NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV
August 18, 2018
Barclays Center
Brooklyn, New York

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers

  • Rich Kraetsch: Voices of Wrestling head honcho, co-host of the VOW Flagship podcast and still looking for a friend that has a boat. Subscribe to the new VOW Weekly Newsletter at voicesofwrestling.com/newsletter
  • Joe Lanza: Give Aaron Donald his money.
  • Jeff Martin: I’m not sure how this ended up being me and the bosses, but here we are. When not writing wrestling previews, I draw a webcomic about demons who work in an office in Hell. Open it in a new tab and continue to kill company time after you’re done this preview. http://bit.ly/HellInc

NXT Women’s Championship
Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Kairi Sane

Rich Kraetsch: I’m way into Baszler’s NXT run because like Brock Lesnar on the main roster, she feels different. Her match a few weeks ago against Candice LeRae was worked with an intensity you simply do not see elsewhere on NXT: male or female. She can end a match at any point and she never changes her focus, she wants to win, she wants to keep her title. Wrestling is simple, don’t complicate it. Kairi Sane is a worthy challenger and I’m far more interested in this defense than Nikki Cross or any other prior one Baszler has had. Sane has the caveat of beating Baszler before so there’s added weight to this. I’m having trouble getting a read on the match. In one breath, you don’t want Baszler to seem untouchable and a step above everyone other woman on the roster but then again, you kind of do? I’d prefer Baszler wins a back and forth match and continues on her run though admittedly I have trouble figuring out what would be next for her in that scenario. Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Joe Lanza: This match is running neck and neck with the tag title bout as my most anticipated of the night, and that statement carries some serious weight since the Undisputed Era/Mustache Mountain feud is the best bell to bell feud in the world this year. Baszler is one of my favorite wrestlers on Earth these days, for a lot of the reasons Rich already talked about. She’s different (particularly in the WWE environment), she’s nasty, she’s a tremendous heel, and most importantly, she’s credible. Sane means business (watch her utterly destroy Aaliyah on NXT this past week), and she possesses something nobody else on the roster can claim – a victory over Baszler. Baszler blows this fact off when it’s presented to her, but the key to this story is you just know that’s eating her alive, and more importantly, underneath all of that performative bravado, scaring her to death. Baszler is all about intimidation, and Sane is not intimidated. Prediction: Baszler, but this may be wishful thinking. I’m loving this run.

Jeff Martin: I’m not used to squash matches the week before the big show adding a substantial wrinkle to the match, but Kairi Sane’s performance against Aaliyah made Sane look like a fucking killer. Baszler has grown into one of the most consistently excellent week-to-week characters on the show – she doesn’t feel like a performer, she feels like a real person that you should be afraid of. The Nikki Cross feud felt thrown together to give her something to do on the last Takeover show, and the match reflected that. This bout, however, I fully expect to be excellent. I’m a big fan of the way they’ve been calling back to the Mae Young Classic and the nearly forgotten rematch. That’s all it takes to tie characters’ stories together, and make it seem like their time in NXT has been one continuous narrative instead of a series of semi-connected feuds – like a novel instead of a collection of short stories. I don’t think Baszler is going to approach Asuka’s level of dominance, and this feels like the first title defence in ages that she has a reasonable chance of losing. Perhaps Kairi Sane claims the title to add some gravitas to the second Mae Young Classic? Prediction: Kairi Sane

NXT North American Championship
Adam Cole © vs. Ricochet

Rich Kraetsch: It’s only a five match card so this isn’t as damning as it may seem but Cole vs. Ricochet is my least anticipated match of the night. There just, hasn’t been any discernible build. Ricochet cut a promo. Cole cut some shaky cam promos with music behind them and here we are. I finished watching the go-home show just a few minutes before writing this preview and couldn’t give you an elevator pitch on why this match is happening. I mentioned in the previous write up that wrestling can be simple and should be done simple but this is the other extreme. Cool, it’s Adam Cole and Ricochet but we need some more stakes here. We need something to sink our teeth into. I’ve been super disappointed by Ricochet thus far in NXT. I know he’ll still deliver in the ring but there definitely seems to be a lack of character progression with him and now given his absence over the last few weeks maybe a lack of confidence in him being able to effectively build matches. Prediction: Adam Cole

Joe Lanza: Unlike the Captain, I’ve been very impressed by Ricochet’s NXT run, and pleasantly surprised at his promos and character work. My biggest issue with this match is the dopey North American title, a championship very clearly created as a device to belt up Cole while not interfering in the Ciampa/Gargano arc. Cole’s character works best as a cocky heel champion, perfect for being chased by the babyface who wants to shut him up, so I get it, but once the current storyline cycles run their course, i’d prefer to see this thing merged with the mainline NXT title. There’s always the possibility that the North American title becomes the mainline title, with Triple H recently stating that he sees the Network shows as a defacto territory system, so it’s possible the NXT champion becomes a traveling one, defending the “World” title in NXT, NXT UK, 205 Live, and whatever other territories emerge in Paul’s real life EWR sim.

