NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day: Every Match Ranked

What a great show. There’s really no simpler way to say it. This show far exceeded any of the 2020 Takeovers in my view and was an absolute joy to watch from start to finish. It’s shows like this that make ranking the matches difficult. The middle of the list was especially hard to rank on this one as all five of these matches have things worth raving about.

The biggest headline though is what happened after the main event, I’ll talk about it here so it’s out of the way. In my heart, I kinda wished Undisputed Era would go on to Raw or Smackdown as a unit but ignoring that, they have done everything there is to do in NXT. They’ve risen, they’ve fallen, they’ve risen again, and they’ve fallen again, as far as NXT is concerned, their story is done. Which means that the options were to either have them move on to the ‘main roster’ or break up and turn them all into singles stars.

I think there’s going to be some very interesting storytelling on the horizon between the faction, especially with Dunne and Balor on the periphery of the scene. This break-up could easily become the standout storyline of the year.

Now, let’s talk about the wrestling.

5 – Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def. Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon
(Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals)

This is one of those scenarios where I have to clarify that even though this match is ranked last, it’s still really good.

As expected these two teams clicked really well in the ring, even if they lacked the polish you’d see in veteran teams. The story was interesting because the faces actually dominated the largest chunk of the match, which you don’t often see in tag matches. It serves an underlying story though because whenever Dakota Kai was in the ring, their team went on the back foot, but as soon as Gonzalez got in, they were back in control. No attention was ever drawn to it, it was very clearly there throughout the match, and it’s going to be interesting to look back on stuff like this when Gonzalez inevitably breaks away from Kai.

It took a while for me a little while to get into this match, as it had a slow start, but that was entirely forgotten by the end as the action really got going into the place that I like. Gonzalez was undoubtedly the star of the show here, getting to show all aspects of her arsenal with explosive & brutal attacks combined with slower, more devious assaults. The faces kept coming back for more though, and they came out of it looking like they’d fought hard for it, they’re both raring to go in terms of going for the women’s title, and I think this was a decent platform for them to get there, even with the loss.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez & Kai are also ready to pop off, and it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with all of these women gunning for Io’s title in the near future. I highly doubt that Gonzalez & Kai will beat Jax & Baszler for the titles, but that’s ok because this tournament felt more like a way to solidify the incredible push Gonzalez has been getting over the past few months. What I do know for sure though, is that NXT’s women’s division is going to have one hell of a year with these talents all over it.

4 – Io Shirai(c) def. Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Again, this was a really good match that I enjoyed; I’m just a bit disappointed it didn’t go longer. It only got 12 minutes in the end, and I really think it deserved more, especially to kick it up into that higher gear that it should’ve got to.

That complaint aside, there was still plenty to enjoy about this one. As expected, Martinez & Storm ended up focusing too heavily on each other to realise the ferocity at which Shirai was coming at them. Martinez felt like the main star of the show to me, she kicked things off with a bang and seemed to be involved in the action at every single point. It definitely helped re-establish her place in the division after disappearing for a while thanks to Retribution. Similarly, Storm got a lot of momentum on her side, and it doesn’t feel like she’s done with Shirai, it wouldn’t surprise me if a singles match between the two takes place in the near future.

Shirai did what she did best though and tore it up whenever she was on screen. Even if she wasn’t always the main focus of the action, her presence was always felt, doing cool stuff like jumping off of the scaffolding, for example. The match kept up a good pace, as you’d expect with three competitors in the mix, it kept me glued to the screen all the way to the finish. As I said, the only problem was that I felt a little short-changed by the 12-minute runtime. However, I’m confident this will lead to greater things down the line.

3 – MSK def. Grizzled Young Veterans
(Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals)

Another blinder of a tag match from a division that is heating up in a significant way.

One thing I’ve not given Grizzled Young Veterans (and specifically Zac Gibson) enough credit for is how brilliant they are on the mic. It’s no wonder that they’ve been given promo time before every single one of their matches in this tournament as it’s really where they shine brightest. That’s not to say they don’t shine brightly in the ring though, as they undoubtedly meet the high standards I’ve set for the NXT tag scene.

There wasn’t much complex in the way of the story in this match, both teams got their time to shine and show off just about everything they can do. Thankfully, they didn’t need too much of a story because what they can do is bloody entertaining to watch. There was a lot of fun to be had in this match, and neither team ever looked to have it in the bag. MSK pulled out the high-flying stuff (which we saw surprisingly little of last night) but Gibson & Drake were able to counter that with an extra dose of brutality in their offence.

While I certainly wouldn’t have complained if Grizzled Young Veterans had won, I think MSK to get the win was the right decision. It solidifies their place as feature players in the tag division, even though they’re not going to win the titles just yet, and it gives GYV another chip on their shoulder, which I’ve no doubt they’ll spin into promo-gold.

2 – Johnny Gargano(c) def. Kushida
(North American Championship)

So you know the match that you pictured in your head when someone said Gargano vs Kushida? Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what this match was, and it was brilliant.

The fast-paced opening immediately grabbed my attention and kept me in the match for the entire runtime. That extended sequence of the two of them continually trading blows and counters without missing a beat ‘action too quick to call’ as I’ve heard it referred to is just the sauce I like. While I’d love for it to carry a whole match, I know that’s quite the ask when these two guys have to go 20 minutes, so an extended sequence right at the start is more than enough to satisfy me.

