Sports

Wednesday Night’s Alright: Weekend Edition Featuring NXT TakeOver XXX

Welcome to Wednesday Night’s Alright, my Thursday column on Uproxx Sports, recapping the events of Wednesday Night. Except today it’s a Tuesday column, recapping the events of Saturday night. AEW Dynamite was moved to make room for the NBA, while NXT had TakeOver 30 on the WWE Network. So let’s catch up with what those Thursday night brands were doing on Saturday.

Exciting Arrival: Thunder Rosa

The NWA Women’s Champion is challenging for the AEW Women’s Championship at All Out! That’s pretty awesome, and should lead to a great a match between Rosa and Shida. For those of you who haven’t watched NWA Powerrr and don’t know Thunder Rosa from the indies, you might remember her as Kobra Moon on Lucha Underground or even Serpentine on WOW. Whether in a snake mask or sugar skull face paint, she’s a very good wrestler, and she’s going to come at Shida as hard as anybody ever has.

I’m not sure what her presence in AEW implies about the future of NWA Powerrr, but considering she put over their Women’s Title it makes sense to assume that, as Billy Corgan has claimed, they’ll be back in production soon. In the meantime, this match is a great move for both promotions. Hikaru Shida is a big fish in a small, poorly-booked pond in AEW, and honestly Thunder Rosa’s NWA pond of women is even smaller. But crossing the two over, opens up a whole world of women’s wrestling potential. Let’s hope AEW finds ways to pay that off beyond one great match.

Runners Up

I’m not sure Rhea Ripley counts, because it’s not exactly strange to see her in NXT, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to see her after the NXT Women’s Title Match. Clearly her next fight is with Raquel Gonzalez, with whom she had a face-off of mutual intimidation, but in the longer term she’s absolutely coming for Io Shirai and the Women’s Title that Rhea previously held for far too brief a time.

TakeOver also featured an ad announcing another exciting return: Tommaso Ciampa, who arrives on Wednesday.

Nefarious Heel Behavior: Darby Allin, meet Darby Allin

I love when guys dress up like other guys and then beat up the guys they’re dressed as. Ricky Starks’ impression of Darby Allin reminds me of Strong Bad making fun of Strong Sad. Of course Strong Mad is there too, in the form of Brian Cage, who takes things from mockery to pummeling, a transition Ricky is happy to embrace. Allin/Starks is going to be a hell of a match, and perhaps the first big fight Darby’s had that feels like it could go either way. He’ll never stand a chance against Cage, of course, but that’s what friends are for. I know Moxley’s busy with MJF right now, but he’s beaten Cage before and he needs to help out his young friend out of this, like the Homestar Runner of AEW we all know he is.

Runners Up

Raquel Gonzalez and Candice LeRae did the usual thing of helping out their beloved Dakota Kai and Johnny Gargano, respectively, but neither of them managed to get their partners a win. And of course the Inner Circle beat up Orange Cassidy this week, but that’s becoming normal. They have to do something to make sure he keeps caring about the feud.

Most Exciting Title Change: The Exalted One Brodie Lee becomes TNT Champion

Cody has been pushing himself too hard lately, wrestling every week against top opponents for the TNT Championship, and it finally caught up with him. Brodie Lee isn’t just a charismatic cult leader (although he is that), he’s also huge guy and a hell of a wrestler. Still, nobody expected him to squash Cody the way he did. It was too short to be a contender for Best Match, but it was a hell of a moment.

Brodie didn’t stop with winning the Title, either. He led the Dark Order in a beatdown of the Nightmare Family, including directing Anna Jay to take out Brandi, which she did. As a big fan of Brodie Lee, I’m happy to see he has a belt, and I’m also really interested in the idea of the Dark Order becoming the dominant heel faction in AEW, while Chris Jericho leads the Inner Circle directly into the midcard chasing Orange Cassidy.

Runners Up

Damien Priest won the vacant NXT North American Championship in a very good ladder match. Priest hasn’t really won me over yet, but I’m open to seeing what he does with a belt. I did like that he immediately jumped in a hot tub with two ladies. I think part of the reason I haven’t been into him since he arrived is that he seemed like another big scary moody guy, trapped in between Aleister Black and Karrion Kross, so if his character is evolving into something flashier that definitely helps.

Speaking of big moody guys, Karrion Kross is your new NXT Champion! His match with Keith Lee dragged on a bit and definitely showed Kross’s limitations as a worker, but he’s clearly not being positioned as the kind of champion who has five-star matches (the usual NXT kind of champion). Kross is the kind of champion everyone is afraid of because he’s a confoundingly large psychopath with a creepy tattoo of a wendigo on his back and a witch-girlfriend who summons fire at will. It’s an unusual move for NXT, and I understand the fears of those who think it points to the Yellow and Black brand becoming more like mainline WWE where huge champs who don’t wrestle that well have been pretty normal since at least the Hulkamania era. That said, I’m interested enough in Kross and Scarlett’s characters to want to see where things go from here.

Better Than I Expected: Pat McAfee

Okay, I was kind of wrong, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Pat McAfee can go, turns out. It’s not just that he’s in fantastic shape (strongest legs “in the history of legs in general” as he said in a pre-match promo), it’s that he’s clearly been dedicated to learning to wrestle, and really he’s taken to it. His transitions are smooth, his swanton bombs are impeccable, and his dive to the outside looked fantastic. It’s still important that Adam Cole won, because again, he’s a professional wrestler, but McAfee turned up ready to go for real, and props to him for that. If he wants to come back and wrestle another time or two, I’d be a lot more open to that.

Runners Up

I don’t dislike Brandi Rhodes, but I understand everyone’s dismay at the probability of the Nightmare Sisters winning the Women’s Tag Team Tournament. She’s not a great wrestler and she is an exec in the company, and it just wouldn’t be a great look. Nevertheless we all expected it, especially when the finals pitted her and Allie against Diamante and Ivelisse, two women who aren’t even signed to the company. But in another great upset, Diamante and Ivelisse won! The match had its shortcomings for obvious reasons, but the finish was exactly what it should have been, and I really hope it leads to the signing of the winning team, and maybe even some Women’s Tag Titles for them to fight over (as long as I’m dreaming).

Best Promo: Eddie Kingston

Eddie Kingston is one of the best talkers in all of wrestling, and thank the gods he’s now getting to talk not just on TV, but on TNT instead of wherever Impact was airing when he was last there. He points out to the Lucha Bros, Butcher and Blade that they’re too good to be costing themselves matches by squabbling with each other. He puts all four of them over bigtime and then gets them to join him in a group hug, which might seem like an odd move for a heel, but then he turns to the camera and gives the greatest wink ever, letting us know that his plans are about something other than unity and togetherness.

I have to assume that Eddie’s recruitment of the Lucha Bros means that Death Triangle is dead, at least for now. It makes sense, since we have no idea when PAC will be back. I can’t believe that guy’s stuck at home for months instead of working again. When he does make it back, I’m sure he’ll channel that into the nastiest of promos. In the meantime, I’m ready to see what Kingston and his two tag teams get up to.

Runners Up

Other than Pat McAfee talking about his great legs, all the promo weight was on AEW this week, because promos just aren’t what TakeOver events spend their time on. Jon Moxley had another good one, in which he challenged MJF to go talk to his wife for a list of his flaws, which got everybody talking since Mox’s actual wife, Renee “Young” Paquette, just left WWE. I suspect she’s bound for a job outside of wrestling, because she’s good enough to do whatever she wants, but I am excited by the prospect that no longer working for WWE likely means she can make an appearance in AEW here and there without getting in trouble with whoever she works for next.

Chris Jericho also cut a promo on Orange Cassidy, in which he announced the new gimmick match he’s invented for All Out, the Mimosa Mayhem Match. The guy who loves a bit of the bubbly and the Orange guy trying to throw each other into a giant vat of mimosas is hard to argue with, and plus it ought to end their feud without either of them taking a “legit” loss. I also loved Jericho putting himself over as a gimmick match genius by reminding everybody that he invented Money In The Bank.

Best Match: Io Shirai vs Dakota Kai

I went into TakeOver absolutely sure that Io Shirai was retaining the NXT Women’s Title, but this match was so well-told that there were moments where I really believed Dakota might take it. She didn’t, but she gave Io the fight of her life. I think that, like Shirai pointed out in the build, there is a part of Kai that really is still that same scared girl who was bullied by Shayna Baszler. But having her own monster Raquel Gonzalez at her back gives Dakota confidence, and having confidence enable her to show everyone that she really is one of the best wrestlers around. She just needs that crutch of a giant woman keeping an eye out for trouble so she can focus.

Of course, Dakota’s hold over Raquel seemed to come into doubt as Raquel was distracted by how much she wants to fight Rhea Ripley, so there may be conflict coming to this team too. And the thing is, I’m good with that. I just want to see all these women work, in whatever configuration the story requires.

Runners Up

For those who love the wrestling part of wrestling, you can’t ask for much better than Timothy Thatcher’s match against Finn Bálor, which was both a technical clinic and a lot of fun to watch.

The North American Championship Ladder Match also had a lot of fun spots in it. Bronson Reed continues to impress—that splash off the ladder with Candice LeRae on his back was really something—and Cameron Grimes continues to win me over.

Sadly, there wasn’t a match on Dynamite that I’d consider for this slot. It was a fun show, but most of that fun came down to promos, shenanigans, and one surprising squash. As far as in-ring work, it really wasn’t their best episode. You win some, you lose some, no matter what day of the week.

That’s all for this Saturday edition of Wednesday Night. This week things are still weird, with AEW Dynamite airing on Thursday, but I’ll find a way to cover that too. Plus, I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss Summerslam and its RAW aftermath.

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