Wrestling Night in America Reunion: PWTorch columnist Greg Parks is joined by former PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill for a full match-by-match preview of WrestleMania 36
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Tonight’s card: Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, Aleister Black vs. Hideo Itami,The Authors of Pain vs. Sanity (NXT Tag Team Title match), Asuka vs. Ember Moon (NXT Women’s Championship match), and Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Roode (NXT Championship match).
Takeover: Brooklyn III starts with a live performance from Code Orange, overlaid with shots of various NXT wrestlers.
Johnny Gargano comes out first to get the crowd super excited. He is facing Andrade “Cien” Almas. I am not a fan of the booking of this match. Almas hasn’t been rebuilt enough for a loss to him to be OK for Gargano, but Gargana shouldn’t be losing as he tries to establish himself as a singles wrestler. These guys both needed another month on Wednesday night.
1. JOHNNY GARGANO vs. ANDRADE “CIEN” ALMAS (w/Selena Vega)
They move to immediate mat work. Jacknife barely gets Gargano one. Crucifix gets Gargano another one and he moves top a front face lock. As Almas delivers chops, Mauro Ranallo offers best wishes to Ric Flair. Armbar through the ropes from Almas. Both men get a chance to show off their usual offensive manuevers. Big dive to the outside sends Almas into the barricade hard, slingshot DDT as a followup almost wins it for Gargano. Gargano ties a spear through the ropes for a second time, Almas catches him, tornado DDT gets a neaerfall. Vega and Almas can’t believe that didn’t end it. Almas puts Gargano up top and lands a big chop. Gargano blocks the superplex and fights Almas off. Gargano wants a sunset flip powebomb but Almas flips over it and lands on his feet, sets up running double knees, Gargano pops out of the corner, gets hip tossed into the corner. Gargano with a crossface, Almas reaches for the ropes, Gargano rolls him to the middle, Almas picks him up for a one-armed buckle bomb, double knees for a super tight nearfall. Great action here, these two may steal the show tonight. Almas calls for the end and keeps working Gargano’s arm. Gargano is out,, but suddenly springs to life with a superkick, then another kick, running snake eyes. Vega throws a shirt at Gargano to distract him, setting up the hammerlock DDT.
Winner: Andrade Almas in 13:06. Didn’t like seeing Almas needing a distraction from Vega to win, but what a match! Really exciting, intense action here.
Kurt Angle, Daniel Bryan, and a few NXT wrestlers are shown viewing from up high.
Corey Graves joins the booth.
Akam and Rezar have new, green ring gear, and are wearing some goofy snake masks. They charge the ring to take on Sanity before the bell. Young and Cross just sit outside doing nothing for some reason. AOP kick Sanity out of the ring and remove their vests, then Wolfe and Dain drag them out of the ring. Young sets up a table on the other side of the ring. AOP gets Wolfe in the ring and the ref calls for the bell.
2. NXT Tag Team Champions THE AUTHORS OF PAIN (AKAM and REZAR w/Paul Ellering) vs. SANITY (ALEXANDER WOLFE and KILLIAN DAIN w/Eric Young and Nikki Cross) – NXT Tag Team Championship Match
No halt in the brawl. Akam and Rezar just beat Wolfe senseless. Wolfe dodges a charge and Akam eats ringpost. Young suddenly jumps on the apron and demands a tag. What is this, the Reverse Freebird Rule? The ref allows Young, not Dain to take the tag. Young is able to take Akam into the ring, Wolfe beats on Rezar outside the ring. Young gets Akam to run himself into a barricade. Akam throws Young back into the outside area, then into the ring, but Young recovers. Double team from AOP, back body drop, Rezar catches Young and slams him to the mat for two. Really sweet looking move there. Young is desperate to get out of the corner, but takes a vicious stomp from the second rope. Overall visual impression of this match is that Eric Young should be lucky to live through this match. Rezar is half-choking Young in the middle of the match. Young tries sliding under Rezar from the apron, Rezar catches him, holds him up in the air, and slams him to the mat. Wolfe distracts, Rezar whiffs an elbow drop, then dodges a corner charge to gain a moment of air. Wolfe tags in and goes nuts on Rezar. Wolfe suplexes Akam, then Rezar. Wolfe is getting a big pop for this. Wolfe to the top, leaping clothesline, Akam breaks up the cover then dumps Young out of the ring. Tag to Akam. Suplex into a powerbomb, but Wolfe manages to kick out. Why is Sanity being booked as the scrappy, underdog babyfaces? Rezar wants a second rope powerbomb, Akam protects him, Wolfe hits a Frankensteiner instead, tag to Young, leaping neckbreaker to Rezar. Young to the top, but Rezar shakes the ropes to crotch him. Rezar thinks superplex, Young blocks, Akam looks for a Tower of Doom, Cross holds Rezars’ leg, Rezar takes the powerbomb, Young lands the Macho Man elbow for a close nearfall. Young leaps through the ropes, then Wolfe nails a plancha over the top. Cross looks to do it too, the crowd cheers, Ellering comes into the ring, and the ref has to separate them. The ref gets distracted by Ellering, Cross leaps on Akam, Akam catches her, Dain builds a head of steam and hits a huge spear into Akam who goes through the table. Young rolls Rezar into the ring, tag to Wolfe, Wolfe holds Rezar up and Young hits a neckbreaker off the top for the win.
