Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Thursday, April 12, 2018

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans 4/7/18

EC3 vs. Killian Dain vs. Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Ricochet

PAS: I don't really go out of my way to watch car crash ladder matches, this may have been the first one of these I have seen in a couple of years, and I enjoyed it. Great debut for Ricochet who got to show off some of his nutso spots he has such crazy athleticism, and the spot where he moonsaulted off of a ladder as it was falling showed some pretty great timing in a dangerous atmosphere. Really dug Dreams elbow drops, the regular ones got great distance, and the one off the ladder was bonkers. Sullivan was awesome too, it is always great to have a beast in these matches and he was really killing people with throws and clotheslines, he also took some really unnecessary bumps for such a big guy. Cole seems like the least interesting of these six guys, and did the least memorable stuff, so him winning was a letdown, still this was pretty great.

ER: Really fun giant trainwreck ladder match, that went a little long and had some expected problems with slow climbing and guys disappearing. But the highs were high and made this an easy win. I loved having a couple of monsters in there, and Sullivan/Dane each had nice showings, and I loved the atmosphere building to their big Godzilla vs. King Kong moment, and them bealing Ricochet across the ring towards each other like those monsters throwing a tree at a helicopter. But everybody got nice individual showcases and all performed well. Adam Cole isn't my favorite guy but I thought he came off well here, thought the timing on all the superkicks was nice (with Ricochet setting up the big springboard into kick). Dream has nice whipping right hands and just about the most gorgeous top rope elbow ever, tons of hang time, tons of grace, tight compact landing, really a treat to watch him fly as far as he does. Sullivan was really good glue throughout, as he kept being held at bay by big moves, but he was looming there as a presence the entire time. EC3 and Cole wisely team up to take Lars out, and I liked this big ape getting pinned into the corner by having a huge ladder slammed into his guy. The big moments are big and certainly memorable, with Sullivan and Dain both setting up huge slams from the apron through ladders (really amused by Cole getting grabbed by Dain and Dain just butt splashing through a ladder). Ricochet springboards into Sullivan while Lars is climbing a ladder, looks like they were going to attempt Ricochet latching on and scrambling over him, but the ladder tips and both end up in a messy painful tangle. Ricochet hits an insane spot, moonsaulting off a ladder to guys on the floor, while he's being tipped off a ladder, just amazing timing that could have easily seen him slip and die on the ropes. Too much cool stuff to list, also loved Cole hanging on to Dain during a Vader Bomb, and getting whiplashed violently upon landing. The "Everybody Climbing" moment was a bit much and the climbing in general was pretty lousy during this match (a lot of guys - especially Cole - looking up and reaching after they were two rungs off the mat), but you came for crashes and they found a ton of unique ways to crash.

Ember Moon vs. Shayna Bayzler

PAS: I thought this was spectacular, one of the better WWE women's matches I can remember seeing. Loved the story of Moon delivering the receipt by dislocating Bayzler's shoulder, such a nasty move loved how Moon escaped the same attempt early, and the fear on Bayzler's face when Moon was setting it up. Bayzler popping her shoulder back in by slamming her shoulder into the post was nuts, and an awesome bit of character work. You really don't see many matches where heels sell a body part, and it was really well done. Loved the finish with Bayzler countering the Eclipse and all of the fight Moon was putting on. Bayzler grabbing her hair because her shoulder was shot was so neat. I am a Bayzler mark from her early pro-wrestling matches, and this was her putting it all together and knocking out a classic.

ER: Yeah this one easily ranks among the best WWE women's matches of all time. This is far and away the most complete Baszler has looked and the two of them had an awesome clash. Moon has a ton of cool takedowns that could look bad with a klutz taking them, but Baszler goes down with a snap. I love the sliding trips Moon does, logic stuff I could see Finlay using, like log rolling into Baszler's shins to trip her. Baszler doesn't skimp on strikes (my gosh that boot between the shoulder blades, and punting Moon in the top of the head while she hung upside down) and you got this cool battle of flashy offense versus focused striker. The stuff around posting the arm was fantastic, the promo package really made it look like Baszler had been snapping arms in half for months, and the selling from both when they're about to get snapped was great. Moon looked terrified, and Baszler's facials really put over the danger. She's been using this dangerous weapon and now has it turned right back against her. Baszler's selling was so strong down the stretch, really elevated this even more. Ramming her shoulder in the post was a great visual, but her anguished screams were the REAL. Her faces in between shoulder rams were some of the best selling I've seen this year. The finish was great with that Eclipse counter into the rear naked. I love when someone counters a standard headlock takeover by keeping a wide base and refusing to go over, so the visual of Ember doing her awesome flip off the top...only to have Baszler completely block it with her neck muscles, so awesome. Both women's singles matches at Mania were awesome, and this one topped it.

Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong/Pete Dunne vs. Adam Cole/Kyle O'Reilly

PAS: This was fine, I like AOP as a pair of taller Hit Squad, and there was some fun spots by everyone in the match. Hadn't seen Strong in forever, but he looked fine. I thought O'Reily had a couple of nice moments, but there was some bad stuff, his little slap fight with Dunne was pretty cringey. I imagine if I had watched more NXT the Strong heel turn would have meant more, but coming in cold it left me cold. Undisputed Era are just so cornball. Not bad, and if it is the worst match on this show it's a hell of a show

Aleister Black vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas

ER: Another absolute banger of a title match from Cien. Almas and Vega are legitimately one of my all time wrestler/manager duos in wrestling history, they make such a perfect team. Almas is so good in this role, playing an opportunistic heel who also goes aggressively after big moves that might backfire. He is currently the best "going in for the kill" wrestler out there. Vega is an all time great at interfering in matches. Her interference is super fast, timed to precision, done so flawlessly that nobody has to stall or keep their eyes averted longer than normal, just a series of quick in & out hits. I don't think there is currently a better big match worker than Almas in the world. I liked Black in this, but this was the Almas/Vega show and Black was competently along for the ride. Big match Almas layouts are so terrific about building to several peaks, sneaking in moments where you're positive something will backfire only to have it play out a way you didn't expect, and the Vega interference always is used perfectly.

Black has great flash to start, cool strike combos that are mixed up so that his opponent never has to look like a guy just standing and eating strikes. Black is also one of the best guys at incorporating moonsaults into a match/ His moonsaults are fast and rotate low, they aren't high and loopy, and it totally works when he chases Almas out of the ring only to scramble to the other side and nail him with a fast low moonsault, and back in locks in a painful octopus variation. So Black establishes early but Almas and Vega are just too good at building to moments. All of the Vega interference lead to something big, her running off the apron and sending Black into the steps with a rana, spiking him with a rana in the ring when Almas is trying to use the title as a weapon, yanking Black's boot on the outside allowing Almas to set up the running double knees on the apron, all her interference is perfect and actually leads to big momentum swings. Almas is really great at missing as big as he hits; he'll wreck you with those double knees, but he'll fly hard into the corner when he misses those knees. We get a cool Almas offense run with a snap German out of the corner and a wild tornillo from the middle rope to the floor, The nearfalls in this are bananas and build so well, first that Vega spike rana, then a scramble leading to Black hitting Black Mass, but some more expert Vega involvement when she gets Almas' foot on the ropes. Her saves and teamwork are so key to the duo, it's really difficult to rate Almas on his own. He'd be great solo, but her involvement adds so much to his big singles matches. The offense keeps ramping up with a huge Almas double stomp to the floor, and we even get a great moment off of a move that basically missed: Black goes for a big flip dive and overshoots, throws Almas back in the ring, but Almas hits the Hammerlock DDT, and I would have bet money on that being the pin. Now, they probably would be doing that spot whether the tope con giro hit or missed, but the fact that it mostly whiffed made this spot so much better, as Black threw Almas back into the ring as if he had the advantage, but Almas capitalized as the move hadn't hurt him much. The actual finish is perfect though, with Vega's interference finally blows up, as she gets desperate and goes for a crossbody, Black ducks, Almas has to catch her, and BOOM Black Mass spin kick. The finish really paid off so many months of Vega interference, and I just loved this whole thing. Someone tell me they have a handheld of any of the Vega/Almas vs. Gargano Familia house show matches?

PAS: Man is Almas putting in a heck of WOTY candidacy for 2018. His timing on spots is totally great, he and Vega always seem to be perfectly in place to capitalize on a wobble or misstep. He is also great at getting stunned and wobbled and selling frustration. His offense isn't fancy, but it is great looking, I think the coolest move of the entire match was Almas catching Black mid spin and dropkicking him right in the back of the head, which Black sold like he was concussed. Timing was perfect, impact looked brutal, selling was on point. Vega is a champ too, her rana's look credible and land violent, and she is a tremendous asset to the match. Finish was great, Vega has been the secret weapon for the entire title reign so it was perfect that she cost Almas the title in that way. Black has really offense and nice selling, but he felt a bit like a passenger. I really want Almas to get the title back and just go on a year long title run, I think a rudo this skilled could really do something awesome with Ricochet, and Almas vs. Velveteen Dream could bang too.

Tomasso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano

PAS: Gargano is really great at taking match tropes I dislike and turning them into undeniably great matches. His Almas match was pretty much the apex of near fall 2010s wrestling, this match was the apex of over dramatic WWE Emo main events. You could see the nadir the next night at Wrestlemania with Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali yelling "Show me the heart" and "Show me the Soul" during a heatless nonsense Cruiserweight title match. This match had those tropes. Gargano and Ciampa yelling "This is my moment", the whole finish with Gargano hesitating before putting down Ciampa, but this was a two year story they were paying off and both guys are much better facial sellers then your normal wrestler. The look of defeat on Ciampa's swollen face as he looked up at Gargano was really demonstrative, he really looked like a guy staring into the abyss he created. The work in here was really brutal too, both guys ended up with pretty bad facial swelling from those slaps and kicks, Ciampa looked like he was trying to pulp Gargano's skull with those stomps to the back of his head, and both the suplex on the floor and the powerbomb on the floor were nasty and sold like it. I do think this went a bit long, they could have hit all the emotional beats and big spots with five less minutes, but it is hard to argue with the crazy year Gargano is having, and that is coming from a pretty big indy Gargano skeptic.

