Posts tagged Authors of Pain
NXTop10: The greatest matches in NXT Takeover history

Capping off a wonderful first year of The Barber's Chair with our latest NXTop10! Rob, Chris, Lincoln and Post Wrestling's Braden Herrington join Pierce as they count down the 10 greatest matches in NXT Takeover history!

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The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked

The fourth installment of TakeOver: Brooklyn is just a few days away. Chris Novak decided to delve into the previous three editions and rank all 17 matches that have taken place inside Barclays Center. The results... okay, they probably won't shock you TOO much.

TakeOver: Brooklyn is NXT's WrestleMania. Back on August 22, 2015, this event became the first NXT show to be aired on the WWE Network outside of their home of Full Sail University. To say there was pressure for the superstars of the brand to deliver that night was putting it mildly. The crowd certainly showed out in full force, as a sellout crowd watched history unfold before their eyes. The show was an absolute home run, and set up a chain of events that have led to TakeOvers being part of Big 4 weekends (and Money in the Bank, as well) now in 2018.

A TakeOver event is the surest bet in wrestling today. Duds have been few and far between, and it's arguable that there simply just hasn't been one. The events that took place in 2014 haven't aged too well, but even those have several outstanding matches that still hold up to today's standards. But TakeOver: Brooklyn? Well, the first three have been amazing in their own right, and it looks like that trend is going to continue for the fourth installment this coming week.

But enough about the not-so-distant future. Let's talk about the past. 

There have been 17 matches to take place at the last three TakeOver: Brooklyn shows. Every NXT Championship has been defended at these events, of course, and we've seen a total of 41 superstars either in the matches or at ringside. From Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Bayley, to Blue Pants and Alexa Bliss, to Austin Aries and Adam Cole (BAY BAY!)... stars and notables you may've forgotten from the wrestling world have made their presence felt at Barclays Center. 

And now, presenting: The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked!

17. Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: **

Before she got in position to beat the streak in 2017, Ember Moon made her debut in front of the Brooklyn crowd in 2016. Moon was slated to face Billie Kay, an Aussie rookie herself, in Ember’s first match ever. Moon won rather decisively in a match that went less than 7 minutes, as she hit the Eclipse on Kay for the victory.

A few fun facts here: firstly, this is still the last TakeOver event to have two women’s matches on the card. Secondly, this was Billie Kay’s one and only TakeOver match ever.

The Verdict: This gets put near the bottom only by default, really. It’s not that it wasn’t a good match; it’s just that it was a showcase match for Ember and went a very short amount of time. Ember looked good and gave fans a small glimpse of what was to come for her in the future.

Kay, meanwhile, had a decent performance herself, played her role and played it well. Two stars for this one.

16. Tye Dillinger vs. Apollo Crews, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: **

The debut of Apollo Crews. Crews got a couple video packages en route to Brooklyn, and the folks behind the scenes decided to pit him against Tye Dillinger. This was Dillinger’s first TakeOver match of five, but he was certainly less of a fan favorite than he would soon become. It was also one of the first televised uses of his “Perfect 10” gimmick. This was nothing more than a showcase match for Crews, who won with relative ease.

The Verdict: This, like the Ember Moon match the following year, served its purpose as a showcase for a debuting talent. Crews flashed potential but, as we know, he wasn’t for long in NXT (although perhaps he should’ve been).

This was fine but obviously tough to grade compared to the rest of the matches on this show. It falls near the bottom, but like the Ember-Billie match, it by no means was a total stinker.

15. No Way Jose vs. Austin Aries, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: **¾

This was Austin Aries’ third and final NXT TakeOver match and the only one that No Way Jose ever had. The two had been feuding on NXT TV leading up to this bout, after Aries attacked Jose following a dancing celebration. NWJ returned the favor, attacking Aries a month later, and all those roads led up to Brooklyn. Aries won what was a quick-ish match (by TakeOver standards, at least. It went 10 minutes and change) after slapping on the Last Chancery.

Oh, and Hideo Itami showed up for the first time in over a year and hit a GTS on Aries, who had attacked NWJ after the match. The crowd went completely nuts for that.

The Verdict: This wasn’t anything special but it still served its purpose. You could tell both of these guys, Jose especially, were making the most of the big stage. This wasn’t anything to write home about but like a lot of TakeOver matches, it flowed well and the crowd more than enhanced this match, too. I will give it the 2.75-star treatment, and I would say it’s in third place as far as TakeOver: Brooklyn openers go.

Itami’s return and subsequent GTS is a forgotten awesome moment and having been there for it, I vividly remember the crowd going absolutely bonkers.

14. Bobby Roode vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ***

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

Bobby Roode’s first-ever TakeOver match was against Andrade “Cien” Almas. Almas had made his debut two months prior, having been pit against NXT fan favorite Tye Dillinger at Beginning of the End. Roode’s extravagant entrance and catchy theme song grabbed plenty of attention off the bat.

Then the match started afterwards, and Almas and Roode squabbled for a while. Roode picked up the W with the Glorious Bomb, as The Glorious One started off on a high note.

The Verdict: It’s absolutely hilarious to think about where these two ventured off after this match, because this was a slow start; especially so for Almas, who became a completely different wrestler a year later at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. Seeing Roode in the position he got to a year later wasn’t too surprising, though.

That being said, this match was just kind of there. I’ve no idea why they picked Almas to be the body for Roode, especially after they put him against a fan favorite in Dillinger the TakeOver prior. Talk about doing a guy no favors. Anyways, I’ll give this three stars. These guys were capable of much better, as we’d find out later.

13. BAMF vs. The Vaudevillains, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***

Blake and Murphy had been NXT Tag Team Champions for a couple months heading into Brooklyn, but they were three months removed from someone joining their group.

That, of course, was Alexa Bliss, who helped them defeat Enzo and Cass at TakeOver: Unstoppable. Bliss served as an asset for them and added fuel to the fire in their feud with their new challengers, The Vaudevillains. The ‘gentlemen’ of NXT refused to fight back when Alexa slapped them multiple times on the road to Brooklyn.

So, to even the odds, they brought former fan favorite Blue Pants to Brooklyn with them. What followed was a decent tag match, with some drama towards the end. A fight between Blue Pants and Alexa Bliss on the outside helped center the focus on the action. And it was then that The Vaudevillains hit the Whirling Dervish to pick up the win and the Tag Team Titles.

