The Rope Break #4: NXT Takeover: Chicago & Backlash Review

by Curtis Suthard – 5/22/2017

A-Hoy, Hoy! I have finally returned from a prolonged hiatus and am back to bring to you the incredible, in-depth coverage of the world of pro-wrestling, that all three of you readers truly enjoy. Hopefully, this isn’t just a one-time thing and I’ll be making a habit of doing a weekly blog here, as well as the occasional special coverage of PPVs and events. Possibly even some predictions specials on all the matches on upcoming events? Who knows what the future holds for us?

But, enough about me! Let’s get to a look back at a great weekend of wrestling! There is a hell of a lot to get to, so I’ll try not to ramble on…..too much.

 

NXT TAKEOVER: CHICAGO

 

Roderick Strong VS. Eric Young– A great match to start this kick-ass show with. Roddy has had the spotlight put on him by NXT recently and deservedly so. The guy is a workhorse and works great as either a heel or face. So, his future looks bright for now, as long as he stays in NXT. I’m not so sure he’d get the same treatment on the main roster. Scratch that…I’m certain that he probably wouldn’t. But, who knows, weirder things could happen? Like Jinder Mahal being WWE Champion? Right?

Anyway, back to this match. It was solid, which is to be expected with two athletes with the experience of Strong and Young. Both guys work very well together and came off strong (no pun intended). Dain and Wolfe got involved just enough and Roddy attacking them from behind at the start of the match was fantastic. Roddy picking up the win is a good way to keep his momentum going.

I like the Sanity gimmick, but I do hope that we eventually get a little more backstory there. I mean, so far, they seem to just demand that someone joins them and, upon being told “No Thanks”, they are insulted and proceed to attempt to beat said person down, multiple times. Give these guys some purpose. If they’re like an insurgency or anarchists within NXT, then why do they wait for their entrance music and come down the stage in a very normal way. That’s a little too orderly for me. I like my anarchists a little more chaotic. Have them just attack people out of nowhere, disrupting matches all willy-nilly and holding up the show. Which is what they did early on, but then, just stopped. Sanity could be a big deal if done right.

Pete Dunne VS. Tyler Bate (WWE UK Championship)– That first match was really good, but here is where things picked up and it never stopped from this point on. Bate and Dunne had an incredible match with so many great spots throughout that it needs to be viewed multiple times to truly appreciate it. All of that without a ton of build-up or long storylines going into the match. The characters were clearly defined at the outset. Dunne; the vicious, “I’ll do anything to win”, villain, and Bate; the pure, clear “good guy”, defending champ. The “story” was all really told in the ring, throughout the match. Through a series of hard-hitting, methodical, technical and, even some, high-flying actions, these two men created a masterpiece in motion. With Dunne standing tall and winning the UK Championship.

Not to try to bring all of this positivity down a notch or two, but I do worry about the future of the WWE UK wrestlers, as well as the title. There is supposed to be an upcoming weekly show, airing on the network. But, look at 205 Live and the cruiserweights. One of my main issues there is that the cruiserweights are sort of herded into their own little corner of the WWE Universe at large. Which means that they may not ever be afforded the attention that some of them deserve. I could see Neville or Aries or Cedric Alexander as IC Champ (I didn’t want to get crazy and say WWE Champ, but you never know), but I don’t see that happening, as long as they are in their own little world within WWE, with no real crossover with the rest of the main roster. Maybe things will change with the UK guys? I mean I’d love to see Dunne on the Main Roster, working with the likes of Owens, Zayn, Styles, Rollins or Ambrose. He could be a great future champ in WWE. Bates and Trent Seven could bring Moustache Mountain, their tag team, to the main roster as well. Hell, all three of those guys could bring their already established faction in. I just don’t see that in the near future and, if WWE tightens the reigns on all of these guys, not allowing them to continue working elsewhere “across the pond”, then we may be limited with what we, as fans, get from some of these guys. And, that sucks.

