16/4/2018 – What’s on my mind: I’M BACK!!!

Well I’m back!!! And… not much has happened in the world of WWE since I released my previews for Takeover and Mania… it’s been very quiet in fact……

So since I last wrote anything on here we had NXT Takeover: New Orleans, which was… the best WWE show there has EVER been!!! It was a brilliant line up to begin with and the card was sandwiched with 2 of the best WWE matches there has ever been; the show opener was the 6 man ladder match for the new NXT North American Championship that saw EC3 vs Killian Dain vs Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream vs Lars Sullivan vs Ricochet. It was simply incredible. All 6 men made entrances of stars, and they came out of it as MEGAstars. It would be hard to pick an MVP but I must give special praise to the performances of ‘The One and Only’ Ricochet and of course the eventual winner Adam Cole… BAY BAY!

Shayna Baszler is your new NXT Women’s Champion after dethroning Ember Moon in a great match. There was NXT Tag Team Championship/Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner takes all match that saw AOP vs Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne vs Kyle O’Reilly and the double duty-ing Adam Cole. The match ended in dramatic fashion with Roderick Strong turning heel and handing the win to Cole and O’Reilly as he joined the Undisputed Era. Aleister Black is the new NXT Champion after he beat Andrade Almas, despite the best efforts of Zelina Vega in what was a terrific contest. And in the match that surprisingly at the time but not in hindsight main evented the show (because how on EARTH do you follow this) Tomasso Ciampa faced Johnny Gargano in their Unsanctioned Match… Wow… expectations were high… but many are already calling it the best match in WWE history!!! So yes, Takeover: New Orleans was AMAZING!!!

AND THEN we had Wrestlemania 34.. and what a show it was! Brilliant, weird, bizarre, brutal… the adjectives you could associate with this LONGGGGGGGGG show are about as endless as the show seemed to be. But despite its time span it was possibly the most eventful event WWE has ever put on. I’ll do my best to summarize it:

– WOKEN Matt Hardy won the Andre Battle Royal. With a little help from Bray Wyatt as the 2 embraced after and so began what COULD be a WONDERFUL alliance. The match was a clusterfuck as it was always going to be (30 guys in a ring at once and all) but the finish and the spot this story was given I personally loved. The crowd going mad for it too made it all the more DELIGHTFUL!

– Cedric Alexander beat Mustafa Ali to win the vacant Cruserweight title. Decent match but they’ve done much better work on 205 Live before.

– Naomi won the Women’s Battle royal in another underwhelming clusterfuck.

And then FINALLY the main show began:

– Seth Rollins (cool blue contacts and all) became a grand slam champion as he won the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz, also bettering Finn Balor in what was a super fun Mania show opener.

– in an unsurprisingly brilliant match Charlotte BEAT Asuka to retain her Smackdown Women’s Championship. Shocking, 10 minutes too short maybe but in hindsight, in my opinion (although I was gutted at the time) the right call. Even with Charlotte losing her title 2 days later, this win at Mania only further cements her legacy. Special mention also for her incredible, spell-binding entrance. Charlotte Flair IS Women’s Wrestling.

– it was at this point in the show that John Cena (who indeed stuck to his word and watched Wrestlemania as a fan, and was shown to high hilarity throughout the show sat ringside watching on) was told by a referee something that made him immediately jump from his seat, over the barricade and then sprint to the backstage area. It was never stated what the ref actually told him but it was presumed, certainly from the huge reaction of the crowd, that Cena was being told that THE UNDERTAKER WAS HERE!!!

– next match was the 4 way for the US title; Bobby Roode vs Rusev vs Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton. Jinder won. Meh…

– following that was the best match of the entire show… no not Aj vs Nakamura but Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey… WOW OH WOW OH WOW!!! The very definition of exceeding expectations. The match was brilliant; it had every conceivable spot you could’ve dreamed of and then some. And above all else, Ronda Rousey was SENSATIONAL! Without question the best debut of anyone in Wrestling history. With all the pressure and spotlight that was on her I was so pleased. This was fantastic start to finish. Ronda tapped out Stephanie for the finish. Great great GREAT!