The Verdict: My oh my, how things change over time. The NXT Tag Team division was arguably the worst part of the brand but just a few short months later, that ultimately changed with the first Dusty Classic.

And speaking of things changing, think about how things changed with the people in THIS match. Alexa wound up becoming the biggest star of the group, Aiden English is showing his skills with Rusev and Buddy Murphy is now one of the best in-ring talents in the world. Blake is still trotting around in NXT, Gotch was released and Blue Pants evidently annoyed too many people and hasn’t been seen at Full Sail in years.

This match was just fine by the tag team standards of that time and much better than I remember. But it has obviously fallen behind the pace that’s still being set now. Which is completely fine, obviously. Still, a fun moment for Blue Pants, and the first-ever title change in the event’s history. Three stars here for a match that, like I said, is much better than I remember.

12. Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***

Samoa Joe’s first TakeOver match saw him face “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin. Corbin and Joe had been feuding on TV, with Corbin’s animosity towards Joe being the purveying reason the two squared off. Joe was able to give his first true showcase to the NXT fanbase while Corbin had what was, inarguably, his best effort as a member of the NXT roster at the time.

The end of the bout saw Corbin pass out to the Coquina Clutch, giving Joe his first big win on the big stage.

The Verdict: This was a pretty solid effort from both guys here. Corbin flashed some potential and proved to be a more than competent opponent for Joe to handle. Having Corbin pass out instead of tap out was a small but notable point, protecting Corbs in some aspects. And he certainly got in enough offense against the great Samoan Submission Machine.

Three stars for me here. This more than served its purpose and was very solid.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

11. Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***¼

Tyler Breeze was anxious to get on the TakeOver: Brooklyn card, and General Manager William Regal was more than willing to oblige him. Breezus was informed in the lead-up to the biggest show in NXT history that he wouldn’t be facing someone from NXT; instead he’d be facing a wrestling legend and icon:  the great Jushin “Thunder” Liger!

Breeze and Liger partook in the very first TakeOver: Brooklyn match and they absolutely made the most of it. In a competitive bout, Liger won after hitting his signature Liger Bomb. But Tyler made a huge impression in one of his last big matches with the brand.

The Verdict: This is one of my favorite matches in TakeOver: Brooklyn lore, even if the ‘workrate’ wasn’t up to snuff with some of the rest of the matches above this. Just the fact that JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER was involved in this match makes it freaking cool. Say what you will about Tyler and him being a JTTS, but they clearly saw something in him to put him against someone of Liger’s caliber. This just misses the Top 10 for me, but it’s an extremely fun match that will no doubt hold up as one of the more surreal moments in the brand’s history.

10. SAnitY vs. AOP, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ***¾

Authors of Pain were a year deep into a run in which they defeated just about every great tag team that NXT has ever produced. They walked into Brooklyn with the tag belts in tow against SAnitY, a team that had caused plenty of destruction in their own right. The match produced the goods in a chaotic matchup featuring a bunch of big, beefy boys. SAnitY came out on top, dethroning AOP in the process.

The Verdict: I was blindsided by the fact that SAnitY received such huge face pops in this match while being there in Barclays. This was pretty good, although it is certainly #2 on the list of NXT Tag Titles matches to take place in Brooklyn. The spot where Nikki jumps onto one of AOP, and Killian Dain runs him through the table was legit great.

This gets just a notch below four stars for me though, as it was entertaining and frenetic enough to capture my attention throughout. The ending felt like it needed a little bit more though, and that’s part of why it stands where it is. Oh and, of course, reDragon made their first showing as a unit after this match and laid both teams out. They show up later in the show too. Wink wink.

9. Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre, NXT Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****

One year after his in-ring debut in Brooklyn, Bobby Roode walked into the borough with the NXT Championship in tow. His task was to take down Drew McIntyre, who returned to the WWE umbrella a few short months before. Drew Mac and Bobby fought over the NXT crown, following a ridiculous effort by the women (sound familiar?).

McIntyre would capitalize in his first big opportunity back in the fold, winning the match against Roode and becoming the NXT Champion in the process.

The Verdict: NXT Champion Has Tough Act to Follow™ is a feature, not a bug, at TakeOver: Brooklyn events. This match was certainly a more spirited effort than the one from the year prior, though. It was a bit slow and plodding, but that’s just kind of what Roode does. There was still enough drama and enough sauce for me to give this four stars.

All in all, a very good effort from both guys. This was the fourth-best match of the night that night. But that’s saying something, since this card, all in all, was the absolute best Brooklyn card that’s been produced.

Oh, and... yanno... lest I forget... ADAM COLE, BAY BAY!!

8. Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****

After debuting four months prior at TakeOver: Orlando, the hype for Aleister Black was pungent. He landed right back onto a big event card, facing off with a star who also had plenty of hype at the time of his debut.

As you well know by now, Hideo Itami is one of the biggest what ifs in NXT history, if not the absolute biggest. Itami was likely in line for gold and probably would’ve headlined the first TakeOver: Brooklyn had it not been for a debilitating shoulder injury. After making a big return the year before, Itami turned more into a villain heading into this showdown with the new kid on the block.

The Verdict: A hard-hitting affair that, in my opinion, has gotten lost in the shuffle. High points for me in this match were Black getting legit busted open and Itami stealing Black’s taunts. The striking in this match was off the charts. The sudden hit of Black Mass to emphatically end the match was very well done.

This unfortunately was Itami’s only TakeOver: Brooklyn match and just his second big arena match in TakeOver history, which is a shame given all that he’s been through. That being said, it is firmly his best effort, and one of Black’s best, too. Four stars here.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

7. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ****¼

Shinsuke Nakamura debuted four months prior in Dallas and immediately shot up the rankings out of a cannon. Nakamura’s star power was evident from night #1 and he found himself in the NXT Championship picture as the summer months motored on.

This led to a clash with Samoa Joe in Brooklyn. Joe and Nak engaged in a pretty hard-hitting affair that proved both captivating and scintillating. Nakamura captured the NXT Title after a Kinshasa straight to the mouth.

The Verdict: While there were tough acts to follow, unlike the previous year, the energy and the life was not sucked out of the building this time around; and Joe and Nakamura made the most of it. This might’ve been Joe’s best effort in an NXT ring. Nak, meanwhile, energized the crowd with an electric entrance in which Lee England Jr. strummed his theme on the violin. It’s the single-greatest entrance I’ve seen in person and was a ton of fun to get immersed in.

