Our weekly Chairshot Classics WCW PPV series continues with Halloween Havoc ’94!
Open: Tonight is the night, Hulk Hogan is putting his career on the line in his title defense against Ric Flair. There’s a lot of history in Detroit, and this will add another chapter. Sting is not on the Halloween Havoc card, but he is the first guest on WCW Hotline if you want to find out why. T. Graham Brown performs the National Anthem, and we’re underway.
Match #1 for the WCW World Television Championship: The Honky Tonk Man vs. WCW World Television Champion Johnny B. Badd
Badd immediately backs HTM into the corner swinging with lefts and rights. Collar and elbow, HTM grabs the wrist lock and pounds on the tricep. Badd counters and pulls him all the way down to the mat. HTM cowers to the ropes and buys some time. Collar and elbow, side headlock and a closed fist punch by HTM. Badd ducks a straight right and receives an atomic drop. Badd messes up HTM’s hair, blocks a right and throws one of his own. HTM bails out to the floor and slows it down. They lock up, HTM with a knee to the gut and he throws Badd into the turnbuckle. Snapmare by HTM and Nick Patrick warns him about closed fists.
Knees to the chest by HTM, Badd fights back with uppercuts. HTM lures him into the corners and throws a knee. He sends Badd for a back elbow and taunts for the crowd. Double ax handle to the gut and a reverse chin lock by HTM. Badd works up to his feet, breaks the hold, hits a shoulder block but runs into a big knee on the 2nd effort. HTM chokes Johnny on the bottom rope and the ref breaks it up. To the ropes, HTM tries a back body drop, Badd reverses into a sunset flip for two. Badd with some body shots, but HTM slows it with a knee. Snapmare and back to the reverse chin lock as we hit the half way point in the 10 minute time limit. Badd hulks up, throws some elbows and lifts him for a couple scoop slams, but HTM moves away from an elbow.
He tries a cover and the champ kicks out. Back to the chin lock for Honky Tonk Man. He tells the fans to shut up as they get behind Johnny. Badd throws elbows, but HTM sets up for the Shake Rattle & Roll. He wastes too much time and Badd back drops him. HTM is up first but Johnny fights from his knees, clubs him in the corner and sends him for an Irish whip. He charges but HTM moves and Badd tumbles to the mat. He tries a cover but Nick Patrick catches him using the ropes for leverage. Badd is dumped to the floor and he gives chase. From the apron, a double ax handle across the back. Badd is rolled back in, snapmare and a reverse chin lock by HTM.
Badd gets psyched and gets his feet but gets a knee across the kidneys. HTM moves in, but Badd is ready for him. He throws HTM’s head into the turnbuckle and climbs to the 2nd rope for a series of rights as there is only 1 minute left. Badd with a combo and a knee lift. To the ropes and Badd hits the big elbow. HTM ducks the Kiss That Don’t Miss and reverses with a belly to back suplex. Both men are slow to move, HTM finally chokes him. Tempers flare and they pummel one another as the ring announcer counts down the final seconds. We have a draw.
Winner: Time Limit Draw
- After The Bell: Badd poses with his belt in the corner, HTM tries lifting him for an atomic drop but it does no damage. The TV champ pummels Honky Tonk Man some more until he bails out to the floor.
- EA’s Take: This one makes me chuckle a little only because it’s well documented that Honky Tonk Man had an infamously bad time getting along with Eric Bischoff. So if you don’t want to miss HTM in WCW, don’t blink. Pretty standard stuff until the aggression at the end. I could see a rematch, but I’m pretty sure the man most known for his long Intercontinental Title reign doesn’t make it to Starrcade. Bischoff has even called Honky his favorite firing during his time running WCW, to which Honky takes as an honor today.