– Following that was always going to be tough, so spare a thought for the Smackdown Tag title 3 way of The Usos v The New Day vs The Bludgeon Brothers. Harper and Rowan’s ever-dominant triumph was sadly still in the shadow of the amazing bout before it.

– THEN… we had John Cena come out for a match. He was then told the match wasn’t on … and then the lights went out and… THE…. no, ELIAS came out. He sang a song, wound up Cena, Cena beat him up, and then Cena’s music played as he looked heartbroken at the prospect of his dream match not being on after all. It looked as if our dreams were over… and then… lights out, Taker’s hat and gloves appeared in the ring, a lightning bolt struck them, lights out… UNDERTAKER!!! 3 minutes, an indescribable entrance, 1 Chokeslam and 1 Tombstone Piledriver later and The Undertaker SQUASHED John Cena… and it was PERFECT.

– It was at this point the crowd seemed to die a little, and what had to this point potential to be one of the all time great Manias began to dip slightly…

– next match though saw Daniel Bryan make his long awaited in-ring return. As he and Shane McMahon beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Match was ok, Dbryan was as good as we all remembered, Yes yes yes!

– Nia Jax won the Raw Women’s Championship from former friend Alexa Bliss. Only real result really given this awfully bad tasting storyline. Finish was a tremendous Samoan Drop from the middle rope.

– AJ Styles RETAINED the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura (whose entrance was spectacular; Alice Cooper’s guitarist and a handful of Violinists and drummers featured). This was an underwhelming (given its incredibly high expectations) but still ok match. The headlines after though were all about Nakamura’s low blow and attack on Styles after the match and his apparent show of respect gone sour. A heel turn for Nakamura was certainly not something I predicted but I’m excited at the prospect of it going forward.

– Then Braun Strowman and a 10 year old boy called Nicholas won the Raw Tag Team Championship from The Bar. As you do… (they gave them up the next night due to Nicholas’ busy schedule… in the 4th grade…).

– and finally after what felt like 3000 hours of an event, it was time for the main event. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman defending the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns. Where to start with this one… one thing that was clear is the crowd in New Orleans had decided to absolutely shit all over this match from the beginning. There were a variety of derogatory chants, multiple beach ball appearances in the crowd… yeah this could’ve been a 5 star classic but nobody in the arena would even give it the slightest bit of chance to entertain them at all.

An absolutely brutal match saw Brock hit Roman with a plethora of German Suplexes, FIVE F5’S (including one to the announce table) to which Roman kicked out of each time. Brock then hit Roman with hard elbows to the head ala Randy Orton at Summerslam 2016. And just like Orton did so before, Reigns bled FOR REAL absolutely EVERYWHERE! It was like something from a horror film as Roman’s crimson face then showed his true fury as he went on to hit Lesnar with multiple spears! Lesnar would though then pick Reigns up for a SIXTH F5 and BROCK LESNAR WON! With seemingly everyone convinced otherwise the unthinkable had happened!

A variety of details about Lesnar’s contract and the change to the match finish have since emerged. Far too many for me to explain. but yeah it was… weird. Lets see how it goes down at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month when Lesnar faces Reigns for the title in a steel cage.

This was absolutely bizarre booking to me at the time and it still is now. I’m fascinated to see how it goes for Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar going forward. For once I have absolutely no theory or no idea that I’m willing to get behind enough to believe and that I could use to try and explain why this happened. There’s plenty of possible reasons why maybe but nonetheless it was absolutely astonishing to watch.

And my main emotion upon watching it back was a personal sadness and sympathy for Roman Reigns as a man irl. Imagine turning up at the arena the day of Mania, having for months and months heard every man and his dog claim that you’re the man and this will be your moment… only to be told the plans have changed and this is what’s happening… gutted for him personally. The characters, the storyline not so much but don’t forget that none of this is Roman’s fault. The blame lies solely with the bookers.

