Great googly moogly it’s finally here. After three months of suffering I’ve actually made it to Brooklyn, well only figuratively speaking of course. Though many have rightly claimed that I’m a foul, miserable and boring wrestling reviewer, I must concede that I’m actually quite excited for tonight. As all 4 of you know, I’ve become a very big Ember Moon fan over the last couple of months and I expect to weep passionately if and when she wins the women’s title this evening. Elsewhere there isn’t a ton of intrigue for me other than the greatest wrestler of all time: ‘El Idolo’ Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
Depending on how things go this show could very well lead to a Pizza-fuelled party at 4am or it could bring a definitive end to my troublesome fandom of professional wrestling. In many ways the stakes couldn't be higher and I sincerely hope that Hunter has me in my mind when putting this programme together tonight. If not, I’m going to tweet my displeasure until my fingers bleed and threaten to stop watching. If that doesn't work, my friend Mark and I are going to stop watching.
DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.
Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
As soon as I realized that these two men were opening I knew that we were about to get off to a great start and thankfully, that was indeed the case. Early on there was some absolutely superb counter wrestling and though this isn’t my favorite thing, these guys are so incredible at being both smooth and crisp all at once that it worked for me in a big way. The other absolute key to their excellence here was that throughout each exchange their faces portrayed every up and down. This was a simply masterful few opening minutes and just as impressive as it was engrossing.
Almas quickly got nasty and landed some super sharp offense as well as some vicious strikes even including a headbutt. He was real aggressive in control and that’s the way it should be, he even wrenched Gargano’s shoulder like it was WrestleWar 1992. Dope. Johnny fought back valiantly here though as the pair went back and forth including a brutal looking double clothesline and an incredible strike exchange. Gargano soon hit the big dive and then hit that cool DDT over the rope thingy which he protected by going for a lazy pin which Mauro called out as a mistake on commentary. Smart stuff.
Before long though Almas was back on top in an instant as he absolutely exploded with a ton of crazy stuff including a tornado inverted DDT for a stunning false finish. Almas body language both before and after the pin was wonderful and that allowed him to get a huge false finish for a move that isn’t even his finish. We then moved into a frankly obscene strike exchange that I’m not even going to try to recap but basically, it led to the Gargano Escape and that had the people absolutely hooked. After really milking the spot to perfection, Almas power-bombed out of it before nailing his knees in the corner, both of which seemed like potential match-enders.
Johnny soon fought from underneath and this crowd was rightly absolutely red hot. Before Johnny could close the show though, Vega threw a DIY shirt at him and that froze him for a costly second as Almas ended things in a second with his cool DDT. Wow what a brilliant finish. It furthers the impact of DIY’s split on Johnny and establishes Vega’s impact without hurting Almas’ win. Incredible. The work here was impeccable and it was all only made better by the crowd actually cheering the babyface, an aspect I think we all miss at times.
Those of you absolutely mental enough to have read along with these horrific ‘Report Cards’ will know that this was a very dramatic moment in my young life. We’ve come a long way from our underground # campaigns and though at times we reached some scary lows together, we persevered and on our own convinced Hunter to do what was right and #GiveAlmasAChance. It’s been emotional, it’s been real and most of all it has been gratifying. The best part? We’re only just getting started.
Grade: A* (Mandatory…and absolutely well deserved)
NXT Tag Team Championship
Sanity (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe) vs. Authors of Pain (c)
Before we got started here it was announced that Corey Graves would be on commentary for the next match. My lord this is like Heenan returning to the World Wrestling Federation at WrestleMania 17….well not quite but you get my point. The very first exchange here made me think that AOP were going to work babyface but thankfully, after some wild brawling it became clear that wasn't the case. There was some real explosive action early before Rezar and Akam got a little heat on Wolfe which led to Eric Young inserting himself in Killian Dain’s spot, therefore giving the match an underdog. Great idea.
Everything here was just super fun and AOP continued to show their immense progression with some awesome tandem offense. They soon got the heat on Young and this was probably the weakest portion of the match as it seemed the crowd tried to catch their breath and briefly struggled to get behind Sanity. Nikki Cross began to bang the canvas with her hands like Gedo in Sumo Hall though and suddenly the people came up just in time for an absolutely awesome Alexander Wolfe hot tag. Now we were rolling as he nailed big suplexes before just going berserk to a huge ovation.
He was soon cut off though and had to make the tag to Young as the babyfaces ran wild again like lovable lunatics. Nikki Cross even got involved in the fun but was caught by one of the big blokes in AOP until Dain murdered him, putting both through a table in a truly romantic moment that brought a tear to my fat cheek. The finish quickly followed and to a huge pop, we had new tag team champions. This was awesome and so was the post-match ReDRagon attack. Quite simply, this ruled.
Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black
After a quite spectacular entrance, Black traded kicks to the brain with Hideo early and it felt like I was sitting next to Dave at the Dome. In all seriousness, this really wasn't for me in its style but I did like the “real fight” approach in the first couple of minutes as the pace was pretty awesome. Black even started bleeding which was cool because blood is awesome and Itami soon got control and put a headlock on which seemed to really take the momentum out of the match as the crowd’s interest quickly fell. Itami did get me back interested again with some nice character work though as he mocked Black briefly.
