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Match Of The Week: Adam Cole Vs. Ricochet

A jaw-dropping display from two of NXT's very best...

It's been an eventful week in the world of wrestling - a sentence I feel like I write every week, but this time I'm actually being honest.

STARDOM's 5*Star Grand Prix got underway, with current top dog Kagetsu impressing in both victory and defeat. WALTER casually chipped in with a couple of brilliant matches, losing to Ishii in RevPro, but winning the OTT Championship from Jordan Devlin.

But, with New Japan in cool-down mode following the G1 Climax, and All In still just out of sight, this week's focal point was WWE.

SummerSlam weekend provided us with a boatload of action that was, on the whole, very exciting. From Ronda Rousey tearing Alexa Bliss' arm off to Samoa Joe's "daddy"-based antics, there was no shortage of talking points.

The weekend also brought us another excellent NXT TakeOver, with Brooklyn IV immediately establishing itself as one of the very best events of 2018. Various wrestlers attempted to steal the show, from new Women's Champion Kairi Sane, to eternal nemeses Gargano and Ciampa.

Ultimately, it was one of those events without a clear Match of the Night, so consistent was the quality of the show throughout. However, I don't think I'll raise too many complaints by opting for the NXT North American Championship bout between Adam Cole and Ricochet. Let's take a look.

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Background: Since jumping Drew McIntyre at the end of TakeOver: Brooklyn III, Adam Cole has been on a monumental tear in NXT. In his debut year, the former Bullet Club member has strutted around with all the smugness and confidence of...well, a former Bullet Club member.

Allying himself with fellow ROH alumni Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish (and, later, Roderick Strong), Cole has quickly become one of the biggest names on the yellow brand. He was the star of NXT's inaugural WarGames match, entered the 2018 Royal Rumble, and crowned himself the first-ever NXT North American Champion.

That last accolade was won in a treacherous ladder match at TakeOver: New Orleans, one few fancied Cole to win. A far bigger favourite was fellow NXT newcomer Ricochet.

Like Cole, the high-flier was one of the most popular indy stars around upon signing with WWE, and did so to considerable hype. Unlike Cole, he was immediately established as a pure, crowd-popping babyface - one who operated alone.

It didn't take long for the pair to clash, and although the leader of the Undisputed Era seized gold in New Orleans, it was Ricochet who stole the show with his athleticism and bravery. He would challenge Cole after winning a short feud with the Velveteen Dream, only to be rejected.

Eventually, the champ accepted Ricochet's offer and savagely beat him down (with the help of his stable), setting up this match at TakeOver: Brooklyn IV. Truth be told, it hasn't been the most complex of storylines - but it hasn't needed to be. In terms of personality and style, the pair are polar opposites: Ricochet heroic, and in possession of jaw-dropping natural ability, Cole obnoxious, and always looking for a shortcut.

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The Match: Even before the match has begun, it's startling just how over the champion is - evident in his entrance. The echo that greets his signature cry of "Adam Cole, bay-bay!" easily rivals any pop of the entire weekend. Clearly, Cole is a product of the modern era, where charismatic heels are just as likely to be cheered as their babyface counterparts.

While his sheer popularity could skew the dynamic of a lot of matches, he's fortunately matched up here with a similarly beloved foe in Ricochet. The pair begin evenly, until Cole throws a Superkick feint in the challenger's direction. Ricochet flinches, and Cole tells him "you're not special" - a central theme of their feud.

Of course, it's now up to Ricochet to prove that he is special - and he does soon after. During a seemingly routine exchange, Cole's Leapfrog attempt is met with a brutal Shotgun Dropkick, sending the champion tumbling to the outside.

It doesn't take Cole long to regain the advantage, grounding the high-flyer and wearing him down. Ricochet attempts to pick up the pace again, but the champion catches him in mid-air and nails a lovely Ushigoroshi. It's the first instance of Cole having Ricochet's offence scouted, perhaps the dominant theme of the whole match, and one which grows with increasingly dramatic consequences.

The pendulum swings back in the challenger's favour, and he nails his first big high-flying move of the match: a typically smooth Fosbury Flop dive to the outside. He keeps things quick and flashy with a 619 and a Cesaro-style springboard uppercut. A standing Shooting Star Press and middle-rope Phoenix Splash follow, and Ricochet is really moving through the gears now.

The challenger goes for a handspring back elbow, but we get the second major instance of Cole having his number in spectacular fashion. He again catches Ricochet in mid-air, this time with a perfect (and painful) Backstabber. Shortly afterwards, however, it's the heel's turn to see a signature move reversed. Cole attempts to meet Ricochet off the top rope with a Superkick, but the challenger catches the blow and clobbers him with a huge forearm. Cole's look of sheer disbelief is something to behold, but it's not long before he deals an even more shocking blow of his own.

Ricochet sets off for the ropes and launches himself backwards into a Lionsault, but Cole cuts him off with a jaw-dropping Superkick, sending the challenger spinning into the canvas. It's the match's defining spot, but the champ doesn't rest on his laurels. He drags Ricochet back to his feet and drops him with the Last Shot (or the move that was formerly the Last Shot, before he gave the name to his Shining Wizard). Unbelievably, it only gets a two count.

I've since seen a few people complain that this didn't end the match, but I think given the circumstances it's totally acceptable. This isn't Roman Reigns kicking out of five F5s; it's a resilient babyface pushing himself beyond his usual limits in the biggest match of his WWE career so far.

Ricochet ducks the inevitable Shining Wizard and cradles Cole for two, before the pair trade an unbelievable series of strikes. The crowd reach fever pitch as Enziguris and Superkicks land, and although he takes the final blow of the exchange, Cole luckily flops down onto the challenger's prone body. Again, it isn't enough.

We now enter the final stretch of the match, as Cole removes his kneepad and looks to blast a dazed Ricochet in the back of the head. The challenger senses his approach and ducks out of the way, before leaping up into a crunching reverse 'rana. It seems as though Cole's title reign is over as Ricochet heads up top, but the wily heel rolls slowly to the apron. It's the last act of a desperate champion, as his opponent launches himself over the top rope and nails a Hurricanrana, sending both men tumbling to the outside.

Riding on adrenaline, Ricochet drags Cole back inside, heads up top, and lands the 630 to finally put the match to bed.

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Aftermath: Despite taking place on a weekend stacked with wonderful matches, the general consensus seems to suggest that Cole and Ricochet's war was the best of all.

Immediately, all eyes are on the new champion. Presumably, Cole will have his rematch, but it's hard to see Ricochet dropping the belt straight back to him - despite NXT's fondness for a surprise.

Regardless of the next challenger for the title, predicting a reign full of jaw-dropping athleticism and exciting matches seems a safe bet. The NXT North American Championship could well become WWE's workhorse title, if not one of the most exciting belts in the entire wrestling landscape.

But what's next for Adam Cole? The future is truly exciting for the Undisputed Era's leader, and given his slimy heelish ways, there are so many possibilities. He could easily jump to the main roster and become one of the most over men on either brand, but I think many would prefer to see him continue in NXT for a little while longer.

Cole now finds himself in a very interesting position. When he debuted a year ago, jumping Drew McIntyre, he set his sights firmly on the NXT Championship. Could that be his next target?

Regardless, this match is another shining example of NXT's brilliance - not just in terms of in-ring action, but character work and psychology too.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]