the titles to one of the loudest crowd reactions in recent memory, one at least on par with anything Stone Cold got in the Attitude Era. They would lose the titles back in their 5 star classic on NXT TV not long after but this here is 2 guys in Tyler Bate and Trent Seven who I saw less than 2 years ago at an independent wrestling show in a sports hall in Nottingham, and WHILST THE SHOW WAS STILL GOING ON they were back at the merch stands trying to flog some stuff. Both of them deserve all the success on the stage they are getting right now, and in this instance the ying is just as impressive and deserving as the yang. Kyle O’Reilly may be one of the most genius all-rounders in professional wrestling. Just watch him, and the things he does that may go unnoticed to some he does so incredibly well (be it a look, a minor action, the way he sells etc.). His partner Roderick Strong may be one of the best in-ring workers in the entire WWE, not to mention his simply sublime transition from hard working babyface to the ultra-cocky heel he played in Ring Of Honor for some of his time their. He fits in with the rest of the Undisputed Era like a glove, and maybe he wouldn’t have been in this role had Bobby Fish not been injured but nonetheless it has allowed Strong a greater spotlight to be able to do exhibit his array of skills, and in full flow he is something else. In short this match will be fantastic, if you just want really good professional wrestling then THIS is the match for you. There is some tough competition but if any match on this show or throughout the entirety of Summerslam reaches the high level of in-ring work in this match I’ll be surprised.

Prediction: Undisputed Era retains

Velveteen Dream v EC3

In the next 2-4 years both of these guys could well be main-eventing Raws and Smackdowns regularly. In 10 years time if he continues at his current rate Velveteen Dream will be the face of WWE. But right now where are we at with these 2? Well EC3 is still I’m sure enjoying not being in Impact wrestling as much as he IS being a part of WWE once again. He’s over, he’s fine in the ring, he’s good on the mic. The level of stardom he reaches all depends on how much of a push he is presented with. You could have him against one of the top guys; AJ, Rollins, Nakamura NOW and he’d do fine I think. Velveteen Dream? Well, he is something else. Just looking at the Dream tells you he is a star, and will only shine brighter with experience. As we speak he in my opinion is at 8-9/10 levels in all areas; look, character, mic work. His in-ring work whilst prone to the odd mistake here and there is only getting better. He’s one of, as are people way more experienced and have been on the main roster even for some time, many that if you put them in a match with a great in-ring worker he will be more than able to play his part. He’s got epics with both Aleister Black and Ricochet in his book already and was a key part of the incredible ladder match at Takeover in New Orleans. He is a star right now, and in the years to come EVERYONE will SAY HIS NAME!

Prediction: Velveteen Dream

NXT North American Championship: Ricochet v Adam Cole (C)

This gonna be GOOOOOOOOODDDDDDD!!! Adam Cole is my favourite Male Superstar in the company, and in the opening 6 months of the year I had him as my superstar of 2018 so far. As for Ricochet, watch him wrestle, then get back to me. I don’t have an awful lot to say on this one aside from it’ll be an amazing match, between 2 of my favourite guys in the company, and the story for whoever leaves Brooklyn with the North American title is one of stardom. For the loser? Stardom. Expect to see either one or both of these 2 men main event a Takeover in a big singles match within the next 12 months. At Takeover Brooklyn last year Adam Cole made his WWE debut by attacking the then NXT Champion, a year later I predict him to have another memorable night; a **** 1/2 match and a win… just…

Prediction: Adam Cole retains

NXT Women’s Championship: Kairi Sane v Shayna Baszler (C)

Given the amount of time that has been given on NXT television to the entirety of the female roster since Ember Moon dropped the championship to Baszler and headed for pastures of a red variety, it is interesting to note that it was Kairi Sane that was chosen as the sacrificial lamb here to the current champion. A point has been made to promote Dakota Kai, Nikki Cross, Bianca Belair, Lacey Evans, Candice LeRae all as credible and potential challengers, yet NXT have made in my opinion the wisest choice in picking the winner of the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament last year for the showcase women’s match of this incredible Takeover line up. It was of course Shayna Baszler that Kairi beat in the final of that tournament, and in return it was Sane that The Queen of Spades attacked upon her debut arrival in NXT. There is plenty of story between these two, and given the time they have spent on opposing sides since they both came to WWE I am more than confident that they will produce a tremendous match. One that given the recent announcement of the Evolution PPV will show the best wrestling that the women’s division in WWE has to offer. With that in mind perhaps I should also point out that Shayna Baszler was the only female to rank in my top 10 WWE superstars of the year so far blog in June, and I believe Kairi Sane to be above Asuka, Charlotte Flair and all else in the female WWE roster in terms of her in-ring ability. So this should be a great match, one where the result seems obvious to me but I don’t expect that to take-away from the quality of the match. Expect plenty of nearfalls for Shayna, a comeback from The Pirate Princess before Baszler locks in her submission and the valiant challenger is unable to withstand anymore.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler retains

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano v Tomasso Ciampa (C) in a Last Man Standing Match

Well… this changed from what I originally had written up for this match!!! So up until the 8th August, 10 days before showtime, this was due to be a triple threat match involving former NXT Champion Aleister Black. But after suffering a legit injury during a live event Black was written out of the match via a kayfabe attack in a parking lot to explain as to why he would be unable to compete. In it’s place though were are GIFTED the match we should’ve got at Takeover: Chicago 2 earlier this year. Yes indeed Gargano v Ciampa 2 in NXT was going to be a Last Man Standing match but was changed to a street fight so as not to clash with the Last Man Standing Match between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura that would be happening 24 hours later. So as sad as the loss of the brilliance of Aleister Black is to the main event of the NXT show of the year, we get what could well be the rubber match between 2 former tag team partners who have gone on to have one of the most personal rivalries we’ve seen for some time. This is going to be an incredible substitute, and after the last 2 chaotic encounters they’ve headlined Takeovers with who knows what on earth they will come up with here. But it remains though that I see this as a potential WWE match of the year. Either of these 2 could well end 2018 as my superstar of the year, and a large part of that will be down to who Triple H chooses to leave NXT’s premier event holding their Holy Grail. Where to start with the build to this one? Well on the same night former tag team partners turned bitter rivals Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa had one of the best matches in WWE history, Aleister Black was winning the NXT Championship at Takeover: New Orleans. And after Ciampa avenged his loss to Gargano at Takeover: Chicago he turned his attentions to the gold, and in shocking the NXT universe arguably the best heel in modern times in WWE was once again greeted with a unique reaction and chorus of boos and anger and disbelief when Gargano’s interference inadvertently helped Ciampa win the title. Black would look to seek his own revenge on Gargano, but after their match to decide the rights to face Ciampa turned into chaos a triple threat match for the ages was made. Sadly due to Black’s injury we wont get that match now but the ‘substitute’ isn’t bad right? Who wins? I have to go with my heart, and say that the story will finally go full circle, Aleister Black (as we have seen with Drew McIntyre after his injury at Takeover: War Games last year) will quietly exit NXT before an appearance on Smackdown (ideally) and Gargano will FINALLY get the championship he has been chasing for the whole year so far, and thus have the crowning moment in the best year of NXT so far, on the biggest event of NXT’s calendar. Please Triple H, send us all home happy. Please???

Prediction: Johnny Gargano is the new NXT Champion

Watch this show. It’ll be amazing. Can’t promise a great review as I’ll be writing it live as I’m awfully busy all weekend, but I’ll try and give you all of you that are kind enough to read it a decent idea of what goes down at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 4.

Josh.

