Back in the day when NXT was a developmental show (after it was a talent show of some kind) I used to watch weekly. I would come home from college every Thursday and watch the previous nights episode. I enjoyed how it was a best-kept-secret of sorts and how while it had big stars, it had a family feel.
That’s gone away in recent times. Now a two-hour show that feels like another WWE Show rather than an exceptional WWE Show, I don’t watch as much anymore. I read up on the results and keep an eye on it. And naturally through social media I find out what’s going on. I miss the days of NXT being like an indie show with wrestlers trying to prove themselves.
But I always enjoy TakeOvers. And I will still watch them. Here’s some notes from a writer who doesn’t watch as much anymore as the magic has gone away somewhat.
- MSK cut a good promo, they are likeable
- LA Night has great promo skills. Reminds me a bit of the Rock.
- They described Johnny Gargano v Kushida as a dream match. That always worries me that the match will be overlong finisher-fest. It is a dream match, but they shouldn’t tell us, they should build the rivalry.
- I’m glad Pete Dunne is getting a TakeOver world title match. I likethe rivalry being build around disrespect.
- Would have liked a preshow match. A battle royal or something for a future title shot.
Women’s Dusty Cup Final:
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzales v Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon
- Kai and Gonzales would be great Tag Champs. But it seems hard for WWE to build up women’s tag titles rivalries.
- I don’t dislike Shotzi Blackheart, I just am not nearly as enamored by her character as the majority of fans seem to be. But it’s infuriating when Wrestling fans shit on a wrestler because some people like them so I promise not to do that either.
- Dakota Kai is doing something underappreciated in modern wrestling, selling a move really well and consistently.
- I like how Kai and Gonzales are being made to look crafty with their timely distractions of the ref, but it isn’t being overused.
- It’s a nice change of pace that it took about 15 minutes of a PPV match for a middlerope dive. And it was purposeful. Too often we just get dives for the sake of dives really early in a match.
- Gonzales has looked like a machine but not indestructible which is good.
- Gonzales throwing Ember Moon over the rope and off the stage is what I would refer to as ‘Strambolling’ somebody.
- Glad Gonzales and Kai picked up the win. The Women’s tag titles need actual tag teams to have reigns rather than thrown together pairings. Although I’m not sure they will be the ones to take the titles off Shayna and Nia. And it’s good to see a team win the first women’s Dusty classic.
North American Championship:
Johnny Gargano (c) v Kushida
- They’ve done a really good job of making the North American Championship mean something. Too often in WWE the secondary titles are just after thoughts that occasionally get some spot light but are usually props. The North American Title means something and has a unique look. Time will tell if giving Leon Ruff a short reign while being so new and unexposed to a WWE audience, but if he gets to return to the scene in the future it will have been worth it.
- I’m worried about what Dexter Lumis is going to do to Austin Theory.
- They just talked up Kushida as a well-traveled veteran but then had him be surprised that the ref was doing 10-count when him and Gargano were out of the ring.
- Kushida is wrestling in jeans. It can’t be easy to wrestle in jeans, I struggle to get my phone out of my pocket when wearing jeans.
- I’m glad Kushida pointed out that Gargano’s shoulders were down.
- Some great false finishes that are believable.
- Glad Gargano won, but I think Kushida needs to win a title soon. It’s no good calling somebody a great international star but they don’t get big wins.
Men’s Dusty Cup Final:
MSK v Grizzled Young Veterans
- I’m a big fan of Grizzled Young Veterans. I hope they don’t turn into the kind of team that commentators call ‘the whole package’ but never actually get a big win in NXT. I’m glad they were the first ever NXTUK tag champs.
- MSK probably make more sense as the winners here. For one, heels won the women’s Dusty Cup. And the Tag Champs are heels too.
- Really exciting match. Good back and forward. Both teams look good.
- MSK could be the new face on the NXT tag team ranks.
NXT Women’s Championship:
Io Shirai (c) v Toni Storm v Marcedes Martinez
- Martinez has a cool entrance.
- I enjoyed some of Storm’s work in NXTUK (when I was watching before the pandemic). I think she would fit in well on any brand.
- Would have liked the match to have gone just a bit longer, but I’m glad Io retained. She should get a long reign and be dethroned by a great rival. Martinez could be that rival, but it should be a bit down the line after a run of destroying people.
Finn Bálor (c) v Pete Dunne
- Kind of expecting a title change here because we have had 2 retentions so far. Although the crowning of two tournament winners might make that irrelevant.
- I’m glad they are bringing back showing the competitors backstage walking to the ring. That I was something I really liked about the original TakeOvers.
- So far there’s been a really good story. Both competitors trying to prove they can out wrestle eachother while trying to injure eachother.
- Enjoyed the spot where Bálor passed out but had his foot on the rope. Good false finishes are hard to come by.
- Really good counters in the final stretch.
- Dunne looked strong in the finish because it took two finishers to end him.