The match didn’t lose me when it slowed down though, as it shifted the focus from impressive offence to a clear story where both men were focusing on each other’s weak spots and trying to get one over on each other at every opportunity. Gargano is brilliant at adapting his heel style depending on his opponent and his tactic against Kushida of striking the neck little and often was a very engaging one. Kushida was never really on the back foot though, he took it to Gargano’s arm at every opportunity, and the two men were able to match each other beat-for-beat. I loved that feeling of both men feeling like they were on an altogether even playing field.

While I wouldn’t have booked Gargano to retain, I can’t complain about the decision. Kushida will undoubtedly bounce back from this loss and Gargano’s title reign is really turning into something special, with both of his major stories so far being winners.

1 – Finn Balor(c) def. Pete Dunne
(NXT Championship)

In the intro, I mentioned that this list was hard to rank, but the number 1 spot was never in any doubt. This match was incredible and an early contender for match of the year.

In my predictions, I speculated over whether Balor would slow his pace to match Dunne, or whether Dunne would accelerate his pace to meet Balor. As it turns out, the answer was both of those things would happen. The first half of the match was a slow, mat-based affair that was full of tension. Dunne controlled the majority of it, with Balor on the back foot in a way we haven’t really seen from his title reign just yet. However, the story progressed, and Balor started to adapt, he started to match Dunne’s holds and bite back here and there, as the match’s pace slowly picked up.

Towards the latter third of the match is where things really got going, as Balor broke free from Dunne’s holds and went balls-to-the-walls with his offence. What was brilliant though, was that Dunne immediately snapped into that style and could match Balor. It gave me the impression that this was Dunne’s gameplan all along and from here the match because of a brilliant back-and-forth affair that had me on the hook with every near fall. The flow between every hold and every move was damn-near flawless, and both guys felt like they were an inch away from victory at any given moment.

As much as I wanted Dunne to win, I can’t deny that Balor earned the victory in this one and Dunne looked great for it. I don’t think this is the last of Dunne in the title scene, and I can’t wait to see what else he and Balor can do, potentially with Undisputed Era in the mix too.

NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day: Predictions & Analysis

Feel that warm breeze in the air? That must mean it’s time for the first NXT Takeover of the year. I didn’t enjoy the 2020 lineup of Takeovers as much as previous years, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I’m coming into 2021 ready to fall back in love with the yellow brand like I was in 2017/18/19. I seem to have picked a good show to fall in love with as well because this card is full of matches that I’m very excited to see and promises to be a top-notch night of action, but who’s going to win. I’ll tell you who, which a roughly 60% accuracy rate.

MSK vs Grizzled Young Veterans
(Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals)

The NXT tag titles have been in a bit of a weird situation since the pandemic started. Travel restrictions prevented one-half of current champs, Pete Dunne, from making it into the country to defend the title. So then Riddle teamed with Timothy Thatcher, then they IMMEDIATELY lost the titles to Imperium. Then Imperium…didn’t defend the titles for most of their reign. Then they lost the titles to Breezango in a reign so inconsequential I honestly forgot it happened until I checked Wikipedia, and now Burch & Lorcan have the titles and are yet to do anything of note with them.

It’s not been a great year for the tag division at large in NXT, despite having plenty of talent on hand. However, this Dusty Classic definitely feels like it’s revitalized the scene a bunch. Even the teams that felt a bit thrown together for this tournament impressed, and the competitors that have risen to the top are a great reminder of the depth of talent NXT can pull from.

Personally, I thought Ciampa & Tatcher were going all the way, as I’ve loved their rivalry turned partnership, but Grizzled Young Veterans beating them this Wednesday threw a lot of confusion in the mix as to who I think is going to win. I knew very little about MSK (formerly The Rascalz) before joining NXT, but they definitely fit right in with all the other great teams in NXT right now. They seem like the favourites to win, but I’m not entirely sure. Grizzled Young Veterans were last year’s runners up, and it would seem weird for them to come second place again. Plus, it’s not like it’d hurt MSK too much as I’m sure the match will be great.

It’s a tough call, but I’m going with MSK, they have all the momentum right now, and although I don’t think they’ll win the titles, it’s the perfect way to establish them as main-stays in the division.

Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez
(Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals)

While the women’s tournament was smaller, it was by no means any less stacked, and I think it’d been an extremely enjoyable tournament this past month, and one that’s been quite hard to predict as well.

Dakota Kai had a bit of a cooling-off period towards the end of last year, but I’m glad NXT is still interested in investing in her because she absolutely deserves it. Moon & Blackheart meanwhile feel like they’re on top of the world. Blackheart is the next big thing in the division and Moon feels so different to her 2016/17 run in NXT in a good way. Everything about how they’ve been treated together has made them into quite the package, and one I want to see more of past the end of this tournament.

I think there’s no question that this one will be great. Raquel Gonzalez has absolutely proved she can be in the top spot of the NXT women’s division with talents like the rest in the match and it’s going to make for one hell of a match. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one descended into chaos quite quickly and held a fast pace for the majority of it’s run time.

As for picking a winner, I’m a bit torn. Gonzalez has been getting many big wins like that at Wargames, and against Rhea Ripley, so it would certainly make sense to keep that going. Dakota Kai could also do with a big win like this after her cooling-off period last year. I know she was also in that Wargames match, but she didn’t really feature in it very heavily in my opinion. That said, Shotzi & Moon fell like they also need a big win, as while they have undeniably been presented as big stars, they haven’t got many wins as of late.

Then there’s the additional factor of the winners getting a shot at the women’s tag titles (which they won’t win), and I think WWE would rather showcase two of their top faces to a bigger stage than the heels. Plus, Baszler & Nia Jax are the current champions, and heel vs heel doesn’t really work. Considering all of that, I think it’s got to be Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart in a move that will hopefully launch one or both of them into the title scene.

