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: ***
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: *****
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.