- I’m not sure who’s going to be built to take the title off Bálor. I don’t think Karrion Kross is the right person to be champ right now. I think he was put into the title mix too soon before his injury, I don’t know if he really belongs in NXT. I’d prefer see him run through everyone on Raw.
- Surprised there was no interference. But maybe that’s a good thing.
- As I type that Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch come out and attack.
- Nice to see a ref actually try break up an attack on a face instead of just frantically waving.
- I’m here for heel Adam Cole.
- I hope Kyle O’Reilly gets a World Title Run within the next year/18 months.
- Roddy Strong looks so confused. I like how Pete Dunne was involved in the storyline that ended the Undisputed Era because Strong betrayed him to join them.
All in all a really enjoyable show. While I don’t see NXT as must-watch weekly anymore I still think the TakeOvers are for any wrestling fans. Will I watch the next episode live? No because I live in Ireland and it wouldn’t be over until 3am. Will I watch it back later? Probably yes, but I’m not sure for how many weeks that will continue.
With the Royal Rumble less than two weeks away, we’re going back and watching one of our favorite Men’s Rumbles from recent years. We’ll look at the reactions wrestlers got and how they were presented back then.
While things haven’t worked out for the eventual winner, and many of these wrestlers have left the company, for a moment during 2018 there was a lot of excitement heading into WrestleMania.
- Rusev enters number 1, with Aiden English introducing him. It’s crazy how over Rusev was, and so was English. They should have been pushed to the absolute moon. He was so organically over and was great in the ring. I hope he achieves something big in AEW.
- Finn Bálor is number 2, I love how he always gets announced as from Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, hometown pride we appreciate being from the same town. I’m glad Bálor went back to NXT because he wasn’t getting anywhere on Raw or SmackDown really. The writers didn’t seem to get that he is tremendously talented despite being fairly small for a WWE wrestler.
- The Manbeast Rhyno enters number 3 to a big ovation from the Philadelphia crowd. His run with Heath Slather as tag team champions was underrated. I used to enjoy seeing Rhyno tag with Tajiri back in around 2004.
- Baron Corbin enters number 4. He still had hair then. I don’t know why they completely took away his hard guy persona. He won the Andre the Giant battle royal, and eliminated Braun Strowman in the Rumble in 2017. He was better like this.
- Rhyno is eliminated by Corbin and Corbin gets thrown out by Bálor. Corbin attacks everyone and lays them out outside the ring. He was better like this than when he was constable or king.
- Heath Slater enters number 5. He doesn’t get to the ring, Corbin downs him. This is the start of a great sequence.
- Elias enters number 6. He is so over. He really should be used more. He plays guitar on his way to the ring, kicking Heath on his way. I think he’d be a great Money in the Bank winner. Imagine the champion being followed by guitar strums. He cuts a promo and says they should stop the clock until he finishes his song. He gets a lot of heat, the good kind. The clock interrupts him.
- NXT Champions Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas enters number 7 to huge cheers. This was the night after his TakeOver match with Johnny Gargano for the NXT title. That was a great match. I hope they start booking Andrade as more of a winner soon, and make him more arrogant. He takes out Heath on the way.
- Bray Wyatt enters number 8. Way before he was the fiend, he carries his lantern, and throws Heath into the barricade. He is still over despite terrible booking over the years.
- Finally Bálor comes back into the ring and Rusev gets up.
- Number 9 is Big E. He gyrates and gives Heath a pancake out of his singlet. He will always be Langston to me. I hope we are finally close to Big E getting a world title push.
- Number 10 is Tye Dillinger, or at least it was supposed to be, but Kevin Owens and Sami Zaayn attack him back stage. Zayn enters instead.
- Number 11 is Sheamus. Later on they have a tag title match. He throws Heath into the ring and Heath clotheslines him out. It’s his birthday. The crowd goes wild.
- Number 12 is Xavier Woods. Woods would make a great commentator some day. Him and Big E team up.
- Number 13 is Apollo Crews. He is still part of Titus WorldWide. He’s a great athlete but likely needs a mouthpiece to get somewhere far.
- Number 14 is Shinsuke Nakamura. Everyone sings along to his entrance. He eliminates Sami Zayn. Nakamura should have been a superstar.
- Number 15 is Cesaro. I don’t know why he wasn’t pushed like crazy after winning the first ever Andre the Giant battle royal at WrestleMania 30. 4 years on he was still really over despite not being booked well. If a surprise is going to win this year I would love to see him win.
- Number 16 is Kofi Kingston. He gets a big cheer. I remember thinking he should get a World title reign but wouldn’t have imagined it would happen the next year.
- Cesaro eliminates Crews, Cesaro should get a Rumble run where he gets a heap of eliminations.
- Jinder Mahal enters number 17. It’s his first time in the Rumble, surprisingly. A few months ago he was WWE Champion. I will never get over that happening. He was a jobber like 6 weeks before that. He eliminates Xavier Woods and Big E.
