Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream: Pro Wrestling storytelling at its very best
A look back at one of WWE's best told stories in 2017
All Velveteen Dream wanted was for Aleister Black to say his name.
At last weekend's NXT Takeover War Games event, the second match of the evening arguably stole the show – some feat considering the show was main evented by the spectacle of its titular match, seen for the first time in two decades.
While War Games was an awesome site to behold and other contests saw on the card saw Andrade 'Cien' Almas capturing the NXT Championship and Ember Moon taking the vacant Women's title, the earlier contest between Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream was pro wrestling at its absolute best. There were no gimmicks and no titles on the line. It was a match that had been built to through simple, yet elegant storytelling. And as a result, the crowd was electric as the two men in the ring pulled out one explosive move after another between an array of psychological mind games.
Many even speculate that the contest was not only the best of the night, but greater than anything else that went down that entire weekend, including one of WWE's 'big 4' pay-per-views, Survivor Series, which took place the following night. It was highlighted by monumental clashes such as The Shield vs The New Day, The Bar vs The Usos, and AJ Styles vs Brock Lesnar in what was the beast's best match in years.
Considering the competition from the big leagues, the fact that this match was Velveteen Dream's first on a big stage is all the more impressive. The kid we all met as part of the 2015 season of Tough Enough -- known then by his real name Patrick Clark, is only 22 years of age at the time of writing.
It makes it all the more incredible when he has so much time to grow into his character and as a performer while having it seemingly nailed it on the first try.
Why this feud worked so well – and in this writer's opinion, is the best story WWE has told us all year – is that it cast two characters who, while outlandish in their own ways, are polar opposites, and gave them a reason to fight. The plot was simple: Aleister Black is NXT's cool guy who doesn't say much and doesn't care what anyone else thinks about him. He goes about his business while kicking people's heads off and keeping his undefeated streak alive.
Velveteen Dream, meanwhile, is an attention-seeker. All he wants is to be loved and this shows in the way he struts to the ring as the most flamboyant performer since Goldust circa 1996. After Black had defeated Hideo at Takeover Brooklyn in August, he strolled to the ring on an episode of NXT to speak for the first time. There was one thing he needed to do, he told us, as an opportunity at the NXT Championship seemed viable, considering the fact that Black hadn't lost a match. Only, before he could make his declaration, Velveteen Dream interrupted. The Dutch Destroyer kicked the microphone out of Dream's hand and left.
Over the weeks that followed, Velveteen Dream began stalking Black. As Aleister made his way down the ramp to face Lio Rush in the latter's debut on NXT TV, Dream slid into the ring and ambushed Rush, beating him down before Black could start the match. Aleister didn't even bother to shrug it off.
The following week, the rescheduled match between Rush and Black took place. Dream appeared ringside, dressing in Black's jacket. As Black finished off Rush and sat cross-legged in the ring, Dream stood on the ramp, wearing the Dutchman's jacket and begging, screaming for him to say his name. He just wanted attention.
This continued to escalate and brought us one of the cooler moments in recent memory. During another of the Dutch Destroyer's entrances, Dream rose up from the smoky depths, attacking the man whose attention he craved. Velveteen Dream's would continue the attack, entangling Black in the ropes. However. Aleister would kick back, break free and narrowly miss with his Black Mass spinning kick.
Irony would play a role in their Takeover match, as Dream became entangled in the ropes himself, leading to his downfall. The match provided satisfying a conclusion to a story arc as pro wrestling can deliver.
The audience was invested in both characters and both men played their roles to perfection, not only in terms of technical wrestling but in the moments that reflected some of the more memorable moments of the feud. When all was said and done, and Black had scored the win (rightfully so), Velveteen Dream would also leave a winner, as he looked good in defeat in what was his first major bout, while also getting what he wanted all along. He had impressed Aleister Black enough to earn his respect.
'Enjoy infamy, Velveteen Dream,' said Black, as the crowd erupted.
A simple story with great characters, that built to an awesome match and gave us the perfect ending. This is what is, unfortunately, missing all too often from WWE's main shows, which all too often feature random matches and feuds over material as trivial as flying a flag and fail to connect with the audience.
The characters of Black and Dream are over the top, but at the same time are relatable to the motives. That's all that's needed to get the crowd off their feet and invested.
Let's hope these two get to tangle again down the road. That Patrick Clark from Tough Enough has more than proved his mettle, while the former Tommy End is a future superstar.