So to follow an… eventful… Wrestlemania 34 we had a pretty great Raw. Call ups for Ember Moon, AOP and No Way Jose, returns from injury of Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe, and a huge return to WWE for BOBBY LASHLEY! Smackdown gave us Peyton Royce and Billie Kay making their way to Smackdown Live from NXT and making an immediate impact…

The IIconics attacked Charlotte Flair and left the Smackdown Women’s Champion laying and prone for a Money in the Bank cash in from Carmella and FINALLY Carmella is the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. After her official retirement just 24 hours prior PAIGE was announced as the new General Manager of Smackdown Live after Daniel Bryan had resigned from the role in order to become a full time active roster member once again. Paige’s first act as GM was to make the main event for the evening as Daniel Bryan vs AJ STYLES!!! This dream match was cut short though by an ambush from Shinsuke Nakamura on both men.

A recap episode of NXT featured a win for Kairi Sane and the arrival of the War Raiders tag team (fka War Machine). I feel both will be making a big impression on the NXT Championship scene in the upcoming months.

This Monday and Tuesday we have the annual superstar shake up that will see stars of Raw and Smackdown swapping shows, which is always good fun. Plus we are a few weeks away from the Greatest Royal Rumble event from Saudi Arabia which is looking like it should be one hell of a show! So even though Wrestlemania is behind us now the goings on and drama of the WWE looks set to continue to shock and wow us all for the foreseeable future… And I cannot wait!!!

In terms of what I will be producing as content for my blog my time off has given me time to have a rethink about what I write. So instead of doing individual reviews of Raw, Smackdown and NXT each week I will be releasing a weekly review of all things WWE each Friday. I’ll also be doing previews and reviews of every NXT Takeover and main roster Pay Per view as well as a monthly ‘ranking list’ similar to my previous blog on The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania matches. On top of all that I will also be doing a weekly post called (as is this one) ‘What’s on my Mind’ (Credit to JR on his podcast before for the name idea). This will just be a random blog based on whatever I have… well… on my mind at the time of writing about whatever is going on WWE related at that time.

I’ll also every now and then be putting out some different types of content whenever I have the time or enough interest to do so. So yeah that’s about all up to date. Once again thanks to everyone for your words and retweets and likes on all my blog posts. I hope you like what I write going forward just as much as I’m sure I’ll have fun writing it.

Josh.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans Preview & Predictions

NXT is usually really good. NXT Takeovers are always great. NXT Takeover: New Orleans has the potential to be absolutely incredible. Much like Wrestlemania this year, the WWE have really gone all out to make this card as star studded as possible. 5 brilliant match ups that I will preview and predict the outcome of as will my good friend, and fellow NXT fanboy, Stefan. Enjoy the blog, and enjoy NXT Takeover: New Orleans!!! *SPOILER ALERT*: Me and Stefan are fairly alike with our wrestling views… just bare that in mind…

Ladder Match for the NXT North American Championship: Killian Dain V Lars Sullivan V Adam Cole V Ricochet V EC3 V Velveteen Dream

Six of NXT’s very best superstars in a LADDER MATCH for a brand new championship… not much more that needs to be said is there? This will be carnage of the best form and whoever wins it will be a worthy 1st holder of the long overdue 2nd NXT title. A very tough one to call but based on what I’ve seen and who I think could do with a championship the most… I’m picking EC3 to win. The 4 established NXT stars are already very over and well known to the audience, Ricochet and EC3 are still new and whilst the extravagant and pretty extraordinary in-ring abilities of Ricochet will impress people immediately, EC3 (as good as his presentation has been) I feel could really do wonders for himself and the championship if they let him. Give him a mic and people will come.