Winners: Sanity in 11:57. Great action throughout this whole match, but somehow Sanity comes out as the faces despite needing to use a 4-on-2 advantage to win.
Post-match, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly come out and ambush Sanity. They just tear Sanity apart, then beat up AOP. Wow, that’s a huge shock since they debuted separately.
Neville is shown in the audience, then Shinsuke Nakamura and Kalisto. “One of these is not like the other.”
Bobby Roode is shown in the back getting ready.
Jim Ross is welcomes back to be a guest commentator. They are really pulling out all of the stops tonight. With McGuinness and Ranallo, this is a fantasy booth.
Amazing entrance for Aleister Black, with Code Orange playing his song live and fog shrouding cadles. This is just a crazy hot, Finn Balor as “the Demon”, Shinksuke Nakamura with the live violins, Bobby Roode with the chorus level entrance. They are in each other’s faces immediately.
3. ALEISTER BLACK vs. HIDEO ITAMI
They are kicking the stuffing out of each other out of the bell. Huge big boot from Itami, Black just eats it and they go head to head. Itami to the outside, Black jumps off the ropes and sits. He catches a kick while sitting and takes Itami down. Itami seems startled, wants a right, the arm gets captured and Black just beats him brutally. Cover for one. This isn’t a “wrestling match” this is a “fight between two men who know how to hurt people badly and hate each other”. Black hung up on the ropes, Itami hits a knee drop off the top to the back of his head. I think Black may be bleeding from the nose. Ranallo quizzes JR on what has impressed him about both men and JR puts them both over hard. Nasty knee to the Black’s back, Ranallo calls it “Spinal Tap”. I bet it hurts like 11. Black is starting to get a fair amount of blood out of his face. Itami with a tight side chinlock, the ref has gloves on. Snapmare, then knee drops to the head. Itami does his fake knee drop with the dirt scuff to the face, then sits down in Black’s post to taught Black. Black gets to his feet with fire, but Itami cuts him off, DDT, cover for two. Itami has a chinlock, but Black gets to his feet. He ducks a charge and tries to land kicks, Itami stops him, Black just unloads, leg sweet, running knee to the head. Brutal lionsault for a nearfall. Black uses his foot to lift Itami, but an elbow stops Black Mass before it happens. Itami with more feet out of the corner, tornado DDT into the ropes, top rope clothesline nearly ends it. Fisherman suplex gets Itami two-and-a-half. Black suddenly shows life, Itami chops him in the neck and Black stumbles into the corner, but jumps out with a cover for two, then a roundhouse, Itami looks like he is out. Black goes to the top, Itami gets to the corner and wants a superplex. Black elbows him off, Itami recovers and hits a kick. Itami sets up the superplex, no, it’s an avalanche Falcon Arrow off the top, Black is out, Itami rolls over for an insanely close nearfall. They get to their feet and trade blows, kicks, this is just going nuts. Hesitation drop kick to the back of Black’s head, Itami sets up GTS, Black elbows out, but takes a knee. Itami paintbrushes him. Black hits Black Mass out of nowhere for the win.
Winner: Aleister Black in 12:24. That was one of the best matches I have ever seen, despite there being no real build up to it. It just felt so brutal and intense. There were barely any holds or mat moves, it was 12+ minutes of non-stop striking. I will say it: Black did not impress me too much on his debut, and I am now a huge believer. Itami finally delivered on his promise in a way we have not seen in the three years he has been in NXT.
Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch are shown in the audience.
Asuka and Ember Moon are shown getting ready. Moon has a cool black cloak, making her look very lunar. Askuka’s mask is gold, and she has a headpiece too.
