As it is WrestleMania Weekend and I’m drunk, I’m bashing these reviews out and not really editing them (yes, I usually edit). If an incoherent ramble doesn’t interest you, don’t bother reading them.
It’s TakeOver time, and while I despise WWE, I love a TakeOver. I do want to make it very clear that while I pay for all the other wrestling I watch, not a penny of mine goes to WWE. Find a way to stream it folks, and fuck that company. Anyway, my hatred of the McMahons aside, this has the potential to be a weekend stealing card although I watched Nick Gage wrestle Swoggle earlier, so they’ll have to smash it out the park to beat that.
War Raiders (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) defeated Aleister Black and Ricochet
During their tag title reign, The Undisputed Era made the opening match of TakeOvers their own. Time after time they kicked things off at a million miles an hour and blew the house down. If you were worried that era was at an end now the War Raiders are the champs, put those fears to rest. They were awesome.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise, you had four immensely talented wrestlers in there while Ricochet used to team semi-regularly with the War Raiders in New Japan, so you knew their chemistry was tight. However, the level they hit was insane. You had a match where it seemed like everyone was out to prove they could everything their opponents did. That led to Hanson out-flying Ricochet and Rico catching Hanson out the air to slam him. Meanwhile, Rowe and Black were proving a lovely combo, neither man seemingly able to find an advantage as they swapped stiff strikes.
And it only got better as the match went on. As it became apparent that there wasn’t an inch between the two teams, it only inspired them to fight all the harder. Suddenly, Hanson was flying from the top rope to the floor. Black was finding a way to make those kicks a little bit stiffer. And everyone was working their arse off. It led to a fantastic near fall as a Black Mass into a Shooting Star Press made you forget that Ricochet and Black have been called up and, for a second, believe they were going to win the belts.
Of course, Hanson was there to save the day, spearing Black onto the pin and breaking it up. A missed 630 Splash would then prove to be decisive as War Raiders hit Fallout and sent Ricochet and Black packing. Still, this was one hell of a way to say goodbye as the departing team soaked in the fans’ cheers after War Raiders paid them their respects with a bow. What a way to start a show.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Velveteen Dream defeated Matt Riddle to retain the North American Title
The story going into this was that Matt Riddle kind of agrees with me. He feels that while Velveteen Dream has all the potential in the world, he’s more sizzle than he is steak. His obsession with extravagant gestures and showing off means his ability as a wrestler comes in second. In theory, this should have then been his chance to prove the Bro and I wrong.
Except, despite winning, he didn’t. Not really. There wasn’t a second of this that convinced me Dream was the equal of Matt Riddle. Instead, Riddle dominated the vast majority of the action, out striking, out-wrestling him and looking like he was heading to an easy victory.
Then, when Riddle got the Bromission on, Dream slipped over and trapped the Bro’s shoulders for the three. Now, I get the story they were telling. Velveteen Dream might not be the greatest wrestler, but he’s smart and resourceful, finding a way to win. However, it kind of just confirmed my fears about him. He’s not a Matt Riddle, and while that’s not a problem for a lot of fans, it is for me because I’d take one Matt Riddle over a thousand guys who dress as the Statue of Liberty for their entrance. I accept that’s a taste thing, but it left this match feeling a bit flat.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
WALTER defeated Pete Dunne to win the NXT UK Title
The story for this one was simple. On one side of the ring, you had WALTER. The gargantuan brute (although, he does seem to have slimmed down a bit) who wanted to chop, suplex and boot Dunne until he could no longer stand up. On the other, you had the champion, Pete Dunne. A man who was NXT UK for a while and who planned to hit and move, all while trying to snap those fingers of WALTER in the hope of negating those devastating chops.
And, if this was your first time seeing WALTER, I can’t imagine how you could come out thinking he was anything less than incredible. The two of them beat the shit out of each other. WALTER was at his snarling best, kicking Dunne in the head and treating him as little more than an obstacle he had to pound his way through. Dunne, meanwhile, is such a natural heel and yet was incredible as the underdog babyface. At the start, he was almost trying to dismiss WALTER’s power, shrugging as he dodged the first chop. However, as the action went on, Dunne had no choice but to accept this war. Time after time he had to grab at the smallest opportunity, twisting WALTER’s fingers or slipping from his grasp to inflict any damage he could. It’s not often Pete Dunne is on the back foot, but he was on it for the entirety of this match.
