NXT Takeover XXV Review

I know, I know, I KNOW. As of this writing, Double or Nothing happened about a week and a half ago, and despite my interest in it, and despite being very, very down on WWE these days, to the point that I haven’t even been watching NXT regularly for the past couple months or so, I still haven’t seen it. And instead of taking time out of my busy day of playing Super Metroid to purchase and watch Double or Nothing, here I am, going right back to the familiarity and convenience of whatever WWE is churning out. My shame is great.

Wrestling always kind of sucks, and every few years or so I get to a point with WWE where I just get sick of some aspect of their bullshit. It happened in 2009, and 2011, and it’s happening now. I’m tired of seeing them stock up on some of the most talented workers in wrestling solely so that no one else can have them, and retain dissatisfied workers they aren’t suing just because they can. I’m tired of seeing people get called up to the main roster and then promptly wasted. (Seriously, how do you fuck up Asuka? How do you fuck up The Revival? How do you fuck up Ricochet?) I’m discouraged to see the Women’s Division seemingly getting shafted back to midcard purgatory, now that Ronda Rousey has peaced out. Oh, and I’m damn sure sick of these assholes classifying their employees as independent contractors, and I’m sick of them taking buckets of money from brutal dictatorship and asking us to enjoy it. What a crock.

Granted, it’s been years since I watched Raw or SmackDown regularly, but like I said, it’s affecting my enthusiasm for NXT, as well. Some day, everyone in NXT who is cool will be sent to the main roster, where they will get entirely lost in a squalid morass of a senile old fuck’s wet fart backstage ‘comedy’ segments. My point here is that I want AEW to succeed as much as anyone else, so I’m as disappointed as you that I haven’t given them any money yet. That said, there is still isn’t any ethical consumption under capitalism, and AEW still isn’t giving lots of their people health insurance at this time. Just because they’re a better wrestling company doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good, if you catch my drift.

I’ll watch Double or Nothing some day, I promise. In the meantime, here’s my (brief) thoughts and snowflakes on Takeover XXV. I didn’t watch live but I did read the results, so nothing is gonna shock me.

Matt Riddle vs. Roderick Strong

Roderick Strong is such a dork, I love it. When he enters by himself, it’s like he has no idea what to do with his hands. I relate to this man! Cool mat stuff to start; I love the rolling gut wrench suplex thing Riddle does. Turns into a very good version of a normal WWE match when Strong takes control by slamming Riddle on the edge of the apron, which, this being a Roderick Strong match, means BACKBREAKERZ~! And general working over of Riddle’s torso. When Riddle makes his comeback, he murders the crap out of Strong; seriously, there was like three minutes of Strong getting his ass kicked before transitioning to the final stretch, where both guys murder each other for a bit. Riddle wins with a Tombstone-looking thing. Some resting early, but this ruled. ****3/4

Street Profits vs. Forgotten Sons vs. Lorcan & Burch vs. Undisuputed Era – Ladder Match, NXT Tag Team Championship

So like, most people’s entrance videos are at least kind of neat-looking, but the Forgotten Sons’ video looks like something I could do in PowerPoint, so I’m going to continue padding my resume accordingly. Anyway, highlights of this match include: Wesley Blake doing a tope suicida into a ladder, knocking O’Reilly and Fish on their asses and setting up Angelo Dawkins diving on everyone outside; O’Reilly taking a nasty back bump on the ladder, and hopefully he’s not actually hurt; Forgotten sons doing the ladder-on-the-neck thing, then getting double Geman suplexed out of it by Lorcan and Burch; Montez Ford leapfrogs onto Blake, who was on a ladder; Fish giving Ford a German onto a ladder; O’Reilly gets powerbombed onto Fish, who was climbing a ladder (and at this point, it’s clear O’Reilly getting his ass kicked is part of the match story); Forgotten Sons doing a tandem Scorpion Death Drop-stomp thing on Fish; Street Profits do a Dommsday Device Blockbuster; Jackson Ryker interferes on behalf of Forgotten Sons, taking out everyone else, and then everyone else teams up to kick his ass; Lorcan and Burch sandwiching Street Profits with ladders; Ford springboards onto the ladder to take out Blake and grab the belts. When this match was good, it was great, but like War Games last year, it was too long for its own good. ****1/2

Tyler Breeze vs. Velveteen Dream(c) – North American Championship Match

Dream is wearing this gold chain uh…thing that wraps around his torso that seems wholly unsuited for use during physical activity, and he’s working the match in it. Weird. Breeze takes control for a bit after smashing Dream’s knee into the post, and Dream recovers by whaling on Breeze outside. Both guys seem to be working as heels, which is weird but I’m into it. It’s a lot more basic than Riddle vs. Strong; the holds, counters, and psychology are simple, and the pace is a good deal slower. Breeze starts bleeding from the ear, which looks like it sucks. They do a count out tease, which is always lame. Dream wins shortly thereafter with a DVD-Purple Rainmaker combo. This never got all the way going; they seemed stuck in 3rd gear or so for much of it. Not a bad match by any means, but nothing that could stand up to the first two matches. ***

Io Shirai vs. Shayna Baszler(c) – Women’s Championship Match

They tease Baszler stomping on Shirai’s elbow in the opening, which culminates in Shirai slapping Baszler right in her dang face, followed by Baszler getting pissed and doing the elbow stomp.Baszler has a really good clothesline; she makes it look like she’s really throwing her entire arm into it. Reminds me of some of the finer lariats I’ve seen in old All Japan matches. The story here is that Baszler is overconfident; her normal stuff isn’t working as well against Shirai as much as it normally does, and she’s not pressing the advantage effectively. Duke and Shafir run out, then Candace LaRae canes the shit out of both. Baszler locks in the Clutch soon after; Shirai counters into the pin, but Baszler kicks out. Baszler locks it back in for the surprise tap, and the crowd is pissed. Like a lot of Baszler matches, this was good but not great; there was mean spirited violence and cool strikes but it didn’t cohere into a classic. ***1/4 Shirai beats on Baszler with a kendo stick, a moonsault, and a chair moonsault after. I’m not big on speculation, but unless they’re setting up LaRae for a title shot I don’t know who’s going to beat Baszler at this point.

Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano(c) – Men’s Championship Match

Crowd is extremely pro-Cole here, to the shock of no one. Opening mat work sequence is rad as all hell. A couple of things I want to point out about this match, as it’s a great example of an elevated opening sequence. First off, they’re putting additional effort and purpose into everything; when Cole bails to stall, it’s for an established reason. When they work holds on the mat, they work the holds; whoever is in it is trying to escape, and whoever has it in is working to keep it locked in. Also, it’s back and forth enough so that once Cole does take control for a heat section, it still feels more back and forth than the standard match format (wherein the face gets early shots in before the heat, then makes a comeback late). A great match doesn’t have to be an all-out sprint if everything happening in the match happening for a reason. When everything is happening for a reason, everything that happens is imbued with layers of meaning, and the match becomes a feast. Yes, a lot of the match is built around Cole working Gargano’s knee, but there’s a lot more going on, and a lot to pay attention to. They steal each other’s finishers like it’s 2002, because they can. The big kickouts mean something. Cole baits Gargano (whose long-established flaw is that he cares too much) into taking out the ref, costing Gargano the win and portending his doom. Sure enough, Cole escapes the Gargano uh…Escape, Panama Sunrise, Last Shot, new champ. Flawless match. *****

Great show! It dragged in the middle to be sure, but the opener, ladder match, and main event all owned.

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