Kurt: Welcome one and all to a special edition of the NXT Spotlight here at TJRWrestling. I am joined by our fearless leader, John Canton, for a preview of the huge Takeover event from Brooklyn. This is the 4th venture to Brooklyn, and this show has become their biggest show of the year. The card for this show lives up to that stature, as it could be the best card in Takeover history. It feels like we’ve said that a lot this year, but that just goes to show the level of talent on this brand. There’s a lot to get to on this show, so let’s get right to it!
John: First of all Kurt, thanks for having me and second of all, stop calling me fearless. I have a lot of fears like sharks, snakes, big dogs and political discussions on social media, but I do appreciate the sentiment. As for this card, I am pumped. It’s a great lineup that is arguably the greatest card that there’s been for a NXT Takeover to date. I honestly think all five matches can reach the four star level (out of five) or higher and I can’t think of a card in the history of wrestling that has matches that good. Will they all make it to that level? I don’t know. It depends on the work of the performers, the timing of the matches and the booking. I’m optimistic about it because of the proven track record of these NXT Takeover events.
The Velveteen Dream vs. EC3
Kurt: With NXT sticking to only 5 matches for Takeover, it’s obviously hard to find a spot on the card. When you see this match and it’s the only non-title match on the card, it just speaks to the amount of talent on the show. It’s beyond insane. The only negative I have for Velveteen Dream is that none of his storylines last past one Takeover. So no matter how much more you want to see of him vs. Black or Ohno or Ricochet, you don’t end up getting it. This storyline with EC3 is no different. I feel they’re just starting to scratch the surface with one another, as “The Dream Experience” showed on NXT last week and especially their in ring segment this week, but I’m afraid after this is over that both men will go their separate ways.
I’d like to see Dream have a little longer in his rivalries and hopefully this will be that rivalry for him. EC3 is more natural as a heel, but comes across as such a start in NXT that it’s impossible to boo him, so I have no problem with NXT booking him as a babyface thus far. Another issue with Dream that I brought up at the last Takeover with Ricochet is that he hasn’t won a big match yet. He needs a win. Since this is EC3’s first rivalry in NXT, I think he’d be ok taking a loss here, especially if the feud were to continue. It’s vital for Dream to pick up some big wins so the fans don’t start to lose interest if it becomes predictable that he’s not going to win ultimately.
Prediction: The Velveteen Dream
John: This match could go either way and it feels like both guys “need” the win in terms of boosting one of them to the next level where they challenge for the North American Title or maybe the NXT Title by the time we get to the next Takeover. I could also see either guy losing a match here and then showing up on the main roster very soon too. Since Velveteen Dream is still in his early 20s and EC3 is in his 30s, that makes me lean more towards Dream as a winner in that scenario.
I was thinking about this in terms of faces and heels, but in NXT nearly everybody is cheered except for Ciampa these days. It’s not like being a heel or face matters that much. Fans are so into the show that they just want to cheer everybody that’s in the ring, including both of these guys. I say give them 15 minutes, let Dream show off and put EC3 over because I think he’s a guy that should go after the NXT Title. If it’s Dream that wins, that is fine too. I don’t think there’s a “wrong” choice here.
Winner: Velveteen Dream
NXT North American Title Match
Adam Cole (c) vs. Ricochet
Kurt: On any other Takeover without Ciampa vs. Gargano, and this match could easily be the main event. Even with Gargano & Ciampa, I think this will steal the show and ultimately be match of the night. The only thing that could keep that from happening is Ricochet having a nagging back injury, which has kept him out of the ring for a few weeks now. I’m sure with the lights bright in Brooklyn and a highly advertised match such as this, he’ll be full go for this one and it’ll be a sight to see. With no one knowing how long Aleister Black will be out, and no guarantee that he’ll return to NXT when healthy (see Drew McIntyre), there’s a top spot on the roster that’s up for grabs and I know both of these guys want it and could easily have it. Adam Cole is a rockstar and Ricochet is so smooth and flawless, it’s sometimes beyond comprehension. This is the first North American Title defense on a Takeover, and even though it was a shame it wasn’t on the last Takeover card, I know these two will make sure this is a title match not soon forgotten. To establish a new title, you have to make it feel important. These two will do just that and much more. A title change wouldn’t surprise me because Ricochet is so special, but with a new title, I think you need to establish the first champion for a lengthy reign.
Prediction: Adam Cole retains
John: This is another match where the heel/face doesn’t matter that much. Cole is a heel in the traditional sense, but fans cheer him and chant “Adam Cole BAY BAY” as if he’s the most popular guy on the show, so is he really a heel? Not in today’s NXT. Since Cole won the title he’s had a few title defenses, but nothing that memorable. I think if Ricochet wins the title then Cole could move up to the NXT Title, but if Richochet fails then they can probably do a rematch and have Ricochet win the title the next time they wrestle.
