– If you missed it (what’re you, crazy?), you can watch NXT TakeOver: 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.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social-media things are appreciated.
And now, the Best and Worst of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn for August 22, 2015.
Best: Tyler Breeze Having Seasonal Residence In Cairo Had A Payoff, Or
Best: Tyler Breeze Taking Selfies With The Statue Of Liberty
1. If you want to explain to someone why NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn is the best NXT show ever, start with, “Tyler Breeze took a selfie with the Statue of Liberty.”
I love that Tyler uses the TakeOver specials as “seasons,” and gives his models themes. Last time the theme was “Tyler Breeze.” This time it was New York, and we got a lady dressed as a sexy taxi cab. When they go to the UK, I hope Breeze subverts WWE’s lazy love of putting a double-decker bus on the stage by making it into a hat for a sexy lady.
(I honestly would’ve been okay with Liger removing his mask, revealing that he’s been Rick Martel this whole time, and a dream match turning into a Walk Off.)
2. Whoever made the call to have Tyler Breeze show up in Egyptian-themed gear after weeks of announcing him as having a seasonal residence in Cairo deserves a raise. This is the totally unimportant stuff wrestling shows need to do from time to time to “reward” people who watch closely, or have been watching for a long time. Remember at ULTIMA LUCHA when Cage got hit over the back of the head with a glass bottle and no-sold it, because the same thing happened in his original vignette? It works on a “guy getting hit with a bottle” level, but its existence makes dorks who recognize it (like myself) feel like they’ve leveled up.
Best: Jushin Thunder Liger, Forever
And then, the GOAT.
If I had to find a “Worst” for TakeOver: Brooklyn, it’d be that Jushin Thunder Liger showed up and ‘Ikari No Jyushin’ didn’t. The theme they gave him sounded like a Mega Man stage, though, and they made his entrance look like a Mega Man power-up screen, so I’ll allow it.
The thing to remember about Jushin Liger is that he’s 50 years old, and has been wrestling since 1984. A lot of you weren’t even born when he started wrestling. I was 4. It’s 2015 now and he’s having awesome show openers with Tyler Breeze, throwing Shotei palm thrusts and running Liger Bombs and looking like he’s having the time of his life. He probably is. Here’s him stopping in the middle of the match to take a selfie, because Liger MAY be a containment unit for Japanese demons held in place for the benefit of Japan in superhero battles, but he’s also a wonderful f*cking human:
Liger pinning Breeze was a little surprising to me — I’m used to that independent wrestling mindset that a one-night-only guest is there to work with the local guys, make them look good and put them over — but again, I’m okay with it. It’s Jushin Liger, and he’s wrestling Tyler Breeze in the Barclays Center on an NXT live special. IN REAL LIFE.
It’ll be interesting to see where Tyler goes from here. I want them to have the Liger loss make him even crazier about William Regal bringing in legendary international talent for him to face so he can prove himself, and I want it to lead to like, Tyler Breeze vs. Johnny Saint at NXT UK. TYLER BREEZE VS. THE BELFAST BRUISER. Worst case scenario, maybe Breeze runs into Gedo in October.
Best: Blue Pants City, With A Supplemental Best For Alexa Bliss’ Magic Face
As you might have guessed, I jumped up and down and clapped my hands like a 5-year old when Ol’ Blue Pants Leva Bates showed up as The Vaudevillains’ secret weapon in The Fight Against Alexa Bliss. It was an obvious choice, but the right one. She wasn’t dressed like a flapper and didn’t carry a section of railroad track with her to tie Alexa to, but what can you do? You’ve trained a specific kind of audience to gather in an almost 16,000-numbered bunch and chant enthusiastically for a developmental cult jobber. How wonderful is that?
A supplemental Best goes to Alexa Bliss’ face, which continues to be one of my favorite parts of NXT. Her facial expressions are on another level.
