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WWE NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III results, recap, reactions (Aug. 19, 2017): Hope you ready

Gonna open this review with a complaint, or at least a criticism, so to head off any misinterpretations or accusations of negativity... NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III was a great show with some brilliant wrestling and intriguing storytelling choices which should take the brand in interesting directions.

Okay, that out of the way... TakeOvers have a match order problem. Namely, when was the last time the main event was the best, or anyone’s favorite?

There are plenty of reasons to put something in that final spot, and both the Aug. 19 live event and the previous one had logical reasons for why the last thing on the card was the last thing on the card - a big angle which took place after the ultimate match ends. And in the case of May 20’s Chicago show, there’s an argument to be made that #DIY vs. Authors of Pain deserved that spot even without Tommaso Ciampa turning on Johnny Gargano.

But that hasn’t always been the case, and even with the debut of Adam Cole, I’m not sure having Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre finish us off was a great move. My attention waned after Asuka and Ember Moon wowed us for 20 minutes and the Empress of Tomorrow shockingly tapped her challenger. Judging by the fact it was the quietest Barclays Center got all night, I wasn’t alone.

It’s also weird that a brand which was so integral to WWE’s “Women’s Revolution” hasn’t had the ladies main event a show outside of Full Sail Live. This was a heck of a candidate for the honor, and the show of respect both wrestlers received after Asuka’s hand was raised would have been a nice closing moment, as well.

If the opening paragraph didn’t make it clear, this is a nit I’m picking here. Because I continue to be amazed by the consistent quality of NXT’s live specials, and would like to offer them, and you, something more than “hehe... that was cool”.

So that’s it - my constructive criticism is “figure out how to put the match of the night on last”.

Now, on with my one-man Beavis and Butthead impersonation.

Asuka defeated Ember Moon via submission to retain her NXT Women’s championship, and continue her record-breaking streak

No one is ready for Asuka. But Ember was really, really close.

Coming in to this one, I was among the many who thought this would finally be the changing of the guard. Interestingly, we got that in the other two divisions rather than this one. With the women, the Empress’ already 500+ day long reign will continue, her streak becoming the kind of record people debate whether it will be broken rather than when or who will break it.

They proved me wrong there, and that wasn’t the only way they did. I also thought Asuka hadn’t had a real standout TakeOver match, and that Moon hadn’t established a connection to the NXT Universe. Even if those were accurate positions heading into Brooklyn III, they aren’t any longer.

I’ve liked a lot of the champ’s outings, including here in 2016 against Bayley, but until her Last Woman Standing affair with Nikki Cross, there wasn’t a “must see” one - and that was pre-taped. Now this match, which managed to maintain a fast-pace throughout and still build to an even faster finish, a finish with believable nearfalls that amped up the tension and continued the story of their feud... this is Asuka’s signature TakeOver moment. From the crown she wore to the ring to the smile she threw at the Horsewomen sitting ringside, it was designed to be - and she held up her end of the bargain.

As did Ember, who matched her move-for-move, reaction-for-reaction. Fighting through the early arm work by the champ (which paid off in the Asuka Lock beating her in the end), Moon showed more character in this match than every word she’s said on WWE Network combined. With her comeback and finally connecting on the Eclipse, even folks who were chanting “Let’s Go Asuka” moments before were pulling for the challenger. It certainly showed in the post-match response, which felt like Ember was getting the farewell I and others thought the Japanese Superstar would be getting Saturday night.

This was much better than their already good Orlando match, mostly because of the emotion Moon brought to the contest and out of the fans. She gave this her all, and still came up short. Not because she’s not great, but because Asuka is Asuka.

WWE could call the champ up and have her pull double-duty a la Kevin Owens in 2015, but I think she’ll stay a little while longer and really put over the Mae Young Classic winner.

But what do I know? I was wrong about all of this, so maybe she never loses, or leaves NXT. This was already a big story, and now it’s even bigger. But I’m still interested, and her matches keep getting better, so long may she reign.

Drew McIntyre defeated Bobby Roode via pinfall following Claymore to become NXT champion, then was laid out by a debuting Adam Cole (with help from Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish)

Maybe Roode, whose Ric Flair meets Miz character work I adore, just isn’t a good fit for TakeOvers. That could be true of lots of Triple H’s top guys, though, and the style of match wrestlers like Bobby, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura work is a tough sell after an hour and a half of younger guys who’ve recently worked the independents.

Will McIntyre be the guy to change that? Based on what we got here, I don’t know that he is. We’ll have to see his first live match against someone other than Roode to be sure, I suppose. His Full Sail outings haven’t done much to convince me he’ll be stealing the show any time soon, however.

Perhaps these long epics, very reminiscent of the kind of “classic” Triple H likes to pull out for his own WrestleMania matches every year, are just relics of the past? I can’t point to anything in particular I disliked about this. Both men worked hard and sold well (how the Canadian took the closing Claymore being a real highlight). Roode’s targeting of McIntyre’s neck made sense and was consistently presented. Yet it failed to hook me in a way almost every other match on the card did.

The match itself may not have been a highlight, but the not-shocking-yet-still-exciting arrival of Cole ended the show on the right thematic note. NXT promoted Brooklyn III as a “homecoming”, but it felt more like a graduation for at least one half of every title match.

