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WrestleMania: Where It All Began…And Could Have Ended



WrestleMania 1 Mr T Hulk Hogan

I’m going to preface this by admitting that I was two years old when the first WrestleMania happened, so most of my information comes from research and listening to stories about it.


The opener to WrestleMania was very mid-80s in terms of music and graphics and reminds me of the opener to ‘Night Court’. It’s still a little unnerving to see the Twin Towers, even after all these years. They’re giving photo previews of the card during the opening, which is cool. The photo of Moolah and Kai does not do either of them any favors.  We’re also getting pictures of the celebrities that are supposed to be part of the show.


We open in a very dark MSG with Gorilla Monsoon welcoming us to ‘The Wrestling Extravaganza of All Time, WrestleMania’.

Howard Finkel gives us the official ‘Welcome to WrestleMania’ as only the Fink can do, and then asks us to rise for the National Anthem. For whatever reason, the person singing is Mean Gene Okerlund. Gene needs all the help he can get from the audience because his singing is not great and he’s having to read the lyrics off a piece of paper. He’s not as bad as Roseanne, but he’s the best they could do in a pinch. Jesse Ventura, with what sounds like a straight face, tries to claim that Okerlund sounds like Robert Goulet, instead of totally off key.

Match 1: Tito Santana vs The Executioner


Mean Gene is conducting the promos. Santana cuts a very good promo about not knowing much about the Executioner, but states that he’s got goals and that no one is going to keep him from achieving them, including the Executioner. He also throws a little shade at the Executioner, commenting that the Executioner hasn’t been in the big leagues for very long. (Commenter: Ouch.)

The Executioner (Playboy Buddy Rose in a generic, badly fitting Luchador mask) cuts an awkward promo where he claims everyone’s going to know about him after he takes out Santana and swears he’s going after Santana’s knee that was injured by Greg Valentine during their Intercontinental Title feud.

This was a very good match, but not much of a story being told. It felt like the Executioner’s unblemished record was played up to make him look ridiculous in the end. However, Santana looked like a million bucks and showed why Vince trusted him with opening this card.

Winner: Tito Santana by submission with the Figure Four Leglock.

Comments: As someone who really only remembers Tito Santana as El Matador, it’s easy to not realize that he’d been one of Vince’s top guys for years. From what I drew from the commentators, this match seems to have been simply to continue Santana’s feud with Greg Valentine over the Intercontinental Belt without having them actually have a match over it at WrestleMania, which I find odd. It’s also funny to remember that the Figure-Four was not considered the exclusive move of Ric Flair, as Tito wins this match with that hold.

The obviousness of the Executioner’s identity was pretty funny, especially watching Mean Gene try very hard to play up not knowing who this guy was, considering that they’d worked together in the AWA for years. In Playboy’s defense, the mask was probably to keep Verne Gagne from killing him for appearing on the WrestleMania card.

Match 2: King Kong Bundy (with Jimmy Hart) vs SD Jones

SD Jones is all smiles and says he’s ready to get down with Bundy and Hart. Most of his promo seems to consist of saying he’s going to get down with everyone.

Bundy and Hart come up next and Bundy says that it’s only fitting that the biggest card in professional wrestling has the biggest man on it. Bundy says he wants SD Jones to think about what’s about to happen in this match, including the infamous five count.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this match. It’s infamous for being the shortest match in history (until Diesel vs Bob Backlund a decade later) at 00:09 seconds, though that is disputed a little. Either way, this was the textbook definition of a squash match, literally and figuratively.

Winner: King Kong Bundy with the Big Splash.

Comments: This match was purely to build up King Kong Bundy.  The introductions and prelims took longer than the match. One big problem was that it killed the crowd a little because of how quick fan favorite Jones was beaten.

Match 3: Ricky Steamboat vs Matt Borne

Matt Borne (better known to 90s wrestling fans as Doink the Clown) says he sees this as an opportunity to beat someone as well-known as Ricky Steamboat and says that while Steamboat is talented, he’s too nice while he (Borne) is there to beat Steamboat up.

Steamboat is next, and he looks very…inflated (not fat, but he looks like someone’s been inflating him with a bike pump) compared to how he would look later in his career. He says that WrestleMania is test for everyone who is on the card because the WrestleMania card is the biggest in history. He warns Borne (aka, Mister Maniac) that while he lacks meanness, he’s come to WWF to learn how to be mean, starting with Matt Borne.

This match was very good for only being about four and a half minutes long. Both guys were able to get in their offense and both looked really good. Steamboat had his usual bag of martial arts moves and some impressive aerial moves for as big as he was then. That said, there was really no doubt that Steamboat was going over Borne. Borne just seemed to be missing something.

Winner: Ricky Steamboat with a flying crossbody into a pinfall.

Thoughts: If you only knew Matt Borne as Doink the Clown, you would be astonished to see how talented he was during his career. My biggest complaint about this match is that it could’ve gone a little longer to give both guys more time to show their skills.

Match 4: Brutus Beefcake (with Jimmy Valiant) vs David Sammartino (with Bruno Sammartino)

David Sammartino is up first, and his legendary dad is with him. David says he is ready for this and has been training really hard with his dad to get ready for this match. He says Beefcake has been really cocky since putting ‘Big Jim’, whoever that is, out of commission. Bruno pipes up, warning Johnny Valiant not to stick his nose into the match because if he does, he’s going to run into Bruno’s fist.

Brutus and Valiant are next and Valiant dismisses Bruno’s warning and says he’ll stick his nose in wherever he wants to. He tells Beefcake to tell them what he’s going to do, at which Beefcake blows a raspberry into the microphone. Valiant then tells him not to talk, not that he was to start with, and that everyone knows that ‘JV’ is the mouthpiece. Valiant then warns Bruno not to stick his nose in and then it become incomprehensible due to Okerlund trying to talk over Valiant.

This match was surprisingly good. Lots of amateur moves and solid mat work from both guys. The story seemed to be more about David trying to live up to his father’s reputation than anything else.

Winner: Double DQ due Valiant and Sammartino getting involved.

Thoughts: It’s odd to see Beefcake as a heel. Even odder to see what a solid worker he was. Bruno was easily the most over person in the ring, which overshadowed both competitors, but especially David, who lacks a lot in the charisma department.  At just shy of twelve minutes, this was the second longest match of the night after the main event.

