The weekend of wrestling we just experienced was a pretty incredible one. It began with NXT Takeover: Philadelphia on Saturday night which, despite only being a five match card, absolutely tore the house down. As always with weekends like this one, Takeover left the Superstars on the main roster with a hard act to follow but in a lot of ways they managed that. As a whole the Royal Rumble was pretty great. Both of the 30-person matches were won by Superstars that had the fans leaving happy, and there was, of course, that Ronda Rousey moment right at the end of the night. Despite all of that though, the better event of the two was still NXT Takeover.
First up is the aforementioned number of matches on the card. Having just five matches on a big card means a number of good things. First of all the show didn't last six hours. From the start of the kick-off show to the end of the Royal Rumble, fans who watched the whole thing had to sit through over six hours of programming. With NXT Takeover it's almost half of that amount, even with its own pre-show. Even with so much less time the matches in NXT are given so much more time. Five matches spread across two and a half hours works a lot better than four matches plus two Royal Rumbles packed into four hours.
That extra time the NXT Superstars get means that they can tell a story. Take what was arguably the match of the weekend for example, Johnny Gargano versus Andrade Almas for the NXT Championship. The bout was an incredible one and had everybody watching the show on the edge of their sets. By the time Almas finally managed to successfully keep Johnny Wrestling down for the three count, the whole crowd, both in the arena and watching at home, was fully invested. From the close calls to the false finishes to the involvement of Gargano's wife Candice LeRae, an extremely good story was told from the beginning to the end of that match.
What the Gargano/Almas match also demonstrated this weekend is that the main roster and NXT are in the business of very different things. Raw and SmackDown Live are all about moments. Ronda Rousey coming to the ring, Brock Lesnar F5ing Braun Strowman through a table...Vince McMahon and the rest of the creative team seem more concerned with giving fans moments to talk about than having them become invested in their Superstars. Triple H and NXT on the other hand seem to have a very different mind set. Yes there were memorable moments at Takeover on Saturday night but the take home moment for the evening as a whole was how great the matches were in their totality. We all love Gargano now, and can all envision Aleister Black as a World Champion on the main roster some time in the not so distant future.
PREVIOUSLY: THE BIGGEST MOMENTS FROM ROYAL RUMBLE 2018
The fact that there were some big moments at the Royal Rumble is what may have had some fans fooled in to thinking the whole show was a success. The Royal Rumble is the easiest place to do that. Have a fan favorite win the 30 person match and throw in some surprise returns and most will likely forget that the rest of the show was actually a bit of a dud. The two World Title matches have pretty much been forgotten despite the triple threat being one of the main selling points of the show. They were effectively used as filler. Doing that sets a dangerous precedent for the company's two biggest championships. Takeover on the other hand had no filler. From Kassius Ohno versus Velveteen Dream to Ember Moon defending her title against Shayna Baszler, everything meant something and every rivalry featured was properly built to and showcased.
NXT Takeovers being better than what comes the night after is no longer the exception, it's the rule. Yes you can point at the fact that Takeover always kicks off the weekend's festivities, but in reality it is so much more than that. Maybe it's because Superstars get more one to one time with creative and more chance to develop their characters in a slower moving environment, but the fact of the matter is on the big stage NXT is better than Raw and SmackDown Live. WWE's third brand will never be on the same level as the two flagship brands but we as fans certainly appreciate the fact that they are given so much freedom to put on terrific shows a few weekends a year while we prepare ourselves for the supposed bigger shows the following night.