Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Best Coast Bias: 101 Headaches

THIS fucking guy, redux
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Results, stray thoughts, and takeaways from the first Takeover of 2018 served (appropriately enough) Holzerman style just as soon as I chip in  for Adam Cole's copay, BAY BAY...

  • Bobby Fish and Kyle O' Reilly beat the Authors of Pain to retain the NXT World Tag Team Championships with a flash roll-up
  • Velveteen Dream pinned Kassius Ohno after the Purple Rainmaker elbow.
  • Ember Moon countered an armbar into a roll-up to pin Shayna Baszler to retain the NXT Women's World Championship but got choked out twice for it post match.
  • Aleister Black pinned Adam Cole (BAYBAY) in an extreme rules match after a Black Mass.
  • Andrade "Cien" Almas pinned Johnny Gargano with the hammerlock DDT in an instant classic to retain the NXT World Championship.  As seen above, Tomasso Ciampa popped up to slam his crutch into Gargano's back "after the credits." 
General Observations:
  • I know his shtick has worn thin for some, but Paul Heyman narrating the wide-ranging opening piece, covering everything from it being the unofficial start of WrestleMania season to ECW's history, as well as NXT's past and hyper-bright present, was another reminder that he could probably talk me into running for Grand Wizard of the Klan if somebody gave him the motivation to do so and 90 seconds or less to kill.
  • With Nigel out sick, it was left to Mauro and Percy to rock a two-man booth.  Even with my biases towards two-man booths, the commentary was really good and at times great.  More about this later. 
  • WWE and NXT may've decided to speed up pre-match introductions to try and tamp down the crowd's "ONE FALL!" singalong, but it didn't work here and probably didn't work Sunday, nor will it probably work for any of the big shows they put on.
  • Wrestlers playing their title belts like guitars to their themes has been amusing me for twenty plus years now.  So old.  So very old...
  • Interesting trope inversion to start off the show as the Authors jumped ExDragon before the bell and got a mixed reaction as a result.  
  • As part of the opening half of the match wherein the champions were handed their lunches, KOR seemed to take a Flair Flop off the apron to the floor.  
  • While XD had been landing some roundhouse kicks to the leg, it didn't pay off until Fish chop blocked Akam from the floor while the Author was on the apron.  At that point, the ROH alums stayed within a quick tag's reach of each other and continued to focus on the leg with their MMA-inspired offense.  That old axiom of their half of the ring went out of the playbook here; it was almost entirely in their corner. 
  • As a result, Rezar almost assuredly went down as the world's largest and most Albanian Ricky Morton.  His combination fallaway slam/Electric Chair drop was a great spot and not only a reminder that while black and yellow has benefitted greatly from seemingly absorbing every indie darling of recent note, some of their in-house products are elevating all of the time and barring malfeasance or bad luck should be delivering quality bouts like this for years or even decades to come.
  • It was great to hear Mauro doubt if Rezar should tag out given the abuse to Akam's leg.
  • Another AOP match where they used sheer power to throw one partner on another to break up a possibly match-ending submission hold.  This might've been the first anniversary (roughly) of that spot, come to think of it...
  • O'Reilly ranaing Akum into Rezar to clear the latter from the ring and roll up the former clean in the center made the champs look like a hybrid of lucky and brilliant while minting AOP in their first match as such as monster babyfaces.  It also feels given those parameters that they might be heading for greener pastures sooner rather than later.
  • In a completely unrelated note, Faces in the Crowd immediately after that match found War Machine.
  • During the pre-show, Velveteen said he'd KO KO1.0 in :30 or less.  In continuing that motif, he showed up in full neo-Rude airbrushed regalia with DREAM OVER in purple bold on the band of his faux boxing trucks and Float Like A Butterfly, Rise Like the Dream on the back of the legs.  He also acquired underlings, an attractive woman of color and a large burly shirtless man to hold the pillow from which his boss could pick up his purple mouthguard on the way to the ring.
  • Who boos Velveteen Dream at this point?  Who?  Who dare show their face?!  
  • That last point probably also explains why he hasn't been in front of the Full Sail crowd since the Takeover match with Black.
  • Ohno came out in Pittsburgh black and yellow since he probably figured out he wasn't going to get cheered anyways.
  • Dream pre-match shadowboxing in the corner was a nice aping of Ohno's own corner forearm tuneups we've seen him do before some matches.
