Love was in the air at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. WWE hasn’t done a flat-out Valentine’s Day show for a while. What better way to get back into the swing of things than with an NXT TakeOver show?
NXT has been a hotbed of excitement, with 2021 Royal Rumble winner Edge considering the NXT title as his WrestleMania match. But there was plenty of homegrown action at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. The finals of both the men’s and women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournaments. A triple threat for the NXT Women’s Championship. And Finn Balor putting the NXT Championship on the line against the Bruiserweight, Pete Dunne. There was no shortage of the amazing action we’ve come to expect from NXT TakeOver events.
Let’s forego the wine and roses and get into the action from NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals – Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez Vs. Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon
Gonzalez and Blackheart start at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day, and Gonzalez throws her around a bit. Moon tags in and tries to work in some submission work. And Raquel throws her off with a sidewalk slam.
Shotzi goes for a pin, but Gonzalez throws her off and goes for a pin of her own. It gets two. Dakota tags in and gets a quick two-count. Blackheart takes over and gets a Texas Cloverleaf, but Kai gets to the rope. Kai tags Moon, and a double team move gets two. The double team continues, as they wishbone Kai. Dakota gets isolated in the corner but fights out only to walk into a half crab. Moon tags back in, and they do a wicked flipping double crab. Ember cinches in a knee-and-ankle bar. Kai reaches for the tag, but Moom drags her back to the center.
Dakota tries to kick free, but Ember drags her back to the babyface corner. Moon makes the tag, but the ref doesn’t see it. Kai tries to use the distraction to get the tag, but Ember knocks Gonzalez off the apron. Gonzalez finally gets back in, and she destroys everybody. A fallaway slam puts Ember down, but Moon kicks out at one. Kai tags in and hits a flying clothesline, but Blackheart breaks up the pin with a senton. Shotzi manages to lure Gonzalez to the outside, but she gets powerbombed into the plexiglass as a reward. Moon isolates Gonzalez in the corner, but Kai hits a dropkick from behind. Ember hits a jawbreaker on Gonzalez, and she shrugs it off.
Kai tags back in and stomps Moon’s face in the corner. Dakota goes for a pin but Moon kicks out at two. Gonzalez comes back in, but Moon takes them both out. She goes up top and hits the Eclipse on Gonzalez, but Shotzi distracts the ref, and Gonzalez kicks out at two. Gonzalez picks up Moon, but Shotzi hits a missile dropkick. But Gonzalez kicks out at two. Blackheart and Kai tag back in, a d Shotzi drops her for a two count. Gonzalez is back on again, and Shotzi hits an enziguri. And Gonzalez just stands there. Shotzi hits sliced bread off the top, but Kai breaks up the pin. Blackheart hits a rope suicida on Dakota on the outside.
They put Gonzalez down temporarily before hitting an electric chair drop on Kai on the outside. Gonzalez runs in for the save, but Moon puts her into the stairs. Back inside, Moon gets a cross face on Gonzalez, but Kai makes the save. It’s down to Kai and Shotzi again. Kai runs in and they hit the GTK, but Gonzalez makes the save before chuckling Moon out of the ring. Shotzi dumps both heels on the outside and goes up top, but Gonzalez throws her off. Gonzales throws Kai onto Shotzi before hitting a choke slam for the win.
A little all over the place, but a solid opener at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
Winners: Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez
Match Rating: *** 1/2
NXT North American Championship – Johnny Gargano (C) Vs. Kushida
Kushida makes his way out first. Gargano is out with LeRae and Hartwell, but Austin Theory is nowhere to be found. I sense wackiness! Kushida goes for the takedown early at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. It turns into a mat wrestling contest, as both men try to knot each other up. Neither guy is able to take advantage.