NXT Takeover Chicago 2: Review

Well… what a shocker… NXT produces another great Takeover show… In other news the Pope is a Catholic and Pizza is great…

This was a fun filled, sub 3 hour show from the best all round brand in wrestling right now. 5 matches which all had a unique story to them, and 5 matches which in their own way delivered what was expected. The crowd all evening at the Allstate Arena in Chicago was on fire and really made a good show that bit better, and unlike what we may see tomorrow night at Money in the Bank they did not tire at any point in the show =, from the opening contest to the gruelling and heartbreaking conclusion to the awe-inspiring main event. SOOOOOOOOO with that said lets get into reviewing Takeover: Chicago 2!!!…

We opened the show with the entrance of the most over stable in WWE for some time, as the NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong made their way to the ring alongside their Undisputed Era leader, the NXT North American Champion Adam Cole. These guys are heels by the way, but from the Chicago crowd they got a huge ovation upon their entrance, opposed to their babyface opponents who got a subdued and almost a full heel reaction from the crowd. For a match that there was a chance got could lost amongst the high calibre of the card tonight, the crowd showed from the beginning they were going to give it all their attention, which was only the beginning from them (did I mention enough already that this Chicago crowd were AWESOME…).

NXT Tag Team Champions; Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong with Adam Cole) beat Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch to retain

As expected this was a great, solid wrestling match. Some really creative in-ring stuff from 4 ultra talented ring generals. It was clear from the beginning here that the crowd favoured the heels strongly but that did not phase Lorcan and Burch in their first Takeover match, as was shown when both Burch and Lorcan had their opponents in simultaneous submission holds in the middle of the ring in attempt to claim an unlikely victory, although their opponents would be able to escape their grasps. Another great little moment was when Adam Cole kept his teammates from losing their titles when placing a foot on the ropes to stop the ref counting the 3 after Burch and Lorcan had hit a Doomsday device to O’Reilly, to which as a result he was banished from the ringside area (the crowd did not like this one but, Adam Cole was one of the most over guys on the show and wasn’t even in a match. And that’s not to say the others weren’t over, just that ADAM COLE BAY BAY really, really is). Eventually the champions would hit a cool-looking double team move (I believe it is called the ‘High Low’) to keep their titles in what was a really fun opening bout to kick off the show. The crowd did though pay their respects to the beaten challengers with a standing ovation for both once the victors had made their way to the back, which was awesome to see.

****

Ricochet beat Velveteen Dream

Another shocker on this show, this match was absolutely fabulous. The pre-match video hype package and the entrances both these stars received made it feel like a huge deal, which considering this was the only match on the show with no title or no gimmick stipulation to go with it was some achievement. Dream came to the ring with a HULK HOGAN (remember him???) inspired gear, down to the bandanna and a t shirt with “DREAM STILL OVER” written across it, he also ripped it off ala Hogan and would later do all the Hogan “pump-up” poses, you know the ones… it was crazy to see Hogan be so clearly referenced in WWE TV after all this time, it’s surely when not if Hogan will be welcomed back now surely? Anyway Dream was really over with the crowd as was his high-flying wizard of an opponent. He was sporting a cape with his attire to really get the point across of his superman like abilities in the ring. These 2 even did the spot from the Wrestlemania 18 match between Hogan and The Rock (whom had openly praised Ricochet on twitter recently, so this was incredibly clever) where they would stand nose to nose almost and glance to each side of the crowd as they soaked in the audible anticipation for this epic encounter. Highlights from this one amongst the brilliance on display were Dream early on trying to prove he can outdo Ricochet (good luck with that), a gruelling-looking vertical suplex from the ring to the outside floor that had both on the losing end and Ricochet just making it back in the ring at the count of 9, Dream telling former indie star Ricochet “YOU BELONG IN A BINGO HALL”, Ricochet heading to the top rope, doing Dream’s Death Valley Driver, hip dance and then his signature top rope elbow drop (he hit it better than Dream himself maybe even does). It was funny that the crowd actually booed Ricochet for this. Ricochet went for his 630 splash finisher but Dream got out the way, Ricochet later went for a shooting star press but Dream put his knees up, Dream then went for a coast-to-coast elbow drop as Ricochet was in the opposite corner of the ring, and credit to him he got maybe 80% of the way there but missed in what was an awesome spot. With Velveteen Dream down Ricochet would finally hitting his signature insane top rope finisher for the win. Ricochet is great, the Velveteen Dream likewise, this match delivered. Great. One thing I felt immediately afterwards was as good as this was, I wanted to see them do it again and again. But what the immediate future holds for both is unclear, it’ll be big though whatever it is.

****1/2

NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler beat Nikki Cross to retain

Cross as the challenger got a big reaction from the crowd on her entrance and was over throughout, Shayna got the heel reaction to match. Cross dominated the early going with the idea being she’s absolutely crazy and unfazed by the tough champion, Shayna would get the win by locking in her submission, and AS I CORRECTLY PREDICTED (see my preview and predictions blog) Cross would not tap out to break the hold, but instead the ref would stop the match deeming Nikki had passed out. Cross was seen openly laughing and smiling during and after the finish to continue her psychotic, Mankind-like gimmick of almost liking receiving pain as much as she dishes it out. Fine match for what and where on the card it was, right result and finish. Yeah… this was perfectly fine.

***1/2

We then saw shots of EC3 and former indie wrestling star KEITH LEE who was reported to have signed with WWE recently. Crowd loved this, and I’ve no doubt the NXT fans will love him once he makes his mark on the brand. Exciting times!

NXT Champion Aleister Black beat Lars Sullivan to retain

Again for what this was it did exactly what it needed to be and do. I do feel for the champion who having won the title in the semi-main of the previous Takeover once again had to play second fiddle to the story of the main event (we will get on to that later don’t you worry). Black came out to a huge pop in what promised to be a pretty hard-hitting affair. Match begun at a frantic pace, with Lars repeatedly catching and putting a hold to any offence Black attempted. He then caught the champion off a moonsault and sent him crashing into the barricade, Lars made his way to the top for his big flying headbutt but Black got his knee up to Sullivan’s jaw, Black though did surprise us all with a huge botch (his fault or Sullivan’s I’m unsure) as he went for a Black Mass and clearly missed the contact of Lars’ face, but Sullivan sold it as if he hit it anyway and Black got the nearfall. The Champion was undeterred by this (as much as the crowd tried to make him aware of it, not cool Chicago) and would later hit the Black Mass kick to its fullest, but the monstrous Sullivan would get back to his feet (bloody mouth and all). Finally another Black Mass was enough to put Lars away. After the match the champion would be shown clearly hobbling on his way to the back, as the challenger Sullivan was quickly out of sight (which may have been just to give the champion his spotlight, but when a beaten opponent in NXT quickly make their exit after a match it has been before a prelude to a main roster appearance. I may be completely wrong, but I would not be against now Lars making his way to Raw or Smackdown in the not so distant future.

***3/4

Tomasso Ciampa beat Johnny Gargano in a Chicago Street Fight

How do you follow up an all-time classic? Well… with ANOTHER! I did not know how they would top the insanity of their amazing match at the Takeover just gone, but somehow they did. The storytelling and the brutality of some of the stuff they did in this match was on a level I have not seen in a WWE ring for some time. So many moments to pick up here: Gargano wearing bottoms and not shorts as well as his character t-shirt was minor detail for some but it’s this sort of attention to detail that really sets NXT apart, they very quickly in were brawling in the crowd, Gargano hit Ciampa with a stop sign, a stage dive to Ciampa from Johnny into the crowd, Ciampa trying to handcuff Gargano, Ciampa using boltcutters to reveal the wood flooring under the ring, Gargano taking his belt from his trousers a repeatedly lashing his former friend across the back, Gargano placing a trashcan over the head of Ciampa before superkicking the can to double the effect, Gargano then hitting Ciampa with the kid of said Trashcan, Ciampa hitting a huge knee to the face of Gargano with the same knee that kept Ciampa legit OOA for many months last year and has been protected by a brace ever since. Ciampa would then attempt to take the brutality up a notch by ripping back the protective mat of the ring to reveal the hard wood flooring, only to not be able to immediately capitalise on this as Gargano would use a steel chair to target the previously injured knee with multiple chair shots, although Gargano would then himself be launched head first into a trash can set in the corner of the ring, and then one of the most in-genius and brutal looking spots of the match where Tomasso Ciampa put Johnny Gargano in his own Gargano escape submission hold, before transitioning into a STF supported with a crutch (Ciampa made his entrance with a crutch of his that has been used repeatedly in the past to attack Gargano as the crutch was previously a support when Ciampa was hurt… another thing I forgot to say was before Johnny Gargano made his way out for the match his wife Candice LeRae gave Gargano a crutch of is own to use as a weapon and told her husband to ‘kick his ass’, a change in stance after Candice had previously been against the street fight fearing more carnage… she was not wrong). Anyway… after the crutch supported STF Ciampa then absolutely batters Gargano’s own knee before hitting him with a stiff crutch shot to the neck, this was enough for a 2 count nearfall.

