Matches That Defined 2017: Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream, NXT Takeover: War Games

Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream

NXT Takeover: War Games

Houston, Texas

November 18 2017

The match:

Velveteen Dream has suffered various stop-start introductions to an NXT audience but seemed comfortable in the lower card for 2017, interrupting promos and the like, settling as a pest heel. So when the highly protected tattooed occult kickboxer Aleister Black comes in the party’s over, right?

Wrong.

From what appeared at first glance to be a throwaway feud to keep Black busy until his inevitable arrival at the top of the table, the programme built and built over the weeks leading to War Games, gathering praise for Patrick Clark’s nascent run as the Velveteen Dream.

By the time we see Dream make his way down the aisle he seems a very different character to the Prince cosplay of his debut. Let’s look at that entrance before we get started:

Velveteen Dream enters the NXT ring

The crushed purple velvet and frilly white shirts are replaced top-to-bottom by:

  • Pompadour hairdo more reminiscent of James Brown (of course a massive influence to Prince)
  • Trycloptic teashades subtly referencing Prince’s own Third Eye Blind act
  • Fringed leather native American poncho
  • Leather chaps withholding…

… the greatest tights known to man:

Velveteen Dream's amazing Aleister Black leggings

Of course, these are referencing the great Rick Roode vs Jake Roberts feud where Roode wore Roberts’s wife upon his tights. You know, it says something when Roberts is the least creepy act in a feud.

Match starts with a heavy Velveteen Dream chant. Something tells us we ain’t in Kansas anymore.

Dream starts off heavy on the offense and you can tell that he’s earned this right.

Quickly we end in a sitdown posedown between the two for another iconic visual:

Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream stare each other down at NXT: Takeover

More Velveteen chats and an “incredibly competitive contest” ensues, an awesome fake tope from Dream, a kickout from a lethal knee from Black and we hit “This is Awesome” just as he hits the top rope for a failed Purple Rainmaker:

Velveteen Dream stuck in the ropes against Aleister Black at NXT Takeover: War Games

We run in to knee, superkick counter before a final Black Mass puts Clark away.

And our endgame hits. The fans demand and Black acquiesces, providing Dream with the one thing he wants. Recognition: Say. My. Name.

How it defined 2017:

As we came into 2017, there was definitely a feeling that NXT had finished its honeymoon period. The golden class of Zayn, Owens, Balor and the Four Horsewomen were all making waves of varying degrees up on the main roster and there was a sense that raiding the indies was yielding diminishing returns with fewer truly homegrown stars emerging from the performance centre in Florida.

Black vs Dream kind of gave fans a best of both worlds scenario. A well booked and – yes – protected indie star in the former Tommy End was mismatched against Tough Enough recruit Patrick Clark, who got to move his character on by light years in the space of a single programme.

The feud demonstrated perhaps better than any other in NXT this year what the promotion could offer to wrestlers of their respective backgrounds – WWE polish and mystique to the presentation of a fully-formed indie star, and character development from the ground up to a rookie only a few years into the business.

We understand each character’s motivations from the off. The feud’s built around Dream’s desire for Black to “Say my name”. We get it and both are elevated as a result – something the main roster programmes fail to do week in, week out.

My thoughts:

As a character, Velveteen Dream seemed problematic from the off. Referencing the more ‘flamboyant’ aspects of early Goldust and the bafflingly outdated pop culture references of Prince Iaukea, Patrick Clark looked bound for the Wrestlecrap files.

“The man who walked into darkness only to be blinded by the light that is the Velveteen Dream…”

Perhaps not one of the best bits of mic work this year, but looking back on Dream’s initial promos – including fluffed lines that bizarrely made the cut – the leap he’s made is herculean. If anything, he cherrypicks the best of Goldust, Rick Rude and even Jake the Snake to make something completely unique. Saddled with the gimmick at only 22, he’s managed to turn a pig’s ear into a Velveteen purse and could well be 2018’s breakout star.

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