1.Million $ Title: LA Knight(c) vs Cameron Grimes ****
2.NXT Women's Title: Raquel Gonzalez(c) vs Dakota Kai ***1/2
3.NXT UK Title: WALTER(c) vs Ilja Dragunov *****
4.Best 2/3 Falls: Adam Cole vs Kyle O'Reilly ****
5.NXT Title: Karrion Kross(c) vs Samoa Joe ***1/4
Time to dive in to the end of an era. NXT dipped in quality once AEW hit the scene, but even then it was a fun show a lot of the time. It's continued to dip and I've all but lost interest in the new 2.0 run. There was a time when TakeOver events were the most must-see thing in wrestling and I'm going to miss those days. WWE finally found someone to tell Vince that the problem wasn't how good the wrestling on NXT was that the roster wouldn't work with main roster content, but that they needed to take over the last great part of the company and nerf it, too. Whatever.
Lets celebrate the end with a very late review, why don't we!?
The Million Dollar Championship is on the line first. Old Ass Ted came out with Grimes. That's such a good looking belt. It's still funny seeing LA Knight in NXT. Dude is great and should be a star on the main roster already, but they've messed up the older version of him, Roode, and they fucked up with EC3, too. I have no hope for the dude. Grimes was an indie legend, especially with his vastly underrated, amazing run with the CWF Mid-Atlantic strap, but has been just a face getting some good shit in occasionally in NXT. Maybe that's his ceiling, but I think he could be the top dog of the brand if pushed right. With the recent changes, I don't see that happening. In fact, he could just as easily be the next "budget cut" release. Who fucking knows what'll happen with the circus. The opener was a nice showcase for the rub I was giving, with Cameron leading nicely for chunks and Knight working well as an old-school, charismatic heel. The downstretch was well done, especially. Fantastic stuff for sure.
Remember when WWE promised they'd start listening better but then they didn't? The biggest complaint I've heard from fucking everyone I've basically ever spoken to, even the diehard fans when they let their guards down and drop the cult act, is that the booking is super weak. Pull a tiny thread with logic and the entire thing crumbles. They just don't feel like they're even trying most of the time, because that would require paying for better writers and better writers cost more. You have to maximize profits, right? They nerf their roster most of the time because they don't want to give fans too much fun, which is admitting that they can't figure out how to be good that frequently. Do you think AEW would have a chance at all if WWE was as good of a product as it should be? Note that I've heard a little bee buzzing recently. The Ring of Honor news has picked up some ears in the industry. If ROH can keep a decent product on TV that, most importantly, is profitable, than others might attempt something similar. Keep a handful of select talent signed on hard and then have everyone else on shows be freelancers. If someone points out how quickly the workers would unionize under such a situation it might kill the thought, but even then it might be acceptable of a loss in comparison to the switch.
Raquel and Kai are up next. The package previewing it was well done. WWE at least tends to do those well, making it easy to watch a PPV coming in cold. That's how I watched the product for the most part back in 2008. I'd just buy the DVD's at Walmart when they'd drop with money I made from Sonic.
Dakota's entrance makes her look like such a dork. WWE entrances make most look like dorks, though. WWE is a parody of pro wrestling, more than it's not, after all.
Just wanting to be clear.
Back to the match, Raquel was about the same but perhaps slightly improved since I last saw her. You can tell she is trying and I appreciate that. She could easily be like Jax if she wanted to, especially if she is vaccinated (allegedly). She's just not able to break into that next stage it seems and that's fine. Kai is the better worker and did help elevate things nicely throughout. Even in the Gonzalez stretches it felt like Dakota was leading the pace and flow. Borderline great, in my opinion, and a strong enough way to keep the show moving forward.
Am I loving a show while simultaneously shitting on the company that produced it in this review? Yes, I am. They fucking killed the booming UK scene. One of the reasons. I'm pissed. Well, the #SpeakingOut stuff did that, too. I'm a supporter of that movement and think we need another right now, though at least Dark Side is doing some of that work.
After the women's title match, KLR appeared on stage.
A cringe Applebees ad ran.
Next, WALTER and Ilja proved that the company Europe strap is at least worth something. WALTER had an amazing run as champ of the brand, but it felt like the right time to pull the trigger. We'll never get the Starr victory, and I'm fine with that knowing what we know, so Ilja getting this victory felt like a perfect replacement. I love the chemistry these two have together and think that they've had one of my favorite feuds of all time. I have no doubt that we'll get another two or three chapters down the road, too. The passion and energy was as thick as my ass from the second Ilja's music hit. A special magic, hooking me immediately in. I'm happy for them that this was able to air in this setting, as it certainly increased the amount of eyes that it received. This needs to be seen by all fans immediately, regardless if they've already seen it before. It's one to study and embrace and another rare drop into my five stars club (I'll update it soon to reflect the rating). God I loved this! A fucking war. A bear and a puma fighting.
I'll move along or we'll be here all night.
Ilja after the match was fucking amazing. That emotion on display was pure beauty, though they perhaps extended it too far by about 20 seconds.
If WWE would not give a fuck in a different way, instead deciding that they'd let their workers work actual matches to the best of their abilities, they'd be AAA. I want that. Please.
Grimes backstage, looking beat up, and then a segment with Regal and Joe. Great shit, both of them.b
Adam Cole is a nice dude. In fact, I've heard he's sincerely one of the nicest in the game. The truth is that he easily could have left, mid-program, and hurt this show big. Instead, he closed the saga with Kyle on a strong note (yet perhaps a slightly disappointing one). I mean, Kyle is leaving soon, though. I suppose in the long term it just helps elevate Kyle's back catalog before he joins AEW. Whatever. I enjoyed this rivalry, thinking of it as a nice companion to Ciampa and Gargano's series, and I appreciated this three stages of hell style cap (for now) here for the most parts. In many ways, a perfect representation of the phrase, "end of an era". I also think I understand where some of those chanting "BULLSHIT" after were at. The pacing was a bit off at times and made it feel a tad padded. Cole, who was on his way out, also scored the only fall of the three that I think was super competitive so Kyle didn't actually get that strong of a rub in his victory. I think it was fantastic overall, but there are many criticisms that are valid.
Fantasma and crew are backstage, scaring all of the Republicans about the same way Joe Rogan does to liberals and moderate media outlets.
The package to build Kross/Joe runs. Remember that Kross was build as a strong force that had taken NXT under a strong grip and then was brought to Raw where they took his entrance, took away his wife, and had his fall quickly to Jeff Hardy, who hadn't been booked in any relevant role for a long time. During the build to THIS match. How fucking tone deaf can you be. Of course, now he's been cut. So, yeah. I will agree that he isn't a dude that can often push past into that MOTYC level, but he seemed like a sure fire hit in the eyes of Vince so I am surprised a bit. Anyway, he and Joe had a cursed match as the main event of TO36. I didn't expect anything going into four star range, but this barely pushed past three in my opinion. Oh well. In hindsight it is also upsetting that Samoa Joe had to drop the belt right after this, but in a vacuum it was good for what it was, at the very least.
The performers worked hard and nothing was outright bad. It worked very well as almost a love letter to what was dying tonight. It wasn't always pretty, but that kind of works considering the situation.
Just a closing note, but I really hope WWE understands that the cheese and wine will not forever placate. Does cash matter that much more than historical reputation? Something to consider.
Overall Rating: 80/100%