– If you missed it, you can watch NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II (aka “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn Brooklyn”) here. We do a weekly Best and Worst of NXT column as well, so you should go here and check that out, along with all of our other NXT coverage.
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And now, the Best and Worst of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II for Aug. 20, 2016.
Best: HIDEO WAY JOSE
Before we get to the opening match, I’ve got to take a paragraph or 12 to sing the praises of HIDEO ITAMI, who gets to be one of the coolest wrestlers in the world again now that the NXT ecosystem isn’t relying on him to be the one popular Japanese star and all the dudes who appropriated his finishers for WWE audiences are lost causes. Instead of being an ineffectual little threatening guy who hits hesitation dropkicks and doesn’t really have anything left in the tank, Itami gets back not only the Busaiku Knee Kick but the GO TO GODDAMN SLEEP. Also, he is too badass for socks.
Aries defeats No Way Jose and keeps punishing him after the match, so Itami — in a suit, like that impossibly badass debut against The Ascension — makes the save. As mentioned, he’s not wearing socks. It’s a nice conversation piece when he’s kicking Aries as hard as possible in the side of his head, then popping him (and the crowd, in a dramatically different way) with his signature move he should’ve gotten back the second he stepped foot into a WWE ring.
So now we have the TRUE SELF version of Hideo Itami against the increasingly compelling Austin Aries, and I’m all in. I love that NXT understands pro wrestling so truly and fundamentally that it can take guys I’ve disliked for years and turn them into my favorites in a few months. It’s so rarely about the actual performer themselves, but what they’re asked to do, and when and how they’re asked to do it. Remember this paragraph so we can link back to it when Roderick Strong’s like six months into his NXT run and I’m forced to be all, “welp, I guess I like Roderick Strong.”
Best: Everything Except The No Way Jose Shirt
First of all, I’m sure I’ve typed this before, but they need to straight up fire whichever ambitious 8th grader who got lost and wandered into Full Sail they put in charge of designing NXT T-shirts. No Way Jose and Cien Almas are in a dead heat for worst shirt of the year. I’ll keep buying these things because I want to support the wrestlers I like, but man, I’d appreciate it if y’all didn’t make me look like I exclusively shop at beach souvenir stores.
Anyway, I don’t want to put ALL the love on Itami, because Austin Aries vs. No Way Jose was great. It was a basic, fundamentally sound opener that kept the crowd engaged, moved at the right pace and didn’t do too much and burn anybody out. Jose and Aries are interesting physical rivals, because they couldn’t look more different. Aries as a physical underdog with a thousand times more experience controlling the action against a gigantic, well-meaning guy who’s just coming to terms with the fire inside him (and/or how to channel that fire in a way beyond the cha-cha) is great.
I also appreciate Aries getting the win here, and the way he did it. If you’re going to keep promoting him as an important signing and one of the top stars in the promotion, you’ve gotta let him win every now and then. You can’t put him over unstoppable-ass Nakamura, sure, but you can let him beat No Way Jose clean and still let Jose take him to church a little bit in the process.
Very good stuff.
Worst: The Loss Of Billie Kay’s Music
No more Carmen: A Hip-Hopera? Time to add it to the pile with Tye Dillinger’s old music, Adam Rose’s original entrance theme and the first Bull Dempsey song they had to change because it made me chant “Bull” during Kevin Owens’ entrances.
Best: Ember Damn Moon
If you were worried at all about the further gutting of the NXT women’s division with those brand-split call-ups, don’t worry: Athena is finally here, she gets to keep the O-Face, and she’s some sort of Mortal Kombat/Sailor Moon mashup who is summoned by a blood moon and also might be a ninja werewolf? I don’t know, Lucha Underground‘s got me feeling hopeful about assigning absurd adjectives to everybody.