Match 5: Intercontinental Championship Match –  Junkyard Dog vs Greg Valentine (with Jimmy Hart)

Valentine and Hart are first. Valentine says Junkyard Dog is going to learn why Valentine is the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time and master of the Figure Four, as well as living up to the name ‘Hammer’.

Junkyard Dog is next. From what I could understand, JYD said he was ready to get his hands on the Intercontinental Belt and ‘Weasel’. I assume he means Jimmy Hart, not Bobby Heenan.

This was a good match. Both men looked good, and got their offense in. It was a little short for a title match, but overall very solid for both guys. The fact that Valentine wanted to continue the match but was prevented by Hart was interesting to see.

Winner: Junkyard Dog by countout, after the ref reverses his decision due to Santana coming out and saying that Valentine used the ropes for leverage.

Thoughts: JYD was super over with this crowd and is one of the few performers on the card using entrance music. It’s a shame that he never got a title run during his tenure in the WWF and that this match was used to further the Valentine/Santana feud. Seeing the original (I think) IC belt is cool.

Match 6: WWF Tag Team Title Match: Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff(with Freddie Blassie) vs US Express(with Captain Lou Albano)

Sheik and Volkoff are first. Sheik is hard to understand. Blassie predicts that he’s got the next tag team champions. Okerlund ‘tries’ to call Volkoff ‘Comrade’ and says ‘Commie’ instead. Volkoff simply says ‘I come, I see, I conquer’.

US Exress is next. Captain Lou says that they’re ready. Rotunda and Windham are wearing polo shirts tucked into jeans, looking like a New England prep school’s idea of All-American kids. Captain Lou is drinking beer on camera and looking like someone’s drunk uncle that just wandered in off the street. All the champs will say is that they’re going to the ring and talking’s done.

This was a great match from both teams, no aerial moves, just solid mat wrestling. Iron Sheik and Rotunda’s amateur backgrounds got a good showing in this match. Even though Iron Sheik and Volkoff were the heels, the match was fairly clean until the end.

Winner: Iron Sheik and Volkoff win via pinfall after Iron Sheik breaks Blassie’s cane over Wyndham’s back. It nearly backfired because the head of the cane hit Volkoff and almost knocked HIM out.

Thoughts: I have to say, I admire the guts it took for Nikolai to stand in the middle of the ring in MSG and sing the national anthem of the USSR in 1985, while the crowd threw trash at him and yelled God only knows what.

US Express was super over. Seeing Rotunda as a super over babyface, when I remember him as IRS in the 90s is interesting.

We get an unexpected after match interview with Mean Gene taking the new Tag Team Champions and their manager to task over the win. Blassie feigns ignorance that anything shady happened and when asked about the cane, swears that he didn’t have a cane.

Iron Sheik says their victory is proves that Iran and Russia are the best. After that, the interview gets a little tough to understand.

Match 7: $15,000 Bodyslam Match – Big John Studd (with Bobby Heenan) vs Andre The Giant

Studd and Heenan are first, and Okerlund repeats what Lord Alfred Hayes said a second before: If Andre cannot slam Big John Studd, he will have to retire from wrestling. Studd brags about how heavy the WWF duffle bag (available at the MSG souvenir stand, I’m sure) was and that it was bait to lure Andre into the match so Studd could prove why he was the only giant in Professional Wrestling. Heenan is in prime form, he keeps berating Okerlund to keep his hands off the money.

This match wasn’t pretty, and I don’t think anyone expected it to be one. This was just two huge guys colliding. The moveset was mainly power moves, but the crowd was super into it.

Winner: Andre wins after bodyslamming Studd and collects his $15,000. He tries to throw the money to the crowd, but Heenan runs up and steals the bag back.

Thoughts: Andre was so over with this crowd. He wasn’t in prime form, especially compared to Studd. The crowd gave Heenan plenty of ‘Weasel’ chants. It’s sad to see that even in 1985, Andre’s health was declining, he looked very winded a few minutes into the match.

Okerlund congratulates Andre on the win and asks where the money is. Andre says that he doesn’t care where the money is, he just wanted to show Studd and Weasel that he could slam him. Andre also says that he’s not ready to retire.

Match 8: WWF Women’s Championship Match – Wendi Richter (with Cyndi Lauper) vs Leilani Kai (with Fabulous Moolah)

 Lauper and Richter are up first and they’re both looking very angry. Lauper warns ‘Lanie Kai’ and ‘Schmoolah’ to watch out because Richter’s a powerful woman and Lauper herself is a powerful manager because she’s been taught by Captain Lou (Commenter: Okay, I’ll give her that one). Richter reminds us that it took Moolah and Kai to take the Women’s Title from her and she’s dead set on getting her title back.

Moolah and Kai are next, Moolah wearing novelty glasses with the dollar signs backwards (Commenter: I hope she didn’t pay her jeweler too much for those), much to Okerlund’s amazement. Kai says that she’s ready for tonight and she doesn’t care what she has to do, she’s going to come back to the locker room with her hand raised in ‘victor’.

This was a solid match from both women. Lots of solid mat work and skill from both Richter and Kai. The managers got involved, but only once.

Winner: Richter wins via pinfall after rolling through Kai’s flying crossbody.

Thoughts: Lauper was easily the most over person in the ring. That being said, WWF did her involvement right. She only involved herself in the match when Moolah did. They kept the match about the women in the ring, not the managers, one of whom happened to be a huge pop star. Lauper made sure Richter was able to get back at Moolah for costing her the belt and for attacking her earlier in the bout.

Richter tells Okerlund that he’s caught her at the happiest second of her life. She admits that it took her and Cyndi to get the belt back, but that it took Moolah and Kai to get the belt away from her in the first place.  Lauper says she knew all along that Richter could do it and says that Richter had more ability in her pinky than Kai. She keeps butchering Kai’s name and Richter either tries to correct her or tells her to pronounce it ‘cow’. Lauper says she brought her towel to help fend off Moolah since Moolah was bigger than her. Not sure what that was going to do, but if it made Cyndi feel confident, who am I to judge?