Gargano gets an armlock and pulls Kushida up for a standing wristlock. But Kushida breaks free and gets a front facelock. Gargano rolls out, but Kushida holds on and hooks in a crossface. The champion breaks free again and whips Kushida into the ropes. Gargano hits a huricnrana, but Kushida lands on his feet. Both guys keep evading each other’s big moves. Gargano goes for the Gargano Escape, but Kushida gets the facelock again. The champion gets to the ropes to break the hold. They fight to the outside, with Gargano hitting a superkick before throwing Kushida into the steps.
The champ drags Kushida toward the announce table, but the challenger escapes and nails a nasty spike piledriver on the mat outside. Yeesh. Kushida slides inside long enough to restart the count before going back to work on Gargano. He hits a chicken-wing suplex onto the floor. Kushida gives no F’s, as the kids say. Kushida throws Gargano back inside and hits a running dropkick to Gargano’s injured elbow. The challenger keeps working on the injured arm, presumably to set up the Hoverboard Lock for later. Gargano escapes but walks into a back elbow. The champion has Kushida between the ropes and hits an Indian Neckbreaker. I’m loving how these guys are alternating mat psychology with some high-impact offense. You know, like a wrestling match should do.
I’d say that Jim Cornette would like it, but Jim Cornette doesn’t like anything.
Gargano keeps working over Kushida’s neck. He goes for a neckbreaker, but Kushida reverses, and both guys jockey to get a backslide. Gargano wins out on this exchange and hits an inverted suplex. The champion continues to work Kushida’s neck, but he’s working with one arm. Kushida reverses the hold into an octopus stretch, but Gargano falls onto Kushida’s shoulders. They trade pinfall attempts, but neither guy can get an advantage. Both guys get to their feet and promptly take each other down with a double clothesline. A slugfest ensues, but Kushida hits an inverted atomic drop into a standing dropkick. The challenger gets a power punch under Gargano’s jaw and stomps at Gargano’s neck.
Kushida goes for another chicken wing suplex, but Gargano blocks and hits a forearm. Another slugfest follows. Gargano hits an enziguri, but Kushida manages an ankle lock. The champ gets to the rope, but Kushida hits a German suplex. Kushida turns Gargano over for the pin, but the champ kicks out at two. They trade some fips and flops, but Kushida catches Gargano with a draping DDT into a rolling Northern Lights. Somehow Gargano kicks out. Kushida sets up for another move over the ropes, but Gargano hits an enziguri. He goes for another, but Kushida evades and runs Gargano shouler-first into the middle turnbuckle. This NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day match is crushing it. Too bad they’re gonna ruin it with a goofy finish, because they still haven’t resolved where Austin Theory is.
Gargano manages to get to the top, but Kushida halts his momentum. Kushida heads up front and goes for a suplex, but Gargano counters it in mid-air and hangs on to the neck before hitting a springboard DDT for two. Both guys are spent, but Kushida rolls through with an armdrag, and they trade hold reversals until Kushida gets an armbar which Gargano reverses into a pin. They slug each other at the same time, and both men are down. When did the “both guys punch each other while on their knees” become pro wrestling standard issue?
Kushida goes for a springboard elbow, but he bounces into a Russian legsweep into the Gargano Escape in the center of the ring. But Gargano’s bad arm is giving out. Kushida reverses and tries to set up the Hoverboard Lock, but Gargano gets free only to end up in a bridging pin attempt. It gets two.
The champion hits a superkick and lawn-darts Kushida into the middle turnbuckle, but it takes everything Gargano has left in his arm. They cave in each other’s skulls with elbows, but Kushida gets a chicken-wing suplex into the turnbuckle. The challenger pulls Gargano up to the top. He pulls Gargano down to the mat and cinches on the Hoverboard. Gargano turns it, but Kushia maintains the hold. The champion finally makes the ropes, and the ref breaks it up. Gargano tries to roll to the outside, but Kushida won’t let go of the armbar. The champion finally rushes Kushida into the barricade to break.
