TJRWrestling: WWE NXT Takeover Vengeance Day Preview (Balor vs. Dunne, Two Dusty Cup Finals)

John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling NXT Takeover Vengeance Day Preview. Sunday is Valentine’s Day and in the land of WWE NXT, they have decided to promote vengeance rather than valentines. That’s fine with me. This Takeover event has the usual five matches on the card. It’s weird that there is a Takeover card without any Undisputed Era members in a match, but that’s what we have here. There are two tournament final matches and three title matches.

Joining me for the preview are two guys that used to write about NXT weekly for us on TJRWrestling: Kurt Zamora and Lance Augustine. Let’s get to it.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE.)


Finals of Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai vs. Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon

(The winners of this match are the first ever Women’s Dusty Cup Champions and will receive a Women’s Tag Team Title match.)

Kurt: First off, the fact that the women’s division in NXT is so deep, that they were able to do this tournament, is nothing short of incredible. Add to that, the note from HHH’s media call today that the next PC class will have the biggest class of women entering in company history, just speaks volumes. I was prepared to pick Dakota and Raquel since they’re the established entity and have worked really well together. This would be a nice feather in their cap. However, now that there is a women’s tag title match on the line, and you have Nia and Shayna as the champions, I think it only makes sense for their challengers to be the babyfaces of Ember and Shotzi. I think Ember is still working her way back from her injury, but the Eclipse is as spectacular as ever, and I think putting her in a tag team right now is a good way to continue to work that rust off. Shotzi may be the most popular woman in NXT and has endless charisma with a ton of potential to go with it. Perhaps we see some dissension between Dakota and Raquel start here, as you know inevitably they will breakup with one of them becoming a strong babyface.

Prediction: Shotzi and Ember win the Dusty Classic

Lance: Gonzalez and Kai have worked together for a good while now, while Blackheart and Moon are new on the tag team scene. It’s awesome to see the women getting a Dusty Rhodes classic tournament as well, and I think these are two good teams to showcase their division. Moon was on the main roster for a little bit, but decided to return to her roots in NXT. She has the highest-profile as far as star power goes in the match, but I think all of them will do well. It was announced on NXT that the winner of this will get a shot at the Women’s Tag Team Titles, which are on the main roster. That’s awesome and it will be a huge moment for these two teams. Gonzalez and Kai seem like a team to me that is ready to break out and make that next step. As much as I like Moon and Blackheart, I feel like their time as a team will be over after this match.

Winners: Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai

John: It’s cool that NXT has a Women’s Dusty Cup for the first time ever. It was only an 8-team tournament compared to a 16-team tournament for the men, so it has felt a bit different. However, I have liked the matches and the teams have done a nice job of making it feel important. This is a tough pick because Raquel Gonzalez has been dominant for several months now by winning for the team in the WarGames match (where she pinned NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai) and being Rhea Ripley. I thought her team would win this tournament, but then WWE put the Women’s Tag Team Titles on Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax again. That made me re-think that prediction because it makes more sense for the babyface team to win. Since Moon and Blackheart haven’t been put over that much as a singles team, maybe they should win here. I like that idea. I’m not sure of this, but I’ll go with the faces to win with Blackheart pinning Kai to give Blackheart the big moment.

Winners: Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart


NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Kushida

Kurt: I believe I’ve said here previously that I didn’t think Johnny Gargano could pull off being a heel. Here we are though, and he’s the best thing going in NXT. He’s fully committed to it, and the way he and Candice use Austin Theory and Indi Hartwell has been nothing short of tremendous. The segment with Gargano in a wheelchair this past Wednesday was the most entertaining thing on either NXT or AEW. Pure Gold. Kushida, while taking a good while to find his footing in NXT, is doing some of his best work lately. He seems more grounded and confident in what he’s doing. I’m sure as time has passed, he’s just gotten more comfortable in America in general. I don’t quite see him at the level of Gargano yet still, so I don’t think we’ll see a title change, but I do think this will be a hell of a match and possibly Kushida’s best yet since joining the brand.