Ciampa eventually dragged Johnny to the top of the rampway screaming “it’s not enough” before throwing him into the display screen in a throwback to the spot last year where Ciampa originally turned on Gargano, And then Ciampa had the idea to drag Johnny upon a structure, and then proceeded to REMOVE HIS WEDDING RING, SPAT ON IT AND THEN THREW IT AWAY!!! COULD YOU GET ANY MORE PERSONAL? AWESOME! Gargano though then got the advantage and then hit a Celtic Cross (Samoan Drop type move) sending himself and Ciampa crashing through 2 tables and some crates below, this looked absolutely brutal! Emergency personnel and officials then tended to Ciampa as Gargano looked on, and as they were taking Ciampa to the back Johnny then absolutely snapped (looking at where his wedding ring once was), he chased after the stretcher, beat away all the officials and dragged a distraught Ciampa back towards the ring area. Gargano would then get his Gargano Escape submission in on Ciampa, and he was tapping repeatedly but for some unexplained reason the ref was nowhere to be seen so his taps for mercy went unanswered. The officials then returned to try and remove Gargano from the hold, to which Gargano again fended them off, he then proceeded to handcuff Ciampa and then superkicked him at least 6 times one after another, he locked on another Gargano escape but again the ref was nowhere to be seen to answer the taps from Ciampa, there was more of Gargano fending off officials trying to stop the mayhem, but a distracted Gargano then was hit with a DDT by Ciampa onto the earlier exposed wooden layer of the ring floor, and TOMASSO CIAMPA PICKED UP THE WIN! Crowd were absolutely fuming (proper heel heat for Ciampa though so it was all fine). This was some of the best storytelling across a match in WWE for some time. SOOOOOO many crazy spots, a great moment too when Gargano sent Ciampa crashing through the structures below and the crowd chanted “MAMMA MIA” in homage to NXT Commentator Mauro Ranallo. Mauro sadly missed the event as he was calling Boxing for Showtime in the US, although his replacement for the night, 205 Live lead announcer Vic Joseph did a fine job in his place. As did ring announcer Kayla Braxton who was in place of usual Takeover ring announcer Mike Rome, who was absent for reasons idk tbh. As the main event had concluded Ciampa made his way to the top of the entrance rampway and officials and his wife Candice tended to the fallen hero Gargano, Ciampa poetically waved goodbye to Gargano to close the show.

*****

This was another great NXT show. Good luck MITB topping this!!!

Josh.

NXT Takeover Chicago 2: Preview & Predictions

How does a brand follow the (just my opinion before you start) best professional wrestling show in history, as they had last time out at NXT Takeover: New Orleans? Well… Takeover: Chicago last year had a somewhat underwhelming build, but turned out to be an awesome show (as are pretty much all NXT shows). So this show… we have a potentially great technical, pure wrestling tag match, a potential for match of the year or at least one where the crowd will be absolutely outstanding and one guy could be a made man afterwards, a women’s title match that sees an absolutely insane challenger against a strong and powerful champion, an NXT Championship match that sees an absolutely insane challenger… against a strong and powerful champion… and also the re-match of the WWE match of the year so far (again, just my opinion). So all in all a great show to come right? Lets preview it…

NXT Tag Team Championship: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) (C) v Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan

This (as good as these 4 are as characters, particularly Strong and O’Reilly) will likely be one of the matches that comes after an epic, and the crowd are a little tired during. But much like the 3 way tag at Takeover: NOLA the in-ring stuff will be more than fine I’ve no doubt. Result wise it seems a foregone conclusion that the champions will retain, despite a recent multi-man match win I don’t see Burch and Lorcan or anyone else for that matter taking the tag titles from the Undisputed Era anytime soon.

Prediction: Undisputed Era

Velveteen Dream v Ricochet

I don’t mean to put to much pressure on neither, but this could well end up being my match of the year if this gets enough time. Ricochet is one of the very best in-ring workers in the world with his incredible athleticism-fueled arsenal of moves, and the Velveteen Dream whilst not yet the finished article is INCREDIBLY talented in between the ropes… and he’s 22!!! Ricochet in his promos comes across as so believable that the views of Ricochet you feel are very much aligned to those of Trevor Mann (that’s Ricochet’s real name btw) and as I always say if it comes across as real-like it’ll be so good, because the more real wrestling appears the better it almost always comes across. And I could go on and on and one about the Velveteen Dream’s Prince-like flamboyant, vainglorious persona for days and days because it’s one of the best characters I’ve seen in wrestling (he’s 22 YEARS OLD btw). Just YouTube any promos or hype videos of the Velveteen Dream and you’ll see what I mean. The interactions between these two have been electric, and I’ve no doubt the match between the 2 will steal the show. expectations are so high, fingers crossed they can delight us all with a masterclass in wrestling and storytelling. This COULD be incredible. Oh and fyi after you’ve seen any of the Velveteen Dream’s work… I’d like to remind you again that he is 22 YEARS OLD! Ricochet will win I’m almost certain, but as with his match vs Aleister Black last year this could be another match where despite taking the L, everyone afterwards is talking about the Velveteen Dream. Just as he likes it. (btw the Velveteen Dream was born on the 19th August 1995, he is ONE day younger than me… I’m going to take a moment now to let that sink in).

Prediction: Ricochet

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (C) v Nikki Cross

2 of the best female characters in WWE. Because both are so in-tune with who their character is they just act it out so well. Shanyna Baszler is so incredibly good for her relatively short time as a wrestler it’s silly, she just oozes heel qualities. As for Nikki Cross, the psychotic-Scot has proven to be the only one willing to put up a real fight to the dominant champion. This promises to be an overtly fun encounter, one that I’m almost certain will end with Baszler crushing the fans by putting Cross to sleep. The finish of this match will surely see Nikki PASS out rather than TAP out in order to maintain her position as one of the top women in NXT. I’m really unsure if she will indeed go to Smackdown and join up with her former Sanity brothers, simply because she’s so good on her own as a singles star. I’d LOVE this to be a longer term feud, but they’ve made such a big thing in recent weeks of building up the entire women’s division in NXT I’d assume this will see a number of different contenders compete for the championship, and as a result I’m saddened that I assume Shayna and Nikki may be a one and done affair, although I’d absolutely LOVE for it to continue after Chicago. If Nikki Cross does win the title though, I may very well cry real tears of joy…

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

NXT Championship: Aleister Black (C) v Lars Sullivan

So my prediction for this match is based on one simple idea, once you lose your title chance in NXT it usually means you’ve had your peak and you’re off to Raw or Smackdown. And whilst you could argue that was not the case for Johnny Gargano unlike Mr Wrestling I just don’t see anything else left for the monstrous Sullivan in NXT after he’s done chasing the NXT Championship. So with that in mind, as well as them pushing Aleister Black as the face of the brand (pretty much from day 1) I don’t see Black losing that title for a long time. Not even Sullivan I think with all his obvious talents will be enough to warrant taking the NXT title from Black at the first time of asking. Expect Black to be pushed very, very close before finally hitting his Black Mass for the win (I would not be surprised at all if Lars kicked out of 1 or maybe 2 Black Mass kicks before that too, maybe even at a 1 count I think that’d be great). I trust that Aleister Black could tell a good story with just about anyone in the ring, and expect another sleeper-classic from him here. Once again though Black will likely have a 4-4.5 star match on a card but is still overshadowed by a tremendous match elsewhere on the same night.

