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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver XXV


It feels surreal that we just experienced our 25th NXT TakeOver. From what was intended to be a bootcamp of sorts for future main roster stars, the brand has grown into its own and developed its own following far from becoming just a wrestler factory.

As always, I'm here to give you my takeaways from NXT TakeOver XXV and let's head on by dissecting each match and what I thought were great talking points.

The Undisputed Champion, Bay-Bay

Johnny Gargano has never disappointed me. Ever.

The co-recipient of NXT's first ever 5-Star match continues to bring out the best in everybody he's come face to face with. Gargano delivers each and every time he is matched up with anybody. I feel he doesn't really need the title to bring his status up. Sadly, this is what happened as he lost the title to The Undisputed ERA's Adam Cole.



It was in one of our Smark Henry discussions where it was mentioned that "Johnny is more of a chaser." This is exactly how I feel as well. How many times has Johnny Wrestling ever successfully defended any championship? Once? I think Gargano benefits from being the underdog because he's a natural at being one. Being the guy who can't ever defend or keep his title could be a character quirk that Johnny will have to conquer in the future.

Cole is the complete opposite. He's brash, cocky, egotistical and every babyface's natural foil. He knows how good he is and he knows when to take advantage of every situation. This rang true during this match especially with the tactics he employedone where he even faked summoning the ERA to mess with Johnny Gargano's momentum.


Still, even without the ERA's support, Cole managed to defeat Gargano via the Panama Sunrise and The Last Shot after the latter's knee gave in. I think this could turn into an injury angle that would help segue another contender into the main event while Gargano recuperates, although something tells me this is far from over between the two.

Hail To The Queen Of Spades

Shayna Baszler owns the second longest NXT Women's Championship reign in the company and it looks like she's going to extend said reign. Io Shirai put forth a lot of offense against the Queen of Spades but with the way the match played out, Baszler actually countered a lot of Shirai's moves, which proved she was miles ahead of the competition.



One could argue that the Genius of the Sky was probably blinded by rage. Maybe the presence of Baszler's buddies, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, played a part in shifting Shirai's focus. Even so, I feel that Baszler's booking is on the Brock Lesnar level and that she's almost untouchable in terms of strength and skill. She dominated a large portion of the match and ended up tapping Shirai out in what I believe was the longest Kirifuda Clutch I've ever seen.

I don't think the feud is over with what the post-match segment implied. However, Candice LeRae is a wildcard in all of this. I do wonder if LeRae will eventually reap the benefits of this rivalry by inserting herself into the title scene once Baszler's reign is at a tipping point. Maybe she and Shirai will start as a duo and face the Horsewomen until that fated moment when LeRae takes on Baszler herself.


At the end of it all, I do see LeRae as a champion sometime this year so maybe the idea of LeRae being involved as early as now isn't far-fetched. How we'll get there is the question on my mind right now but I'm seeing the cogs in motion after this.

The Dream Continues

The Tyler Breeze experiment was a success. It was previously hinted at that a number of main roster call-ups were going to return to the Black and Yellow Brand. It's still unsure whether this is a permanent return or if the NXT alumnus will just appear sporadically but judging by the reaction he received, I think this is the start of a good thing.



He hit it off with NXT North American Champion Velveteen Dream in a high-quality match that could be tagged as his best performance ever. In fact, you couldn't even tell that this was their first time facing off against each other with how well they did.

I already expected Dream to retain but I have a big feeling that this isn't the last of Breeze yet. Imagine the matches he could pull off against Roderick Strong, Adam Cole, even Johnny Gargano, just to name a few. This goes for other former NXT Superstars as well.

The brand has changed over the years and it looks like NXT returns may continue to be a thing because of how entertaining this match turned out to be.


Bring The Swag

I love Ladder Matches.

Maybe it's the high-octane exchange of moves or maybe its the unpredictability of each competitor's interaction with the ladder. The NXT Tag Team Championship Match was no different. It had me at the edge of my seat with each time Kyle O' Reilly (who should be MVP of the night) winced or each time Montez Ford flew through the air. This match is one of the best Ladder Matches I've watched in a while.



The competitors were a great mix as well. We had flyers in the Street Profits. We had brawlers in Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan. The Undisputed ERA played great crowd favorites and technicians. Finally, the Forgotten Sons worked the heel role perfectly by utilizing their third man, Jaxson Ryker. Everyone played their part perfectly.



The Forgotten Sons still have a long way to go regarding crowd reactions. I feel part of that falls on Wesley Blake's performance. He brings nothing new to the tableplaying the same character (or lack thereof) he did three or four years ago minus the EDM undertones. It's understandable for him to have the same moves but he still feels as generic as he used to. Nothing about him is interesting nor does it feel that he's taking charge considering he's a former NXT Tag Team Champion. At least Buddy Murphy evolved since moving to 205 Live.

Still, I feel the right team won. The Street Profits have had the crowd in the palm of their hands for over a year. It's a little crazy they won their first championships as a team outside of the company but we're here now and everything is in order. This reign will help the Profits break through the glass ceiling and open them up to feuds with the likes of The Sons and The ERA in the future.

Strong Style

Matt Riddle versus Roderick Strong was a good reminder of what Roddy can do on his own. While he did eat the loss, it was evident that Strong could still go toe-to-toe with the best Superstars on the brand.



The bout had great in-ring storytelling and set out to make Riddle an even bigger star than before while allowing Roddy to showcase his unique talents. It's still unknown how this match will play out in terms of long-term booking but I have a feeling we'll see either of the two men in the main event with newly crowned NXT Champion Adam Cole.



Matches like these are what make NXT a better brand than the main roster shows. It was a strong (pun intended) opener for NXT TakeOver XXV and it set the bar for all the other matches to come after it. If the main event didn't exceed my expectations, then this would have been a Match of the Night contender for me. I'm glad that this one started the night. I hope both men, especially Roddy, get more chances to steal the spotlight in the future.

Conclusion

As with every TakeOver, it keeps getting better and better for the Black and Yellow Brand and this one was no different. A solid selection of matches and a great set of Superstars proved that we don't really need to tie up all NXT PPV's with WWE PPV's to maximize the build-up. I'm excited for the next one.


Grade: A+

Quick Hitters:

  • Johnny Gargano's Captain Marvel-inspired gear was cool. What a comic book nerd. I mean that in a good way.
  • Josiah Williams (a.k.a. Wrestle and Flow) made his WWE debut rapping for Adam Cole during the latter's entrance. Are we going to see more of this talented fellow?
  • Dr. Britt Baker, DMD was spotted in the crowd. She probably knew Adam Cole would win. Still, it's great seeing somebody from a rival company show support.

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Did you agree with these takes? What was your favorite moment from NXT TakeOver XXV? Did you notice something that we missed? Hit us up in the comments section below.

Photos from WWE

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Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your supposed style icon and NXT reviewer at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of everything music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) and ‘gramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz) as he sets on his journey to completely do things spontaneously. You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills. When not being a smark, he lives his life being (and trying to be) an awesome architect, musician extraordinaire and armchair fantasy booker.

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