It’s time we all admit that NXT hasn’t been hitting its stride lately. Between the lack of crowds, few big signings and Johnny Gargano’s terrible heel turn, NXT has barely stood a chance against AEW Dynamite in the Wednesday Night Wars. Quite frankly, my interest in the black and gold brand has waned to the point where I’m only really tuning in for the TakeOver specials, a far cry from the buzz surrounding the promotion during its peak years.
But boy did they manage to turn things around at NXT: Vengeance Day. The latest in the TakeOver chronology saw a huge focus on the Dusty Tag Classic, having not just one but two matches between the men’s and women’s finalists. Supporting those matches was a North American title clash between ‘The Time Splitter’ KUSHIDA and ‘Johnny TakeOver’, and then a titanic triple threat between Io Shirai, Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez. All of these matches were beyond stellar, a true reminder of how good NXT can be, but all paled in comparison to the NXT Championship main event between Finn Balor and Pete Dunne.
You don’t have to be clued in on the history of BritWres, nor do you really have to be a die hard NXT fan to understand the hype surrounding this dream match. ‘The Prince’ and ‘The Bruiserweight’ had been on a collision course since the two made their respective NXT debuts and returns. Two icons and masters of their craft who could easily headline any given card, Balor and Dunne finally met this past weekend and, to nobody’s surprise, delivered an instant classic.
The 25 minute title bout featured everything you’d want from an NXT main event: Fast-paced chain wrestling, methodical psychology and the awe-inspiring shots and chops that make the European-Japanese hybrid style some of the most exciting action on the planet. Growing up as a huge fan of the likes of Dean Malenko, William Regal, Chris Benoit and then later Daniel Bryan and Minoru Suzuki, Finn Balor and Pete Dunne have gone above and beyond to bring their technical/strong style into the modern age and turn it into an absolute spectacle.
Unlike most other championship matches under the WWE umbrella, Dunne/Balor were able to present a match that followed a strong narrative. Neither man looked weak and both were able to gain momentum at various points throughout the match. It speaks a lot for the two men involved that they were able to perfectly divide the match between them, making for a balanced story that fans could easily invest themselves in. Not enough can be said to put over just how incredible both Pete and Finn are; they wholeheartedly deserved to steal the show.
They also managed to differ from the typical NXT-style main event, where signatures and finishers are thrown out three or four times and have little to no effect. Admittedly, both men have thrived in this ‘indie style’ of match before, but it’s hard to argue that it’s wearing thin on the NXT universe. Having Balor and Dunne focus more on the slow burn and put emphasis on building towards their bigger spots made for a lot more impact. I haven’t been as invested as I was in their match for what feels like years, and it was all down to the pacing.
Seeing ‘The Bruiserweight’ compete at such a level is a testament to the potential he holds to be a future headlining star. Finn Balor may have walked away with the clean victory over his challenger, but that one match alone did enough to establish Dunne as one of the top guys in the world, if he wasn’t already considered that from his previous 5* quality matches. Should these two meet again in the near future? I certainly wouldn’t say no, there’s more than enough reason to believe that a Balor/Dunne series could become NXT’s equivalent to one of the all time great feuds: Steamboat/Flair, Cena/Punk, Okada/Omega.
This match was everything I could have asked for when first picturing the two squaring off during the heyday of PROGRESS and RevPro. I’m still buzzed from the back-and-forth, the explosive near-falls in the closing act and the feeling that, finally, ‘The Bruiserweight’ is at the top of the NXT hierachy alongside the equally phenomenal champion. Thank you, NXT, you have my attention once again.
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