KURT: Welcome one and all to a special edition of the NXT Spotlight here at TJR Wrestling! Today we are previewing the “Wrestlemania of NXT” as Triple H called it this week, Takeover: Brooklyn III. With me today is my partner in crime, the great Hank McAllen. Hank will be at Takeover live, so I’m really interested to get his take on this card from a live perspective. We have 5 matches per the norm for NXT, but I gotta say Hank, I’m really only fired up for 3 of the 5. I agree with Trips that this is the “Wrestlemania of NXT” as it’s the only venue they come back to on a yearly basis, plus the first Brooklyn show really put NXT on the map. However, I just don’t think this card lives up to its predecessors. What say you? And also as a whole, what are you most excited to see live?

HANK: First of all, thanks for asking me to take part in this Kurt. While the sizzle may not be as hot for this year’s show as last year’s, I still think we have some very good matches for Saturday night. There are a few things I am really looking forward to at Takeover. First and foremost, seeing the Glorious entrance of Bobby Roode, exactly one year after it made it’s debut. Since the show is in New York City the crowd, which is usually heel oriented should be hot and be even more over for the entrance than they were last year. I’m very anxious to see how Drew McIntyre is received by the crowd. It’s his first Takeover since coming back and I hope he gets the pop he deserves.

All of the matches are intriguing to me. I am concerned though that the lack of many “BIG” names may hurt the crowd response. Remember last year you had Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamure, Bayley, Austin Aries, The Revival and Team DIY all on the card, none of which are back this year, except Gargano in a singles match. With that in mind though the NXT audience is a different one than the main roster WWE crowd in that it is more of a wrestling-centric as opposed to the more sports entertainment WWE main roster fan base.

KURT: That’s a great point about an NYC crowd being heel oriented. I’m going to come back to that point on the women’s title match. I also like the point about the roster turnover in terms of who was on the show last year compared to this year. It’s not just that but you look at some of the names that aren’t even on the card that are currently on the roster. Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. The last Takeover had what many are considering the WWE match of the year so far between Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, but yet Dunne isn’t on this show and we haven’t seen him hardly on NXT as a whole since that match. That’s part of my problem with the card as I think they could’ve done a lot more. Nonetheless, we have what we have so let’s get into it.

HANK: I agree 1000% about no Strong, Ohno, Fish and O’Reilly. I am hoping that those you listed will be on the preshow for taped NXT matches before Takeover starts.

Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega)

KURT: First off we have Johnny Gargano and his quest to be Johnny Wrestling again, taking on Andrade “Cien” Almas. Hank, this is one of the matches I’m just not excited for at all. It got zero mention on this week’s NXT and its really just a haphazardly put together match. I get that the injury of Ciampa set things back, but surely they could’ve done better than this?

HANK: I disagree with you Kurt about this match. I know that there has been little to no hype for this showdown, but with NXT only being a one hour show, sometimes they are limited in what they can focus on while also trying to introduce new faces, especially in the women’s division as of late. Anyway, this match has two GREAT workers in it, so I am hoping despite the lack of hype, these guys will bring their working boots. Many people either forget or do not know that prior to his signing with WWE Almas was a HUGE star in Mexico for the CMLL brand under the name of La Sombra. While working for CMLL he won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship from none other than Shinsuke Nakamura. The problem for Almas, as what happen to so many guys/gals, is that he hasn’t been booked well and they almost don’t know what to do with him. He had a VERY good match last year against Bobby Roode. As far as Gargano is concerned, hes not called Johnny Wrestling for nothing. Let’s hope the lack of hype pushes these guys to try and steal the show because the talent is there to do so. I don’t see Almas winning this match though, with this being Gargano’s time to shine before the return of Ciampa in what could end being a feud of the year candidate when they are all said and done. I think they give us a sold 20 minute plus match with Gargano getting his hand raised in the end.