4. EMBER MOON vs. NXT Women’s Champion ASUKA – NXT Women’s Championship Match
New look for Moon, with green contacts. Moon hits a drop kick, then a flurry of extra offense as soon as the bell rings. Asuka gets to her feet, wants a kick, Moon catches it and suplexes her. Asuka to the outside, dodges a baseball slide, hits a kick on the outside, Moon with on of her own. Moon to the second rope, hits a cannonball to Asuka on the outside. Asuka is crawling away outside, but it’s a trap, she sends Moon’s face into the ring steps, then kicks her. Moon tries to fight back, Asuka has kicks. Suplex onto the ramp. Moon gets rolled into the ring and takes more kicks. Asuka now starts to work Moon’s arm. Sick looking armbar, Moon’s arm looks like it is being ripped off. Moon is desperate to get out, and finally escapes. Asuka goes back to the arm, then an STO. Asuka just will not let up on the arm.
Moon unleashes a flurry of kicks, enziguri, good for two. German suplex puts Moon’s head into the turnbuckle. Asuka is trying for the Asuka Lock, Asuka transitions into using the Asuka Lock on the other side. Moon suddenly escapes and tries an Asuka Lock of her own. Asuka escapes, Asuka Lock, then she leaps on the back. Moon is fading. Moon gets up, falls backwards, Asuka tries it again on the mat, Moon flips over into a cover, Asuka escapes, Moon hits a wild elbow. Asuka is reeling inthe covern, they duck clotheslines, huge hip attack sends Moon flying, nearfall. Hip attack in the corner, Moon dodges some of it, gets a knee up in the corner, sets up a tornado suplex of all things and gets two. Moon kicks Asuka to the mat. Asuka recovers, unloads. Giant kick to Moon’s face, then she holds Moon’s arm and kicks the face over and over. Sudden side slam from Moon, nearfall.
Moon isn’t sure where to go next, so she goes to the top. Asuka meets her there. Asuka thinks superplex, Moon slips under for a powerbomb, Asuka holds on. Asuka falls into a Tree of Woe, gets stomped, Asuka barely kicks out. Moon to the top, Eclipse, Asuka kicks out! Moon is nearly in tears, she can’t believe that Asuka kicked out. No one can believe Asuka kicked out. Moon rolls to the apron, then goes up top again. Asuka hides behind the ref, Eclipse, Asuka catches it, covers, grabs the shorts but the ref sees it and stops the kick. Asuka argues with the ref, Moon nails a superkick, two-and-nine-tenths on the cover, Moon does the “heel can’t win, flailing like a toddler” routine. Asuka plays dead, surprises Moon with a cross armbreaker, Moon transitions to a cover for a nearfall, Asuka kicks out and transitions to the Asuka lock, Moon is trying to roll into a cover, but can’t. Moon taps.
Winner: Asuka in 14:46. This was the Asuka match we hadn’t seen since she beat Bayley almost 18 months ago. This was the Ember Moon match we knew she could have, but hadn’t had. I liked that Asuka tried to cheat, got caught, and had a clean win after all. These two justified a third match, perhaps a “loser leaves town” match. This match met the standard that Bayley and Sasha Banks set in Brooklyn two years ago.
Post-match, Moon stands up in the ring slowly, and sells intense physical and emotional pain and anguish. She pauses, and looks around. She gives the impression that she will be back and get the win next time.
Kevin Owens is shown ringside. He gets big applause, but looks like he hates everyone. Samoa Joe is shown too, arrogance.
Considering that the “low point” of this event has been the really good tag team match, and there have already been three “show stealing matches”, two of which as very serious contenders for Match of the Year, not just in NXT, but WWE, Drew McIntyre and Booby Roode are going to have a tough time surpassing the match quality… but I look forwards to them trying.
The New York Police Department’s pipes and drums group is out to introduce Drew McIntyre. That is a John Cena entrance right there. A piano is shown on the ramp, and a player piano style drop down rolls towards the keys and “plays” them for Booby Roode. Fogs just rolls out all over the stages. Booby Roode with a bright red velvet robe. Post-entrances, McIntyre towers over Roode even though there is ten feet separating them.
5. DREW MCINTYRE vs. NXT Champion Booby Roode – NXT Championship Match
They square up. roode looks McIntyre head to toe. They back up, lockup, and McIntyre immediately forces Roode into the corner, breaks, and invites Roode back to the ring. Roode has a bit of trepedation. He ducks a clothesline, his a chop, ducks another attack, hits a chop. Unusual for us to see Roode playing the “speed over strength” game. Roode has to roll outside for a break after taking more offense. Roode backs into the corner, then slips away and attacks. He does it again. Roode wants a Glorious DDT, McIntyre slips out to the corner. Roode does his Glorious pose and says he was “that close” and in McIntyre’s head, and declares NXT to be his. Chops back McIntyre to the corner. McIntyre reverses a whip and gives a codebreaker to Roode’s arm which he tries leaping over in the corner. Big boot, then McIntyre casually lifts Roode up and throws him. McIntyre clotheslines Roode out of the ring.
