By Mike DellaCamera for F4Wonline.com
NXT returns to Brooklyn this Saturday for ‘NXT TakeOver Brooklyn II: The One With The Terrible Chain Graphic’ (trademark: me). Poor graphic decisions aside, this is an absolutely stacked card. Every NXT title is on the line, it could be the last match in NXT for Bayley, Bobby Roode makes his in-ring debut, and Ember Moon has her official NXT debut. Combine those things with an always wound up Brooklyn crowd, and there is the definite potential for this to go down as one of the best NXT TakeOvers from top to bottom.
Here's a look at the card.
Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay
The vignettes leading to Moon’s debut have been, well, they’ve been something. Your mileage may vary on the pseudo-supernatural vibe they have going on, but it’s something different and certainly worth seeing through. There are plenty of jokes about the quality of names NXT has been generating lately (Sup, Oney Lorcan?), but EMBER MOON has to be something that was left on the cutting room floor of Mortal Kombat names. Maybe she is Kitana and Mileena’s long lost cousin or something.
What the wrestler formerly known as Athena does have going for her is that she can really, really work and has an incredible finishing move (the O-face) that the Brooklyn crowd will absolutely explode for. Going back to MK, I wonder what kind bizarre Fatality-type name it will get. While ‘From The Ashes’ or ‘The Final Eclipse’ are up there, my fingers are crossed for ‘The Full Moon’. That’s not going to happen, but it sure is nice to dream.
For Kaye, she actually looks like, and dresses similarly, to Kitana. Everything really is lining up for my WWE/Mortal Kombat crossover I’ve been working on so tirelessly including writing this section before Kaye was officially announced as her opponent.
No Way Jose vs. Austin Aries
NXT’s resident fruit aficionado might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s done a good job of getting himself over as a face and drawing more out of his character. Leading up to his program with ‘The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived’, Jose was just a happy dancing guy who sometimes did baseball moves. This is also known as the most NXT gimmick of all time.
If you look at the NXT talent that found early success on the main roster, their characters were, and this is almost silly to say when writing about pro wrestling, grounded in reality. Sami Zayn, scrappy, resilient, underdog who never gives up….and is really good at wrestling. Kevin Owens, mouthy, self entitled, man who fights for his family…and is really good at wrestling. Rusev is a bit more than the stereotypical foreign heel in that he really loves his wife, fights to defend her honor (which is somehow ‘bad’)…and is really good at wrestling. Tyler Breeze is really good at wrestling, but his gimmick did him absolutely no favors.
It’s been proven that some of the stuff they try in NXT will just die on the vine up on the main roster. I guess time will tell with Jose, but nothing about this gimmick or this program screams main roster success to me.
For what it’s worth, doesn’t it feel like Roode and Aries should switch opponents this weekend? No Way Jose gets enough positive reactions that he could overcome the love that Roode surely will get, and Aries can generate enough heat on himself to help Almas get over. Anyway, as it currently stands, this match doesn’t really move the needle, and it’s fair to wonder where both these guys go coming out of this TakeOver.
Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Bobby Roode
This has the potential to be a bit awkward. There is almost no chance that Roode gets a negative reaction in this match (at least to start), and that, as far as I can tell, is the exact opposite of what WWE wants to happen. A large part of that is because Almas’ character is just so bland: bologna-on-Wonder-Bread-with-a-touch-of-yellow-mustard-bland. Up to this point his character can be boiled down to ‘super handsome dude who sometimes wears weird suspenders’. He has received little to no reaction since his debut, which is a real shame because the former La Sombra has all the talent in the world necessary to succeed.
On the other hand, Roode debuted and had a character within 10 minutes. He walked to the ring, cut a promo, and immediately established his character, his desires, and his motivation for being in NXT. This doesn’t even mention his theme song, which by itself is more over than 80% of the roster. This whole match, that incidentally has had no build, raises quite a few questions. Does Roode really lose his TakeOver debut match? Does Almas really go over, and does he get no reaction from the crowd? Do they really think his hammerlock DDT finisher is a real thing? Most importantly, are any of us ready for the GLORIOUS nature of Bobby Roode in NXT?
NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival vs. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa
Has The Revival had a bad match since they became prominent players on NXT? I would argue that they haven't, and quietly become one of the best parts of NXT. They are the ultimate foils for the babyface teams like American Alpha, Enzo and Cass, as well as their TakeOver opponents Gargano and Ciampa. The Revival is exactly what they claim to be: old school, hard-hitting tag team wrestlers. They are also perfect and wonderful and this should make you treasure them like the pitch-perfect wrestlers they are.