  • As a result of Dream's promise, the Baron Corbin Memorial Countdown went up for the first time in a couple years and paid off :25 in when Dream landed a big right then proceeded to celebrate like an ATM exploded in front of him for longer than the match had gone on up to that point in a moment so hilariously great I didn't just rewatch it, I rerewatched it.
  • Since he forgot to do anything resembling a follow-up, Ohno eventually got to his feet and dusted Dream with a forearm so big it sent the mouthpiece flying.  Crowd was Not Amused by that.
  • Dream recovered in relatively short order and landed a spinebuster, tried posing and fell down but got a Vel Vet Een chant as a result anyhow.  If he can't stay in NXT forever I'm fine with the Artist Formerly Known As Patrick Clark staying for another 1,100 days or so (give or take a week).
  • Rick Rude hip swivel!  Drink!
  • For the second straight Takeover, he responded to the crowd chanting for him without going full babyface or even cool heel about it.  
  • That dice roll DDT — the DreamDT, for lack of a better name currently — looked awkward here, and that was exacerbated when Dream was trying to catch Ohno coming in with a jump and turn it into a counter with his rolling DVD in one fluid motion but failed.  Dream would sell the neck for the rest of the little bit of the match that remained as well as the post match, so hopefully that was just another example of his high level selling and not anything that would keep him on the shelf.
  • Ironically enough, after kicking out of a ripcord Rolling Elbow, he struggled with Ohno for a second before powering up into the rolling DVD, and the botch and the glitch made the successful effort look a bit more earned as a result. 
  • Swank Purple Rainmaker off of the ringpost that covered about 2/3rds of the ring, and, obviously, ended things.
  • Dream looked highly emotional after the match, maybe just because he's a gigantic wrestling nrd who just got to fight and beat Chris Hero in his biggest match to date. 
  • Faces In The Crowd found Maria Menounos, who is recovering nicely from cancer and apparently watched the whole Takeover show the night before she handled the announce duties for the first ever Women's Royal Rumble.
  • They showed Johnny in the back with his family as well as Candice, and since that shot's God's Production Team equivalent of the Kiss of Death you knew what was going down in the main.
  • Fired up Ember Moon might turn a room full of lukewarms into believers if she keeps promos short culminating in a "I'm going to beat your ass" or synonyms of that phrase, as well as yelling at Shayna pre-match multiple times and holding the belt up in her face multiple times.
  • The intensity she brought into the ring with her was briefly offset when in a hilarious moment she got booed for being from Dallas, because obviously, then got cheered when she was announced immediately after that.  I wasn't in love with the Dallas Sucks chant after the bell rang, but a) it didn't last too long and b) Dallas does fucking suck, and it's not that crowd's fault they do.
  • Moon landed a trioka of nice single-leg dropkicks to the temple early on, drawing some raves from the crowd.  For all the flack Illadelph's gotten over the years this crowd was pretty copacetic about booing the black hats and cheering the white ones.
  • I felt bad for typing "Moon got Dakota Kaied" but she did, even if Evie deserves better than to be even low-level Billy Gunned like that.  Mauro sold it after it happened like death, too.
  • For the next few minutes Baszler focused on the MMA holds and sprinkled in some cheating, allowing Mauro to point out that she was incorporating things in a wrestling ring that would be illegal in MMA.  Believe me, if that's the bullet point to hit, there isn't a better person to do it (especially to an MMA-apathetic person like me) than Ranallo.
  • Ember got out from under eventually and landed an Eclipse that effed up her arm even worse.
  • Booing the medical team is probably closer to a Philadelphia crowd's reaction that most people would expect going in.
  • After that killed a minute or so Baszler got in a cross armbreaker.  Moon got a gigantic reaction to getting her feet on the ropes, then Shayna tried to pull her away.  Moon literally used her free arm to grab the ropes, which worked until it didn't, and then was literally clawing at the Queen of Spades' body when she got the cross armbreaker back on and Percy immediately noted it on the broadcast.
  • Moon tried about five times to get out in different ways.  She'd roll but end up in a similar position somewhere else on the mat, she'd lock her arms together for brief periods only to have Shayna break that up, then crawled for the ropes with her legs and Baszler had to control that since it'd worked earlier.  
  • Ember went for another roll through attempt that didn't work, then out of nowhere got a flash stacked weight pinfall for 3.1 seconds that made the crowd roar.  They might as well have had a pre-match vignette where Bret Hart whispered in her ear on how to survive getting your ass beat for 95% of your title defense, and I mean that as a glowing compliment.  Seeing the match again with that context really elevated it for me.
  • Ember kept flashing between pain and joy as the medics came back to check on her and then help her to the back.  Shayna was agog then went from Surrender Cobra to "screw that, lets just really kill her this time" with the quickness.  Choke.  Pause.  Another choke.  It took a couple beats for Mauro to reach Disgusted Babyface Pro Graps Announcer and then he got it in there good. 
  • Astounded that Ember had enough to be in the Women's Rumble, and astounded that my astoundedness over NXT stars catching ass beatings Saturday night but being in a Rumble for more than a Sheamus and actually doing some things put her at #2 of people on this card.   
  • Faces In the Crowd has found Trevor Mann!  He may be known to some of you independent wrestling fans as "Ricochet"!  ...come on, y'all.  This should be one of the biggest layups in years.  Let the King be the King.
  • tfw you order $75 of pizza and wings and only the wings show up.  Having hosted a watch party, I knew a whole show rewatch was going to be in order, but yeah, it turns out the Sometimes We Forget the () Hut and their incompetence shot what should've been me watching my MOTN with a bunch of my friends in the kneecaps for a brief period.  Back to the show, shall we?
  • Literally the opening chord of "Root of all Evil" triggered a response that would confirm in case you were wondering that Philadelphia was in the matriarch fornicating edifice.
  • Apropos of nothing, we all came to a quick agreement about how masterful the pacing for Takeovers are, as we were ten minutes into the second hour with the card half over and an hour and change to go to fit this and Cien/Johnny III.
  • Cole did his usual entrance and checked to make sure Black wasn't going to lay him out three different times, and Aleister didn't look at him in the eyes on any of those occasions in perfect character notes for both men.
  • Let's all do one together, just for funsies and to get it out of the way, yeah?
  • Cole went for a chair seemingly within the opening 90 seconds to a non-plussed reaction from Black, who responded to being told he was about to be destroyed by dodging every attack, disarming Cole and grabbing the chair after Adam bailed...so he could sit in it himself.  It was that moment he chose to meet ACBB in the eyes.
  • Is that why he's been doing those mid-ring sitdowns this whole time?  Was he just waiting for somebody to bring him a chair?
  • Black dumped Cole in short order, then ran around and drilled him with a forearm so huge Ohno probably flinched in the back.  For the first but far from the last time on this evening, Adam Cole died.
  • Somehow Cole's JOYGASM~! face after Black ditched his kendo stick and offered to let Adam try his fare with his own didn't become a meme.  You disappoint me, Interwebbings.
  • One kendo stick shot to the gut as a counter to a quebrada got a Holy Shit chant.  That's how far WWE's come on that sort of thing and why selective violence, even toned down exponentially, can be great.
  • A slam off the top into a garbage can seemed to slice Cole's back open, and to add injury to injury Cole at a hard bicycle knee to punch his death ticket for the second time.
  • Black added a table next to the one Cole had put out early, so, you know, doomed.  Not just yet, but still.
  • Cole rebounded from this and hit his taunt in the corner, then died his third death as Black countered into a borderline atomic drop out of an Electric Chair to a ladder that wasn't even fully propped up in the corner and Adam took this squarely on his tailbone.  Upon landing he looked like a capital M.  The ensuing "Holy shit!" chant was well informed, and they probably didn't factor in the brief twitch sell he did for it once he sluiced into the mat.
  • Cole would go on to survive this, then after a few beats of getting the advantage with the help of a chair manage to superkick it into Black's temple when Aleister was on the top rope, who Nestea Plunged through the outside tables.
  • It was awesome clap clap clapclapclap.
  • Cole set up two chairs mid-ring, and to go back to the earlier point, drew oohs merely by spinning them both to make the backs touch each other.  Black's subsequent oshogorishi into that was not only a nice callback as to how this had begun on the road to this being an extreme rules match, but AC's fourth death.  And what a death it was; the act of thinking about it makes me cringe.
  • And shoutout to the You Deserve It chant it drew after everyone's stomach had settled.  Not content to live a full and happy life, Era's leader took a Knee Trembler into a chair which he adroitly blocked with his temple for Death Number Five.  How he had anything left in him to actually do things in the next night's Rumble...
  • My notes, verbatim: "Why, Adam?  Why you do this?"
  • Anyway, that could've ended it, but ExDragon came out to save their boy.  They Totally Eliminated him on the floor and dragged him around the ring to ostensibly put Black through the announce table but SAnitY came out for the save and Killian made sure to let Adam know he was going to hurt his squad before tope suicidaing everyone that wasn't in the match and put a button on the outside factors.
  • Cole went to try to put Black through the table, then ate a diving double knee driver while he was standing up that sent him through it and Black on the follow-through of it.
  • Seis Muertes ... como se dice Adam Cole en espaƱol? 
  • When they got back in the ring, Cole landed a superkick on the entering Black.  But he wanted that chair shot on Black too damn much and got Massed as a result.  Some replays made it look like Black caught him in the shoulder and it sounded great, on a couple of others it looked like he went around Cole's swinging arm and caught him in the back of the head and/or neck with it.  We'll split the difference and cap this at six and a half deaths.
  • Odds that Aleister spends his WrestleMania Eve taking the Big X from Cien have been taken off the board in Vegas.
  • One last Faces in the Crowd to reveal...ladies and gentlemen...E...C...III (named as such, too).
  • You can tell a show's damn good when a San Diegan's favorite moment somehow isn't the luchador mariachi band.  Just for bringing that to Philly with him, let alone rocking a tricolor Sombra mask before ditching it (the band was wearing the black variants) and nodding to a fan who was waving the Mexican flag over the barrier by the entrance Cien ensured at least a year's worth of my goodwill.
  • Percy responding to this by saying he was doing this for the culture was a great moment.  I half expected Mauro to say he was trying to take a hot line that he'd already rightfully stolen.
  • Fans around the ring and in the camera side row had small but noticeable Johnny Winkface signs in support of Mr. Gargano and in an echo of Asuka's Toronto match where many got those sweet Empress of Tomorrow masks.
  • There were a few stalemates on the mat early, culminating in both men going for their finisher twice in the opening five minutes and failing, but every break drawing respectful applause from the crowd as well as highlighting the fact that they'd done their homework from their first two matchups.
  • Things escalated further when Cien countered a counter by going for an Asai moonsault, but at least landing on his feet, whereas when Johnny tried to follow up with a cannonball off of the apron he whiffed and went splat into the floor real nice right in front of the wife.
  • There are a very small handful of people who sell as well as Johnathon Grapples.  I don't think I'd put anyone even in that rarefied air ahead of what he did in this match.  
  • Cien did the rolling moonsault for the first time in a long time, and it looked as crisp as ever.
  • Very cool moment in Act II where they both clotheslined each other at the same time, then did it again with the other arm, then slapped each other in the jaw and hit the mat.
  • Cien went for the rope-hung 100 Headaches and had it countered (with Mauro immediately noting it was how he won the belt), drilled the Knees Express then whiffed an immediate follow up but managed to counter another Superman spear with a couple of blows and a tornado inverted DDT for a hot nearfall.
  • Again, Philly was Here For This.
  • The slingshot DDT from the ring to the apron didn't look crisp, but it also didn't look like it unnecessarily took three years off of Andrade's life, either.
  • Johnny looked to finish with his basement superkick, but a la Brooklyn Zerlina held his leg long enough for Cien to charge in with a dropkick; this time, Johnny came back with a small package.  He then faked a superkick to give him an opening to stick one in the champ's gut to then set up that superkick for another hot nearfall.
  • This match was also Very Good.
  • Cien double stomped Johnny into the apron in front of Candice as safely but as awesomely as he could do given the circumstances, which was much appreciated by myself and a multitude of other nerds.  Cien upped the ante by throwing him into the LED ringside, then slammed Johnny back of the head first three times in ten seconds, maybe less.  
  • Did Ricky Steamboat teach Johnny and only Johnny how to sell?  Seriously.  His comeback after another hot nearfall starting with some weak lefts on his knees culminating in a superkick - rewind rana - Escape trifecta would be the chef's kiss moment if there still wasn't so much more to come.
  • Zerlina saved her man by grabbing his hand before he could tap, drawing Drake's ire and just enough of a window for Cien to rake his eyes.  The crowd was Not Pleased.