Seriously, the rest of the card at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day has its work cut out for it. Kushida hits a wicked rana, and Gargano lands RIGHT on the bad arm. Back inside, Kushida gets an octopus armbar, but Gargano pushes him neck-first into the top rope. Ouch. Then Gargano goes all out and hits One Final Beat on the not-at-all-AEW-like entrance ramp that’s connected to the ring. Gargano hits a second One Final Beat for the pin. Oh wow, a clean win. I was really expecting some stupid overbooked crap involving the Way. This match was everything. The finish was a little out-of-nowhere, as all the psychology was building toward Gargano just not having enough in the tank with the bum arm. Still, an awesome match is an awesome match. And this was an amazing match at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
Winner (And STILL Champion): Johnny Gargano
Match Rating: **** 1/2
Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals – MSK Vs. Grizzled Young Veterans
Gibson and Carter start at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. They lock up. Gibson pushes Carter to the corner, but Gibson climbs up on the middle turnbuckle before scoring a takedown. Gibson escapes and goes for a front facelock, but Carter fights it off. Eventually Gibson cinches in an armbar, but Carter escapes and goes for a legsweep. But Gibson won’t relinquish the hold. Drake tags in, and now he has a side headlock on Carter. But Carter fights to his feet again. He escapes and hits a spinning springboard elbow.
Carter tags out, and they double-team Drake in the corner. Gibson comes back in, and MSK dispatches with Drake. They double-team Gibson, and Lee hits a springboard plancha over the top rope to take the heels out on the outside. Carter goes over the top and takes out Drake, but Gibson evades and clotheslines Carter’s head off. Gibson goes banana sandwich with elbows to the back of Carter’s head before hitting a neckbreaker for two. Now Drake comes back in, and they double-team Carter. Drake goes for three straight covers, and Carter kicks out each time.
Now Carter tries to fight back, but Drake keeps putting him back on the mat. Gibson tags in again, and they double-team Drake with a double clothesline. Gibson goes for the cover, but Carter kicks out at two. Another couple of pin attempts, another couple kick-outs. Carter plays super-plucky-babyface and fights to his feet, and Gibson elbows him in the mouth before tagging Drake back in. They go for a double-team, but Carter evades only to walk into a HUGE clothesline from Drake for two. Drake goes for a suplex, but Carter reverses. Carter crawls for his corner, but Gibson pulls Lee off the apron. Lee chases Gibson into the ring, because babyfaces are idiots, and Gibson holds Drake for a missile dropkick behind the ref’s back.
Drake pounds on Carter’s neck before cinching in a rear choke. Carter gets whipped into the heels’ corner. He slides under a spinning heel kick attempt, and Lee tags in and runs wild, brother! Lee hits a snapmare before a double-stomp onto Gibson’s back. The Veterans go for a breather, but Lee hits a huricanrana over the top turnbuckle onto both guys. Lee throws Gibson back into the ring and hits a reverse inverted enziguri, but Gibson kicks out. That was pretty awesome. Lee goes up top, but Drake tries to pull him down. Wes Lee kicks Drake away, but the opening allows Gibson to pull Lee off the top. Gibson goes for a powerbomb, but Lee evades and tags in Carter.
Lee catapults Gibson into a superkick from Carter. Gibson begs off, and the censors miss an F-bomb from Carter, who goes Ralphie-on-Scott Farcus on Gibson. Now MSK go for the double-team on Gibson, but Gibson holds them both off. This is a fun match at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. Lee goes for more acrobatics, but Gibson knees Lee’s face in. Gibson hits helter skelter on Lee, and Drake follows with a 450 splash, but Wes Lee kicks out! I thought that was gonna be it. Gibson tags back in, and they prop Lee up for a doomsday device. But Lee drops for the pin as Drake sails over. Gibson kicks out.
Carter sneaks in to save Lee, and Drake goes head-first into Gibson, and Lee hits a poison rana on Drake before tagging in Carter. Now Carter heads to the top and hits a senton followed by a shooting star from Lee, but Drake kicks out. This match is definitely worthy of Dusty Rhodes’s name. But the Veterans fight back, and they destroy Lee on the outside with some acrobatics of their own. Carter gets isolated again, and the heels go for another double team. But Carter fights with everything he has left only to walk into a double powerbomb for two. So many near falls!
The Grizzled Young Veterans prep Carter for another tandem move, but Lee comes out of nowhere, and MSK hits stereo superkicks on the heels. Lee tags in and hits a leaping reverse neckbreaker on Drake for the pin to win the Dusty Classic. This was a spot-fest, plain and simple, but it was a fun spot-fest. MSK and Grizzled Young Veterans are exactly what NXT needs to bring its tag division back to its one-time unparalleled awesomeness. Fantastic match at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
Match Rating: ****
NXT Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match – Io Shirai (C) Vs. Toni Storm Vs. Mercedes Martinez
It just dawned on me that Io Shirai has been NXT Women’s Champion ever since NXT TakeOver: In Your House. For this title, but that’s a pretty long run. I mean, it isn’t Asuka-long, but in recent memory? That’s like a Honky-Tonk Man IC title run. Honestly, I’d like to see her run continue. Having said that, there’s some poetic justice inasmuch as her reign started in a triple threat.
And can I just mention now that I have half-a-second of downtime? Since NXT has been all about recycling old PPV names, why isn’t anyone using St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Like, when are they gonna have that opportunity again? Anyway.
Martinez doesn’t wait for the bell, and she knocks Shirai off the apron. Storm and Martinez go at it at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day, but Shirai runs back in and goes after Martinez for a one-count. Mertinez slaps the champion around a bit before Shirai dumps her over to the floor. Now it’s Storm and Shirai going at it. Shirai hits an atomic facebuster before hitting a rana into a double-stomp. Now the champion stomps a mudhole into Storm in the corner. But Storm picks Shirai up and carries her to the center. Shirai escapes and takes a kick to the face.
But Martinez swats at Storm from the outside and DDTs her from the ring to the floor. That looked nasty. Shirai goes for a moonsault onto the floor off the second rope, but Martinez sidesteps and Shirai goes flying into the barricade. Back inside, Martinez covers Storm for two. Storm gets an elbow but eats a powerbomb for two. That’s a lot to unpack in the first three minutes. Martinez goes for Three Amigos, but Storm counters and Shirai comes off the top and dropkicks both of her challengers. She charges Martinez in the corner and goes for another, but Storm intercepts with a bossman slam. But Martinez catches Storm with a spinebuster for two.
Martinez goes for an inverted STF, but Shirai breaks it up with a standing dropkick. Now Shirai goes for a crossface on Storm, but Martinez comes from behind and locks a dragon sleeper on Shirai. That’s cool. Shirai has to break the crossface on Storm, and Martinez pulls the champion up for an inverted suplex. Martinez goes for a charging kick, but Shirai evades and hits the 6-1-9 into a springboard dropkick that sends Martinez rolling out of the ring. Shirai climbs, but Storm intercepts and goes for a superplex, but Martinez crotches her.
Shirai falls to the floor, and Martinez hits a super German suplex, but she gets caught in the tree of woe. The champion comes up from behind and hits a double-stomp on Martinez. This is madness. The fight spills to the outside. Botchy spot, as Storm goes to take the lid off the announce desk, and the whole thing just falls apart. Oops. Martinez thinks fast and hits a DDT on the floor. Meanwhile, Shirai climbs to the top of the support beam that serves no function and splashes both women. Something tells me that was supposed to kill the table.
All three women are down, but Martinez is the first to her feet. She hip-tosses Shirai spine-first into the steel steps. Storm gets to her feet, and she and Martinez slug it out. Martinez throws Storm inside and hits a running knee to Storm’s jaw. She hits three more standing knees for good measure. Now Martinez hits a fisherman’s brainbuster for two. Ten Storm head-butts Martinez hard and hits Storm Zero, but Martinez kicks out at two. “Storm is shocked! Storm is shooked!” That’s not a word, Vic. With Martinez down, Storm heads to the top rope and hits a diving headbutt. She goes for the cover, but Shirai comes out of nowhere with a moonsault to break it up.