This gets 4.25 stars from me. Enjoyed the effort from both these dudes that night. This is the second-best NXT Title Match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

6. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens, NXT Championship Ladder Match, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ****¼

Finn Balor captured the NXT Championship at Beast in the East in Japan the month before this bout. Balor and Owens kept their feud going while KO was playing double duty in a feud with John Cena on the main roster.

Ultimately, the two would collide in a ladder match in the main event for the first TakeOver: Brooklyn event. After a couple of wicked bumps, Balor would eventually grab the title belt and retain the title, thus ending Owens’ short but impactful run in NXT.

The Verdict: This match is best viewed in a vacuum. It’s not a slight against either man. It’s simply just that the energy in Barclays Center had been completely sucked out after Bayley-Sasha. Which begs the question, of course, as to why they opted for this match to main event instead of Bayley-Sasha. It was a pretty great match, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that it will always be forgotten because of what happened before it.

You also knew that Owens wasn't recapturing the gold and was headed for the main roster full time, which took away some of the suspension of "disbelief." Unfair as it is, that’s why it stands where it is. But with that said, this is the best NXT Title Match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

5. Asuka vs. Bayley, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ****¼

After Bayley’s lengthy title reign ended in April 2016, Bayley’s quest to become a two-time NXT Women’s Champion went through some bumpy roads. An injury kept her out of action for a bit, but she kept her head up and trudged on as Bayley has always done.

She stood against the mighty Asuka in Brooklyn, hoping to win back her title. Unfortunately for her, The Empress of Tomorrow as far too powerful. A couple of hard kicks to the head led Asuka to victory, and sent Bayley off in her swan song in NXT.

The Verdict: An antithesis from last year’s monumental victory. Bayley’s might, heart and sheer will were not enough for her to overcome the daunting Asuka. This match was brilliantly done and served as Bayley’s final match and appearance in NXT. It was obviously not the last we’d see of Asuka, and perhaps that took away from some of the ‘fun’ and ‘unpredictability’ of the match.

Still, this was an excellent match, and a bit better than their first clash in Dallas four months prior. 4.25 stars. And yes… if you care to know, I did get plenty of dust in my eyes that night in the stands.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

4. Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****½

In the wake of DIY’s dissolving, Johnny Gargano was probably going to face Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. However, a legitimate knee injury kept Ciampa on the sidelines for quite sometime. Instead, Gargano faced Andrade “Cien” Almas.

Heading into this show, stock wasn’t super high on Almas, especially after a weird, funky year with the brand; but with Zelina Vega joining up with him, his focus got clearer. Gargano and Almas delivered a high-energy opener that concluded when Vega hurled a DIY t-shirt at Gargano. The distraction provided Almas with the opportunity to blast off on Gargano’s head and give him a much-needed W.

The Verdict: The storytelling of this match was downright spectacular. This was the start of an incredible singles run for Gargano that’s still going to this day. It flashed the brilliance that even his biggest fans probably didn’t think that he had.

More importantly, this was the start of something great for Andrade, who needed that jolt in the WORST of ways. Zelina proved to be an extremely valuable asset, and her role with Almas was validated on this night. This gets a high, high mark for me.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

3. Asuka vs. Ember Moon, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****½

Asuka’s undefeated streak was in serious jeopardy on the night of the third TakeOver: Brooklyn. She faced off with Ember Moon in a rematch of a collision between the two several months back in Orlando. An injury forced Ember onto the sidelines after, but she got back on the saddle and took aim at her in Barclays Center.

Ember gave Asuka her best shot, arguably the best shot that ANYONE gave her during the streak. But, in the end, Asuka proved victorious.

The Verdict: I was in a bit of a haze during this match in the crowd, but after a second watch, I can see why this got so much praise. This could’ve been near a full five for me and it could have POSSIBLY unseated #1 from its spot on the throne.

But the simple choice of keeping the belt on Asuka and not giving it to Ember keeps this at ****½ and 3rd on the list. This was still dramatic and thrilling and outstanding, however, despite that booking decision.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

2. The Revival vs. DIY, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn II:
Match Rating: ****¾

DIY got themselves a huge opportunity in August 2016. After forging separate paths on the indie scene, the team was kept around after solid showings in 2015. They then made headway in 2016 and pursued the NXT Tag Team Titles.

With American Alpha out of the way after The Revival became two-time NXT Tag Champs at The Beginning of the End, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder faced off with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in Brooklyn. The two tag teams delivered a scintillating tag team bout in what was, no doubt, the biggest match of their respective careers to this point. Revival wound up retaining, but it was hardly without an effort, as Gargano and Ciampa showed off their heart and soul.

The Verdict: This is the best tag team match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history and the 2nd-best match in the event’s history, too. Although it’s not a super high bar to clear, it should be noted that it’s going to be a high bar to clear for anyone else (Of course, Undisputed Era and Moustache Mountain might wind up doing the damn thing later this month). The drama, the creative near falls and tandem offenses really make this match stand out.

The better of the series between these two teams happened three months later, but this match was still outstanding. 4 and 3-quarter stars for me.

1. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: *****

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

The spirited clash between two of the most beloved NXT superstars of all time takes the top spot. And are you really surprised? You probably shouldn’t be.

This match ended a two-year long journey for The Hugger to get championship gold. Sasha Banks got an extravagant entrance, and for the first time ever, the tubemen joined The Hugger in a bigtime venue. Bayley took Banks down after a Reverse Hurricanrana, or Poisoned Frankensteiner for other acquired tastes, and then slammed her down with the Bayley-to-Belly.

The Verdict: The greatest women’s wrestling match that WWE has ever seen is also the greatest TakeOver: Brooklyn match ever. You won’t find many disputing this as a simple fact. Bayley and Banks poured their hearts and souls into this match, and the Brooklyn crowd’s reaction to Bayley’s title victory was sensational. It got yours truly right in the gut.

This gets the full five stars from me. It is a perfect wrestling match in every single way, and one that you should go out of your way to show a non-wrestling fan who’s trying to get into the fandom.  

This Week in WWE: Bayley says Sasha ain't shit, Tell Hell No reunites
Raw.png

Robert O’Neill: Welp. It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another exciting edition of Monday Night Raw!

Chris Novak: Last week’s show was quite good, so let’s see if they can make it two in a row. Optimism levels are… in the middle, somewhere. The show kicked off with them briefly touching on Vader’s passing.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle is in the ring to lead off the show, along with Baron Corbin’s goofy looking ass, as a graphic announces a Dolph Ziggler/Seth Rollins Intercontinental Title match for later.