Prediction: Aleister Black

Johhny Gargano v Tomasso Ciampa – Chicago Street Fight

So how do you have 2 guys follow up the match of the year (again my opinion)? You let them do it again I guess with the same no rules/anything goes stipulation!!! One of the most compelling stories in recent years in WWE will continue in the same venue at the same event that Ciampa turned on his beloved former tag team partner last year. Big things were expected of the match and feud that would follow. It has not disappointed. You couldn’t tell a more personal rivalry if you tried. I was at first puzzled as to where this feud could go after their all time classic at Takeover: New Orleans, but in the intervening weeks both men have sunk to new levels as the animosity has continued to spiral out of control, and the violence to new extremes. I’ve absolutely no idea what they will come up with for this one, but it will be one hell of a match to watch!!! Result wise… I would assume Ciampa will get the win here, especially after such a match that he lost last time but really as long as the storytelling continues to be first class, I have eternal trust in both men and NXT that it will be done well. I want and think Ciampa should win as I see him as an obvious next challenger for Aleister Black’s title, the question is what would you then do with Johnny Gargano? With that being said I’ll be far from angry or disappointed if Gargano takes the win, what comes after this for both men though is much more a mystery. One I absolutely cannot wait to see unfold!!!

Prediction: Tomasso Ciampa

NXT Takeover: Chicago 2 will be great. I URGE you to watch. Sit back, relax, and enjoy 3 hours of compelling, all-action and down right incredible professional wrestling!

Josh.

Top 10 WWE Superstars (and matches AND moments) of 2018 SO FAR

First of all, please note a number of things about the superstars that I have picked for this list; the criteria for who is on this list consists of a number of things: quality of in-ring work, character work, winning matches and of course being entertaining. Secondly as this is a top 10 list it means a number of people miss out, and some huge names too. With that in mind I feel it only right I offer a list of honourable mentions, so here’s some of the names that just missed out:

  • Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, Ricochet, EC3 and Tomasso Ciampa have all had very few matches in 2018 so far, or have had long periods of the year where they have been inactive in the ring or not on WWE TV and therefore I feel it would be unfair to include them on a list of the best WWE talents for the entire 6 month period so far.
  • Finn Balor, ‘WOKEN’ Matt Hardy, the Bludgeon Brothers; Harper & Rowan (yes I will be including tag teams as one single entrant), Asuka, Charlotte Flair, Carmella, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan, Sanity (Eric Young, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe and Nikki Cross) and the Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) can all count themselves very unlucky. They were the last few names that just missed out on being in the top 10 and had it been a top 20 list they would be on it.
  • Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Roman Reigns, Alexa Bliss, Ember Moon and Rusev with Aiden English were all out of contention for me as they simply were booked to lose too many or in particular the big matches they have been in in 2018. Not their fault as performers obviously but it’s a factor I couldn’t overlook.
  • Finally, and I’ve mentioned him already, but an extra special mention for Tomasso Ciampa. If you read my week in review blogs you will know how absolutely INCREDIBLE a performer as a heel this man is. If he is as good for the next 6 months as he has been during the last month or so of NXT then he wont just be in the top 10, he’ll be number ONE!

So now that’s done let’s get into it… here is my countdown of the top 10 WWE superstars of 2018 so far… in my opinion…

10. ELIAS

If you told me 1 year ago just after he first came to the main roster from NXT that ELIAS would be even in the conversation for superstar of the year I’d have laughed at you and then judged you forever for your stupid opinions. But to his credit Elias has got his gimmick over on the main roster after doing really nothing of note in NXT, and with each week that goes by and with every town he runs down during his performances, the cheers get louder and louder, and Elias gets more and more over. He is one of the most entertaining characters on the roster, he is hilarious! He’s destined to be a babyface surely, you can’t get cheered as much as he does and be a heel (well… Rusev would argue otherwise). His feud with Braun Strowman was so entertaining it was absurd, his segment where Braun sung (more on that later in the blog) was one of the best segments of the year, and above all else (think what you want about this) but Elias was the set up guy for the match between JOHN CENA and THE UNDERTAKER at WRESTLEMANIA! If that’s not a big spot I don’t know what is? Tremendous 6 months for Elias so far in 2018, maybe not exactly AJ Styles in the ring but his character work is among the best on the entire roster… to me, WWE may well indeed stand for WALK WITH ELIAS!

9. SHAYNA BASZLER

The current NXT Women’s Champion has been in WWE for less than a year, after making her debut in the inaugural Mae Young Classic last year. And after making an immediate impression in the tournament, getting to the final where she would just lose out to Kairi Sane, Baszler would go on to continue her momentum upon her arrival in NXT. Within no time at all The Queen of Spades pursued the NXT Women’s Championship, then held by Ember Moon. In January at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia Moon would survive a submission based onslaught from Baszler, but wouldn’t escape without an attack as she celebrated her victory. In the rematch at NXT Takeover: New Orleans the 2 were in the un-enviable spot of having to follow one of the best opening matches in WWE history (more on that later) but put on a fine match that again saw Baszler dominate. The finish saw Moon come flying off the top rope for her Eclipse finishing move, only for Shayna to catch her and lock in the Kirifuda Clutch submission that was enough to put Moon to sleep and begin the reign of the Queen of Spades. It’s been a pretty incredible 2018 so far for Shayna Baszler, helped greatly by her fabulous character work. I guess it helps though the fact that her gimmick is that she’s a badass MMA fighter, when in real life she’s a… badass MMA fighter (not rocket science WWE is it? This is how you get people over, LET THEM BE THEMSELVES). Her in-ring work is sound, her promos suit her no-nonsense heel role so well, she’s just really great at what she does and so believable in everything she does. And I have a feeling her dominance of WWE has only just begun…

8. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA

IF his ongoing feud with AJ Styles had of been as good as it could and SHOULD be (ie NOT had 1 underwhelming Mania match and 2 more SUCK finishes, and then a 4th match be on regular Smackdown tv) then the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble match winner (in which he eliminated a couple of jobbers called JOHN CENA and ROMAN REIGNS to win the match) may well have been a lot higher on this list. He’s awesome, lets be honest. In-ring his style is so unique yet so enthralling, his heel turn at Wrestlemania made up for the underwhelming match in how beautifully done it was, and his heel work since then has been sensational. It has brought a whole new level to Nakamura’s character, he looks so much more comfortable in this role. Nakamura is another who may well end the year even higher on this list, FINALLY having that 5 star WWE match with AJ will help, as will holding the WWE Championship, but nonetheless the King of Strong Style remains among the best in the world, and 2018 was the year in which one of the all time great NXT superstars became one of the WWE’s top guys, and long may it continue.

7. ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS

When you have the first Dave Meltzer 5 star rated match in WWE for nearly 7 years, make your WWE main roster debut by entering the Royal Rumble match and lasting just under 30 minutes and its only the end of January, you know you’re well on your way to superstar of the year contention. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas has been enjoying a career renaissance ever since NXT placed Zelina Vega by his side as his business associate in order to revive the fortunes of the former luchador turned party animal in July 2017. An incredible wrestler, a tremendous heel, cocky, arrogant character with a strong focus on achieving his goals. And he’s been turned into this great all rounder in no uncertain terms by the influence of Zelina Vega. And although this entrant is for EL IDOLO solely, Vega deserves a mention for being his mouthpiece with her amazing mic skills and the occasional physical input in his matches. Almas followed up his all time classic against Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia with a brilliant match in losing his title to Aleister Black at NXT Takeover: New Orleans; and with him and Vega recently making their descent to Smackdown Live the world really is the oyster for 2 of the best heels on the roster.

