It’s been called the WrestleMania of NXT by none other than the man behind the scenes running the whole operation, Triple H. This year was NXT’s third trip to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY to run their biggest show of the year and as usual…they didn’t disappoint!
A little backstory here…I was at the first one of these things two years ago when Bayley defeated Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Title, Finn Bálor successfully defended his NXT Championship in a ladder match with Kevin Owens and Jushin “Thunder” Liger wrestled in a WWE ring for the first and only time of his career to date. Fast forward two years and they’re piggybacking these TakeOver events onto the weekends of WWE’s big 4 Pay Per Views (Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, Summer Slam and WrestleMania) and putting them in normal sized arenas which they would typically run shows like Monday Night Raw and most other Pay Per View events with the exception of WrestleMania or this past year’s Royal Rumble. But Brooklyn was the first place they dared to put an NXT show in a 15,000-seat arena and they sold the place out two years ago. This year? Not so sold out. The upper bowl was all curtained off on the hard camera side of the arena and the lower bowl section on the hard camera side had quite a few open seats. But that didn’t stop the NXT crew from putting on a great show for the fans who did come to see them!
For me, getting good seats for killer pictures is as big of a priority as is just being there live for the experience. This year, I was able to score a seat where I typically like to sit for wrestling events…directly across from the entranceway in the lower bowl. Clearly, for me…this was a great night not only from the matches that were put on, but also for my own enjoyment of being able to get the shots I wanted. And for all the shots I’ll be sharing here in this post, they were all amazingly taken with my phone!
Before the start of the TakeOver event, they typically run a few matches to record for the following week’s NXT episode on the Network. This time, I was pleasantly surprised to get a match featuring guys from the somewhat newly formed WWE UK group! We were given a tag team match pitting former WWE UK Champion, Tyler Bate and “Mustache Mountain” Trent Seven vs. Wolfgang and current WWE UK Champion, “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne. No secret here, I was psyched to be able to see Dunne wrestle live since I’m such a huge fan of the guy!
Onto the TakeOver event & my thoughts…the reason everyone is here reading this, right? The one major thing I noticed this time was how much more “produced” this one was as compared to 2 years ago. Let me explain: for as much as they’re all about the in-ring competition, this year they continued to bring in main roster talent and bring them down to ringside for each match. And then, following the match, they’d be escorted back out of the seats they were occupying while other talents were moved into other seats for another match. They even had a number of WWE talents occupy a luxury box to shoot a segment showing how interested both Raw & Smackdown General Managers Kurt Angle and Daniel Bryan were in this show…only to have that same luxury box cleared out minutes later.
Looking back to the first Brooklyn TakeOver event, the only stuff like this I can remember happening is them putting Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair down at ringside for the NXT Women’s Title match between Bayley & Sasha Banks. Beyond that, maybe they showed Stephanie McMahon at one point, but I honestly can’t even be sure of that.
The matches themselves were all great top to bottom as usual for just about any NXT show. Johnny Gargano & Andrade “Cien” Almas had a great, fast-paced match that had the live crowd in a frenzy towards the end which also showcased each of their athletic abilities in the ring well. Aleister Black had a great showing against Hideo Itami, who is really playing up his newfound heel persona quite well! Black’s entrance benefited greatly by having the live band playing him to the ring…giving us fans reason to believe that WWE sees big things for him in the future.
As I had hoped, they moved the NXT Tag Team titles off of the Authors of Pain and onto SAnitY by means of invoking a form of Freebird Rules, only it wasn’t quite a “any two of these people can wrestle in this match” as it was more of an “anything goes” match which saw all four members of SAnitY (including Nikki Cross) work together to unseat the Authors of Pain as champions. Though I wouldn’t have expected it to go down quite as it did, I am glad they moved the belts to SAnitY since once the AOP won the titles and team #DIY broke up after Tomasso Ciampa turned on Johnny Gargano, the NXT tag division looked kinda bleak. When Heavy Machinery emerged as likely opponents for AOP, things started looking up until AOP took care of them in short order. Now, at least SAnitY should be seen as being on AOP’s level and with the beatdown that ensued after the match with former Ring of Honor tag team, reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly). So technically now, you have three tag teams that should be vying for those titles.
As it pertains to the Women’s Title, Asuka and Ember Moon had an awesome match that once again showed that Ember Moon can hang with the undefeated, longest reigning title holder of the modern era in WWE. Unfortunately, there was no title change. Not taking anything away from Asuka, but the last time these two faced off, they told the story that Asuka had to take a shortcut to be able to walk out with her title, which set up this match with the belief that Ember was finally someone who could go toe to toe with Asuka. But now, even though they had an amazing match that had the crowd on the edge of their seats, having Asuka go over now puts her on a plateau that no one can reach. I really think they had an opportunity here to make Ember Moon be Asuka’s equal, instead now they’ve blown that chance.
And while we’re on the topic of “the wrong person went over”, Drew McIntyre defeated Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship. Now here’s how I see things here…Drew McIntyre is a bit more of a rugged, man’s man type of guy while Bobby Roode is all pomp & circumstance. He has this big over-the-top persona who believes he’s all that, has a big elaborate entrance, gorgeous sequined robes and music that screams “This dude is MONEY!”. He’s a guy who NEEDS to have that gold belt around his waist, who needs to be Champion so he can continue to tell you that you’re in “Bobby Roode’s NXT”. But now that’s all gone. Roode lost and McIntyre got beat down by reDRagon & a debuting Adam Cole…and ya know what the funny thing is? When McIntyre won, I was sitting there thinking about not only how unhappy I was with the decision to move the belt off of Roode, but also how funny it would be if they repeated themselves here in beating down the new champion right after he won the title. AND THEY ACTUALLY DID IT! So for all the times I’ve heard or read stories about guys complaining about their big spot being done earlier in the show before they had a chance to go out and do it and how now that it’s been done, it won’t have the same wow factor…well, by laying out McIntyre, they did just that. And while a lot of the Brooklyn crowd left there ecstatic about the debut of this new faction, it just all left a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m sure that Triple H and company will give me plenty of good storylines coming out of this, I’d have just rather seen two other finishes here.