KURT: I definitely hope I’m pleasantly surprised about this match. I would never question Almas’ ability in the ring, especially since he’s turned heel. Their use of him has definitely not stopped him from having hard hitting affairs with the various stars he’s being put with to get over. Gargano is just the next name on that list. I would LOVE to see a surprise appearance of Ciampa here. He doesn’t even need to do anything. Just show up on the rampway and just give the visual of Ciampa always watching Gargano. It may take awhile to get to the actual match between the two, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plant seeds like this in the meantime. It looks like we both agree that Gargano will win this match though, I just don’t see a scenario where it makes sense for Almas to win, unless it’s because of a Ciampa interference. I would not be opposed to that.

Aleister Black vs. Hideo Itami

KURT: You mentioned Gargano/Almas could steal the show, but our next match is the one that I think could be the showstealer. Hideo Itami and Aleister Black. Another match that got zero mention this week, but I still think highly of it. Itami has been fantastic since coming over to the heel side and I think has restored his confidence. That visual of him coming back for more against Oney Lorcan after getting his nose broken really did a lot for him as he had the injury prone label on him, but to come back for more after that and then destroy Lorcan was a great moment for him. As for Black, I love everything about him. He’s so fluid and in control of everything he does. The Black Mass is my favorite finisher in WWE. It just looks so damn devastating and he nails it flush every time. What are you expecting from these two?

HANK: I love Aleister Black! He reminds me a bit of another personal favorite, Marty Scrull. He tore up the Indy’s for years under the name of Tommy End. Kurt, you saw the damage this guy wreaked last year in The Battle of Los Angeles. When I heard with WWE I knew we were in for a treat. I agree his Black Mass finisher is as good as it gets in the business. As far as Itami is concerned, let’s face it, his run with the company has made him somewhat of an enigma due to all of his time out due to injury. I think that’s why we got to see many of the questions about his durability and toughness answered in that match with Lorcan as not only has his confidence in himself been reinvigorated , but I think the company’s concerns have been on ice as well. I fully expect this match to tear the house down. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top, but I am picking Aleister Black. I just think his momentum is white hot right now, he is over with the crowd and while Itami has been heading in the right direction, I think Black is the guy the company is more behind.

KURT: Yeah I’m picking Black strictly on the fact that it seems the brand has more invested in him right now. They’ve done a great job making him feel important, but sooner or later he’s going to need to go after the title. The GTS is just as formidable as the Black Mass is, so an Itami win really wouldn’t surprise me and would do a lot for Itami moving forward, but I’ve got to stick with my Black pick.

NXT Tag Title Match: The Authors of Pain (w/Paul Ellering) (c) vs. SANITY

KURT: Now we move on to the title matches, and this one is the most intriguing of the three for me. No more are the days of American Alpha, The Revival, or DIY. This division is solely in the possession of The Authors of Pain and it’s now up to them to have a kick ass match without the ring technicians mentioned to carry their end. Sanity is my favorite act in all of NXT and I could not be happier to see them in a title program finally, Nikki Cross aside. This won’t be a mat classic, but this will be an all-out war that I think is going to surprise some people. A lot of people on the main roster have been mentioning AOP as someone they have their eye on and I agree. How do you see this going Hank?

HANK: Well Kurt, when I look at the card this one has the potential to be, in my opinion, either an all out awesome brawl or a stinker. With the exception of the Road Warriors, I have never been a fan of the big guy tag teams, especially when they face each other. The Revival wars with American Alpha and DIY were some of the best tag matches ever. I was hoping that this match would be a no D-Q match. That tends to help matches with teams that are bigger, since the high flying moves are generally not in play. I do like both teams, but I don’t love them. I am happy that Sanity is as popular as they are, and that Eric Young (another guy not on the card) is getting his just rewards after years of hard work. I’m hoping for a powerful slug fest, and I believe Sanity will win because I think the main roster is as tag team thin as they have ever been and they need to get The Authors of Pain up on the main roster ASAP, even if they maybe aren’t quite ready for prime time yet.