  • Johnny essentially shrugged it off and landed an enzui tope, so Zerlina once again interjected herself by leaping off the apron with a rana to send him into the steps after the already in the ring Cien's decaying corpse drew Drake to mirror the spot the two of them had just done.  The crowd was disgusted, and in a great moment Mauro was so sad he was barely angry as Cien set up and delivered 100 Headaches.
  • It was a better moment when Johnny kicked out at 2.99999999 and the pop that ensued caused joyous temporary deafness.
  • Johnny rolled to the floor and Zerlina jumped down from the apron.  It looked like she did so to further her attacks and/or maybe just get Cien straight up DQed, but it turned out to be the moment where Candice jumped the rail and wrecked her shit before chasing her into the crowd.
  • The Thank You, Candice! had just enough time to be loud and also die down before Johnny came back with a slingshot DDT and then the Escape when the champ kicked out of that.
  • At this point given the way the match had played out and escalated, there was a man on everyone's mind.  He didn't show up here in a Cluesque red herring, but he was probably limping his way through backstage so Cien had to save himself and did by eventually getting enough scooch to hook his feet into the bottom rope, deflating the crowd masterfully and deflating their TAP!  TAP!  TAP! chants.
  • Mauro was so astounded he got quiet in the opposite way as a straight up fan, so in love with the moment (rightfully so) he used their laying out interval to say how glad he was to share it with Percy and wished Nigel could've shared in it with them.  Again, to certain people his shtick has worn thin.  If you'd like me to check your esophagus with a speeding fist, however, come at him as a human being to me and I'll give it a free checkup.
  • Back on the apron somehow, Cien shoved Johnny backfirst into the post, which Johnny sold like 1.45 of Adam Cole's deaths and then came barrelling down in close to the half hour mark with another Knees Express which either legitimately shook the ring or damn near looked like it.  It wasn't like this was the Johnny Gargano Carries Some Rando show the entire time this went down, further proved by Cien falling into the ring between the bottom and middle ropes after he landed it.
  • Drake checked on Johnny, and Mauro wondered if things were getting to the point where we'd have to save Johnny from himself.  Cien sold his hurt arm, grabbed Gargano's limp body, and snuffed out the match and everybody's hope with the cleaner version of the rope-hung 100 Headaches that he'd used to take the belt off McIntyre in Brooklyn.
  • Everybody knew that was that, and great production decision to show the pinfall from the side of the ring in front of the announce table facing the ramp so you could see everybody in ringside counting it down and then being gutted once that happened.
  • I hope the little kid being held by his dad who did so and then punched the barrier once in perfect "aw, nuts!" frustration sticks around.  Pro graps is worth it if you can get those moments.  You may want to stick to Takeovers, but that's a seminal moment in any adult fan's life: the first moment where wrestling was great and the hero didn't win, but you got past your heartache and grief and stuck around in the hopes of the D-Bry at 30 moment (or whatever your equivalent is, there's more than enough awesome pro graps to go around).
  • (Nearly) goes without saying that the semi-main and the main are worth your $10 a month on their own, what certain Cagey veterans call instant classics.
  • Zerlina managed to come back to help her man celebrate before clearing the area, as they celebrated at the ramp's apex while Candice returned to the ring to check on her man.  The Garganos got a standing O as in a nice quiet moment for gender equality especially given the weekend it happened Candice helped her husband up the ramp.  Drake checked on him briefly and bailed.
  • To the person in the truck who rolls the credits box when you see Johnny facing the crowd after he loses a Takeover main event: are you incompetent, or are you evil?  Is it you, Tomasso?  It's you, isn't it?
  • I mean this a very, very small amount just because I'm emotionally invested like that little boy who punched the barrier was/is: WHY DON'T YOU GO BACK TO WISCONSIN AND VOTE FOR PAUL RYAN AGAIN, YOU GRIZZLED JEALOUS-ASS FUCKFACE!?
  • In my 40's and still able to lose myself in a pro wrestling storyline.  It's pretty nice, I'm not going to lie.  And the asshole chant that followed it for the next couple minutes means I wasn't alone in that.  Candice got in a protective stance, Drake came back out, but they turned out to be fine.  All they got in response was a blank faced stare followed by a limp to the back and a bent crutch dragging across the set.
  • Really liked being able to hear Candice say "Your back's bleeding." as the only thing after the credits came up for good and the Network feed had gone to black.