Johnny Gargano(c) vs Kushida
(North American Championship)

Much like Keith Lee when he first signed with the brand, it feels like we’ve been waiting for ages for NXT to actually do something with Kushida. You could argue it’s a positive thing that they don’t shove stars into the limelight until they’re actually ready to go somewhere with them, but it does feel odd to have these stars on the back burner for ages. Either way, that’s changed now, and Kushida is ready to take off.

Gargano’s heel run has had me going back and forth. On the one hand, I’ve never really felt all that convinced by it. He’s such a natural babyface, and he didn’t take that much of a different angle like Sami Zayn did when he turned. That said, he’s still very skilled in the ring and on the mic. I thought his segment on NXT this past Wednesday was excellent and balanced the comedy and drama really well, but it’s not all been like that. Conversely, Kushida hasn’t had that much to sink his teeth into in terms of story. Not every story needs to be wildly complicated, but I was hoping this story would have a bit more to it than Gargano being a bit of a jerk.

That said, it’s still two of the best technical wrestlers on the planet clashing with each other in what is sure to be a match of the year contender very early on in 2021. I feel reasonably confident with picking Kushida to win the title here. My main thought being that, if he’s not going to win the title, then what on Earth is he going to do? However, Gargano does seem to keep winning that title when I don’t think he will, so I can’t entirely rule out the possibility he retains. Ultimately, Kushida having the title is far better for him that it would be for Gargano to retain. His reign wouldn’t even have to be all that long as long as he got a bunch of high-quality defences in there.

Io Shirai(c) vs Toni Storm vs Mercedes Martinez
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Let’s see here, we’ve got one of the coolest female superstars currently in WWE with Io Shirai. A powerful heel character in Toni Storm with an in-ring style to match. And finally, an in-ring veteran in Mercedes Martinez, who is looking to re-establish herself as a force to be reckoned with. Yup, that definitely checks all of my ‘match of the year’ boxes.

Much like the Gargano/Kushida storyline, this one has been relatively simple, but unlike the Gargano/Kushida storyline, I don’t think it needs to be much more. It’s three women with an incredible amount of in-ring talent, who all really want the title and don’t like each other very much. What more could you ask for? Any combination of these women in singles matches would be amazing, but the triple threat nature should hopefully kick it up a notch into a non-stop fast-paced affair to blow us all away, much like the triple threat match where Shirai won the title.

As for a winner, I think the odds lie with Io Shirai. While Toni Storm would be a great choice for champion, I don’t feel like she’s been built enough and her winning the championship now would feel quite sudden. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy it, I’m just saying it’s not the most sensible move. I actually think there’s an outside chance Martinez could win this. I think there’s a good story to be told in her jumping back to NXT and immediately winning the title. Plus, I think she could straddle the tweener line very well as opponents like Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon & Raquel Gonzalez sit on the horizon.

As I said though, Io Shirai makes the most sense. This really doesn’t feel like there’s going to be a title change, and it would be a rather sudden end to Shirai’s excellent reign as champion. I think this is just going to boost her stock as champion moving into her next big singles feud.

Finn Balor(c) vs Pete Dunne
(NXT Championship)

Now here’s the match I’m the most excited for. I’ve always loved Dunne, and I’ve said it many times over the years, but he makes the more grounded, mat-based style his own in a way I don’t think anyone else can right now. As for Balor, while I’m often critical of him, I can’t deny that his current run as NXT champion has been bloody brilliant. His matches with O’Reilly were both barn-burners and the intensity with which he carries himself has made him feel like such an unbelievably colossal star. He’s an entirely different person from who he was in his first reign as champion, and I think that’s brilliant.

I’ll be interested to see how these two mesh their styles here. I’m expecting it to be a much slower, hard-hitting affair than what we’re used to for NXT main events, but I’m hoping that will be in a good way. While Balor’s style has always been more flashy & fast, his recent work has definitely focused on the impact of his moves, rather than how they look, and I think it’s improved his in-ring work significantly. Alternatively, if they instead go the other way, and Dunne accelerates his style, I still think we’ll be in for a hell of a ride. Of course, the truth is almost always in the middle when it comes to these things, and I’m excited about it.

Picking a winner has been a tricky affair. I was initially wondering what Kross was going to do when he came back, but now it’s become clear he’s going for the Cruiserweight title, that’s out of the picture. So with no other outside factors like that to consider, I think there’s a genuine chance we could see a title change. Dunne has had such a head of steam since returning, and while Balor has been an excellent champion, I feel like it’s Dunne’s time. Granted, I’m not entirely sure what Balor will do if he drops the title now, but I could say the same for Dunne. Dunne’s been in NXT for ages, and if he’s not going to move upwards in the brand anytime soon, then why is he still here?

I think I’ve talked myself into it. I’m going with Pete Dunne to win the title.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know who you think is going to win on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday, where I’ll be reviewing the show, and next Saturday, where I’ll be running through my favourite board games!

NXT Takeover: Portland: Every Match Ranked

Another Takeover, another great night of wrestling. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to discover that the show last night was just as good as they always are. I was worried the addition of a 6th match would mean that one of the matches get slightly shafted, but instead, the length of the show was simply extended to make room, which is fine with me and I don’t think 3 hours is too long of a show, especially when compared to Raw & Smackdown PPVs. So let’s not waste any more time and take a look at the matches.

6 – Dakota Kai def. Tegan Nox

Interesting how on one show we can have examples of two match-interferences, one of which was to the match’s benefit, the other its detriment, no prizes for guessing which one this was.

The action between Nox & Kai was great stuff, as I mentioned in my predictions, this whole build has done a great job of making both women seem like legitimate contenders in the women’s division and the brutality on display here has capped that off perfectly. I know I’m not normally a fan of weapons matches but I think this one kept the pace fast enough to hold my interest.

The interference at the end feels to me like a case of short-term loss for long-term gain, which is ultimately a good thing, but it doesn’t stop it from bringing this match down. It didn’t help that I – and seemingly the whole arena – had no idea who it was that interfered in the match, but I kind of like that, it immediately creates intrigue surrounding them and it lets them have a real ground-zero for a new character. That said, I’m not sure giving Dakota a lackey is the greatest idea, especially when you consider that we’ve already done that story very recently with Baszler, Duke & Shafir.

I have faith in the NXT creative team to make it feel like something different, however, until I see proof of that, I shall remain wary.

5 – Finn Balor def. Johnny Gargano

I know, I know. This match was fantastic, but there was so much good stuff on this show and I just couldn’t put this above the other matches from last night.

I think one of the main reasons I dropped this one is because it didn’t quite live up to my (admittedly, very high) expectations. I think because of Johnny’s injury, it lost a little bit of steam and the match as a whole just felt like it was missing something. What exactly that something is, I can’t quite put my finger on, but it dropped my enjoyment of the match just a bit.

That said, the match was still really good. I know people have soured on Gargano slightly, but I honestly don’t know where those people are coming from because I don’t think he’s lost a beat. These two matched up about as well as you’d expect them to and the action was, fast, hard-hitting and full of spectacle as a result.

Against, what I said in my predictions, I actually think Balor winning is the better idea now I’ve considered it. Gargano has had his status reinstated by what happened in the main event, so giving Balor this win to give him that boost in credibility after his return & subsequent heel turn was definitely the right way to go.

4 – Rhea Ripley(c) def. Bianca Belair
(NXT Women’s Championship)

This match is actually a really great look into how far Bianca Belair has come over the past year.

When Belair got a title shot against Baszler this time last year everyone viewed it as an opportunity to proves she belongs in the uber-high quality of the NXT Women’s division and she succeeded. Now, a year later she has another opportunity and it’s clear that she’s easily on par with any other competitor in the NXT locker room. In an era of NXT where the majority of stars are wrestlers who come in with a wave of indie support & hype behind them, looking back I’ve loved watching Belair become the fantastic performer she is today.

I had a lot of fun watching this match. Rhea has settled into her role as champion so easily that it only further proves how worthy of a successor she is to Shayna Basler’s crown. The chemistry here was stellar and there was such a wonderful sense of flow to the whole thing that kept my attention ticking over from one spot to the next. I don’t really have anything special to say about it, it was yet another great performance from two great performers and I’m very excited about what Rhea & Charlotte have in store going into Wrestlemania.

3 – Adam Cole(c) def. Tommaso Ciampa
(NXT Championship)

Oh! That’s the direction they’re going in, alright, you’ve got my attention.

This match was exactly what I’d hoped it would be and honestly, I think that’s the best thing I can say in its favour. This easily had the strongest story going into it and both guys feel like huge stars in both their presence and in the ring. There was a subtle brutality to this match, even though there wasn’t a great deal in terms of big “OMG” spots. Probably helped by that fact that Ciampa looks ripped, this felt like a real hard-hitting fight between two men who genuinely despise each other.

Despite Ciampa’s overwhelming presence and being the one with all the steam behind him currently, Cole made sure that he wasn’t forgotten as the champion and just in general, this match really cemented both of these guys as two of the biggest stars NXT has ever had. This fed into the finish, where we got a bait-and-switch with the interference, as Cole used all his greatest hits in terms of using underhanded tactics to try and win the match. The Undisputed Era getting involved, the low blow, the ref bump;  it felt like a real swan-song for Cole’s title reign and right up until Gargano showed up, I was certain Ciampa was going to win.

Gargano’s arc over the past three years has been so interesting to watch, it’s like when Ciampa’s around, Gargano just can’t help but become the worst version of himself. It’s almost like some kind of deeply ingrained trauma inside his mind that just turns him into a completely different person whenever Ciampa gets involved. There are so many pieces involved here and I’m not sure exactly how they’re all going to come together, but I’m very excited for wherever this whole thing ends up.

2 – Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne def. The Undisputed Era(c)
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

In my predictions, this was easily the match I was the most negative about and when it comes to the character stuff, I stand by what I said. I liked the caddy they drove themselves & the trophy out on, but I was not a fan of the “Fish” stuff. I understand why other people would find it funny, but it’s just really not for me. When it comes to the in-ring stuff, however, that’s the kind of stuff I live for.

In the past, I criticised the fact that Riddle & Dunne have a distinct lack of chemistry in the ring and while I still wouldn’t say it was perfect here, it was absolutely much better than it has been in previous matches. This match was back-and-forth the whole way through which is where I think tag matches are at their best, there was never a chance to settle into the groove of the match because as soon as one team established control, it somehow got broken and stuff started going mental again.

Something I think this match did particularly well was towards the finish when it kept me guessing as to who was going to win right up until the referee hit for three. It continued that form that I talked about earlier, I was never allowed to settle into the finish which meant that the excitement just kept building and building until Dunne & Riddle finally got the win. Despite what I said in my predictions, I’m actually glad the titles changed hands here because I think a shakeup in the tag division is absolutely in order because it’s really lacking in major talent right now. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get on board with their odd-couple pairing, but as long as they keep churning out matches like this, I really don’t mind.

1 – Keith Lee(c) def. Dominic Dijakovic
(North American Championship)

So THIS is what an all-out hoss fight is supposed to look like…I like it!

Quite simply, these guys went all-out and unleashed just about everything they could possibly think of to do and it was just fantastic fun to watch. it proves that big-guy fights don’t have to be slow, plodding affairs full of tests of strengths and grunty pushing. This match had such a different feel to everything else on the show, it was able to have an incredible sense of spectacle to all the big spots, while still maintaining a sense of a hard-hitting fight.

Not to mention, it helped to make an absolute star of Dijakovic. I know most of the NXT faithful know that he’s a great wrestler, but this was his first match on a big show like Takeover and I’ll be very surprised if he didn’t turn some heads. I could sit here listing all of the awesome spots that filled this match, but let’s be honest, you’ve already seen the gifs. I didn’t even know it was possible for people the size of Lee & Dijakovic to pull off some of the stuff they did last night, but quite frankly, I’ll never see gravity in the same way again.

It had just about everything you could want from a big match like this (both figuratively and literally) it was loud, proud, impressive and, most importantly, an absolute blast to watch, easily the best match of the show.

That’s all folks! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article, please let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back on Saturday, where I’ll be running down the best speeches from Doctor Who!

NXT Takeover: Portland: Predictions & Analysis

It’s been far too long since we’ve had one of these. I know World’s Collide happened and it was a very good show, but it just didn’t have the same feel or level of pure quality that a good old fashioned NXT Takeover event does. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something about that show just didn’t quite click for me. Regardless, we’ve got this to get excited about, so let’s not spend too much time complaining.

Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai
(Street Fight)

If I’m remembering correctly then I’m pretty certain this is the first time in quite a while that an NXT Takeover event has had more than one women’s match on the show. For a while, this was understandable, as there wasn’t much in the way of talent depth, but now looking at NXT Women’s division, the whole damn show could be women’s matches and it would be brilliant.

This match, in particular, has got me quite excited. I don’t really know much about Kai & Nox, but I’ve been getting quite invested in them since their feud began at Wargames. Now Shayna Baszler seems to be bowing out of NXT, there’s a lot of room up at the top for heels in the women’s division and I think Dakota Kai is going to be a great fit for that role. As for Tegan Nox, I just hope that NXT management has learnt from the mistakes they made with Io Shirai and keep Nox going as a believable face because as much as I’ve like Io since her heel turn, it very much felt like a move born out of desperation.

When it comes to picking a winner, this is a simple situation of picking who I think has the most to gain from the win right now, which is easily Dakota Kai. Although her heel turn was a good few months ago now, this is the first major match she’s had since it happened and it would be a bit of disaster for her to start taking major losses this early and there’s all the potential in the world of Tegan Nox to have a Gargano-Esque redemption story following a loss or two in the coming months.

Johnny Gargano vs Finn Balor

Out of all the matches on this show, I think this one has had the best build.

It was disappointing that we had to wait a couple of months longer than we expected to get this match thanks to Gargano’s injury, but they were able to recover the story well and I think a great deal of intensity has been added to the feud thanks to Balor’s new shift in character and Gargano’s hunger to re-prove himself. The history of Balor in NXT has been played into it, but what I think is most surprising is how starkly different Balor’s character is this time around, he truly feels like a different person to the one we’ve seen on Raw & Smackdown for the past few years.

Naturally, this match should be brilliant. While I’ve never been blown away by a Finn Balor match, I always find them very enjoyable and when he’s matching up with a wrestler like Gargano, I’m certain we’ve got a potential match of the year on our hands.

It’s a tough call as to who will win this one. Balor needs a solid win to cement his return, otherwise, he could quickly fall back into old routines. Though at the same time, I think Gargano is going to be a major part of major storylines going into Wrestlemania season (I’ll talk more on that in a little bit) and he really needs a big win after spending the past year having a bit of an underwhelming time. I’m picking Johnny Gargano because, unlike Balor, I actually have a pretty clear picture in my mind of what I think the next couple of months are going to look like for him and it requires a win here.

The Undisputed Era(c) vs Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

It seems like such a weird thing to say given the men involved, but I’m really not feeling this match. Don’t get me wrong, I think Fish & O’Reilly are a fantastic tag team and both Dunne & Riddle are among my favourite singles guys in WWE right now, but I just don’t really buy them as a tag team. Unfortunately, there’s not much else they can be doing right now and if the Dusty Rhodes Classic achieved anything, it was highlighting the fact that NXT US has literally only one decent tag team in their ranks at the moment, so it was kind of necessary.

I’m sure this will be a brilliant match, but after so many years of the NXT Tag Team division being full of cohesive teams that felt like natural partners, to have two guys whose characters don’t align in the slightest (and not even in an “opposites attract” sort of way) seems like such a letdown.

Weirdly though, I kind of think they might win. It seems like Undisputed Era’s reign at the top of NXT is starting to crumble, so taking those titles away from them might be the direction they’re going in right now, not to mention that if Undisputed Era retains, then who have they got left to fight? Unless we’re just going to keep bringing in NXT UK teams for them to fight, the only direction we can go at this stage is rehashing old matches. The other possibility is that Riddle turns on Dunne, in order to inject some life into Riddle’s quickly stagnating character, not to mention there’s a bit of a lack of heels at the top of NXT right now thanks to Undisputed Era being the be-all and end-all of the division.

There are compelling arguments for both scenarios and I honestly can’t say that I think either one is more likely than the other, so I’m instead going to go with what I want to happen and pick The Undisputed Era to retain.

Keith Lee(c) vs Dominic Dijakovic
(North American Championship)

For the longest time, I was not a fan of Dijakovic he seemed to me like just another hoss that didn’t bring much to the ring other than a fairly impressive physique. Over the last few months, those assumptions I made of him have been utterly destroyed as he’s put on some great matches with wrestlers of all shapes and sizes.

Combine a guy like Dojakovic with someone like Keith Lee who, I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say, has it all. He was criminally underused for the longest time in NXT and Survivor Series finally woke everyone (myself included) up to the fact that he’s an absolute beast and a brilliant wrestler that deserves the world. Now Lee has himself a championship, I can’t think of a better way than to show off just how good he can be than by putting up against one of his best opponents in NXT right now.

These two have fought several times before and it’s always been great stuff, their chemistry is impeccable and they’re always able to add something new to their matches so that it doesn’t feel like they’re stepping over old ground. Now they’ve finally been given the opportunity to put it all on a much bigger stage, I can’t imagine they’ll waste it. I’m expecting big things from this one, both from a literal and metaphorical standpoint.

That said, I think it’s quite easy to pick Keith Lee as the winner here. He’s only just won the title and he’s got all the momentum in the world right now, so losing the title like this would be an absolutely terrible move. Admittedly Dijakovic does need a big win to fully legitimize him, but that win can’t be at the expense of Lee.

Rhea Ripley(c) vs Bianca Belair
(NXT Women’s Championship)

When this match was first announced, I really wasn’t interested. I adore Rhea Ripley and thought her title match against Baszler was one of the best matches of last year, but this felt like such a placeholder match it’s believable. I mean, I still stand by that a little bit, there’s no way Bianca’s winning this match, but the build has been exciting enough so that I am actually interested in seeing the match play out now.

A large chunk of this switch in opinion was Belair’s great performance in the Royal Rumble a few weeks ago, she went on an absolute tear and reminded me that she is actually just as good a talent as any other wrestler in the NXT women’s division at the moment. There was also that great promo on NXT TV last week where she inserted herself in-between Charlotte & Rhea’s bickering and reminded everyone that, despite Charlotte’s insistence that she wasn’t a threat, she’s could easily take that title from Ripley and be staring Charlotte down at Wrestlemania soon.

That said, there’s absolutely no situation in which she takes the title away from Ripley on Sunday. Ripley is absolutely the biggest star in NXT right now, she’s only just won the title and now she’s got a Wrestlemania match against Charlotte Flair looming in a couple of months. Rhea Ripley is keeping that title around her waist and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise.

Adam Cole(c) vs Tommaso Ciampa
(NXT Championship)

Ooooh boy, this is gonna be a good one. Ever since Ciampa returned I have been gagging to see this match, so now it’s finally happening, I am sufficiently excited.

Cole has been a fantastic champion during his reign, all of his matches have been must-watch and this will absolutely be no exception. WarGames proved that Ciampa hasn’t lost a beat during his time away from the ring so this match should do nothing but reaffirm his status as the best of the best. The build to this match has been great too, it’s clear that Cole and The Undisputed Era can sense that Ciampa might spell the end of the Golden Prophecy so they’re attacking with all their might to try and beat him down before the match and hopefully that’ll carry over into the match itself too.

While I’m not entirely confident in this pick, I feel fairly certain Tommaso Ciampa is going to pick up the win here for two major reasons. For one thing, it feels like the culmination of his return & redemption story to sit atop the NXT throne once again, but also, with an NXT Women’s title match already being planned for Wrestlemania, I think it’s likely that we’ll see the men’s title get the same honour and quite simply there is no bigger NXT Title match for Wrestlemania than us finally getting the finale in the Ciampa vs Gargano saga, one year after the match was cruelly taken away from us. I think seeing that match at Wrestlemania would mean so much to both guys and everyone like me who’s seen the whole story unfold from the beginning and in order for that to happen, Ciampa has to take the win here.

WWE Survivor Series 2019: Every Match Ranked

I’ve mentioned before how I think that Survivor Series has been the most consistently great Pay-Per-View of the last few years and that streak certainly continued tonights. I have my gripes, as I always do, but looking through the whole show I can honestly say there wasn’t a single match I didn’t like. I was worried that having WarGames so close would potentially hamper the NXT contingent of this show, but the whole thing seemingly went off without a hitch, which is a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Still, we’ve got 10 matches to get through here and I’ve got a lot to say about some of them, so let’s get on with it.

10 – Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler won the Tag Team Battle Royal
(Raw vs Smackdown vs NXT)
(Kickoff Show)

Like a lot of the battle royals we’ve seen this year (because come to think of it, we’ve seen A LOT of battle royals this year) this one had no faults, but there’s also nothing in particular worth praising about it. It was a pretty standard formula, the eliminations came thick and fast in the early stages before things slowed down a bit and there was more wrestling when there we just a few teams left.

I would’ve preferred if someone other than Ziggler & Roode won, but given that this was just here as a way to pad-out the scorecard for Smackdown, then I can’t really find it in me to condemn it for being a bad decision, it’s not like anyone’s going to remember this match come Friday.

9 – Brock Lesnar(c) def. Rey Mysterio
(WWE Championship)
(No Holds Barred)

I do love a good family outing.

The layout of this match and the general pacing of it felt incredibly similar to Lesnar vs Bryan from last year’s show and, to a certain extent, it gave me the same sort of feelings, however, this was all crammed into 7 minutes instead of being given 20.