All you need to know is that Ember Moon is dope and the truth and anything else you wanna put in positivity italics. If you weren’t on board at first, you had to have been after she hit this:
It’s especially good when her opponent eats sh*t on it instead of selling it like a conventional stunner. Either way it’s a regularly occurring masterpiece, and the long, happy march to Ember Moon vs. Asuka begins now.
Kinda sad we didn’t get Ember Moon vs. Nia Jax, but hey, maybe we will someday.
The only thing better than Ember Moon’s finisher is Bobby Roode’s entrance theme. And now he’s got 15,000 people singing it while he descends from the Heavens on Bad News Barrett’s old podium scissorlift.
Here’s a quick list of problems, though:
1. How in the world are we supposed to boo Bobby Roode over that, especially when his opponent dresses like he’s a time-traveling Scotty Riggs and was already kinda-sorta DOA after facing Tye Dillinger, aka “the poor man’s Bobby Roode.” Think about it, Dillinger’s got a fun entrance theme with a fun gimmick and the crowd has an ironic love for him that transitions into ACTUAL love the longer he’s around. Almas couldn’t get through that, and now he’s gotta face GLORIOUS BOBBY ROODE? Are we torpedoing that guy on purpose?
I think the only way to truly made Roode a heel is to take away the entrance theme, and have Bobby be the one to take it away. Like, demand we stop playing “singalong with the champ” or whatever until it’s just too much for him to take, and then he gets something boring that’s impossible to sing along to. I would HATE HIS GUTS if he took Glorious away from us.
2. The “Glorious Bomb” is a pump-handle slam, which felt like an underwhelming finisher for the f*cking Road Dogg 20 years ago. I know he can’t go around Death Valley Driving people in a world where the Attitude Adjustment exists, but there’s got to be a more exciting compromise. I guess it beats the high-speed-running dick to the face that Almas does.
3. I really do feel terrible for Almas. The guy’s fantastic in the ring and La Sombra is my jam, you know? I want him to have something more than being the second most interesting Latino guy facing a former TNA heel in the first half of an NXT TakeOver.
Now that you’ve read all that, ignore it and go back and watch Bobby Roode’s entrance again. Holy sh*t.
What Is Sanity?
I’m not sure, so let’s figure it out.
The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So, Raw. What’s the opposite of Raw? NXT. Sanity is NXT. Nailed it.
Best: The Motherf*cking Revival
Remember that thing I said about NXT taking guys I was never a huge fan of and turning them into irreplaceable cogs in my wrestling love? Check out Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano over here not only having one of the best matches of the year, but helping the Revival actually revive tag team wrestling, cross-promoting the Cruiserweight Classic with a multi-show character arc AND defying expectant tropes in real-time. JOHNNY GARGANO IS DOING THIS.
For starters, the match. THE MATCH. It starts off a little boring if we’re being honest, but that’s necessary to lay the groundwork for everything that comes after it. The Revival is all about building a tapestry of double-teams, referee distractions and brilliantly choreographed and timed counters, so a lot of what they do early on in the feeling-out process comes back when everybody’s going batsh*t and running at each other. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the best actual match of the night, and also of the weekend, and of at least this part of the year. That’s saying something, considering we’ve gotten a ton of great stuff over just the past few weeks. I didn’t get to write about it, but Cedric Alexander and Kota Ibushi might’ve given me a religious experience.
I love that the tag team match is the best part of the show, because when I was growing up, that was a given. My favorite wrestlers when I was a kid were the Rock n’ Roll Express, so watching them wrestle the Midnight Express like 500 times a year was what wrestling was. Eventually I gave that same adoration to the Steiner Brothers, followed them to Japan and fell in love with a new kind of tag team wrestling. American Alpha and The Revival have made that make sense again, and The Revival’s completely skipping the hype to just wreck shop in every f*cking match they have. I can’t say how much they’re doing for the quality of the show. AND THEY DON’T EVEN CHEAT. They time, and manipulate. They plan and execute. They’re just smart, and good at what tag teams can do.