    Match of the Night: Aleister Black v. Adam Cole, extreme rules - "Wait, not the main event?  Really?" is a very justifiable reaction to have.

    In agonizing (relatively) over this decision, I came down to a pair of factors — a personal bias towards one on one title matches that resolve cleanly above almost all else, even and sometimes especially weapons matches, as well as the fact that due to their meeting twice already in show stealers I knew barring some day-of flu Cien y Juan were going to kick out the jams under the brightest light NXT would put on in January 2018.

    Cole and Black hadn't hooked it up in NXT before, and as it turns out, their meeting not only surpassed already high (if not main event) expectations.  The violence wasn't just on display for the sake of having a display of violence, but escalated in sometimes cringeworthy ways that further burnished their resumes and proved doing those selective vulgar displays would not only be An Event but that when they were great they would be the sort of automatic instant replay Goldberg machine that a fan thought often about favorably long after the three count had been registered.

    In three decades of viewership, I doubt anyone has ever had me had the reaction of being so astounded/horrified/amazed that my reactions went in a snap to the desired markout to the almost soulless "Why, Adam?  Why you do this?"  And it wasn't as if the spot that caused that reaction was the match ender, or involved some of the usual suspects like flaming tables, thumbtacks, or barbed wire. It was the karmic payback for his being the weaselly surviving winner for WarGames and the man who cost Aleister his possible tag title win and then some more without falling on him like a set of chairs from the ceiling or blowing a 2 on 1 lead in the final five minutes of a match or any other of the myriad cringeworthy Cena sins you could list off here.  Black FUed his BAR up, yes, but it was barely used with weapons.  In fact, the escalating nature made it worse in ways.  Cole took a forearm shot I wouldn't take without needing dentures, and that wasn't just the first RIP moment but the "gentlest" one in store for him.

    Here are my feelings about pretty much taking a ladder right up the tailpipe: don't.

    Here are my feelings about looking like Homer Simpson over a fire hydrant due to another move in short order after pretty much taking a ladder right up the tailpipe: DON'T!

    Here are my feelings about following up those two moments by blocking a running knee strike with your face and a chair:






    At that point you just throw up your hands when they subsequently take a Meteora through an announce table.  It also phrased the WarGames win and added versimillitude to his victory; his cowardice is selective — or smart, smart!, look how smart! — and his toughness, so far as the rest of his time with championship-level wrestling from Florida should never be in question again.  He took the beating of three men from the resident almost silent assassin with question marks on his resume where others have Ls, and he did so again and again and again.

