NXT’s latest live special, TakeOver: Brooklyn III, will come our way Saturday, Aug. 19 at 8PM Eastern on WWE Network, so we’re here to help you get ready for it.
After 2016 left a lot of people questioning the creative vision for and even the role of WWE’s third brand, things have been on the upswing for the black-and-yellow since this Spring. Some new talent, a few tweaked gimmicks and a commitment to making the weekly show more essential might not have returned Wednesday nights to their 2014 - 2015 “must see” status, but nobody asked Triple H “what’s wrong with NXT?” on his conference call this week.
Instead, the focus was on a show Haitch calls the brand’s version of WrestleMania. After two great live events and an historically important Women’s title match from their first trip there, Barclays Center is special for NXT talent and fans. Their third TakeOver in New York City looks to have a killer line-up, but it’s one with a surprising lack of story behind most of the bouts.
That’s not because there haven’t been stories and characters developed since May’s Chicago show. But the bigger feuds like the ones Bobby Roode and Roderick Strong or Hideo Itami and Kassius Ohno have been involved in aren’t directly represented, and some arcs have more or less happened outside a traditional rivalry, such as the building of Aleister Black’s mystique or Zelina Vega’s influence on Andrade “Cien” Almas.
Still, there’s a lot to look forward to, and odds are good this will continue the amazing run of entertaining TakeOver shows.
We won't know until later how the seventeenth NXT special measures up to its predecessors, but we can start getting ready for the show by looking at what brought us here.
Match by match.
Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Roode (c) - NXT championship match
How we got here: In his return to the company, McIntyre’s looked better than ever. The Scot has taken out everyone in his path, including handing SAnitY’s Killian Dain his first WWE singles loss to become #1 contender. Drew’s also been single-minded in his focus to earn the NXT title and with it the fans’ respect, as he strives to make the brand ours again rather than Roode’s.
The veteran champion will tell anyone who’ll listen (and even some who won’t) about how he’s made NXT Glorious again in his year with WWE. You can argue with the methods - and a lot of fans will criticize the overall quality of his in-ring work, at least in comparison to some indie faves - but the results are impressive. Just this year, he’s successfully defended the title against Shinsuke Nakamura, Ohno, Itami and Strong.
While these former TNA talents have jawed at each other since McIntyre earned the right to challenge Bobby in Brooklyn, the champ’s big feud has been with Roddy. After The Glorious One beat him while mocking his family, Strong’s been obsessed with getting his hands on Roode. When General Manager William Regal told him there was no way he’d get a match against his nemesis before or at TakeOver, Roddy agreed to face Drew on the ‘go home’ show for the right to fight Roode later.
That turned out to be a ploy by the titleholder to take out both his rivals in one swoop, which was our last image heading into Brooklyn.
What to look out for: A possible changing of the guard.
Even before he established himself as an in-ring threat in Evolve and elsewhere, McIntyre looks like the kind of man you’d want representing your territory. There’s a reason Vince McMahon dubbed him “The Chosen One”. As mentioned above, Roode’s had a heck of a run in NXT, and he isn’t getting any younger. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the title change hands to signal the next phase for the brand, and a call-up for Bobby.
Wednesday’s finish paints Strong as a wild card worthy of Charlie Kelly, though, and we have to wonder where he fits into things in Brooklyn. TakeOvers aren’t known for interference or other shenanigans, especially not in main events. Roddy costing either man the match to continue a non-title program while the winner moves on to the next contender would be standard pro wrestling booking, but novel for NXT.
Where this match shows up on the card might tell us a lot. If the women go on last, it could be a sign that story is coming to an end, while Roode and McIntyre’s is just beginning.
Asuka (c) vs. Ember Moon - Women's championship match
How we got here: What else is there to say about Asuka. Her reign will be over 500 days long coming into Barclays on Saturday, and she hasn’t been pinned or submitted as a WWE wrestler. Her accomplishments have been heralded by everyone from Goldberg to Stephanie McMahon. The Empress of Tomorrow’s dominance is so well estalished, her defining character trait on NXT of late has been boredom.
In fact, after defeating Nikki Cross in a Last Woman Standing match earlier this Summer, the champ announced she wouldn’t even return until Regal found a worthy challenger.
Of course, that challenger’s been there all along. And as Ember Moon explained during their contract signing this past Wednesday, she’s the only woman Asuka has cut corners in order to defeat - or eliminate from competition. The champ used the referee to help prevent Ember from hitting her Eclipse finisher in Orlando, and then crashed a battle royal designed to determine her opponent in Chicago, injuring Moon by throwing her into a barricade.
That contract signing went smoothly, but the previous encounter between the two ended with Asuka taking an Eclipse. The story has long been that if that happens in a match, her epic reign will end. What tricks does she have left to avoid that fate?
What to look out for: The end of an era.
Whether or not anyone thinks it’s enough, NXT has clearly been grooming Moon as the woman to finally beat the champ. They didn’t pull the trigger on WrestleMania weekend, however, and most of what’s happened since has made Asuka look stronger while Ember’s only had a couple matches since returning from injury.
But if not now, when? And if not her, who?