Roode tries jumping off the apron onto McIntyre, gets caught. Tilt-a-whirl slam puts Roode into the apron back first. Roode escapes a suplex on the apron, then has a neckbreaker as McIntyre tries to re-enter the ring. Roode with a running blockbuster off the apron to the outside. We are not used to seeing this much airtime from Roode. Nasty elbow to McIntyre’s throat. Roode stomps on Roode in the ring. Clothesline in the corner, neckbreaker combination get Roode a two count.
Body blows from the mat give McIntyre some momentum but a strong whip launches him into the corner. Roode to the second rope, missile dropkick gets two. Chinlock slows McIntyre down on the mat. Roode leaps onto McIntyre with a sleeper hold. McIntyre regains his feet and puts Roode into the ringpost. Roode gets a boot up to drive McIntyre away, charges, and eats a belly-to-belly throw. McIntyre looks like he is in severe pain. Roode gets thrown into the turnbuckle, and McIntyre starts a rally. McIntyre goes to the top turnbuckle, clothesline, then he kips up. McIntyre looks game, but Roode elbows his way out of a potential suplex. Atomic drop shows a bit of light, knee, but McIntyre catches him on the ropes, fireman’s carry, Celtic Cross onto Roode for two.
Roode hot shots McIntyre on the ropes, then goes to the top again. McIntyre meets him there. Will someone finally hit a superplex tonight? Roode fights him off, McIntyre runs up again, gets crotched by Roode. Roode punchs him into a Tree of Woe. Roode does the Glorious pose, McIntyre sits up and throws Roode off and into the ring. McIntyre calls for the Claymore, but Roode is out cold mid-mat. The ref checks on Roode. Roode is deadweight, surprises McIntyre with a jackknife for two. McIntyre wants the Future Shock DDT, Roode escapes, backstabber for a nearfall. Roode delivers a big series of chops in the corner, then a clothesline, McIntyre escapes a neckbreaker, backslide for two, followed immediately by the Future Shock DDT for a nearfall.
McIntyre mulls over his next move as Roode is still on the mat. McIntyre with a fireman’s carry, goes to the second rope, Roode slips down, powerbomb, collapses into a cover but McIntyre barely kicks out. Both men are down. They fight from their knees and get to their feet. They are just going at it now. Roode wants a kick, McIntyre catches it, Roode with an enziguri. Claymore from nowhere, Roode tries rolling outside, McIntyre stops him, covers, Roode gets a foot on the ropes at the last minute. roode rolls outside. The ref starts counting. McIntyre hits the ropes and does a flip dive to Roode on the outside. Reminiscent of The Undertaker. What an amazing sight. Count is going, Roode gets rolled in at six. McIntyre calls for the Claymore again. Roode surprises him with a spinebuster. Glorious DDT is blocks, McIntyre slides down, rolls Roode up for two. McIntyre wants a suplex, Roode reverses into the Glorious DDT but McIntyre kicks out at the last moment. Roode struggles to get to his feet, he needs the ropes to get up. Roode is frothing at the mouth, wants another Glorious DDT, barely hits it. No cover. Roode with number three, but a headbutt cuts it off, Claymore, McIntyre wins!
Winner: Drew McIntyre in 22:22. Another outstanding match. It lacked the crazy intensity of Asuka – Moon or Black – Itami, but was an excellent example of what a heavyweight match can and should be. Seeing Roode take to the air so often emphasized just how much he was trying to win. McIntyre kicking out of a pair of Glorious DDTs in a row and winning just puts him over even more. So glad to not see Roderick Strong interfere in this match, though a three-way dance is still possible in the future.
Post-match, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly make their way to the apron, McIntyre confronts them, then gets ambushed by the newly-signed Adam Cole. Cole picks up the NXT Championship, indicating his desire for it.
Final Reax: this was the best NXT Takeover event in years. Many years. Not a weak match on the card, not even close. The only questionable decision was how Sanity came off as babyfaces against AOP somehow. Unless I am remembering wrong, AOP was undefeated until tonight. Roode was undefeated. These year-long undefeated stretches really make the championships feel important. Just an overall amazing event here tonight, and it will be remembered as one of NXT’s best for a long time. NXT has really righted the ship in the last few months, with better Takeovers and more Wednesdays that feel like they were worth watching.