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Chairshot Classics: WWF Royal Rumble ’91 – Friend vs. Friend, Foe vs. Foe!



Royal Rumble 1991

Match #4: Koko B. Ware w/Frankie vs. The Mountie w/’Mouth Of The South’ Jimmy Hart
The Birdman gets the crowd clapping as we begin, collar & elbow lock-up, Mountie backing Koko to the ropes, tries to sneak in a right hand and Koko ducks away. The Mountie tries to lock-up again, The Birdman slips away and antagonizes him, then tells Jimmy on the outside to kiss it. Mountie with boots to the breadbasket, whips Koko into the ropes for a clothesline, The Birdman avoids it and sends The Mountie to the outside with a dropkick. The Mountie has a quick conference with The Mouth Of The South, rolls back in and Koko with an armwringer out of the lock-up. He gets pushed off into the ropes, Mountie with multiple leapfrogs, The Birdman stops short of one and drops him with a stiff jab, uses an armdrag and locks in an armbar.

Mountie gains a vertical base, breaks the hold with heavy rights, Koko fires back, charges at The Mountie near the ropes and gets back body dropped out to the floor. Jimmy jumps on the apron to distract the referee, The Mountie heads outside and delivers a cheap shot with his shock stick. He rolls Koko back in the squared circle, rips at his face, then drives him head-first into the top turnbuckle. The Mountie shoots The Birdman to the ropes for a jumping back elbow, utilizes a blatant choke, then whips Koko back in for a back body drop. The Birdman sees it coming and uses a sunset flip for a 2 count, Mountie quickly taking back control by tossing Koko to the outside. He drags himself up to the apron, The Mountie chokes him using the top rope, pulls him into the ring and sets for a piledriver, The Birdman blocking and flipping him over.

He can’t take advantage of it and The Mountie with shots to the back, buries kicks into Koko’s ribs, sends him in for a back body drop and again Koko counters, this time with a swinging neckbreaker. He catches The Mountie trying a kick, hits the ropes for a flying headbutt, uses a slam and scales to the top rope for a missile dropkick. The Birdman covers, Jimmy Hart jumps on the apron to break the count, Mountie looks to attack from behind and Koko has it scouted, side-stepping out of the way. The Mountie reverses a whip into the corner, Koko hops to the 2nd rope and scores with a crossbody for a count of 2.

The Mountie quickly shoots Koko into the ropes for a clothesline, The Birdman ducks it, leapfrogs over a back body drop attempt and then gets caught by the throat and slammed to the canvas for the pinfall.
Winner: The Mountie (Two-Handed Chokeslam)

  • EA’s Take: After weeks of vignettes, The Mountie makes his in-ring debut in what I like to call a glorified squash match. Meaning, the opponent isn’t necessarily a jobber, but has zero chance of walking away with a victory. After Raymond Rougeau retired in early 1990, Jacques would leave the WWF, returning a year later on his own and adopting The Mountie character.

Backstage: Sean Mooney is back in the locker room again with ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage & Queen Sherri. Savage talks about noone saying him to be no and Warrior should have given him a title shot. There’s a banging on the door as Warrior tries to get inside, but Macho & Sherri take-off. ‘Mean’ Gene is in the the interview area with WWF Champion Sgt. Slaughter & General Adnan. Slaughter spouts off that he told the world that he would take the title and he did it, even when everybody was against him. Unlike anybody in the military world today, he has no boundaries.

Video: Fans attending the show tonight send their well wishes to all the troops in the Middle East, wishing them luck and a safe travel back home.

Video: Participants in the Royal Rumble claim to be victorious in tonight’s main event including Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Earthquake, Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine, The Texas Tornado, The Legion Of Doom and more.

Backstage: This time Sean Mooney is joined in the locker room by ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase & Virgil. DiBiase talks about how Virgil will fare in the ring tonight, talking about why Virgil does all the odd tasks he does. Money in the reason and it’s a bond that’s thicker than blood.