The best one she pulls is either the death glare as Blue Pants approaches the ring (pictured above), or her sad Muppet face when Blake & Murphy are leaving. I don’t know if “using every muscle in your face” is a Performance Center class, but she should be teaching it.
Best: The Best NXT Tag Team Match Ever (?)
Blake & Murphy defending against The Vaudevillains with Red vs. Blue on the outside was a ton of fun, and one of the better NXT tag matches I’ve ever seen. Great tag wrestling doesn’t usually happen in NXT, for some reason … even when the matches are good, they aren’t as good as the rest of the show. The tag division’s been getting better lately, though, and there’s a massive tag team tournament on the horizon — more on that in a minute — so we’re moving in the right direction.
Simon Gotch is such a good wrestler it makes me mad sometimes. The way he moves and the unique way he gets himself into position makes me feel like I’m seeing The Matrix or whatever, but I assume everyone can see it. I’ve said it before, but that guy’s secretly one of the very best wrestlers on the show. If the Vaudevillains as tag champs is an excuse to set up English/Gotch vs. Chad Gable/Jason Jordan for a few months, I’m so unbelievably into it.
Best: Welcome To Apollo Crews, WWE Universe
Spoiler alert: Not all of us are into independent wrestling and want to see our favorites get signed and succeed because we’re “hipsters,” or because we want to belong to some weird, niche club of wrestling fan know-it-alls. Some of us love independent wrestling because that’s where future WWE stars come from, your Brock Lesnars notwithstanding, and the reasons we fall in love with wrestlers on this level end up being the reasons why millions of people can love them.
So, Uhaa Nation. This is a guy you knew was gonna be a huge star the second you saw him, wherever you saw him first. If you saw him first here, you’re probably thinking the same thing. He’s what happened when Bobby Lashley ate Adrian Neville’s heart and stole his powers. Watching the Barclays Center collectively go OOOOOH MAN WAIT WHAAAAAT when he started cartwheeling and backflipping and standing moonsaulting made my heart grow three sizes. He’s it, man. If anybody has it, Uhaa has it. TOO EASY!
I was even happy with the match, as short as it was. Tye Dillinger JUST figured out how to be an amazing television character (and/or just got the go-ahead to be the character he should’ve been on TV for the past year), so seeing him get in some offense and not be a total loser was nice. Perfect 10 is one of my favorite things happening right now, but there’s no shame in losing to a damn force of nature. Apollo Crews is the opposite of Solomon Crowe … with Crowe, you can’t imagine him ever beating anybody. Like, look at him. Crews, though, Crews is the truth. Who the hell should beat that guy?
Best: The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament
I had all my emotions compartmentalized and ready to use during Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, and then William Regal showed up to thank Dusty Rhodes for making NXT what it is and announced the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament. I’m calling it the “Crockett Cup,” but not in public. The finals will be held at the next TakeOver event on October 7, so the question is this: we’re getting Goldust into this tournament somewhere, right? Stephen Amell’s gonna shoot Stardust with a boxing glove arrow at SummerSlam, give him super-villain amnesia and revert him back to Cody Rhodes, right? And we’re gonna get Cody Rhodes and Goldust running through the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament and putting somebody over in the finals in the most emotional sh*t ever, RIGHT?
Pretty excited for all of this. NXT’s the kind of show where the upcoming announcements feel like presents.
Best: The Best Samoa Joe Match Since Like 2007
I made a joke before it started that if Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin was as good as the rest of the show, Triple H had found a monkey’s paw. Well, uh, good luck with the consequences of a monkey’s paw, Triple H, because this was easily the best Samoa Joe match I’ve seen since Kurt Angle emasculated him back in the long long ago.
It wasn’t all Joe, either. Baron Corbin was the best-ever version of Baron Corbin, and a show full of stuff like Liger and the Vaudevillains NEEDS a big heavyweight bout. Pro wrestling’s never figured out that boxing/MMA thing where one weight division isn’t better or more important than the others. Weight divisions are defined by the people fighting IN them. UFC’s big draw can be women’s bantamweight. In boxing, you can fight welterweight and be the biggest star in the world. Ronda Rousey and Floyd Mayweather don’t have to compete early on cards because they don’t weigh enough, or because a pair of dopey heavyweights have to go on last.
