Everyone remembers Daniel Bryan’s win at Wrestlemania 30, or the day Mankind did himself a mischief with a cell. If NXT sticks around, and it’s got a few years yet, the first Brooklyn show will be the one we talk about in those terms.
I popped for the Vaudevillains winning the tag titles from Blake and Murphy, but we all know there’s one reason that show will live forever. After years of trying, at long, long last, Bayley won the women’s championship.
The match was fantastic, but I’d probably have still cried if it wasn’t. Like most of the crowd, I was desperately invested in Bayley’s cause and watching her finally beat Sasha Banks was cathartic. But it was what happened afterwards that broke me, as the Four Horsewomen of NXT, the wrestlers who built NXT’s women’s division and helped kick down the door to a new era in American women’s wrestling, stood together in the middle of the ring for a hugely emotional curtain call. I just welled up thinking about it. I’m not even joking.
Then another match happened, but nobody cared.
Ultimately, Brooklyn I will forever be remembered as the show that should have been the first live special with an all-female main event. Finn Bálor did a double footstomp (silly) from the top of a ladder onto Kevin Owens, but the last match on the show wasn’t the one anyone paid to see. WWE decided that the men’s title was intrinsically more important than the women’s title, and privileged a men’s title match with barely any heat over the hottest feud in the company.
Sasha and Bayley’s rematch eventually main-evented the next Takeover, which took place at Full Sail in front of about 400 people. You have to wonder whether they learned from their mistakes, or whether they just never trusted that a women’s feud could sell out a big arena. That match was another classic, but the opportunity had already been missed.
Alright, this was two years ago, but I’m bringing it up because I think WWE is about to repeat its mistake (out of character, I know). This Saturday, I predict that Ember Moon will be the one to finally take Asuka’s NXT Women’s Championship, and there is no doubt in my mind it should be the main event of Takeover: Brooklyn III.
It’s not exactly fair to compare Asuka to the endlessly beloved Bayley and Sasha, but she has basically owned NXT for the past year and a half. More than 180 victories in a row give her the longest winning streak in modern wrestling history, and she has now surpassed 500 days as champion.
Ignoring the numbers, it’s hard to argue that she’s even had a bad match on NXT TV. Admittedly, it helps when you’ve got the likes of Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce to sell for you, but Asuka even managed to make three-minute Liv Morgan squashes fun. Working with everyone from indy veterans to grass-green homegrown NXT athletes on TV and on house shows, she has consistently delivered: both a dominant champion and a valuable asset to the Performance Centre.
Asuka single-handedly filled the void left by the Horsewomen at a time when nobody else could step up to her level. As talents like Cross, Moon and Ruby Riot have come in and the Iconic Duo have started to find their feet, she’s been the focal point of a lively and growing division. For most of her title reign, she’s been the MVP of NXT. She has been every bit as important in establishing a sustainable future for women’s wrestling in WWE as Paige, Emma, Charlotte, Sasha, Becky or Bayley.
The end of Asuka’s historic reign should be another one of those moments we remember for years, befitting not only her own accomplishments, but those of the woman who beats her. Ember Moon will get the biggest rub of her career here, establishing her as a star for as long as she’s with WWE. To really set her up as the ace once Asuka goes to Smackdown or Raw, the image of her holding the title should be the last thing the audience sees.
No other match on the card will hold a candle to the women’s title match. The bouts that have the potential to main event are the two singles title matches. Which feels more exciting to you? The end of the longest winning streak in wrestling, or yet another indie dream match lazily built around the “soul” of NXT?
In fairness, I have been well and truly over Bobby Roode for some time now. I think he’s a distinctly average wrestler who comes across as a low-rent Triple H and whose popularity is entirely down to a catchphrase, a coat, and a song. But seriously, how many times can we see the same angle played out? Nearly everyone who has faced him since Nakamura has used the same lines about how NXT doesn’t belong to Roode, but to all of us, or something like that. I zoned out a while ago.
The last time I actually gave a shit about an NXT Championship feud was when Kevin Owens betrayed Sami Zayn. Incidentally, this was also the last time anybody bothered to write an actual story for the title scene. Maybe Strong’s storyline is going to redress the balance, but it needs more time to breathe before it gets there. In the meantime, I can honestly say that I care far more about how far Ember can push Asuka, how far Asuka is prepared to go to keep her title, and how far Asuka’s swagger is masking the fact that Ember has had her rattled since their match in Orlando, than anything in the men’s title picture.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person saying this, nor am I the only one thinking that Asuka will go to the main roster after the rematch. Her defeat will get a massive reaction, followed by loud and lengthy chants of “Thank you Asuka”. Now, I love Drew McIntyre, even if he’s stuck in a half-arsed title feud, but how does his entrance follow that? It’s as much of a disservice to the match that goes on last as it is to the one before it.