Chris Novak: I don’t know about you. But, I am enjoying this Constable Corbin deal. Thought it was funny that he demanded he be introduced as such.

Robert O’Neill: It’s fine! But he’s goofy looking.

Chris Novak: We start going on about contract disputes and Brock Lesnar, but Roman Reigns is here to interrupt things. The announce team went on about how he said Brock, the Universal Champ, isn’t “interested” in facing Reigns or the prospect of facing Reigns again. He tells Kurt he just wants to hear the explanation face-to-face.

Robert O’Neill: And now Bob Lashley is here. Yay. Anyways, there’s no longer gonna be a multi-man match at Extreme Rules because “plans changed” so both Bob and Roman want the title shot given to them OR they want to fight for it! Before that gets resolved, The Revival come out (TOP GUYS WATCH) and want a rematch against Bob and Roman from last week.

Well, holy crap. The Revival won. There was miscommunication between Lashley and Roman and that’s really the main point of this story/match but it’s still pretty neat to see them pick up a victory.

Chris Novak: This was some good stuff and some good layout to this match. Nicely done. Revival pick up a big win, Bob Lashley gets protected and Reigns loses nothing from eating that rollup (with a hook of the pants).

Robert O’Neill: And now we have The Deleter of Worlds heading to the ring as Matt Hardy will take on Curtis Axel.

Chris Novak: Hey, cool. Rey Mysterio is the pre-order bonus for 2K this year. That was a neat commercial.

Robert O’Neill: Really excited for WWE 2K this year. Anyways! Hardy vs. Axel was short, and Axel picked up a win which was a little surprising to me.

Chris Novak: It was very abrupt. After that… the AUTHORS OF PAIN finally showed up. Their Visa issues must’ve finally cleared up. They had an interaction backstage with Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil, who said they ought to respect the backstage crew (they tossed someone into a wall). I can get behind this as a secondary feud, if you ask me. Now, anyways, they highlight the Bayley and Sasha feud and we learn that, again, they’ll be teaming up, with Ember Moon against The Riott Squad. I don’t know why we have to keep doing this kind of match, but the ends justify the means I guess. Oh, before I forget. CAPTAIN ALICIA FOX IS BACK!

AOP then squashed some jobbers. They beat them down, and then Titus and Apollo made the save.

Robert O’Neill: They still probably need a manager, but it’s fine for now!

Chris Novak: Corbin asks Angle if he enjoys putting combustible elements together for tag matches. What happens next? Well, Finn came in and the two exchanged some barbs. Then, Braun came in and said he wanted to team with… Kevin Owens… to face… Finn and Constable Corbin. It’s a tag team, strange bedfellows kind of night tonight.

Here comes Alexa and Mickie. Lex cuts a promo, running down both Nia AND Ronda. She actually got some pretty legitimate heat from the San Diego crowd here, which is a difference from what we’re used to. Here comes Natalya, who touts her friendship with Ronda before informing Bliss that they’re facing off. BUT… Nattie isn’t coming alone!

Robert O’Neill: I would like to give San Diego credit for actually booing Alexa, which is what you’re supposed to do with heels. It’s a shame that Natalya and Nia came out and ruined everything, but that’s just what they do.

Chris Novak: TO BE ENTIRELY FAIR… Nia’s hometown is San Diego.

Robert O’Neill: Natalya won because Nia tripped Alexa. Cool face move. Real nice.

Chris Novak: Match was fine. Ambivalent on the result, but champs always take losses so it’s nothing that’s unprecedented. Whatever.

Robert O’Neill: Riott Squad are getting into hijinks backstage, so it’s time for their match against Bayley/Sasha/Ember Moon.

Chris Novak: Strong start to this match. Really impressed with Liv in the early moments with Ember.

Robert O’Neill: That entire match was very solid. It ended with a roll-up which normally people would complain about in a women’s match, BUT…

Chris Novak: THINGS TURNED UP RIGHT AWAY!! Bayley jumped in the right and absolutely SNAPPED on Sasha Banks. Lit her up with furious punches. Sasha barely got any offense in. This was a full-throttled beatdown, MONTHS if not YEARS in the making. Bayley made it a point, after she’d sent Sasha into the steel steps more than once, to bring up everything she’s done to her the past two years, including last week. And also dropped a, “YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME, SASHA?” Popped SO hard for this. ALL of it. The crowd ate EVERYTHING up too. This was TREMENDOUS!

Robert O’Neill: No Way Jose was out for a match with Mojo Rawley, but Mojo spent his time bashing a guy dressed like a cheeseburger on the conga line instead. It was more entertaining than it sounds.

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

Robert O’Neill: Meanwhile backstage, Kurt Angle is none too pleased with Bayley and tells her she’ll be attending therapy next week!

Chris Novak: Lord knows what Kurt thought he was getting himself into here. As good as Paige is at this GM thing is just as bad as Kurt is.

Robert O’Neill: Time for another tag match. We have Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin and Finn Balor! Can these teams get along and co-exist? Probably not. No, no, it’s not looking like they can. Well, Owens and Strowman can! Owens even did the thing Braun does where he runs into someone at full speed with his shoulder. But Corbin and Balor can’t get along and brawl up the ramp to get counted out for the finish.

Chris Novak: This was perfectly fine and ended just about as you’d expect it to. I can get behind the Owens-Strowman stuff, especially when Strowman TIPPED OWENS’ CAR OVER IN THE PARKING LOT. Braun’s hijinx always manage to sell pretty well.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! As we have Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins getting… a really long time for their match. Say what you want about Ziggler’s character (which is bad), but I’m pretty excited to see him and Rollins have a 40 minute match right here.

Chris Novak: This was a legit great main event. It ended with a DQ finish, and a 2-on-1 brawl led to Roman making the save for his former Shield brethren. I have no idea what this means in the grand scheme of things as it pertains to Roman, since he’s obviously tied up with Lashley. But, we’ll see I guess.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: When we look back on this Raw, it’ll be remembered as the one where Bayley and Sasha finally blew up, for that alone I think it deserves a high grade. Looking past that, some of the tag matches were weird and felt like Teddy Long era Smackdown, but they were all well worked and the main event was fun. It loses points for the Alexa/Natalya result and that’s about it. B+

Chris Novak: B+ show for me, too. The tags were a different way of doing things but I’m fine with it, honestly. Changes things up and doesn’t completely give matches away. As you said Rob, the Bayley/Sasha stuff really puts this over the top for me. Huge fan of it all, and hopefully next week doesn’t completely ruin everything.