I think everybody in the world thought Ciampa was going to turn on Gargano after the match, and that might’ve been the best part. These two had one of the best matches of the Cruiserweight Classic, and it ended with Gargano on top and Ciampa having to swallow his pride and adorably sit-hug him to show they were still a team. Then Ciampa makes them custom T-shirts (that he did himself), and now Johnny LOSES. Ciampa has now lost two important matches in the same month because of his best friend in completely different ways. The looks he was giving him after the match felt like death stares, even if they were accompanied by affectionate bro-hugging. I love that it’s crossing over to both NXT AND the CWC, and that they didn’t just pull the trigger on Ciampa being a jerk to get a reaction. Let it fester, man. Let it sit. It’s going to matter so, so much when it finally happens. Especially because yo, they might’ve won if Ciampa had paid attention to where the other Revival guy was instead of standing in the corner preemptively celebrating the win.
Like I said, I can’t compliment this enough. An amazing match that sets up even more amazing stuff down the road. WWE should just stop doing WWE shows and be NXT all the time.
Best, And Also Crying: Bye Bayley
Losing Bayley to the main roster might be the last time that truly feels like “losing” something.
Bayley is the “heart and soul” of NXT, sure, but she’s more than that. She’s the last person standing from the generation of NXT that made NXT. I’m a sucker for the old days, but the crew that really put the company on the map were Neville, Zayn, Owens, Finn and the Four Horsewomen. And Alex Riley. Kidding. But all those people are gone now, even the f*cking White Lion, and Bayley’s still here. She served as a connection between the old pioneer crew of NXT women’s wrestling and the new generation, and then something weird happened. The new generation got called up before most of us felt like they were ready for it, and Bayley stayed.
I guess we knew this was coming.
Bayley faces Asuka, trying to become the two-time NXT Women’s Champion. She tries to wrestle LIKE Asuka. Intensity. Hard strikes. No fear. That’s not Bayley, but she does it well. She compromised to try to “better” herself and rise up to Asuka’s level, but that’s what she never got … she was already AT Asuka’s level. She was the Champion. She lost to Asuka, sure, but it wasn’t because of any failing in her wiring. Asuka’s just tough. Bayley’s tough too, but she’s torn now, stuck trying to prove to herself that she’s as good as her peers when her peers keep drifting away.
The match is intense. It’s maybe not as good as their first encounter, but it’s certainly more emotional. It lacks the surprise of Bayley’s title reign ending so quickly, but it makes up for it with Bayley’s ending. Bayley gets kicked in the head harder than anybody should, and she STANDS UP. It doesn’t even phase her. She is the fully realized Sting, no-selling Ric Flair’s knife-edge chops 45 minutes into a match. She is power. But the running joke of Bayley is that she doesn’t know what to do with it, so Asuka just keeps kicking her until she stops moving. The same thing she did to Nia Jax. The same thing she’s going to do to EVERYBODY until Ember Moon starts jumping off the top rope at her.
It feels less like an ending, and more like a signature on a letter. It’s a goodbye, but there’s another page to write. We can’t keep her down here as a big fish in a small pond forever. We’ve gotta let her fly. Like fish fly, I guess. We have to let her to go be a popular millionaire on a TV show full of matches that aren’t as good as this, with stories that are way more insulting and pandering than this, and beginnings and middles and endings that never feel this earned. We should be thankful for the amount of time we got for her, because Jesus, it was way too much.
Bayley is the character that let NXT know that babyfaces could be okay. That you could stand up for yourself and BE yourself, and that when veterans walk up to you and say “you’ve got to be a hardened asshole to make it in this business,” you can say, “no thanks, I’m gonna make a headband out of my friend’s old clothes and hug every little kid I see.” When she debuted, NXT was nothing but a sparsely lit, barely filled room at Full Sail. When she left, it was in front of 15,000 in the Barclays.
To the one who changed everything, thank you.
Worst: The Cruiserweight Classic Trophy
“Orange County Choppers, we went to you to put a globe on top of a pillar, nobody else in the world could’ve done that, thanks for your art, and thanks for making the trophy bigger than anybody who’ll win it. Nobody sees a dick, we swear.”
Best: VIOLINS, CENTER OF HIS OWN ATTENTION
Crowd sings aloud, Tom tries to understand it. Tries to make them proud.
Hey, so Shinsuke Nakamura entered to a live f*cking fiddler and suddenly we’re watching NXT TakeOver: Wrestle Kingdom. If you didn’t enjoy Nakamura entering to live music and like, fiddle-dancing with the dude, you might want to check and make sure you don’t have a cold pile of sh*t where your heart’s supposed to be.
As for the match, I’m giving that a Best too, but not as much as I want.
I don’t know if the match with Finn Bálor messed up the part of my brain that gets hype for Nakamura matches — it still got Mojo levels of hype for the entrance, so probably not — but since that match, I haven’t really been all about Nakamura. He doesn’t seem to really get going in some of these matches, and you keep waiting for them to take it to the next level and get people rocking and rolling like the tag match did, and they just … don’t. That was Nakamura vs. Joe. It was very good, don’t get me wrong, but it was what, the third best match on the show? Fourth?
Samoa Joe has been my guy for the past few months, so maybe I’m just sore about him losing the championship like this. Nakamura is crazy overpowered, having now beaten the guy who beat The Demon. If Samoa Joe gets murked by him, who honestly stands a chance? Nakamura’s in that same spot as Asuka, where he’s just head and shoulders above his peers so there’s really nobody who can step right up to him without a long period to build. Unless, I don’t know, WWE’s just like “hey Okada, here’s a billion dollars, come wrestle on a TakeOver and drop half of what we give you on the crowd.” Who does Nakamura face now, Bobby Roode? Come on.
I’m also a little worried for Samoa Joe’s face, because Nakamura took most of it off at the end there. Those knees to the face were absolutely brutal, as I guess they probably should be, but damn. When one of the seemingly toughest guys in the company (and the sport) can’t close his mouth when he’s walking to the back, you know some sh*t got real.
I’m gonna stay on the optimistic side here. Nakamura is legit the coolest guy on the planet, even when he dresses like a 6-year old Japanese girl cosplaying Daniel Bryan, and sometimes you’ve just gotta let the best guy you’ve got be champion, regardless of whether he “needs” it. It’s good for the belt that Nak has held it. Zayn, Owens, Finn, Joe, Nak. That’s probably five of (if not THE five) best wrestlers in the world, right? I’m not sure where this goes, or what it means for competition going forward, or whether Nakamura will remember to try hard and also sell and also NOT hurt people as hard as possible for real, but I’m absolutely down to give him and NXT the benefit of the doubt.
(Kick his ass, Hideo.)
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Samoa Joe is my favorite Joe of Samoan heritage in the WWE.
Joes entrance following Nakamuras is the equivalent of being with the most beautiful girl on earth, and her 300 pound cage fighter brother suddenly walking in on you.
Yeah. But wait until Joe gets a live tuba player.
Shinsuke went down to Brooklyn, he was lookin’ for a belt to steal…
Not really feeling it. Maybe if Bayley had a giant retractable podium…..
But Tommaso, what about when there was only one set of footprints…?
Bayley’s headband had a piece of Sashas ring gear from last year. Translation: Bayley is a secret sociopathic heel who takes trophies.
If we ever get an NXT special in California, can the subtitle be NXT TakeOver: Revival Goes West?
The Mighty One
Cien Almas needs to properly master Obtenebration to get anywhere in NXT.
Bobby Roo is a man of the people. It’s not Glory-Me and Glory-You. It’s Glorious.
Thanks, everybody. See you next TakeOver, when wrestling is great and we are all happy.