Match 9: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (with Jimmy Snuka) vs Rowdy Roddy Piper and ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff (with Cowboy Bob Orton)

Finkel is going to introduce all the celebrities involved with this match:

  • Guest Ring Announcer: Billy Martin, a legendary New York Yankees baseball player and manager, whose relationship with George Steinbrenner was the real-life template for Austin vs McMahon, just less violent.
  • Martin gets a great pop, thanks the crowd and, with some help from Finkel, begins to introduce the guest officials.
  • Guest Timekeeper: Liberace with the Rockettes. Liberace comes out with the Rockettes and begins dancing in the ring, much to the amusement of the crowd.
  • Guest Referee: Muhammad Ali. The Great One comes out to an enormous pop. Rumor is that Ali was supposed to be the actual referee in this match, but Pat Patterson was concerned that his head wasn’t in it and got Vince to change it.

Piper comes out first with Orton and Orndorff to NYPD’s bagpipers (I THINK that’s who they are). Crowd’s booing is pretty good.

Hogan and Mr. T come out to a loud pop, though not as loud as the celeb officials got, strangely enough. We watch Hogan and T walk past a slightly pensive looking Vince McMahon.

This match was solid start to finish. Both sides looked fantastic and there was plenty of back and forth. Mr. T showed himself to be a reasonably okay wrestler. There was a false finish, when Piper and Co, decide to head for the locker room after a free for all in the ring that ended with Ali getting in the ring and taking swings at the heels.

That said, this was a typical Hogan match, just in tag match form. However, he made T and the heels look great, so it was a successful match up.

Winner: Hogan picks up the pinfall after hitting the big Leg Drop on Orndorff after Orton accidentally hits Orndorff with his cast while trying to double team Hogan. In classic heel fashion, Piper and Orton bail out and leave Orndorff in the ring.

Thoughts: This is the only WrestleMania that didn’t have a Heavyweight Championship match, but this match felt like a Heavyweight title bout in any case. There seemed to be legit heat between the teams, or at least between Piper, Hogan, and Mr. T, that translated very clearly in the ring.

Mr. T checks on Orndorff, who comes to, realizing that he’s all by himself with Hogan and Mr. T. Hogan tries to explain what happened and that Piper and Orton bailed out, but Orndorff doesn’t believe them and leaves in a huff.

The show closes with Hogan, T, and the celebs celebrating while Hogan does his posing.

Overall Thoughts

Given how big WrestleMania would become, this show was a good, but not overwhelming, start. Every match that went longer than nine second had good ring work and both sides were able to get their offense in.

Issues I Saw

Lord Alfred Hayes as MC was very awkward and seemed like he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to say and having the competitors walk past him as he spoke looked very amateur.

The matches surrounding the Intercontinental Championship seemed like a poor use of the men involved. It would’ve made more sense to have Santana and Valentine face off for the belt than have two separate matches that only seemed to be there to extend their feud. I understand that they wanted to give Junkyard Dog a big match but using him to extend a title feud of someone else seems like a waste.

Some of the better matches seemed too short, while the okay ones seemed to get more time. Sammartino vs Beefcake could’ve been a little shorter and the time given to either Steamboat/Borne or Santana/Executioner.


The choice of celebrities was interesting. Every celeb was someone who was a big deal to New York City or Madison Square Garden. It was almost a thank you letter to New York and MSG in case WrestleMania failed and WWF went out of business.

That said, WWF used their celebs wisely. With the exception of Ali getting involved in the main event, the celebs generally stayed out of the way, unless they had to get involved. The ending left an opening for the feud to continue and sent everyone home happy.

There almost seemed to be a desperation to make WrestleMania sound like it was a much bigger deal and much more successful than most people thought it would be. Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura made several references to Woodstock and how WrestleMania was the Woodstock of Wrestling before the first match got started.

Something I noticed was that all the talent really went out there and wrestled like it was the last time they’d get the chance, which it may have been. We all know that Vince bet the farm on WrestleMania, but another story I’ve heard is that the other promoters (we in the end of the territory days) were so desperate to see WrestleMania fail that they tried sabotaging it, even threatening to blacklist anyone who performed on the card. Obviously WrestleMania was a huge success and none of the other promoters carried out their threat since people like Piper and Steamboat were able to go to other territories later on and have successful careers outside of WWF, but it was still interesting to see that not only Vince was betting everything on WrestleMania.

Overall, I enjoyed this show. It was a good wrestling card, but, other than the main event, nothing super over the top about it. A good start to what would become THE wrestling event of the year.

Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!

Chairshot Classics

Chairshot Classics: PROGRESS Chapter 5 – ‘For Those About to Fight’

Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!



Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!

Greetings and salutations, everyone. Welcome back to the return of ’What I Watched’ now under the Chairshot Classics banner. The first four chapters of PROGRESS as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for What I Watched, obviously we’ll be continuing to cover PROGRESS. Eventually, I’ll get to a somewhat modern show. For other companies, once I hit 2005 on my watching of CHIKARA, I hope to start cover those here as well (the pre 2005 shows don’t have commentary and are (for me anyway) much harder to get through). 

That brings us to why we’re here today. PROGRESS has just crowned a new champion at Chapter 4 in El Ligero, who tapped Nathan Cruz in the main event. Rather then do the immediate rematch, PROGRESS’ brass decided that instead they would do a bit of a ‘pick your poison’ situation as Ligero picks Cruz’s opponent and Cruz picks Ligero’s. There was another match revealed before the show as well, but I’ll save the mention of that for a bit later. In addition, the ‘Natural PROGRESS’ tournament continues, but we don’t know the participants for this Chapter. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what to expect for this show, so it’s looks like we’ll find out together. With that said, it’s into the way back machine once again, as we head to January 27th, 2013 as “What I Watched” presents ‘For Those About to Fight’ or PROGRESS Chapter 5.

WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.

WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show. Going forward, I’ll have an archive to all of my previous reviews here on the Chairshot if you click on my user name.

MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating.

PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 5
For Those About to Fight…We Salute You’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: January 27th, 2013
Run Time: 1:55:53 (Demand PROGRESS)
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton for some of the research that I did while working on this review. (

*OPENING VIDEO: The first match that the opening video reveals is the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) taking on the Leaders of the New School (Zach Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll). That should be a lot of fun…RJ Singh has an open challenge as well…finally, we get highlights of the title match from Chapter 4 to show how El Ligero won the title and then it’s revealed that Nathan Cruz has picked Dave Mastiff to face El Ligero, while El Ligero has selected the debuting Rampage Brown as the opponent for Nathan Cruz.