Smackdown.png

Chris Novak: On to SmackDown Live. We’re kicking the show off in style with… The Miz!

Robert O’Neill: And he’s joined here on Miz TV by the Bludgeon Brothers, who helped him defeat Daniel Bryan last week in the gauntlet match.

Chris Novak: Miz is seeking answers as to why they attacked Bryan last week. As expected… they’re pretty mum about it.

Robert O’Neill: Miz is also being his general dickish self when talking to them which seems like a bit of a mistake! But before the Bludgeon Brothers can do anything, Daniel Bryan makes his way out. Anyways! We’re getting Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper tonight which is cool and good.

Chris Novak: Anything involving either of those two is considered good. So, with them together, that works for me, as well.

Robert O’Neill: And now we’re leading off the action with a Rusev/Xavier Woods match which is also perfectly fine with me! It took WWE a long time to realize that Xavier Woods should be in more singles matches, but I’m thrilled that they finally did.

Chris Novak: Rusev won what was a really fun opener here. He then cut a promo on the WWE Champion, AJ Styles, whom he’ll be facing next month at Extreme Rules. He says he’s going to take the title, and will be a great Rusev Day. Hey, that’s all hard to argue. 

Robert O’Neill: Since Shinsuke Nakamura got bit by a police dog at a live event on Monday, he’s not facing Jeff Hardy tonight. So there’s an open challenge for the United States Championship. I wonder who will answer it. HOLY CRAP IT’S ERIC YOUNG!

I like this a lot. It’s a fresh matchup for Hardy, PLUS, it’s with someone he has familiarity with.

Chris Novak: So this turned out to be a match that, as expected, ended with chaos. SaniTY and The Usos all converged to attack each other. Ultimately, this led to a six-man tag team match being made.

Robert O’Neill: Honestly, I’m here for a Hardy/Usos vs. SaniTY feud. Cause this match was a ton of fun, and I think it would do wonders for SaniTY to work with three established guys like that. We move on to Becky Lynch vs. Sonya Deville, which should be a lot of fun as well.

Chris Novak: Becky wins (again!). Removing MITB and WrestleMania from the equation, Becky has won 7 of her last 9 TV matches and her last four on SmackDown Live. She’s gaining a ton of momentum, so I can’t wait to see how they squander it. Too much? Too excessive?

Robert O’Neill: Becky’s problem remains that she’s stuck in Charlotte’s vortex. And I don’t know how she can get out.

Chris Novak: WELL, Rob. Charlotte’s out. Soooooooo… maybe she can now!

Robert O’Neill: Oh hey, it’s Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega! They’re warning the rest of the roster, again. Sure would be nice to see him in an actual match at some point.

Chris Novak: It would, but I’m not mad about it. At least I shouldn’t be. It’s not like he’s completely been forgotten about. Something had to have happened to Sin Cara for them not to be continuing that feud. So, I’m just gonna be realistic and wait on it.

Robert O’Neill: MY GOD. JAMES ELLSWORTH IS FACING ASUKA NEXT WEEK.

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

Robert O’Neill: We’ve reached the main event! Daniel Bryan is facing Harper, in what should be one of the best matches in recent memory.

After a really fun match, Bryan gets the win via DQ and the numbers game catches up to him after the match but MY GOD, KANE IS BACK! THAT’S KANE!

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown was pretty good considering they didn’t have Shinsuke Nakamura and had to make a last minute switch to the US TItle match. Aside from that, it’s still refreshing to have Daniel Bryan back and seeing him in these fresh matchups, despite what Wrestling Twitter will tell you about how he’s being used. I’m also glad they finally realized they can use New Day members in singles matches. B+

Chris Novak: Once again, I’ll agree, Rob. B+ show here. Lot of fun stuff and Team Hell No reuniting was a legit fun moment for all involved. Popped me more than I thought it would, and popped the crowd more than I thought it would. Going forward, this should be intriguing to watch. SDLive continues to hit the right notes.

The fallout from Wrestlemania plays out as superstars debut, return this week in WWE

Robert O’Neill: We’re off and rolling with the post-Mania Raw! Stephanie McMahon is out putting herself over and has invited Ronda Rousey to the ring. Business is about to pick up.

Chris Novak: Andddddd Steph’s arm was ripped off again! This crowd chanting “You Deserve It!” and the “Na Na Na Na (Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye)” sing-songing is just outrageous. Away we go!

Robert O’Neill: Nia is in a tag match with… someone! Facing Alexa and Mickie. I think I know what’s coming here.

Chris Novak: EMBERRRRRRR! Ember Moon is on RAW! Heck of an addition to the division. Good little showcase here. She dropped Alexa Bliss with the Eclipse and pinned the former RAW Women’s Champ. Nice debut for her. A very nice debut.

Robert O’Neill: We now cut to Kurt Angle who… is on the phone. That’s new and refreshing. Anyway, Braun and NICHOLAS are here and they’re giving up the tag titles, because NICHOLAS has a scheduling conflict. Because he’s a child. And still in school.

Chris Novak: That’s No Way Jose! A good squash to debut him with. So, Cesaro and Sheamus are facing the winner of the “Tag Team Eliminator” in Saudi Arabia. Two matches tonight, one next week. Hmmm…

Robert O’Neill: Ahem. TOP GUYS WATCH! They’re facing The Club, which will be a hoot. They’ve had a lot of fun matches this year.

Chris Novak: The Top Guys *won* the match, no less, with a Shatter Machine on Karl Anderson. Solid win for them. Alignment of this match though says their luck might run out next week. Alas. Anyways, here’s the new Intercontinental Champion, Seth Rollins!

Robert O’Neill: BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNN. Remember how dumb that was?

Chris Novak: And now everyone loves it!

Robert O’Neill: So after like 10 minutes of great back and forth banter between Seth and Miz, Miz challenged Balor and Rollins to a 3 on 2 match against the Miztourage and Jeff Hardy came out to defend Balor and Rollins! Miztourage retreated, but I’m here for this.

Chris Novak: It’s always great to see Jeff Hardy. I’m glad he’s back. The Raw midcard is pretty awesome.

Robert O’Neill: Alright we’re gonna just keep rolling right along. Mandy vs. Sasha. Mandy’s out with Absolution. Sasha is out alone. Here we go… oh. Bayley’s coming out. Alright then.