Prediction: EC3

Stefan: EC3 – Given that Adam Cole is now needed in the tag scene, this is not the time for his first title run in the company. this title needs a star, and for me, i cannot see past EC3, others like Ricochet or Dream are great options and great names, but this needs a 1 percenter…

Unsanctioned Match: Tomasso Ciampa V Johnny Gargano (if Johnny Gargano wins he is re-hired to NXT, if he loses he is banished)

What has become one of the most personal rivalries, and engaging and emotional stories in NXT history will finally culminate at Takeover: New Orleans. And in the time Gargano has become arguably the most popular superstar in NXT, Tomasso Ciampa has via some outstanding character work become the most despised heel maybe in the whole company. Often heel can be cheered as people think they’re cool, but people hate this guy and it’s all a sign that he’s executed his material perfectly. I’ve no idea what on earth these two may pull out the bag or what they may do to one another, but I have no doubt at all it’ll be absolutely thrilling. Result wise I can see reasons for both winning, but I’m going with Ciampa as I think it’ll only increase the sympathy towards Gargano and his character, and it’ll set up Ciampa for a title chase and Gargano (as is customary in NXT) will do a job en-route to a main roster debut some time next week.

Prediction: Tomasso Ciampa

Stefan: Ciampa – My gut says Ciampa, the brand needs a major legitimate heel in the upper card, and Ciampa fits that bill. Gargano to move onto main roster business

NXT Tag Team Championship & Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Undisputed Era (C) V The Authors of Pain with Paul Ellering V Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong

Another multi man match with stars a plenty. I don’t think anyone before the last set of tapings will have predicted this would be the tag title match for takeover. But what an amazing line up we have here in this winner takes all showdown. I can’t even fathom the spots in the ladder match, I can’t even more imagine what the competitors in this will come up with to delight the New Orleans crowd. Adam Cole doing double duty after his stablemate Bobby Fish’s injury will surely be a factor in how this match is presented, but his brilliance as a performer will no doubt do the role justice. If I had my way NXT would be the Adam Cole show, and as good as both Strong & Dunne are and AOP also (they’re main roster bound) I feel the Undisputed era are in their element right now, and even with Bobby Fish’s injury I feel the result here will be the same.

Prediction: Undisputed Era

Stefan: Undisputed Era – by process of elimination, 3 out of the 4 opponents are main roster bound for me, and Dunne will go from strength to strength as a singles star.

NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon (C) V Shayna Baszler

I am convinced this match will be great. Not for the faint hearted but good to watch nonetheless, and equally so I’m in no doubt about the outcome. Ember Moon has been a terrific servant to NXT and I’m glad she has finally had her much deserved title run in the post-Asuka era. But as it was Moon’s time after Asuka, it is time for The Queen of Spades to take her crown.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Stefan: Shayna – Time to build another big bad heel champ, Ember Moon main roster bound (rightly so). Now the Asuka hangover has gone, its time to make some new stars

NXT Championship: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (C) with Zelina Vega V Aleister Black

Much in the way that I think its Baszler’s time to dethrone Ember Moon and send her to the main roster, I feel its similar circumstances here. Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega have both been absolutely sensational characters in recent months since Almas was given the title, and in-ring Almas is superb so I’ve no doubt he will be more of a star on Raw or Smackdown. But if Wrestlemania 34 will likely crown Roman Reigns as THE GUY of WWE then NXT Takeover: New Orleans where Aleister Black confirms himself as THE GUY of NXT. The wonderful symmetry that 1 year ago, at the pre-Wrestlemania NXT Takeover, Aleister Black made his NXT debut against… Andrade Almas! From the time and production that was dedicated to his entrance, you knew right there and then Black was going to be a megastar in NXT. And a year later, against the same opponent who himself has had an incredible 12 months in that he has been rejuvenated and re-invigorated alongside Vega to a point now that he is a ready-made star, I feel the result will be the same. A great match, a Black-Mass kick, and Aleister Black as your new NXT Champion.

Prediction: Aleister Black

Stefan: Black – Firmly believe this is what the build up has been for, this moment. Give him the ball and let him run. Almas will be just fine being the biggest Latino star on the main roster, dont you worry…

Josh… and Stefan.