So yeah, I wasn’t expecting to like this, but I liked it a lot. Joe and Corbin just threw bombs at each other for ten minutes, and it was more or less a contest to see which guy could take the punishment and stay on his feet. I’ve read a lot about how gassed they looked, but that works sometimes … if the story is that it’s two giant guys throwing each other around, the image of them sucking wind and trying to get their sh*t together is exactly right. Guys being tired or messing up moves isn’t always bad or a “botch.” Sometimes it’s purposeful.
I want this Samoa Joe to stick around. This is the one I can defend. Now that the Corbin story is told, bring back Kaval or whatever and give Joe a run in the tag tournament against the most exciting guys you can find. Wouldn’t you love to see Samoa Joe and Low Ki vs. the Lucha Dragons?
Best: NXT UK, Or “Brock Lesnar: The Beast On The Prime Meridian”
Okay, if NXT’s going to the U.K. and we don’t do Kevin Owens vs. William Regal as Owens’ NXT swan song, WWE’s out of their goddamn minds. This is all I want. I don’t care if the rest of the show is Elias Samson vs. Steve Cutler, give me Lord Regal gritting his teeth and throwing Knee Tremblers at this pissed-off, paranoid Canadian dad until one of them collapses.
Also, if we’re running Bayley up against the best women in NXT history, can we give her a shot at the original Women’s Champion? I mean, Paige never lost the belt in NXT. That could be something.
Best: Is Kana Next To Ric Flair Or Am I Hallucinating
I still can’t tell if this is shopped, and I watched it live.
Yes, that is MOST DANGEROUS KANA beside two people you’d never expect to be hanging out with Kana, Sgt. Slaughter and the damn Nature Boy Ric Flair. She’s billed as KANNA, which is infuriating until you realize that whoops, WWE has signed her and she’s “Kanna” for a reason. Triple H running NXT as a utopian e-fed is one of the most ridiculous and spectacular things that’s ever happened, and a WWE developmental territory where Rebecca Knox gets called up so they replace her with f*cking KANA is unreal. It’s WCW Invasion levels of “I never thought I’d see this.”
Seriously, think about this show. Davina Rose and Mercedes KV tore down the house at a WWE show in front of almost 16,000 people, and the women’s division got a curtain call. Prince Devitt wrestled Kevin Steen in a ladder match. Uhaa Nation debuted, Jushin Thunder Liger showed up and KANA is in the crowd beside Ric Flair. Go back like, two years and tell me ANY of this is possible. We’re living in a golden era, man, just not on the show people watch.
Note: I want Kana vs. Eva Marie like breathing. I want Dana Brooke just screaming and running away with her hands over her head.
Best: Sasha Banks’ Entrance
Bayley had a few extra tube men and a polka dot headband for her big match entrance, and it was great. Then, Sasha Banks immediately snatched that entrance’s edges by rolling up to TakeOver in a f*cking Escalade with a team of bodyguards to escort her to the ring. I’ll get more into it in a minute, but everything about this was perfect. Bayley was herself; Sasha showboated, because she’s more important now. Bayley wore gold; Sasha didn’t, because she’s been gold.
Best: A Moment, When It’s Everything It Should Be
NXT isn’t afraid to give us perfect moments.
When I explain being a wrestling fan to people, I often say that about 80% of it is garbage. Wrestling is terrible, almost exclusively. It’s regressive, it’s stupid, it’s insulting, it’s embarrassing. We sit through three hours of Raw every week, watching the same bad idea get sewn and reworn, watching the same people distract the same opponents in the same way as last week. Being a wrestling fan is like being Sisyphus, pushing a rock up a hill only for it to roll back down the other side. Sometimes, though, wrestling is great. When wrestling is great — truly, undeniably great — it’s the perfect human artform. It says what nothing else can say, and makes you feel like nothing else can. It takes the love you’ve put into it and funnels it back to you, finally, at long last. Being a wrestling fan is wading through the garbage to get to those moments, because you know they’re coming. You don’t know when, or for how long, but you know they’re there.
Sami Zayn winning the NXT Championship was a perfect moment. It took him 18 months to get there. We watched him earn Cesaro’s respect in a loss, we watched him take his eyes off the prize and lose Championship matches by being too nice. We watched him struggle with his conscience, and the reality that every successful WWE Champion has been a total asshole. The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Hulk Hogan … they were all basically heels who justified their actions because they were being cheered, whether it was the right thing to do or not. They’d take shortcuts, cheat, beat up managers, whatever. Ruthless aggression is what they call it sometimes. Zayn didn’t have that. He wanted to be a Good Dude and win the title on his own terms. At the end of his match he held the NXT Championship in his hands and was ready to use it as a weapon, but threw it down. He wasn’t going to sell out. 18 months brought him here and made him the man he is for a reason. He won, and the good guy was actually a good guy, and it mattered.
At TakeOver: Brooklyn, we got the end of the Sasha Banks vs. Bayley story they’ve spent two years telling. Two years ago, they were enhancement talent. They worked hard and came up on two different paths — Sasha looked into the NXT Oculus, sold her soul and became “The Boss” to create a false air of confidence that’d carry her through the tough decisions of becoming NXT Champion; Bayley stayed true to herself, handed out headbands to special needs kids and hugged little girls cosplaying as her in the front row. She got turned on time and again by every woman she considered a friend. Sasha became champ, got called up to Raw and tapped out the Divas Champion in the main event. Bayley stayed down here in oblivion, getting beaten up by Dana Brooke. Bayley vs. Charlotte happened and Bayley lost, and we got footage of her standing at ringside crying because she’d let her friends and family down. The Divas Revolution started, and Bayley broke her hand. The pre-match video package of her being Back to the Future’d out of the Four Horsewomen of NXT photo says it all.
I don’t know if I’ve been as emotionally invested in a match in my adult life.
NXT isn’t afraid to give us perfect moments.
There are three moments that get me. The first is after Sasha has dismantled Bayley’s wrist guard and started wrecking her hand. She gets Bayley in the Banks Statement, and when Bayley goes for the ropes, Sasha starts stomping her hand. That moment of visceral, competitive rage is the single moment you point to as an example of what NXT does differently with female wrestlers, and how women who wrestle can be everything the men can be if they’re talented, and are given the time, story and audience of the men. This is beyond what the men are doing … this is pro wrestling at its best, where the little things feel life and death, and the physicality of drama becomes everything.
The other two moments come one after the other. Bayley hits a reverse hurricanrana from the top rope, and Sasha comes down on the top of her head. It’s a death blow. Bayley stands up, aggressively throws her scrunchie down and adjusts her pony. This isn’t the Bayley we know who is kinda awkward on the microphone and doesn’t know when to pull the trigger in the ring … this is a f*cking CHAMPION. This is a woman who knows she just hit the biggest move of her life and is ready to win. It’s a f*cking plasma cannon of goosebumps. The final moment comes seconds after the pin, when Bayley’s on her knees. Everyone’s looking at Bayley, the new champion, but look at Sasha. Watch her face.