Prediction: Johnny Gargano retains

Lance: Gargano tried to get out of this match, but Regal called him out and here we are. Gargano has a fantastic track record of Takeover matches. I have no reason to think this would be any different. Kushida has shown that he can go in the ring and this should be an awesome back and forth match. The one pitfall I see with Gargano is where does he go from here if he loses? I think his time on top of NXT might be behind him, and it seems like the main roster doesn’t really have a spot for him. That leads me to believe that he retains the title and continues working with great wrestlers and being one of the top upper mid-card guys for the brand. I think if this match gets 15+ minutes, we will be in for another above-average outing. Gargano wins, and it might lead to a rematch at the next Takeover.

Winner and STILL NXT North American Champion: Johnny Gargano

John: I am really happy that Kushida has found his footing in NXT, so to speak. Kushida is such a talented worker that is excellent at submissions (especially arm submissions) and is fun to watch. Kushida should have an awesome match with Gargano, who is arguably the best overall performer in NXT. I assume that Kushida will focus on the left arm of Gargano for most of the match, he will likely keep going to it and trying to get Gargano to tap out, but I think Gargano will get an assist from Austin Theory to prevent Gargano from losing. Maybe even Candice LeRae shows up to help Gargano win. I just think it doesn’t feel like the right time for Kushida to win, so I’m picking Gargano to win. This might be the match of the night although there are several contenders for that title.

It seems like the seeds have already been planted for Gargano to feud with Dexter Lumis, so I think Lumis is going to be the guy to beat Gargano for this title.

Winner: Johnny Gargano


Finals of Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake) vs. MSK (Nash Carter and Wes Lee)

(The winners of this match are the Men’s Dusty Cup Champions and receive an NXT Tag Team Title match.)

Kurt: I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that GYV defeated Ciampa and Thatcher in the finals. Ciampa and Thatcher were my favorite pairing in the tournament and I loved the dichotomy of their feud turning into a partnership of respect. I hope that continues even after their elimination. I understand that this tournament is being built around MSK so they needed a really good heel team to go against in the finals to be showcased against. I’m sure I’m in the minority, and feel free to send your hate tweets to me, but I just haven’t been impressed with MSK yet. I don’t know what MSK stands for, they are victims of the NXT name generator, and they just seem like two wacky dudes that do some cool flips and then…. Shrug. With Lorcan and Burch being the tag champions, this is clearly getting built for MSK to win and challenge for the titles. Maybe I just need more time on them, and maybe this match will open my eyes to them, but heading into the show, I just have zero interest in this match.

Prediction: MSK wins the Dusty Classic

Lance: MSK has come on the scene and has impressed with their athleticism and teamwork. Both of these guys were relatively unknown, and this pairing just seemed like the best spot for both of them to be in. The Grizzled Young Veterans are a team that I watched extensively covering NXT UK and I always thought they were awesome. Two dudes that go in there, hit people in the mouth, and get out of town. Last year, they were in the finals of this tournament but came up short in losing to Pete Dunne and Matt Riddle. I think they avenge the loss here and go on to eventually win the NXT Tag Team Titles.

Winners: The Grizzled Young Veterans

John: I have been very impressed with MSK. It’s not like this is the first time I have seen them since I watched them as The Rascalz in Impact Wrestling as well. I still think WWE could have done more to tell us what MSK stands for, but I have loved how they have been booked. That tag team spot they do where Carter leaps into the air and Lee shoves him onto their opponent for a moonsault is so cool and innovative. When I think of Grizzled Young Veterans, they are such a talented team as well that reminds me of all of the great old school heel tag teams that I grew up watching. They’re so polished in everything they do. I think their style works no matter who hopes the opponents are.

This is going to be the first of many matches between these teams as they likely become the two main teams in the NXT tag team division this year. I’ll go with MSK to win here because I think they’ll beat the heel team of Burch/Lorcan to win the titles as well. However, I expect more MSK vs. GYV matches in the future and I look forward to them. This should be an awesome match.

Winners: MSK (Nash Carter and Wes Lee)


NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Toni Storm vs. Mercedes Martinez

Kurt: Props to Mercedes for being like Teflon when it came to the Retribution angle and making sure it didn’t stick to her. The interviews she has done, explaining why it didn’t work out, are the most PC ways to say, “I took one look at the group and said NOPE.” Seriously, props to her for knowing it wasn’t what’s best for her. Now she’s back in NXT, in the role that got her signed in the first place. NXT loves Triple Threat matches, but at least they’re usually really good trios put together. This is no exception. Io has been absolutely on fire as champion, gaining more and more confidence with each week that passes. Toni Storm has come into NXT with a lot to prove and embracing her new heel roots. I have really enjoyed the vignettes they’ve done for her, giving her a chance to speak and her promos have been solid.