NXT Takeover: New Orleans go-home show Review: 4/4/18

So it is almost upon us, Wrestlemania weekend! But of course before Mania on Sunday we have the shear delights of NXT Takeover: New Orleans on Saturday. And much like Mania the card for Takeover is INCREDIBLE! So let’s see what the go home episode of NXT had in store shall we…

The show began with the Final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; The Authors of Pain vs Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong in what should be a great match. To begin with The Bruserweight was in a fight on his own against both Akam and Rezar, and after AOP initially had the better of it, Dunne then did his signature snapping of his opponents fingers on Akam before hitting him with a series of kicks and then making the tag to his partner Roderick Strong. Strong went on an absolute tear right away on both members of the Authors of Pain, almost winning the match on a number of occasions, before Pete Dunne re-entered the fold and hit Rezar with a triangle choke hold. But he only had this in until he was lifted by the monstrous Rezar and carried across the ring before AOP hit Dunne with their double-team neckbreaker. But after this both Dunne and Roderick Strong hit a number of double team moves on both AOP members (which looked really impressive) but their brief revival only lasted until Akam and Rezar hit both their opponents with kicks. And then with all 4 participants laying exhausted in the ring Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly of the Undisputed Era came out and attacked both Strong & Dunne and AOP. As a result the match was called off. NXT GM William Regal then came out and announced that at NXT Takeover: New Orleans we will see; The Undisputed Era vs Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong vs The Authors of Pain for BOTH the NXT Tag Team Championship AND the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic!!!

(just an fyi; the 3rd member of the Undisputed Era, Bobby Fish, was injured at a past NXT Live event and so will be unable to compete for some time. Hence the leader of the faction Adam Cole is the one in the tag team storyline here alongside Kyle O’Reilly).

Kairi Sane (my favourite wrestler) then faced Vanessa Borne in a decent match to be fair, whereas you’d expect this to be a bit of a squash Borne got a fair amount of offence in. Sane though did win with her exceptional Spear followed by a punch and an elbow before she climbed to the top rope and came down with her Insane Elbow (which is by far the best elbow drop I’ve ever seen) for the win. Should mention that Vanessa Borne has a new theme song and a new set of lighting during her entrance, this is a good sign if you’re a fan of hers (she’s got plenty going for her for sure) as it means they care enough about her to make some changes. As for Sane? I expect her to be the first challenger to Shayna Baszler when she wins the championship. Fingers crossed.

Lacey Evans was then shown backstage, she said she won’t be able to do anything until Mr Regal “disallows societal trash from walking around NXT”, she bemoaned a “complete psycho” like Nikki Cross getting opportunities before then talking trash about Ember Moon, Dakota Kai and Kairi Sane too. Decent little promo, again it’s clear they see something in Evans as a cocksure heel so expect her to be the cannon fodder for the females baby faces before they go for the title in the time after Takeover.

William Regal was then shown leaving the arena before Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly came towards him certainly not seeming pleased. They were furious about the predicament they were in going in to NXT Takeover. Regal explained that they had 3 options: Adam Cole competes in two matches in one night on the show (he’s also in the NXT North American Championship ladder match don’t forget), Kyle O’Reilly defends their tag titles by himself or Adam Cole forfeits his place in the North American title 6-man match. This conundrum once again didn’t leave Undisputed Era pleased.

