The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover XXX – 08.22.20

The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover XXX

Live from Orlando, FL, although THANK GOD not the Thunderdome.

Your hosts are Vic Joseph, Corey Graves & Beth Phoenix

Finn Balor v. Timothy Thatcher

This either gonna be a horrible style clash or awesome.  Hopefully the latter.  Even the announcers note that it’s a style clash, and they’re morons!  Thatcher takes it TO THE MAT right away and works for an armbar, but Finn reverses to his own attempt and Thatcher switches to a facelock.  Finn dumps him to create that all important separation and they go right back to the grappling on the mat as Thatcher twists on the knee and Balor is forced to make the ropes.  So Thatcher smashes a knee into his ribs and wraps him up with a bow and arrow, but Finn reverses for two.  Thatcher wraps him up on the mat again, but Balor pops up and beats on him in the corner, until Thatcher takes him right down with a kimura in a nice reversal.  Thatcher gives him the Stu Hart treatment on the mat, just stretching him like a right bastard, but Balor bridges up and gets two.  Thatcher rolls through that, but Finn dropkicks him and they slug it out until both guys fall down.  Finn kind of whiffed on the Pele there.  Balor makes the comeback, but Thatcher counters the sling blade with a knee to the gut, so Balor gives him the double stomp and tries for a dragon sleeper.  Thatcher powers out of that, but Balor gets the 1916 for two. Shotgun dropkick and Finn goes up, but misses the stomp and hurts his knee.  Thatcher swoops in like a shark with a half-crab, but Finn quickly makes the ropes.  They trade kicks again and Thatcher gets a german suplex, but now Balor gets an abdominal stretch into a rollup for two.  Thatcher switches to an anklelock, but Balor escapes that with a double stomp and goes up for another try at the Coup de Grace.  This one hits, but Thatcher won’t stay down, so he finishes with the 1916 at 13:38.  Yeah, I don’t know about this one.  Finn’s going nowhere in NXT and Thatcher doesn’t need to be doing jobs right now.  The match felt kind of dull and meandering for a lot of the time, and ended up being a style clash, unfortunately, with all of Thatcher’s working the leg ending up meaning nothing.  ***

North American title, ladder match:  Bronson Reed v. Velveteen Dream v. Damian Priest v. Johnny Gargano v. Cameron Grimes

Poor Grimes gets double-teamed by Reed and Priest to start, but Dream breaks them up and runs wild for a bit.  I like Reed’s gear, which I can only assume is a tribute to Bam Bam Bigelow.  Hopefully Dream doesn’t start doing tributes to Buck Zumhofe with his gear.  Grimes goes for the ladder first, but finds a stepladder under the ring instead in a cute bit, and Gargano hits him with the slingshot spear into the ring.  Reed throws the other guys around, but Dream and Priest both grab ladders and climb.  Grimes breaks them up and tries to climb both ladders at the same time, but he ends up doing the splits and gets taken to the floor.  Poor guy.  He just wants to go to the moon!  Reed clears the ring and clobbers everyone, but Johnny tries to climb the ladder while fighting off the bigger people.  Then he organizes Grimes and Dream in an attack on the other two, declares “OK, let’s get ‘em!” and then turns around and climbs the ladder again.  OK, that was funny.  Dream goes up and gets hit with a ladder and we get a ridiculous pile of ladders and human beings in the corner, which Reed splashes.  This sets up the Tower of Doom spot and everyone is out, except Gargano.  He sets up the ladder, but Priest ends up on top until Dream makes the save.  Priest hits everyone with kicks, but Reed runs wild with the ladder and Dream tosses it into the plexiglass at ringside.  Everyone heads to the floor for the car wreck spot, which allows Grimes to find another ladder, but Priest knocks it over and runs up the ladder for a dive onto the pile outside.  This leaves Grimes to climb TO THE MOON, but Candice LeRae comes in and brings him down, allowing Johnny to hit him in the head with a ladder, and Candice takes Grimes off the apron with a rana onto the pile.  Johnny climbs, but now Reed stops him and slugs him down, but Candice stops HIM from getting the title, too.  Reed takes her down with a splash off the ladder and onto Gargano, and he heads back up the ladder again.  But Grimes finds an EVEN BIGGER ladder, one that likely reaches to the moon, and he’s able to knock off both Reed and Priest, but now Dream saves.  Dream sets up a bunch of ladders and climbs up for the big spot, but then realizes that the belt is right there and decides to go for it.  Priest saves there, but Grimes hits him with the Cave In and makes the climb.  And then Gargano brings him down with a powerbomb onto a ladder bridge and that looked UGLY.  That was right on the side of the ladder.  Priest ends up on a ladder bridge outside and Dream gives Johnny the death valley driver off the apron and onto Priest.  He climbs for the belt, but Reed pushes him off and into the announce position.  This leaves Reed at the top, but now Grimes recovers and throws a ladder at Reed to save.  Gargano makes the save and knocks him off, but Priest follows him up and grabs the belt at 21:24.  Really predictable winner, unfortunately, with the most boring guy ending up with the belt after doing not much for the entire match.  At least it wasn’t the Dream, because they absolutely could have gone that route and I wouldn’t have been the least bit shocked.  Started slow and turned into a pretty good car wreck match.  ****  I would have been SO HAPPY if Cameron Grimes had won the title, and extra points if he had won using that tiny step ladder from the beginning of the match.

