COOL POINTS: TakeOver: Performance Center
Welcome to the Cool Points. TakeOver: Tampa was originally scheduled for Saturday, April 4. When the quarantining and restriction of public events started to get rolled out in mid-March, TakeOver was one of the only casualties of WWE programming. Those matches got bumped to the weekly nXt show and spread out over the course of a few weeks.
After some viewing, reflection and research, I present to you the TakeOver: Performance Center card for your consideration. The card is comprised of matches and segments from April 1st to April 22nd, 4 shows’ worth. Matches originally scheduled for TakeOver: Tampa were automatically included. After that, it was a matter of looking at the highest profile feuds, and which matches and segments made sense to be placed on the card.
If this was 2015, I think nXt would’ve called it TakeOver: One Final Beat, but, alas, we’re on a location trend these days so the WWE PC gets the nod. After all, it is the current star of the company.
Let’s get to it. TakeOver: Performance Center
nXt North American Championship Triple Threat Match
Keith Lee (c) vs. Damian Priest vs. Dominik Dijakovic, April 1
This triple threat brings together old and new feuds between Dijakovic and Lee, and Dijakovic and Priest.
In 2018, Dijakovic and Lee had a series of matches that brought them a whole heap of good attention and acclaim from the nXt fans. It got them a spot on Ciampa’s WarGames team where they showed the chops needed to hang as top stars in the brand.
Cue newcomer Damian Priest who began fighting Dijakovic in January of this year. He injures Dijakovic following their match on February 26th, and then the two of them get involved in the post-match chaos of Lee’s North American Championship match against Cameron Grimes, March 11th.
Really like the picture in picture and stats on the wrestlers during the wrestler introductions. Gave the match a big fight feel. Phillips says this is the biggest championship match in nXt history.
Great power shown by Lee on the turnbuckle with Priest. Dijakovic gathers Lee on to his shoulders and Priest with the top rope kick, knocking everyone down.
Priest with a pretty cool springboard front flip kick on Dijakovic and Lee on the outside. Priest almost
Lee uses Priest as a battering ram and then powerbombs Priest on Dijakovic multiple times before a spearmint bomb on the ring mat. 2 count.
Dijakovic shows off his big air skills, nailing Lee with a twisting body splash. 2 count only.
Priest uses his retractable nightstick on Dijakovic but not on Lee. Lee capitalizes on that choice and pins to win.
Cool Points Clincher
2 cool points for Lee, for retaining the title, but this match showcased the talents of his opponents as much as his own. So 2 cool points for Dijakovic and Priest, too.
Priest is an interesting character. He got the old school booking treatment for a newcomer, going undefeated in his first 7-8 matches, but when he started getting some higher profile feuds, he took some losses against guys like Pete Dunne. This was to set up a #1 Contender’s match at TakeOver: WarGames, Priest’s first TakeOver showing.
The nightstick use solidifies him as a “baddie”, and after 2 losses in triple threats, you gotta figure he’ll want and get a big singles win soon to improve his W-L record.
nXt Women’s Division
Tegan Nox & Shotzi Blackheart vs. Dakota Kai & Rachel Gonzalez, April 22
Another feud that can be traced back to TakeOver: WarGames. Hey, that’s pretty decent. Multi-month feuds. It CAN be done and not be redundant. More on that in a moment.
Nox and Kai dissolve Team Kick when Kai beats up Nox in the WarGames holding cell during the first Women’s WarGames match in nXt history.
Since then, they’ve had 3 singles matches, 2 featuring stipulations like a steel cage and a street fight. Nox won the regular singles match, and that’s when Kai decided she needed backup. She enlisted Rachel Gonzalez’s help and that’s been the difference maker in their remaining matches.
How could Nox hope to get the upperhand? Cue Shotzi Blackheart, a highly hyped newcomer to the nXt roster. She made her allegiance known a few weeks ago, helping Nox defeat Gonzalez in singles action. Battle lines were drawn and that brings us the tag match.
Kai’s still got the knee brace on, as does Nox.
Blackheart and Gonzalez get time to shine during this tag match. Blackheart shows character with her yells after executing offense.
Sweet kick to side of the face by Nox on Gonzalez. Shortly thereafter, Gonzalez with the fallaway slam after catching Nox off the top.
A one arm power bomb by Gonzalez on Blackheart delivers her team the win.
Cool Points Clincher
1 cool point for Gonzalez. She looked strong in this match and got the majority of in-ring time, really playing up her role as Kai’s enforcer. Part of the reason why this match gets the TakeOver nod is because of its importance in establishing new faces in the Women’s Division.
By tagging along with more established stars and a serious feud, Gonzalez and Blackheart benefit from a bigger showcase match without needing to compete for the Women’s Championship. In the past, the Women’s Championship was just about the only way to get on a TakeOver. I like the recent progression towards including other Women’s Division feuds too, when it merits inclusion.
1 cool point for Blackheart who made her presence felt and also got most of the in-ring time for her team. That’s how you debut new wrestlers, folks. This feud ain’t over.
nXt Championship Picture
The Velveteen Dream Experience Interrupts Adam Cole’s Title Reign, April 22.
A Video recap from Apr 8 Adam Cole’s promo singles out Velveteen Dream as not being worthy of a title match, even though Dream beat Bobby Fish the week earlier.
With a Dream/Balor match on hold due to Balor being attacked before the show, commentators would speculate about who took Balor out. Back to ringside.
Velveteen Dream poses on the turnbuckle and calls out Balor for standing him up.
nXt Champion Adam Cole interrupts Dream and says this Dream/Balor match is supposed to be a #1 contender’s match. With Balor absent, Cole knows what’s happening here. Dream’s trying to sneak his way into a title match with Cole.
Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong attack Dream from behind. Cole joins them in the ring. nXt North American Champion Keith Lee rushes down the ramp to help out Dream and clears the Undisputed Era from the ring.
This segment would set up the Apr 22 main event as the post-TakeOver main event match. It would’ve been good to see Cole defend the nXt Championship, but there’s no indication of that being on the table once TakeOver: Tampa is cancelled. So an appearance from the champ, and the potential #1 contender, will have to be good enough.
nXt Women’s Division
Women’s #1 Contender’s Ladder Match, April 8
Once Rhea Ripley, nXt Women’s Champion was challenged by Charlotte Flair for a cross-brand Wrestlemania matchup, it was clear that a new #1 contender would be needed. nXt did what it does well and began the process early, holding qualifying matches in March for a #1 Contender’s Ladder Match to be held at TakeOver.
Competing in the six woman match, in order of qualification, were: nXt rookie Chelsea Green (Robert Stone Brand), Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae, and Dakota Kai (winner of the Second Chance Gauntlet).
What’s pretty beautiful about this matchup is how much history there is between the respective competitors, seeing the Shirai/LeRae and Nox/Kai feuds. Again, the match affords an opportunity for a new face, in Green, to get some TakeOver spotlight, and Yim, no stranger to TakeOver at this point, in an underdog type role.
First spotlight is Shirai/LeRae in ring. Double bulldog by Green interrupts that longstanding feud for a moment.
Second is between Nox and Kai. Nox gets the better of Kai, defends against Green who tried to shove a ladder into the ring. She’s the first to set up the ladder and reach for the suitcase.
Yim holds her ground on a ladder for a while but eventually gets pulled down. Armbreaker on LeRae, then a chairshot to the back from Green.
Cool spot where Gonzalez throws Shirai off the ladder. Shirai lands feet first on the top rope and springs off with a splash on to all her opponents.
Big spot with Yim powerbombing Gonzalez through a table from the top rope, with assistance from Nox’s push. Then, Kai sends Nox crashing from the ring to a ladder at ringside. Big sound, big pain.
Green has a clear go at the suitcase. Her manager, Robert Stone, climbs the ladder too and helps Green but to no avail.
Shirai chucks LeRae off on to a ladder set up in the corner and goes on to win the match.
Cool Points Clincher
Something to note here. Having the feud from the tag match boil over into this ladder match works, even though the matches were broadcast on different days. Blackheart is absent, but you can explain that by her receiving the pinfall defeat and big punishment from Gonzalez. Also, it extends the Yim feud with Yim powerbombing Gonzalez into the table to remove her from interfering further on Kai’s behalf.
1 cool point for Kai who continues to get the best of Nox. She may well be the most hated woman on the roster…aside from the new nXt Champion, Charlotte Flair.
1 cool point for Green in her TakeOver debut. She had a few moments here to shine and, with her manager, nearly took the win. No clear feud for her coming out of this one, but that just means she can choose her next target.
2 cool points for Shirai. She was far and away the best wrestler in this match, and her record and match highlights prove it. She’s 9-2 since last August and was featured in the Women’s WarGames match. You gotta figure she’ll be gunning for Flair at some point this year, and we’ll all benefit from how good a match that will be.
nXt Tag Team Championship Match
Broserweights (c) vs. Undisputed Era, April 15
The Undisputed Era are the tag team to beat in nXt. They are 3-time champs, and each reign has been at least 185 days.
In February, at TakeOver: Portland, Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne won the 2020 Dusty Classic. This afforded them a title shot against O’Reilly & Fish, and they were successful in winning.
Despite the fact that the Era already got a rematch, here we are with a TakeOver rematch between these teams. Two special notes, Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong are wrestling for the Undisputed Era. Pete Dunne is not here due to the covid-19 travel ban. Wrestling as his replacement is Timothy Thatcher. He was recently signed to nXt after a lengthy, championship run in EVOLVE.
Fish & Riddle start the match, and Riddle would’ve won on points if it was round-based fighting.
Thatcher gets his first work after the commercial break. Commentators talk him up as a globe-trotting wrestler and as EVOLVE champion. Nice work, Tom Phillips.
Beauty butterfly suplex by Thatcher, combined with a running kick to the chest of Strong for a 2 count. Early signs of tag team success with this new team.