And yet, I couldn’t help being slightly disappointed by this. It was a great bout, but I was looking for a match of the year contender, and it wasn’t that. My expectations when it comes to WALTER are so high that I’m harsh on him. I know the brutality he can bring to the ring, and this never quite hit that level. I wanted him and Dunne to be left bleeding and screaming in agony, and while I’m sure neither will wake up feeling fresh, I don’t think we hit that level. I wanted to see a murder, and I got GBH.
Still, as I said, it was fantastic, and WALTER made an impact with his step onto the big stage. It’s possible I’ll have to get used to him being slightly toned down in the PG world of WWE but even a toned down WALTER is one hell of a wrestler.
Verdict: Four Stars
Shayna Baszler defeated Biance Belair, Kairi Sane and Io Shirai to retain the NXT Woman’s Title
I spend a lot of time moaning about companies putting together three-way-dances, so you can imagine what I think about NXT doing a four-way. However, Shayna Baszler is quietly one of my favourite WWE wrestlers while with Kairi Sane and Io Shirai in there something would have to go horribly wrong for this to suck.
So you’ll be pleased to know that nothing went wrong. Those four women went out and produced a fun four-way. Belair was the weak link, not because she’s terrible, but because she’s greener than the other three. When you swapped from Sane and Shirai working together to Baszler and Belair, there was a noticeable drop in the quality of the action. However, you’re comparing two relatively inexperienced wrestlers to two modern Joshi icons, so that’s ever so slightly unfair.
The final minutes were the highlight as The Sky Pirates imploded, going head to head only for Belair to pluck them both off the top rope at the same time and send them crashing to the floor. Before she could capitalise on that, though, Baszler struck, locking in the choke and tapping Belair out. The Queen of Hearts is still a badass, and this exceeded my expectations.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Johnny Gargano defeated Adam Cole in a Two Out of Three Falls match to win the NXT Title
After twisting and stretching the Ciampa vs Gargano storyline to the point that it no longer made any sense and was a total mess, it might have been a blessing that NXT was able to book this match. I’d never wish an injury on anyone, but Ciampa being out allowed them to strip away the crap and get back to the basics. The super likeable Johnny Gargano wants the NXT Title.
It also allowed the start of this match to be pure wrestling. These two are of the same generation of indie talent which was never more evident than in the first fall. The smoothness of the action was incredible as they danced between moves with neither man seemingly able to gain an advantage. Until Cole did. Out of nowhere, he hit a Last Shot to the back of Gargano’s head and got the first three. It was a quick reminder of a fatal flaw in Two out of Three Falls matches because no way would that have won a regular TakeOver main event yet we’re asked to believe that on another night, Cole would now be the champion.
Thankfully, the second fall corrected that course of action. Having fallen behind, Gargano ramped it up hitting a Slingshot DDT onto the apron. However, he then looked like an idiot because rather than taking the count out he slid in and out of the ring, allowing Cole to capitalise and drive him into the ring posts. It would prove not to be decisive, though, as Gargano twisted into the Garga-No-Escape and Cole quickly tapped. Unlike the pin, I’m cool with that. It makes perfect sense for Cole to submit rather than sit in a hold that could do long term damage.
I suspect your love of the final fall will come down to how invested you are in Gargano’s story. He kicked out of everything as they brought this battle to an end. From Fairytale Endings onto the announce table to an Undisputed Era attack, Gargano would not stay down, and if you have been with him every step of the way, screaming for him to win that belt, it will work a lot better than it will if, like me, you have dipped in and out. The fans in attendance were going crazy as Johnny refused to lose again. As he stood up and said not this time, this time, I win.
And win he did. Johnny Gargano finally put all those demons to bed by locking in the Garga-No-Escape and tapping Adam Cole out. I feel like I’ve been harsh on this match, but truthfully it was stunning. They went all out to wrap this story up, and it worked for those who cared most about it. I don’t think it had quite the same effect on me, but I still had a lovely time.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
As always, NXT delivered. Three out of the five matches on this show came in at four stars or above, and that’s one hell of a return. Plus, I suspect others will enjoy Riddle vs Dream more than I and might even go further on the main event than I did. You can’t bet against these shows as once again the main roster is going to have one hell of a job following on from that.