Video: We relive the events at Clash of Champions when Hogan was attacked by a masked man, but still faced Ric Flair. The masked man returned during the main event, he and The Nature Boy took plenty of liberties with the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. On October 9th, we found out there was more than one masked man as Hogan tried to fend them all off. Flair took advantage and did more damage to the knee. Later in the month, Ric Flair was seen in Chicago with Mr. T, the man who will be the special guest referee tonight.
Match #2 for the WCW World Tag Team Championships: Pretty Wonderful (‘Pretty’ Paul Roma & ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff) vs. WCW World Tag Team Champions Stars & Stripes (The Patriot & Marcus Alexander Bagwell)
Patriot and Orndorff at the start, they lock up and jockey around the ring for position before a rough break up. Another lock up, double leg pick up by Orndorff, they roll around the mat and trade rights. Roma charges in and Bagwell responds, a bad-blood melee as all four men brawl. Orndorff and Patriot take it to the floor and Bagwell clotheslines Roma out to the other side. Patriot rolls Orndorff back in the ring, climbs to the top and comes off with a chop. Orndorff is dropped by a left but he hastily crawls over to tag in Roma.
He and Patriot lock it up, Patriot twists the wrist and tags in Bagwell. Marcus with a chop from the turn buckle and he stays on the wrist. He cranks away, Roma responds with a forearm and a scoop slam. Pretty Paul races to the top turnbuckle and dives with a closed fist. To the ropes, Bagwell ducks clotheslines and hits a crossbody for two. Arm drag and holding with an armbar is Bagwell. He makes the tag to Patriot and they score a double hip toss. Patriot cranks the arm as Roma reaches for his partner but he can’t get there. Quick tag to Bagwell who comes off the top rope with a sunset flip, Paul kicks him in the face. Roma takes control with knee to the gut and tags in Mr. Wonderful. Bagwell greets him with a drop toe hold and a wrist lock.
Orndorff drops to his knees. They hit the ropes, Orndorff leap frogs but runs into a scoop slam. He is quick up, but he gets another. Running clothesline by Bagwell and Wonderful rolls out to the floor. He slows it down and rolls back in. Side headlock takedown by Orndorff and he tags in Roma who drops some elbows. Roma sends Bagwell for the ride and catches him in the gut. He drives the knee into the chest of Bagwell and tries to bait Patriot. Pretty Wonderful take advantage with a double team, and Roma taunts Patriot. This gives Bagwell a chance to come back with some forearms and he tags Patriot. He clubs away and throws Roma into the turnbuckle. An Irish whip and a running charge, Patriot makes the cover and Roma kicks out.
Back to the wrist for Patriot and he works it into a hammerlock. He works him down to the mat and drives his knee into the arm. Tag is made to Bagwell and he continues abusing the arm. Roma grabs the trunks and drags him into the turnbuckle. He makes a tag to Orndorff as Pretty Wonderful shows good teamwork. Wonderful stomps the body and sends Bagwell to the ropes for another big kick to the gut. An elbow with theatrics by Orndorff and the crowd gets a small pop. Bagwell tries fighting from his knee, but Orndorff stays in control. Another tag Roma, Orndorff holds Bagwell in place so Pretty Paul can land a top rope chop. Roma cuts off the ring and clubs Bagwell’s neck. Kicks in the corner, Bagwell fights with forearms.
Into the ropes, Roma stops short and punts Bagwell in the face. High elevation elbow drop by Pretty Paul, Bagwell kicks out at two. Roma lifts Bagwell for a back breaker and poses. He’s slow to cover and Bagwell kicks out. To the ropes again and Roma leaps for a drop kick. Irish whip, Bagwell climbs to the 2nd turnbuckle and surprises Roma with a crossbody and a two count. He’s low on energy as he reaches for Patriot, Roma bearhugs him on their knees. Bagwell works to his feet but Roma brings him to Wonderful’s corner and makes the tag. Orndorff sends him for the ride and copies Roma’s drop kick. An elbow to the gut and he grabs a front facelock. Bagwell fades but the crowd gets behind him. He lifts Orndorff but can’t get anything out of it, knee lift by Wonderful.