6. BRAUN STROWMAN

If Roman Reigns did not exist then Braun Strowman would probably be the Universal Champion right now. And at Wrestlemania this year he was in fact on standby should Roman (with allegations of drugs use, that turned out to be false, hanging over him at the time) or Brock (who… well… could’ve just not turned up) not be able to make the match then Braun was going to be placed in that match instead. But instead he won the tag team titles with a child, which I hated at the time and I still don’t like it, BUT it did solidify to me that Braun is the guy who WWE want to present to the masses as the top man. And then he won a little match in a big foreign country that WWE were kind of big on, and I cannot remember the last time Braun Strowman ended a match or a segment not standing tall and roaring to the crowd (even at the Elimination Chamber when he eliminated 5 guys but got pinned by Reigns, he ended the ppv strong as he destroyed Roman shortly after). On top of that a big,strong,powerful, scary guy whose as menacing on the mic as he is in the ring is pretty much the antithesis of what a pro-wrestler should be. Oh, AND HE CAN SING! His segment with Elias were he sung a song had me in stitches and only further proved how much a good all-rounder this guy is. Having transitioned from Wyatt Family heavy to one of the top face guys in the company as a charming yet monstrous destroyer; Braun Strowman has become the heir to the red brand throne, and by the time 2018 ends he may will sit on top of Raw… and of this list…

5. SETH ROLLINS

Seth Rollins has long been regarded as one of the best in-ring performers in WWE, but he’d never be the one who people would immediately call the best. He’s well in that conversation now, half way through a year in which he has been as close to the level (and at times in my opinion beyond) when he was WWE Champion. Kevin Owens, The Miz, Finn Balor THREE TIMES, Mojo Rawley… I’ll repeat MOJO RAWLEY have all had good to great matches with Rollins in 2018, add to that an hour plus long performance in a near 2 hour match on Raw (pinning Roman Reigns and John Cena back to back in the process) as well as opening Wrestlemania by winning the Intercontinental Championship and it is safe to say 2018 has been a great half year for Seth Rollins. Monday Night Rollins? INDEED IT IS!

4. AJ STYLES

Right, before I get into talking about the 2018 so far of AJ, I’d like to point out that I believe AJ Styles is the best professional wrestler (in-ring) in the world. Some would say New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Kasuchika Okada or Kenny Omega for that accolade but I would point to the lesser in-ring talents Styles has had to work with (Corbin, Mahal are a couple of names that immediately come to mind). Secondly off the back of that some will argue how on earth AJ is not number 1 in this list? Well simply put the ONLY thing keeping him from number 1 in this list is his feud with Shinsuke Nakamura, or more the somewhat underwhelming matches and shit finishes all but the most recent match between the two have had. I’m deadly serious when I say that if that feud improves in the second half of 2018, and we finally get THE match between the two we’ve all been waiting for, then he could well be the end of year superstar of the year. But simply put he was WWE Champion on January 1, and he’s still WWE Champion now as I write this. He retained the title at Wrestlemania. He’s one of the most over guys in the company, he’s without a doubt the best in-ring performer in the company, so it has been far from a bad year for him, but as with Shinsuke Nakamura both have become a victim of their own expectations, we unfairly expect ungodly-excellence and anything else can come off as somewhat disappointing. But he is PHENOMENAL, and that’s not just a catchphrase, it’s a fact.

3. JOHNNY GARGANO

He had one of the best matches in NXT and WWE history in January against Andrade Almas, he’s fastly become the most sympathetic babyface in WWE since Daniel Bryan 2014-2015, he’s an absolutely first class in-ring performer, he’s great at promos, he comes off as incredibly believable in everything he does and says… Johnny Wrestling (yes, he’s so good he’s often called Johnny WRESTLING) is pretty hot at the moment in terms of star-power, but every great dancer needs a dance partner to shine, and the ying to his yang is his former tag team partner/best friend; Tomasso Ciampa. It is no surprise that Gargano becoming the biggest babyface has paralleled with Ciampa becoming the top heel, and after months and months of Ciampa brutally attacking and tormenting Gargano we finally were gifted to the long awaited grudge match at NXT Takeover: New Orleans. It main evented the show (AHEAD of the Championship match) so we should have known something special was coming, and with this event being 24 hours before Wrestlemania the entire main roster were left with a near impossible task of following this match. In an unsanctioned anything goes match with Gargano’s NXT career on the line we witnessed nearly 40 minutes of one of the most amazingly told story’s pro-wrestling has ever seen. Brutal exchanges of offences and back and forths and nearfalls filled one of the best WWE matches in recent history, and to the delight of the crowd their hero finally got his payoff against his foe. It was a crowning moment for someone who it seems is only a matter of time away from championship gold… surely….?

2. ALEISTER BLACK

The current champion of NXT has had a great 1st year in WWE, and his first 6 months of 2018 have just been fantastic. A superb match to begin the year at Takeover: Philadelphia against Adam Cole under extreme rules, led him to a pathway towards the NXT Championship and Andrade Almas. The 2 went on to put on a tremendous match in New Orleans, with Black hitting his ferocious Black Mass kick for the win. Some people just LOOK the part, and the sight of the mystical, tatoo-filled man from Holland with the glistening NXT Championship belt is something to behold. He’s, much like AJ Styles, capable of getting one of the best matches of almost any opponent’s career’s, his kickboxing based mma style mixed with his incredible athleticism makes his matches fun to watch to say the least, and that added with his great story-telling capabilities make every Aleister Black match must see from start (including his awe-inspiring entrance) to the inevitable Black Mass finish. Aleister Black will no doubt have an amazing second half of 2018, and by this time in 12 months time (with his current trajectory) he could well be on his road to a Championship of a red or blue home brand…

1.ADAM COLE

Confession time: I love Adam Cole. He’s incredibly entertaining as a character, in promos and whilst giving his opponents verbal grief during his matches, and as a wrestler he’s fantastic. He was the star of the match despite a losing effort to Aleister Black in an Extreme Rules match at Takeover: Philadelphia, but in this match both men won, such was the nature of the contest. And the next night he made his main roster debut by surprisingly entering the Royal Rumble match to a huge fanfare and ovation. And then… as the pre Wrestlemania Takeover loomed large, the match was set to crown the first ever NXT North American Champion in a ladder match, pitting 6 of NXT’s most over and exciting stars against one another, but despite the efforts of EC3, Killian Dain, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan and the incredible Ricochet it was ADAM COLE BAY BAY who claimed the prize. It opened the show, and it was simply one of the best matches in WWE and NXT history and by far the best show opener we have ever seen. Adam Cole after being the star in the War Games match last year, and less than 12 months after making his WWE debut by attacking the then NXT Champion, Adam Cole was the man chosen to carry this new title. And on top of all that he just so happens to be the leader of the Undisputed Era stable, who collectively are maybe the best group in WWE right now and arguably one of the collective best in all of pro-wrestling. His leadership abilities were put to the test to the highest of levels when he had to stand in for injured stable-mate Bobby Fish and join Kyle O’Reilly in defending their NXT Tag Team titles later on the SAME NIGHT as his incredible NXT North American title win, and it was a 3 way against the Authors of Pain and the team of Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong. And although he was put through a table and taken out by AOP early on, it was the turn of Roderick Strong in joining the Undisputed Era that meant the tag titles stayed put. The sight of Cole, O’Reilly, Strong and the injured Bobby Fish stood on the rampway with all their titles and their newly won Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy was a visual to fit the magnitude of what Adam Cole had accomplished on NXT’s biggest night of the year. Adam Cole is a star. Plain and Simple. And when he comes to the main roster it really will SHOCK THE SYSTEM (again not a catchphrase, this will be a fact).

ALSO
As an added bonus for you all, I’ve decided to put together a list of both best matches and moments of the year so far. By popular demand I have chosen to focus this blog on the best superstars of the year so far, but just for fun here are 2 more half way point WWE lists for you all.

WWE Matches of the year 2018 SO FAR

10. Seth Rollins beat Finn Balor. Raw, 2/4 – 4.25*

9. Tomasso Ciampa beat Kassius Ohno. NXT, 9/5 – 4.25*

8. Seth Rollins beat Finn Balor to retain the Intercontinental Championship. Raw, 30/4 – 4.25*

7. Aleister Black beat Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules Match. NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 27/1 – 4.25*

6. Charlotte Flair beat Asuka to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Wrestlemania 34, 8/4- 4.25*

5. Aleister Black beat Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (with Zelina Vega) to win the NXT Championship. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4 – 4.5*

4. Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle beat Stephanie McMahon & Triple H in a Mixed Tag Team Match. Wrestlemania 34, 8/4 – 4.75*

3. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (with Zelina Vega) beat Johnny Gargano to retain the NXT Championship. NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, 27/1 – 5*

2. Adam Cole beat EC3, Killian Dain, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan and Ricochet in a Ladder Match to become the first ever NXT North American Champion. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4 – 5*

1. Johnny Gargano beat Tomasso Ciampa in an Unsanctioned Match. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4 – 5*

WWE Moments of the year 2018 SO FAR

10. Adam Cole wins the NXT North American Championship. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4

9. Sami Zayn and then Kevin Owens’ Montreal entrances. Raw, 30/4

8. Aleister Black wins the NXT Championship. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4

7. Johnny Gargano beats Tomasso Ciampa. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4

6. Ricochet’s entrance. NXT Takeover: New Orleans, 7/4

5. Charlotte Flair ends Asuka’s undefeated Streak. Wrestlemania 34, 8/4

4. Shinsuke Nakamura wins the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble Match. Royal Rumble, 28/1

3. Rey Mysterio enters the Men’s Royal Rumble Match. Royal Rumble, 28/1

2. Undertaker’s entrance. Wrestlemania 34, 8/4

1. Daniel Bryan’s 1st entrance after being cleared. Smackdown, 20/3

SPECIAL MENTION: Titus O’Neil’s slip. Greatest Royal Rumble, 27/4

Josh.

29/5/2018 – What’s on my mind: Update…

HELLOOOOOOOOOOO EVERBODYYYYYYYYYY! So… you may or may not have noticed that there was no ‘What’s on my mind’ blog yesterday, indeed here it is today. This was for a few reasons; A. it was a bank holiday Monday and I just wanted to chill, and B. I’ve honestly not enjoyed writing my blogs as much as I did at first, I’ve found them becoming more and more of a chore each week, and in particular my reviews of Raw, Smackdown and NXT have become shorter and shorter each week. So from now on I’ll no longer be putting out my week in review blogs. Not the easiest of things to find time to write a blog of that length, as well as have a near-full time job, and to try and have a life as well… And anyway Y’all have Google (I’ll still be more than happy to answer any questions about any WWE show or give my thoughts on any WWE related story’s or wrestling in general).

In terms of what kind of schedule I have with my blog now, I’ll still do a what’s on my mind blog each week but not always on a Monday, and I’ll still do my ppv previews and reviews as well as the same for the NXT Takeover shows. Plus I’ll still do my monthly top 10 blogs, continuing with the one I will be releasing next week which is a real good one; TOP 10 WWE SUPERSTARS OF THE YEAR SO FAR! That blog has been real tough to decide on an order, so I’ve done my best to justify where everyone is on the list PLUS as a bonus I’ve listed also my top 10 moments and matches so far in 2018 in WWE, so look out for that blog out on Sunday (3rd June). So as I say I’m unsure what or when I’ll be releasing blogs going forward outside of the ppv/.takeover/top 10s, I’ll just do what I want, when I want with the blog, until I make money from it I’ll take it at my own pace, this is essentially just my hobby after all! So yeah, whatever I put out going forward I son’t know but keep your eyes peeled.

ANYWAY this past Sunday I attended a Ring of Honor/New Japan show in Doncaster. It was a really fun show, I seriously think every WWE fan should follow wrestling outside of the E too, it will really open your mind as a wrestling fan. I’ve followed wrestling not exclusive to WWE for the past 2 years or so properly, and I’m so much more in love with pro wrestling as a result. Maybe I’ll start to do some blogs about wrestling outside of WWE, but there are only so many hours in a day and the nature and magnitude of all things WWE means there’s always stuff to talk about from them, and also most wrestling fans I know are mainly WWE fans, and until enough people want or ask me to do more blogs on wrestling outside of WWE I’ll keep it to a WWE blog output… we shall see… MAYBE…

SO yes, I think I’m about all up to date really. We are on the road to both NXT Takeover; Chicago 2 and also the Money in the Bank ppv. MITB in particular I feel will be a pivotal show in terms of the landscape of the company going forward, both ladder matches are really tough to call, and if last years are anything to go by we can tell that the winner can be set up for a big push in the case of Carmella (who almost a year on from her controversial win is the current blue brand champion, and her character work has improved ten-fold, her in-ring work is gradually improving too), and last year’s men’s winner Baron Corbin would likely have held the WWE Title at some point last year had it not been for his attitude backstage… so if you win the MITB ladder match, you’re, unless you screw up, set for a big push… as for the rest of the card we have titanic matches including Ronda v Nia, Asuka v Carmella and AJ vs Nakamura which all could go either way, and all could be great or terrible in equal measure booking-wise. Takeover; Chicago 2 as Takerover’s always are I’m sure will be a fine show. Maybe not as blockbuster as some past NXT events, but NXT has a tradition of having a slightly underwhelming card, but then delivering an outstanding show. NXT Takeover; Chicago last year us the prime example of this, so expect another awesome show from the best brand in wrestling… NXT!

So I’ll be back again with another blog at some point, about what in the wrestling world and when I do not know, but i hope you’ll enjoy nonetheless…

Josh.

WWE week in review – May 25 2018

Friday = WWE have announced the final 8 competitors ahead of the second edition of the United Kingdom tournament; Travis Banks, Flash Morgan Webster, Jordan Devlin, Tucker, Drew Gulak, Ashton Smith, James Drake, and Tyson T-Bone. Travis Banks a particular highlight here for me, the current champion of Progress (an independent wrestling company whom the WWE have a working relationship with and they use as almost a feeding ground, having taken on a number of ex Progress competitors in the past such as Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven and the cka Aleister Black).
At an NXT Live event in Oklahoma City, THE REVIVAL made a shock appearance to make a challenge to the Undisputed Era for the NXT Tag Team titles. The Revival, as the only ever 2 time NXT tag team champions themselves, answered a challenge from Strong and O’Reilly after they claimed to be the ‘top guys’. Undisputed Era retained. This is cool, I really like this. I’ve long been in favour of the idea that former NXT talent that is being underutilized on main roster should come back to NXT, even if it is just for a storyline. Crowd would love it, as they did here, and it would rejuvenate the characters involved… imo…

Randy Orton apparently has had some surgery done in his time away recently. Orton was not on the recent tour of Europe, and hasn’t been seen on WWE TV since Backlash. It has now emerged that he underwent knee surgery to fix a medial meniscus tear in his left knee, which has been troubling him for a few months. WWE.com quoted Orton as saying “I’ve known I needed the surgery since late last year, but I’ve been waiting for the right time to get my knee cleaned out… Right now was the right time.” This is a shame obviously, but given Orton isn’t exactly full time these days his absence wont dramatically kill his character. He didn’t really have any form of story going for him, and as always with Randy Orton whenever he comes back it’ll be a big deal.

Saturday= After The Revival made a shock return at an NXT live show (and they also made an appearance again at a live NXT show in Dallas in which they made the save for the Street Profits after they were attacked by the Undisputed Era); in Jacksonville at another NXT live show TYLER BREEZE (a former NXT main event level talent, no really in NXT he WAS a main eventer) answered an open challenge by NXT live show talent Marcel Barthel. He got a big pop. I’m TELLING YOU NXT fans will always cheer main roster NXT alumni, I hope they keep this up it’d be great.