 

Ruby Riot VS. Nikki Cross VS. Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship)– In one of my earlier “Rope Breaks”, I believe I posed a question along the lines of, “Who in NXT Women’s division is on the same level as Asuka?” Well, I’m happy to say that we all have the answer to that question. Ember Moon has stepped up her game and had a good showing at the last NXT Takeover. And, though, she got injured and could not compete in this match, as she was supposed to, Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross have proved that they are equal contenders at this point.

Asuka too, has begun to show that she has a weakness. Gone are the days when she would just squash any and all opponents. Even her matches with Bailey were sort of one-sided. But, now we are seeing that the champ is vulnerable. The fact that she had to shove the ref into Moon in their last match just to get the win was the first real glimpse of this. This match had a few of those moments as well. One in particular was the great moment when Nikki Cross got Asuka caught up in the ring skirt and just threw elbow shots at her rapid-fire. Stuff like that shows that her time is limited before someone gets lucky. I’m guessing that Asuka will stick around, probably throughout the summer, possibly until after the upcoming WWE Women’s Tournament is over. Maybe the winner of the tournament will get a title shot and that will be that? Hopefully, when Asuka does head to the Main Roster, she heads to Smackdown, as that brand’s Women’s division is lacking a bit right now.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention just how good Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot were though, as well. Both have really stepped up their game. I was a bit disappointed that when a few new hires for the Women’s division were announced, that Riot was the first to get the attention, as I am a big fan of Kimber Lee, who has been involved in a handful of matches, but has not gotten the spotlight just yet. Nikki Cross, on the other hand, might just be one of my new favorites. She is, quite possibly the stand out talent in Sanity and has been fun to watch, even in interviews and backstage stuff lately as well. I think the future is now very bright for the NXT Women’s division with these two ladies probably leading the next generation of women’s wrestling, not just within the company, but throughout the industry.

 

Hideo Itami VS. Bobby Roode(NXT Championship)– Going into this match, all I was hoping to come out of it was that Hideo would not get injured. It has sucked, being a longtime fan of Hideo/KENTA. There was that initial joy of his coming to NXT and then the promise of what was to come with all of the other hires that happened around that same time. And, then he had surgery and was gone for, like, ever! Only to come back, with a clear push coming his way, just to then get injured again. Finally, he’s getting the attention that should have rightly been there from the beginning, if you asked me.

And what a fantastic opponent for him to get put up against with Bobby Roode. I always liked Roode in TNA (or just Impact now, whatever) but he just seems so much better here in NXT. Maybe it’s the gimmick, it could definitely be the entrance music or just the right combination of a lot of things, but he is so glorious (pun intended) right now. He is perfect in this top heel role and I don’t see him being dethroned any time soon. I also don’t know if I see him going to the main roster, either. I kinda don’t want him to, unless he gets elevated quickly there. But, again, I‘m afraid he’d linger around mid-card status there and that’d be a waste.

This was a great hard-hitting, methodical match that showed off Hideo’s skills in the ring more than any other match he has yet to have in NXT. Roode retains with a great double Glorious DDT after just the right amount heelish chicanery throughout the match. Though that win was a clean, solid victory. Which seems to be leading to Hideo turning heel-“ish”. In a post-match video, Itami was seen throwing things around the locker room and cursing at everyone, only to get in the face of Kassius Ohno. Which will be a great feud, no doubt. With Hideo’s attention diverted to other things, it seems that the next probable challenger for the title will be Roderick Strong, I’m guessing, and that’s a glorious thing!

 

#DIY VS. The Authors of Pain(NXT Tag Team Championship Ladder Match)– So, here we are, the Main Event! Saving the best for last, who knew that the moment that would blow this match up, would come after the match had ended and everything seemed to be done?

