WWE NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, HighlightsFebruary 14, 2021
WWE NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights
For the Superstars of NXT, anything but love was in the air February 14 at TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
With titles and Dusty Rhodes Classic trophies at stake, the men and women of WWE's black-and-gold brand spent the annual day of love unleashing weeks (months even) of frustration, anger and disdain on their opponents.
Who emerged victoriously from the night's jam-packed five-match card, what did it do for their momentum as WrestleMania approaches and what does it mean for the brand as a whole moving forward?
Find out now with this recap of the WWE Network presentation.
Women's Dusty Rhodes Classic Finals
History was made in the opening contest of TakeOver: Vengeance Day as Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon battled Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez to crown the very first women's Dusty Rhodes Classic winners.
Gonzalez dominated early and often, bowling over the babyfaces and establishing dominance. A tag to Kai, though, allowed Blackheart and Moon to seize the upper hand. They worked over the previously injured knee of the heel, cutting her off from her partner.
Kai finally created separation and tagged Gonzalez into the match. She tossed her opponents across the ring, even sending Blackheart crashing into the guardrail at ringside. Moon fended off the heels long enough for Shotzi to recover and join her for a hot babyface comeback sequence.
A tope suicida and springboard Code Red to Gonzalez earned the babyface a near-fall before Blackheart and Moon delivered a modified Doomsday Device to Kai on the floor. Captain Kota recovered, though, and broke up a submission attempt by Moon on Gonzalez, saving the match for the heels.
Gonzalez catapulted Moon onto the stage and then off it. Blackheart answered with a splash across the back of her larger opponent. Gonzalez recovered and flattened Blackheart before Kai joined in for a double pinfall for the win.
Kai and Gonzalez defeated Blackheart and Moon
This was a wild opener with some interesting psychology, to say the least.
Gonzalez was utterly dominant anytime she was involved, but in being so, Kai was essentially treated as the weak link of her team. While that would have been a major issue from a credibility perspective any other time, the fact that Kai recovered from the aforementioned Doomsday Device and saved Gonzalez from tapping out made up for it.
The mid-match portion in which Blackheart and Moon isolated Kai from her partner, cutting the ring off from her and working her knee, was a great bit of storytelling and something you don't typically see out of babyface booking.
They were smart, recognized the real threat to their winning and attempted to neutralize her. It did not work, and the result was Kai and Gonzalez ultimately ending their aspirations of winning.
A strong match to kick off the show, it flipped the script, took a risk on in-match storytelling and succeeded.
Kai and Gonzalez were the favorites from the moment the tournament was announced because of the recent booking of the latter, but this did just enough to keep things dramatic late while still delivering the predictable (and right) outcome.
NXT North American Championship Match: Kushida vs. Johnny Gargano
Kushida made it abundantly clear from the opening bell that he intended to target the left arm of NXT North American champion Johnny Gargano. He injured it and looked for his trademark Hoverboard Lock at every possible turn.
Sometimes to his detriment.
Gargano channeled "Johnny TakeOver,” reminding fans why he is arguably the best wrestler in the history of the event by countering, reversing and cutting his challenger off at every turn. When Kushida looked for the hold, the champion rocked him with a superkick. When The Time Splitter attempted a hammerlock suplex from the top rope, Gargano countered into a twisting suplex.
He applied Gargano Escape and nearly forced a submission, but Kushida fought out and kept his championship chances alive.
Late in the contest, Kushida applied the Hoverboard Lock in a dramatic spot. Gargano, always resourceful, fought his way to the ropes and then the arena floor. He sent Kushida into the barricade, again breaking his challenger's grasp.
As the fight spilled onto the entrance ramp, Kushida dropped him and then sprinted down the ramp and caught him with a kick to the arm. Gargano again showed off that trademark ring awareness, dropping his opponent head- and neck-first across the ropes. Consecutive One Final Beats by the champion earned him the hard-fought win.
Gargano defeated Kushida to retain the title
Gargano's ability to up his game no matter the opponent at these TakeOver shows, often delivering the best match on the card, is simply astonishing. Here, he took a relatively middling feud with Kushida and turned in a main event performance and the Japanese competitor's best match to date with the brand.
The counter-wrestling was extraordinary, and the story of Kushida constantly looking for his finisher, only to have it ultimately cost him in a split second, was a nice touch.
Gargano winning was the right call because The Way is a potential main event faction and killing its heat would be the wrong call. Kushida will recover, if only because he already had considerable credibility from his days in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He may even ultimately unseat Johnny Wrestling for the title.
For now, though, it was the wise decision to stick with what is working and let Gargano be the smarmy, sneaky, cowardly heel he has been excelling as of late.
Men's Dusty Rhodes Classic Finals
For the second consecutive year, The Grizzled Young Veterans appeared in the finals of the men's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. To make right the wrong of a year ago, they would have to defeat the red-hot newcomers, MSK.
Zack Gibson and James Drake isolated Nash Carter early in the match, cutting him off from Wes Lee. Using quick tags, they punished their opponent until Carter ducked a heel kick by Drake and finally made the hot tag to Lee, who sparked an energetic babyface comeback. Lee wiped out the opposition with a plancha over the ring post.
A running knee to the face by Gibson rocked Lee. Gibson delivered Helter Skelter, and Drake followed with a 450 splash, but the combo only kept the resilient babyface down for two. Carter re-entered the ring and delivered a standing shooting star press. Lee added a reverse rana to Drake.