It’s funny thinking about this match because whenever I do Q&As I always get asked questions about what guys are going to be huge in WWE one day. For years I said Adam Cole and Ricochet as the answers. Now they’re having a big match at a Takeover and I still think both are going to be huge on the main roster even though neither man is big in terms of their size. They are both too good to be ignored. Anyway, I get the feeling that Cole is going to be needed in the main title picture (or in the Wargames match at the November Takeover show), so I am picking Ricochet here. I think Triple H wants to book Ricochet as a huge star in NXT, he can win this title, hold it for a long time and maybe win the NXT Title at some point next year too. Ricochet is a guy that is perfect for NXT.
Winner and New North American Champion: Ricochet
NXT Women’s Title Match
Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Kairi Sane
Kurt: It’s taken Sane almost a year since winning the Mae Young Classic to finally get to this spot as the sole #1 contender for the women’s title. Injuries and other women getting hot during that time (Ember and Nikki specifically) had left Kairi feeling in purgatory and almost an afterthought. Her renewed energy and slight character change (the changes are subtle, but definitely there if you’ve paid attention) has been a lot of fun to witness and she comes across as someone who REALLY wants this win. I love title matches where the title feels important, and this match is one of those type of title matches. Shayna is clearly proud to be champion and feels untouchable. Kairi clearly wants the title for her own personal satisfaction and to know she belongs here, while also wanting to put Shayna in her place since she knows that she can beat Shayna.
I know that this is another loaded card, but I really hope they can find 10-15 minutes for this match at least, and it’s not another short encounter like Baszler’s defense against Nikki was. Especially in Brooklyn, which was the home to possibly the greatest women’s match under a WWE banner ever, these two need to be allowed to have their own classic. I think since Kairi won at MYC, Shayna will win this encounter and we can have a rubber match in November (Even though on TV this week, they made this come across as the rubber match. But no one remembers the 2nd match they had). Gargano/Ciampa have proven that rematches at Takeover are ok.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler retains
John: I think these two women are destined to have two major matches. This one and another one at the Evolution pay-per-view in October, but that match could also involve multiple women to get more of the NXT women on the show. Anyway, I think Sane has to win the title at some point. I think the story has been pretty good with Sane trying to prove she’s tough enough to take down the bully Baszler, who is a very good traditional heel champion. I think it’s very possible that Baszler gets called up to the main roster in the near future, though, so it’s time to put the title on Sane.
My pal Kurt makes a good point because the women’s matches at previous Takeover events have felt too short. I hope they get in the 12-15 minute range to have a great match like we used to get with Asuka. I feel like they’ll do a story where Baszler works on the arm of Sane all match, then Sane managed to hit her top rope elbow, but it causes her pain and then Sane has to do it again to finish her off. It would be a cool moment for Sane.
Winner and New NXT Women’s Champion: Kairi Sane
NXT Tag Title Match
The Undisputed Era (c) vs. Moustache Mountain
Kurt: Everyone is talking about how jacked Dean Ambrose looks now and I’m over here still trying to figure out what the hell has gotten into Tyler Bate. That guy has gone from someone that didn’t even look like a professional wrestler to someone that looks like they know how to kill me with just their pinky and then sail away on their hundred thousand dollar yacht. He’s like the wrestling version of Bruce Wayne. I remember when Tyler & Pete Dunne had their first match at Takeover: Chicago and I just wasn’t interested at all in the UK scene (I just wasn’t knowledgeable at the time) and now here we are and those two along with Tyler’s partner Trent Seven, are three of my favorite performers in any promotion.
The two matches these two have had thus far have been impossible to keep up with as they are balls to the wall action. It’s hard to top what The New Day & Usos did last year, but if these guys top what they’ve already done here in Brooklyn, they may just do that. This match should be the catalyst for War Games in November, because if they hold true to the form they used last year with 3 teams of 3, then it should be Undisputed Era and British Strongstyle as two of the three teams. I don’t think Bobby Fish will be cleared by November, so I don’t see a traditional 4 on 4 War Games match happening.
Prediction: The Undisputed Era retains
John: This feels like match three in a best of three series similar to the main event. I loved the match they had during the last WWE NXT UK special and then they had an even better match on NXT TV. This match will be amazing based on the previous matches they’ve had with Trent Seven likely selling the knee injury the whole match. They’ll make a big deal out of a hot tag because of how the last match ended. When Bate gets going, the crowd should come alive and the action will be off the charts. This could definitely be the match of the night. As long as they get 15 minutes, it’s going at least four stars and has a chance to near the five star range. My expectations for this match are very high because of how special these guys are. When you have a special mix of talent, plus chemistry and a good storyline, that’s where you can really see the magic happen in the ring.
