Day 150: The Bad Sleep Well [NXT TakeOver Vengeance Day Roundup]
It didn’t take long, but I already started to phase out of NXT. The weekly grind is exhausting and having two competing shows on at the same time in this day and age isn’t doing anybody any favors. AEW has won over my Wednesday nights, as they have a combination of both legitimately good wrestling and a sprinkle of bollocks that I also crave. When I turn on NXT at 1 AM, it feels like an afterthought. And I’m sure a lot of people feel that way. No matter how much they want to, nobody is recreating the Monday Night Wars. It would be better for both companies if one of them would just step aside and move to Thursday Nights. A lot of fans watch both shows and they equally deserve our viewership. That said, I wasn’t even planning on writing about last night’s TakeOver. When I turned it on, I didn’t think I would have anything to say. 3 hours later, I was scooping my jaw off the floor. What occurred was 5 sublime matches that were all special in their own way, with a surprise ending that shocked my system. They may typically be terrible at getting wrestlers over and telling a story, but last night was a reminder that the brand can pull off some ridiculously good matches. So let’s, uhh, round it up.
Match 1: Women’s Dusty Cup Final – Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart
Aside from this capping off a great tournament, the sudden stipulation to this match felt like a godsend. Last Wednesday, it was announced that the winners of the Cup would get a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Titles. Finally. Some actual legitimacy. Since its inception, the Women’s Tag Titles have been misused and misrepresented. Usually held by one of the Women’s Champs, it’s a total nothing belt. Case in point: the current Tag Champs are a reformed cannibal and the “My Hole” lady. All the WWE needed to do was make NXT performers eligible and the floodgates of talent would open right up. The whole roster is chomping at the bit to get that kind of validation and they deserve it. There’s no doubt in my mind that either of the teams would take the titles with ease and then they can travel from brand to brand and elevate the respective Women’s divisions. Just that prospect alone made it the most anticipated match on the card [in my opinion, which is usually wrong]. It didn’t disappoint.
– It was such an evenly-booked match. Through the whole duration, it was unclear who was going to win and that kind of mystique just doesn’t happen much anymore.
– Seeing Raquel Gonzalez manhandle everyone, including her own partner, was a real treat. I haven’t been watching long, but I’m already seeing an improvement in her and they seem to be pushing her at just the right time.
– Even though the teams were cobbled together, it really didn’t seem that way. Shotzi and Ember seem to mesh really well and I could definitely see them getting a rematch once Dakota and Raquel get their hands on the titles.
– All around, it was just a solid, well-paced, well-booked match. It should set an example on how Women’s Tag Matches should go, because what they’ve been throwing on Raw and Smackdown is nowhere near this caliber.
– There was so much telegraphing going on. This seems to be Shotzi’s specialty. It’s great that they’re trying new things and working on advanced choreography [because in the end, it made it a much better match], but there was just a lot of adjusting and spot waiting. It’s a tricky thing to complain about, because ultimately it increases safety and decreases botches, it’s just a little hard to watch sometimes.
– The heels won. By the end of it, I really didn’t care who won, as they both deserved it. But heels winning is still boo-worthy, whether they won fairly or not.
Rating: 4.5 Holes out of 5
Match 2: North American Title – Johnny Gargano [C] def Kushida
The sleeper match of the night was also the one with the most heat. I don’t know how that works, but here we are. The buildup to this match was stellar, as Gargano is by far the best mic worker on the brand. Meanwhile, Kushida has been languishing in the states for two years now and this is his first realistic shot at anything resembling a push. What transpired was a master class on how wrestling should be. There was an equal amount of body work and risky maneuvers. There was absolutely no filler. They spent 25 minutes beating each other within an inch of their lives. They could have went 25 more minutes because after all they put themselves through, they still maintained a high amount of energy. Afterwards, Kushida went on to say that this was the reason he left New Japan. I 100% believe this sentiment. After what they did, there’s no reason to not push them both all the way to the moon. It was the match of the night, it was the match of their careers, it was the match that you should be putting on right fucking now.
– Everything about it
Rating: 5 wheels out of 5
Match 3: Men’s Dusty Cup Final – MSK def Grizzled Young Veterans
This match didn’t have the high implications that the Women’s match did. It was literally just for bragging rights [to whom they would brag to, I have no clue]. It also included two teams that I knew literally nothing about. Grizzled Young Veterans have done very little to impress me since their return and I legit had no clue who MSK was. I thought they were some 205 Live jobbers that I didn’t need to know about, but then they kept winning tournament matches. So I didn’t know how to feel going in and frankly, it was probably for the better. It was a tag team clinic that essentially burned their names into my memory.