It’s not a cry of sadness, or of happiness, or relief. It’s everything. It’s all the things. It’s the rush of emotion from having wrestled one of the best women’s wrestling matches in WWE history, in front of NXT’s biggest-ever crowd, at its biggest-ever event. It’s finishing a story. It’s the end. It’s the last moment they’ll be them before the curtain call. Everything’s changing. The NXT Women’s Division is becoming the Raw and Smackdown Divas Division, and their job descriptions are changing. They’re not gonna be independent wrestlers trying their best in a Performance Center anymore. They’re gonna be world-traveled millionaires, TV stars, the works. This is the moment when that absolutely happens. This is the reward for years of hard work, for dedication in the face of impossibility, for standing up and making a difference in a sport that has never treated women right, and may never. It’s something. It’s raging against the dying of a light until an entire arena is bright as hell. Also, Jesus, it’s being dropped on your head and getting Belly-to-Bayley’d out of your shoes. It’s everything. All of it.
I loved this match. This is my favorite match of the year. An absolute classic, and the end of an era.
Here’s to hoping the next era knows how to fill those shoes, and that Bayley’s the one to show it how.
Best: Curtain Call
Best: The Main Event
If we’re talking perfect moments, we’re talking Kevin Owens responding to OLE chants by throwing up his arms and holding his shoulder. Owens has done the best-ever job at reminding us that he hates Sami Zayn, even if Zayn can’t be around.
Finn Bálor defends the NXT Championship against Owens in a ladder match. He’s painted up as The Demon and they’re killing each other dead, and it’s a spectacular main event. I’m also a little burned out from the emotional rollercoaster of the women’s title match, so this might be one of those matches I have to go back and watch on its own sometime. If you love WWE-style ladder matches, this is one of the best one-on-one versions they’ve ever done. WWE ladder matches usually work better when there’s a bunch of people around to set up spots in the background, and one-on-one stuff usually suffers. This didn’t. I legitimately worried about their health for so much of it.
I’m not sure if I’m right for feeling it, but this also kinda felt like the end. NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn was the NXT season finale, in a way. It didn’t end with everyone packing up and leaving Full Sail to build another Temple in Brooklyn or whatever, but it was Kevin Owens’ last legitimate shot at being NXT Champion. He’s a regular on Raw and Smackdown now, and all he’s really got left is a match with William Regal (fingers crossed) and whatever they can salvage for Sami. Maybe Sami will show up to help Regal, and that’s why he didn’t show up here?
I don’t have much to say about the main other than that it was great, and a top-tier way to end one of the best WWE shows of the year. Bálor hitting a Coup de Grace from the top of a ladder is the spot this match was made for, and it was beautiful. Finn has officially trounced arguably the toughest character NXT’s ever had, so what’s next? Who shows up next and figures out how to counter a guy with demon summoning powers?
It might be the end of a lot of things we love, but the promise of NXT is that it hasn’t let us down, and that whatever happens next will make us feel like this again. There’s a hope to it, even as it becomes more and more a WWE product. The secret is that it always has been, like the Hulk always being angry, and that WWE knows better than anyone else how to produce and execute the perfect wrestling show. The frustration has always been that they choose not to, because it’s easier to make money that way.
My hope is that NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn shows them that they can do pro wrestling right and be a powerful, progressive tool for change in the industry, and they can sell out arenas while they do it. You’ve always had this. It’s all yours, and it’s happening in front of us. Wherever we go from here, try not to lose it.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
That’s just Hunico in a Liger costume, isn’t it?
Gus the Ghost
I really hope Nia has bionic arms.
Aden English is the Gotham by Gaslight version of Cesaro
All of Brooklyn is clapping rhythmically to calliope music. And I’m not even talking about this show.
So, if Tye is a perfect 10, does that make Apollo 11?
The best part about Tye Dillinger’s new gimmick is that if it fizzles out he can just leave for NJPW and later return to NXT as Lord Ten-sai
Baron needs to start an Airheads-esque tag team called “The Lone Wolves.”
STOP HUGGING HER SASHA! YOU’RE EXPOSING THE BUSINESS! AND EXPOSING… my heart *sob*
The Real Birdman
Legit shocked Stephanie did jump in the ring and make everyone hold up five fingers
“What the f*ck was that sh*t?”
– Kevin Nash
Thanks, everybody. See you for SummerSlam!