Chris Novak: And then Bayley knocks Sasha down!

Robert O’Neill: Have we considered that Bayley is the bad friend?

Chris Novak: I’m not getting into this.

Robert O’Neill: After the match, Paige got on the mic and announced her retirement. These promos are always gut-wrenching to watch. That one was right up there with Edge’s. I hope WWE finds something for Paige in another role.

Chris Novak: Just tragic for her. She started four years ago in NOLA and now has to retire in NOLA. What a sad story, man.

Robert O’Neill: Elias performed a nice song for the fans and got interrupted by BOBBY LASHLEY! That was certainly unexpected.

Chris Novak: Lashley looks like an absolute tank. My goodness. Hopefully this turns out to be pretty great.

Robert O’Neill: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were in Kurt Angle’s office posturing for a job. Kurt told them TNA was hiring. I’m not even making that up. It was amazing. Anyways, they’re facing each other later and the winner gets a Raw contract!

Chris Novak: That TNA rib was the hardest I’ve ever laughed about anything in wrestling in a long time. Maybe ever. It was just so out of nowhere and delivered so well that it was freaking incredible.

Robert O’Neill: Heath Slater and Rhyno are out for a tag match and MY GOD. THAT’S THE AUTHORS OF PAIN. AOP wins it fairly easily and symbolically dump Paul Ellering. This was the right move. Paul wasn’t going to go on the road with them, and he did more than anyone could have ever dreamed for them. They’re in good hands now.

Chris Novak: It’s great that the big boys are finally on the main roster.

Robert O’Neill: Roman’s out to cut a promo. It’s kind of the same promo he’s been cutting the past few weeks about how Brock Lesnar isn’t there, because he wasn’t there. A short time later, SAMOA JOE comes out, and this is apparently going to be your feud of the spring, and I’m here for it. Joe is excellent on the mic and I can’t wait to see him get back in the ring.

Chris Novak: Samoa Joe cut an absolutely money promo. As always.

Robert O’Neill: Titus Worldwide has a tag team eliminator match against… Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt! That’s new and exciting, I guess. Hardy and Wyatt win and will face The Revival next week.

Chris Novak: I’m willing to give Hardy and Bray a chance here. So far, so good, honestly.

Robert O’Neill: Time for Owens vs. Zayn. The winner gets a Raw contract! They had a good match, as the previous five hundred matches between them have been, and it ended in a double countout, so neither one gets a contract!

Chris Novak: Kind of a silly and expected way to do it. I imagine we’ll keep seeing these types of matches happen as time progresses. We’ll see, though.

Robert O’Neill: We cut backstage to see Seth and Finn and Jeff Hardy coming to the ring, and they come across Matt and Bray, which leads to a very entertaining segment. My god. Am I gonna get sucked back into Bray Wyatt?

Chris Novak: That was an extremely entertaining segment! I might be getting sucked back in too...

Robert O’Neill: The faces pick up the victory in the main event, and it seems safe to say that Miz is either going to Smackdown or taking some time off to spend time with his new daughter given the amount of finishers he and the Miztourage ate following the match.

Chris Novak: My guess is paternity leave. But we’ll see! Fun Raw.

Quick Results

Ember Moon and Nia Jax d. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
No Way Jose d. John Skyler
The Revival d. Balor Club
Mandy Rose d. Sasha Banks
Authors of Pain d. Heath Slater and Rhyno
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt d. Titus Worldwide
Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Jeff Hardy d. Miztourage

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: The Raw after Wrestlemania seldom disappoints, and this was no different. I really enjoyed everything they did, and the call-ups and returns mixed with next week’s shakeup are going to make for even more new and exciting matchups. Rollins will continue making the mid-card title feel important, and I have to imagine Reigns wins the title and brings it back to the fold at some point in the near future, right? A-

Chris Novak: God, what you said. That was a fun episode of Raw. Wegot call-ups, returns, surprises, etc. Some really good wrestling, too. Owens-Zayn was, as always, quite good. The six-man was entertaining. Looking forward to seeing what the Raw brand has dished out going forward. A-

Chris Novak: Time for the fallout of WrestleMania, SmackDown! Live edition! Daniel Bryan’s now a full-time superstar, per the Commissioner, Shane McMahon. He reveals the new GM and it’s… PAIGE!!! Outstanding. Very glad that she’s gonna be sticking around here. Her talking skills can’t really be denied, and she definitely has a very strong presence on the mic. This is a home run choice.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah this is awesome. Everyone was expecting Hogan or Jarrett, so this was kind of out of nowhere. It’s awesome to see her still being utilized.

Chris Novak: Paige says she wants to give the fans a night they won’t ever forget. So she announces that Daniel Bryan will compete for the first time on TV in three years… AGAINST AJ STYLES! Oh my God, I need a cigarette already.

Robert O’Neill: New Day/Usos #234728937 is a go! I’m not complaining, either. These two should fight forever. They’re two of the 10 best tag teams in WWE history.

Chris Novak: Two things could happen here… a call-up interferes, or The New Day win and essentially write The Usos off of SDL. Time will tell to see how this plays out. Anyhow, The Usos wound up winning. Them and New Day delivered yet again, as if that’s a surprise. Bludgeon Brothers came out and pointed their mallets at The Usos. INTIMIDATION~!!!!~!~!

Chris Novak: Nattie and Naomi had a verbal spat backstage earlier today, so now they’re going to be in a match. Hoping this is more than passable.

Robert O’Neill: It won’t be. Natalya sucks.

Chris Novak: Hahahahahaha, that Nakamura interview was just TREMENDOUS!

Robert O’Neill: Anyways, here’s Charlotte! She’s talkin’ about her match and what not and OH MY GOD IT’S THE ICONIC DUO

Chris Novak: Peyton and Billie cut a promo, running Charlotte down. They knocked that out of the park and then some. Then they proceed to beat the absolute hell out of Charlotte and leave her laying in the ring… AND THAT’S CARMELLA’S MUSIC!! She cashed in and kicked Charlotte in the head, and got the pin fall! Carmella’s the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion!

Robert O’Neill: For as much shit as they got for seemingly not having a plan for Carmella’s eventual cash-in, that was excellent.

Chris Novak: Extremely happy for Carmella, who seems like a genuinely good person.

Robert O’Neill: Wow, Smackdown is taking place on Rusev Day. What are the odds?

