Doctor’s Orders: The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History – “Top Guys” in the Top Spot

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you think is the greatest tag team match in Takeover history to date?

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.

The Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain for the NXT Tag Team Championships at Takeover: Brooklyn IV
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 3 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 4.5 / Climax: 4.5 / Execution: 4.25 / Popular Opinion: 4.5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +2
Total Score: 42.25

Though The Revival remain the greatest tag team in NXT lore, at least for the time being, second place may now belong to the Undisputed Era after their well-rounded year in 2018, and their pinnacle achievement in the tag ranks was their series of instant classics culminating in this payoff match over the summer.

The American Alpha to the UE’s Dash and Dawson was Mustache Mountain, who rode into NXT like a comet, won the Tag Team Titles in England, gave us one of the greatest stories ever told in an NXT ring two weeks later, and offered up what has proved in this rankings process to be one of the all-time level performances in Takeover lore.

Revel with me, if you will please, at the career of young Tyler Bate. He is one of the most uniquely gifted wrestlers in the game today, blessed with that incredible combination of strength and athletically-informed innovation, and is quite the adept modern in-ring storyteller to boot, as evidenced perfectly by his acting in the July NXT TV match (with the towel) and his Herculean-effort to drag Kyle O’Reilly across the ring to tag in Trent Seven during the early climax of this match from Brooklyn. Bate is already a Takeover legend.

Also take a moment to appreciate the precision with which the tandem of O’Reilly and Roderick Strong dissect their opponents. Kyle’s striking game has somehow found a way to be aesthetically pleasing and few are better at the creative application of submission holds, while Roddy has truly found himself in NXT while a member of the yellow brand’s standard-bearing faction. They are truly a tremendous tag team whose dominance flirts with a realism that makes comebacks against them, particularly from a chemistry-laden duo like Seven and Bate, viscerally cathartic while never proving overbearing on the entirety of a run-time.

For future NXT Tag Team Title rivalries, this will be the Jake Roberts or Mick Foley – the feud that others have to leap to get to the main-event showdown against The Revival vs. #DIY.

The Revival vs. #DIY for the NXT Tag Team Championships at Takeover: Brooklyn II and Takeover: Toronto
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 4.5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 46.5

One of the things that I love about NXT is that the best tag team match in its history to date can realistically be considered the greatest match in NXT history; I just wrote a book detailing the greatest matches and rivalries in WWE and WCW’s combined history and it simply would not have felt appropriate to make the same consideration. Tag Team Title matches comprise a huge part of the success that has come to be associated with and expected of the Takeover franchise, and that is in large part due to Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder. They deserve every bit of the praise that they get for what they accomplished, in 2016 especially.

Being respectful of the Revival vs. American Alpha, as good as they were, part of the reason that Revival vs. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa has sat right at the top of the ranking process from the outset of this project was that, not only is their Takeover: Toronto 2/3 Falls Match the best tag team match in NXT history, but is perhaps also the best tag team match in all versions of pro wrestling history. I have come to think of it as the ultimate masterpiece for its genre, with a marvelous flow that dials you in to such an irresistible degree, as high a level of performance-execution ingenuity as you will see, the Revival’s best-ever hot-tag-killing routine, nearly unrivaled in-ring storytelling, and a climax that you could put up there against any in the history of the business, tag or singles.

Any reservation regarding what tag team wrestling can mean to a product under the WWE umbrella should have been erased by the pair of performances that simultaneously made Dash and Dawson “Top Guys” and began the transition that would culminate in the Gargano vs. Ciampa era of NXT lore that defined the brand in 2018. If Vince McMahon and the higher-ups can watch Takeovers: Brooklyn II and Toronto and somehow decide that recreating those riveting tales on the main roster is not a priority, then really shame on them.

Leaderboard

#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#4- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#5- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#6- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#7- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#8- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)

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