The opening 4-5 minutes were what you’d expect from a Brock Lesnar match, he was throwing Rey around and generally looking like a monster, however, that all turned around and the match got exciting once Rey’s son Dominic – of all people – showed up and turned the tides. It may have been a tad cheesy, but I enjoyed Dominic’s involvement in the match, everyone seems to be fully aware of Lesnar’s glowing weak spot that is his balls at this point and they make no bones about exploiting it. Then there was the double 619 which, once again, cheesy but fun.

I wish the match had gone a bit longer and Rey’s comeback had been given a little more time to breathe, but I still came away from this match feeling satisfied with what I watched and looking forward to this potentially going somewhere new in the near future.

8 – Team Smackdown def. Team Raw & Team NXT
(5 on 5 on 5 Men’s Elimination Tag)

The two elimination tag matches of the show are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of what can be done with these kinds of matches and unfortunately, this was towards the low end. It had some redeeming features, which I’ll get to in a moment but it most certainly had its problems too.

First off, there were WAY too many quick eliminations, nevermind whether or not it’s someone I like, you had Riddle, Preist, WALTER, Orton, Gable and Owens all eliminated within 5 minutes of each other, which is ridiculous. I get that you’ve gotta have 14 pinfalls in a match, but there was a much better way to pace them than this, which the other elimination tag match on the show proved. My biggest gripe was the straight-up inconsistency in the rules, because in this match there were no countouts…except for when Braun Strowman got eliminated by countout; after that elimination, Ciampa, Rollins & Reigns all spent a lot of time outside of the ring while still being the legal man towards the end of the match and suddenly there was no count, which really irked me.

However, I still came away from this match feeling like I enjoyed the experience and that is because the closing 10 minutes of the match were great. When it was down to Rollins, Reigns, Ciampa & Lee the match really picked up in quality, the focus went away from spamming finishers and quick pins, to proper, fast-paced wrestling and it was very enjoyable. Not to mention that we got to see a star-making performance from Keith Lee, the final few minutes with him and Reigns going back and forth were something else and I’d very much like to see a full match of that in the future. Even though Lee didn’t win, he came out of this match with his stock undeniably raised which is brilliant.

As much as I loved that final segment, it was only about a third of the match and the preceding two-thirds weren’t great and, on a show with so many good-to-great matches, that unfortunately lands it down in 8th place.

7 – Lio Rush(c) def. Kalisto & Akira Tozowa
(Cruiserweight Championship)
(Raw vs Smackdown vs NXT)
(Kickoff Show)

I think from now on, the Cruiserweight Championship should be exclusively defended in Triple Threat matches because these are always great.

Lio Rush is such a human highlight reel at this point, the stuff he is able to do when he’s let off the leash is so much fun to watch. When the pace of the match looked to be slowing slightly, Rush was ready to jump right back in and accelerate it all back up to fever pitch and keep it there pretty much the whole way.

Tozowa & Kalisto put in great performances to and I’m very pleased because it’s been so long since I’ve been able to say that about Kalisto. Kalisto specifically seemed to have really good chemistry with Rush, then I noticed that he was able to keep pace with Rush slightly better than Tozowa was and watching the pair of them go back and forth was an absolute joy.

Now 205 Live is moving to Full Sail, I’m most certainly going to get back into watching it because if we’re going to be getting stuff like this every week, it’s going to be the most must-watch show in the business.

6 – Shayna Baszler def. Becky Lynch & Bayley
(Raw vs Smackdown vs NXT)

This was inarguably a good match, but I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed.

The pace for this one was slightly slower and I thought that was mostly to its benefit. Every move felt very deliberate and it gave the impression that each woman had really done their homework on their opponents. It was also a pace that let Baszler absolutely shine, she was effortlessly taking control of the match the whole way through and it made things all the more exciting when Becky or Bayley suddenly got a burst of offence.

The disappointment I was referring to comes from the finish because I feel like the match ended a few minutes too soon. When Shayna locked in that Kirifuda Clutch on Bayley it felt to me like the final act of the match was just getting going, I didn’t think that the fairly naff looking table spot would’ve been enough to keep Becky down and we’d get a final burst of back and forth between the three women before the match ended. Instead, Bayley just tapped out and that was that. Then there was what happened after the bell where Becky put Shayna through a table, which achieved nothing. It didn’t send the crowd home happy because the Chicago crowd were VERY happy about Baszler’s win, it didn’t help Becky because she just looked like a sore loser and it definitely didn’t help Shayna because she got her victory undercut and that was how the show ended, it was a tad deflating.

However, I’m not going to let a relatively minor complaint takeaway too much from the fact that this was a really good match overall. The pacing was spot on, every woman got a chance to shine and ultimately, I’d say the right woman came out the victor.

5 – Roderick Strong(c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura & AJ Styles
(Raw vs Smackdown vs NXT)

This is the point in the list where we get to the matches that I have little-to-none in terms of complaints and how I rank them comes down purely to personal preference.

I don’t think there was any ever doubt about how good this match was going to be, you’ve got three pure wrestlers who are very good at what they do and they used the triple threat formula to great advantage in this instance. To say that everyone got a chance to shine is somewhat of an understatement, whether it was intentional or not, all three of these men looked like staunch equals the whole way through the match and a lot of that was thanks to the balance that was struck between each of their times on offence.

All three men had great chemistry when the match broke down into one on one fights and it made the occasional periods where all three of them were in the ring at once feel all the more hectic and fun. I wasn’t expecting Roddy to win at all but I thought how this went down worked for both Strong’s character and the running theme throughout the night of NXT winning their matches by being intelligent and tactical.