Match #5: Dustin & ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes vs. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase & Virgil
Virgil & DiBiase ambush The Rhodes’ in opposite corners, they look to whip the father and son into one another, it’s reversed and Virgil collides into The MDM. Dusty & Dustin with with bionic elbows, clearing the ring and order is finally restored. DiBiase orders Virgil to get into the ring and take Dustin out, they tie-up and jockey for position, Virgil going to the eyes to get control. He sends Dustin into the ropes, Dustin surprises him with a flying clothesline, scores with a dropkick and Virgil rolls to the outside, getting some more words from MDM.

Back in the ring Virgil goes to the midsection with a knee, clubs away at the back, shoots Dustin into the ropes and gets knocked down by a shoulder. Dustin back into the ropes, Virgil drops down for a monkey flip, Dustin sees it coming and puts on the breaks, stomping away and sending Virgil over the top with a clothesline. DiBiase comes around ringside to get him, picks Virgil up and gives him an ear-full. Virgil steps back in and tags out, The MDM goes to the ribs with a knee of his own, whips Dustin into the ropes and levels him with a clothesline. He punishes Dustin with right hands, drives him into the top turnbuckle and chops away in the corner, shooting him back into the ropes for a backk body drop.

Trademark fist drops from MDM, taunting The American Dream out on the apron, sends Dustin in for another back body drop, Dustin has it scouted and plants DiBiase’s head into the canvas. The Rhodes’ trade elbows on The MDM in their corner, DiBiase spills to the outside, only to get tossed back in by Dusty after a tag. The Dream fires away with rights and elbows in the corner, shoots DiBiase into the ropes and grabs a sleeper, Virgil coming in to create a distraction and force Dusty to break the hold. Dustin re-enters the match, whips The MDM in for a dropkick, covers and once again Virgil comes in to make the save after a 2 count. DiBiase is able to sneak in a shot to the breadbasket, Virgil tags, works Dustin over in the corner and attempts to whip him across.

Dustin reverses, follows in with a running knee, Virgil side-steps it and Dustin drives his kneecap into the top turnbuckle. Virgil goes after the injury with kicks, lays Dustin out with a clothesline, drags him to the ring post and wraps his knee into the steel. MDM back in to do more of the same as the official argues with Dusty on the apron, Virgil sneaking in shots of his own. DiBiase with a leg trip, keeps the pressure on the injured limb and taunts The American Dream into the ring. The MDM holds Dustin up for a Virgil clothesline, Dustin avoids it and DiBiase gets clocked. Virgil tries to apologize to his boss, but DiBiase isn’t hearing it and he unloads on Virgil with right hands, tossing him to the outside.

Dusty finally gets a hot tag, unloads with the heavy artillery in the corner, sends The MDM across and charges in with a running elbow. He sends MDM back across for another, DiBiase ducks out of the way and gets a schoolboy, picking up the victory.
Winners: ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase & Virgil (DiBiase/Schoolboy)

  • After The Bell: The MDM takes the mic, proclaiming that everyone has a price for The Million Dollar Man and crossing him means you have to pay the price. He belittles Virgil and orders him to get the Million Dollar Championship, come into the ring and put it around his waist. Virgil reluctantly gets the title and steps into the squared circle, then drops it at DiBiase’s feet. The MDM orders him again to follow through, reminding Virgil of the money and his family. Virgil drops to a knee, picks up the championship and clobbers DiBiase in the head with it, laying him out. He spits on the title, then drops it on DiBiase’s body as he exits to a standing ovation.
  • EA’s Take: The match here is essentially meaningless, although Dusty had been chasing DiBiase for quite sometime. Dustin had previously worked for WCW, only making sporadic appearances in the WWF after his father jumped ship, this match marking his WWF PPV debut. The father & son duo would leave the company shortly after, both returning to WCW with Dusty walking away from full-time competition and taking on an office role. On the other side, after years of serving Ted DiBiase, Virgil finally stands up for himself and the pair is split. Roddy Piper had started to get into the ear of Virgil and this was the big pay-off, leading to Virgil’s solo career.

Backstage: ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is standing by with Hulk Hogan just before the Royal Rumble. Hogan talks about this being the time for all the Hulkamaniacs to unite, dedicating the contest to all the troops in the Middle East. He’s going into battle with more momentum than ever with all the armed forces having his back. Okerlund interrupts with breaking news, reporting that Sgt. Slaughter has just defaced the American flag. The Hulkster doesn’t want to believe it’s true, but if it is then Sarge’s reign as champion will be like Saddam Hussein’s reign…temporary.

