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    Wednesday, August 25, 2021

    The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver 36

    NXT TakeOvers used to be my favorite from WWE's live special lineup. Sadly, the recent batch of shows—along with the roster releases—have soured my taste for WWE in general. Not considering the rumored changes in NXT programming, everything feels so different nowadays—and NXT TakeOver 36 was no different. It was a show that felt like the end of an era, but it also hinted at changes that are coming soon.

    Let's start with the main event. Who would've thought that we'd see Samoa Joe wrestling in a WWE ring again? Like Finn Bálor's return to NXT over the last couple of years, Joe's return also resulted in a NXT Championship victory against Karrion Kross. That has to be the most epic return in WWE history—considering it has been less than two months since he'd been rehired by WWE. Who'd have thought he'd do it in such a convincing fashion as well? Joe was in tiptop shape and barely missed a beat. Sure, you could argue that he didn't get to accomplish much on the main roster. But Joe's back in NXT, and he's the top dog once again after his first match since February 2020.

    Meanwhile, Kross has seen his share of misfortune on the main roster. I hope that he gets booked more strongly now that he doesn't have the NXT Championship around his waist anymore. A lot of NXT alumni haven't really fared well on RAW and SmackDown. I still think it's a good thing that he'll get to show the world what he's got on the main shows. Honestly, it actually feels like he and Joe just traded places.

    Now, Ilja Dragunov vs. WALTER was also another masterpiece. I'd like to say it was the Match of the Night with how brutal yet technically sound it was. It was so hard-hitting that I wasn't surprised that Ilja developed bruises within the first minutes of the match! It was great to see NXT UK's finest square off in the Black-and-Gold. Some say the Black-and-Red is WWE's best-kept secret nowadays (akin to what NXT used to be), and they're probably right. But after the second Dragunov/WALTER bout, that should change. More people need to keep their eyes on NXT UK.

    WALTER's loss could mean we might see more of him on NXT in the U.S. Imperium has been on the brand for a few months now, and their leader can now join them regularly. Maybe we can even see WALTER vs. Samoa Joe soon? Meanwhile, Ilja can return to NXT UK and bring out the best in new and interesting matchups. His championship win means the brand can now revolve around him and take it in a new creative direction.

    As for the NXT Women's Championship, I was surprised by how short the match was. The rivalry only officially started recently, but Raquel Gonzalez dominated Dakota Kai with a clean win. NXT built this rivalry to be an extremely personal one, so I'm surprised they're quickly moving on to Kay Lee Ray, who made her NXT U.S. debut after the match. While I'm a fan of NXT UK Superstars appearing on NXT, I just felt we could have squeezed at least a second match out of Kai/Gonzalez. That said, Dakota Kai's loss here probably means that her time on NXT is up and that we could be seeing her on RAW or SmackDown soon.

    Speaking of changes, Cameron Grimes has finally captured the Million Dollar Championship. The way it was implied, I don't think we're finished with this (although I hope we are). (This feud is over, and the Million Dollar Championship has been retired once again as of this week's episode of NXTEd.) Ted DiBiase was a fun addition to the match, and it helped change the dynamic by a tiny bit. That said, I felt that the win didn't live up to the hype. Perhaps this is more due to my burnout from the storyline. Otherwise, the match was a solid opener that helped prepare the crowd for the bigger bouts.

    I'm not actually sure where this puts LA Knight, though. (He seems to be moving on up to challenge Samoa Joe as of this week's NXT. —Ed.) A loss like that usually means he could move up to the main roster, but a post-match skit seemed to imply otherwise. Likewise, where does Cameron Grimes go from here?

    Let's get to my least favorite match. I know I've said it a lot of times previously, but I have to get it out there again: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly was a match that I've lost interest in just because of how often it's taken place over such a short span of time. I'll admit that you can't take away the fact that these two have made magic together. Perhaps that's also the reason why we've seen it so many times. It's a reliable spectacle that helps bring viewers in.

    Giving O'Reilly the W here has fueled the rumors of Cole's departure even more. Nobody knows if it's a company or brand departure, but it definitely seems like one of the two. Perhaps we can finally see O'Reilly spread his wings after getting the rub from Finn earlier this year. It has been a missed opportunity after those matches, and this win over Adam Cole might get him back on track towards the main event scene. I will say that the Undisputed Finale was a worthy ending to a story that really began all the way back in 2017. At least the 2 Out of 3 Falls Match really brought their story to a climactic end.

    Overall, NXT TakeOver 36 was a fun watch. Although, somehow, I feel that things will be a lot different soon. It's too early to tell whether these changes are for the better or worse. But we're definitely going to see new faces in the spotlight, resulting in new and fresh stories. All the matches here felt like endings and these new beginnings are something that the brand will definitely capitalize on. All that said, it's your usual NXT TakeOver—solid matches born out of solid rivalries.

    Show Grade: B+

    Not-So-Full-Sails:

    • When was the last time we saw the NXT North American Championship defended in a one-on-one match at a TakeOver? (Editor's note: NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver all the way back in April.)
    • Has there ever been a 2 Out of 3 Falls Match that never reached the third fall? I've come to expect it to always reach the third fall, to be honest. (Editor's note: MVP beat Chris Benoit in two consecutive falls to win the United States Championship at Judgment Day 2007.)
    • I missed seeing MSK on a TakeOver but I suppose it makes sense that their tag title match happened on last week's NXT. I've just gotten used to them in the opening matches on shows like these.
    • Samoa Joe is the first-ever three-time NXT Champion, and I still wonder why the guy couldn't catch a break on the main roster.
    • Ted DiBiase's involvement during the Grimes/Knight match proves that his DNA as a character hasn't really changed after all these years. He and Grimes just happened to go up against a more hateable villain in LA Knight. That's a testament to all three's work right there.
    Photos and videos from WWE

    *****

    Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your resident Young Rock and NXT reviewer here at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) Instagramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz), and streaming videogames on Twitch (@the_migz) while he pursues his musical career via his YouTube channel (Migz Llado) and courtesy of his band The Mox (TheMoxRocks). You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE 2K (or any PS4) skills.
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    Item Reviewed: The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver 36 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Migz Llado
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