Courtesy of WWE Home Video, Matthew Roberts takes a look at the Best of NXT TakeOver 2018.
Whilst there were only five NXT Takeover events held in 2018 (which, despite the clamour for more, strikes me as an ideal number) there were certainly enough great matches over those events to warrant this Best of NXT Takeover 2018 two disc set. Indeed, even with eleven matches on this set I am sure that there will be some disappointed over certain exclusions. Few should be disappointed, though, with what makes it onto the set.
As you’d expect we kick off with January’s Takeover Philadelphia and they certainly pick a couple of absolute stormers for us. First up is the Extreme Rules match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole; although it’s a little slow to get going the crowd are into absolutely everything anyway so it doesn’t really matter. Chairs and kendo sticks are worked in amongst the usual top notch action and striking and although the match featured run-in’s from the rest of the Unidsputed Era and Sanity members they were add-on’s that actually helped the match for once (and made sense within the stipulation of the bout). As great as that was, however, it could not hold a candle to that evening’s main event between Andrade Almas and Johnny Gargano. Whilst it’s early in the year status meant that it was missed off a lot of “best of 2018” lists that I saw I didn’t see a better match at any point last year than this one. The in-ring action was as great as you would expect from these two, but everything came together in this one. Almas, who had really hit his straps with Zelina Vega accompanying him, was a perfect heel. Gargano was an ideal babyface who fans were willing on to victory. The action, the drama, the storytelling all melded perfectly. Even now, watching it knowing what is coming, this remains an absolutely outstanding match.
Only one match makes the cut from Takeover New Orleans; some will say that the Unsanctioned Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa match should have been here, although at 35+ minutes I personally thought it was a little too long. Regardless of that, there is no doubt that the Ladder Match for the North American Title that pits Adam Cole, EC3, Killian Dane, Lars Sullivan, Velveteen Dream and Ricochet against each other deserves it’s place here. In a lot of ways this was a perfect look at what NXT should be. It had monsters (and let’s face it, despite what happens to some NXT call up’s if this is a development group for the main roster then it’s should have some focus on the big guys), high flyers, great characters and even a returning “name”. All put their bodies on the line in the usual array of insane high spots and stunts and for some this would have been the undoubted highlight of the whole Mania weekend.
June’s Takeover Chicago II bring us two matches. Ricochet’s match with Velveteen Dream is another match that melds high-octane action with good old fashioned storytelling. Dream wants to show that he is not just the equal of Ricochet but can do anything his opponent can do better. In the end that desperation gets the better of him and ends up costing him the match. It’s so good though that it’s one of those matches where both winner and “loser” come out enhanced. We do get the Ciampa/Gargano match from this show here. If you ignore that a couple of months after meeting in an Unsanctioned match the two are battling in a Street Fight then it’s certainly another fantastic effort from the pair. The fans are into absolutely everything again and whilst I again think that at 35+ minutes again this is a little too long, it’s an emotional classic that I prefer, just, to the Unsanctioned match.
August’s Takeover Brooklyn IV gets two matches as well. Whilst the teams of Moustache Mountain and The Undisputed Era probably have had better matches outside of the Takeover events this was still a very good tag team match. It’s harked back to their previous encounters (and I’m all for matches that reward fans who take notice of things over the long haul) and had a lot of heat. In a change of pace the only and only women’s match to make the cut is here next as Kairi Sane battles Shayna Baszler for the Women’s Title. Long time readers will know my love for Kairi and the storyline of the bullying champion not thinking Sane had the killer instinct to take the title only to be proved very wrong was perfect for her. But credit has to go to Baszler too; as a heel she was really starting to hit her straps around now and played a full part in a very good match.
Takeover War Games II is the only show to get three matches on this set. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa finally get new Takeover opponents too! Garagano’s clash with Aleister Black shows that for all Johnny Wrestling’s obvious talents as a babyface he can also play the “heel” role as well as a heated and dramatic match kept fans interest from start to finish. Ciampa’s match with Velveteen Dream is even better; whilst few going in would have expected a title change the two were able to assemble a match that made it seem a possibility that Dream could win…and naturally the fans were firmly behind him in his quest. It’s also nice to see Ciampa in a “non-gimmicked” match at a Takeover if nothing else. Things wrap up with the War Games encounter. At over three quarters of an hour this is definitely a match for me that would have benefited from a “less is more” approach. It would be churlish to admonish wrestlers for “trying too hard” but there was definitely a feeling of that. Still, again, you could not complain about the effort.
With this compilation only being drawn from five shows (and with NXT Takeover’s being known for being carefully put together with virtually no filler) there was always going to be some repetition/some familiar faces continually popping up in the match listing. But there is no arguing with the quality of action on display. If for some reason you don’t know about/haven’t seen NXT this is a perfect way to introduce yourself to it. If you are already on board, just enjoy revisiting the top notch action.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Best of NXT Takeover 2018 which is out on DVD and BluRay 18 March 2019. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking https://www.wwedvd.co.uk/best-takeover-2018-order-p-12666.html