This is a guest article from Quentin Moody.
I don’t like writing reviews.
I don’t like putting negativity in to the air. Not because I’m some “just shut up and enjoy” it dipshit. It’s because I get no joy or fulfillment out of talking about things I dislike. The idea of putting more light on things I don’t like than things I do has always seemed counterproductive to me.
And then Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole in a two out of three falls match for the vacant NXT Championship happened. And then I finally understood why a blog like BrockHatesWrestling (even if the name is in jest) exists.
For 38 minutes I watched the culmination of 2010s wrestling projectile vomit its way to a standing ovation from the crowd, countless snowflakes thrown from people on Twitter, and almost certainly countless back pats from all the people backstage at NXT.
I’ve long been a defender of a lot of things that 2010s wrestling has become. The move and finisher reversals laden in numerous high profile NJPW of the decade had no effect on me and at times I saw as an advancement of the style, something that gave NJPW its own unique take on wrestling until the eventual homogenization or wrestling styles took place and that approach found its way to nearly every pocket of wrestling. I’ve defended PWG as people routinely targeted it for its lack of cohesive storytelling (or storytelling at all), an at times grating audience it attracts, and its insistence on every match going longer than it needs to, especially for the style of match that usually is on display there. I’ve been the high man on plenty of the good ol’ classic “Making Movies” matches in WWE when others have deemed them eye roll-inducing and incessantly hammy.
Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole perfectly encapsulated everything there could possibly be to hate about wrestling in the 2010s. Every note, every box, from each of the most popular spaces in wrestling of this decade were hit to create this amalgamation of creatively lacking and emotionally deceptive bullshit.
And I hate the fact that I am the one writing this. I’ve been a Johnny Gargano fan for years. I don’t dislike Adam Cole the way a lot of people seem to. I liked all the Gargano vs Ciampa matches from 2018. I shouldn’t hate this the way I do. I shouldn’t be as numb and frustrated as I am after watching this match. But I am, and with every passing tweet with people hailing this match as phenomenal and this TakeOver as “the best TakeOver ever!”, my frustration becomes less and less about the match itself and what those guys did. It becomes about what this match represents.
This is every tired falsehood of what a “great match” has grown to be in this decade. And I don’t mean it in the way of big moves and kickouts (although that was aplenty here), it’s the stuff people will jump to justify it as more than just that. This idea that Johnny had to jump over so many hurdles to make it, that Cole was this dastardly road block in his path. And I’d be totally remiss to not mention how they are in a very difficult spot of making this match between two people who have no storyline connections in their time in NXT create something that is emotionally gripping. But at least acknowledge that. This match lacks honesty, this match lacks any real sense of believability, and most of all—and without a doubt the most damning thing—by the time we get to the MONTHS-late payoff of Johnny Gargano finally capturing the NXT title, it lacks common sense.
As Johnny and his wife Candice LeRae make their way up the ramp triumphantly to close the show, out comes, you guessed it, Tommaso Ciampa.
The last three times these people have been on the top of the stage together to end a broadcast, someone got attacked. I wonder what happens next!
If you picked that, for some reason, WWE takes nearly two whole years of storytelling and decides to take a gigantic shit on it by having them all group hug and whisper sweet nothings to each other, then you are the winner.
I could take the match itself being boring and not interesting me. That happens, you’re not gonna like everything. It is what it is and I would have chalked it up to that.
But the one thing I refuse to let slide is when you make shit meaningless. It’s a spit in the face taking all this time to make people care about these characters and believe in their struggle and journeys and then do this. I’m not Jim Cornette. This isn’t some “why the fuck aren’t they keeping kayfabe!?” old man yelling at cloud thoughts. I understand perfectly well that they’re real life friends. Tommaso just suffered a devastating injury at the height of his career. Johnny just accomplished something that means the world to him. I will never be the guy to take issue with putting the act down and letting the people behind these characters be people for a change.
The issue here comes from the reactions I saw on Twitter to this. People hailing it as “great storytelling”, something worth crying over, a happy ending if you will. Why couldn’t this have been saved for WWE’s social media platforms? Why couldn’t this have been saved for an eventual documentary on this TakeOver show? Why did you have to chuck out out 2 years of Tommaso Ciampa tormenting Gargano, Gargano’s struggles to find himself, eventually getting too consumed by his anger and ultimately having to devise a (super fucking) convoluted plan to beat the monster he feels he created? The monster that, just as recently as a few week ago, he was attacking on NXT! This isn’t some situation where this is years, or even months, old. This JUST happened. And I get it, Ciampa is hurt and if they couldn’t do it as a match, they tied up this loose end as best as they could by just having everyone hug it out. We’re a generation that’s been conditioned to see something where people handshake, fist bump, and hug their way out of the problems is considered a good ending, despite how nonsensical in any context it may be. Couple that with the insincerity in the main event and the absolute disregard for the viewer that took that emotional ride with you for two years and the people that threw roses at them for it and you have a match that left me numb, angered and wishing that I would’ve just took this Mania week off from watching wrestling like I planned on.
The ultimate goal of any wrestling match, I would have to think, is to resonate a story told with the audience and viewers as much as possible. And if the goal for Gargano vs Cole was to leave me feeling as empty as possible, then mission accomplished.