I was not a big fan of the Authors of Pain. I don’t like big monsters, with seemingly limited skillsets, who tend to squash most opponents. But, the AoP, has grown on me as they have improved greatly over the months. Their matches with TM61, as well as all the stuff with #DIY and the Revival has proven that these guys don’t just have room to improve, but the desire to do so, for now. The future is definitely bright for Akam and Rezar, as I’m sure that they will make a big splash on the Main Roster eventually. Which, by the way, is sorely needed in the Tag divisions across all of WWE’s brands.

I was sure that this was the night for #DIY, evening things up with the whole Ladder Match stipulation. Gargano and Ciampa, have been the highlight of every Takeover that they have been a part of. And, I was certain that the belts would start to get passed around a bit, seeing as how, with TM61 out for a while, NXT is lacking in the Tag Team department a bit as well. Yeah yeah, we’ve got Heavy Machinery, sure. I just have a hard time taking Otis seriously as he scampers about and reminds me a lot of Chris Farley. The way he sort of squats a little and flexes his arms in front of him, I can’t help but thinking that he’s about to warn me that I may end up just like him, “Living in a van…DOWN BY THE RIVER!” But, alas, tonight would not be the night for #DIY.

Overall though, this match was incredible. I haven’t grit my teeth and even looked away from the screen so much during a wrestling match in a while. I was certain Ciampa landed on the top of his head when diving off of the ladder onto the AoP and overshooting it just a bit. Gargano flipped off as well, his fall just didn’t look as bad, which was one of the only times that a bump Gargano took didn’t look that bad. The one that gets me, is where Johnny took a ladder shot to the face that sent him flying. I’ve watched that one shot over and over and it still blows me away! Not to mention what happened after the match. Can Gargano take a bump or can Gargano take a bump?

Anyway, after the Authors won, with an excellent series of events that lead to their victory, Ciampa and Gargano took their long slow walk up the entryway, basking in the respect and applause that was being shown to them. And, just as the copyright notice showed up in the corner of the screen and I jumped up to take a much needed bathroom break, the unthinkable happened. I was fairly certain this loss would herald in the call up to one of the Main Rosters, but Ciampa had different plans, as the “Sicilian Psychopath” took out his frustrations on Johnny Gargano through a set of knee shots and a spectacular White Noise off of the announce table (as well as the small stage it sits on) and onto some table and equipment. This was one of the few times where I didn’t mind some of the crowd reaction shots, as they were clearly sharing in the same stunned shock that I was. I never saw that one coming! But, it is awesome. Ciampa is an excellent heel. And that “Psycho Killer” personality of his is good stuff. So, even though it now depletes an already thin field of Tag Teams in NXT, I’m looking forward to the prospects that are sure to come out of this. Also, the showdown between Gargano and Ciampa (if not a full feud itself) could be historic. The match those two had during the Cruiserweight Classic tournament was something else!

All in all, this was one of, if not THE best, NXT Takeover shows that I have seen yet. And since I’m in the mood to try something new, I’m going to rate it! So, on our Official Nerd Nation Pocket Protector Scale, I give NXT Takeover: Chicago a 5 out of 5!

 

Now, onto…

WWE SMACKDOWN: BACKLASH 2017

I realize only now, I have written a lot already, so I’m going to try to speed things up, or, more accurately, shorten things up a bit. I promise!

Aiden English VS. Tye Dillinger– Yes, I know. I just said I’d keep things short and here I am mentioning the Pre-Show match. So, here’s what I got to say: I really was always a fan of English’s artiste’ character. So, now with him reverting back to that, due the loss of Simon Gotch and thus, the Vaudevillains, I’m sort of happy. I mean, I also loved the Vaudevillains, but, whatevs, y’know. Nice tight little match. I hope Dillinger starts getting some shots soon. I mean Mojo F’N Rawley won the Andre the Giant Battle Royale this year, Dillinger better get a push at some point. He’s super-hot, it seems, right now. Either that or the crowd just likes chanting “10” a lot. Dillinger wins convincingly and predictably.

