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
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.