Looking back at the 1990 Survivor Series!
We’re getting closer to WWE’s annual November tradition the Survivor Series, so today we’re taking a look back at another previous event! The 1990 Survivor Series is primarily remembered for the mystery surrounding it, as two big, looming questions were finally answered. What was going to come out of the giant egg? Who was Ted DiBiase’s mystery partner?
Open: A video voiced-over by Vince McMahon plays, running down tonight’s card featuring teams captained by Hulk Hogan, Earthquake, The Ultimate Warrior, Mr. Perfect, Sgt. Slaughter and more.
Match #1 – Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match: The Perfect Team (Demolition (Ax, Smash & Crush) & Mr. Perfect) w/Mr. Fuji & Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan vs. The Warriors (WWF Intercontinental Champion The Texas Tornado, The Legion Of Doom (Hawk & Animal) & WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior)
Animal tackles Smash and unloads with right hands to start us off quick, sends him into a right hand from Hawk, The Warriors play back and forth with Smash. Animal shoots him into the ropes for a back body drop, Smash sees it coming and delivers a big right, Perfect with one from the apron and Smash follows with a snap suplex for a count of 2.
He drives Animal into Perfect’s boot, tags him in and The Perfect One clubs away before bringing Smash back in. Animal reverses a whip into the ropes, plants Smash with a powerslam, then catches Perfect coming in with an atomic drop, Hawk enters the ring and follows with an inverted atomic drop and Warrior with a clothesline. Order is restored, Texas Tornado gets the tag and fires away with stiff rights, loses track of where he is in the ring and Ax gets the tag and clubs away. Tornado reverses a whip into the corner, gets him in the Iron Claw off the rebound, but Smash comes in to break the hold. The Warrior gets the tag, hits the ropes for multiple shoulder tackles, follows it all up with a splash and gets a count of 3. Ax has been eliminated.
Crush tries to ambush The Ultimate One after the pinfall, gets slammed for his troubles, Smash comes in and takes one too, Perfect getting clotheslined over the top. Crush takes advantage of the distractions, lays Warrior out with a clothesline and delivers heavy shots, Smash tags for a quick slam, tag back to Crush and he comes off the top with a knee drop that gets a 2 count. He buries fists into Warrior’s midsection in the corner, whips him across, charges in and meets a boot to the face, The Ultimate One exploding out with a clothesline. Hawk enters the match as Perfect gets a tag, Perfect gets right hands blocked and Hawk elevates him in the air with a choke, then flattens him with a clothesline.
He whips The Perfect One into the corner, Perfect stumbles and falls face-first into the turnbuckle. Hawk with a whip back across, rushes in for a spear and drives his shoulder into the ring post as Perfect moves. Smash gets the tag, drags him to his corner, brings in Crush and they beat Hawk down to the mat. Crush with a backbreaker, The Perfect One tags for a series of rights, quick-tags out to Smash and Hawk with a quick flurry, but gets taken down with a drop toe hold. Smash sends him into the ropes, misses a clothesline and Hawk scores with a shoulder tackle, drops a big fist and levels him with a clothesline.
He climbs to the top turnbuckle, comes off the top with a clothesline and covers, but Crush is in to make the save. Animal comes in to get a piece, LOD & Demolition brawl and the referee ends up taking a boot to the midsection, calling for the bell and disqualifying all 4 guys. Hawk, Animal, Smash & Crush have been eliminated. Mr. Perfect is now left all by himself in a 2 on 1 situation, The Brain offers some advice on the apron as Warrior steps in the ring. The Perfect One asks for The Tornado, Warrior obliges and makes the tag, Perfect ambushes him coming in the ring and takes him to the corner.
Tornado turns the tables, unleashes a flurry of right hands and sends Perfect flying to the outside, he slingshots him back in from the apron, then clotheslines him over the top on the other side. Perfect tries to regroup with Heenan, The Warrior comes around ringside and brings them closer together with a double noggin knocker, rolls The Perfect One back inside and tosses The Brain over the barricade. Back in the ring, Tornado shoots Perfect into the corner, charges in, Perfect side-steps and Texas Tornado goes shoulder-first into the post. Mr. Perfect takes advantage with heavy blows, stops a small flurry with a finger to the eye, drives him head-first into a turnbuckle that had become exposed and finishes Tornado off with the Perfect-Plex. The Texas Tornado has been eliminated.
We’re down to 1 on 1, The Ultimate One rushes in for a splash in the corner and misses, hits the exposed turnbuckle, Perfect scores with another Perfect-Plex, but the champion kicks out at 2. The Perfect One fires away with fists, lays him out with a standing dropkick and gets a count of 2. He pummels the champion with kicks and chops, irish whip into the ropes and levels him with a clothesline for a near fall and continues to dish out punishment. The Ultimate One starts to block some right hands, gets a rush of adrenaline and hits the ropes for multiple clotheslines. Back into the ropes he goes for a shoulder tackle, connects with the splash and wins the match.
Winner & Sole Survivor: The Ultimate Warrior
- EA’s Take: Initially I thought to myself, “At least Kerry Von Erich and Perfect are part of the match”, as I knew with the participants this had the makings of a messy brawl. While it was not that messy it was certainly a brawl, even Perfect getting sucked into using very little wrestling holds. It’s a bit of an odd time as Ultimate Warrior didn’t really have any challenger for his WWF Title, joining forces with the LOD in their rivalry with Demolition. The rivalry would fizzle out before the end of the year and the LOD would focus on the tag team titles. As for Demolition, Ax would leave the company soon after this night while Smash & Crush would continue on, but also continue to be phased out. As for Mr. Perfect, he would regain the IC Championship by the end of the year, going in a seperate direction from The Texas Tornado.
Backstage: Sean Mooney is standing by with The Million Dollar Team. Jimmy Hart vows that they will surive tonight, conspicuous by his absence is Ted DiBiase’s mystery partner. DiBiase ensures Mooney that he’s in the building and everyone’s in for a big surprise. As for Koko B. Ware, he’s just another bird that will be plucked for Thanksgiving. Rhythm & Blues will take care of The Hart Foundation and Dusty Rhodes will be where he belongs, begging on his hands and knees for mercy.
Match #2 – Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match: The Dream Team (‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware & WWF Tag Team Champions The Hart Foundation (Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart & Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart) vs. The Million Dollar Team (Rhythm & Blues (The Honky Tonk Man & Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine), Million Dollar Champion ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase & The Undertaker) w/’Colonel’ Jimmy Hart, Virgil & Brother Love
Undertaker & Bret will kickoff the action, Taker with clubbing shots, shoots Hitman into the ropes, Bret ducks a right hand and gets caught by the throat, then slammed to the canvas. The Anvil gets the tag, hits the ropes for a shoulder and Taker doesn’t budge, tries it again and gets caught in a slam.
Koko gets a tag and hits the ropes for a crossbody, Undertaker side-steps it and The Birdman is hung across the top rope, Taker spiking him with a Tombstone Piledriver and Koko’s night is finished. Koko B. Ware has been eliminated. Bret steps in and looks puzzled by Undertaker, they tie-up and Hitman gets shoved into the ropes, rebounding off for right hands that have little affect, Taker casually tagging out. The Hammer & Dusty take the ring, collar & elbow tie-up, Valentine backs The Dream into the corner and fires away chops, Rhodes returning fire and bringing in Neidhart. The Anvil with a wristlock, hammers away at the shoulder, Bret gets the tag and works Valentine over in the corner.
He whips him across and follows in, meets a boot to the face, Honky Tonk enters the match and pummels away at the Hitman. Bret buries elbows to the midsection, hits the ropes and scores with a shoulder knockdown, back into the ropes and HTM buries a knee to the breadbasket. Neidhart gets a blind tag as Honky dances for the crowd, Hitman reversing an irish whip into the ropes, The Anvil steps in and catches Honky Tonk in a powerslam for a count of 3. Honky Tonk Man has been eliminated.
DiBiase jumps Neidhart after the fall, serves a plate of chops in the corner, The Anvil reverses a whip across and flattens him with a clothesline off the rebound. Neidhart slams him and brings in The American Dream, Rhodes with The MDM in the corner, reigning down right hands from the 2nd rope. Irish whip to the ropes, Dusty with a dropkick, brings The Anvil back in and they score with a double back elbow for a count of 2. Neidhart with a snap suplex for another 2, grabs a side headlock, gets pushed into the ropes and drops DiBiase with a shoulder. Back into the ropes he goes, Virgil grabs the foot causing a distraction, DiBiase clocks The Anvil in the back of the head with a forearm and gets the elimination. Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart has been eliminated.
The Hitman wastes no time stepping in and pounding DiBiase with right hands, drives him into Dusty’s elbow and tags out. The Dream with left hand jabs, The MDM goes to the eyes, shoots him into the ropes and levels him with a clothesline. The Undertaker re-enters the match, scores with a shot to the throat, Rhodes falls back into a tag and Bret takes a throat shot stepping in. Taker gets the Hitman in his corner, The Hammer tags for boots to the ribs, brings in DiBiase and Bret battles out of the corner with right hands, splitting The MDM with an inverted atomic drop. Dusty back in with heavy elbows to the top of the head, The MDM reaches Undertaker and regains control.