The champion rolls up Martinez for the pin to retain. There was some sloppiness (okay, a lot of sloppiness) near the end, but the action in this one was non-stop. Fun match at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
Winner (And STILL Champion): Io Shirai
Match Rating: *** 1/2
NXT Championship – Finn Balor (C) Vs. Pete Dunne
You know, I appreciate that they’re finally calling Balor “the Prince.” But it’s like (checks notes) six years late. If I didn’t know any better, I’d call it a reaction to an Alternate Empire of Wrestling playing on the name recognition of Bullet Club. But that’s surely not the case. Anyway. On to the NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day main event.
Staredown to start. Good on these guys for giving this a big-match fills. Dunne and Balor lock up in the corner, and the referee forces a break. The challenger goes after Balor’s arm, but Balor cinches in a reverse armbar. Dunne fights out of it, but Balor manages to hang onto the hold. So Dunne goes after the fingers, forcing Balor to let go. Another lock-up, and Balor goes after the arm again. Dunne counters with a takedown, but Balor hangs onto the arm. The challenger kips up again and goes for a reverse chin-lock. But Balor maintains his grip on the arm.
Dunne scores with a monkey flip, but Balor still doesn’t relinquish the hold on the arm. The challenger rolls out again, but Balor hangs onto the armlock. Dunne finally escapes, and both men circle each other. Balor gets a take down with a rear chinlock, but Dunne keeps his arms free and pushes back against Balor’s jaw. Dunne escapes Balor and comes off the ropes, but Balor goes back to the chinlock. The challenger lays a shoulder on the mat briefly, and the champ scores a near-fall out of it. Dunne pushes Balor away, but Balor shouler tackles him down. Now Dunne wraps his leg around Balor’s neck, pressing for a sleeper. Keeps pressure on the jaw, too.
Ring psychology, kids. It’s important.
Balor escapes, and we get another staredown. This match needs a legit crowd. Another lockup, and Dunne pushes Balor back toward the ropes. He drives a few shoulder shots into Balor’s jaw, but Balor forces Dunne into the corner. But Dunne gets ahold of Balor’s fingers and bends them back while wrenching at the arm. Balor reverses but he ends up in another hold. This is great, and they haven’t done a single wacky spot yet. Just straight wrestling. Who’d have thunk it? Now Balor rolls through into an inverted abdominal stretch. Dunne rolls through and locks the jaw with his knee again.
Finn Balor rolls over, but Dunne keeps his knee locked over Balor’s arm into a reverse armbar. The challenger wrenches at the bad shoulder in the center of the ring. Balor gets to his feet, but Dunne pulls him right back down, and the challenger keeps a knee on Balor’s jaw while bending back Balor’s finger joints. The champion tries to roll free, and Dunne gives the jaw a break only to bend back the shoulder while putting extra pressure on the forearm with his knuckles. Dunne stomps at Balor’s chest to drive the air out, but Balor scores with a stomp to Dunne’s toe.
Now Balor cinches in a leglock, keeping Dunne from attacking either Balor’s jaw or his arm. Balor gets to his knees for extra leverage before laying backward and hyperextending the knee and ankle joints. Dunne flails but gets to a sitting position and goes after Balor’s arm. Balor has to break, and he stomps at Dunne. The champion puts on an inverted half crab, but Dunne won’t let himself be turned over. So Balor switches priorities and goes exclusively after Dunne’s ankle. Dunne punches Balor in the ear. The champ tries to elbow Dunne after him, but Dunne keeps coming back and going after the jaw.
