Summerslam has its work cut out for it.
That’s because NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III was hands down one of the best American pro wrestling shows of 2017. Put it on par with the best from Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla or whoever you want. This was professional wrestling at its best — hard-hitting, innovative action, great stories both begun and concluded, and there were surprises on top of surprises.
Before we get started don’t forget to check out Pop Break’s official predictions column where we got everything absolute wrong.
Match #1: “Johnny Wrestling” Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Cien Almas w/Zelina
I thought Gargano needed this win to break him out as a singles competitor. I was so wrong. The moment Zelina aka Thea Trinidad sauntered out with Cien I knew there was no way Gargano was walking out with the W. Zelina has a tremendous heel presence, and is going to propel Cien’s profile to the moon. Speaking of Cien, this was undoubtedly his match in NXT. He and Gargano set the tone for the evening as they knocked the holy hell out of each other. There were some incredible sequences here, and it looked like Gargano (who is an unmitigated ring general) was going to score the win. However, in a brilliant movie, Zelina tossed a DIY shirt into the ring, temporarily distracting Johnny Wrestling, and allowing Cien to score a win. This was the perfect scenario — Gargano looked amazing as a single, Cien’s profile elevates, and Zelina cements herself as a legit manager and not eye candy. Also, it furthers the Ciampa/Gargano feud without Ciampa even having to be there.
Match #2: NXT Tag Team Championship — Authors of Pain (C) with Precious Paul Ellering vs. SANITY (Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe) with Nikki Cross and Killian Dane
This match had no right to be this good. AOP has been a hulking hit-or-miss that depends on opponents making them look strong while SANITY has never really stood out to me in-ring wise as a team. Tonight that all changed. Alexander Wolfe finally broke out and proved why he was such a highly touted WXW star who was the first German import to NXT. He came off like a star. However, the person who came off the best was Nikki Cross. Once again she just sole the show from all the men. I was shocked at how well these two teams meshed, and how physical this got. The ending sequence with Cross and Dane sacrificing themselves to help the team was brutal and awesome to watch. Seeing EY and Wolfe score the win was a big shock. However, the bigger shock came when ReDragon came out and wiped out Sanity. With Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish just debuting (and losing) in their first couple matches it was a bit of a surprise to see them thrust into a title picture. But, given the lack of depth in the division with just SANITY and AOP as the most experienced teams (with Heavy Machinery, Street Profits just getting traction and TM 61 eventually returning), so they need Fish and O’Reilly.
Match #3: Aleister Black vs. Hideo Itami
The crowd came for stiff is what these two men delivered. This was easily Hideo’s best work in nearly three years. This was also Black’s biggest test, and he handily won over the Brooklyn crowd. He is destined to be the #1 guy in NXT for sure. If you enjoy matches with a lot of striking this is your match. Hideo showed more heelishness than he ever has, and he was absolutely on fire. Was I surprised that he didn’t win this match? The answer is absolutely, yes. I felt like he needed to score a big win to keep his momentum going. However, Black won with a devastated “Black Mass” roundhouse kick. He absolutely destroyed Hideo. If Itami lays out Black next week, and keeps his mean streak going I’ll be fine with the loss. However, this has to make wonder if rumors of Itami leaving when his contract expires and heading back to Japan are true.
Match #4: NXT Women’s Championship – Asuka (C) vs. Ember Moon
Asuka and Ember beat the living crap out of each other. They told an excellent story here — Asuka injured Ember’s previously nicked up shoulder early on, and Ember had to fight hard from underneath the entire time. And fight she did. I’ve never been a massive Ember Moon fan, but tonight she became made woman. I also liked that they played off their last match where Asuka used some underhanded tactics to win. This time, the ref caught her, and I could’ve sworn Ember was going to take the title. However, she didn’t. I was stunned that they let Asuka retain here, as it felt like putting the belt on Ember would’ve opened up a lot of new possibilities. But, now you gotta think…will Asuka be dethroned by the winner of the Mae Young Classic? It’d make the most sense. Go out of your way to see this match, it’s excellent.
Match #5: NXT Heavyweight Championship – “Glorious” Bobby Roode (C) vs. Drew Galloway
McIntyre (it’s hard not to say Galloway) enters with a full pipe and drum brigade which was awesome. Roode, once again, has another spectacle of an entrance. One thing I feared in this match was something I’ve noticed at Takeovers previously — the main event usually doesn’t hold up to the other matches on the show. They usually are a let down, just because everything else has been so amazing. Luckily, this was not the case. Roode and McIntyre beat the living snot out of each other. They worked their asses off in this match, and put most WWE Title matches to shame with just how hard they worked. In a “glorious” flurry of moves, McIntyre was able score the win with his booming Claymore flying boot. It was a great moment for a man who worked tirelessly to reinvent himself.
But we weren’t done folks.
Fish and O’Reilly reappeared on the ring apron to McIntyre’s surprise. While he questioned their presence, the arena erupted. If you’ve been following the “sheets” you know what that noise meant.
Adam Cole had arrived.
For years I’ve been saying this guy is the next big thing, and boy did Brooklyn treat him that way. The capacity crowd blew up in joy when he hit the ring. And boy did he hit the ring. One super kick and Cole wiped out McIntyre.
Cole, O’Reilly, and Fish are now a unit, and we have a whole new main event picture in NXT.
To quote a good brother — run, don’t walk to see this show.