Match #6 – 30 Man Royal Rumble

  • Entry #1 is WWF Tag Team Champion Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart. Entry #2 is Dino Bravo w/’Mouth Of The South’ Jimmy Hart. The bell rings and we’re underway, Hitman & Dino with a lock-up, Bravo using his power to push Bret away to the corner. They tie-up again, this time The Canadian Strongman pushes Bret to the ropes, Hitman with a forearm, follows with a dropkick and hits an atomic drop. He clotheslines Bravo from behind, Dino teeters on the top rope, Bret unsuccessful at trying to toss him over. The Canadian Strongman shoots Bret in for a boot to the breadbasket, splits him with an inverted atomic drop, then slams him to the mat. He looks to hit an elbow drop, Hitman rolls out of the way, Dino reversing a whip to the ropes and planting Bret with his Side Slam as the next man runs out…
  • Entry #3 is Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine. The Hammer goes right after Dino and they exchange shots, Jimmy Hart hops onto the apron, Bravo with a clothesline from the back, Valentine hanging on to stay in the match. The Hammer turns the tide driving The Canadian Strongman head-first into the top turnbuckle, grabs him by the head and sends him packing. Dino Bravo has been eliminated. Jimmy Hart is back on the apron with some words for Valentine, The Hammer shoves Jimmy down to the floor, turns around and The Hitman hits him with an inverted atomic drop, putting him down with a clothesline and the countdown begins…
  • Entry #4 is Paul Roma w/Slick. Valentine & Roma double-up on Bret, Roma turns on The Hammer and clubs him down to the canvas. The Hitman makes Roma pay with an inverted atomic drop, double noggin knocker to both of them, then looks to toss Roma, Valentine making the save. The alliance between Roma & The Hammer falls apart, Bret allows them to beat on each other for a bit until the clock ticks down…
  • Entry #5 is The Texas Tornado. The Tornago slides in and gives Bret a hand, dropping Valentine & Roma with Tornado Punches. The 4 combatants pair off with Tornado & Bret switching off before the next entrant comes out…
  • Entry #6 is ‘The Model’ Rick Martel. The Model attempts to go after the #1 entrant in The Hitman, Roma intervenes and Bret holds The Hammer for a Tornado Punch. The Hitman gets Martel in a compromising position, Roma again prevents the elimination, then holds Bret for The Model to come off the 2nd rope with a double axe. Martel celebrates and Roma drops him with a clothesline and…10…9…8…
  • Entry #7 is Saba Simba. Simba hits the ring and delivers clubbing shots to everybody, The Tornado and Martel pair-off, The Model nearly getting eliminated after an atomic drop. The heels and faces all fight in pairs again, The Tornado locking in the Iron Claw to Roma as the timer hits zero…
  • Entry #8 is Bushwhacker Butch. Butch marches around in the ring and doesn’t hit anyone, eventually walking into a chop from Valentine as The Model takes Simba over the top rope on the other side of the ring. Saba Simba has been eliminated. We get double teams in opposite corners on Roma & Martel, Butch turns on The Hammer and gives him a double noggin knocker with Roma as the clock ticks away…
  • Entry #9 is Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. Jake has his eyes set on The Model, Martel meets him coming in with fists, The Snake coming back with left hand jabs. Roberts hits Martel with a gutbuster, drives his face into the mat and lays him out with a short-arm clothesline. He calls for the DDT, Martel rolls outside under the bottom rope and tries to get away, Roberts in hot pursuit back into the ring, being met by The Hammer and some elbows. The Model enjoying it from the apron, Roberts with a blow to get away from Valentine, hammering Martel on the apron, but unable to get him to the floor…
  • Entry #10 is Hercules. The Mighty Herc slides in and immediately helps out his tag partner Roma, Power & Glory stomping away at Butch. Multiple near-eliminations across the board and the buzzer sounds for the next participant…
  • Entry #11 is Tito Santana. Tito goes right for his former partner Martel, Roma getting eliminated as Santana made his way to the ring. Paul Roma has been eliminated. The Texas Tornado uses the Iron Claw to wear out Roberts as the 10 count runs down…
  • Entry #12 is The Undertaker w/Brother Love. Undertaker takes his orders from Brother Love, slides into the ring and lifts The Hitman up into the air by the neck, then drops him over the top. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart has been eliminated. The Tornado takes his shots at Taker, but gets caught by the throat. He fires back with a Tornado Punch, it merely staggers Undertaker and he drops Texas Tornado with a haymaker…