As far as the match goes, I’m confident Adam Cole will step up when the spotlight is on him. He’s smart dude and knows when it’s go time. I’m more concerned with Ricochet here, and his litany of top secret hush hush injuries that saw him pulled from house shows. At the end of the day, I expect this to deliver. Prediction: Cole. I think Ricochet is moving to the main roster.

Jeff Martin: What I like about this match is that, like the Baszler vs. Sane match, it incorporates the history between these characters instead of fabricating something that feels forced. Ricochet nearly won that ladder match, but Cole DID win the ladder match. Done. Now, like Rich said, that’s not enough to build the first North American Title match on a Takeover. Neither character has much to them. Ricochet is a far better speaker than I expected him to be, but he doesn’t have a well-developed personality – he’s just a guy who is very athletic and has compelling physical charisma. Cole is a pompous windbag, but despite the way he’s presented, he doesn’t feel important. There’s no depth beyond the surface level description of what his character is. As a result, the North American Title doesn’t feel like a prize worth fighting over. It feels like a prop that NXT created so Adam Cole wasn’t the only guy in his stable without something to hold during promos. Cole’s title run has been boring, so maybe a Ricochet win can energize the championship. Prediction: Ricochet.

Velveteen Dream vs. EC3

Rich Kraetsch: The exact opposite of Cole/Ricochet, this match has been built entirely on promos, charisma and words. And it’s been built well. I couldn’t imagine ever telling you I was anticipating Ethan Carter The Third and Velveteen Dream in a match together but here we are. Their war of words on the go-home NXT was a sight to be seen and made it obvious how head and shoulders above most of the roster these guys are on promos and charisma. The match, who knows. EC3 isn’t a super worker and Dream is someone who can rise to the occasion depending on his opponent. Dream won’t get carried here so it’ll be up to him to bring this up to “TakeOver” standards. I have my doubts he can do it but I’m willing to see. As far as a winner, I can’t pick it. I have a sneaking suspicion EC3 is main roster bound (and really what’s left for him to do in development?) so Dream is my pick. Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Joe Lanza: Very worried about this. While clearly noting the potential, I’m not as sold on Dream as others are, and EC3 isn’t exactly a superworker. My gut tells me they deliver, but i’d be stunned if it’s anything more than the worst match on the show. Prediction: Dream. EC3 is another guy who could be moving up.

Jeff Martin: I didn’t think that Dream and EC3’s issues in a throwaway tag match in the UK were going to result in one of the most entertaining feuds of this Takeover cycle, but these guys have been a ton of fun together. The vignette a few weeks ago where they met at a mansion and everything was shot with a soft focus around the edges was delightful. If these two lean on their charisma to keep the crowd invested, I think they can work around their in-ring weaknesses and avoid having a clunker. Dream is almost certainly destined for the NXT Title in the next year or two, and he’s also got far more to gain from further development, so unless EC3 is going to be sticking around for a bit and moving into a title picture, this is Dream’s match to win. Also, I don’t have an elegant way to work this in, but EC3 looks like a He-Man action figure wrapped in hot dog skin, and it rules. Prediction: Velveteen Dream

NXT Tag Team Championship
The Undisputed Era © vs. Moustache Mountain

Rich Kraetsch: If you haven’t watched The Undisputed Era vs. Moustache Mountain match from the July 11 NXT show, stop reading this (well, open a new tab) and watch it. I don’t think I’ve seen a better tag match this year or maybe ever. It’s that good. It’s that emotional. That impactful. I waited until this week to watch it despite recommendations from people who said I’d love it. Don’t be me. Watch it. This is arguably the best built feud on this TakeOver (depending on your feelings with Ciampa/Gargano) as these two have battled back and forth with most of the action happening in the ring. Whereas Ciampa and Gargano is all about melodrama, secret backstage actions and mind games, this feud is about the title. This feud is about who is the better team. Who wants to win. It’s the stuff I love about pro wrestling and a feud that would never happen on WWE main roster. This isn’t being bogged down by a ton of shit, it’s simple, easy, straightforward and man I can’t wait. I could see Moustache Mountain winning the titles back here but I’m also trying to figure out a build to War Games. Perhaps Undisputed Era using nefarious means to keep the titles necessitating a return to War Games between these two teams and units? Either way, I’m excited and this should, barring a catastrophes, be your match of the night. Prediction: The Undisputed Era

