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NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day preview - Valentine’s heat

NXT returns tomorrow night (Feb. 14) with their TakeOver: Vengeance Day special on WWE Network.

It’s the 33rd TakeOver and the brand has yet to put on a bad one. There’s little reason to think this will be the first, but there doesn’t seem to be a tremendous amount of buzz for Vengeance Day. Perhaps it’s because people don’t think the NXT or Women’s titles are likely to change hands. Or maybe it’s because 2/5 of the card features matches for future tag title shots.

Whatever the reason, or even if you’re already FREAKING PUMPED, I figured I’d offer a few things I’m excited for in each match. In addition to the usual Cliffs Notes version of the story behind all five bouts.

Finn Bálor (c) vs. Pete Dunne for the NXT championship

Coming up in the European wrestling scene, young Brit Dunne always heard about an Irishman named Devitt who’d paved the way for guys like him to reach greener pastures in Japan and America. He doesn’t want to wait for Bálor to pass the torch as the biggest star to come from across the Atlantic. He aims to take it.

In order to do so, the Bruiserweight allied himself with Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. McAfee’s nursing his WarGames wounds, but with NXT Tag champs Lorcan & Burch, Dunne’s targeted Finn and his reluctant allies Undisputed ERA. The Prince and Kyle O’Reilly managed to defeat the Brit-Am Brawlers, but the champ’s taken a couple beatings from Dunne in the build to TakeOver. Sunday night it’ll just be the two of them... and probably Lorcan, Burch, and a few ERA guys.

Plus, Edge will watching as he claims he might use his Royal Rumble win to challenge the winner. But mostly just Dunne and Bálor.

Reasons to be excited

Between the end of his long UK title reign and the pandemic-forced shut down of BritWres, Dunne’s lost some momentum. But he’s talented and a favorite of Triple H & William Regal, so even though he’s an underdog here, look for this to be the start of big things for the Bruiserweight.

It took him a little while to find his footing, but since his match with Timothy Thatcher at TakeOver XXX, the NXT style and his tweener character have been a career rejuvenating mix for Bálor. The match-up with Dunne should allow him to deliver yet another instant and violent classic on par with his pair of bouts with O’Reilly. And there are enough moving parts in the title scene that whoever wins at Vengeance Day will have interesting challengers waiting for them come Wednesday.

Edge just won’t really be one of them.

Io Shirai (c) vs. Toni Storm vs. Mercedes Martinez for the NXT Women’s title

Storm and Martinez both came to NXT Prime wanted gold, and targeted the Women’s champ coming out of November’s WarGames. Their mutual enemy led to a brief team up for the Dusty Classic, but that just made it easy for Shirai to hit them both at once.

Like most of the feuds during Io’s impressive run as champ, there’s not a ton of story here. She says she’s the best, and anyone is welcome to try and prove her wrong.

There’s slightly more depth by virtue of Storm’s Mae Young Classic win over Shirai in the 2018 finals. And a real world reason to root for the 40 year old Martinez as a pioneering badass despite her heel character. But mostly just two talented wrestlers trying to knock the Genius of the Sky off her throne.

Reasons to be excited

It’s two talented wrestlers trying to knock the Genius of the Sky off her throne. Whatever criticisms there are of Io’s eight month reign in the storytelling department, the only complaint about the matches is that there’s not enough of them. Enjoy twenty minutes or so of Shirai going full bore with two women who can keep up with almost everything she can throw at them.

Kushida vs. Johnny Gargano (c) for the North American championship

This one stemmed right from Gargano’s last title feud, as Leon Ruff needed a tag partner when Karrion Kross sent Damian Priest off to Raw. It’s gotten increasingly personal as it was briefly folded into Candice LeRae and Shotzi Blackheart’s rivalry for a mixed tag at New Year’s Evil, and was woven into the Dusty Classic. Kushida & Ruff knocked out Johnny & his protégé Austin Theory, then The Way duo jumped the Japanese Superstar & his young friend after they lost in the next round.

Deciding that Kushida was his latest curse (after breaking the ones associated with wheels and successful title defenses), Gargano tried to fake an injury to get out of this match. But General Manager Regal exposed that for the ridiculousness it was - he was using a wheelchair for a broken arm. When Johnny dropped the charade to help Theory in his match with Kushida, the legendary Super-Junior took them out with an assist from Dexter Lumis, who’s been stalking the former Evolve champ for reasons unclear.

Reasons to be excited

This is low-key the most exciting match on the card. Gargano signaled a shift from hilarious heel mode to pissed off Johnny TakeOver after Wednesday’s beatdown, and that means two fantastic wrestlers ready to rock and roll in singles action for the first time with a minimum of shenanigans.

It’s likely some members of The Way will get involved, but Kushida’s picked up enough allies along the way there’s a decent chance this could be settled by the two legal men. NXT has been booking Kushida’s rise for a while now, and the prospect of a payoff with his first WWE title is pretty exciting. Whatever happens will be at the end of a thrilling match.

WWE Network

Grizzled Young Veteran vs. MSK

It’s a tournament. These are the finals.

Former NXT UK Tag champs James Drake & Zack Gibson beat Ever-Rise, Kushida & Leon Ruff, and Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa to get here. Former AAW, CZW & PWG Tag champs Wes Lee & Nash Carter defeated Swerve Scott & Jake Atlans, Drake Maverick & Killian Dain, and Legado Del Fantasma’s Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde en route to Sunday’s showdown.

Winner gets a shot at the NXT Tag Team championship currently held by Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch.

Reasons to be excited

A fascinating stylistic match-up between the brawling-yet-technical Englishmen and the creative, acrobatic Americans. The kind of thing that would have been a fantasy booking exercise until Triple H signed up half the globe for his territories. A straight-forward babyface vs. heel story. This one should be fun, and that’s even without remembering that men’s tag matches have a history of stealing the show at TakeOvers.

WWE Network

Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon vs. Raquel González & Dakota Kai

It’s a tournament. These are the finals.

The recently formed face team beat Marina Shafir & Zoey Stark and Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell to get here. The established heel duo defeated Aliyah & Jessi Kamea and Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter en route to Sunday’s showdown.

Winner gets a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team championship currently held by Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler.

There’s actually a bit more of a story here, as all four of these women were on opposite sides of the WarGames match where LeRae’s team bested Blackheart’s. And Moon’s had run-ins with Kai & González since returning to the black-and-gold brand. She’s had their number in tag matches, but lost a singles affair to each.

Reasons to be excited

There’s a little bit of everything in this one, and two teams that both meshed well shortly after being paired up (although Dakota & Raquel obviously have more experience working together).

Despite not having a ton of knowledge of or affinity for Shotzi before her WWE signing, she’s become one of my favorites, and I’m not alone. I don’t think she’s been in a match on NXT I haven’t enjoyed the heck out of. The rocket is strapped to both her and the Texan powerhouse González. Ember & Dakota are great wrestlers we’ll be complaining are underutilized on the main roster some day. Actually, we already did that with Moon... but you know what I mean.

Throw in the possibility this could finally lead to NXT Superstars holding the Tag belts, and this one should be a blast.

You can find a set of predictions for TakeOver: Vengeance Day here.

Feel free to let us know what you’re excited for in the comments below, and join us tomorrow night at 7 PM Eastern. We’ll have coverage of all the action and fallout from Vengeance Day!

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