Dunne gets a front facelock, forcing Balor to let go of the leg. Now Dunne has a Guiotinne. Balor tries to slip free, and Dunne hits a brainbuster for two. The challenger’s knee buckles a little bit on the release, and Balor bashes Dunne’s ankle in the corner, using the turnbuckle for leverage. Balor takes Dunne down again, but Dunne keeps a shoulder up. They get to a vertical base, and Dunne hits an enziguri only for Balor to score with a clothesline for two. This is some old-school stuff at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. And I love it. Balor stomps at Dunne while he’s down. He knees Dunne in the back of the neck and goes for the half crab again.
Instead he holds Dunne down with a knee bar while clubbing him in the back of the head before locking in a STF in the center. But Dunne goes after the fingers, and Balor has to release the STF. Both guys are up, so Balor chops Dunne back down. Balor drives his knee into the back of Dunne’s head. But Dunne answers back with a chopfest of his own before hitting a reverse dropkick, but his knee gives out, an Balor goes for a suplex, but Dunne evades and stomps at Balor before hitting a headbutt. Dunne his a sitout powerbomb, but Balor kicks out at two. This is incredible.
The challenger goes right back after Balor’s arm and his jaw. This is such smart wrestling. Dunne scores with a snap German, and Dunne stomps at Balor’s fingers only for Balor to chop his knee out from under him. The champion hits the backstabber followed by a standing elbow. Balor hits a running dropkick, sending Dunne into the corner. The champion heads up top and goes for the Coup De Grace, but Dunne catches him with a triangle on the way down. Balor gets a fingertip away from the rope, but Dunne drags him back to the center. The champ crawls backward and gets a foot in the ropes to break the hold.
Balor is out, but he passes out on the rope. Dunne drags him back to the center, but Balor’s dead weight. Balor wakes up long enough to say he can continue, so Dunne stomps his skull in and goes for the Bitter End, but Balor reverses into a 1916 attempt. Dunne reverses, and Balor locks in an abdominal stretch. He drags Dunne down to the mat, but Dunne manages to grab Balor’s fingers, and he wishbones the suckers. Dunne pulls Balor up, but the champion stomps away. But Dunne still won’t let go of the fingers. The challenger hits the Bitter End, but Balor kicks out! That was an incredible exchange. I thought Dunne had him.
The challenger stomps on Balor’s fingers twice before kicking him square in the face. He goes for a powerbomb, but Balor reverses into a DDT. Balor charges, but Dunne kicks him in the head and goes for another Bitter End. But Balor reverses into a standing DDT for two. Dunne gets ahold of the fingers again, but Balor gets a double stomp to Dunne’s back. The champion pulls the Bruiserweight up and tears Dunne’s mouthpiece out and dropkicks him square in the mouth. Balor goes up top and hits the Coup De Grace. He pulls Dunne up and hits 1916 for the pin to retain.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day might have just put on the match of the year.
Winner (And STILL Champion): Finn Balor
Match Rating: *****
After the match, Lorcan and Burch jump Balor from behind and throw him back inside. The heels beat him senseless, but the Undisputed Era runs out for the save. O’Reilly and Balor have a face-to-face, calling back to their match at TakeOver 31. It gets tense, but good sportsmanship wins out, and the babyfaces pose to close out the show. OR DO THEY?! Cole hits a sneak superkick. The rest of the Era tries to talk sense to Cole, and O’Reilly eats a superkick, leaving Strong’s allegiances in question. It’s been a while since we had some quality gaga drama to close out a TakeOver show.
It’s NXT. So NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day was never gonna be a bad show. But it was an absolute banger of a show. When your card doesn’t have a single bad match, you’ve got a solid product. I love AEW, but from a sheer in-ring perspective, they can’t hold a candle to NXT yet.
Not everything was perfect. The women’s title match in particular had some sloppiness. But considering Gargano and Kushida put on a pro wrestling clinic, and Dunne and Balor put together an awesome main event, a few wayward spots can be forgiven. Simply put, NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day was one of the best shows NXT has done since the pandemic era began last year.
All images courtesy of WWE.