KURT: I agree that this could be a stinker as well, as intrigued as I am by this match, we have no idea if these teams mesh well or not. I loved the fact that Sanity left AOP laying a couple weeks back. That was a much needed visual. There’s no true babyface or heel in this match, although as I’ve noted in my reviews, the fans at Full Sail seemed to be fully behind Sanity. Will Brooklyn have a preference? That should be interesting to hear. The main roster is definitely thin on tag teams but I don’t think it’s AOP that needs the call up. I think it’s Sanity. It’s not exactly the best way to make their way up, but I think they’re going to be the ones behind all the Breezango shenanigans. I too wish this had’ve been no DQ, but I still think it’s going to be a brawl but ultimately AOP will retain.

NXT Women’s Title Match: Asuka (c) vs. Ember Moon

KURT: Now we move on to the match that I can only guess is the one you’re most excited for Hank. I know how much you love Asuka. I feel like this match has a lot of buzz and then not enough buzz at the same time. It’s a weird dichotomy. There’s all types of records you could throw at Asuka’s undefeated streak and time as champion to make it more impressive, but point blank Asuka has kicked a lot of ass and looked great doing it. To your point earlier about NYC/Brooklyn being a heel oriented crowd, I really don’t expect this to be a crowd that wants to see Asuka lose. I’m sure you don’t want to see her lose, so tell me what you’re feeling in this match.

HANK: Asuka is the most dominant woman wrestling I have seen in YEARS!!!! It’s not even close and yes, I am a HUGE fan of hers. I also like Ember Moon very much as well, but there is no way it is not a 90%-10% split with the NY fans behind Asuka. I don’t want to see Asuka lose, nor do I think the fans want her to lose either. That said, I believe there are a couple of problems that are behind the scenes of this match that tie in with the end result. Asuka has been in NXT forever, and she should have been on the main roster 6 months ago. I’m sure she is growing impatient about not being called up to the main roster yet. However, if Ember Moon wins and becomes the champ, I don’t feel like the roster is deep enough to lose Asuka now because there is nobody I see in line to help ease the blow of her departure.

Asuka, like her fellow countryman Shinsuke Nakamura, despite not speaking English well has a TON of charisma. Can the roster take the hit of losing that charisma with no established stars to take her place and challenge Ember for the title? Also, speaking of Nakamura, is WWE afraid of bringing up another wrestler who struggles with the English language, since the main roster places more importance on the mic as opposed to the in ring work. I am hoping this match is better than the last time these tow met at a Takeover. It was a disappointing that left me wanting more. I think and hope Asuka wins (I know you’re shocked about that prediction Kurt), with the idea that the Mae Young classic brings a few heir apparent wrestlers to the roster that will soften the blow when Asuka finally departs.

KURT: The problem I have with this match is even as well as NXT has done to make The Eclipse a feared finishing maneuver, Unless Asuka kicks out of at least one, I can’t find myself believing that one of those would be enough to take out Asuka. Look at everything Nikki Cross threw at Asuka in the Last Woman Standing, and yet Asuka still had enough to win that match. In a normal one on one match, it’s going to take FAR more than what Ember can dish out for Asuka to lose believably. Asuka does belong on the main roster, but she doesn’t have to lose the title to do it. I know Paige already had to relinquish the title, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it again. The only issue with that is you’re having a tournament to crown the Mae Young Classic winner, and then going to have another tournament to crown the new women’s champion? That might be a little much. But that’s a bridge to cross when you get there, and for now the right thing to do is let the legend of Asuka continue.

KURT: Now before we get to the main event, the question everyone has on their mind is do you expect to see Adam Cole appear at Takeover? It seems like the worst kept secret, but until it happens, there are no guarantees. So do you expect to see him, and if you do, will it be anything more than him being shown in the crowd ala Roode and McIntyre at past Takeovers?

HANK: ADAM COLE BAY-BAY better show up at NXT Brooklyn. I think it’s the perfect time and place for his unveiling. I am hoping it is more though than just a screen shot. This is THE next BIG guy in the company. With all due respect to Ohno, Fish, O’Reilly, Gargano, etc. this is the most charismatic guy they’ve signed to the NXT roster since Roode. He is exactly what the NXT roster needs. While Roode has been great in his role, he’s 40 years old so he need to go to the main roster NOW! Adam Cole can have a 12-18 month run in NXT and still not even be 30 before a main roster call up. With all this hype he HAS to make an immediate impact, but not in the main event. Maybe there’s a stare down with Itami or Black and he takes a swing at them. Talk about pop? That’ll do. And, I’ll say it again ADAM COLE BAY-BAY. Boy they better not change his name!

KURT: There have been so many rumors about Cole that there’s no way figuring out what’s true or not. I’ve heard he won’t be Adam Cole because there’s already Michael Cole. I’ve heard that along with ReDRagon, he won’t get a strong push moving forward because they don’t want to push the Indy darlings straight to the top anymore. All I know is exactly what Hank said. You couldn’t have put it any better. He’s young, he’s charismatic, and he’s EXACTLY what the brand needs. He’s star appeal. I too hope it’s more than just a shot in the crowd. Hell, give him a promo. I have high hopes for him, being a huge fan myself. I can’t wait to hopefully hear a packed Barclays Center yell out BAY BAY!

NXT Title Match: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Drew McIntyre

KURT: So that takes us to our main event. Bobby Roode defending against Drew McIntyre. I have all sorts of issues with this match, which I know you do as well Hank. To me, the focus has been on Roderick Strong as a challenger and Drew is just an afterthought. Yet, Roddy somehow didn’t end up in this match. The booking and storytelling of this match was very odd to me and typically NXT doesn’t have those type of problems. What are you feeling as we head into this main event?

HANK: One of the main things to me Kurt that has set NXT apart from the main roster, besides the great in ring work, is the fantastic job they’ve done in booking. Rarely does it fall flat. Well this has been one of those rare occasions. Like you, it has all been about Roderick Strong, who by the way has always reminded me of a young Dean Malenko. It’s been about his family being disrespected by Roode, the behind the scenes vignettes about his life, and yet for their biggest show of the year, he’s nowhere to be found. When watching this week’s NXT, when Roode interfered with the Strong vs McIntyre match, I said that’s it. They are going to book it as a three way dance. I kept waiting and waiting for Regal to show up and nothing. It was odd. But, I do think that if NXT does consider this their Wrestlemania, then they will treat the fans and Roddy the right way. I see Strong pushing Regal for a title shot during the preshow to get a match or Regal coming out at the beginning of the show to make an announcement to the fans that due to Bobby Roode’s involvement in this weeks Strong vs. McIntyre match that it will now be a three way dance for the NXT title. This would be a great way to ease Roode out of the picture with a loss at Takeover and starting a McIntyre vs Strong feud while possibly turning McIntyre heel. What is the finish I’d like to see and think will happen? The winner and new NXT champion will be Roderick Strong! Talk about sending a crowd home happy!!

KURT: I’m right there with you. I had a visual of Roddy holding the title as new champion, the crowd goes nuts for him and we start to see some seeds planted for a McIntyre heel turn. I really hope you’re right because if it’s just Roode vs. McIntyre, I’m sure they’ll have a great match but it’ll ultimately just fall flat in my eyes. I don’t think Drew should get the title, just because like I mentioned, he feels like an afterthought in this match. Even if Roddy were to cost Roode the match, I don’t think that would help get over the fact that McIntyre is new champion.  I know we’re both making a prediction that technically can’t happen as the match stands right now, but I just can’t imagine they’re really going to leave Roddy off the show. Not to mention that by the finish of the match on Wednesday, we don’t know that Roddy was guaranteed his shot at Roode in the future and I’m sure that confusion will lead Roddy to rebel and get himself in the match.

My thanks to Hank for joining me today for this preview piece. It’s always good to talk to him and be sure and check out his work on the site. He recently dropped an editorial about Kenny Omega’s decision to stay in NJPW that is really good. As for me, I hope you’ll join me Saturday night for live coverage from Brooklyn! Until next time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do… but if you do, name it after me!