    He may never be the most celebrated former indy darling to ever come down Full Sail's way, but he showed himself off to be the latest iteration of something that is one of the building blocks of the graps — the talented heel who just isn't as good as the good guy, shows off his sneer and fear, and then when the rubber meets the road undoubtedly and unquestionably takes a beating that fills every schadenfreudian fiber of our beings.

    On another bright night for NXT, his comeuppance shone brightest.  That and his willingness to die multiple times for his sins.

    Let's Go Home: It was a damn fine weekend to be a wrestling fan; not just down with the black and yellow but WWE, and internationally.

    In Japan, Kota & Kenny taught us all how to love again.

    The night after this show saw two former bright lights of Japanese wrestling win Stamford's Royal Rumbles and do so while marking a bright line with them as the future and some bigger and more well-treated names as revered but centered stars as the firmament of the past.

    For this Takeover, that theme wasn't really in evidence anywhere besides the Dream/Ohno match, the "worst" on the card, nor did it need to be.  By the end of it, it seemed they had burnt through a couple of ridiculously good main events and put two bigger one in motion in the process after a superlative final 80 minutes.

    Johnny/Ciampa has been simmering very quietly for nearly eight months; this coda brought the water back over the edge.  Johnny has never been more beloved than he is right now, and by waiting until after he'd already spent everything and failed in his title attempt to knife, well, crutch his former partner in the back, Tomasso once again proved himself to be the photo negative of the beloved Clevelander.  His reappearance suggests even with the knee brace that he's closer to an in-ring return than not.  NXT, for all its great history, has never had the long-term one on one rivalry that weaves like a throughline and spans years.  The opportunity for that to play out here with two top talents augers well for the future.

    Speaking of two top talents and the future, their wins tonight probably are the beginning salvos in pointing us towards Cien v. Black.  Cien's NXtenure was completely defibrillated by attaching him to Zerlina and having him start to show off everything everyone who was a fan of him as a luchadore was hoping he would bring with him when he was first signed.  He may not be fully Ingobernable; he may even be better than that now.  And with 100 Headaches racking up TV wins and the rope-hung variant busted out during Takeovers winning him titles and icing probably the biggest white hat since Sami skanked down the Full Sail ramp, he's in a position better than ever as further evidence by not only his entry into but long Royal Rumble win.

    Enter Black, who's continued to elevate and with his last two Takeover victories has continued fleshing out his character.  His victorious feud with Dream showed off a sly sense of humor; his victorious feud now over Cole a sense of vengeance and a willingness not to be above weaponry but showing how unnecessary it is when you hit someone as hard as your strikes do and your finisher looks like a concussion lawsuit waiting to happen.   If and when they're drawn together in pursuit of the Big X, it should set off a July 4th level of fireworks.

    After all, the turns for Ricochet and EC3 are already being warmed up.

    For the tag team division, it looks like while the Authors are now in ExDragon's rearview, the other former champions of SAnitY aren't done with them just yet, and akin to Mr. Mann and Mr. Bateman starting to head to the on-deck circle in the singles division that the former ROH Tag Team Champions are looking to replicate the current titleholders' success down Florida way and feed them to the Machine.

    Shayna Baszler getting reviled after her match also sounded like a first step on the way to a rematch with a backstory to be extended rather than be garnered out of full cloth.  While it's possible that Ember perpetually ends up the Holmes to Asuka's Ali, it's not like her recent work went without notice, and her win in the moment was the sort of thing that suggests at what a future Johnny Gargano win might play out in front of the faithful; that archtype of takin' a lickin' and keepin' on tickin', to throw four shots for every six received.  If she keeps garnering the reactions she got last week after her taped promo from Center Stage or like she received in front of the live Philadelphia crowd, it'll be all that much better/worse when/if Shayna ends up murking her but also walking away with the title in the process.

    It's a new year.

    But you get the same old dependably kick-ass Takeover, the fastest two and a half hours in professional wrestling.

    Start girding your loins for WrestleMania weekend now and save yourself the trouble.