Sunday= when there isn’t a ppv does anything ever happen in WWE land on Sundays???? Doesn’t seem so………….

Monday= Smackdown Live (from September 2019) will apparently now be aired on Fox TV in the US. The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that WWE’s deal with Fox is a five-year agreement that is worth $205 million per year. This comes as the USA Network have chosen to keep the rights for Raw at a much higher cost than previous, and so have instead chosen to let Smackdown go. Maybe this will mean Smackdown becomes a much different show to Raw and the brand split is really in full force shown… we shall see… given that both shows are due to be THREE TIMES as valuable under the new deals it remains to be seen the effects this will have.

Smackdown Live GM Paige has announced via twitter that Big Cass has been removed from his upcoming MITB due to an injury (it appears to me to be a storyline injury), coming after the attack from Daniel Bryan last week. In his place Paige has also said that Daniel Bryan will now face Jeff Hardy on this week’s Smackdown with the winner of that 2nd chance match facing Samoa Joe next week in a final MITB qualifier. GREAT!!!

RAW:

  • Stephanie big times Kurt in opening segment, Roman out and him and Steph have a back and forth promo (for the 10000000th time…. zzzzz), Owens comes out, Steph makes Owens v Reigns.
  • Roman vs Owens ends in DQ when Mahal attacks Reigns, Rollins out for the save, Seth and Roman vs Jinder and Owens made.
  • Seth and Roman vs Owens and Jinder was great. Finish comes when Owens can’t hit pop-up powerbomb and Rollins escapes and after missing the stomp 1st time, he hits hit 2nd time for the win (Rollins once again in a match was tremendous throughout). After as Seth and Roman are on the rampway Jinder comes back out and attacks both with a steel chair.
  • Sami Zayn AWFUL segment with Bobby Lashley’s ‘sisters’ (3 men in drag). Lashley eventually out to beat them all up. Terrible segment.
  • After being interviewed by Renee, Alexa Bliss faced Ember Moon. Moon won (very strongly booked since NXT call up).
  • Stephanie takes over Kurt Angle’s office. Finn and Braun enter, they want a rematch against Dolph and Drew, instead Steph makes Finn VS Braun for tonight.
  • Baron Corbin beat No Way Jose in pretty much a squash (less than 5 minutes).
  • Kurt Angle backstage segment with Chad Gable, then Dolph and Drew. Gable vs Ziggler made for tonight.
  • The B Team (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel) beat Breezango again.
  • Nia Jax versus Ronda Rousey contract signing, overseen by Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie went on to bury them both, this did not work AT ALL for what it was meant to do (hype up Rousey vs Jax), it was just another Stephanie ego-boost segment, crap.
  • Dolph Ziggler beat Chad Gable. Fine match, shame it was only 5 minutes or so. After the match Drew McIntyre hit the Claymore on Gable.
  • Natalya won a fatal 4 way MITB qualifying match against Sarah Logan (who she made tap to the Sharpshooter), Liv Morgan and Dana Brooke.
  • Elias in-ring song segment. He then faced Bobby Roode (again) but this time got the win. Afterwards for some unknown reason Braun flattened Elias after it was done. No idea why either.
  • Braun then had his match in the main event against Finn Balor. Extraordinary size difference but a fine match nonetheless. Unsurprisingly though Braun won, but at least it took 2 running powerslams before he went for the pin.

Monday Evening: Following Raw 2 matches were made for next week’s show; Seth Rollins defending the IC Title against Jiinder Mahal, and Sasha Banks v Sarah Logan v Ruby Riott v Liv Morgan v Mickie James v Bayley v Dana Brooke in a final chance to qualify for the Women’s MITB match. I’m sure Seth can drag Jinder to a fine match, as for the women that’s a fine match with me. Interested to see who goes over… my prediction? Maybe Sasha? You can’t have this type of match an not have her in surely???

WWE is now moving towards making their non-big 4 ppvs FOUR HOURS LONG!!! Which is the last thing anyone wants, these shows as was the case with Backlash are too long as it is! BUT for us in the UK this maybe a blessing as it appears the shows will start 1 hour earlier and not go an hour later instead, MITB for example is now scheduled to start the main show at 11pm GMT.

Tuesday:

SMACKDOWN=

  • Miz TV with The New Day. Miz tried to create problems between the 3 teammates, New Day attacked Miz with Pancakes, Paige comes out and makes Miz vs Big E.
  • Miz Beats Big E. Sheamus and Cesaro come out and attack Kingston and Woods, E chases them off but this allows Miz to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win. Fun match all round, New Day didn’t at any point though say which one of them would be in the MITB Match.
  • As Big Cass was shown on crutches backstage, Daniel Bryan was interviewed elsewhere as he put over Jeff Hardy but said he would make him tap out tonight.
  • LANA BEAT BILLIE KAY! IN 1 MINUTE NINE SECONDS! Aiden English was by her side and got “LANA DAY” over with the crowd, seems if they were all going to split then Rusev and Lana with English seems to be ON atm… Glad this was all short though, Lana still isn’t good in-ring. English was hilarious before, during this match and after, as he held a big LANA DAY sign up during the beginning stages which Billie and Peyton weren’t happy about. The IICONICS promo before the match was great and I’d love to talk about it more, but Lana just pinned Billie Kay in almost a minute, so I’m a bit in shock. If she wasn’t with English and a part of the Rusev Day act then I’d be furious, but I’m absolutely overjoyed. And Lana was absolutely ecstatic when she won, so I doubt she knew this well in advance, how she’ll perform in a LADDER match I’m less happy about, but she was so happy which made me happy, so this was really heart warming to see. I should also add Lana did 2 moves, a Matchka Kick which was good, then her finisher (if you recall X Pac she does his move) which the timing seemed off. But hey It’s LANA DAY!!! LANA DAY, LANA DAY, LANA DAY!!! (this was all really short which it should be, but it was really entertaining, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLV4gSC5vl4 … I’m just not sure how I feel about Lana in a LADDER MATCH!?!?).
  • Zelina Vega and Andrade Almas pre-recorded promo. Almas beat another jobber shortly after. Good. Almas getting this whilst we wait for his big story to come up. Fine by me. Please keep it up WWE.
  • Carmella (looking about a 25/10) was interviewed backstage, where she mocked Asuka and reminded us all that she has beaten Charlotte Flair twice.
  • AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura segment, hosted by Renee. Styles seemed impatient and demanded Nakamura say what the stipulation for their match at MITB would be. Nakamura played dumb, told AJ to relax and reminded him how he got the chance to name the stipulation. AJ said ‘enjoy it why you can’ but Shinsuke replied “BE QUIET”! Nakamura said he would take the title and ‘dishonor’ AJ, Styles again told him to announce the match stipulation. Nakamura then said it it would be a pillow fight and laughed (as did I, a lot). Styles laughed along & told Nakamura he always knew he was ‘the king of soft style’. Shinsuke came back saying that all he wanted to do was knee-to-face and kept saying that until Styles interrupted him, he said he doesn’t car about the stipulation anymore and that Nakamura can’t beat him when it counts, he went on to say that this ‘wasn’t the Nakamura we all wanted’ (it’s better than the last one imo AJ), and that no stipulation was going to even the playing field and he would see him at Money in the Bank. Shinsuke then tried to blindside the WWE Champion but he saw it coming, they fought to the outside and then over the barricade, AJ cleared the announce table but Nakamura hit him with a chair, AJ fought back and sent Nakamura into the crowd, he then tossed him back over the barricade to ringside where he attempted to dive attack Nakamura but was again hit with a chair, then Shinsuke began to count to 10 but AJ got up, Nakamura was so angered by this he got hit AJ with the Kinshasa, then he did count to 10 before announcing their MITB match would be Last Man Standing, this was AWESOME.
  • Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson beat The Usos to become the new number 1 contenders for the Smackdown Tag Team titles. Fine match but way too short for me too be really in to which was a shame.
  • Naomi beat Sonya Deville to qualify for the Women’s MITB. Charlotte and Becky were shown at different points watching on backstage.
  • Renee interviewed Jeff Hardy who was super excited to face Daniel Bryan and get a second chance to be in the MITB match tonight.
  • Samoa Joe came out for guest commentary on the main event.
  • The New Day vs The Miz, Sheamus & Cesaro was announced for next week.
  • Daniel Bryan v Jeff Hardy. They shook hands to begin the match, pretty even in the early stages, Bryan was more in control after the first ad break, but they then both collided into one another off a crossbody, Samoa Joe then came out with the AMAZING line on commentary saying “I like to study what I hunt”… BRILLIANT STUFF!!! More back and forths, Jeff ducked a kick from Bryan and hit him with a Twist of Fate, then went to the top for the Swanton but Daniel Bryan got his knees up and then kicked Hardy for a nearfall, and then he got Jeff in a Dragon Screw followed by the same Hell Hook submission he used on Big Cass last week, and Jeff tapped out (having sold his knee during the match). It seems either this is his new finisher or/and they just wanted to sell more why Cass was still hurt. Great match by the way, crowd were great throughout. Immediately after he won Joe grabbed a mic and screamed his name, he then got in his face in the ring and said “I fail to see what we’re celebrating out here, because next week you face me”. The 2 then starred down before Joe made his way out the ring as Daniel looked on with a steely look. DANIEL BRYAN VS SAMOA JOE NEXT WEEK; AMAZING! As Bryan celebrated, they cut to Renee interviewing Joe. She asked about his strong words for Bryan, Joe wondered why whenever he tells the truth, it’s considered strong words (fair point), he wasn’t saying anything strong or unusual and that next week he would make Bryan go to sleep. Then we saw Daniel Bryan again who was still celebrating his win and leading the crowd in the Yes chants.