Nothing more to say really, this was just a really great triple threat match.

4 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(WWE Championship)

Ok, the red lighting worked for Hell in a Cell, but it’s gotten pretty old now.

This match wasn’t the wrestling clinic that we got between these two in 2014, but that’s because it’s not what this match was meant to be. The more I think about it, the weirder it would be for The Fiend to put on a tense, back and forth 20 minute clinic, instead The Fiend just needs to go in and execute his unique style and it’s how the opponent responds and adapts to it that makes for both an interesting match and an interesting story. Enter Daniel Bryan.

I know the story beats in the lead up to this match were minimal at best, but Bryan did everything in his power to make them feel like a big deal in this match and at least somewhat succeeded. Bryan did a fantastic job of selling the beating he was taking from The Fiend and things got even better when he started to mount his comeback, seeing Bryan go back to wrestling a full face style after so long was a joy to watch, including the biggest Yes! chant we’ve seen since Bryan’s return last year.

It would’ve been nice if this match had got a bit more time, but I’m not entirely sure it needed it. I think it got in, told its story very efficiently and hit all the right beats to be exciting and got out before it started to drag on.

3 – Team NXT def. Team Raw & Team Smackdown
(5 on 5 on 5 Women’s Elimination Tag)

This match was the polar opposite of the men’s elimination tag match. While the men’s match had way too many quick eliminations and basically no wrestling until the final segment, this match paced all of its eliminations really well, leveraging the story points it had to great effect, and built to a great climax.

What I loved about this match is that, even though there were 15 competitors, everyone got a chance to look good and have some sort of spot in the match. Be it, Sarah Logan, looking like a legit beast for the first time ever, Io Shirai & Kairi Sane having a face-off that makes me to incredibly sad we never got that match in NXT like we were supposed to, or even Carmella leaping around trying to get attention; everyone got a chance to stand out.

The eliminations felt earned instead of being quick and cheap, it avoided annoying everyone because they weren’t “out of nowhere”. It also meant that a match-long story was able to build itself up, with NXT going two down early on and being forced to pick their spots until by the end they had the numbers advantage. I liked Asuka’s role in the match, going absolutely ape-shit after Kairi got eliminated, culminating in causing Charlotte to get eliminated with the mist.

If we’re talking about individual performances though, we’ve got to talk about Rhea Ripley. If we look at Smackdown on Friday, WarGames on Saturday and now the match last night, Ripley has gone from “sort of popular babyface, but it’s probably just a flash in the pan” to “This woman is a made star”. The pop when she first got tagged into the match and eventually won was huge and when it comes to having their stock elevated, no-one has done better for themselves this weekend than Rhea Ripley, I cannot wait to see her and Baszler go at it for the title.

2 – The Viking Raiders def. The New Day & The Undisputed Era
(Raw vs Smackdown vs NXT)
(Kickoff Show)

To sum up my thoughts on this match in a single character: !

Viking Raiders & Undisputed Era have always had great chemistry from their time together in NXT, so this match takes those two teams and throw in The New Day a team who can have a top-quality tag team match with damn-near anyone, this thing was an absolute blast from start to finish.

The Viking Raiders were seemingly always in the mix during the match and quite frankly this match has done more favour for them than all of their previous RAW matches combined. Watching Erik(or Ivar, I honestly have no idea) facing down Big E was an absolute joy, only heightened with how sneaky and opportunistic Undisputed Era played it. The psychology was there too, with UE spending the whole match targeting all their opponent’s leg.

A little upset that Kofi Kingston has gone from 180 days as WWE Champion to the least important man in this 6 man tag on the pre-show, but that fact doesn’t take away from how great this thing was.

The pacing was spot-on the whole way through this thing too, it started off quite fast and tense, before slowing it down around the middle with UE and Viking Raiders having an extended sequence together, it lengthened out the build to the inevitable breakdown towards the end, making it all the most exciting when it finally hit. The whole finishing sequence was great fun, I loved UE going hell-for-leather taking out The New Day only to have to suddenly stop in order to not get flatted by The Viking Raiders, even if they ended up being unsuccessful.

This is how good tag team wrestling can be in WWE, I would very much like more of it.

1 – Adam Cole(c) def. Pete Dunne
(NXT Championship)

No points for guessing this match would top the list.

Despite both of these men (especially Cole) going through long and gruelling matches last night, this match didn’t feel like it suffered from that one bit. Cole has undeniably been the MVP of this whole “NXT Invasion” angle and this match only solidified that statement as, not only did he make sure that WarGames the previous night didn’t drag him down, he worked it to his advantage and made it add something to the match.

These two guys were always going to have fantastic chemistry in this match and they did not disappoint in the slightest, both men made sure to show the effects the WarGames match had on their bodies and it made for a match where every move felt very hard-hitting and the way both would sell every little injury like a big deal did so much to elevate this match to the fantastic bout it was.

It wasn’t fast and furious because it didn’t need to be, instead it focused on moves that gave the highest impact possible, including a God-damned Panama Sunrise on the God-damned ring apron, that looked brutal. The whole finishing sequence damn near blew my mind with how it turned out, I’ve watched it over ten times now and I still can’t work out how the two of them managed to pull off the Bitter End into Panama Sunrise spot, it was certainly something too behold and was a fantastically exciting way to end the match.

So there you have it! Those are my thoughts on Survivor Series! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this review, please let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back on Saturday where I’ll be running down my favourite new Pokemon from Sword & Shield!