– Much like the other tournament match, this was also booked very evenly. I was on the edge of my seat for the last half, as I winced through near falls galore.
– Their differing styles meshed well. MSK is a couple of baby-faced high flyers, while the Grizzled Young Veterans are a couple of bruising shit kickers. Imagine, if you will, that the Hardys had a long program with the Acolytes. They built it up for months and months, culminating in a perfectly-booked title bout at Wrestlemania. This was that match, as they perfectly channeled those who paved the way for them.
– It could’ve been slightly shorter? I guess?
– Even though GYV was the supposed heel team, there was very little heat.
Rating: 4.75 Swanton Bombs out of 5
Match 4: Triple Threat For The NXT Women’s Title – Io Shirai [C] def Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez
This one seemed to be put together loosely. I didn’t really realize that the match was going to happen until just before it did. There are much more capable contenders for the title, but they were all busy with the Dusty cup. If this were the main brand, Io would just not have a match. On Raw and Smackdown, they aren’t very keen on making the women’s title get defended if there’s nobody capable of doing it. Just look at Asuka. Did you even remember that she’s the champ? You probably didn’t, because the only other A or B list women on Raw are busy doing their own thing. So good on NXT for giving their champ something to do.
– Everything that Io does is magic. She can take any garbage match and elevate it by literally elevating herself. Even in the short amount of time, she was still able to cram in 2 very high spots and get up to win the match. And without a full crowd, it’s even more fun, because the camera will hide her until she’s ready to jump. As soon as you wonder where she is, surprise, she’s 40 feet in the air, ready to come crashing down. It’s not at all a sustainable practice, but holy shit is it fun to watch.
– At 12 minutes, it was a very economical match.
– Again, the match didn’t feel at all necessary. Nobody actually believed that Io was giving up the strap.
– While prepping the announce table to throw somebody through it, Toni Storm must have ripped out a monitor too hard. The whole thing collapsed on its own. It was a very awkward moment that nobody knew what to do with.
– It was by far the weakest match on the card. But I maintain that if you compare it with the stuff they’re putting on the main brands, it’s still better just based on Io’s spots alone.
Rating: 4 ridiculously thick thighs out of 5
Match 5: NXT Title – Finn Balor [C] def Pete Dunne
Going into this one, the main draw was that after a decade of dodging each other, Balor and Dunne were finally in the same place at the same time, ready to fight one another. Other than that, there was really not much more buildup. Mainly because there didn’t need to be. Everything that Finn grapples turns to gold. It seems impossible for him to put on a bad match. And Pete Dunne is…uhh…very orange, but I’m told that he’s also quite good. In the end, we got exactly what we expected.
– These guys really did try to kill each other. Dear God. Just a full half hour of bone-crunching twists and brutal hits.
– There’s really nothing else I can say. That’s the problem with critiquing things that are good. There’s only so much you can say to express how it was good. With bad things, I can crack my knuckles and clack away. It was simply a great match. Go and watch it. You won’t be shocked and amazed by things you’ve never seen before, but you’ll be entertained the whole time.
– The match felt short. Even though it clocked in over 25 minutes, it didn’t seem like they were done when it ended.
Rating: 4.75 numb jaws out of 5
Afterwards, Pete Dunne’s cronies came out and attacked Balor. The fact that they waited until after the match to do this spoke volumes about how much NXT cares about the craft of the wrestling itself. If this were on the main brand, Finn would be spending the whole time fighting off 3 guys. But instead, they just let the match breathe. Anyways, they were beating the shit out of Finn and as expected, the Undisputed Era came out to save the day. Finn Balor joining the Undisputed Era has been hinted at just as hard as Adam Page joining the Dark Order. And for once, Finn finally took Kyle O’Reilly’s hand and they all stood together for an ending pose. The credit came up on the lower right, but before Finn could extend his Bullet Club gesture, Adam Cole’s foot went right into his face. He dropped harder than my jaw did. This action was highly contested by O’Reilly, so he also got a superkick to the face. In the end, Adam Cole left alone while Roderick Strong stared at his two fallen comrades in confusion. It was the most un-NXT ending ever and I was all for it.
Overall, Vengeance Day did a lot to reignite my interest in NXT. They puled off some amazing matches and gave us a twist that’s going to shake the whole foundation of the brand. If you have any fondness towards wrestling, just watch it. Watch it now. I don’t even have to wait. The roundup is over.
Overall rating: 4.75 imploding tables out of 5