Riddle hits 2 gutwrench suplexes in a row on Strong, then he and Thatcher hit a simultaneous one on both Era members.
Fish & Strong isolate Riddle for a few minutes, after Fish takes out Thatcher on the outside. Weird moment when they see Dexter Lumis staring them down from the shadows of the Performance Center.
Riddle gets beaten down by Fish, for some time. He manages to tag in Thatcher shortly after Fish tags in Strong.
Thatcher goes on a tear. Strikes, uppercuts and suplexes galore.
Thatcher overcomes the double team of Fish & Strong, and wins the match with a Fujiwara Armbar on Strong. He won’t dance with Riddle at the close though.
Cool Points Clincher
2 cool points for the Broserweights, version 2. With this third victory over the Undisputed Era, you gotta figure this feud is done and it’s time to move on to other competition. Only problem is…there isn’t much happening in the tag division. Lorcan & Burch would make for a good interim feud. Plenty of hard-hitting there while new tag teams are built up.
1 cool point for Fish & Strong. It wasn’t for a lack of trying that they lost. They still employed some trickery and isolation tactics, but the energy and execution wasn’t there like it usually is. Perhaps Lumis’ staredown threw them off? That could be an interesting direction to go after this match.
nXt Men’s Division: One Final Beat
Empty Arena Match: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano, April 8
This is a 3 year feud, stemming from a broken tag team partnership between these two best friends, better enemies. Their one-on-one feud carried through 3 TakeOver main event matches in 2018. They rejoined one another as friends and tag partners in mid 2019 and early 2020.
Then, at TakeOver: Portland, Gargano cost Ciampa a chance at his 2nd nXt Championship, allowing Adam Cole to
retain. Their brawling and verbal sparring has carried on since then, including a nasty brawl at the Performance Center on March 11th.
Triple H told the two men that this would be the final match and, to ensure there would be no distractions or obstacles preventing the men from finishing their feud, their stipulation would be an empty arena. How convenient.
In under 5 minutes, the two are already out exploring the arena floor, battling back and forth.
At the 14 minute mark, they make it to the parking lot.
Gargano pushes a portable case at Ciampa but Ciampa moves. He climbs up to the top of the WWE PC truck, and Gargano AND the referee went up there too. Ciampa tried to tap out Gargano but it didn’t happen. Back inside the Performance Centre, Gargano flies from the movable stand.
NO commentary during this empty arena match. Ciampa hits Gargano with the same move from TO: Toronto. 2 count only.
The crutch is in play, being used to choke out Ciampa by Gargano. Then Gargano hits him with it.
Gargano calls Ciampa a failure as a man, husband and father. Ciampa laughs.
TIDE TURNS. Ciampa lets loose with the crutch on Gargano.
MISSTEP: Ciampa knees the referee to the outside, instead of Gargano. Gargano seizes the moment and hits Ciampa with the crutch again. Ciampa falls to the outside in pain.
On the exposed wood of ring, a draping DDT by Ciampa on Gargano! The cover. No one is there to count.
Crutch is broken now. Ciampa holds a piece of it. Gargano superkicks him. Ciampa and Gargano cancel each other’s crutch hits out.
SURPRISE: Candice LeRae is here and she is in tears, seeing what each other have done. She cries at them to stop. Candice asks who Johnny is. Then, she asks Ciampa if he is happy. She kicks him in the balls and leaves the ring.
A few minutes go by as the two men slowly return to their feet, LeRae returns to kick Ciampa in the balls. We find out that Gargano had a cup on. Gargano Driver on the exposed wood for the win.
Cool Points Clincher
I’m dishing out 2 cool points to each man here, but this was an underwhelming finish to the feud. LeRae’s participation in the decision was alright, but it’s hard to believe an empty arena match was nXt’s #1 choice. They could have done a cage or cell match, or a last man standing match.
It’s strange seeing Gargano continue to own the villain side of his persona. Ciampa was so heavily invested in being booed, and, here he is a year later, all softened up and acknowledging Gargano is the better man. Props for the big jump, though, the same move he hit at WarGames.
Gargano should be the most hated guy on the roster now, but he’s more of a tweener. Like Cole and the Undisputed Era, he has people who have stuck with him whether he made good choices or not. This is a reflection on the stories in nXt at present, in which individuals are followed and cheered on a personal level more than a group level.
Not sure what’s next for Gargano, but Ciampa seems to be on a collision course with newcomer Karrion Kross.
Exercises like this one are good for pushing a little creative thinking and organizational skills, two good things to do during this time of quarantine. I encourage all of you to make your own nXt TakeOver: Performance Center card. Use my criteria or make up your own. Maybe you’ll go farther than that and make a Best of TakeOver playlist. If you do, please write about it in the comments or tweet me. I’d be happy to review it and chat with you about it.
I plan to write more regularly in the coming weeks. Not an easy time right now balancing work and home life, but we do what we can, one day at a time.
Sending good vibes your way.