Chris Novak: So, Rusev, Bobby Roode and Randy Orton are facing off to see who faces Jinder Mahal at Backlash for the United States Championship. This match is, pretty much, going as expected. And Randy Orton wins. They’ve managed to bungle this not once, but twice in three days!

Robert O’Neill: I generally don’t criticize booking, but yeah they’re being really stupid with Rusev.

Chris Novak: AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are, really, for real, wrestling on TV. In 2018. First-run. This is incredible stuff.

Robert O’Neill: Good lord that was awesome to watch. And Nakamura interfering to make it a no-contest was awesome. I’m gonna like heel Nak,

Chris Novak: Heel Nakamura already looks awesome. This is exciting stuff!

Quick Results

Usos d. New Day
Naomi d. Natalya
Carmella d. Charlotte to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Randy Orton d. Bob Roode and Rusev
Daniel Bryan d. AJ Styles (DQ)

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: I’ll be honest, I thought I wasn’t going to like Smackdown this week. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I had just watched like 25 hours of wrestling content in the past week and was worried about burnout. It didn’t come though. Smackdown delivered and then some. Sure, Natalya having a match was stupid, and I’m not at all looking forward to Jinder/Orton #238579, but there was more good than bad here. Heel Nak, Iconic Duo, Paige as GM, Bryan/Styles, it all worked for me. I’m interested in seeing what happens next week in the shakeup. A-

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live hit it out of the park, besides the whole Jinder/Orton screwup. Everything about this show hit the right notes. The Iconic Duo look like absolute STARS on their first night and Carmella’s moment was fun. Bryan/Styles was better than Nakamura/Styles from the weekend, and even after three years, Bryan looks like the best wrestler in the world again. What a time to be alive. A-

NXT Takeover Philadelphia results

Andrade Cien Almas retains NXT Championship over Johnny Gargano

The best men's single's match in NXT history, maybe the best ever (I was there for Sasha-Bayley I so there's bias at play). Almas and Gargano have incredible chemistry in the ring. The pacing on this one was fast, with reversals and near falls galore.

NXT has done a brilliant job of building Gargano into the biggest babyface the brand has ever had, and every close fall made you even more invested in wanting to see him win. Zelina Vega got involved a few times, even hitting Johnny with a hurricanrana!!! Wifey Candice LeRae was having none of it and chased her from the ring. Philly erupted when Gargano got a near fall with the Slingshot and then he slapped the Escape on Andrade but he found the ropes. Almas later sent Johnny to CTE Medical Center with double knees to the ring post before putting him to bed with a DDT.

I haven't immediately rewinded a match that quickly in so long... not even for Omega-Jericho. This was an all-time classic, and the most-anticipated return of Ciampa sets up what's gonna be a wild ride to Takeover New Orleans.

Robert: Good lord. There’s so much to unpack about this match, I could go on for pages upon pages.

For starters, I have no reservations in saying it was the best NXT match of all time. That’s right. It beat Bayley and Sasha Banks’ Brooklyn epic in my eyes. In fact, it was the best WWE match since John Cena and CM Punk at the Rosemont Horizon back in 2011.

Literally everything about this match worked for me. Zelina Vega was eventually counteracted and equalized by Gargano’s wife, Candice LeRae, and every single near fall in the final ten minutes of the match (which went 32 minutes, by the way) felt like it was going to be THE ONE. The crowd made the match even better, living and dying with everything Gargano did.

Gargano was already a star heading into the night, but he’s a superstar now, even in the loss. Almas, on the other hand, was a perfectly good wrestler coming into the night that had lacked a big NXT moment. Not anymore. To top it all off, Tomasso Ciampa hit Gargano with a crutch at the top of the ramp to end the night. It was absolutely perfect storytelling.

Aleister Black defeats Adam Cole

Pierce: Black and Cole put on a war of an Extreme Rules match. These two took some insane spots - off tables, ladders, chairs, oh my! Adam Cole is tremendous to be able to take some of the bumps that he did. The dual chair spot is a backbreaker, so hopefully the MDMA Shawn Michaels comparisons don't become factual.

Black hit a diiiiirrrtttyyyy double knee takedown through the announce table, and after the two superkicked the shit out of one another, Black caught Cole napping for the 1-2-3. Aleister Black is a future WWE Champion and Adam Cole should captain NXT for the foreseeable future.

Robert: An extreme rules match in Philadelphia was always going to have a ton of hype to live up to, but this did it. In 2018 WWE where headshots and other overly dangerous weapon spots are (rightfully) banned, you have to get creative. And they sure did that.

Black had the upper hand before Cole superkicked him off the top rope through two tables. Black got back in the ring and got the upper hand again, but Undisputed Era came out to help Cole. Sanity took down Fish and O’Reilly, and Black stomped Cole through the announce table for the eventual win. It seemed like the penultimate match would once again be the match of the night, a Takeover staple at this point. But…

Ember Moon retains NXT Women's Championship over Shayna Baszler

Pierce: The right story was told throughout the match. Shayna demolished her opponent to near submission, but Moon - who hasn't had that moment where the fans can get behind her - showed resilience and pinned Baszler's shoulders to the mat for the pin.

Afterwards, Shayna took the champ out. The storytelling makes this match; Ember gets her empathetic victory, Shayna establishes herself as the baddest bitch in NXT and next in line for the title. Shoutout to Philly for keeping with kayfabe on the Dallas hate.

Robert: The first (only?) real shock of the night. A lot was made about Ember’s character coming into the match, as she has yet to really been the babyface that people can get behind. That changed in a hurry as Baszler dominated most of the match, targeting Ember’s arm and looking to cinch the armbar and win the title. Even when she eventually locked it in, Ember fought through it for what seemed like minutes, and rolled Shayna up for the win.

Shayna will probably get the upper hand in New Orleans, but this was a big step for Ember’s progression.

Velveteen Dream defeats Kassius Ohno

Pierce: Dream is 23 and will be a WWE Champ by 26. He's got IT! with a bold capital exclamation point. Excellent awareness to come out to the ring with the purple airbrushed rocky fit. It was a sloppy match but it doesn't have to be perfect to be compelling. A talent like Dream can make a sloppy match matter. Also, can we get Dream and Jalen Ramsey to be the new Billy and Chuck?

Robert: This was awesome. From the crowd counting to 30 in response to Dream saying he would knock Ohno out in 30 seconds, to Dream actually doing it, to Ohno getting back up and beating the hell out of him for a while, to Dream eventually winning by jumping from the ringpost to the middle of the ring to hit the Purple Rainmaker. Things got a little sloppy towards the end, but it was a ton of fun. Dream is going to be a star, and probably soon.