It’s probably past time for a call-up for Asuka, and all the fear about how she’ll be booked at the next level that comes with that. There will be a lot of new faces after the Mae Young Classic wraps, too, so this feels like a good point to signal a change.
But the Empress of Tomorrow’s survived this long without a blemish on her record, so it seems foolish to completely count her out.
Again, whether this is the last match of the night or not will probably be a good indicator of where NXT is going. Regardless of who wins, or where it falls on the card, the goal is undoubtedly to deliver a match which is talked about in the same breath as Bayley and Banks’ Brooklyn I encounter. No one (or very few) will question the booking if they can accomplish that.
Authors of Pain (c) vs. SAnitY - Tag Team championship match
How we got here: Shane Thorne got hurt, The Revival got promoted, #DIY broke up (and Tommaso Ciampa got hurt).
Snarkiness aside, it does feel like NXT found themselves in a position where the two tag teams ready for a TakeOver spot were both heels, so they built from there as best they could.
Paul Ellering’s champions had just put down one of the brand’s promising-but-not-yet duos, Heavy Machinery, when Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross appeared amidst a storm of paper. That turned out to be pages from the Authors’ “Book of Dominance”, and the feud was on.
Since then, we’ve gotten much more logical, and physical, segments establishing SAnitY’s mission to capture tag team gold, and some genuine animosity between the two teams. Akam and Rezar chased off the group before their leader returned, but once EY was back, the champs found themselves picked apart by Wolfe, Dain and company.
What to look out for: HOSS FIGHT!
While not to Asuka levels, AoP have put together a dominant run since debuting on our screens. SAnitY, meanwhile, have done a much better job wreaking havoc than winning feuds. The group got the best of Tye Dillinger until his going away party, and despite a WrestleMania moment in this year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Dain came up short in his quest for a NXT title shot when he lost to McIntyre a few weeks back. Even while impressing with her performances, Nikki’s failed in her quest for Women’s gold.
Are Paul Ellering’s monsters a team where they can change their luck? Who knows... but expect the bodies to fly as we find out in Brooklyn.
Aleister Black vs. Hideo Itami
How we got here: Itami’s WWE career has been frustrating - for the Japanese Superstar and his fans. The combination of injuries and missed opportunities didn’t keep him from claiming a shot at Roode’s title in Chicago, but when that didn’t pan out either, Hideo started to crack.
His friend Kassius Ohno tried to calm him down, show him another way and even beat some sense into him. But after that last ploy didn’t work out, Itami put him to sleep on the steel steps with a GTS, and we haven’t seen Ohno since.
The quietly charismatic Dutchman, on the other hand, has done nothing but win in NXT. Talents like Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly have even started showing up from other promotions, vying for a chance to be the first man to beat Black in WWE. So far, none have been successful.
Itami’s justification for his recent actions has been that he wants to be respected, by fans and his fellow wrestlers. And he felt particularly disrespected when Black cut off a post-match promo with his entrance. Hideo ended up taking Aleister’s finishing kick, Black Mass, when he complained, and returned fire by assaulting Black outside after the show. That was enough for Regal to pit them opposite one another for Aug. 19.
What to look out for: A good fight, and no small amount of intrigue.
Two great strikers like Black and Itami should make for a hell of a battle, and one that fits right in with recent stiffly worked contests NXT has been producing of late.
Black is clearly a rising star, and with no losses on his record, should be in the main event by later this year or early 2018. It’s unclear what’s next for Itami, seeing as he recently came up short in a title match and has been on the roster for quite some time now, but he should be near the top of the card for however long he’s in NXT - and healthy.
There’s the possibility of Ohno showing up looking for revenge against Hideo, or possibly even Fish and O’Reilly - known as the championship tag team reDRagon in Ring of Honor (ROH), New Japan and elsewhere - having their sights set on another shot at Black. Possibly with another ROH alum?
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano
How we got here: After taking some time to heal, physically and emotionally, after Ciampa betrayed him in Chicago, Gargano is determined to re-establish himself as a top solo act. He vowed to find his way onto the card in Brooklyn.
Almas, with the help of his old manager from Mexico (in kayfabe), is also trying to refresh his WWE career. Zelina Vega is helping Cien ditch his showboating and focus on winning. To prove he’s ready for the spotlight, she accepted Gargano’s open challenge.
What to look out for: Despite not having shared a scene together, a match with some stakes.
Both men are gifted wrestlers, so there’s little doubt this should be a fun watch (if I had to guess, it probably opens the show). That’s a plus, especially considering there’s no real heat between their characters.
Luckily, neither Almas or Gargano want to take a loss as the biggest match of their NXT rebirth. So while they don’t hate each other (yet, anyway), they have ever reason to want - even need - a win here.
That should be enough.
That's our rundown of what should be a fun night of pro wrestling... however it measures up to the events which preceded it. Check out our predictions post from earlier for lots of opinions on how the action might unfold.
Will The Glorious Era continue, or is McIntyre’s destiny to end it? Is this the last NXT appearance for Asuka? Will someone get their head kicked off in the Itami/Black match?
Let us know what you think about those questions or anything on the Brooklyn III card below!