Irish whip to the ropes, Taker with a knee to the midsection, climbs upstairs, walks the top rope and connects with a clubbing blow to score the pinfall. ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes has been eliminated. Taker tosses Rhodes over the top to the outside after the 3 count, Bret ambushes him from behind, but Valentine is able to get the tag as Brother Love puts the boots to The Dream on the floor. Dusty finally gets his hands on him, but Taker clocks him from behind and they fight their way down the aisle, the bell rings and Undertaker has been counted out. The Undertaker has been eliminated.
Back in the ring, The Hammer is putting a number on Hitman, goes for the Figure Four, Bret counters into a small package and gets the 1-2-3. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine has been eliminated. We’re down to 1 on 1, DiBiase steps into the ring and Hitman fires up with fists, hits an atomic drop and The MDM spills out to the floor. Bret flies over the top with a slingshot crossbody, puts a beating on DiBiase and drives him into the ring post, then the steel steps. He tosses The MDM back inside, working him over in the corner with uppercuts and headbutts, DiBiase reverses a whip across and the Hitman goes hard into the turnbuckles sternum-first, MDM covering for a count of 2.
DiBiase delivers chops in the corner, whips Hitman across for a back body drop off the rebound, Bret sees it coming and goes to a backslide for a near fall. Into the ropes they go, DiBiase with a drop down and Bret collapses to the mat holding his knee. The MDM thinks it’s easy pickings now, Hitman was playing possum, gets a roll-up from behind and gains a 2 count. Virgil gets to the apron, ducks a right hand, holds Bret for DiBiase, Hitman escapes and Virgil gets dropped, Bret with a schoolboy and another near fall. He splits The MDM with a backbreaker, drops an elbow from the 2nd rope and DiBiase kicks out at 2. The MDM reverses a whip into the ropes, Hitman with a crossbody, DiBiase rolls through, hooks the leg and steals the win.
Winner & Sole Survivor: ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase
- EA’s Take: This was much better than our opening contest, a lot more of a mix of styles. It would have been a big win for Bret, but with the format this year having all the survivors in the main event, you had to have some heels in there. Obviously the big takeaway from this is the debut of The Undertaker, as he was made to look very strong and had a character the like of which had never been seen before. After leaving WCW just two months prior, ‘Mean’ Mark Callous would work dark matches as Kane the Undertaker prior to debuting as Ted DiBiase’s mystery partner. He’d look to solidify himself as a Superstar in the coming months, dropping Brother Love in favor of a future Hall Of Fame manager. This would also mark a coming out party for Bret Hart, the office taking notice of how well the people were receiving him.
Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is standing by with The Vipers in the showers, a place that Damian enjoys. Jake Roberts talks about The Rockers looking to seek revenge on Power & Glory for tearing up Shawn Michaels’ knee. He tells us that Jimmy Snuka has been through many battles and as for himself, he may be showing the affects of taking Rick Martel’s Arrogance, but if his team dares to rattle his tree then Damian just might fall out of it.
Match #3 – Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match: The Visionaries (‘The Model’ Rick Martel, Power & Glory (Paul Roma & Hercules) & The Warlord) w/Slick vs. The Vipers (Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) & ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka) w/Damian
Jannetty & Warlord to get us going, Marty using his quickness to avoid Warlord’s grasp, sticking and moving with jabs. Warlord finally catches him in the corner, charges in and Jannetty hops to the apron to avoid it, slingshots back in with a kick and staggers the big man with a dropkick, tries another and Warlord brushes him away. Marty rolls to the apron, slides back in between Warlord’s legs, delivers right hands to Roma & Martel, then avoids Warlord rushing in and he collides with Hercules.
Michaels gets the tag, Jannetty with a sunset flip, Shawn takes Warlord down with a clothesline and covers for a count of 2. The Warlord pushes Michaels into his corner, The Model tags in, attempts to ram Shawn’s head into the turnbuckle, Michaels blocks and Martel gets driven in. Michaels grabs a side headlock, The Model pushes him off into the ropes, tries a hiptoss, Shawn flips to his feet and tosses Martel with one of his own, following up with a dropkick. He monkey flips Martel out of the corner, gets the tag to The Snake and The Model quickly tags out to Roma. Collar & elbow tie-up, Roma with a knee to the midsection, shoots Roberts into the ropes, leapfrogs over and turns around into a right hand.
Roberts goes to work on the arm, Superfly tags in and pounds on the shoulder joint, going to a wristlock and Roma rakes the eyes to little affect. Herc enters the match, gets a side headlock and is pushed into the ropes, scores with a shoulder knockdown, goes back into the ropes and Snuka with a knife-edge chop. Warlord re-enters the contest, Superfly hits the ropes and they collide shoulders, hits the ropes again for a clothesline, Warlord ducks it and slams Snuka, looks to follow with an elbow drop and misses. Snuka hits the ropes for a dropkick, Jannetty tags in and goes to a wristlock, Warlord with clubbing blows to the back to break the hold.