To the ropes, Roma takes a cheap shot to the kidneys and Orndorff follows with a clothesline. Orndorff stomps away and drives Bagwell head first into the mat. Orndorff sets up, but Bagwell blocks the vertical suplex and counters. He tries a cover but Orndorff kicks out. Knee lifts by Orndorff, Bagwell counters a snapmare into a backslide and Roma makes the save. Irish whip by Orndorff and he runs into a boot, Bagwell leaps on his back with a sleeper hold. Roma runs in to make the save again, Patriot takes care of him. All four men brawl, Bagwell and Orndorff are legal. Scoop slam by Patriot on Roma and a knee lift on Orndorff from Bagwell. Stars and Stripes runs both men down with clotheslines.
The ref is concerned with Patriot and Roma on the apron as Bagwell hits a fisherman’s suplex in the middle of the ring. He corals Patriot as Roma heads to the top rope. He hit Bagwell with a top rope elbow and Orndorff turns the pin. The ref turns around and makes the count, Pretty Wonderful win back the belts.
Winners and NEW WCW World Tag Team Champions: Pretty Wonderful (Orndorff/Top Rope Elbow)
- EA’s Take: This is the 2nd time Bagwell has been in an up-and-coming tag team, losing back-to-back title matches on PPV, but actually entering this match as champion. I feel like the same thing happened to the American Males as well. You have to wonder what gives? He was over with the fans and plenty athletic during these years. Did they cap his ceiling too low for too long? Textbook tag team wrestling in this one, great pace, and although the babyfaces got screwed, Pretty Wonderful still looked plenty strong through much of the match.
Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is joined by ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair & Sensuous Sherri. Sherri looks excited, Flair is already planning the greatest celebration in wrestling history for when he puts away the so-called #1 wrestler of all time. He tells Hogan that it all comes to an end tonight, courtesy of him. Don’t look at old videos or anything other than what happens tonight. Sherri says the price is right, they have a gameplan and they’re ready to go.
Video: Dissent between brothers Kevin Sullivan & Dave Sullivan occurred over Dave’s buy-in of Hulkamania.
Match #3: Kevin Sullivan vs. Dave Sullivan
They waste no time, a back elbow knocks Kevin out of the ring. Dave gives chase but Kevin baits him. Chops in the corner by Kevin followed by a standing clothesline. Dropkick by Kevin, but Dave blocks the turnbuckle shot. Kevin eats the corner 10x. Running clothesline by Dave, he sends Kevin for a back body drop. He pursues and Kevin dumps him to the floor through the middle ropes. Kevin sends Dave into the ring post and returns to the ring. He crawls to the apron and Kevin gives him a hard time getting back into the ring. Dave fights from his knees, Irish whip but Dave runs into a boot. Bronco buster on the ropes by Kevin.
Snapmare by Kevin and a stomp across the head. Kevin bails out and grabs a Hogan bandana, he chokes his brother with it and gives a gut stomp. Another double stomp, he calls for the crowd and heads for the top. Dave catches him with a gorilla press and turns the tide, choking Kevin with the bandana. He whips Kevin for a lariat. He whips him again and hits a big boot. Kevin takes the bandana and kneels in the corner showing that he could put it on and make up, Dave doesn’t know whether to buy it and Kevin cheap shots him. Out to the floor, the brothers exchange shots. Dave hits the ring post and rolls back in the ring. Kevin doesn’t beat the ref’s count back into the ring, and we have a count out.
Winner: Dave Sullivan (Count-Out)
- EA’s Take: I guess this is an early seed of what ultimately becomes The Dungeon of Doom and Sullivan’s ploy to end Hulkamania. For a five minute match between a 45-year old Kevin Sullivan and his 37-year old, kayfabe brother who honestly wasn’t much of a worker (he was also ‘The Equalizer’), it obviously didn’t steal the show, but it wasn’t a bad little storyline match.