Black’s comeback was fine but not as sharp as you would hope and overall, this just never really flowed for me. It was certainly fun though and ended very much how it started, with a whole lot of cool looking strikes including a head kick that Itami took expertly before almost immediately standing up afterwards. Kind of dumb. This really didn't need to be so long and they should get more creative with the match layout as far as Black goes but nonetheless, he eventually won with Black Mass when Itami’s anger got the best of him. Good match.
NXT Women’s Championship
Ember Moon vs. Asuka (c)
Big match feel here from the outset and that quickly translated to the action as Ember jumped on Asuka immediately which really got things off to a great start. Moon’s early aggression was perfect for this moment both from a character perspective as well as a match quality point of view too. Asuka soon turned it around though and hit a brutal suplex on the ramp before transitioning to working Moon’s shoulder inside the ring. Asuka’s work here in the heat was pretty damn great, especially the vicious stomps directly to the shoulder.
Every time Moon got the upper hand Asuka would quickly turn it around in a big way including hitting a german suplex into the turnbuckle. The champ then secured the Asuka Lock but Moon fought out and nailed a bad ass forearm/lariat thingy. Her ability to explode really is so unique in women’s wrestling and that skill allows her to stand out even when wrestling someone as great as Asuka. After a little more back and forth action, Ember nailed the Eclipse for a quite amazing false finish which was absolutely maximized by her own facial sell afterwards.
She then went up for another one but Asuka hid behind the referee leading to Ember going for a cross-body which with a pull of the tights turned into an Asuka pin. This was actually the finish at the famed Brighton house show I attended but the referee did his job this time and stopped the pin as the desperate Asuka seemingly began to panic. Ember was right there with her though, especially after a super kick failed to secure the win. After months of believing that she was just one Eclipse away from the title, that perception was shattered in an instant and Moon failed to recover, soon submitting to the Asuka Lock. This obviously made absolutely perfect sense because she had targeted the shoulder persistently throughout. Smart.
I have to be honest in saying that I do feel this was the time for the streak to end but I’m not going to judge the decision as it’s not fair to really criticize without knowing what’s next. The point is, this was an absolutely awesome match and the final 5 minutes were simply outstanding. Wonderful stuff and thankfully, Almas’ earlier win means that this didn't lead to me having a nervous breakdown. Thanks Hunter for throwing me a bone.
Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Roode (c)
I sense that this match is going to be very divisive. As many of you know, I’ve really struggled to connect with big Drew as a babyface and based on his minimal reaction here, I wasn't alone. However, I personally really enjoyed the actual work here. As the bigger man Drew was more powerful which led to Roode outthinking him for every brief moment of success. This was good stuff and I loved Roode basically celebrating the fact that he almost hit the Glorious DDT early. Just tremendous stuff. Drew soon targeted Roode’s back and Bobby did a phenomenal job of selling McIntyre’s strength and just general offense all around honestly.
What I really loved about this match though was the way that Roode had to go outside of his usual arsenal for any sustained control and that started with him hitting a blockbuster on the outside which allowed him to take over. Always love when Roode is in control because his work is so consistently crisp and controlled. Once again Roode left his comfort zone though, hitting a missile dropkick while on top. This elevates Drew automatically as it shows the level Bobby was having to go to for success. Drew soon fired back but his flurries of offense didn't seem to be really getting the ideal response.
That was kind of a problem throughout in a way as Roode’s best work comes when he works like an old school heel and that’s hard to do when wrestling a guy that doesn't seem to have completely connected as a babyface. Things escalated down the stretch though as McIntyre nailed a Claymore for a false finish before hitting a quite scary big dive. Roode fired back with an ARN ANDERSON spinebuster but that wouldn't get the win and nor would the Glorious DDT with Drew eventually winning the belt clean with one more Claymore.
That wasn't the end of things though as ReDRragon suddenly reappeared, distracting Drew to allow Adam Cole (BAY BAY) to debut and jump the newly crowned champ from behind. The crowd reacted massively towards Cole and this was a pretty damn hot angle to close the show on. The main event itself seems to have underwhelmed some but I personally thought it was a very good world title match and a strong end to a phenomenal show.
I have to say that this was one of my absolute favorite TakeOver shows of all time and probably my show of the year thus far. The opener was absolutely incredible and so was the women’s title match with the weakest bout being a still very good one between Black and Itami. I criticized the build-up to this show quite a bit earlier this week but as usual, the NXT roster exceeded expectations on TakeOver night and on this occasion, arguably more than ever before. A really brilliant show and a fitting finale to three months of these dreadful articles that I hope have brought you some joy at least once or twice along the way.
NXT leaves Brooklyn a very different product and ideally, these Report Cards will follow suit. If not, then I’ll proudly continue this journey of complete mediocrity and hopefully you’ll continue to be along for the ride.
Please comment your TakeOver thoughts in the comments below or just tweet me ‘Cien’ celebrations @JoeHulbert5 on Twitter.
I guess I’ll see you all tomorrow for THE BIGGEST PARTY OF THE SUMMER!