What makes this match so great is that Gargano and Ciampa are also wonderful, but not quite as perfect. One team is going to hit the other team really hard, the other team is ALSO going to hit the other team really hard, with just a few more leg slaps. This is good! This is fine! This is great! The best part about a tag match is when the teams do different things well, but are trying to get to the same place. The Revival will try and wear you out, slow the match down, and ultimately take you out.
Gargano and Ciampa will try to chain moves and strikes together as fast as possible, and ultimately knock you out. This will be the biggest showcase for Gargano/Ciampa as a team as they both had their official ‘coming out’ moment with their match against each other during the first round of the CWC.
With The Authors of Pain and TM61, NXT’s tag division is getting fairly deep, and that doesn’t even include a possible reunion of the #DirtyHeels (Roode/Aries). This could be a good spot for a title change, because it sure feels like SmackDown could use a team like The Revival considering that its' tag division is American Alpha, and a bunch of teams that aren’t American Alpha.
Look at who participated in the 12-man match from Tuesday that weren’t AA: The Usos, The Hype Bros, The Vaudevillians, Breezango, and the Ascension. That…doesn’t exactly scream excitement. If they really want to have a second set of belts for the blue brand, the quality of teams needs to really improve. Give me an extended feud between AA and The Revival on national television. I don’t need any amount of Hype in my life, in any capacity, ever.
NXT Women's Champion Asuka vs. Bayley
Unpopular Internet opinion: I don’t love Bayley, I’m not even sure if I like her at this point. I fundamentally understand what makes her work, what makes her so captivating, and why so many people love her. I really do. A large part of why I feel this way is because she has just been in NXT for so, so long, and has done everything she possibly could there. Part of what makes wrestling so great is getting to see characters evolve and improve. Bayley did that and now it’s time for her to do it somewhere that’s not Full Sail. If this is her swan song, what better place than Brooklyn -- the place where she and Sasha Banks blew the roof off the building a year ago -- for her to go out?
And oh boy, is she going to go out with a bang. There really has never been someone like Asuka in the WWE. The women they usually book as these near-unbeatable monsters are more physically imposing (re: Nia Jax, Kharma) than Asuka. Asuka doesn’t inspire fear because of her size; she inspires fear because of who she is. There is a reason that, in a previous life, she earned the nickname ‘Most Dangerous’.
WWE is in a weird and surreal place where two of their best performers are not only Japanese wrestlers who can cut a ‘promo’ with their faces and actions, but are completely running with it. When is the last time a foreign wrestler, let alone a female Asian wrestler, was presented in the dominant way Asuka is? She and Nakamura are two shining examples of WWE getting away from trying to fit every wrestler into the ‘superstar’ shaped hole that they tried to do for so many years.
This match should, with almost no doubt, be excellent. These two told a great story WrestleMania weekend in Dallas, and are in just as good a position to do the same this Saturday. Hopefully, The Empress of Tomorrow can give Bayley her final (and much deserved) hug in NXT...in the form of an Asuka Lock.
NXT Champion Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Hyperbole aside, this match has the potential to be one of the best matches in NXT history. All of Nakamura’s matches are complete spectacles and feel like a special event, not at all unlike a Brock Lesnar match at this point. Much like a Lesnar match doesn’t need a traditional build, neither do Nakamura’s as each match feels like a dream match. Credit goes to WWE by letting Nakamura just be Nakamura and allowing his innate, strange, weird, bizarre, incredible, and utterly captivating charisma just ooze through the screen.
His presence makes everything, and everyone, around him feel bigger. The man is just a master professional wrestler, full stop. He is a genuine top-tier, world-class talent, and, honestly, has no business spending any more time in NXT.
If this feels like someone singing the praises of Nakamura as opposed to a match preview, you're partially right. But it would be an absolute travesty not to talk about how incredible Samoa Joe has been over the past year in NXT. Kevin Owens recently said that NXT wouldn’t be where it is without Finn Balor, and by and large, he’s correct. But Joe has made the title mean more, and feel more important over the course of his short reign, compared to what Finn did over his far more lengthy tenure.
Where Finn’s matches, and by no means is this intended to be a slight, could sometimes feel like build-ups to a reveal of ‘the Demon King’ with the title just kind of serving as a prop, Joe’s feel different. They have the feel of a man motivated to prove that he is the best, that he deserves what he’s earned -- and will do anything to keep it. A motivated Joe on a big stage against one of the best big stage performers of the past 5-10 years? This has all the makings of an absolute classic.
With all that said, Joe retains but not cleanly, right? Nakamura needs to be on the main roster as soon as possible, leaving Joe to be the NXT monster that they haven’t had in some time.