*GENERAL NOTES: We return to the scene of the first three shows but with what appears to be a different setup. You can’t see any monitors in the frame, but the lighting is absolutely awful. Will not make a fun review if I can’t see stuff that happens…EDIT AT MATCH 3: the lighting gets a bit better as the show goes on, but still not what I’d call great.

*Once again, either Smallman doesn’t have an opening welcome promo or we skip it on the show. Shame, really. As I said time and time again, I really enjoy those in the future Chapters.

*Match #1: Stixx (1-2 as a singles competitor) vs. Danny Garnell (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: Stixx is coming off a loss in the triple threat at Chapter 4, where he was pinned by Dave Mastiff. He had split a pair of matches against Lion Kid before that. Danny Garnell was not at Chapter 4. His most recent match was a loss in a tag match at Chapter 3 where he and Darrell Allen were defeated by the London Riots. In his only previous singles match, Garnell defeated Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 2.
The Why: I haven’t a damn clue here. Makes zero sense to me. If Jimmy *cough cough* Barnett mentions something on commentary, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The Match: Before the match gets underway, Stixx lets everyone know that he, like Garnell, is originally from London but he moved away because London ‘is full of a bunch of pillocks’. Somewhere, William Regal smiles…opening bell goes here and gets a rousing ovation…Stixx impressed me in his last match against Lion Kid, but the first one was less then appealing. Garnell had a surprisingly good match with Havoc at Chapter 2…first topical reference from 2013 gets explained by Barnett and given the PROGRESS fan base, it’s no surprise that it makes light of a death. Highs and lows of these crowds…the ‘crowd counts the next number’ has run it’s course now but was still pretty fresh when this show happened…not the opening match you’d come to expect but technically proficient thus far…heavier shots finally start getting fired around the five minute mark. This is more what you’d expect from these two…first crowd expletive based chant at six and half minutes into match one. I would have had the under there…cravat with knee strikes and that’s more what I expect from this match then the opening five minutes where they basically stayed on the mat. Not saying they can’t do it, but not what you expect or want to see with two guys this size. You expect more ‘Hoss Fight’ here…Garnell busts out a nice looking Northern Lights for two…slingshot neck snap by Stixx. That was new and very nice looking. Also not what you’d expected from a guy who’s probably closer to two fifty then two hundred…I’ve never seen a crowd response so favorably towards exploder suplexes. It doesn’t happen but the crowd was ready to, pardon the pun, explode for it…Stixx gets two with a Black Hole Slam. Which I think was the move that did pin Lion Kid at Chapter 3…I don’t mean this is a terribly negative way, but this match has been pretty long for an opener…Garnell goes for a tornado DDT off the second buckle, but Stixx is able to counter. A series of reversals leads to Garnell attempting that same tornado DDT a second time and this time hitting it, which gives him the pinfall at 14:52…technically proficient, sure. But not especially enthralling. The match had it’s moments where I went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, but to me, it seems like it may have been a mistake having these two go this long in the opener. Closer to the first Lion Kid match then the second for Stixx and Garnell looks like just another guy here. Call it AVERAGE and mildly disappointing at that. (AVERAGE)


*Match #2: ‘Natural Progression’ Quarterfinal: Lord Jonathan Windsor (debut) vs. ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman (0-1 as a singles)
The Who: Lord Jonathan Windsor debuts here, looking like a very British Chuck Taylor. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Anyway, he appears to have a Blue Bloods gimmick a la 1995 WCW Bobby Eaton or William Regal. Mike Hitchman we saw before when he challenged Mark Andrews for the BWC Starlo Scholarship. He was unsuccessful in that match but he and Andrews had a barnburner. Happy to see Hitchman back for another opportunity.
The Why: Speaking of Mark Andrews, he advanced to the semifinals at Chapter 4. This is the second of the four quarterfinal matches. The winner of which will join Andrews in the semifinals and maybe face him. No release on the brackets to my knowledge.
The Match: Hitchman is now on WWE TV as part of NXT UK, but if you didn’t know it was the same guy, you’d never be able to tell. He looks so different here…opening bell goes and Windsor takes time to fold his robe…Barnett points out there’s nothing wrong with a Blue Blood gimmick as in twenty years time, you could be married to Jim Smallman’s daughter and own part of PROGRESS. Okay, that drew a legit chuckle from me…not sure if Windsor is big or Hitchman is just really small even by Indy standards…Hitchman gets tired of Windsor’s stalling and it leads to a DDT on the apron. Not sure that’s a spot I’d use in match two, but okay then…we go to the crowd brawling in the second match as well. It’s like an ECW show broke out…Windsor seems more concerned about posing then wrestling. I get that you are new, but this is a company that prides itself on ring work…fans seems to remember the Package Piledriver that Hitchman used against Andrews because they respond every time he goes for. So far, Windsor has had the counter, but one feels that won’t be the case forever…Hitchman once again goes the for the Package PD, but Windsor counters with a backdrop over. Hitchman hooks the legs on the landing and goes for the sunset flip, but Windsor sits out with a deep cradle and that’ll be a three count at 11:24…can definitely say I don’t agree with the who won here. Hitchman had a cracker against Andrews in his first appearance and if the winner of this match was to get Andrews in the semis, I’ve had loved to see them run it back. Windsor did absolutely nothing for me as the gimmick is just basically cheap heat and there’s not a lot of steak to go with the sizzle. Call this BELOW AVERAGE and it’s two matches, two misses thus far for PROGRESS Chapter 5. (BELOW AVERAGE)