After a brief recap of her rivalry with Shayna Baszler ahead of their Takeover match, the NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon cut a promo saying she wasn’t sorry for getting into a fight, and that after Shayna Baszler disrespected a coach (she talked trash to a Performance Centre coach that was shown on a previous episode of NXT) she now deserved to be attacked. She went on to say that as Baszler walks around ‘like she owns the place’ and that’s not how you behave as a champion and although Baszler started the war, she is ‘going to end it’. This promo was fine, Moon as the fiery babyface is ok… but I’m presuming this is probably the last time we see Moon on a regular NXT show before the makes her ascension to the main roster… hopefully…

To end the show we had a real clash of the titans. As two of the 6 men in the ladder match for the NXT North American Championship faced off, with Killian Dain facing Lars Sullivan. Unsurprisingly this was a very hard hitting & physical contest, Lars was in control after launching Dain into the ring apron, latterly Killian Dain used the Belfast Blitz and then Lars put his knees up after an attempted Vader Bomb splash, they battled more on the top rope before the Beats from Belfast hit a headbutt, and this made them both fall to the ring floor. With both laid out 2 of the other ladder match participants came out to the ring as Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole came in and glared at eachother. EC3 then made his way out and joined in the staring contest, and was then followed by both Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan before finally the awesome Ricochet then came out and stared at each man individually. And that was how the show ended, with all 6 men in the ring and the match between Lars and Dain just… ended…. Not ideal… but hey at this stage who Cares? I just want this match NOW!

There were also a number of video packages during the show to promote the various Takeover matches; Gargano vs Ciampa, Almas vs Black etc. and it was announced for next week we will get Kairi Sane vs Lacey Evans (which will be filmed as the dark match before Takeover starts I imagine). Next week’s show, as post Takeover shows usually are, will have that match and then be 45 minutes or so of recaps from Takeover… just the way they do things whilst the tapings for future shows take place.

And that just about covers the go-home show of NXT ahead of Takeover: New Orleans. I’ll be doing a preview blog for Takeover (which will be out Friday or Saturday latest) so look out for that. But can we all just appreciate… IT’S NEARLY WRESLTEMANIA AND IT’S NEARLY NXT TAKEOVER!!!!!!!!!!!

Josh.

NXT 28/3/18 Review: UNSANCTIONED MATCH!

The show begins with a car pulling up outside the arena, and nearby fans instantly begin to boo as Tomasso Ciampa steps out of it. He ignores the ‘questions’ from the ‘reporters’ that were walking alongside him as Ciampa sought out NXT General Manager William Regal. He then berated him about Johnny Gargano and his recent pursuit of him that has seen Gargano attack Ciampa last week on NXT, A video emerged showing Gargano chasing Ciampa when he was in his car leaving the arena last week, and just yesterday a video was released by Tomasso Ciampa showing that Gargano was banging on his front door at his house in the early hours of the morning. Ciampa told regal that he had had enough of all of this, and asked the GM “what I gotta do”? William Regal would go on to make the match official, telling Ciampa “you versus Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: New Orleans in an UNANCTIONED MATCH, if Johnny Gargano wins he gets his job back, If you win he’s banished FOR GOOD”! NXT hasn’t even made it in to the arena yet and already we have a BLOCKBUSTER announcement, WOW OH WOW what a start!

After the show had properly begun William Regal made his way out to the ring. He then announced that at Takeover: New Orleans there would be the debut of the NXT North American Championship! Great news this, NXT has long since needed a mid-card belt to give more people on the roster something to go for, so this is a brilliant idea. Regal was about to talk some more but was interrupted by the arrival of EC3!!! For those of you unaware of who EC3 is, he was actually in the WWE a long time ago before getting his big break in TNA where he really excelled. He is a physically impeccable looking guy, with a gimmick that he things an awful lot of himself. And to be honest he has reason to because he’s really good, as you will see, and his gimmick in NXT appears that it will centre around (as his theme song suggests) EC3 being in ‘the top 1%’. He gets in the ring to a huge crowd reaction, with chants of “E-C-3” ringing around the arena. EC3 indulges this telling the crowd, who had told him that he deserves it, saying “I do deserve it; keep that chant going”. He then turns his attention to Regal ‘Mr Regal; this is too much… I come to the hottest brand in sports entertainment; NXT’. The crowd chanted ‘you deserve it’ some more, causing EC3 to respond with “that’s right, of course I deserve it!” (this made me laugh a lot). EC3 also said he had a “banger of a theme song, you guys hear that thing?… ‘Mr Regal, you created the North American Championship, and awarded it to me on the very first day?’, the crowd began to chant “NX3” which I enjoyed greatly, EC3 put himself over some more, before Regal interrupted him. He told him that ‘you are not handed anything here in NXT… at NXT Takeover: New Orleans you will be competing for the North American Championship, you versus 5 other competitors… with the brand new title suspended above the ring… in a ladder match!’. The crowd were delighted, and EC3 seemed pleased too saying “Thank-you-Regal… at NXT Takeover: New Orleans I’ll show the entire world why I am the top 1% of this industry”. He shakes Regal’s hand, his music plays, and that was it. Really enjoyed all of this, a 6 man ladder match with the best of NXT will be FANTASTIC, I just hope the names involved are such that don’t underwhelm. This was a great start for EC3 in WWE too, really good promo, he put his character over well, and he looks and feels like a big star. So pleased for him, after carrying that shithole on his back for so many years I’m glad he is in the big time at last.