ER: I loved this, a great violent emotional spectacle that required compelling acting, and the acting was good enough that the ending staredown had me pulled in all of the directions. I wanted them to hug, I wanted them to get coffee, I wanted Gargano to murder Ciampa, I wanted it all, and I love the direction the took it. This show had a crazy violent 6 man ladder car crash that went 30 minutes, and 2 hours later they had to go out and have a violent match at the end of an already long weekend, after everybody in the building saw numerous people go through tables and ladders and fall from great heights. There's a scenario where you could easily see the crowd burnt out for this match, but Gargano and Ciampa did not give anyone a minute to feel burnt out. While I did think things went on a bit too long overall, I thought they filled the time admirably, and it really makes me wonder if I just completely missed on liking Gargano on the indies, or if he's just gotten really, really great in NXT. Because he is, that.

They built to everything so nicely here, and the big moments felt huge. Ciampa was great at showing frustration through rushing, and I thought it played great, things like trying to rip the floor mats up while still standing on it, or ripping all the monitors up and getting somewhat tangled in the cords; he wanted to wreck Gargano and he didn't plan on being patient about it. Both guys laid it in and I liked that there was actual struggle to the stand and trade, with Gargano's punches and elbows looking especially sharp (Ciampa looked like he had battled a swarm of bees by the end of the match). The big spots were big and used well, that suplex off the table sounded bone breaking, and the powerbomb onto concrete sounded like when I dropped a watermelon on my sidewalk when unloading groceries. It should also be noted that we had the only great use EVER of the "You deserve it chant", directed at Ciampa after he got powerbombed. The big Gargano Escape tease was great, truly could have seen Ciampa tapping there once Gargano shoved off the ropes, but you knew we would end bigger, and Ciampa breaking it with a brutal eye rake/nose rip was important. The weapons attacks were all cool, far more interesting than the typical tables and chairs stuff. You knew the crutches were coming into play, but I hadn't considered the leg brace. Everything with the leg brace was savage and looked far meaner than any Singapore cane shot I've seen. The ending was so well done that I didn't know what was about to happen: Was Ciampa genuine? Was Gargano wanting a polite resolution? Were we going to bookend all of this with another lean-in hug on the mat? Ciampa goes for his pistol and Gargano was smart enough to suspect he would, and the final Gargano Escape with the leg brace smothering Ciampa's face was an awesome final visual. Both guys knocked this out of the park.

ER: What more could you want out of a pro wrestling show? I cannot remember a wrestling show that had two matches I loved as much as Almas/Black and Gargano/Ciampa (maybe Royal Rumble 2007?) but throw in an all time great WWE women's match and a great ladder scramble and this show should be viewed as legendary. Four of the five matches are easy adds to our 2018 Ongoing MOTY List, and they all lived up to some potentially hyperbolic hype. If you've somehow not watched this show, I could not imagine recommending something more.

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Blogger Discotortoise said...

I'm trying to watch NXT this year and the truly bizarre thing to me about Strong turning (there was a tag title TV match early in the year where Black abandoned him to chase after Cole like a fucking idiot, it's probably with enough build) is who the hell decided that mutant-faced Young Tory Pete Dunne should be a fucking babyface?

2:12 AM  
Blogger EricR said...

I do not love his mug, that's for sure. I assume it was from the same folks who brought us "Zumbido, tecnico".

2:57 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Yeah, this might be the literal best show WWE has ever put on. Just insane.

Even the tag title match was pretty good, and it was the easiest "worst match" vote of any show I saw over the weekend.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Discotortoise said...

I agree with the take on the opener, literally everyone but Cole was really good, and I get that he HAD to save himself for the tag title match and then maybe still came out worse for wear which is why they canceled him out early but five performances that I highly enjoyed and one nothing. I usually WOULDN'T shit on doing set-up booking during promotions' biggest shows but when it has to be an HBK cosplayer benefitting...

I didn't love the women's match as much as you guys-- there's been plenty of better TakeOver title matches alone at this point, but I still enjoyed it. The O-Face to the floor was completely insane, though.

Dunne sucks. I've done a mostly-complete catchup of NXT for this year and... he just sucks in every match. He's somehow fully become the worst of both Ospreay & Scurll-- overusing MOVES that he can't really pull off (his Kimura, ugh) schtick that doesn't work. I thought that the AoP-Fish/O'Reilly match from Philly was really great and an AoP-O'Reilly/Strong match would have been even better, I think that Roddy has looked tremendous this year & that ONLY in the direct exchanges with Dunne did KO'R look bad. I died at his "FIGHTING SPIRIT!... nope" sell/bump through the ropes after one of the Authors killed him with a German, he had some other great shitheel mugging, too. And I just love AoP at this point and would kill to see them vs. the Usos.

2:14 PM  

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