Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day, as NXT presents TakeOver: Vengeance Day, live from the Capitol Wrestling Centre. The main event will see the NXT Championship defended for the first time on TakeOver since October of last year, as Finn Balor faces the dangerous Brit, Pete Dunne, for the first time ever. Dunne holds the record for the longest title reign in modern WWE history, for his reign as NXT United Kingdom Champion a few years ago, and Balor currently holds the record for most combined days as champion across how two reigns atop the black and gold brand, so both men come in with an extensive championship history. The NXT Women’s Championship will also be on the line in a triple threat match, as Io Shirai defends against both Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez. Shirai has bested all comers thus far, but against both Storm and Martinez the odds are not in the champ’s favour. The North American Championship will also be defended when KUSHIA finally gets his hands ont he elusive champion, Johnny Gargano. These three huge title matches and btoh the finals of the men’s and women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournaments.
+ Finn Balor (c) vs Pete Dunne (NXT Championship): outside of one particularly dumb submission spot in the middle or so of the match, this was a lot of fun. I really like both guys, especially Pete Dunne given a chance to really show what he can do. Balor has been a great champion (in the ring, at least; I’m not a fan of his promos) and so it really could have gone either way, especially considering the interesting aftermath to end the show
+ Cameron Grimes had a video made to show off just how rich he is, and I loved it. Give me more of this stuff for individual performers/tag teams, rather than the self-fellating bragging from the company, or matches that go too long between people we don’t care about
+ Johnny Gargano (c) vs KUSHIDA (NXT North American Championship): this was great, but with the same caveat as most Gargano matches that it just went on for too long. KUSHIDA’s story of late has been that he is a killer, and Gargano has been presented as a coward, even with his “Johnny TakeOver” moniker, so it was strange to see neither of those things play out in this match. I really enjoyed the back and forth counters between the two, but every subsequent counter meant less than the one before, and once against that counter-wrestling aspect did not make sense in the story. However, purely in terms of in-ring action, this was great
– Io Shirai vs Toni Storm vs Mercedes Martinez (NXT Women’s Championship): going into this, there was no reason this should have been a triple threat, compared to two separate singles matches (or dare I say even just Storm vs Martinez in a number one contenders match) and by the end of the match that had not changed. This was every WWE style triple threat you’ve ever seen, whether the competitors were male or female, and I did not care for it at all
– Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) (Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final): I think we can all agree that these are two of the least likely teams to be in the finals, considering the other entrants in the tournament, but in a way that made this more fun. I really like the GYV, and the way they wrestle compared to the rest of the division (in a way, similar to The Revival, now FTR in AEW). MSK did a lot of flashy moves, but they are still so new it was hard to know what was a common occurrence for them and what was something that was special. I wanted to like this, but it just felt like a video game
– Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon (Dusty Rhodes Women’s Tag Team Classic Final): Shotzi and Ember were a makeshift team and they looked it; everything they did looked awkward and ill-prepared, unlike Kai and Gonzalez who have been teaming for a while now. I like Shotzi overall, but her offense is going to get someone killed one day, and it will probably be herself. This went too long with far too much stuff when there were already very clear good guy/bad guy roles
> I wasn’t able to watch this live, and therefore had the fortune of being able to skip through all the video packages (except that Cameron Grimes video) and entrances, and that shaved off almost an hour of time
> I think this is the first TakeOver in years not to have at least one member of the Undisputed Era in a match
Should you watch this event: I don’t want to think I was not in the mood to watch this, but every single match had something about it that felt added specifically to make the match “epic”, rather than just letting the guys work out what to do for themselves. Whether it be an “awesome” dive, some “creative” tag team moves or simply kicking out of moves that should be a match-ended any other time, NXT is trying way too hard to be different, and that just makes everything feel the same.