Next the camera panned to outside the arena as apparently both Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his NXT Championship challenger Aleister Black will be here tonight.

We then had an update from Charley Caruso on the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic; she recapped all of the action so far in the tournament, and reminded us that we will have both semi-final matches tonight: Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne vs ‘SAnitY’ and ‘Authors of Pain’ versus ‘Street Profits’, the latter of which is the next match up on the show.

TM61 were then shown being interviewed earlier in the day at the WWE Performance Centre. They expressed their disappointment in their exit from the Dusty Cup, and then came out with the line “we are the mighty, and the mighty don’t kneel”. The cameraman then hurried away from them and focused instead on an ensuing brawl in the PC between NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon and her challenger Shayna Baszler were involved in a pull-apart brawl. Simple and effective enough this, another good piece of build up to what will be a FIGHT at Takeover.

Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega were then shown arriving at Full Sail. They both looking like absolute megastars.

Then we had the match involving the first team to make their way to the ring; the extravagant, fun-loving ‘Street Profits’ (their gimmick is 2 guys who just seem to want to have fun and party, with an urban, rap vibe to it. I should add their both really good and athletic in the ring too, bright future if handled correctly). They were closely followed by their opponents; the monstrous Authors of Pain who were accompanied as always by their trusted leader, WWE Hall of Famer and former manager of many a successful tag team, Paul Ellering. The match lasted about 2 minutes, and unsurprisingly AOP won. A distraction by Ellering on Montez Ford of the Street Profits allowed Akam and Rezar to hit their Last Chapter finisher on Angelo Dawkins in the ring for the pinfall and the win for the Authors of Pain. Much expected result but I was really disappointed this only went 2 minutes or so, but I guess it did help build AOP up more for the upcoming final.

We were then backstage with Cathy Kelly waiting outside William Regal’s office, and when he steps outside he reveals that he has finalised the 2nd competitor in the North America Championship match; ADAM COLE! (GREAT GREAT GREAT NEWS!) He was then interrupted by the Velveteen Dream. HE goes on to say that although the North America Championship is ground-breaking, it is not truly “an experience the NXT universe can get behind, if the Velveteen Dream was in that match, that may just be the experience it needs, I mean what do you say to that Mr Regal?” Well, Mr Regal concurs the Dream, and after praising him for his work in NXT so far he then makes him the 3rd competitor in the match. Gain, another GREAT name added to it. Should be fabulous. Dream finishes by saying to William Regal that “you may have broken ground by introducing the North America Championship, but putting the Velveteen Dream in this match; you just set the stage!” The best way I can describe this segment was that the Velveteen Dream’s dialogue and delivery was as good as his fresh cornrow-like haircut and his FRESH shirt. Stylish guy.

Next match was Lars Sullivan. This guy is a big oaf, but a muscular and athletic one who much unlike some previous monsters WWE have had in the past, this guy can actually wrestle. Even from his entrance you can tell that literally this guy is a BIG deal! He won his match against a jobber, with a Military Press – Powerslam – a Diving headbutt from the top rope (yes LARS SULLIVAN flew off the top rope, it was one hell of a sight to behold), – Freak Accident – 1, 2, 3. A brilliant quote from Mauro Ranallo on commentary summed up the behemoth Lars Sullivan perfectly “Body of a Gorilla, Mind of a Professor”. GENUIS! Shortly after backstage Regal then announced that Sullivan was indeed the 4th participant in the North America Championship Ladder Match, tremendous stuff! Sullivan appeared beside him then and said “That sounds fantastic Mr Regal, I can assure you un-equivocally and categorically I will bring the destruction that only Lars Sullivan can, but this time not only by my hands but with a ladder! But that’s at Takeover; New Orleans … I WANT KILLIAN DAIN!” This led Regal to announce The Beast of Belfast as the next participant in the Ladder match, and also made Lars vs Dain for next week’s NXT. FANTASTIC, ABSOUTLEY BRILLAINT! This Ladder match is going to be incredible!

Dakota Kai then came out for what appeared to be a match for her, but instead we were quickly taken to a brawl outside the arena between Andrade Almas & Aleister Black. It was Almas who was well on top, pummelling Black all the way from the parking lot to the ring area. After the brutal attack concluded Almas and Vega stood tall over the fallen challenger as Almas held his NXT Championship aloft. Loved this, great to see whenever this side of Almas comes out. He’s a superb wrestler and a great shit-house heel, but when he’s angry as he showed in his promo last week he’s fantastic. Zelina Vega barking out orders as the attack went on too, she is also superb at her role.

It was then time for our main event; SAnitY (represented by Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe, sadly no Killian Dain or Nikki Cross accompanying them this time) against the alliance of Roderick Strong and the WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. Strong started the match as Dunne, not afraid to use questionable tactics himself, stopped Wolfe & Young throughout trying to take any advantages they could. When in the match himself The Bruserweight targeted the arm of Eric Young with some signature holds, only for Young to counter a double wristlock into a suplex. Strong and Wolfe then each tagged in: Wolfe used a German suplex and an Attitude Adjustment-looking move on Strong, but he was able to kick out of the pin at 2, Young used his wheelbarrow suplex and went for a pin of his own only for Dunne to break it up, all 4 men brawled, Young used his diving elbow on Strong, but he kicked out of the subsequent pin attempt, and then the finish came: Strong tagged in Dunne and the two performed a double team pop-up into a flapjack to give Dunne the pin over Young. Good match, everyone looked good here (no surprise, they are all great) but it was Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne who advance the final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic against The Authors of Pain next week. Should be great.

With the match over we were then taken to Cathy Kelly again outside of William Regal’s office as she aimed to find out the identity of the final participant for the NXT North America Championship Ladder match. Eventually William Regal did come out, and revealed the 6th participant was just inside his office, he then brings out… RICOCHET!!! One of THE BEST wrestlers on the planet (you may recall me putting him over in a previous NXT review)! WOWSERS; this Ladder match is going to be INSANE! This isn’t for a mid-card belt at all, it’s all the main eventers who aren’t in the NXT Championship match, fantastic stuff! On what will be an incredible weekend of WWE action in New Orleans, this match will take some beating!

And that was yet another terrific episode of NXT. Perfectly built up to ALL the matches on the card at Takeover, with the go home show NXT week it will be interesting to see what more they do to build up hype for an incredibly stacked show…

Key Points to Take Home

  • Ladder matches are great even with sub-standard participants, but with A+++ quality people in them they’re usually tremendous…
  • EC3 should’ve been back in WWE years ago
  • Black vs Almas should get at least half an hour… please…
  • When is an UNSANCTIONED MATCH ever not good?
  • I hope Cathy Kelly was getting paid per interview for this episode…

Conclusion

NXT is great. You should watch it. Takeover will be amazing. Lots of call-ups to Raw and Smackdown to come at/after Mania. Exciting times. Simple as.

Josh.