He gets Marty in a bearhug, Jannetty fights out of it, connects with a right hand off the 2nd rope, climbs back up for a crossbody, Warlord catching him into a powerslam and he gets a 3 count. Marty Jannetty has been eliminated. Shawn steps in and fires away with lefts and rights, Warlord reverses a whip into the ropes, catches Michaels trying to leapfrog over on his shoulders, Michaels countering into a hurricanrana and tagging out. Roberts works over Warlord with lefts and rights, the big man reverses a whip into the corner, The Snake rebounding out with a clothesline that merely budges him.
Warlord reverses another irish whip into the corner, follows in and takes a boot to the face, Roberts with another clothesline and Warlord finally goes down. Shawn tags in and makes the cover, gets powered to the outside off the kickout, Roma coming back in and dropping an elbow as Michaels slides into the ring. He stomps away at Michaels, hammering him with forearms, brings Warlord back in and he shoots Shawn in for a back body drop. Hercules tags and makes the cover for 2, sends Michaels into the ropes and turns him inside out with a clothesline. Martel with the tag, drops a knee for a count of 2, then pummels Shawn in the corner with double axe handles.
He cracks Michaels with a backbreaker for a 2 count, Roma in and he whips Shawn into the corner, turning him inside-out again, The Model with the tag for another 2 count. He sends Michaels across to the opposite corner, charges in and Shawn ducks away, Martel going shoulder-first into the ring post. Michaels crawls to a tag, Snuka comes in and hammers The Model in the corner, whips him into the corner and hits a back body drop off the rebound. Martel reverses a whip to the ropes, Superfly scores with a flying forearm, shooting The Model into the corner. Martel reverses it, Snuka jumps to the 2nd rope for a crossbody, The Model uses the momentum to roll through, grabs the tights and gets the elimination. ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka has been eliminated.
Roberts comes in and Martel looks to get away, making the tag to Herc and The Snake is frustrated. They lock-up, Hercules backs The Snake into the ropes, whips him across for a back body drop and Roberts counters with a kneelift. Jake calls for the DDT, The Mighty One bails out under the bottom rope and gets some words of wisdom from Slick before heading back inside. Martel holds a conference in the corner, Hercules gets a right hand blocked, Roberts fires back with jabs, The Model dropping The Snake with a clothesline from the apron. Roma gets the tag and slams Roberts, heads to the top rope and misses a fist drop, Michaels getting the tag.
Shawn whips Roma into the ropes for a jumping back elbow, Roma reverses another whip for a back body drop, Michaels sees it coming and hooks him for a vertical suplex. He comes off the 2nd rope with an elbow drop for a count of 2, ducks a right hand and splits Roma with an atomic drop, Hercules making a blind tag. Shawn lays Roma out with a flying forearm, Hercules dropping an elbow to the back of the head and taking back control. He unloads with the heavy artillery in the corner, shoots Michaels in and flattens him with a clothesline. The Mighty One drops Shawn off the military press, The Model comes in for a couple quick shots before bringing back Herc for clubbing shots to the back.
He props Michaels on the top turnbuckle, tags Roma, they connect with the PowerPlex and Roma gets the 1-2-3. Shawn Michaels has been eliminated. The Snake is staring at a 1 on 4 situation, Hercules takes the ring and corners Roberts, delivering boots to the breadbasket. Warlord tags in, whips Jake hard into the turnbuckles and locks in a bearhug off the rebound. Roberts goes to the eyes to break it, drops Power & Glory off the apron with right hands, Warlord with a shot to the back, attempts a slam and The Snake slips out, spiking him with a DDT. Power & Glory have the referee distracted, Martel grabs his bottle of Arrogance and sprays it in Jake’s face. Roberts goes over and pulls Damian out of the bag, chases The Model out of the ring and to the back, the referee counts to 10.
Winners & Sole Survivors: ‘The Model’ Rick Martel, The Warlord, Hercules & Paul Roma
- EA’s Take: Decent match here that continued rivalries between Power & Glory and The Rockers, as well as Jake Roberts & Rick Martel. Snuka & Warlord were just used to fill out the teams as neither really had any kind of impact on television anymore. The Rockers’ feud with Power & Glory would quickly die-out as dissension would start to boil backstage between Michaels & Jannetty. Jake had his eyes (or should I say, eye?) set on Rick Martel after The Model sprayed some of his trademark fragrance in The Snake’s left eye, leaving him (kayfabe) partially blinded, Roberts wearing a contact that made his entire left eye whited-out. This was one of the company’s hottest feuds at the time, continuing into the coming year with Roberts still seeking to exact revenge.
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. (http://www.backbodydrop.com)
*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)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
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.
THE FINAL REACTION
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.
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!
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.
#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!