NXT XXX Review!

Not BAMF

I almost started this by saying “I can’t believe there has been thirty NXT Takeover events”.

But then I put a few minutes’ worth of thought into it, and you know what? I’m actually surprised there’s ONLY been thirty of these. It feels like I’ve watched more than that. In a good way! I typically love Takeovers as much as any special event that isn’t the Royal Rumble or Wrestle Kingdom.

Regardless of whether you feel that NXT is younger or older than thirty, the black-and-gold brand’s 30th WWE Network live event special was tonight. NXT has changed a lot from its early days when Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville were the faces of the brand. It’s had mountainous highs and lows that never felt worse than “acceptable”.

Honestly, modern NXT is in a bit of its own low. Whether that’s because the Wednesday Night Wars have pushed the program to try harder or rush through some builds on its weekly offering, or because of the pandemic situation keeping some talent (like Pete Dunne and WALTER) at bay, it has felt a bit… off as of late.

But still… it’s a Takeover, so I was amped. Did Takeover 30 hold a candle to its 29 predecessors? Let’s see:


PRE-SHOW MATCH: Breezango vs Legado del Fantasma vs Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch

First of all, I was pleasantly surprised that Breezango won this match because, unless I am mistaken… didn’t they just recently challenge for the tag titles against Imperium and lose? So for NXT to go back to that well… dare I dream that they are going to put gold FINALLY around the waists of Breeze and Fandango (unless you count Tyler Breeze’s newly rechristened LeftRightLeftRight championship, and I totally do).

Anyway, I came out of this match wildly impressed by Raul Mendoza, who was flying around here, and everything he did just looked so crisp. Honestly, everyone looked good for this match, which was a short little sprint that let everyone get in a few spots before Breeze’s abrupt pinfall victory off of a Super[model] Kick.

Rating: ***


MATCH ONE: Finn Balor vs Timothy Thatcher

The best thing I can say about this match is that Thatcher has come away as more than “The Guy Who Wasn’t Pete Dunne”. And that’s a good thing. Since COVID-19 put an end to the Broserweights, I have had a hard time accepting Thatcher as anything more than a plug-in replacement for the irreplaceable Dunne.

This affair looked like it HURT, though. The constant submission attempts from both guys and the powerful strikes all came across wonderfully. Balor hit a grounded double stomp that it didn’t look he held back on at all.

It’s great to see Balor back in NXT, pushing up his record number of Takeover wins, and putting on great Takeover matches. This change was exactly what he needed.

Overall, this was an intense bout with an old-school feel with two guys just pretzeling each other until the right man won. Great start to the proper show.

Rating: *** 3/4


MATCH TWO: The North American Championship Ladder Match

The combatants here, of course, were Johnny Gargano, Damien Priest, Cameron Grimes, Bronson Reed, and Velveteen Dream, who I still wish was still off TV for a bit because I don’t feel he’s as in the clear yet as WWE seems to think he is. But I hope I’m wrong.

Just going to get right to the heart of it here: this was immense fun. Especially following up the somewhat dry WRESTLING match that preceded it. These five men (and eventually one woman) just went out and made mayhem.

Candice LeRae was the low-key MVP of the match, as she came out to help Johnny try to win the title. Her barely-effectual attempts to swat away the swaying belt or push over ladders had me in stitches, and It was believable when Reed used her own interference to take her out of everything.

This match was exciting, and when I wasn’t glued to my seat, I was cracking up at the antics of the men involved. I came out of this with more respect for Grimes and Reed than I had going in. My rating for it is going to be nuts, and maybe in a few months I’ll think I’m insane, but… it feels right for now.

Also with the much-deserving Priest winning here, Takeover went to 3-0 on results I was a fan of. Priest has worked hard to put a lot of dudes over while getting better and better.

Rating: ***** (so shoot me, I loved it)


MATCH THREE: Adam Cole vs Pat McAfee

Obviously the story here is that Pat McAfee looked legit as hell, and he is simply amazingly athletic. Almost everything he did looked effortless, and he did not need to be carried by the reliable Cole. On the celebrity personality meter, he was almost as good of a heel as Floyd Mayweather was at WrestleMania 24.

I was admittedly worried that they might have McAfee go over clean, but there was no cause for concern. Cole bumped his soul out and made McAfee look like a beast, but ultimately he was the professional who came away with the win. This was a match that helped both guys, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d love to see Pat stick around for a bit. Have him do a respect angle where he and Cole slowly become buddies, then Undisputed Era turns on them so we can get Cole/McAfee vs UE. Why not?

This is hard to rate because it was a touch basic and slowed-down for Pat, but that just let him look even more impressive. And it did everything it needed to–and could have–done.

Rating: *** 1/2


MATCH FOUR: Dakota Kai vs Io Shirai

I’ll be honest: I thought this match started off pretty sloppy, most of it seemingly Io’s fault, which I am not used to seeing. But it was a short-lived blip on the early radar before both talents settled in.

This just got better as it went on. The ref bump was believable enough, and Raquel Gonzalez’ actions after it made sense and didn’t mar the affair too much for me. There was a lot of arm work from Kai to heel it up and get sympathy for Io, but at the end, she was able to hit a bunch of moonsaults in the closing stretch–including a gorgeous one to the outside onto Gonzalez and Kai–to retain her title.

And then they teased both Gonzalez and Rhea Ripley as upcoming challengers for Io. I feel it’s safe to say that we are all here for a Ripley/Io program.

Rating: *** 1/2


MATCH FIVE: Keith Lee vs Karrion Kross

Going into the main event, I was high on this show. Everything was consistently very good, and the only match that was outside of that range was extraordinary. I had… confused hopes for this match. Kross does nothing for me, but Lee puts on some bangers. I didn’t know which way this would go.

It turned out Kross’ standard won out. And THEN SOME.

This match was tedious. After sitting through Dakota Kai working the arm for the majority of her match against Io, we had MORE extended arm heat from Kross. It may have actually made more sense here (working the arm of someone who does power moves makes more sense than on someone who does moonsaults), but it just gave me a sense of… “Why are we doing THIS again?”

Lee never used any of his athleticism here, merely coming across as a lumbering oaf who couldn’t possibly match speed with a slightly smaller guy. It felt absurd given what we have seen from Lee over and over.

The match also managed to be far too long AND have an abrupt ending, when Kross beat the dominant Lee with… a suplex from the second rope? I thought for sure it was a botch until I watched the referee on the replay, and the word is that Kross separated his shoulder during the match. So they must have called it to get him out of there safely.

A night full of the right winners concluded with the absolute wrong one here, as Lee’s reign should not have been cut off that quick. It feels like NXT did with Kross what WWE did with The Fiend last year. They pushed him straight away to the major title scene without really letting the guy develop, and that put them in a lose-lose situation with the biggest belt.

Here’s hoping Lee gets called up, gets a solid build, wins the 2021 Royal Rumble, and has a strong WrestleMania showing. He can’t just be staying in NXT after this, can he?

Rating: * 3/4


OVERALL

This was a show that was going so strong until the main event which HAS to be the worst Takeover main event ever. I absolutely hope Kross isn’t badly hurt, but he has not impressed me at all. He just seems to make faces like he has to take an angry poop. Is that all he does; I don’t  get it. But I can only downgrade the show so much for a lackluster title contest. We’ll always have that ladder match, Takeover XXX.

7.5

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