Well friends, tonight’s the night. Six months ago we began this journey and our mission was summed up by a few simple hashtags: #CienDeservesBetter and #GiveAlmasAChance. As I told you all then, nothing is more impactful in wrestling than a social media campaign and as the last six months have shown, I couldn't have been more spot on. Together we’ve fought valiantly and guided the great ‘Cien’ up the card and it’s now time to write the final chapter of our wonderful fairy-tale story. In the form of his life and with the wonderful Zelina Vega by his side, tonight Almas finally gets the chance to claim the NXT crown as he takes on the cowardly Scotsman: Drew McIntyre.
Andrade, the Report Card world is watching on and we are all on the edge of our seats. Make us proud. Wrestle well, look super handsome and get yourself that title belt. Why? Because you deserve it sir and so do we as your loyal servants. The tension is suddenly all too much for me now anyway so let’s get this agony over with and head to the most certainly not sold out Toyota Centre.
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.
DISCLAIMER: if Andrade loses tonight I’ll probably never produce another Report Card in my life. Considering that and the slim likelihood that he actually wins, I recommend that you enjoy this one while it lasts.
Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan
Our opener is unsurprisingly the recently booked match between LARS and NXT’s resident Roy Nelson, our mate Kassius Ohno. The ‘knockout artist’ landed some big strikes immediately too, landing hard on Sullivan’s dome before he was run over by the charging Lars. The 1980s heel beat Ohno up a little and even hit a diving shoulder tackle off the apron before Kassius fought back briefly until his kip up was met by a clothesline. Sullivan stopping Ohno in his tracks became a recurring theme also, as he next destroyed him with a pop up power slam.
He then got a little carried away though and missed a diving head-butt which gave Ohno time to make a huge strike filled comeback but he was unable to floor Lars until pulling out the cyclone kick for a two count. Lars quickly sat up and demanded that Kassius kick him in the face a little more and Ohno did just that but it didn't matter as Sullivan stood up at the count of one following an onslaught of kicks and even a senton. One final strike exchange went Kassius’ way but Lars then caught Ohno and picked him up for the Freak Accident and the win.
This was a fun opener and I liked that it was super quick as that was clearly the best thing for Lars’ progression. He looked great here and Ohno spotlighted him nicely whilst also shining himself but if I was to have one slight complaint, it’d be that I wish Lars had more sustained offense prior to the finish as though it wasn't the intention, the ending felt a little out of nowhere rather than it being the culmination of dominance. This absolutely served its purpose nonetheless as it made both guys look good and got the show off to an exciting start.
Side-note: I have no choice but to grade this match super high as it did almost exactly what it was intended to do. That doesn't mean that it was the best match of the night by any means but instead that it was very well done for its own expectations and aims. Each match has its own end game and in my mind, they should be judged as such.
Aleister Black vs. The Velveteen Dream
As many of you know, I’ve loved every minute of the build up to this match and even still, Dream went the extra mile to secure my fandom and came out with Rick Rude style tights featuring both his and Black’s face with the words “Say My Name” front and center. Dream’s sheer presence and charisma earned him chants from the crowd and I’m so happy to see a guy truly get himself over on NXT TV as that’s not all that common in the product’s current format. Early on Black out-wrestled Dream technically and simply wouldn't be baited into his rival’s antics but his tactics would seem even smarter once we saw Velveteen surprisingly get the better of the match’s first strike exchange.
Black stuck to his game-plan though and some mind games from the Dutchman drew Dream hip gyrations and suddenly they were sitting opposite each other cross-legged. Dream eventually got the upper hand too, using the rope to clothesline Black and break his grip before hitting a superkick for 2. He followed that with a Rude Awakening for a false finish and goodness gracious this man may be a bigger Rick Rude fan than me and I previously thought that was impossible. In a call-back to their recent NXT segment, Dream then tied Black up in the ropes and asked what his own name is but Aleister fought free and made his comeback.
They were trading cool moves before long also as Black hit his springboard moosault for 2 and Dream fired back with the always awesome Death Valley Driver for another false finish. He then hit a super wacky DDT after kicking out following a sharp knee but his Purple Rainmaker attempt was stopped by Black’s boot and that sent him back into the ropes as he was tied up just like Aleister moments ago. There was no stalling on Black’s part though as he kicked Dream in the face but King Velveteen came back with a super kick which Aleister somehow responded to with a spinning knee of his own.
Moments later Black closed the show with Black Mass and though I’m unsure as to whether or not it has translated through my recap, this match really was quite special. Following the finish, Black grabbed a microphone and in his super cool voice said “enjoy infamy…Velveteen Dream.” HE SAID HIS NAME. Wow, this was quite special. Aleister Black performed very well and I don’t want to ignore his efforts but in my humble opinion The Velveteen Dream just put in one of 2017’s great performances.