*Match #3: Nathan Cruz (3-1 as a singles) vs. Rampage Brown (debut)
The Who: Nathan Cruz is the former champion, looking for a bit of redemption against the handpicked opponent of the new champion. One could argue that Cruz has been the guy who has meant the most to the company thus far, so seeing him in match three on the night is kind of odd. Rampage Brown makes his debut here. I don’t know much about him other then he had a brief run with NXT in the US before going back over to the UK and a run with WCPW in the UK as well.
The Why: Discussed it earlier but to reiterate, it’s part of the ‘pick your poison’ series with Cruz and Ligero picking each other’s opponents for the evening.
The Match: Before the match, Cruz announces that he has hired a bodyguard to deal with his Marty Scurll problem named Fug. We don’t see him yet, but Cruz claims he’s seven feet tall and two hundred and eighty pounds. That would be a very skinny bodyguard…the chyron for Cruz has him listed at 3-2. I’m guessing there are including the tag loss from Chapter 3, which I do not in singles competition. If you guys would like, I can keep a running archive of records at the bottom of the reviews going forward. Let me know what you think and I’ll add it in the future if so requested…second expletive based chant of the night encourages Rampage to ‘fuck him up’…opening bell goes here…Rampage is well put together. It’s easy to see why he got a developmental deal with the WWE…for a bigger guy, Rampage is pretty adept on the mat. Cruz tries a sunset flip off the second turnbuckle, but Rampage is able to roll through and escape into a Crossface. Thankfully, no Chris Benoit chants follow this time…think the sound may be a little off on this Chapter from a technical aspect. Spinal Tap kick sound happens shortly after the kick occurs…Rampage dumps Cruz to the floor with a back suplex and the around ringside brawling commences where Cruz surprisingly gets the advantage…for as much crap as the PROGRESS fans give him, Cruz is one of the smoother guys on the roster. He wrestles like a wrestler, not just a guy trying to string things together in the attempt to tell a story…Cruz has gotten a good portion of this match. A bit of a surprise given that it is Rampage’s debut but with Cruz being the former champion, it’s also understandable…sliding dropkick gets a series of two counts. Standard basement dropkick, not the sliding kick he pinned both Ligero and Colossus Kennedy with back at Chapter 1…ugh, headbutts. So not a fan of those…huge back body drop by Rampage. Looked really good despite the slight delay going to it…Rampage looked for a powerbomb but Cruz got out into a chestblower. Cruz looks to follow up and gets countered into a good looking series of powerbombs, first standard and then sit out for a very close two…Cruz hits Show-Stolen and much like Ligero did at Chapter 4, Rampage kicks out. It also gives our first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant of the night…Rampage catches a Falcon Arrow and looks to have the cover but doesn’t want it. That drives me nuts! 2 Cold Scorpio used to do that shit all the time and it’s stupid to me. The point is to win the match…Rampage then catches the Crossface a third time but Cruz finds his way to the ropes and then to the apron. Rampage tries to suplex Cruz back in, but Cruz lands on his feet and a O’Connor Roll with a hook of both the ropes and the tights gives Cruz the win at 15:27…that was more like it, PROGRESS. Very well contested match from the standard bearer of the company and a new guy who got a definite opportunity to shine. Cruz may pick up the win here, but the way he picks up the win is the story as it keeps Rampage looking good going forward for when he comes back. Rampage definitely impressed in what was I believe my first time seeing him and I look forward to seeing more, assuming he can curb the 2 Cold Scorpio aspect of not wanting the pinfall. Cruz bounces back nicely from the Staff loss and one assumes sets himself back up into title contention. GOOD match between these two here and finally something worth the time on the show. (GOOD)

*Post-match: We see Fug help Cruz to the back. He’s not nearly what Cruz claimed him to be. 6’8-6’9 maybe. The two hundred eighty pounds may be accurate though.

*Match #4: ‘PROGRESS Championship Staff’ – El Ligero © (3-1 as a singles competitor) vs. Dave Mastiff (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: El Ligero has just won the Staff at Chapter 4 as we established above. In doing so, he also got revenge on the only man to have pinned him thus far, as it was Cruz who eliminated Ligero from the four way at Chapter 1. Dave Mastiff has had two matches and two victories thus far in PROGRESS. A tag match at Chapter 3, where teaming with the now departed Greg Burridge, he pinned the then champion Nathan Cruz. Mastiff won a three way at Chapter 4, pinning Stixx after Cruz got involved in taking Marty Scurll out of the match
The Why: Two parts here. One, obviously, is that it’s for the PROGRESS Championship (Nazi) Staff. Second, it’s the second bout in the ‘pick your poison’ series for Cruz and Ligero, as Mastiff is Cruz’s handpicked challenge for the title.
The Match: It occurs to me that this is the fourth match and we’ve yet to see an inset promo on this show. They just vanished into a void of non-existence…hot start as once Ligero is introduced, he shotgun dropkicks Mastiff to the floor and follows out with a tope con hilo…Ligero goes for the guillotine early but Mastiff quickly escapes…once again, the PROGRESS fans encourage a good “Fing” up, this time in support of Mastiff…Mastiff counters a frankensteiner attempt into a powerbomb try but Ligero escapes into a second attempt at the guillotine. It’s about as successful as the first attempt…Barnett says that he described Ligero to an American friend as a mix of the ‘best of El Generico and the best of LowKi’. Not sure I agree that he’s at Generico’s level, but the point is understandable…wrecking ball dropkick by Ligero and he buries Mastiff under a pile a chairs, going for the count-out. Mastiff up at six and Ligero tries another dropkick, only to get flung wheelbarrow style into the ring post…stalling delayed vertical suplex by Mastiff goes for a full minute goes Mastiff brings down Ligero. Impressive in length but to be fair, El Ligero weighs like a third of what Mastiff does…Mastiff goes for a second but Ligero escapes into a rollup for two. Looked good…sound is definitely slightly off on this stream…sleeper (I think?) variation…out to the floor again, but only long enough for Mastiff to pitch Ligero back in. Smart. Can’t win the Staff by count-out. Wish more people would do that instead of letting opponents take the count…Mastiff goes for a Buckle Bomb but once again gets caught in the guillotine. Mastiff counters by putting Ligero on the top rope. The guillotine isn’t working, but bless his heart, he keeps trying…absolutely hate that corner hanging double stomp. Almost always looks so contrived no matter who is doing it…shotgun dropkick by Ligero is no sold and Mastiff hits one of his own, followed by a dead lift German to put Ligero on the floor again…Ligero finally gets the guillotine in with both guys on the floor and rolls back into the ring to try to take a count-out win. Mastiff breaks the count just before the ten…Ligero goes for the C4L but Mastiff stops him and gets a running Liger Bomb for a close two count and the second ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…Into The Void (corner cannonball) misses and Ligero goes up, leaping into a sixth attempt at the guillotine. This time, Mastiff flings Ligero overhead with a belly2belly variation. Mastiff tries to follow up with another Liger Bomb, but Ligero counters back into the guillotine. Mastiff tries to power out once but collapses and it’s a KO victory for the champion at 18:18…solid big match vs. little man contest but to be frank, nothing special here. A couple cool moves and a very impressive bit of dogged determination from El Ligero but if I’m being honest, I never bought that Mastiff was going to take the title from Ligero. Ligero’s deal with Cruz isn’t over and Mastiff hasn’t been around long enough to really establish much of a name for himself in PROGRESS. The fans kinda responded the same way I did as they got involved in the match here and there, but never for any significant portion of time. The match itself was GOOD due to the efforts of both men, but not must see by any stretch of the imagination. (GOOD)

*Match #5: RJ Singh (2-0-1) vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen (0-1-1)
The Who: RJ Singh comes in off consecutive victories, beating Paul Robinson and Rob Cage at Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The draw is a no decision in a three way where El Ligero pinned Greg Burridge to become number one contender at Chapter 2. Darrell Allen is looking for his first victory here in PROGRESS as not only does he have the 0-1-1 singles record (tapped by Noam Dar (Chp2), no decision in three way where Xander Cooper pinned Zack Gibson (Chp1)), he was on the losing side of a tag match at Chapter 3 as well and completely left off Chapter 4.
The Why: This one I have an answer for as well. It is an RJ Singh ‘Bollywood’ Open Challenge here. Adding to the intrigue of this open challenge is info that Jim Smallman gives us before the match during introductions that these guys are usually a tag team known as the Bhangra Knights.
The Match: Pre-match, Singh reads Allen the riot act, stating that they promised to stay out of each other’s way in PROGRESS and that while Singh has thrived, Allen has been something of a loser. Allen says in his (Allen’s) hometown of London, why don’t we find out if Singh really is King (which has been RJ’s catchphrase during this PROGRESS run)…bell goes and we’re underway…Singh has the edge early but it is pretty evenly matched…this is going to come down to a classic story of aerial vs. technical. Allen is more of a flyer whereas RJ likes to stay on the match…Director and Boudica again get on the apron, but Singh tells them to get down once again. I thought that pairing dissolved at Chapter 4…Boudica and Director do find themselves ejected and in a moment that’ll make Vince smile, the ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ song accompanies them doing so…springboard kick to the midsection. Called an enzugiri. It wasn’t, but I don’t know what the technical name is…Singh catches Allen with a version of the Tyebreaker that gets two (fireman’s carry into spinning facebuster over the knee). It looked good…this may not be the most PC thing to say but every time Allen takes a big bump, it looks like he’s trying to fellate himself…crowd very wittily chants ‘This is Bhangra’ instead of ‘This is PROGRESS’. Dug that…Singh loads up for a superkick, preceding it with a ‘I’m sorry. I love you’. The crowd and Barnett pop. The move is countered but the thought that counts…Allen up top and distracted by Boudica and Director on stage. Singh pulls Allen up the top and hits Widow’s Peak. Singh looks to apply the ‘Ethnic Submission’ (Camel Clutch, obviously) but Allen is able to pull Singh forward and trap him in a cradle for the three count at 9:56…alright, so I had some doubts. Singh has been pretty basic up to this point. Allen had a good performance in the triple threat at Chapter 1 but both he and Garnell were kind of just there for the match with the London Riots. With all that being said, it actually turned into a pretty nice little match here. There was a good amount of action thrown in with the story that they told and most importantly to me, I like that the story actually played into the finish with Allen knowing the ‘Ethnic Submission’ and having a counter planned. Call this one a GOOD showing for both guys and the best match on the card thus far, in my opinion. (GOOD)

*Post-match: Singh offers the handshake and instead, he and Allen hug it out. Shah Boudica takes not kindly to this and attacks Allen from behind. Singh pulls Boudica off of Allen twice, before Boudica slaps Singh in the face. Allen then superkicks Boudica in the back of the head. Allen and Singh then team up as a Samoan Drop-Blockbuster combination (called the Bhangra Buster, but for point of reference look for Cryme Tyme’s G-9) and looks like the Bhangra Knights will be a thing going forward in the tag division….as the Bhangra Knights are making their way to the back, the London Riots make their entrance, so me thinks that may play a factor in a future Chapter.

*Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) (3-0 as a team) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.) (Debut as a team)
The Who: London Riots are clearly the class of the PROGRESS tag division thus far. Wins over the Bastard Squad (probably done now that Allen is back with Singh), the Hunter Brothers and the Velocity Vipers (shame about Esmail’s leg) have led them to here, a main event level match. Leaders of the New School make their debut as a team here for PROGRESS, but it will not be my first time seeing them as a team. I remember getting into the European wrestling scene by watching wXw out of Germany and Scurll and Sabre Jr. were the wXw Tag Team champions for a while there. Scurll has been one of the biggest stars of PROGRESS thus far and in my opinion, Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. from Chapter 1 remains the best match in PROGRESS history to this point.
The Why: London Riots wanted competition, Jim Smallman decided to give them competition in the form of what many at the time considered to be the best tag team in Europe. Pretty straight forward here.
The Match: As per the usual, if I screw up Davis and Lynch, I apologize. They have stuck with the singlet and bikers gear, so once again, I should be okay…aw, Chris Roberts just got his first kiss. It was from Marty Scurll, but it still counts!…Davis is the one in the singlet. Now I know. Thanks Smallman, er, Barnett…Barnett lets us know that the Chapter 1 match between the Leaders was voted best match in Britain in 2012. That’s fair…Scurll spits his gum at Lynch. Well, with no Noam Dar on this show, someone had to be unhygienic…has that sit out butt drop worked for another then Rikishi in the last decade?…a little Poetry in Motion by the Leaders and then Scurll uses Sabre Jr. as a weapon to take out both Riots…off to an insane pace. Shit ton of action and we’re not even four minutes in yet…Scurll with a running bitch slap to Davis. Davis responds with a STIFF running body block. Don’t think he appreciated the slap…everything Sabre Jr. does is so fluid. With as many huge Indy names that ended up in NXT, I am stunned that Zach never got a shot there. I know he had a set of Japanese commitments, between NOAH and NJPW, but what could have been…believe the word to describe Sabre would be lanky. But he makes the most of it…apparently, I owe Rob Lynch and James Davis an apology. My Chapter 3 review got posted as I’m typing this and I apparently called them the Riot Squad during the course of that. They were facing the Bastard Squad and I just joined the names for a common WWE name. My bad…Lynch just knocks Sabre weak kneed with a forearm. Good lord…we’ve settled into a bit of tag formula here but as I’ve said before, it’s a formula because it works. Riots are hated and Leaders are loved. What better way to do this then to keep a member of the Leaders isolated and get the crowd to rally behind him…despite a pretty good experience gap, Riots are looking good in this match. Part of it is a master class from Sabre and Scurll as babyfaces, but Riots are more then holding their weight…I really hope Sabre Jr. is around more in PROGRESS in 2013. That war he had with Scurll at Chapter 1 was his only match for 2012. It would definitely make these reviews more fun to get to see more of the wizardry that Sabre possesses…tag finally made and Scurll comes in a house of fire…Scurll gets the Cesaro apron superplex that gets broken up by a bloody nosed Rob Lynch. A kick from Sabre caught him flush before the hot tag…gamengiri by Sabre Jr. into a DVD by Scurll gets two with another save by Lynch. It looked good…pop-up spear by the Riots and it looked really good. Last second save by Scurll…Riots look for the ‘District Line’ powerbomb but Sabre is able to get out and he chuffing loves putting people in cross-armbreakers. It’s broken up by getting Scurll powerbomb’d onto him…everyone down after a series of strikes and the crowd hits our fourth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…saves are coming hot and heavy here. I like it to a point, but let’s not get to the line of overkill…Sabre nails Scurll with a kick by mistake and the Riots take advantage with a really good looking Doomsday Device which Sabre kicks out of at two. That would have made for a good finish…shortly thereafter, the ‘District Line’ powerbomb does land (looking a bit rough but the point was there) and James Davis pins Zach Sabre Jr. at 20:07…VERY GOOD but not to the level are the previous Scurll main event matches in PROGRESS. The biggest issue I have here in that while the Riots had a good heat segment on Sabre, it didn’t break down nearly as much as I expected it to in the finish. Speaking of the finish, it looked slightly blown as I think Lynch may have tried a neckbreaker for the ‘District Line’ or he just didn’t get far enough out of the way. The big thing here is that it definitely establishes the Riots as the team to beat in PROGRESS as they take down the Leaders relatively cleanly. (VERY GOOD)

Post-match: London Riots don’t attack after the match as has been their tradition, instead heading to the back. Probably to fix Rob Lynch’s nose. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and lets us know that the first match they’ll announce for Chapter 6 will be a rematch of Chapter 4 as the Riots will once again face the Hunter Brothers, this time in a weapons match. Seems like an odd time to announce this with Sabre Jr. still down in the ring, but the show must go on, I suppose. Scurll goes to get a bit of mic time as well, but the show fades before he speaks and that’s a wrap for Chapter 5.

Match #1: Danny Garnell pins Stixx, tornado DDT off second buckle @ 14:52 (AVERAGE)
Match #2: Lord Jonathan Windsor pins Mike Hitchman, sit-down on sunset flip @ 11:24 (BELOW AVERAGE)
Match #3: Nathan Cruz pins Rampage Brown, O’Connor Roll with hook of tights and ropes @ 15:27 (GOOD)
Match #4: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff- El Ligero © defeats Dave Mastiff by KO, guillotine choke @ 18:18 (GOOD)
Match #5: Darrell Allen pins RJ Singh, leverage pin out of ‘Ethnic Submission’ attempt @ 9:57 (GOOD)
Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) defeat Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.), Davis pins Sabre Jr. after the ‘District Line’ powerbomb @ 20:07 (VERY GOOD)

It picks up quite a bit at the end, so I can’t call it the worst of the five shows thus far. That being said, it’s definitely not mandatory viewing either. The issue that I find myself with is that I know what PROGRESS is capable of as it goes forward. When you go back and watch these formative shows, you can see moments of potential. But that’s all they are usually at this time frame. Just moments. Top to bottom, none of these shows have delivered a knock out show. Try to find the semi main and main event if you have a chance, but the rest is watch at your convenience. Except for the Windsor and Hitchman match. Do yourself a favor and skip that.

Where does this leave us? It leaves me a little disappointed, but that’s what happens when expectations are set so high. It leaves you hopefully wanting to come back as we take the next step in this journey with Chapter 6. In addition, it leaves me still hungry. I wonder if I could work out a ‘burgers per review’ deal around here.

Best Match/Moment: Despite the fact that I gave the main event a higher rating, I going to give this honor to the RJ Singh and Darrell Allen match. The match itself is a good mix of comedy and ring work. The post match is where the money is as the fans go crazy for the Bhangra Knights reunion.
Worst match/moment: Feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but Mike Hitchman and Lord Jonathan Windsor can be classified as nothing less then a disappointment. The blueblood gimmick has potential, but in a company like this, you need to be able to back it up in the ring. Windsor simply did not.
MVP: Going to give this as co-MVPs again and I’m going to give it to James Davis and Rob Lynch for a star making performance in the main event as the London Riots prove they are the class of the PROGRESS tag team division.
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10.0

Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Up next is Chapter 6: “We <3 Violence” And make sure you guys check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.

Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Doctor’s Orders: Ranking The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History

Objectively subjectifying all-time greatness on NXT’s premiere stage, Takeover. See what matches are on the list!



WWE NXT Takeover Philadelphia Andrade Almas Johnny Gargano

The Doctor is in as Chad Matthews updates his list of greatest WWE NXT Takeover matches and rivalries with a look at two of the very best, from different NXT eras.

Attempting to contextualize greatness in pro wrestling is a fascinating exercise, a much more multi-faceted conversation than it is often given credit for.  To some in the business, for instance, Rock vs. Cena is the greatest match of all-time because it set the pay-per-view buy mark, while others would say the greatest match is Austin vs. Bret because of the exemplary storytelling.  Why should greatness be limited to a plethora “one or the other” positions (best vs. most popular or anything of the sort)?  Such has been my stance during this entire decade (see The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era), tackling the process of adding measures of objectivity to a topic deemed completely and utterly subjective and attempting to broaden the way that we have these discussions. I can also apply that to NXT.

