NXT TakeOver XXV was about what I expected it to be: good but not great. I’m not abandoning my short kings yet, but I have to admit that I’m getting a little tired of little white indie workrate guys too busy doing cool moves to remember to have personalities. I’m sorry! I know this is sacrilegious to smart mark culture, but I don’t need to keep seeing the same stuff over and over and over! Where is Keith Lee? Why couldn’t Kushida and Drew Gulak have had a little ten minute something to break things up? There was plenty to like, and I ended up pleased with the show overall, but come on. Let’s have a little bit more variety.
Next time I see someone I don’t like, I’m going to aggressively kick my flip flops off in their face.
I did tweet a Lucille Bluth “I love all my Undisputed Era equally/I don’t care for Roderick Strong” meme during this match. But it wasn’t a reflection of how I felt about this fantastically athletic, competitive bout! Like I said when I first started writing about the UE vs Matt Riddle angle, Riddle is a perfect opponent for a member of the stable to work with because he’s so loveable! I dare you to cheer for any fun heel over the Original Bro, whose vibes are infectiously good.
This was beautifully wrestled. Strong is not my favorite guy to watch in the ring, but he did some great shithead dirtbag heel stuff with Riddle— little choices that drove home that in spite of his athletic prowess, he’s still an asshole. Riddle won after an exhilarating fifteen minutes.
Matt Riddle is the future of WWE. Not just a future main eventer, he’s a future cameo in a future Ninja Turtles movie, a future Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award recipient, a future lunchbox. Watching his rise in the company is a complete pleasure.
The spelling “Jaxson” should be illegal
As we’ve already established, I love a ladder match, and this was no exception. I did say in my preview that I wanted a clean Undisputed Era sweep of the evening, but the second that the Street Profits came out with those epaulettes on their entrance jackets, my heart was changed. (Epaulettes are absolutely the way into my heart. Is Bret Hart one of the greatest of all time or did he just wear epaulettes? I literally could not tell you.)
Most of the notes I took during this are completely incomprehensible, which means I was having a blast. I do remember a few of the spots being timed a little bit imperfectly, where you could see people waiting or trying to buy time before a cool thing happened, but it was pretty minor. The horrible Jaxson Ryker emerged to beat up on everyone other than his Forgotten Sons brethren, and the satisfaction of seeing the three opposing teams get back up, kick his ass and drop a ladder on him was worth having to be reminded that he exists and is named Jaxson.
I was about to pitch a fit when it looked like the musty, dusty Forgotten Sons were going to win, but then the Street Profits’ Montez Ford did a springboard from the top rope to halfway up the ladder. Ford and his partner Angelo Dawkins are tremendously charismatic and talented, but what’s more, they are such a cohesive team. With all the nonsense happening in the tag team division on the main roster, NXT needs a team as strong and well-rounded as the Street Profits to be the center of their division. Bravo guys!
NXT Flamboyance Battle
The North American Championship match of Velveteen Dream vs Tyler Breeze had the benefit of being absolutely the best story NXT has had in ages. NXT’s former golden boy who was overlooked and jobbed out on the main roster returned to face the impossibly magnetic Velveteen Dream, young, cocky and unbroken. It’s a massively compelling story because it’s real, and it’s sad. We’re all worried about what will happen to Dream when he gets called up to the main roster.
I loved this match. It wasn’t the best workrate match of the night, but it made me feel the most. It doesn’t really matter if Tyler Breeze was acting or not. The sadness and hunger in his performance were incredibly moving. Dream was magnificent— equally sexy, mean, and impressive. There’s a lot of talk in wrestling critique about making sure all the competitors look “strong.” Well, this match didn’t just make them both look strong, it made them both look smart. It made them both look worthy.
Velveteen Dream won with a Purple Rainmaker, and it was sad! I felt really sad! My only beef with this was Tyler Breeze wanting to take a selfie with Dream after losing. If he’s going to stay in NXT (which is what he said in a post-match interview), then he shouldn’t be so forgiving! Especially after Velveteen Dream mockingly took a selfie with him mid-match. Come on!
It is actually 100% okay to bully bullies
Io Shirai challenging Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship was without a doubt the match I was most excited for on this card. Io Shirai is one of the best wrestlers in the world and has proven to be an excellent opponent for Baszler, who I really do love to see wrestle. I forget between TakeOvers just how good she is!
This wasn’t my favorite Io Shirai match I’ve ever seen, but this was an excellent look into who she is as a performer. Baszler took out her left arm early so she had to rely more heavily on kicks and aerial maneuvers, but Shirai still ended up tapping out to a Kirafuda Clutch. After getting a few seconds to recover, Shirai attacked the celebrating Baszler with a kendo stick before moonsaulting onto her twice: once alone and once with a steel chair.
I saw a few people complaining about this, and I don’t really understand why. Shayna Baszler is well-established as the biggest bully in the NXT locker room. Shirai would have won if she hadn’t been distracted mid-match by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir (who were swiftly dealt with by a vicious kendo stick-wielding Candice LeRae.) Io Shirai may be a babyface, but you don’t have to be nice to everyone to be right.
100 years of Johnny Gargano
The good news is that Johnny Gargano has toned down the overacting now that he’s not working with Ciampa anymore. The bad news is that without the overacting, there’s nothing corny to laugh at anymore. I don’t dislike Johnny Gargano, nor do I think he’s lacking in talent. He’s just not my favorite, and I have seen so much of him over the last two years. Adam Cole, on the other hand, I adore. BUT!!! Aside from entering with a hype man rapping live over the Undisputed Era theme music, Cole’s dirtbag energy was frustratingly lacking. Adam Cole should be a shitty little sex mouse, not a bland workrate guy! The chemistry between Cole and Gargano was conspicuously absent. To make matters worse, this went on for over half an hour.
Don’t get me wrong, the moves were cool, but like. I’ve seen cool moves before. I’ve certainly seen Gargano do cool moves and fun counters before. Extremely recently. A lot of times. I need a break! I need something else! It isn’t fair to Johnny Gargano to make me watch so much Johnny Gargano. I like whiskey but I’m not going to drink a whole bottle of whiskey in one sitting because it will make me sick, you know? Adam Cole finally won. The joy on Kyle O’Reilly’s face when the rest of Undisputed Era came to celebrate with Cole was genuinely more emotionally interesting than anything that had happened in the 35 minutes prior.