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On the surface, NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day is very much a B-level event. Not only is half the card taken up by finals matches for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournaments, but the star power in the other matches just reeks of “these are good matches, but not necessarily matches we’d put on the marquee if loads of fans were invited.”
Fair is fair. On the surface, that common sentiment is accurate. Below the surface? Well, that’s a different story entirely. There is a lot happening on this card. In the main event, Finn Balor is getting a brand-new challenger to his championship in Pete Dunne. This is Dunne’s moment and the “can he or can’t he” question on him being a main fixture player for the company will start getting answered.
Johnny Gargano finds himself in the perfect match for where his character is at. He’s walked a fine line of being too comedic, but walked it well enough to click thanks to various of degrees of intensity that he’s shown throughout this run with Kushida. Now, we get to see that match and in turn, the coming together of The Way Johnny Gargano and Johnny Takeover. The full balancing act of his heel gimmick will be on display in a big way and he’s got the perfect opponent opposite him to make it shine.
Io Shirai faces Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez in what should be a high-level wrestling match. The outcome doesn’t appear to be in question with this one, but it was thrilling to see a feud solely revolve around a championship in the WWE ecosystem.
The Dusty Classic tournaments have both been used effectively to establish new teams and the future of the NXT tag team division. With that said, both the men’s and women’s finals are loaded with young, up and coming stars that have an opportunity to make a name for themselves on a big stage. Couple that with the stakes that tournaments bring and you get the most impactful Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals yet.
Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?
Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm vs. Mercedes Martinez – NXT Women’s Championship
An A to B build, but in the most entertaining and effective way possible. The championship is on the line, two fierce heel competitors want it, and the babyface defends the turf. That’s pro wrestling. Because of all the talent in this match, it’s hard to see this being anything less than really good. Storm and Martinez, while credible contenders, aren’t on a path as of this moment where taking the title makes sense. Shirai retains and retains definitively.
MSK vs. Grizzled Young Veterans – Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final
Team to team there isn’t a lot to digest with this. That said, this is an important match. The Dusty Classic is a tool here to get over a new tag team. In a perfect world, the loser gets over in this match, too. Stylistically, these two teams clash, but with both teams new, young, and hungry, I’m expecting the clash to compliment things. I’ll take the Grizzled Young Veterans, but I’m mainly taking the match overall. Maybe a sleeper, but you’re looking at the match of the night with this one.
Johnny Gargano vs. Kushida – NXT North American Championship
Johnny Gargano is a gem as a heel. On this week’s go-home episode of NXT, he was magnificent and showcased just how to walk the line between annoying comedy heel and credible threat heel. The range he showed with his promos was icing on the cake and proves he’s in tune with the character he’s playing. Kushida as an opponent will allow for those points to be accentuated. Kushida will deliver, but in the end it’s the Gargano show until told otherwise. The outcome will emphasize that fact.
Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon vs. Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez – Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final
The tell in this match is Raquel Gonzalez. Based on her recent run in NXT, it’s clear that the top brass view her as a key player. That means singles act. She’s shown amazing growth throughout the last six months and is ready for a more important role on the show – get ready Io Shirai. Add to that the fact that winner here gets a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship and that those titles are currently held by heels and the only logical conclusion is that the babyfaces in Blackheart and Moon go over.
Finn Balor vs. Pete Dunne – NXT Championship
I’ve enjoyed the nuanced build to this match. It’s being treated as a serious affair and both Balor and Dunne have thrived on that foundation. Balor carried most of the build, but Dunne was effective on the mic when he needed to be. Backstage vignettes and pre-tapes helped him tremendously. They’ve gotten through the hard part. Now they can just go in the ring. Go they will. I’m expecting a bruiser of a match, but one that Finn Balor wins handily.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: It was cool seeing Edge win the Royal Rumble