Video: We revisit Arn Anderson’s turn on Dustin Rhodes in his match against Terry Funk & Bunkhouse Buck at Bash at the Beach.
Match #4: ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes vs. ‘The Enforcer’ Arn Anderson w/Col. Robert Parker & Meng
They measure and lock up, Rhodes with position in the corner and we have a clean break. Collar and elbow, Double A with a side headlock, they hit the ropes, Anderson reverses a hip toss, Rhodes immediately scissors his head on the mat and they break it off for a restart. Anderson claims Rhodes pulled his hair. Collar and elbow, Anderson chains into a hammerlock, reversed by Rhodes with a snapmare. Anderson complains to the ref again. Collar and elbow, Rhodes with position on the ropes and Anderson cheapshots on the break. Rhodes responds with a right that knocks Double A to the mat.
Rhodes with an Irish whip, he catches Anderson’s boot, hits an atomic drop and a lariat from the back. The Natural heads for the top, Anderson trips him up and sets up for a superplex. Rhodes blocks with a headbutt and hits a top rope clothesline, Anderson kicks out. Irish whip from Rhodes, he measures but Anderson catches him with an elbow first. Anderson to the 2nd rope, Rhodes puts the boot up but Anderson stops short and drops an elbow. The Enforcer kicks away at the hamstring, looks for a figure four but Rhodes kicks him through the middle rope out to the floor. The Natural gives chase and rakes his back, Anderson tries turning the table but ends up punching the ring post.
Back to the ring, Rhodes drives him into the turnbuckle and gets two on a schoolboy. Rhodes on the attack with a modified wristlock, using his knee for extra leverage. Anderson tries using the hair but Rhodes hangs on, he drops Arn to the mat and drops a leg across the bicep. Rhodes moves into an arm breaker submission, using his boot on Anderson’s neck. He drives the knee into the elbow and sends Arn for an inverted atomic drop. He goes for a big lariat, but Anderson uses his momentum to send him over the top rope and to the floor. Back to the apron, Anderson drops a forearm across the check and puts a boot to him.
To the ropes, Anderson measures a gut shot and tries a couple covers, The Natural kicks out. Anderson tries dropping the knees, Rhodes body scissors him but Anderson walks him to the bottom rope and catapults Dustin. They exchange shots and Dustin rakes Anderson’s eyes across the top rope. They continue to go toe to toe, to the ropes they each hit a clothesline and both men are slow to get up. Back to their feet, both wobbly men exchange fire. To the ropes Dustin puts a boot to the gut and comes off the ropes with a big boot. He sends Anderson for a big lariat but Arn kicks out. He sends Anderson again, sets up for a back body drop, Anderson tries to counter with a DDT but Rhodes holds the top rope.
Dustin drops a quick elbow and Anderson kicks out at two. Rhodes hits a hot shot across the top rope, he drops his knee pad as he goes for a knee drop across the arm. Arn moves and Dustin is hurt. Arn tries a piledriver, Rhodes blocks, he reverses with a backbody drop but Anderson holds on for a sunset flip. He may have had three but the ref catches Anderson holding the ropes for leverage. The Enforcer argues and Dustin catches him in a roll up.
Winner: ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes (Roll-Up)
- After The Bell: Anderson is enraged and ambushes Rhodes, including a DDT.
- EA’s Take: “This is wrestling *clap clap, clap-clap-clap*”. I knew we’d get a smart match between these two. Seriously though, if you want an example of how to put on a great 10-minute, one-on-one wrestling match despite it not being glittered with a belt on the line, a special gimmick or stipulation, high spots, hardcore shots, outside interference or over the top pomp and circumstance, this match should go on your ‘recommended’ list. Obviously all of that other stuff belongs on the card, I’m just saying it’s truly an art to put on such an engaging, straight-forward match without any added razzle-dazzle. Two absolute pros.
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!
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