This may not come across as a match that can steal the show, but I think it just might. These women are going to bring it and I would expect be given a good amount of time. Ultimately, I think Mercedes is in the match to take the fall and Toni and Io will continue as a feud moving forward. I would like to see Toni win the title in a one-on-one situation, so I think Io will win, but leaving Toni with a reason to demand another title shot since she won’t have been pinned.

Prediction: Io Shirai retains

Lance: Shirai has been on a roll since winning the title back in June. She has defended the title and beaten everyone they have put in front of her. I also talk about my love for Toni Storm and how I think she has all the potential in the world, and Martinez has spent time here and in AEW over the past year. This match should be a good one as I still believe that NXT has the best women’s division in all of wrestling. I guess that makes me a fan of this match.

I expect some great stuff between these three with a lot of athletic spots. The lingering question is going to be if they see one of these women dethroning Shirai. I don’t think this title will be on WrestleMania like the male counterpart is rumored to be, but I still think the stakes will be high in this one. As far as a winner, I will take Toni Storm to end the title reign and carry the Women’s division as we head into WrestleMania weekend. I do think this match might be sneaky good and is close to one of my most anticipated matches on the show.

Winner and NEW NXT Women’s Champion: Toni Storm

John: This should be a solid match. I think triple threat matches are difficult sometimes because it’s tough to get people excited about the nearfalls when we know the third person is there to break up the pin attempt. When Shirai won the title last spring it was in a triple threat match, so there is some history for her there. Shirai really hasn’t had a major feud for a few months now. Toni Storm’s heel turn was fine because I think she’s better in the role of a cocky heel. Mercedes Martinez is very motivated about getting a title shot. The NXT Women’s division is one of the biggest strengths of NXT right now, so there is no bad choice here. Hopefully they can put on a strong showing in this match.

I have written many times that I think the next NXT Women’s Champion is going to be Raquel Gonzalez, so I’m going with Shirai winning here.

Winner: Io Shirai


NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Pete Dunne

Kurt: This is the most excited I’ve been for an NXT Takeover Main event in at least a year, maybe two. I’m such a huge, huge fan of both men, especially Pete Dunne. Then you throw in the fact this is a first time ever matchup, and I’m all in for it. Both men are at the top of their game. Dunne came back from his pandemic hiatus, had clearly used the time to his advantage to get in the best shape of his life and now looks like a true killer. He has the confidence and seems ready for this moment. As Edge said about Balor, he’s on another level right now. He’s got swagger, he feels like he believes in his character for maybe the first time ever in his time at WWE, and most importantly, he can beat people on his own. He doesn’t need the crutch of The Demon anymore. He comes across as a badass instead of a plucky underdog. I expect this match to be as physical, if not more so than the pair of matches Balor had with O’Reilly.

I think both men clearly have looked forward to this matchup and have a lot to prove to not only the NXT Universe here domestically, but also in their home countries back in Europe. Even better about this matchup, it feels like a true pick’em. It feels like they’re investing a lot in Dunne as a top guy and I would love to see him as a top heel fighting off challengers such as Cole, Thatcher, Ciampa, O’Reilly, etc. Balor has less heels in waiting, but he is the face of the company right now and is really in a groove as champion. I’m making this pick purely on emotion, as I have no true feel on who will win. So that being said, I think it’s the start of the Brusierweight Era and we have a new NXT Champion.

Prediction: New NXT Champion, Pete Dunne

Lance: Without spoiling anything at the end of this column, this is my most anticipated match on the whole show. Balor has been on fire since coming back to NXT and won the title in a solid match with Adam Cole. That was after Karrion Kross suffered an injury in the match where he won the title first, but we will skip over that part. Balor is coming off a broken jaw suffered at the hands of Kyle O’Reilly during their title match, but seems to be back in tip-top form. This match has a heart and head feel to it. What do I mean by that? My heart wants one guy to win and my head knows the other one is probably going to. Pete Dunne is straight up, the man. I have loved his work for as long as I have seen him on TV, and his match with Walter for the NXT UK Title was one of my favorite matches in the last 5 years. I love his intensity and how he lays the moves in when he hits them. Balor is no slouch himself and has proven time and time again that he can hang with anyone in the industry. There are rumors of the NXT Title getting a match on WrestleMania, but Balor has said he would prefer for that not to happen. That notwithstanding, it wouldn’t really be up to him. This will be a brawl with a lot of high spots and near falls. This is going to come down to who Ol’ Trips thinks is the future of the brand. With WrestleMania weekend looming and Balor’s track record with this fan base, I think he is going to retain the title. Dunne will look good even in defeat, and I think he has an NXT Title run in him sooner rather than later.

