Last Night’s NXT TakeOver Featured The Match Of The Year And A Heel Turn For The Ages

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If you’re not on the NXT train yet, what has taken you so long? Since NXT “Arrived” on February 27th, 2014, they’ve proven time and time again that they’re much, much more than developmental. With their 4-5 TakeOver special per year platform, each one has blown the roof off the place, and never has one disappointed. Some stars from NXT like Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Finn Bálor, and Sami Zayn have thrived on the main roster, while others like Bo Dallas, The Ascension, and Adam Rose have flopped, but one thing holds true: NXT knows how to build talent and give them every opportunity possible. I’ve been highly critical of Vince McMahon’s ability to correctly book a babyface for years now. It’s been a long time since a home grown talent was successfully booked as a face on the main roster, but NXT has never had that issue, and because of that, they’re able to build such enthralling storylines in and out of matches. There’s two things I want to touch on from last night’s TakeOver that blew me away in this blog: Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunne and Tommaso Ciampa’s heel turn on Johnny Gargano.

Ladies and gents, in the 138 days we’ve spent in 2017, this is the best match I have seen. It was a flawless, five star instant classic*, and I knew it as soon as that bell rang for Dunne’s three count. If you’re not an avid wrestling watcher, the odds are this was the first time you’ve seen either of these men, and I urge you to seek out their work as soon as possible. The easiest way would be on the WWE Network, where you can check out the UK Tournament that crowned Tyler Bate as the inaugural UK Champion. The finals came down to these same two men, and while many thought Pete Dunne should’ve been booked to win the tourney when it was announced, his in-character heel tactics turned even the most hardcore smarks against him as the matches progressed (wink for the hardcores). Tyler Bate’s innocence at only 19 years old (20 now) mixed with his built up aggression makes him one of the most compelling talents in the entire world, and it’s astonishing how good he is as a babyface in WWE while he works most indies as a heel.

As a huge fan of the British wrestling scene and both of these young talents, this was my most anticipated match of the night, and it still blew me away. Spot for spot, Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne were able to get across how much they hate each other and tell the story of their feud to someone who has never seen them. They made the UK Championship matter to someone who’s never even heard of it (it helps that it’s the most gorgeous looking title in the company). Most importantly, they made their mark as the two best prospects in the entire world. Dunne winning the title wasn’t the choice I would have gone with, being it was the first national exposure match they’d have and you probably want your champ to look strong, but after seeing the battle Bate went through and the way he sold the loss, I knew it was the right choice. I said it last night on Twitter, and I’ll repeat myself on the blog with the utmost sincerity: if these two aren’t the biggest stars in the business in a few years, something went catastrophically wrong. They should be main eventing WrestleMania before either of them hit the age of 30.

This match lasted fifteen minutes and twenty seven seconds. Please, I beg of you, find that time to spare and watch these two fight it out. Jim Ross even commentates the damn thing. You won’t regret it.

*This marks my third five star match of the year, the first two being Kazuchika Okada vs Kenny Omega on January 4th and AJ Styles vs John Cena on January 29th. For reference, I had four five star matches in 2016 and three in 2015. It’s been a great year for wrestling.

Secondly, I’d like to talk about the betrayal that Johnny Gargano faced.

In 2015, Johnny and Tommaso Ciampa took part in a WWE tryout where they were not signed. They were brought in to do sporadic appearances as a tag team, and instantly clicked for two people who had never teamed before. The Full Sail crowd took such an interest in them that they were put into the first Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, and even picked up a first round win. WWE quickly saw that there was something about these two that should be locked down, but only dipped their toes in the water, giving them “Tier 2″ contracts which allowed them to work indies in between NXT dates. Both got exponentially better in the year that followed, and Johnny Gargano grew into who he is now: the best babyface in the entire industry. They continued to work together and came up with the name DIY, which was appropriate given how much they took every opportunity by the balls and made their own successes. In the Cruiserweight Classic, the team clashed in the final singles match of the first round, and Ciampa came out on the losing end, teasing a turn before giving Johnny a hug. The duo grew stronger after this, not only in kayfabe, but in real life. Tommaso and Gargano moved in together and started the phenomenon known as “GLORIOUS Bombs”.


DIY got a few shots at the Revival’s NXT Tag Team Championships that they came up short on, but those matches molded the team into the most captivating underdogs since Daniel Bryan. After each loss, fans questioned if Ciampa would turn, and after each one, he didn’t. When they finally won the NXT Tag Team Championships in November of 2016 in the best tag team match I’ve ever seen, grown men and women were crying, hugging, and kissing in the crowd. It was beautiful. I’m getting chills typing this up in a Starbucks just thinking about the moment. They were on top of the world, they celebrated in the crowd with the very fans who elevated them to that spot, and all was right in the world…for a month.

The Authors of Pain quickly took the titles off the newly crowned champs, and the timer for their eventual main roster call ups sped up. The question “When will Ciampa turn?” changed, and it became “Will he turn before they’re called up?” Last night the two got what felt like their last shot at the championships in a BANANAS ladder match, and lost once again. They went so all out, it felt like their last match ever in the “developmental” system. Johnny took a ladder straight to his surgically reconstructed jaw, for Christ’s sake.

The loss had lots of time to breathe, just like every NXT send off. The crowd chanted “Thank you”, gave them a standing ovation, and they almost rode off into the sunset. Finally, the Psycho Killer looked at his best friend, and whispered, “This wasn’t our moment…this is my moment” and threw Johnny face first into the video boards. He unleashed a brutal beatdown on his now former partner, and watched hauntingly as he was carried off on a stretcher.


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My parents got divorced when I was a kid, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had a breakup hit me as hard as this one. I mean, they were BEST FRIENDS. They DID IT THEMSELVES. By the time they’d made it up the ramp, I was yelling “FADE TO BLACK” at my television, dreading what I knew was about to happen. Now, we’re in store for what has the potential to be the best feud in NXT history.

Shows like last night’s NXT TakeOver: Chicago are why I love professional wrestling and consider it the greatest art form on Earth. There were even more matches and moments that I didn’t even mention for the sake of time. So yeah, “Paul”, I may give you shit over making fans sit in lawn chairs, but god damn kid, you know how to run a territory. All fucking hail.

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