  • Entry #13 is ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka. As Superfly hits the ring, The Undertaker gets his hands on Butch and ends his night. Bushwhacker Butch has been eliminated. Valentine & Tornado team up to try and neutralize Undertaker, get smashed together with a double noggin knocker and the next man sprints to the squared circle…
  • Entry #14 is ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith…
  • Entry #15 is Demolition Smash. Just lots of brawling everywhere as the ring continues to fill-up, right hands, boots and chokes from every which way. The Model is sneaking around out on the apron, he grabs The Snake by the hair and pulls him over the rope to the outside. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts has been eliminated…
  • Entry #16 is Road Warrior Hawk. Hawk gets swallowed up by a group of people when he slides into the ring, having to fend off Undertaker, Hercules and Smash…
  • Entry #17 is Shane Douglas. Undertaker is in a tough spot against Snuka & Tornado against the ropes, he turns the tide and dumps them both to the floor. ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka & The Texas Tornado have been eliminated…
  • Entry #18 is… Number 18 doesn’t come out and the battle rages on inside the ring…
  • Entry #19 is Road Warrior Animal. The Legion Of Doom join forces and double-up on Undertaker, Taker tries to fight back, gets hit with a double clothesline and flips backwards out to the floor, landing on his feet. The Undertaker has been eliminated. Hawk with a little premature celebration, The Model sees the opening and forces him out from behind. Road Warrior Hawk has been eliminated…
  • Entry #20 is Demolition Crush. Demolition goes right to work together, hammering Bulldog into the canvas with clubbing shots, they send him into the ropes and scores with a double clothesline…
  • Entry #21 is ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan. The inaugural Royal Rumble winner fires away with left-hand jabs on Smash, walks around the ring and delivers a little punishment to anybody in his way…
  • Entry #22 is Earthquake w/’Mouth Of The South’ Jimmy Hart. The Quake rolls in and trades shots with Animal, Earthquake briefly gets the better of it, but Animal scores with a clothesline to stagger the big man near the ropes. The Road Warrior rushes, Quake ducks down and pulls the top rope, sending Animal spilling to the outside. Road Warrior Animal has been eliminated…
  • Entry #23 is WWF Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect. The Perfect One takes his sweet time getting into the ring, finally is met by Hacksaw once inside, getting his bell rung by right hands and a clothesline. Duggan charges at Perfect near the ropes, the champion drops down and flips Hacksaw over the top. ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan has been eliminated…
  • Entry #24 is Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster hits the ring to a loud ovation, gets caught in a corner by Smash & Perfect, battles his way out and delivers a big boot to Smash before throwing him to the outside. Demolition Smash has been eliminated. Hogan taking it to Earthquake in the corner, Perfect steps in to stop Hulk’s momentum and Quake takes the advantage as the countdown hits zero…
  • Entry #25 is Haku. Haku slides into the ring as Hulk sends Valentine on his way. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine has been eliminated…
  • Entry #26 is Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. Tito with a flurry of fists to Quake’s midsection, they have little affect and Earthquake grabs Santana by the hair to toss him over the top. Tito Santana has been eliminated…
  • Entry #27 is Bushwhacker Luke. Luke marches into the ring, Earthquake immediately grabs him and throws him out on the other side, Luke just continues to march around ringside and to the back. Bushwhacker Luke has been eliminated…
  • Entry #28 is Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs. Knobbs slides in and is in trouble from the get-go, never getting any kind of offense going until he flips a charging Hercules up and out. Hercules has been eliminated…
  • Entry #29 is The Warlord. Crush unloading on Hulk with the heavy artillery in the corner, climbs to the 2nd rope to reign down right hands and Hogan pushes him down to the floor. Demolition Crush has been eliminated. The Hulkster turns his attention to Warlord now, Warlord reverses a whip into the ropes for a clothesline, Hogan ducks it, delivers one of his own and The Warlord falls to the outside. The Warlord has been eliminated…