I don’t know where this gimmick really takes Dream in the long run but one thing is for sure, he’s going to absolutely maximize it. Everything about him stood out here and considering that he’s just 22 years old, it’s fair to say that this young man may be something very special sooner rather than later. This was a star-making showing and Dream confirmed his spot in my heart with the Rude tribute stuff. Wonderful stuff.
NXT Women’s Title
Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce vs. Kairi Sane vs. Ember Moon
Time for our first title match of the night now as the vacant women’s title is on the line and I’ll concede straight away that this one is going to be tough to recap. Early on they all had their own neatly sequenced cool moment until just Kairi and Ember were left and Moon got the better of it and hit a dive on Cross and then a…*checks notes* TOPE SUICIDA on Kairi and Peyton. Cross cut her off though and the two fought on the outside before Moon brutally power-bombed her on the floor.
Royce, Kairi and Moon remained and Sane got the best of it with a spear on Peyton but Ember cut her off on the top rope and we got a fun but predictable tower of doom spot as usual. Cross eventually came back in and ran wild on all three, even hitting a spinning neckbreaker on Kairi but Ember broke the fall. Cross wasn't deterred though and hit another spinning neckbreaker, this time on Moon and elevated by the top rope. Royce came in as Ember rolled out of the ring and hit her always dope fisherman suplex on Cross but Kairi broke it up…I think.
Kairi then laid Peyton out on top of Cross (therefore pinning her unless I’m very silly) and went up top to hit her famous elbow drop on both women but Moon broke that fall up and went up top herself to hit the Eclipse on Peyton and Cross for the title win! I understand that I’m in the minority here but to me Ember was absolutely the correct winner tonight and I felt that was clear purely from this match. I think Peyton is very talented but I’m not quite seeing the world-beater that others are yet and from my vantage point, when that bell rings Moon is just better than her peers and by a pretty large margin at the moment too.
I will say that I think NXT completely dropped the ball as far as properly telling Moon’s redemption story and considering that this was in her home state of Texas, that’s a pretty big error on their part. Moreover, as an Ember fan I’d have much preferred her crowning moment came in a singles match. This was fun for what it was but also struggled to have much lasting impact on me just like most other multi-woman matches of its kind. Not a knock on the talent, I just don’t love the format.
Andrade ‘Cien' Almas vs. Drew McIntyre (c)
The moment of truth has arrived friends. Team Report Card has had a good night so far with Ember Moon picking up the NXT Women’s Title but that moment all becomes useless if ‘Cien’ falls at the finish line. This journey has been one of drama, joy and distress but it’ll all be worth it when he raises that belt high above his head. Either way, enough stalling, let’s get to the match. Following our championship introductions, ‘Cien’ disrespected McIntyre and then hid behind Zelina before out-grappling Drew early. Arrogance quickly cost Almas though as his old habits returned and earned him kick to the face.
Looking for every advantage possible, ‘Cien’ distracted the referee to allow for Zelina’s now famous hurricanrana but Drew caught her and before long was running wild on Almas but ‘Cien’ turned things around with a headscissors into the ring post and then a spectacular moonsault to the floor. He then hit that silly double foot stomp gimmick that Alberto Del Rio always does and followed up on it with the double knees in the corner. McIntyre was down but not out though and a strike exchange soon erupted and eventually led to Drew hitting the Future Shock DDT for 2.
‘Cien’ quickly turned things around again, sending McIntyre face first onto the top turnbuckle and hitting the double knees to the back of the head. The champion once again kicked out though and Almas had now become very angry and left the ring to go and grab the belt for no apparent reason. Well that was what the humanoids in the arena thought anyway until the plan became clear and Zelina snuck in to nail Drew with a spike rana. Almas then rolled back in and hit the Hammerlock DDT for the wi…..NO! SUPERDREW KICKED OUT!
Tears are now streaming down my face and the sadness is only heightened when Drew hits a Claymore just moments later. Thankfully, Zelina is there again and placed Almas’ foot on the rope (kinda) just in time. Drew’s next attempt at some sort of big kick missed as Vega pulled Andrade out of the way and Lord Almas took advantage, hitting an elevated DDT for the 1…2….3!!!!!
OH MY GREAT BALLS OF FIRE HE’S DONE IT!
THE BOYHOOD DREAM HAS COME TRUE!
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas is our new NXT champion and it’s all because of me and my humble Report Card. What a wonderful moment to cap off our incredible 6 month journey to greatness. This match probably should’ve just ended with the Hammerlock DDT following Zelina’s initial interference but I’m absolutely not going to complain or care about the finish when its end result was Andrade becoming the new champion. In all seriousness, this was yet another great match with Andrade involved and he absolutely deserves this victory. 2017 has brought a lot of changes to NXT but Almas’ match quality has been one of the few constants and I’m glad he’s been rewarded for that.