Winner and STILL NXT Champion: Finn Balor

John: I’m excited about this match. It’s a big deal for European WWE fans as well because there’s an Irishman champion in Finn Balor facing a British challenger. As Dunne has said in building up the match, a lot of people have compared him to Balor, who is about 12 years older than Dunne. The age factor doesn’t matter that much. I’m only bringing it up because I can see Dunne having a career similar to Balor in that he can be a face or heel easily because fans are going to respect these kinds of wrestlers. They aren’t necessarily the biggest guys out there, but they are so believable in everything that they do. Believability is one of the most important things in wrestling and that’s where there are a lot of similarities between Balor and Dunne.

My biggest complaint about the match is that Dunne didn’t really win a match to earn this title shot. Prior to New Year’s Evil, Kyle O’Reilly beat Dunne to earn that title shot. Now it’s a month later, Dunne is in the title match basically because of a cheap attack on Balor. Normally NXT is better at that. They usually have somebody earn the title match for a shot at the NXT Title. However, when I think of the NXT Women’s Title match, that has had a similar build. Believe me, it’s not a major complaint. It’s more of an observation on my part.

I think this is going to be a long match in the 25-30 minute range because NXT has shown a willingness to give Balor a long time for his matches. I would expect both guys to sell body parts for a large portion of the match whether it’s legs or arms. That’s how NXT title matches tend to be. In the end, I like Balor finding a way to win the match with Dunne coming close to winning several times. This should be the best match on the card and one of the best NXT matches of the year. I have high hopes for it.

I don’t know when the next Takeover is or if they do an NXT Title match at WrestleMania, but I think doing a NXT Title match at WrestleMania between Balor and Karrion Kross would be pretty cool to see. Then again, if they did a multi-man match to get more NXT guys on the WrestleMania guys then I’d support that too.

Winner: Finn Balor


The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: Balor vs. Dunne and it’s not even close.

Lance: Balor vs Dunne.

John: Balor vs. Dunne for me too. I will add that I’m happy Kushida is in a title match at a Takeover, so that Gargano vs. Kushida match should be fun as well.


The Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: Men’s Dusty Classic Finals.

Lance: All of them are strong, but if I have to pick, I will go with the Women’s Tag match.

John: Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart vs. Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai. I think it’ll be good, but I like everything else a lot more.


Longest Match

Kurt: Balor vs. Dunne.

Lance: Balor vs. Dunne for NXT Title, but NXT Women’s Title could be the longest too.

John: Balor vs. Dunne as well because I think it’s going around 30 minutes.


Shortest Match

Kurt: Women’s Dusty Classic Final.

Lance: Grizzled Young Vets vs. MSK.

John: Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart vs. Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai. I think this will be the shortest match around 12 minutes.


Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: This is a one match card for me. The four undercard matches are solid to good, especially the women’s three way title match, but I’m invested in only one match and it’s the main event. That main event is so good though, I’ll give this card a 7.5 just based on that.

Lance: Takeovers are awesome, especially with a high-profile title match. I will go with an 8.25 here because I think all of the matches have the potential to be above average. 5 match cards are the best.

John: It’s an 8 for me because of the high expectations I have for every Takeover show. I think in terms of storyline for the matches, the Gargano/Kushida match might have the best build although there isn’t one that really stands out. When it comes to match quality, I think there will be three or four matches in that four star range (out of five) when I review it on Sunday night. I know the NXT brand isn’t as popular as WWE’s two main shows in terms of viewers, but when it comes to quality wrestling matches, Takeover shows always deliver.


In Closing

John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE NXT Takeover Vengeance Day on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night. Check it out live or on Monday or whenever it’s convenient for you.

Our Twitter handles are: Kurt Zamora – @KTankTJR, Lance Augustine – @CollectiveHeel and John Canton – @johnreport.

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.