Undisputed ERA (Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish) retain NXT Tag Team Championship over Authors of Pain

Pierce: Par for the course. I loved the finish. AOP's finisher collapsing in what should be their last match in developmental is how they should go out. Undisputed ERA is just passing time until all three are holding gold.

Robert The one big takeaway from this match is that the Authors of Pain are ready for their WWE call-up. This was an awesome way to open the show, as both teams had the crowd behind them in a huge way. The ending was a little sloppy, but I liked how AOP’s resistance on double team moves eventually did them in. It seems like just a matter of time before Fish/O’Reilly/Adam Cole all have titles.

Quick Notes

War Machine, Richochet and EC 3 are here. NXT just got a whole helluva lot stronger on the road to Takeover NOLA.

(All photos courtesy of WWE)

Authors of Pain get redemption, Baszler gets a title shot as NXT Takeover's focus gets clearer

This week’s NXT was not as entertaining match-wise as the first week at Centre Stage, but it pushed forward the storylines to Takeover: Philadelphia. NXT’s tag team division was the main highlight of the night as we also saw Johnny’s confident promo, two matches booked for Takeover & a bold challenge to Lars Sullivan.

Authors of Pain final redemption

AOP battled the Street Profits for the right to become the #1 contender for the NXT Tag Team Championship. Going into the match, viewers should have guessed that AOP was going to win; the crowd was definitely on the side of Montez & Angelo though. Street Profits had their first real challenge since going on a winning streak since their debut.

All in all, the match’s purpose was to remind us how terrifying AOP is. Street Profits barely got any offense in (Montez sold everything like he was Dolph Ziggler) and when they got a hot-tag, AOP put a stop to their momentum. Montez & Angelo still have some time to continue building their persona, but this puts them in a position to become a little more serious and show out. I believe this will be AOP’s final Takeover; their call-up is long overdue.

Shayna Bazler Gets Her Way

Remember last week when I said that Shayna is a monster that the NXT Women’s Division needed? She continued that dominance this week.

While Shayna did not have a match this week, she came to the ring after Lacey Evans defeated Aliyah in a short affair. Shayna came into the ring to choke the life out of Aliyah. Ember Moon came out again to make the save before challenging Shayna to a title match at Takeover.  Bazler baited Ember to a match at Takeover and that’s what we need, not only a dominant heel but cunning as well.

Johnny FREAKIN Wrestling

During an Interview segment, Zelina Vega told William Regal that Johnny Gargano must have a match with Velveteen Dream to prove he’s the next contender for Andrade's NXT title. Johnny caught wind of this and headed to the ring to give one of his most passionate speeches yet. The crowd ate every word as he asked for the match against Velveteen to prove to Zelina and the wrestling world that he is ready to be on top. “I am Johnny Gargano. I am Johnny Freaking Wrestling!!"

Quick Hits

Undisputed Era is NXT’s NWO, from their theme music to their intricate promos. Adam Cole commands a presence as he talks to the camera, confirming the strength of Undisputed Era.

Nice to see TM-61 again, their re-introduction video package tells a good story for new viewers who are not familiar with them. Hopefully they get into a quick feud to attract more fans to their wrestling style.

After his quick match, Roderick Strong called out Lars Sullivan for a match at Takeover. This may turn into a triple threat match as Sullivan called out Killian Dain a week before. That type of match could open the show and start it with a bang.

(All photos courtesy of WWE)

NXT Recap: a new challenger emerges for Undisputed Era

NXT's first new show of 2018 was one to love. I know it's packaged and pre-taped but the presentation is absolutely flawless. This week's fleshed out the rest of the card for Takeover: Philadelphia. This month's shows we're filmed at Atlanta’s Center Stage (former home of WCW Saturday Night) so the change from Full Sail was very welcoming. (All photos courtesy of WWE)

Main Event

Originally Undisputed ERA were supposed to defend their tag-team titles against Sanity in the main event, but UE beat up Sanity before their match. Luckily, William Regal presented a new tag team for them to battle: Roderick Strong & Aleister Black.

If a friend of yours asks what type of wrestling does NXT showcase, show them this match. This battle was hard hitting, with clean transitioning and fluidity throughout the whole match. Strong's hot tag towards the end was one of the main highlights of the match; his chemistry with Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish was clearly shown. Adam Cole getting into Black’s head, controlling the situation to help his teammates get a win over Strong, was great booking as it furthers the rivalry between Cole & Black. Due to the post match beat down, Regal booked Cole vs. Black in a Extreme Rules match at Takeover: Philadelphia. Get ready for a brawl.

More Regal is a good thing

I’m not huge into GMs being involved in every storyline but William Regal is perfect as a GM for NXT. Regal has shown that he could be any type of authority figure; from telling Shayna Bazler that she won’t get a title shot, being interviewed by Street Profits showing his goofy side to displaying his strictness and disdain to Undisputed Era’s heelish ways

Smackdown Live’s problem is that the Authority Figures are taking over the show more than the wrestlers themselves; Regal compliments each wrestler & their angles that is presented into the show without overshadowing the talent.

P.S. We need more Regal & Street Profits promos.

Shayna Bazler is SCARY

Shayna is being presented as a monster heel, as she should be. Normally it’s always been the bigger & larger wrestlers who are shown as unstoppable forces but this is nice change to the norm. Shayna wants to do one thing to her opponents: hurt them, hurt them BAD.

Fans were wondering why she’s getting a push ahead of other deserving wrestlers but tonight’s performance against Dakota Kai expresses why creative has faith in her. While this can be a build to the Four Horsewomen MMA/WWE match at Wrestlemania (her theme music starts off with a subtle nod to the Four Horseman theme), she is earning respect from the fans and is in the position to become the next contender for Ember Moon’s championship.

Quick Hits

Velveteen Dream is back as he questioned Johnny Wrestling’s spot as the #1 contender to the NXT Championship. Dream couldn’t be part of the tournament due to injury, so expect a match between the two, which should be a great one.

Lio Rush is still part of the WWE and is still paying for his Emma/Asuka tweet. Lars Sullivan demolished Rush in a squash match but he still resonated with the crowd as the underdog throughout the match, that’s a plus.

We are getting Street Profits vs. Authors of Pain next week for a shot at Undisputed Era's tag team titles at Takeover: Philly. It will be the Street Profits' first real test against a formidable tag team.