Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE NXT: A contract was signed, a Riot was started and a Strong was weakened. Also, Dashboard Confessional song titles!
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And now, the Best and Worst of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III.
Best: NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Let’s start off by saying the obvious: TakeOver: Brooklyn III was one hell of a PPV special event, pretty much from top to bottom. If we’re being truly honest, most memories people have of the previous two Brooklyn TakeOvers mostly revolve around Bayley (first winning the NXT Women’s Championship in 2015, then having her ride-off-into-the-sunset match the following year), whereas Brooklyn III featured multiple title changes, multiple new characters appearing and wreaking havoc, and most importantly, multiple match-of-the-year contenders.
Best: Shirt Happens
Johnny Gargano/Andrade Almas was the perfect match to kick off TakeOver. Gargano got shredded since his last TakeOver appearance — you could bounce a quarter off those abs, and given how many of those new Johnny Wrestling shirts they’re gonna sell in the near future, there’s gonna be a hell of a lot of quarters to go ’round. The first half of this match was perfectly fine, but once the guys kicked it into high gear — right around the moment Almas open-hand slapped Gargano right across his damn face — it was a blast to watch. The sequence of Gargano tossing Almas into the ropes, Almas catching himself, then Gargano superkicking him, suicide-diving onto him and then tornado DDTing him was, as the youth of today say, straight fire. And the nonstop false finishes for the last two minutes? Allow me to kiss my fingers. (Goddamn, Almas’ one-armed buckle bomb was muy caliente.)
Something I didn’t notice until my rewatch of the match was Zelina Vega yelling at Gargano early on, “You can’t do this on your own!” It was a nice foreshadowing of the finish, where she pulled a #DIY shirt (out of where, I truly do not know, because her outfit was painted on) and threw it at him, causing just enough of a distraction to allow Cien to capitalize. Somewhere, Tommaso Ciampa cackled with glee. It was a nice way to keep the Ciampa/Gargano feud going without having the Blackheart actually be in the building.
Best: Chaos Is A Ladder
Judging by both online chatter before TakeOver started and the initial crowd response, this was probably the least anticipated match of the entire card. It’s no slight to either team, but both SAnitY and Authors Of Pain have traditionally worked best when they are squaring off against some straight-up good guys. Heel vs. heel isn’t a well WWE visits with great success very often, so expectations were on the lower side for this one.
Apparently, no one told Alexander Wolfe that, because holy hell, was this his coming-out party. I have frequently run that character down in this column, because to date, he has done nothing at all for his faction or for WWE as a whole. He is Erick Rowan with more colorful pants. But I happily ate my words as he went Festus strong following the hot tag and absolutely wrecked shop on AOP. Like, who knew that guy had it in him? Those suplexes! That Frankensteiner! That pescado! Things of beauty.
I’ll admit the initial swerve of Eric Young subbing in for Killian Dain made little sense to me, but thinking about it now, I’m willing to bet this match was booked in reverse. Creative knew they wanted SAnitY to win, so they had to figure out a way to take out one member, hence the rad table spot with Akam, Dain and Nikki Cross. But by doing that, that means Dain couldn’t be involved in the finish, and you definitely need two guys to take down one member of AOP. Reverse-engineering a way to keep Dain involved while also making the pinfall believable was tricky as hell, and NXT pulled it off.
Best: Back In Black
Aleister Black is so money, you guys. I gripe about how he hasn’t had any significant storylines since his debut four months ago, and it still bothers me that we have gotten practically zero motivation for his character’s existence, but man, everything else about him is just perfect. The entrance, the theme song, the in-ring movements, the facial expressions, it’s all perfect.
This was my personal favorite match of the entire show, too, even before Black’s nose got busted up from that flurry of punches following that guillotine knee drop. He and Itami were cranked up from the bell, connecting simultaneous kicks and strikes that gave this pairing some needed added drama in a storyline that was a bit slapdash in its development. There was hardly a moment in this match where I wasn’t happily cringing as I watched these two guys pummel the hell out of each other for my enjoyment. Add in some of that lucky juice to give the match an extra bump (a la Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor at TakeOver: Dallas), and you have a killer performance that should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind who the real star is.
(Supplemental Best to Code Orange and Brendan from Incendiary for absolutely nailing Black’s entrance music. Code Orange, I hope you remember how it goes, because even though you didn’t write or record that track, it officially belongs to you now, so you better start playing it live.)
Best: Full Moon Fever
There are three irrefutable facts about this match:
- This was Ember Moon’s best NXT match to date
- This was Asuka’s best NXT match to date
- This was the best match of TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Everything else, though, will be up for debate. Was it the right decision to let Asuka kick out of the Eclipse? Was it the right decision to let Asuka continue to play the heel even though the crowd was absolutely not buying her as anything but the conquering hero? Was it the right decision to let Asuka retain after a six-month buildup with Ember Moon? And seriously, what the f*ck are they going to do now? I have zero answers for any of these things. What I do know is despite my complaints about her character development in the past few months, I legitimately believed Ember was going to get the job done here, and her fire from the second the bell rang had me sold on her as a potential champion.
Now there’s no doubt in my mind that the Mae Young Classic is going to play heavily into Asuka’s future plans. Either the winner of the MYC will go on to face (and possibly dethrone) her, or Asuka will get called up, forfeit the title and the MYC winner will become the new NXT Women’s Champion. Either way, it kind of nukes NXT’s women’s division entirely, which is a curious choice, unless, like, everyone is getting called up to be cannon fodder for Asuka again. Otherwise, buckle up for a No. 1 contender’s match between Liv Morgan and Aliyah or something.
Worst: Main Roster Main Events With NXT Undercards
No, this match wasn’t bad, per se. But both Bobby Roode and Drew McIntyre are so main roster-ready that they can’t do anything but have a typical main roster WWE PPV match. Roode’s wrestling ability is somewhere near the bottom of why people love this current gimmick, and I realize I may be in the minority here, but I’m still not into McIntyre’s NXT run. Maybe it was the comedown from four straight matches that were varying degrees of awesome, but I found myself checking my phone way more than I expected to during this main event. Roode’s best title defenses are the ones that are under 20 minutes (Roode/Itami was 18, which is downright brisk compared to Roode/Nakamura I at 27 and Roode/Nak II at 28); this match clocked in somewhere around 23 minutes, which did it no favors following the rest of the show. So, yeah: It was a perfectly fine main-roster WWE match that had no business closing out NXT’s biggest event of the year. Don’t @ me.
Supplemental Worst for whoever decided to have the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe Band play McIntyre to the ring. Can someone explain why an Irish band played out a Scottish wrestler? They are separate cultures, you guys.
Best: Nobody Puts Bay Bay In A Corner
As relatively ho-hum as the main event was, the whole thing received a huge shot in the arm with the arrival of former three-time Ring Of Honor champion Adam Cole, the formation of a new stable between himself and reDRagon, and a superkick heard ’round the world. (Side note: It was downright eerie how much Cole looked like comeback-era Shawn Michaels in this segment.) I absolutely did not expect Brooklyn to deliver that huge of a reaction for Cole’s debut, so that certainly bodes well backstage, though I am curious as to his new stable’s alignment. They’re clearly gunning for McIntyre, who is the babyface champ, but reDRagon also beat down two different heel tag teams earlier in the night. I’d say they’re going for the whole “chaotic neutral” thing, but that’s kind of been SAnitY’s gimmick for the length of their NXT tenure. I’m interested to see how they spin this invasion — unfortunately, we’re gonna have to wait until next Wednesday to find out, as this Wednesday will be the TakeOver pre-show matches.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Eric Young totally outsmarted the Authors with this master plan!
/gets clotheslined to death and launched over a fence
Gargano got Maude Flanders’ed.
[Considers typing a “Hungry like the Wolfe” joke”]
MAURO: Alexander is hungry like the wolfe!
[Sanctimoniously rolls eyes at Mauro]
Sami Zayn listens to ska
Kairi Hojo wins the NXT women’s title
with respect to Dany and Cersei, but I bend the knee to Asuka
at this point they should just go ahead and book Asuka to lose to Peyton Royce via cattle prod on a random Wednesday
I want to see a 3MB reunion photo where they’re all holding the titles, only Heath Slater is grabbing the Universal title and making a thumbs up while Brock Lesnar chokes him out
The Real Birdman
*Crosses off The Eclipse from protected finishers list*
*puts three underlines under Asuka on protected wrestlers list*
Samoa Joe’s hat, facial hair, and body type tells me that he thinks it’s about ethics in gamer journalism.
Next Week: We get whatever matches were taped before TakeOver aired, plus a whole lot of video packages. Don’t worry, we’ll be here to recap the recap!