The adoration of Pro-Wrestling
I absolutely love pro wrestling. The action, the promos, the spectacle, it’s all just so captivating! No matter if it’s fake or not, no one can say that it isn’t entertaining and the same can be said for this trade of stories about the many stars of NXT, the WWE’s developmental brand. NXT is oftentimes so good that it’s own Takeover pay-per-views produce better quality matches and storylines than the main shows.
This book collects all four issues of the NXT Takeover mini-series, supplementary to the main WWE ongoing series and featured tales about past legends, current main roster stars back when they were part of developmental and the new crop of superstars ready to set the ring on fire!
The Blueprint focuses on the late, great Dusty Rhodes, reflecting on his duties as commissioner and trainer of the NXT talent.
The storytelling in this issue is fantastic and Dennis Hopeless captures all of Dusty’s mannerisms, from the way that he talks to the charisma he’s able to exude and the respect he commands to even the most hotheaded of talent like a young Seth Rollins and Jinder Mahal.
The art is hit or miss. Jake Elphick can draw a fantastic action scene and his style is very unique, but many of his faces are over exaggerated or just plain off. That doesn’t take too much away from the overall greatness of the issue, but it does hurt just a little bit.
The “Proving Ground” story perfectly captures the very essence of the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe. Joe’s character for most of his career has been that of a violent, badass always looking for a good challenge and the big prize in the form of championships.
He’s traveled the world and proven that he’s the best everywhere he’s been and that doesn’t change in NXT. Samoa Joe will do whatever it takes to win the big one, even betraying his best friends and other seasoned veterans that happen to get in his way.
Kendall Gooden’s art works for this story, but has faults. Joe is imposing and his athleticism is showcased well, but things still feel stiff. This is likely due to the lack of impact sparks (at least what I call them) for bigger hits and bumps. The presentation would be much better if there were more, but it’s still damn good, stylish art.
The Art of the Talent Scout
“Into the Fire” is possibly the best story in this entire trade. Personally, I hold NXT responsible for kickstarting the AMAZING women’s revolution that the WWE’s been having since it stopped with contest TV aspect of the show and just focused on the wrestling with stars like Paige, Becky Lynch Charlotte Flair and others.
The book centers around NXT Women’s veteran Paige, scouting talent to bring up with her to the main roster post neck surgery to become a dominant force in the Women’s Division as a trio.
Into the Fire showcases Asuka when she was an unbeatable demon of a wrestler (RIP Streak). She comes off as tough, formidable and calculating in the ring, a far cry from how she’s been used on the main roster. Ember Moon is shown as the athletic, goth, werewolf badass that she too once was. Even the individual members of the Riott Squad were shown off better than I expected!
Ruby Riott was brash and quick, like the punk rocker she is. Liv Morgan, my least favorite of the three, was athletic and the art sold me on the Matrix dodge that she pulls from time to time. And… good God Liv Morgan. The Norse badass herself, took on the IIconics, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay and seemed like an absolute beast. Though she didn’t overcome the odds, I now see he in an even better light as a legit monster woman that can stand up to the likes of Nia Jax, the current Monster Heel of the Women’s division.
As Paige approaches them with the offer of forming a team, they decide to do so, but beat the piss out of her, asking why THEY need HER. Paige is then saved by her future Absolution teammates Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. They aren’t given much time to shine, but this possible origin story for the team is much more exciting than any real way that it did happen.
Artistically WWE NXT falls through the Cracks
Hyeonjin Kim and Wesllei Manoel MADE this story and had the best art of the collection. Colors are vibrant to contrast with the heavy inks, even reds and browns stand out against the dark arena backgrounds. Every wrestler looks like a credible threat, even the IIconics, who have to rely on numbers to win. Plus, I love all of these performers. And seeing them drawn with the same speed and impact that they display in the ring is a delight! It’s also a good reminder of how important Paige is or was the the coming crop of superstars, though she had to retire early due to injury, she still helped pave the way for talented women in the WWE.
“Redemption” focuses on Aleister Black, formerly Tommy End. He is my aesthetic as a goth, metal loving, silent type whose only motivation is a good fight. He relies on stiff strikes in the ring, he can fly and he can work a technical masterpiece of a match with the best of them.
Through his short time in NXT he’s torn down the house with matches against other future stars like The Velveteen Dream, Andrade “Cien” Almas (before his name change to just Andrade) and both former members of #DIY, best friends turned enemies, Johnny “Wrestling” Gargano and “The Blackheart” Tommaso Ciampa.
His journey has been one of him constantly having to prove himself against competitors the likes of which he hasn’t faced before. To his credit, he has prevailed on a roster bursting with talent, standing out as one of NXT’s breakout superstars and there are definitely Wrestlemania Main Events in his future.
How did we rate WWE NXT Takeover? 4 Sodas
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