Shinsuke Nakamura VS. Dolph Ziggler– I’m not going to rattle on too much about this match. I mean, did anyone seriously think Nakamura was going to lose his debut match? I’ll answer that. NO. That’s just not how things usually works folks.

It was a very good match, introducing Nakamura to the larger WWE fan base, who may not know who he is. The “King of Strong Style” ran through his greatest hits came out on top in the end. Plenty of near falls and close calls in this match. I will be a little disappointed that they didn’t use the solo violinist for Nakamura’s entrance. For some reason that sends some chills up my spine both times that they have used him.

Ziggler did a great job, as always. The guy delivers time and time again. It’s just a shame that it seems Dolph has been relegated to the “enhancement talent” level of things on Smackdown, since he is always exciting and fun to watch. He did a great job making Nakamura look good, but at the same time standing toe-to-toe with the guy and making himself look just as good.

Breezango VS. The Usos (Smackdown Tag Team Championship)– I love what Breezango has been able to do lately. The “Powers that Be” seem to have decided to give Breeze and Fandango some creative freedom here and, for me at least, it’s paying off. Their vignettes have been great! Especially the last one they did this past week on Smackdown. Breeze even carried over his “undercover” persona of a janitor to the ring. Only to switch costumes, mid-match, to that of an elderly woman (or possibly the Fabulous Moolah, according to JBL). The humor and comedy in this match was well done and though, I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t, seemed to work really well with the Usos in their heel gimmick. There were even a few moments that I thought Breezango might have a real shot. Alas, it isn’t probably happening anytime soon as the Usos are the most likely and possibly best choice to feud with the New Day upon their arrival on Smackdown. The Usos are also a very solid Tag Team, maybe even more so than the New Day. Possibly the best on the WWE main roster (yes, The Revival’s great, but out and Anderson and Gallows are fantastic, but are not getting put into the right program). We will soon find out as the Usos retained and the New Day is coming.

Also, side note: If the Usos don’t get to go up, head-to-head with the Hardy’s, at some point, it’ll be a major missed opportunity for a great feud.

Sami Zayn VS. Baron Corbin– I was worried about this match. I like Corbin, but I really didn’t want to see Zayn suffer yet another loss. Before the show, in the “Social Media Lounge” or whatever, Zayn sort of answered a question that eluded to the way I’ve been feeling about Sami for a while now. He said, something along the line of, just because he has the whole “Underdog from the Underground” moniker, he isn’t really always the “underdog”. Which is very true. The guy has been around the world and has a ton of experience. More so than a lot of the other guys on the roster around him. So, the idea that he couldn’t beat a guy like Corbin, with only a few years of experience in the business, is kinda dumb.

Not knocking Baron Corbin, though. I really like the guy and see improvement with him every match that he has. I especially like his little thing where he slides out of the ring and slides in from a different direction. Little things like that are great and what catches my eye in a wrestler. I’m not necessarily advocating stealing stuff from another wrestler, but maybe Corbin could incorporate some of Tama Tonga’s (from NJPW, which you should be watching) style. Tonga has a thing he does, that I feel makes him a bit unique, where he changes direction on his opponent a lot, especially when rebounding off the ropes. He’ll suddenly change direction and run or slide to a new angle. It’s awesome and I could see Corbin “borrowing” some of that and using it to stand out from a lot of other guys in WWE.

Anyway, Zayn got the win, which is great because the guy deserves it and it’d be a shame if we went too much longer without Zayn holding a title. If Corbin stays on the current track that he’s on, I would predict a title run of his own sometime in the not too distant future, as well.

