COOL POINTS REVIEW
Takeover: New Orleans has drawn consistently rave reviews from all the critics, columnists and fans that I’ve read. This Wednesday’s nXt episode effectively wrapped up all the feuds from the past year and began to launch forward into a new chapter. Read on for insights regarding title changes, new stars, and main roster callups that have all stemmed from the pre and post Takeover: New Orleans time period.
Johnny Gargano has earned a special place in the hearts of nXt fans. So many of them championed his rise to main event material, which saw Gargano wrestling incredibly entertaining and emotion-driven matches against Andrade “Cien” Almas, and then, on April 7, against his former tag partner, Tommaso Ciampa. Working against an abrasive personality like Ciampa was the best thing for Gargano. In a wrestling landscape where too often, people just cheer for whomever entertains them, fans could truly get behind Gargano because of how despicable Ciampa’s actions were against Gargano during recent months. He cost him the title multiple times; he antagonized the fans about ensuring Gargano was fired from the nXt roster. Ciampa gave this story the drama it needed to succeed and both men went ahead and delivered what many are calling a 5-star match at Takeover: New Orleans.
Next up for Gargano, well, there’s only one logical direction: challenge for the nXt Championship. He will do that next week, and I wonder if Ciampa will continue to attack Gargano or if there’s no more of their story left to be told. It depends on how many title contenders GM Regal and company feel are ready for Takeover: Chicago.
5 cool points to Gargano and Ciampa.
In the culmination of a year-long journey to the top, the man who has been undefeated in 1-on-1 matches, Aleister Black won the nXt Championship, defeating Andrade “Cien” Almas. While their feud has been a short one, as early as last fall, it became clear that Black was being pushed to the top. He had an incredibly engaging match with Velveteen Dream at Takeover: WarGames. He showed his capacity for physical brutality by enduring the violence of an Extreme Rules match against Adam Cole at Takeover: Philadelphia. All the while, he has consistently gained support from the nXt audience for his unique presentation, stoic and enigmatic presence, straightforward mic work and excellent striking offense. He would do well to hold the gold for an extended period of time.
In some respects, Almas has been a surprise as champion, but further reflection on his career in nXt demonstrates how highly his in-ring work has been touted. He’s had great matches against Roderick Strong, Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano over the past year, and he’s especially turned heads in his series of matches against Gargano, going for 3/3. The inclusion of Zelina Vega, as his manager, has provided him with more confidence and more opportunity for victory, since Vega very vocally supports Almas and does not hesitate to physically interfere when needed. With the lack of managers in today’s wrestling landscape, this duo immediately stands out and considering their in-ring skills, they should be successful on Smackdown Live in the coming year.
3 cool points for everybody
Moon and Baszler II presented one logical conclusion: the reign of the Queen of Spades was coming to nXt. Ember Moon has long had her critics, who argue that while physically impressive in the ring, she is a difficult character to like. Her presentation is unique and she wants to win and beat up others, but no other storyline support has given to intrigue fans into caring about her. While that’s a fair criticism, she did demonstrate another level of intensity at Takeover: New Orleans, wrestling a stiffer, stronger style in an attempt to overwhelm ex-MMA fighter Baszler. Circumstances may have dictated that as a necessary move for Moon, but more of that would be a fresh and exciting addition to our in-ring work on Monday Night Raw.
Baszler inherits a Women’s Division that is ripe for the pickings, a wide open field of potential contenders. Baszler’s striking and submission style bring a big fight feel to her matches and it will be interesting to see how the other women try to match up with that. At this point in time, she has put the locker room on notice that she owns the division and everyone else needs to just step down. The next few months of nXt TV should be devoted to providing time for the other women to prove themselves, inside and outside of the ring. Kairi Sane will have an early advantage because she is the Mae Young Women’s Tourney Champ and she attacked Baszler pre-Takeover, which led to a match and loss in February.
3 cool points to both ladies
The 6-man North American Championship ladder match went above and beyond expectations. This is a match that deserves multiple viewings in order to appreciate just how much effort these men put into making it a success. Yes, Adam Cole climbed the ladder, but everyone won this match. nXt can put their faith in any one of these guys as a main event talent and the nXt universe would buy it. Lars Sullivan is a monster waiting to be unleashed. With Dain moving up to Smackdown Live with his brothers in SAnitY, Sullivan loses his main rival. There’s no one else, at present, who can match up with his combination of weight, strength and agility. If he sets his sights on Cole or Black, they’d better hope to God they can catch him off guard because, without the benefit of a multi-man match, he’s near unstoppable.
Velveteen Dream continues to elevate himself into the main event level by consistently performing well when it counts. He has become a wrestler that fans want to see at Takeover specials, and he’d be a natural fit for a feud with the Undisputed Era, or a guy like ECIII. Fans loved his act pre-Takeover when he debuted with GM Regal in the ring. His character comes fully formed, from Impact Wrestling, and he is going to reap the rewards of that allowance. He could be the most entertaining mic guy in nXt right now.
Perhaps the guy who has the most claim to the moniker of “Human Highlight Machine”, Ricochet, will be the one who makes the most immediate impact. The agility and high-flying acrobatics of Ricochet are certainly qualities that wrestling fans seem to appreciate more and more with each passing year. When you see big men like Sullivan and Dain flying off the top turnbuckle, you realize just how important this type of offense is to winning over fans. I suspect the next few months will be used to build Ricochet’s fanbase before unleashing him again towards a North American or nXt Championship shot. Perhaps the latter is more of a long-term game, say, next winter or spring?
3 cool points for Ricochet, Sullivan and Cole, 2 cool points for ECIII, Dain and Dream
The Dusty Classic Triple Threat Final, attended by Goldust and Jeff Jarrett, as the representatives of the Rhodes family, was a unique and likely not to be repeated experience. Adding the Undisputed Era into a tournament they had never entered was circumstantial, and for GM Regal to reward them with that opportunity, amidst a tag title defense, seems folly in hindsight. This faction has broken rules, when necessary, and benefitted greatly from all of their shadiness. Coming out of Takeover: New Orleans, they retain the Tag Titles, essentially sent the Authors of Pain packing to the main roster, recruited Roderick Strong, one of nXt’s star wrestlers and Adam Cole is the inaugural North American champion. They may have been overshadowed by an almost year long Gargano/Ciampa feud, but Takeover: Chicago could easily be booked as Takeover: Undisputed Era.
Poor Pete Dunne, UK Champion, comes out of this with the potential to go full-blown face, since Strong turned on him to help O’Reilly get the win for his team. Speaking of O’Reilly, this dude’s facial expressions and mannerisms were the highlight of comedy at Takeover: New Orleans. Have a look on Twitter or YouTube for a variety of examples of just how fun he is to watch getting hurt.
2 cool points for all three teams and one extra for Kyle O’Reilly
Main Roster Promotions and nXt Debuts
A few words on main roster promotions that haven’t come up yet. Congrats to the Iconic Duo aka IIconics for their call up to Smackdown Live. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce have honed their catty ways for years now. The Australian accents help set their mic work apart from other women in the division and the way they rely on cheating to try to win will be entertaining to watch.
Kudos to No Way Jose for bringing his dancing conga line to Monday Night RAW. I’ve seen this a few different places but he is definitely the next coming of Adam Rose. He seems primed for low card storylines and perhaps some comedy segments, and there’s no shame in that. No Shame, Jose!
As for the debuts on nXt weekly TV, Candice LeRae got her first taste of nXt main event action, defeating Zelina Vega to culminate that months-long feud. It was sweet revenge seeing her apply the Gargano Escape on Vega, after all the manager had done to foil Gargano’s attempts to win the nXt Championship. LeRae has the potential to become a Women’s Championship contender at some point, but I wonder if she needs to gain some of her own momentum first.
War Raiders, formerly known as War Machine, crushed their competition on Wednesday night’s episode of nXt. Hanson and Rowe arrive as a fully formed and highly regarded team, having won championships in many promotions, including ROH and New Japan. Their super heavyweight size, along with their face paint and use of leather armour, make them a unique act in the Tag Team Division. They should present a more than adequate challenge for Undisputed Era, and I would also love to see them take on Heavy Machinery.
It consistently amuses me to read the criticisms and complaints of the nXt product. Every time there are callups to the main roster, fans begin questioning whether nXt can still produce entertaining shows, whether the “Golden Era” has ended.
The truth about a young brand like nXt is that there will understandably be ebb and flow with regards to the development of their talent, but they’ve done a fantastic job at trying to keep their divisional rosters stacked with the top wrestlers from around the world. It’s true that everyone is gunning for a spot on Raw or Smackdown Live, but wrestlers who get the nod to fight on the nXt circuit are enjoying the experience and, for some, enjoying a level of fame they’ve never had before, or a career renaissance. Just look at all of the guys nXt brought in from Impact Wrestling: Samoa Joe, Eric Young, Bobby Roode, ECIII. Great things are happening for all of them and nXt fans immediately bought in to their veteran wrestling skills and character work.
Looking forward to your thoughts, comments and cool points on Takeover: New Orleans and what this new chapter in nXt history holds. Please share them in the comments section or join the conversation on Twitter by clicking the button below.