This new Ring of Honor (ROH) faction is the incoming class.

While Roode probably gets to put over Roderick Strong (along with some suspense about whether Roddy is allied with Cole and company) on his way out the door, the invading trio is immediately thrust into the title picture for the men’s belts. Not only does that present some fresh match-ups, but you have to wonder how the deep bench of guys who’ve been working toward title shots will react to these newcomers, and how General Manager William Regal will deal with those conflicts.

As a main event, it may have left me wanting. But as the foundation for more good-to-great weekly shows, it’s got me thirsty. In the final analysis, I’ll take it.

SAnitY defeated Authors of Pain to win the NXT tag team championship, then were attacked by Fish and O’Reilly

Alexander Wolfe is a G-D star. I’ve been singing his praises on Wednesday nights since Eric Young missed a taping and he established himself as the most interesting guy in SAnitY, but that was mostly based on microphone work, taking bumps and generally being odd. Here, he got to work the hot tag spot in a match which pretty much turned the faction of chaos babyface, and he was fantastic. Keep your eyes on him, not that you’ll be able to take them off him.

Of course, there’s competition for your attention in the group who now holds tag team gold, since Nikki Cross is there. It’s not as newsworthy, but she’s also a G-D star, and that she and the powers-that-be at NXT are willing to show it by letting her mix it up with the boys - as they did with the spot where Killian Dain used her and a table to help take out Akam - deserves praise.

And while I’m throwing around accolades... how good have the Authors of Pain become? They haven’t had a bad match since they had to work around the goofy Paul Ellering-in-a-shark-cage gimmick with TM-61, and we’re well past the point of just giving credit to their opponents. It’s worth pointing out again that Akam is 24 and Rezar is 23 and, wow, does the future look bright for these hosses.

That future could very well be on the main roster, too. Both Raw and SmackDown could use reinforcements in the tag scene. NXT’s bench isn’t deep, and if this was a turn for EY’s crew, it’s really babyface-heavy, but reDRagon is here, and that will keep the new champs busy for a while.

This match was so good I forgot Corey Graves joined the announce team to make a four-man booth (and a lot of Game of Thrones references).

Andrade “Cien” Almas defeated Johnny Gargano via pinfall following a hammerlock DDT, and a well-timed throw of a #DIY t-shirt by his associate, Zelina Vega

Here we have probably my favorite match of the night, but even on a relatively short 150 minute show (roughly 60% the planned duration of SummerSlam - not counting the Kickoff), it feels like a long time ago. Can’t wait to give myself a refresher, though.

What I don’t need any help remembering is that Gargano is one of the best babyfaces in the business. Even if you don’t like good guys or, his earnest presentation of one, you have to respect his commitment to the style, and especially his execution of comebacks. Johnny Wrestling’s responses to what happens to him are always worth watching, and occassionally heartbreaking, as was the case when he realized what Vega threw at him here. He looks to have gotten himself into the best shape of his life while he was off television, to boot.

Almas is a phenomenal wrestler, and that this storyline where Zelina tries to coach the tranquilo out of him seems to have rejuvenated his WWE career is one of the best things that’s happened in NXT this year... and it’s been a good year.

The ending didn’t feel cheap at all, instead managing to advance the storylines of all three performers involved. I’d welcome more matches between Gargano and Cien, but they can also continue on their separate ways from this point. The roster is deep, and their arcs broadly focused, enough that I won’t have a problem with almost any decision Creative makes for them.

Now to go and rewatch.

Aleister Black defeated Hideo Itami via pinfall following Black Mass

This one will also need a second viewing, but for a different reason. Coming in, this might have been the match I was most excited about. Now, it might be the one I was most disappointed by (partly because I didn’t expect the NXT title bout to steal the show).

Don’t get me wrong, this was a mean-spirited striking contest, and that means I dug it. But it probably should have been shorter. Once one guy is busted open in the early going in a match sold as a war between competitors who want to take each other apart, it’s hard to suspend disbelief for rest holds halfway through.

Black remains a star on the rise, from his entrance* to his demeanor to his violent victories.

As someone who’s been a Kenta fan for a long while, I’m officially concerned about Itami’s WWE run. There’s an element of sadness to watching him in one of these “war of attrition” type bouts, because I think he may be losing his real life battle with pro wrestling-inflicted attrition. Whatever the company perceives his ceiling as, it’s time to use him close to it. It could be they see mid-card NXT stepping stone as the role for him. There are worse fates, obviously, but it still bums me out to reflect on a match like this and think only one guy is on the way up.

* Not to give the production and music short-shrift, but I’m short on time and space. It worked better in some spots than it did in others, but major props to NXT for integrating the band into the show rather than interrupting the action for a song - a la the main roster’s handling of musical guests.

A final aside, Jim Ross was better here than he’s been anywhere other than WrestleMania 33’s main event, in my opinion, which gives me more hope for the women’s tournament.

It wasn’t perfect, and I do wonder if it might have gotten closer to the ideal show if it was ordered differently. But it was time well spent and as I usually write here... TakeOvers never disappoint.

Grade: A

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