The way things have been set up on NXT TV makes it look like the War Raiders will be the next challengers. I think it makes the most sense to put them against The Undisputed Era. I know with the next Takeover being Wargames that means the Undisputed Era could be in that double cage match, but maybe they will drop the titles to the War Raiders on NXT TV before that. There are a lot of options for it.
Winners: The Undisputed Era
NXT Title Match – Last Man Standing
Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs. Johnny Gargano
Kurt: First and foremost, shout out to Aleister Black and I am very hopeful that this is a quick injury for him and nothing serious. He didn’t have the strongest reign as champion, especially with the expectations a lot of fans had for him, but he’s still an incredible performer with massive amounts of potential. As I wrote earlier, I would not be surprised if he didn’t come back to NXT. I’m sure though that HHH would like to get one last feud out of him with whomever they pick to say injured him. As for the match itself, I said last week in my TV recap that I felt this was a bad break for Gargano. (As much as a bad break can be when you’re main eventing your third straight Takeover.)
It seemed almost a certainty that Ciampa would pin Black in this match, after Gargano seemingly had it won, which would lead to the finale in LA at the next Takeover, where Gargano would finally win the title. Now that it’s been pushed up, I don’t know that they want to take the title off Ciampa this soon. So to me, the only logical thing to do in this match is do the St Valentine’s Day Massacre finish with Rock and Mankind where neither man ends up getting up at the count of 10. That way it’s still 1-1 and we can still get to November, where I would brush off the 3 Stages of Hell concept to finally put this rivalry to bed. I’ve seen some people complain that this is basically the same match they’ve already had twice, (Unsanctioned, Street Fight, Last Man Standing), but anyone that thinks they’re going to have the same match they’ve already had, clearly hasn’t been paying attention to this feud. This will be unlike anything we’ve seen between these two. They know what’s on the line and they will deliver.
Prediction: Neither man answers the count of 10
John: It’s a shame that Aleister Black suffered the groin injury and was storyline written out of the match due to a mystery attack. It’s not like I’m complaining about Gargano vs. Ciampa again because they have two five star matches this year already, but I was looking forward to the triple threat. Like Kurt said, I think Ciampa pinning Black was likely going to be the finish. Now that Black isn’t involved, what do they do? It’s a tough call.
I think it’s too soon to put the title on Gargano because Ciampa just won it a few weeks ago. The end of the story should be Gargano winning the title, but it just feels too soon for this to be the end. I wonder if there will be something cheap for the ending like maybe somebody shows up to help Ciampa beat Gargano. Since it’s a Last Man Standing match, there can be interference from somebody, but I don’t know who it would be.
An idea I had for the finish involves Aleister Black. When he lost the title, it was due to Gargano “accidentally” hitting him with the NXT Title during Black’s title match against Ciampa. What if Black appears out of nowhere and hits Gargano in the back of the head with the title when it looks like Gargano was about to win the match. Black can help Ciampa back to his feet and Ciampa can win. Black had surgery on his groin, but he can probably walk and maybe he will be on crutches. After Black knocks out Gargano, he can yell at him and say that Gargano was the one that attacked him in the parking lot. It would turn Black heel, Gargano can feud with him and they can go back to Gargano vs. Ciampa at another time. Black isn’t expected to be out for that long, so why not utilize him in the finish of the match to keep the story going? Gargano likely won’t be the guy that did attack Black, but if you turn Black heel then it’s a way to continue the story because Gargano is the one that cost Black the title. It’s all about setting a new feud.
I’ll go with Ciampa retaining the title. I don’t know how and I have my doubts that it will be clean, but I think the chase for Gargano needs to continue. Keep the title on Ciampa now. He will make an entertaining heel champion for the rest of the year and maybe Gargano gets the title at the Royal Rumble Takeover or maybe WrestleMania. There’s no rush. Their last two Takeover matches were five stars out of five in my ratings. Can they do it again? I don’t doubt them. They are too good at this and I fully expect another classic match this Saturday night.
Winner: Tommaso Ciampa
That’s a wrap for us. I will have a review of the show up late on Saturday night. I don’t think I’ll be able to write about it live because I have a family commitment I can’t get out of, but I should be able to get it posted late on Saturday. Kurt will probably write a review with his thoughts too, so we’ll let you know what we thought of the show.