Adam Cole v. Pat McAfee

Cole works a headlock, but McAfee flips over him in the corner and decides it’s a good time to strut.  He gets his own headlock and then runs to hide behind his posse while mocking the Undisputed Era.  Luckily security is standing by to prevent any real fights from breaking out on this fake fighting show, but McAfee pulls out a somersault dive onto the pile of geeks.  Back in the ring, McAfee slugs him down while Graves tells the story of another NFL player who came into NXT with no confidence from the locker room, and is now King Corbin.  Yeah, that’s not exactly high praise.  McAfee with a slam for two and he goes to the chinlock, then yanks him down by the hair to keep him down.  He gets a warning from the ref and yells back “THAT IS NOT A RULE!” before getting corrected.  There’s definitely something there.  McAfee with a dropkick, which would logically be his best move, but Cole fights back and they slug it out.  Cole boots him down and stomps a mudhole in the corner, then hits an ushigoroshi for two.  Cole goes up, but McAfee crotches him and then makes the rookie move of pointing to his head to indicate intelligence.  So he tries a superplex, but Cole shoves him off, so McAfee flips down and then pops up with the superplex on a second try for two.  Very impressive for a guy in his first match!  He tries to punt Cole’s head into the stairs, but misses and hurts his foot, and Cole goes to work on the leg in the ring with a figure-four.  McAfee makes the ropes and still has to trashtalk, so Cole attacks him in the corner and McAfee kicks him in the nuts and then hits the punt kick for two.  Thought that was gonna be the finish, actually.  McAfee goes up for one last big move, but Cole superkicks him on the way down.  He threatens to pull down the kneepad, but then changes his mind and hits the Panama Sunrise instead for the pin at 16:13 to shut him up.  This was really good, with a simple story and great fire from McAfee.  Not like Takeover-level great or anything and probably a little bit too long, but very enjoyable and a great showing.  ***1/2