Greatness has become regularly associated with NXT.  I am personally enamored with what the yellow brand has accomplished over the past few years, with the Takeover franchise especially.  The reputation that Takeover has built should astound any diehard WWE fan who, at times during the WrestleMania Era, may have felt like Vince and Co. unnecessarily (and oddly) put a critical ceiling on its in-ring product.  Bold statement: Takeover has, based purely on what happens from bell-to-bell, produced nearly as many bonafide classic wrestling matches as WrestleMania in just five years of existence.  Think about that for a moment, because it was with that idea in mind that I started asking, “What’s the greatest in NXT history?”

My second book (referenced above) was published last summer and in it I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.”  Turning my attention to NXT, I took that formula and tweaked it to fit Takeover.  On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.).  The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.

Today’s entries grow the list from fourteen to sixteen matches, which have been selected at random throughout this project’s history dating back to last fall. Here are the rankings ahead of today’s additions (the links will take you to the objectively subjective breakdown of each match):


#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship at Takeover: Philadelphia
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +4
Total Score: 48.0

There have been very few matches in WWE history that have found me clapping while watching them in replay, and Cien vs. Johnny Wrestling from Philly is one of them. Hand to heart, I am unsure that there has ever been a better performance in WWE, which is partly what makes the added dynamic of including NXT lore when historically ranking matches throughout the WrestleMania Era so challenging and simultaneously so fascinating. The depth of storytelling and the instances when believably this match could have been over but somehow was not is virtually unmatched in mainstream North American wrestling over the past thirty plus years. Gargano and Almas judged everything picture-perfectly, selling their butts off, adding layers of psychology as they reached an utterly captivating climax, and drawing every ounce of intrigue out of the in-ring chemistry that they first prominently put on display against each other at Takever: Brooklyn III.

Gargano vs. Andrade is truly one of the greats as “epic” matches go, and the Philadelphia match certainly fits the profile of the genre (an “epic match”) that I have been quietly working on popularizing in the IWC, offered up to properly label a lengthy main-event style performance that builds to crescendo after crescendo and features finisher kick-outs as one of its primary hope spot wells to tap. I have been critical of the over-use of it, as many of its staples have trickled down to ten minute mid-card matches, and I do believe that epics, like Cena vs. Styles for example, are suffering from a distinct lack of rewatchability because of how ardently they cling to bout-ending signature offense, but Cien vs. Johnny is not to be lumped in with such over-done peers because it is smarter, more intricate, better executed, and expertly paced, its gaps in action replaced with the outstanding managerial act of Zelina Vega (and the eventual cameo by Candice Wrestling).

I believe it was a truly remarkable achievement. Maybe Banks vs. Bayley, Gargano vs. Ciampa, or Gargano vs. Adam Cole beats it in the scoring system, but even if one of them or another Takeover match in the pipeline down the road unseats it, I think it is going to be a long time before something removes it from the pedestal of what yours truly would call the finest match in Takeover history. Aesthetically, athletically, psychologically, I just struggle to see how anyone could really argue that another match was better. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle one of their prequels in Brooklyn, and that was one of the four or five best mid-card type bouts in Takeover lore too, so when you combine that match with what happened in Philly – of the nine scoring categories here, their NXT Title match scored a 5 in seven of them – you have an all-time great.

You know, it is funny that Dave Meltzer awarded the Takeover: Philadelphia match the first “5-star” rating for a WWE match since Punk vs. Cena in Chicago, and if you watch any of New Japan Pro Wrestling and know of Meltzer’s fascination with it, you can appreciate why. Almas vs. Gargano was an NJPW match in an NXT ring with WWE production value. If in the coming years, a main-event of that style and caliber is featured on Summerslam or eventually works it way to the WrestleMania headlining position, I think we may have Gargano vs. Almas to thank for it.

Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship at Takeover: R-Evolution
Psychology: 4.5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 3 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 4.75 / Build: 5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 44.25

While in the beginning of this process, it seemed probable that Cien Almas vs. Johnny Wrestling had a shot at topping this match to advance ever closer to the #1 spot, what seemed assured from the out-set was that Zayn vs. Neville would rate among the premiere title matches in NXT lore because, in terms of storytelling, there may still have never been a championship bout that possesses the same sense of urgency or the same sense of occasion.

Here you had Neville, a bit shy of a year-long reigning as NXT Champion (who held the title during the promotion’s rise to WWE Network prominence) and possessing one of the most amazing offensive arsenals in pro wrestling’s entire history, coming up against Zayn, arguably the quintessential example of how legends are capable of being made in NXT. No matter what happens elsewhere within the Titan ranks, Zayn will be someone revered by any who watched what he did in NXT from 2014 to 2016.

One of the greatest things that NXT brings to the table is how wrestlers, as personalities, are characters first, their labels (or face-heel dichotomies) rather arbitrary by comparison. Neville strayed a bit more toward a black and white personic construct during the match, but he was clearly pushed toward the line that Zayn managed to straddle a bit better and showed glimpses of the viciousness and single-mindedness (toward winning) that made his run on 205 Live so engaging to purple brand followers in 2017; it was Zayn who was truly marvelous, though, displaying a depth of character so rarely seen from protagonists in WWE proper, and far more relatable for it, as evidenced by the incredibly raucous crowd support that he garnered in what was still ostensibly a babyface match. Zayn’s ability to connect on that deeper emotional level lifted this effort to pantheon status.

The end result – the total package from the storyline build-up to the hype video package to the atmosphere it generated to the bell-to-bell fight (and it felt like the fight that pro wrestling should be in the modern era main-event scene with the athletic potential of the combatants) – closed the first chapter in the history of NXT in the Network Era with a timeless classic destined for massive hindsight accolades in the near and distant future.

New Leaderboard

#1- Andrade vs. Gargano (48.0)
#2- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#3- Neville vs. Zayn (44.25)
#4- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#5- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#6- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#7- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#8- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#9- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#10- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#11- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#12- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#13- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#14- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#15- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#16- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)

If you want to discuss NXT  or other wrestling matters with Doc, follow and tweet @TheDocLOP !

Check out the latest episode of The Doc Says podcast, featuring a review of NXT Takeover 25!

The Doc Says NXT Takeover

Listen here:

Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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