Grade: A* (mandatory)....probably more a B+ for anyone that's insane enough to actually care.
Sanity vs. The Undisputed Era vs. The Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong
Main event is up next folks and as we all know, it’s the return of everyone’s favorite two ring match type: WarGames. We got started with Eric Young, Adam Cole and Roddy Strong (sporting AOP gear) here and the two babyfaces cornered Cole before things quickly broke down and everyone began fighting each other. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this opening five minutes as not too much happened and it lacked the kind of intensity that you’d like to see in a match built on “war”. I think part of that is that though the build-up was solid, the gimmick did feel forced initially and it took these guys a while to shake that perception in my view.
The Undisputed Era were the first team out of their shark cage and I’m not sure about this format of both members coming in at once but nonetheless they unsurprisingly did some neat tandem offense and quickly brought a little energy to proceedings. This portion of the match still did feel a little cold for me but that would soon change as a shift in intensity made this feel much more like WarGames sooner rather than later. That’s exactly what happened when The Authors of Pain entered too as they ran wild and murdered everyone in dope fashion. Suddenly this was really picking up.
Sanity was obviously in next and they brought a whole lot of weapons with them too. Killian Dain waited just long enough for the “WE WANT TABLES” chants to make their involvement feel organic too and that was a nice touch. At this point the action really escalated and Sanity in control was a ton of fun. Dain somehow found himself fighting both members of AOP and he did it well, hitting a double splash and an awesome senton/drop kick combo. He then hit a cross-body off the top rope and focused on The Undisputed Era.
Rezar and Dain landed synchronized double fall away slams before brawling with each other and Dain got the better of that too until Akam cut him off. The Undisputed Era then took over and this was really getting going in a big way now. O'Reilly even used a chain to assist his arm bar and whilst I admit that it wasn't as cool as it sounds, the idea was based on the kind of violence you want from a WarGames match and that I appreciate. Just as he hyper-extended the arm, Young made the save with an elbow drop and Bobby Fish then made a save of his own with a beautiful moonsault to stop EY from getting the pin.
AOP had now re-emerged and hit the Super Collider with Dain in between the two Undisputed Era bodies but Young fought the former tag champs off and Death Valley Driver’d Rezar directly on top of Akam. Out of nowhere Roddy fired up with all his cool moves and two tower of doom spots suddenly left Cole as the last man standing but AOP soon took that privilege from him and set up two tables for his demise. Wolfe halted that plan though and German suplexed Rezar through both tables which seemed to lead to a lot of blood from poor Alexander’s head.
Meanwhile, Cole climbed to the top of the cage but that didn't stop Dain from hitting a trash can assisted coast to coast on O’Reilly. Once again everyone but Cole was floored but Roddy soon made it to his feet and met Cole on top of the cage, stopping his attempts to escape too. From there he hit an absolutely terrifying suplex from the top of the cage onto the group of humanity below but somehow Cole still kicked out. It was chaos once again as everyone hit their big moves until Roddy and Cole had another face-off and went head to head one final time.
Young interjected himself though and eventually ate a chair supported shining wizard from Cole who won the match for his team. Fair to say a lot happened here and after relatively bland start, things got really exciting down the stretch as the violence escalated and with it the drama too. In the end they really captured the dangerous essence of the match and it was a fun watch that everyone contributed to. I would say that I felt it was a little long and that I don’t think Cole should’ve won so admirably or valiantly. To me it doesn't really fit his character and only makes him harder to boo. Nonetheless, WarGames’ return was a pretty undeniable success in my mind and I hope it becomes a yearly thing.
As per usual, NXT TakeOver delivered and in many ways, exceeded expectations. WarGames was a unique and quite enthralling main event and ‘Cien’s title win felt both gripping and dramatic. Elsewhere we got a pair of exciting matches that fell on the shorter side and a storytelling masterclass with Black’s match against the show’s breakout star: The Velveteen Dream. I’m not always overly positive about some of the more befuddling aspects of NXT’s overall product but their ability to churn out incredible TakeOver events really is incredible. Another great show and at this point, I refuse to be surprised by that. Huge thumbs up!
Before I sign off I just wanted to thank everyone that’s read any single one of these silly articles over the last six months. I’m sure there’s better places for you guys to get insight or analysis on NXT but at the very least, I hope I’ve made you smile every once in a while in my obnoxiously long breakdowns. Andrade’s rise to this title win and the way it outrageously correlated with these Report Cards is something that I’ll always remember fondly and for that reason, I thought I’d thank those of you crazy enough to actually read these things.
Please comment your TakeOver thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert like many others already do. See you all tomorrow for Survivor Series guys…provided I survive ‘Cien’s celebration party of course.