I was going to do a review of the Madison Square Garden show, but it really wasn’t interesting enough to justify one. Not bad, just average.
But there was no way I was missing a TakeOver special. There hasn’t been a miss yet since they started doing these in early 2014. This card is different, but in what I would consider a good way. For the first time in awhile the NXT Championship isn’t on the line. Instead we have the semifinals and finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Invitational, and a truly revolutionary main event: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks in a 30 Minute Iron Woman Match for the NXT Women’s Championship. First time a women’s match has main evented a WWE show since Lita vs. Stephanie closed a Raw in 2000.
While the so-called “Diva’s Revolution” sputters on the main roster, it continues to thrive in NXT. Strap in, I have a feeling this is going to be a good one.
The hype video that they played on the pre-show was one of the best I’ve ever seen. They showed them training, like real athletes! Working out, talking about changing diet, getting ready for the biggest match of their lives. Really can’t remember the last time they built a match that way on the main roster. Was it Mayweather vs. Big Show?
Samoa Joe and Finn Balor vs. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder
Really impressed by what I’ve seen from Dawson and Wilder so far. Everything about them is old-school NWA bad ass tag team wrestling. They’re like Arn and Tully, or Arn and Zybyszko. They just have the look of guys you wouldn’t mess with. When they get heat, they really grind it in.
This was basic tag wrestling, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Balor and Joe get their shine early, then the Mechanics undercut Balor’s leg and work him over. Balor makes the hot tag, Joe and Balor get the win. Straight forward, but well done.
Rating: **¾.. Solid opening match. Great selling from Balor, great heat by The Mechanics. Good job setting up the story for the finals with Balor’s injury.
Baron Corbin and Rhyno vs. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable
The big thing that stood out to me here is that Gable is a potential star. Great athlete, love his selling. Jordan dished out some stellar offense on his hot tag. This one really hooked me, I was rocking and rolling on each big move at the end. I was legitimately upset and disappointed when Rhyno and Corbin won, which is the sign of a good match.
Rating: ***½. Big fan of that. Jordan and especially Gable really carried it, but Rhyno and Corbin held their own.
Dana Brooke vs. Asuka
I love how many different people we’re seeing from the last special. Mechanics, Rhyno, Gable and Jordan, and now Asuka and Brooke. None of them were on the Brooklyn show.
Asuka is a bad ass. Dana Brooke is getting better. Not much else to say here. I liked this match.
Rating: **. Good showcase for Asuka. Brooke didn’t look bad in defeat either.
Tyler Breeze vs. Apollo Crews
I love that they actually acknowledged that Breeze has lost all his big matches and he’s been in NXT forever. Seems like they would never do that on the main roster, but it gives this match stakes it would otherwise lack.
Breeze showed me more here than he ever has. He was nasty and vicious to a new level. Fit perfectly with the story of Breeze being frustrated with his losses and desperate to get a big win. This was a fight. Breeze was nastier than usual, Crews was just as awesome as usual. Another match where both guys came out looking strong. Breeze showed an extra edge, Crews fought through it and was able to get the win. Good booking, good match.
Rating: ***. This is so much better than the main roster.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Final: Finn Balor and Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin and Rhyno
Balor’s selling is fantastic. Generates so much sympathy. This match was solid but didn’t blow me away. They probably couldn’t quite tear it down because Balor had to sell the leg so his offense was more limited than usual. Once more, everybody came out looking strong.
Rating: **½. Worthy finale to the tournament, good work from all four guys considering they’d already had a match.
Lovely post-match ceremony with the Rhodes family.
30 Minute Iron Woman Match for NXT Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks
I bring this up every time, but I love the shots of the wrestlers walking backstage before the main event. Makes these matches feel huge. Loved when they used to do it in the Attitude Era, love it now.
This match was built so well the crowd was chanting “This is Awesome” as soon as the bell rang. They hit a bunch of details perfectly here: the video package, the entrances, the announcers explaining the significance of the attire each woman was wearing.
Bayley is such a pitbull. Sasha brings so much attitude and is such a natural heel. It’s a lot like Breeze where she’s just naturally transitioned to being nastier than before. She lost her title and was humiliated. So she goes to make an example out of Bayley and prove she’s really The Boss.
Sasha goes full on devil by talking shit to Izzy and slamming Bayley into the screen. Sasha’s a huge Eddie Guerrero fan and that was exactly who she reminded me of here. 2005 Rey Mysterio feud sociopath Eddie.
Bayley wins the second fall out of nowhere, which surprised me. A good kind of surprise. Felt organic, rather than something out of a scripted wrestling match.
Sasha keeps working viciously, and Bayley matches her move for move. Bayley hits a massive Bayley to Belly Supex out on the floor after launching herself off the steps. A massive Bayley-to-Belly off the second rope only gets two when Sasha’s foot touches the rope. Bayley hits that Reverse Frankensteiner from Brooklyn…and HOLY SHIT SASHA LANDED ON HER FEET!
Belly to Belly from Sasha gets two, she transitions straight into the Banks Statement. Bayley fights out and reverses into a submission hold. Sasha submits with three seconds left and Bayley retains.
Rating: *****. Holy shit, that was phenomenal. Another level beyond what they did in Brooklyn. No complaints about that match. They absolutely nailed it. Best WWE match of the year. Best women’s match I’ve ever seen. This was a moment in time.
Then we go to another level with the entire roster coming out to commend Bayley and Sasha, Sasha breaking down, and them being presented with flowers.
Overall: Best TakeOver special. No bad matches, amazing five star main event. NXT reminds me of a college football team that loses star players to graduation but just reloads with new ones. They’ve lost Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Hideo Itami, Neville, Charlotte, Becky Lynch. But they just keep bringing in new talent and elevating the talent that’s still there. And it’s not complicated. They’re booking basic professional wrestling. Heat, getting heels over, making titles important, building big fights and delivering clear winners and losers. Second month in a row we’ve had all straight finishes. The main roster should really try this some time.