NXT Women’s title:  Io Shirai v. Dakota Kai

Io does some handsprings to evade Kai and that goes weirdly, as she seemingly lands on her own head and knocks herself silly.  So Kai bails to the floor and goads Io into following, which allows her friend Raquel to distract Io and Kai to send her into the post for the heat.  Back in, Kai works the arm and gets two.  Shirai just seems completely out of it while Kai holds the match together with simple stuff on the mat, but Io fights back after a while with a palm strike from underneath and follows with the 619.  Springboard dropkick gets two.  They head to the apron and Kai tries for the german suplex out there, but Io double stomps her to break and they head back in.  Kai goes with the kicks to the face, but that just angers Shirai and they slug it out.  Kai misses the corner boot, and Shirai hits her with running knees and goes up.  Kai cuts her off, but gets hung in the Tree of Woe and Io hits her with a double stomp for two.  Kai takes her down with a backstabber and into the armbar, but Io makes the ropes.  She goes for a springboard, but Kai kicks her down and follows with the Go To Kick for two.  The ref gets bumped and Shirai goes up with the moonsault, but this brings in Gonzalez for the chokeslam, which gets two for Kai.  She tries another GTK, but Io reverses into a crossface.  Kai rolls out of that, so Io hits her in the face with a knee to put her on the floor, and follows with a moonsault onto both heels.  Back in, the moonsault finishes to retain at 17:10.  Took a while to get going but even the fake crowd was into it by the end and it was a hell of a match.  I didn’t buy Kai as a serious threat for a second, though.  ****

Gonzalez goes for the heel beatdown afterward, but Rhea Ripley saves and we get a staredown there.  “STOP TALKING AND MAKE CONTACT!” yells someone from the front row.  Tell ‘em Steve-Dave!  So are we done with Rhea v. Robert Stone’s girls already?  It feels like we missed a blowoff there.  Unless they decided that, like myself, many people get Raquel Gonzalez mixed up with Mercedes Martinez and decided to just move from one to the other and hope no one notices.

Meanwhile, Damian Priest jumps into a hot tub with some ladies to celebrate his win.  I still have no idea what his gimmick is supposed to be.  Is “lead singer in a RATT tribute band” a viable option in 2020?  Granted that would certainly appeal to the key NXT demographic at this point.

NXT title:  Keith Lee v. Karrion Kross

They slug it out to start and Lee hits him with the crossbody, but Kross bails to the floor.  They fight out there take turns punching the plexi, but Lee charges and hits the post, injuring his arm. We literally just saw that spot in the last match.  Kross works the arm in the ring and gets two, then works for a hammerlock before taking him down with a Divorce Court and back to the hammerlock.  That goes on for a while longer, but Lee fights up and Kross takes him down with the cross armbreaker.  Lee fights out of that with a slam and slugs him down.  Lee with the powerslam for two, but Kross fires away with kicks and a DDT for two.  Lee hits him with a suplex for two, but Kross puts him down with a lariat for two.  They slug it out again, but Lee hits him with his own lariat and both guys are out.  Kross is up first with the Saito suplex for two and he sinks in the choke, but Lee makes the ropes.  Lee hurks him up for the Spirit Bomb and that gets two, but Lee goes up and Kross blocks him.  Beth notes that there’s a reason “they call Keith Lee the moment maker”.  I’ve literally never heard anyone call him that.  And then Kross suddenly brings him down with what looks like an Angle Slam off the top, and Kross wins the title at 21:54.  Huh.  Yeah, they went there.  I can sense the SALT coming from the blog already about this one.  I like the idea, but holy shit was Kross ever exposed here as not being ready to be a top guy, and this was such an anticlimactic way to change the title.  Oddly this was the only match on the show with serious heat from the fake crowd, and it ended up being the worst one on the show by far.  Just two fellas having a dull wrestling match and Keith Lee didn’t even get to do any Keith Lee stuff.  I’ve been championing for Kross for weeks now, I know, but about halfway through the overly long match I was thinking “Man, maybe they better just let Lee keep the title for another few months”.  **1/2

Overall, it was an excellent show outside of the dull main event, although it felt more like an excellent episode of the TV rather than the PPV-level that most Takeovers are.  Definitely a big improvement over In Your House, I thought.  The whole idea of having Keith Lee win both titles, just to get rid of them both in succession, is a very puzzling decision, to say the least.