The game of one-upmanship continued as Drake slid across the ring for a Doomsday Device on the arena floor to Lee. An assisted backstabber combo failed to put Carter away. MSK recovered and rocked the opposition with stereo superkicks before Lee finished with a springboard neckbreaker for the win.
MSK defeated Grizzled Young Veterans
This was tag team wrestling done right, between two teams with polar opposite styles that meshed perfectly here.
The Grizzled Young Veterans were fantastc, dictating the pace early and expertly cutting the ring off. MSK brought the frenetic pace and high-flying and forced the heels to step out of their comfort zone to combat it. They did, and as frustration set in on the part of Gibson and Drake, resilient Carter and Lee capitalized for the biggest win of their young careers.
Triple Threat Match for the NXT Women's Championship
Neither NXT women's champion Io Shirai nor challengers Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez were willing to wait for the introductions Sunday night. Instead, they took the fight to each other from the moment all three set foot in the ring.
Martinez established dominance, her 20-year journey to the top of women's wrestling fueling her. She stretched Storm until Shirai broke it up. The champion looked to capitalize on the punishment already dished by Martinez, applying an STF on Storm. Martinez broke that submission up and flattened the champion with a reverse suplex.
Martinez and Storm fought up top, the former bringing the Aussie down with a release German suplex. Still hanging in the proverbial Tree of Woe, Martinez ate a big double stomp to the chest from Shirai. The veteran competitor recovered and delivered a Death Valley Driver, ramming Shirai into the Plexiglass separating fans from the performers.
Martinex and Storm continued their brawl around the ringside area until Shirai launched herself off the scaffolding around the ring, wiping both competitors out on the floor. Martinez sent The Genius of the Sky into the ring steps and, back inside, rocked Storm with a barrage of knees.
Storm recovered and delivered her Storm Zero finisher but could only keep Martinez down for two. A diving headbutt followed, but before Storm could reap the reward, Shirai flew in from out of nowhere with a moonsault, covered Martinez and successfully retained her title.
Shirai defeated Martinez and Storm to retain
The third stellar match in a row.
Martinez starring as the centerpiece of the in-ring action really helped the overall quality of this one. She was the glue that held things together and the driving force behind the story. Her determination, desperation even, to pay off her two-decade journey made her the most tenacious competitor of the match.
Storm's resiliency allowed her to stick around and be in position to win before the uber-resourceful Shirai and her knack for soaring through the air spoiled her coronation.
The looks that painted the faces of the challengers suggested their championship chases are not over. Do not be surprised if we see a rematch of this one come WrestleMania weekend. If not sooner.
NXT Championship Match: Finn Balor vs. Pete Dunne
The Prince returned to the NXT stage once more Sunday to defend his world title as Finn Balor battled top contender "The Bruiserweight" Pete Dunne in a hotly anticipated main event.
Early grappling gave way to each competitor focusing his attention on a targeted part of his opponent's anatomy. Balor focused on the knee and neck, while Dunne targeted the jaw, fingers and shoulder of the NXT champion.
Balor trapped Dunne in an STF, looking for a submission win, when the challenger grabbed hold of his fingers and jammed them into the mat. His knee still smarting from the focused attack by Balor, Dunne stumbled across the ring but still managed to down Balor with a sit-out powerbomb for a close two-count.
Dunne stomped the shoulder and then the fingers before Balor answered with a shot to the knee. Balor delivered a shotgun dropkick and scaled the ropes for a Coup de Grace. Dunne caught The Prince coming off the ropes with a triangle choke.
He sapped the fight out of Balor with the hold, but the champion still managed to reach the ropes, forcing the break. Balor unresponsive, Dunne attempted to put his opponent away with the Bitter End. Balor countered into an attempted 1916. Dunne delivered more joint manipulation and then used Balor's own arm to perpetrate a low blow.
The Bruiserweight delivered a Bitter End, but Balor kicked out at two-and-three-quarters. A frustrated Dunne tried for a powerbomb, but Balor countered into a DDT. The champion removed Dunne's mouthpiece, rocked him with a low dropkick to the mouth and added the Coup de Grace. The 1916 finished him off and Balor retained.
After the match, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch attacked, leading to a three-on-one beatdown of the champion. Undisputed Era hit the ring, making the save. Kyle O'Reilly assured Balor he was cool with him, only for Adam Cole to shock them both with superkicks.
The former champion walked away, seemingly in disgust, leaving Roderick Strong to wonder what he just witnessed and what it means for the most dominant faction in company history.
Balor defeated Dunne to retain
This was an exercise in in-ring psychology and storytelling. Every spot had purpose; every counter, reversal, strike and hold meant something. The performers used logic, targeting body parts and working the narrative around them.
It was a physical battle, a punishing war and a reminder of how great of a wrestler Dunne is at just 27 years old and how extraordinary a talent Balor is. The excellence The Prince has shown since returning to NXT, reinvigorated and better than ever, is a testament to his drive and just how important a change of scenery from the main roster can be for talent.
The post-match antics, which included the beginning of the end for Undisputed Era by way of Cole's actions, propels their story forward and will force the individual members to pledge allegiance. It is exactly what that faction needs and gives Balor even more challengers to his throne.
A great match, an early contender for Match of the Year even, put an exclamation point on a phenomenal broadcast that all of the talent and management involved should be proud of. Hopefully, the brand can build on this momentum because it has a ton on its side coming out of Sunday's show.