With Takeover mere days away, all eyes are on the build to the first NXT special of the year. All the title matches have been booked, but there is potential for a change as Johnny Gargano puts his No. 1 contender status on the line against Velveteen Dream in what should be a great match. Title bouts aside, we only have one other match confirmed (Adam Cole v. Aleister Black) so will we see further additions to the card tonight? Let’s find out.
No Way Jose v. Cezar Bononi
After several weeks off TV, No Way Jose parties his way to ringside for a match with Cezar Bononi, with the commentary team really putting the upcoming Brazilian’s strength and skills over. While Bononi does control a portion of the match, it is only to set up Jose’s comeback. One pop-up punch later, Jose gets the pin and the fiesta begins. Winner: No Way Jose
This was little more than a re-introduction for No Way Jose, and in that sense, it did its job. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not this leads to a sustained run or another stop-start push.
Bianca Belair v. Latoya Alsop
This is a pretty standard jobber squash, with Belair countering and over-powering her opponent at every turn. She pops the crowd with her hair whip and closes things out with a reverse powerbomb. Winner: Bianca Belair
As a showcase, this was hurt by some small botches and sloppy moves. Belair using her long braid to strike her opponent as she jumped off the ropes was something different, and it was a nice change to have a women’s match without a Baszler run in.
Ember Moon & Shayna Baszler Interview
Speaking of Baszler, the next segment is a sit-down interview between the two participants in this Sunday’s NXT Women’s Title match. Ember labels Baszler as a bully for her attacks on the division. Baszler simply states she has been stirring the waters to catch the big fish. Moon talks about earning her way to the title, but Baszler doesn’t care how she gets there – she just wants to get there.
With dramatic background music, Moon came across as intense without over-doing it as she did in her promo clashes with Asuka last year. Baszler played the self-assured heel well, and the interview did the job of building to the match without any physical confrontation.
TM-61, Part 2
This week’s sit down with TM-61 looks back at their NXT career to date and the injury that put Shane Thorne on the shelf for most of last year. They speak about their determination to show the NXT universe what they can do and their plans to go after the tag titles.
TM-61 will return to action next week. It will be good to have some more depth in the division, especially if any team(s) are called up to the main roster soon.
Authors of Pain Promo
This was supposed to be a match, but the jobber squash never even gets started as Rezar and Akam obliterate their opponents before the bell rings. They get on the mic to cut English-Spanish promos and warn Undisputed Era of what’s coming at Takeover. They then return to the jobbers to hit them with the Super Collider.
Deja-vu as we see yet another AoP squash. It was effective but lacked any response from Fish and O’Reilly.
Johnny Gargano v. Velveteen Dream
The night’s main event sees Velveteen Dream get an opportunity to earn the number 1 contender’s spot after being withdrawn from the recent tournament due to injury. Dream comes out in a Johnny Wrestling t-shirt to a huge pop, and the fans trade chants for both stars for the opening couple of minutes of the match. The action goes back and forth as much as the chants as both competitors gain the upper hand. Velveteen Dream dishes out as much trash talk as offence. At one point, he perches on the top rope, hyping the crowd for a big dive, but then fakes out and drops safely back into the ring.
After fighting on the outside, both men score near falls off big moves and the ‘fight forever’ and ‘NXT’ chants begin. Dream counters a Gargano escape into a spinning DDT for a big near fall. Gargano also gets a near fall off a big clothesline. Both competitors tease spots from the top rope with Dream eventually landing a Death Valley Driver form the second rope. It takes a lot out of him though and Gargano is able to kick out of a late cover.
The match ends when Dream goes for his Purple Rainmaker elbow drop but Gargano gets his knees up. He then hits a superkick and slaps on the Gargano Escape for the win. After the match, Andrade Cien Almas and Zeina Vega some to the ring. Almas jumps his Takeover opponent and dumps him out of the ring for some classic heel heat. Gargano, however, pulls himself back onto the apron and nails the champion with a slingshot DDT. The show closes with him holding the belt high over a prone Almas. Winner: Johnny Gargano
That was one hell of a main event! Both guys put on a PPV quality match, perhaps only matched by AJ Styles-Sami Zayn from the main roster this week. Dream looked magnificent in defeat once again, but he needs to start putting wins together soon if he is to stay over with the fans. Gargano standing tall at the end suggests to me he won’t be winning on Sunday though – a Tommaso Ciampa return to cost him the match perhaps?
What was set to be a below average episode was saved by the main event. Gargano and Dream put on a fantastic match that just about made up for the series of jobber squashes and promos that preceded it. Gargano in particular got a huge chance to shine as the babyface who never gives up. Still, for a go-home show, I expected more build though and no additions were made to the card on screen (there was, however, a video posted to WWE’s YouTube channel after the show of an altercation between Velveteen Dream and Kassius Ohno backstage so expect that to be added to the card). I am still excited for Takeover, just not anymore than I was already.
See you on Sunday morning for the Takeover review!