Entry #30 is Tugboat. The announcers determine that Randy Savage was the man that never came out at number 18, Tugboat rolling into the ring and going right after Earthquake in the corner. Douglas firing off on Knobbs in a corner, The Nasty Boy returns the favor, then throws Shane over the top rope. Shane Douglas has been eliminated. Tugboat collides with his friend Hogan in the corner, squashing The Hulkster and dropping him over the top. Hogan lands on the apron, Tugboat doesn’t know Hulk is still legal, turns his back and gets dumped over the top. Tugboat has been eliminated.

Mr. Perfect climbs upstairs after Davey Boy, The Bulldog crotches Perfect on the top turnbuckle, connects with a dropkick and The Perfect One spills to the outside. Mr. Perfect has been eliminated.The Anvil looks to send Martel into the ropes, The Model counters out, drapes Neidhart over the top, The Anvil teeters until Martel finally finishes him off. Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart has been eliminated. The British Bulldog collects himself against the ropes, Haku makes the mistake of charging at him, getting flipped over to the floor. Haku has been eliminated.

Knobbs & with the double team on The Hulkster, Martel heads upstairs to attack The Bulldog, Davey Boy shakes the ropes and The Model gets crotched on the top turnbuckle. British Bulldog runs in with a clothesline, Martel getting knocked off the turnbuckle and down to the floor. ‘The Model’ Rick Martel has been eliminated. We’re down to four now, Bulldog rushes Knobbs & Quake, paying for it as the numbers game is too much and he’s tossed over the top. ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith has been eliminated. Hogan’s looking at a 2 on 1, Knobbs & Earthquake leveling him with a double clothesline, Quake following with a splash.

He hits the ropes for the Earthquake Splash, Hogan hulks up and drops them both with a double clothesline, then delivers a big boot to Knobbs, sending him backwards to the outside. Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs has been eliminated. The Hulkster lands heavy right hands to the big man, shoots him in for a big boot, Earthquake dropping to a knee. Jimmy Hart jumps on the apron and gets a right hand for his troubles, Hogan looking for a slam, but can’t hold Quake’s weight and he falls on top. Earthquake with multiple elbow drops, plants Hulk with a powerslam and mistakingly goes for a pinfall. Hogan hulks up yet again, hits another big boot, slams Quake and clotheslines him out of the ring.
Winner: Hulk Hogan

  • After The Bell: The Hulkster celebrates in the ring, grabbing fan signs and parading around with saying like “Peace In The Middle East” and “Saddam and Slaughter Will Surrender”. Hogan grabs an American flag from the crowd and waves it around as the show comes to a close.
  • EA’s Take: A very uneventful Royal Rumble match with little-to-no exciting spots. Besides Bushwhacker Luke, every participant seemed to last a substantial amount of time and nobody really dominated the contest, although there were those that had brief moments (Undertaker, Earthquake, Hogan). There’s still no real meaning or importance to the Royal Rumble match as it’s only for bragging rights, however that would change the following year. This would mark the first time that the Rumble winner would meet the WWF Champion at WrestleMania, but it was merely coincidence as opposed to it being the stipulation.

EA’s Finisher: While the undercard for this year’s Rumble was much more exciting than the previous year, I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb by saying last year’s Rumble Match was better. Nothing of significance took place in this year’s Rumble match, unless you count Hogan getting one-up on Earthquake yet again, which I do not. The opening tag team contest was hands down the most entertaining contest of the evening even with the little misses here and there. Boss Man/Barbarian was better than advertised and although Slaughter/Warrior was the brawl you’d expect, it did give us the turning point in a major storyline and a title change. Plus, Virgil finally turning on DiBiase was a huge moment that had been years in the making, giving this show it’s fair share of exciting moments outside of the Rumble match itself.

Top Three To Watch
1 – Rockers/Orient Express
2 – Big Boss Man/Barbarian
3 – Sgt. Slaughter/Ultimate Warrior

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

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Chairshot Classics

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



WWE NXT Takeover Philadelphia Andrade Almas Johnny Gargano

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Leaderboard

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

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

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

The Doc Says NXT Takeover

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