Joe Lanza: This is the best in ring feud in wrestling today, and the title switch that saw UE win the titles back was the best tag match of 2018, arguably the overall WWE match of the year, and a contender for the world wide match of the year. They have a very high bar to overcome, but these are the two best teams in the world today and im confident they will deliver huge. Prediction: Undisputed Era

Jeff Martin: The match where Undisputed Era won the titles back from Moustache Mountain is undoubtedly the best tag team match so far this year, and one of the best matches period. The level of drama never felt contrived – the emotional connection that Trent Seven made with that audience, and Tyler Bate’s concern for his mentor’s long term health were gripping. When was the last time a 5 star match occurred on WWE/NXT television? The Undisputed Era as a unit are the opposite of Adam Cole – all of their builds are intensely compelling, and built in the ring. I can’t wait for this match. If it even approaches the quality of their July 11th match, it’s going to be the runaway winner for best match of the entire weekend. Prediction: Undisputed Era

NXT Championship – Last Man Standing
Tommaso Ciampa © vs. Johnny Gargano

Rich Kraetsch: Two of my favorite wrestlers of all-time. Two guys I saw come up through the midwest. Two guys I’ve seen live dozens of times and always enjoyed. Garagano is among my Top 5 all-time. I’m over this though. I don’t want to see it again. The Johnny Emotional stuff is well done and Ciampa is generating legit heel heat in an era where it is so difficult but with all that said, I’m over this. Enough already. Circumstances forced this to be another one-on-one affair as opposed to the original intended three-way but that doesn’t matter. The story has been the same since NXT TakeOver: Chicago last May. Gargano wants to reach the top but Ciampa stops him. I should love this. I should be salivating to see this match but after three major TakeOver matches and countless weeks upon weeks of melodramatic promos, I’m just over it. It’s beat me down and I’m at a point where I’m begging for these guys to do something different. I have no doubts when it’s over I’ll appreciate the work and be glad I watched it but man, I’m having a hell of a time getting super excited about it. Worse yet, I don’t see Gargano winning either. Does that mean MORE of this or do these guys finally move on to new stories? Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Joe Lanza: Look, Last Man Standing is the dirt worst stip, and what we really have here is another variant of the No DQ stuff they’ve already done to death with these guys, and another excuse to get VIOLENT and DRAMATIC. All I want out of this is Gargano finally beating this guy and putting this all behind him, and Matt Riddle ruining his moment by choking him out while Stokely Hathaway jumps around pointing and laughing while his eyes bug out of his head. Ciampa moves up, Johnny Melodrama has something new to do, and Catch Point 2.0 is born. Prediction: Hopefully my silly fantasy booking

Jeff Martin: As an overall story, I love this. The blend of real emotion and cartoonish melodrama is just right, and the build segments on TV are always excellent. So what’s the problem? They’re going to have a third singles No DQ crowd brawling singles match. I loved the first Takeover match. The second match was made more compelling than it’s action by Johnny Gargano’s struggle against becoming what he hates, but was more or less the same match with a twist. Now, with a Last Man Standing match, we’ve got another No DQ weapons brawl on our hands, but with worse rules. It seemed clear that the intended triple threat match was going to end with Gargano’s hatred of Ciampa overwhelming him and causing him to do something that resulted in Ciampa being able to pin Black. That would lead into a final singles match that would end in Gargano winning the belt and the feud. Now we’ve got… another match that’s going to be like the last two, and Ciampa pretty much has to win it for the feud to continue. But even after everything I’ve just said… I’m kinda into that idea. It looks like the “who injured Alistair Black” story is going to be the core of the next build cycle, and I think there’s a lot of room for that to create entertaining weekly TV. If that separates Ciampa and Gargano a bit, I think it would really freshen up the feud so that the final match doesn’t have the sense of malaise surrounding it that this one does. Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa