There were a lot of shows this weekend. On top of the usual main three, we had the three cards from the NJPW’s Best of Super Juniors & World Tag League tour, the AAA TripleMania Regia, the NWA’s Hard Times 2 pay-per-view, and NXT 2.0’s WarGames.
I didn’t get time to watch everything. I made a business decision to watch Part Two of the eight-hour Get Back odyssey on Disney+ and check out the top stuff from the NWA and AAA cards, but I managed to see the whole WarGames show because I’m a sadomasochist.
Favorite match of the weekend?
From everything I saw, it’s hard to look past the FTR vs. PAC and Penta match from AEW Rampage on Friday night. It was a fairly safe bet that this would be great. FTR are the best tag team in wrestling, PAC is incredible and Penta is very good (although a little overrated).
This big interconnected feud around Death Triangle, the Pinnacle, Andrade El Idolo, Malakai Black, and Cody Rhodes has been fun if a little hard to follow. I don’t know what exactly the endgame is. One possible great payoff I can see is Cody being a full-fledged heel with Brandi as the manager. A year ago, I probably would have loved to see Cody lead a group with FTR and Shawn Spears, but MJF is in that spot with the Pinnacle and it doesn’t make sense to have Cody and MJF in the same group when it’s MJF’s fault that Cody can never again challenge for the AEW World title.
Could Matt Cardona give NWA a serious buzz?
The National Wrestling Alliance is an interesting promotion. There’s plenty to like and almost as much to dislike. There are a lot of ’07 Monday Night Raw wrestlers there: Trevor Murdoch, NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion; JTG, Melina,;Chris Adonis, the NWA National Champion; Mickie James; Da Pope; and Mike Knox. There’s a great amount of talent in just that collection, especially looking at a guy like JTG, I don’t know how he isn’t their World Champion.
Then there’s Tyrus.
On the topic of that title, it looks to me like Matt Cardona is going to be their next champion. When he was Zack Ryder, he was one of the most over wrestlers in WWE in 2011–12, but if the Fed doesn’t want you to get over they’ll do everything they can to kill your momentum (of course there are exceptions to this rule like Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston).
Cardona has prospered since his WWE release in 2020. He became a vilified figure to the GCW audience when he won their world title and has used that to remain relevant. At the very least I’m super intrigued by the move and very much look forward to Powerrr this week.
WTF was going on at TripleMania Regia?
Granted, I only watched two matches which is a small sample size, but this show just felt chaotic, especially from a production standpoint. The two things that stuck out to me were the commentary booth sounding like they’re not calling TripleMania, rather the Masters and the erratic camera cuts. I’m aware that this show had a number of sponsors who were presented on the Tron, but I think there could’ve been a less seizure-inducing way to satisfy those advertising their business on your program.
I loved FTR getting the heat that they got there in Mexico against the Lucha Brothers, really hamming up the gross patriotism. I really wish it wasn’t a ladder match just because we see those too much and FTR are so much better in a straight wrestling match.
What did I learn from NXT WarGames?
One of the things I learned is that even if this show was a TakeOver, I’d say it doesn’t deserve to be called TakeOver. Although there was some very good wrestling on this show, it’s just nothing like what these types of shows used to be back in 2015–19. Andrew Bernard once said that he wished there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them.
In this near half-decade, there wasn’t a TakeOver event that was less than very good. It was a sure thing that these quarterly two-and-a-half-hour cards would leave you wanting more. It was all protein and minimal carbs, all killer and barely any filler.
Something that could be misconstrued in all this is the when of “When was NXT’s downfall?” It wasn’t with the birth of 2.0. The downfall, to me, started with the pandemic. The last great NXT moment on television was Rhea Ripley winning the NXT title, and the last great card was TakeOver: Portland. This was weeks before the pandemic was full-tilt, a show with Adam Cole and Tommaso Ciampa in the main event and a show-stealing Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Bálor on the undercard.
As the weeks go by this show resembles its old iteration less and less. It felt like every couple of months a new indy darling would sign, have an awesome debut match on Takeover and take the picture with Triple H. What we now have is a two-hour hodgepodge of new (and mostly out of touch) ideas that more resemble WWF Superstars of yesteryear rather than the future of wrestling. If this is NXT 2.0, then the 2015–19 NXT was 4.0.
There are still remnants of what used to be but these slowly dissipate. Kyle O’Reilly is looking to be the next wrestler to get the #AllElite graphic with fans chanting “Thank you, Kyle” after his match, the same could be said (with less certainty) about Johnny Gargano. What’s interesting about these two especially, is that they’re synonymous with the glory of TakeOver. So many of them would open with a killer tag title match, often with O’Reilly and now-AEW’s Bobby Fish defending or vying for the belts. Gargano is quite literally Mr. Takeover when you look at his resume: multiple DIY vs Revival classics, the Tommaso Ciampa trilogy, the Adam Cole trilogy, and all other bangers in between.
My answer to this question quickly morphed into a love letter to what NXT used to be, so I guess the TLDR is this: I learned that the more I see of 2.0, the more I miss the good old days.