205Live saw: Drew Gulak beat Gran Metalik, TJP talking about how he’s trying to go to SmackDown and move on from 205 Live (BEHAVE YOURSELF) before beating a jobber and Hideo Itami beating former tag partner Akira Tozawa.

Wednesday:

WWE have announced the first round matches for the UK tournament next month (all matches bar Gulak v Gallagher are happening at the download festival on June 8th-10th): Jack Gallagher v Drew Gulak, Ashton Smith v Joseph Conners, Flash Morgan Webster v James Drake, Kenny Williams v Dave Mastiff, El Ligero v Travis Banks, Zack Gibson v Amir Jordan, Tucker v Joe Coffey and Tyson T-Bone v Jordan Devlin.

NXT=

  • My favourite wrestling show began with 2 of my least favourite tag teams (or teams I care least about) as TM61 beat Heavy Machinery. Great… ZZZZzzzzzzz…. The highlight of this match was when Nigel McGuinness on colour-commentary said that Heavy Machinery needed to lose some weight. I’m sorry but I laughed.
  • Apparently there will be a video package series over the next few weeks of NXT entitled ‘Who is Bianca BeLair?’. They’ve done similar things with Roderick Strong in the past so it’s a good sign of a push (which has been obvious for a while) for BeLair. There was then a cool EC3 video package shortly after which was as cool as he is.
  • Lacey Evans BEAT Kairi Sane! Sane came flying off the top rope but was caught by Evans’ finisher called ‘The Woman’s Right’ (a hard forearm). Ok enough match but I’m very shocked at Kairi taking an L. Nonetheless this is a feud that seems to be ongoing so plenty of time for Sane to get her win back.
  • Cathy Kelley was pictured outside of the NXT venue, apparently waiting for the arrival of Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae. When they arrive Gargano says he has seen better days but he’s here, and that he and Candice made a decision as a team and that he is going to go into the ring to tell everyone what that is.
  • Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch stated their claims for a tag title shot after their part in the 6 man tag victory last week against the Undisputed Era. Undisputed Era were shown backstage, they mocked Lorcan and Burch as well as Pete Dunne, Roddy Strong stated there wouldn’t be a title match between the two teams, and Kyle O’Reilly blamed Pete Dunne (he pronounced his name ‘peter doone’) for offering hope to ‘a couple of losers’, Strong then stated he wanted to face ‘Daniel Burch’ (which I’m sure will be great).
  • Next we had Velveteen Dream and Ricochet against Lars Sullivan in a handicap match. This was all awesome; the early part of the match continually saw both the rivals not being any form of tag team, failing to tag one another in, but did double team the behemoth Sullivan on a few occasions and at one point got Lars down enough for both men to simultaneously cover him but Sullivan still managed to kick out, THEN Lars Sullivan (at 6ft 3 and over 300 pounds) decided to go full-monster mode… He launched Ricochet, he attempted to destroy the Velveteen Dream’s face as he continually beat on him before hitting hid flying headbutt, only for the pin to be broke up by Ricochet, Dream tagged Ricochet in, Ricochet played a cat-and-mouse like game with Lars as he would pick his moments to get offence in whilst staying out of the monster’s grasp, … and then as the match wore on Dream reminded us all that despite his popularity he is in fact the heel here, and he decided to hit his Rolling Death Valley Driver move on his tag partner for the night Ricochet before retreating, this then allowed Sullivan to hit the Freak Accident on Ricochet for the win. This was exactly what it should have been. Advances Dream and Ricochet’s story, Lars moves on towards NXT Title contention, and despite being pinned Ricochet look cool as always in-ring. Great stuff.
  • Cathy Kelley did an interview with Dakota Kai. If you’ve read my recent NXT reviews you know my thoughts on Dakota Kai’s current character and her being a complete and utter GEEK (her gimmick is she’s shit scared of the champion…)… ANYWAY… Dakota told Kelley she had dreamed of being the NXT Women’s Champion (dream on) and that she can’t believe she’s getting a title shot, but that it was against Shayna Baszler, the biggest bully she had ever met. The Champion Baszler then came into shot with a smirk on her face, she said Kai doesn’t have a chance, BUT THEN… DAKOTA FINALLY FOUND HER VOICE… “WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT” SHE SAID!!!! HALLE-FUCKING-LUJAH! DAKOTA KAI HAS FOUND HERSELF, NIKKI CROSS’ PEP TALK LAST WEEK SEEMS TO HAVE WORKED, FINALLY! Let’s hope this continues and we see a new Dakota Kai going forwards, she’s probably losing to Baszler but nonetheless let’s hope Dakota puts up a good showing, my oh my she NEEDS to!
  • The show ended with a segment involving Johnny Gargano, Candice LeRae and Tomasso Ciampa. By saying those names I don’t need to tell you how good it was do I? SO… Gargano and Candice made their way out to the ring, Johnny spoke of how Ciampa assaulted him before what was going to be a championship match against Aleister Black, and that every morning when he wakes up and his neck brace reminds him of having his head smashed off an LED board and dropped off the side of a ramp and through a table (must be nice to wake up as Johnny Gargano next to Candice nonetheless), he said that it was time to think about both of their futures but he needs to ask himself if this is worth it?, Fans cheered, With the injuries adding up and the tolls it’s taking on everyone, is it worth it he asked again? and again, the fans roared. He then ripped his neck brace off, before calling Ciampa out. LeRae was begging him not to as Ciampa made his way out, LeRae then went to the back and came back shortly after with some referees to stop any potential confrontation, The refs kept Gargano from Ciampa as Candice repeated her cries for her husband to stop, and just as Gargano agreed to go to the back Tomasso Ciampa goaded him. Gargano then ran back to the ring, but Ciampa knocked him off the apron and Gargano fell right onto Candice! Candice fell down onto the rampway as Gargano looked on horrified. This was fabulously well done. The plot thickens, wonderful stuff from these 3 once again.

Thursday:

The NXT Tag Team Championship match for Takeover: Chicago 2 has indeed been confirmed as The Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly) defending the titles against Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan. Great stuff, this is a dark horse for match of the night, but I imagine given the nature of the rest of the card, this could be the match where the crowd needs to take a breather.

Josh.