Carmella, Tamina & Natalya (The Welcoming Committee) VS. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair & Naomi– Yay! A big multi-person tag match! Whatever. It was a decent match. Nothing special. I was surprised that after the “Welcoming Committee” got the win, no one on Naomi’s team turned on her. The obvious would have been Charlotte, but a Becky turn could be something interesting. But, then, maybe Smackdown doesn’t need more heels in their Women’s division right now. Ever since the “Shake-up”, I feel like Smackdown’s Women’s division got shafted. Not that Charlotte is a bad trade off, it just seems depleted of talent and I felt that the veteran abilities of Mickie James and the blossoming of the greatness that is Alexa Bliss, did more damage to a thin roster of female talent. Maybe the debuting Lana, in her stripper gimmick, will do something for the division?

A.J. Styles VS. Kevin Owens (United States Championship)– I won’t spend too much time here. This was an incredible match. Yes, it had a screwy count out ending and count outs are not so satisfying. But, the way in which Owens won it plays up to his conniving, scheming character and so it makes all the sense in the world. Not to mention that this is definitely just the first battle in a much larger war between these two guys. Much like asking if anyone really believed that Nakamura would have lost his debut match, I have to ask, “Did anyone doubt that Styles and Owens would not have a great match?” The answer is, of course not. I look forward to everything these two will be doing, probably for the remainder of the summer, if not through the rest of the year. And, I’m okay with that.

Erick Rowan VS. Luke Harper OK. Just that…OK. Nothing too much for this one. I like Harper a lot and really look forward to him getting into a good program or feud. Just not this one. It’s not going anywhere and it’s been done. The only other option, and possibly the better one right now, is to put these two together to form a solid dominating Tag Team, something that is needed sorely.

Jinder Mahal VS. Randy Orton (WWE Championship)– Feels weird typing that and now looking at it. But…weird…in a good way. I could live without the xenophobic, anti-American, predictable stuff, but the fact that Jinder Mahal is in the Main Event, for the title, is great! I long for some unpredictability in pro-wrestling, specifically WWE and so now we got it, and so what is there to complain about. Yeah, Jinder hasn’t exactly looked impressive over the last handful of years. But, given the right opportunity, maybe the guy will step up? And, good news, he did.

This match started out perfectly, with Orton interrupting the introductions and viciously attacking Jinder before the bell ever rang. Everything went from zero to one hundred miles an hour in a matter of seconds. It fired up the crowd in the arena and, I have to admit, instantly made me sit up and pay closer attention.

Jinder looked good and did a good to possibly great job throughout. He did slow things down a lot, locking Orton up quite a bit. But, nothing too obnoxious. The whole match had a good pace and surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. It did have that “big fight feel” that I wouldn’t have imagined it could have had just minutes before it began.

The Singh Brothers did a fine job as well. Getting in the way just enough and taking a few big bumps. In one particular, Orton did a Release Suplex, X-Plex, to one brother onto the announce table and the dude seemed to land right on his head or the back of it. Orton’s expression was great, with gritted teeth and a little twinkle of “whoops” in his eye. The Singh, I don’t know which, was fine and got up shortly thereafter for a Double Hanging DDT spot. Why aren’t the Singh’s competing in the Tag Division? Again, the Tag Team scene is lacking and they could be a fine addition.

Finally, in the end, we got a moment that I couldn’t have believed in a million years I’d see. Jinder Mahal wins the WWE Championship! And, good for him. I don’t care what the reason is. I’m just glad to things truly get shaken up. Look on the bright side; He’s no Great Khali. It could be worse

All in all this was a good, fun and a bit of an unpredictable show, with that Main Event. Though, we still have been denied any appearance by the Bulgarian George Clooney, Handsome Rusev, I’ll excuse it.

 

WWE Backlash 2017, easily earns a FOUR out of Five on the Official Nerd Nation Pocket Protector Scale!

So, that’s it folks. I ran a bit long, but it’s my first time back and there was a lot to cover. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back here later this week for another (shorter, I promise) blog on the world of pro-wrestling. If you feel the need to reach out to me, you can drop me a line at curt@nerdnationradio.com. Unless you want to be insulting, then you can reach me at jack@nerdnationradio.com. Let me have it!