- Seth Rollins enters number 18. I miss BURN IT DOWN!!!! Big Reaction. His Universal title reign the following year was booked so poorly. He got stuck in a never ending Baron Corbin feud. I would have loved him to face AJ Styles at another nonconsecutive PPV (not immediately after the first time), and guys like Drew McIntyre, Samoa Joe, Andrade, Finn Bálor and Cesaro. I don’t think he should have faced the Fiend because it was too soon to give Bray the title. Have him turn heel and drop it to Braun. He eliminates Cesaro.
- Jinder tries to throw out Kofi, Xavier Woods catches him and he stands on a plate of pancakes so he isn’t eliminated. The New Day launch him back in. Kofi throws out Jinder. Andrade eliminates Kofi. That was fun.
- Matt Hardy enters number 19. He is in that bizarre feud with Bray Wyatt. They team up to eliminate Rusev to big boos.
- John Cena enters number 20. He gets cheers and “John Cena Sucks” chants. Everyone goes after him. He eliminates Elias.
- Number 21 is the Hurricane. He gets a big cheer, he nearly hits the Hurrislam on John Cena which was almost the best Rumble moment in history. Cena eliminates him.
- Aiden English enters as 22. More Rusev Day chants.
- Adam Cole enters number 23. This is the night after he faced Aleister Black in a No DQ match. I don’t think he’ll get booked well on Raw or Smackdown, I hope he stays on NXT.
- Randy Orton enters number 24. Orton won the Rumble last year. Andrade dives at him but gets RKO’d. Orton eliminates Andrade. Good showing for Andrade, hopefully he gets presented well in the coming year.
- Titus O’Neil enters number 25. I think this is his last Rumble appearance before he slipped at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
- The Miz enters number 26. He is the Intercontinental Champion. It’s amazing how back at this time most were calling for him to get a World Title reign. Now that he has the Money in the Bank briefcase it’s hard to take him as a serious title contender because he has been booked so poorly and weak over the last year.
- Rey Mysterio is number 27. He eliminates Adam Cole and hits a 619 on The Miz.
- Roman Reigns is number 28. A LOT of Boos. It’s a million miles away from how well received he is as a heel now. Nobody wanted to cheer him. It did a lot of harm pushing him so much over everybody else. He eliminates Titus O’Neil to more boos. He tries to eliminate Miz but the Miztourage stop him. Seth Rollins hits a curb stomp on Miz. They hit a SHIELD Powerbomb on Miz. Reigns throws out Rollins, it’s weird how that wasn’t a heel turn.
- Goldust is number 29. Him entering here ties him with the 2nd mist appearances in the Rumble. I don’t know how he was never World Champion. I would love to see him get a fairy tale AEW World title win, have the kind of reign where he just survives everybody after winning the title in the match of his life, then loses it to a heel like MJF or Omega.
- Dolph Ziggler is number 30. This was a weird number 30. He won the US title, then relinquished it and walked out, then came back. It didn’t really make sense. It would have been great if he threatened to leave with the title a la CM Punk.
- Ziggler eliminates Goldust. Bálor eliminates Ziggler.
- The final 6 is a great dynamic, new guys in Reigns, Bálor, Nakamura and Orton, Cena, and Mysterio. They talk about Nakamura like he’s young even though he is in his late 30’s. Reigns eliminates Orton. Mysterio hits a double 619 on Cena and Reigns. Bálor eliminates Mysterio.
- The final four is Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Bálor, John Cena, Roman Reigns. The crowd is going crazy for Nakamura.
- Cena and Reigns square off to “You Both Suck” Chants. Big cheer when Bálor and Nakamura interrupt it.
- Cena eliminates Bálor to big boos.
- Nakamura eliminates Cena. Down to Reigns and Nakamura.
- Nakamura gets speared, but survives. He knees Reigns in the face and throws him over the rope. Nakamura wins to a huge ovation. That was a great final 4, a lot of tension and drama.
Nakamura could have been a huge star, he should have won the title at Mania before turning heel after the match. It should have been a classic encounter. The build was marred by them telling us it was a dream match but not really creating much of a narrative or drama. They booked AJ Styles title reign to death with him facing a 5-way match between Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and for some reason Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin. Nakamura could have won at Mania after a match where they were allowed cut loose, turned heel after the match like he did, had a good entertaining run, dropped it back to AJ Styles who drops it to The New Daniel Bryan.
I remember around this time there were the SmackDown Rankings. That was an interesting idea but they never really did anything with it. There should have been separate rankings for men and women to allow more people on the leaderboard. But it could have been a good way to organize title shots at filler PPV’s, without some random person just coming out and asking for a match or having the same matches continuously.
Despite the fact things didn’t work out for the winner it was a very enjoyable Rumble match and one that was worth a rewatch.
What’s your favorite Royal Rumble of the past decade? And who would you like to see win this years Rumbles?
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[Title image from WWE.Com]