QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you have any bold predictions for Friday night’s NXT Takeover: New York?
Perhaps the most difficult decision that I had to make for my latest book, The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era, was to leave NXT out of the mix. The research phase of that project started two years prior to NXT becoming what we now know it to be and, because I think it fair to state that we are still developing a sense for how we are going to historically judge NXT against its main roster peers, particularly as it pertains to the yellow brand’s impact and scope, I just did not feel it was yet appropriate to put NXT on par with WWE proper or NWA/WCW lore.
Nevertheless, I love NXT, and out of a desire to study and contextualize the greatness from the canvas of its signature event, Takeover, this project was born. For my book, I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.” I took that formula and tweaked it to fit NXT Takeover. On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.). The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.
Read the full introduction here.
Psychology: 4 / Historic: 3.5 / Setting: 4 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 4.5 / Climax: 4.5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 3.5 / Build: 3.5 / Intangibles: +2
Total Score: 39.0
Few characters came into their own in NXT as well as Samoa Joe from 2015 to 2016. Once noteworthy for being a monster among smaller men in the TNA X-division in the mid-2000s, Joe again found his inner monster upon arrival to Orlando and began to cultivate what has become one of the better personas in WWE proper.
Perhaps at no point did the monster label better fit Joe than when he battled Finn Balor in the second of their record-establishing three straight Takeover main-events. Some were miffed by the frequent attempts to tend to the cut above Joe’s right eye suffered in the opening moments of the contest, but even those detractors would have to admit if they watched the match again how much it fit Joe’s character to brush off medical staff and keep attacking while blood flowed down his face and chest. In terms of storytelling based on the strength of at least one combatant, this bout remains one of the best on the entire countdown, largely on account of Joe’s crimson suit.
Balor, meanwhile, cool entrance and all (though the use of the chainsaw reflects rather odd in hindsight), had a great alter ego certainly not usurped on Takeovers by his rather bland demeanor when minus the war paint, but absolutely downplayed week-to-week when attempting to build memorable rivalries; he and Joe had a solid feud that just was not that historic or overly memorable, which unfortunately weakens a match wrestled like an epic chapter (and a very smartly worked and well-executed one at that) without part of the requisite anticipation that helps define a battle like this as epic in the first place.
What it definitely is? It is definitely worth a revisit.
Psychology: 4 / Historic: 3.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 4.75 / Climax: 4.5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 4.5 / Build: 3.75 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 43.0
The historic nature of this performance has yet to be determined, but it is possible that it could go down in yellow brand lore as the best representation of the kind of match that wrestlers come to NXT to have. Takeover, especially Brooklyn, provides an aura that few pro wrestling special events have ever been able to equal, and with the way that Triple H deploys the talent, it has basically become the ideal blend of WWE and the independent scene. With an incredible atmosphere supporting their highly athletic, extremely well executed game of one-upmanship, Ricochet and Cole solidified at TO:B4 last summer that, whatever the lasting legacy of NXT’s WrestleMania ends up being, they would be remembered fondly as part of it.
On the night of his one year anniversary of debuting in NXT, Cole became one of those stars who, for me personally, completed the total overhaul of my original opinion of him. For most of his early run in latter 2017, I was not overly impressed; then he had the match with Black in Philadelphia, which began to change my tune; and then there was his performance in the Ladder Match in New Orleans, which prompted me to further reconsider my previous position. Against Ricochet, though, Cole joined the likes of Kurt Angle, Christian, and CM Punk on my short list of wrestlers who earned my respect through the steadily advancing quality of their overall bodies of work. I think that he needed that caliber of match to build maximum mojo for his character.
As for the artist formerly known as Prince Puma, could there have been a better confirmation of his reputation as the most innovative high-flyer to have come to WWE since Rey Mysterio sixteen years ago? Like Angle was the perfect opponent to bring out the best in Mysterio, Cole was an ideal foil for Ricochet, their collective timing on the bout’s signature spots (i.e. the superkick counter to the springboard moonsault) one of the primary reasons for their roaring success on the night. Ricochet will need a plethora of matches like this one to reach the heights that many hope that he will reach in WWE, but if he can regularly duplicate the aesthetics on display in similar, excellently ordered fashion, then the ceiling on his future will sharply rise.
#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
If you wish to dive deeper inside my mind when it comes to historical ranking via The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era, you can order it through pretty much any online avenue (just search for it in a browser and various options will pop up), but for those who prefer to buy your books via Amazon as I do, here are a few links to make it easier: