It’s been an incredible rise for NXT in the last few years. They really are one of the premier wrestling organizations in the world at this point. Look at the stars on the show tonight: Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and of course the debuting Shinsuke Nakamura. It’s an incredible roster that they’ve assembled, and their creative team uses it to the fullest.
Tonight might be the most stacked TakeOver card ever. Joe/Balor, Zayn/Nakamura, Bayley/Asuka. It’s almost a dream card. It feels like we’re on the verge of the passing of a torch. Zayn has already moved up to the main roster, and I think it’s getting to be time for a lot of the top guys to follow him. Balor, Bayley, Ezno & Cass. The thing about NXT is that they’ve proven they can make new stars. I can’t wait to see what they can do next.
NXT Tag Team Championship: The Revival (c) vs. American Alpha
Think I’m more into The Revival than most. Such a gritty, old-school tag team. Like two poor man’s Arn Andersons teamed up to kick ass. Not much to say about American Alpha other than I think they’re tremendous. Incredible athletes, so damn smooth in the ring. Probably already ready for the main roster, but that could be said for a lot of NXT’s roster.
I love the pace American Alpha works at. They stay on top of their opponents, control them at all times. They wrestle as if it’s a shoot rather than lolly gagging around the ring like so many guys do.
The Suplex counter and then the Double Germans kind of blew my mind. I was so ready for things to settle into a heat segment. Instead, it’s Gable getting leveled on the floor with a Clothesline from Wilder.
Little touches from Revival: eye rake, forearm on the face during covers, really cinching in their holds, the way they cut the ring off when Gable tried the tag. And then the Flair Pin with the towel for extra leverage. I’ve watched a lot of wrestling and some of this stuff I’ve seriously never seen.
Yes, they didn’t hit the Powerbomb/Clothesline right. At least “Botch-a-Mania” is a less vile chant than “You Fucked Up.”
That was a mighty spicy hot tag to Jordan. At least Hot on the Nando’s Scale.
Blind tag leads to a Double Back Suplex as American Alpha win the tag titles.
Rating: ***. Excellent opener. It’s the same formula as every tag match, but they threw a lot of nice touches in there. I think both these teams have big futures. Revival called up to the main roster to feud with New Day wouldn’t surprise me at all. American Alpha have a nice long run with the belts in store. A run against Anderson and Gallows? Or the heel Vaudevillians?
I love cutting to people in the crowd. Makes this feel like a big event. Kota Ibushi is there? Holy shit…that’s a big deal. This is like the smart mark version of Lex Luger at the first WCW Nitro back in 1995.
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin
Corbin has come a long way. I’ve been a fan since I first saw him, but he was incredibly green at that point. He’s miles ahead of where he was then, especially in terms of his character and personality. I love him being the guy who kills all the indy guys. Great gimmick, the same thing I proposed they do with Sheamus when he came back last year.
If Corbin can tighten up his stomach I think he can main event Wrestlemania. Only half joking.
Corbin is really becoming a good heel. He’s the got the facial expressions, the body language down. His offense just reeks of arrogance. He has such disdain for his opponents.
This match was decent, Corbin’s heat segment might have gone on a bit too long. I didn’t like Aries getting the win, think this should have been Corbin’s time to shine. Perhaps they’re setting Aries up to challenge Joe?
Rating: *½. Wasn’t an amazing match, but I like that it gives some variety to the card. Excited to see how Corbin can keep developing.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
There had to be some temptation to bring Nakamura straight to the main roster, but it’s the right call to start him in NXT. Let him keep working on his English, learn the WWE style, get used to American fans. This was a star’s welcome he got here, and that wouldn’t have happened on the main roster. “Holy Shit!” and “YES!” chants for his entrance.
The fact that Shinsuke Nakamura is wrestling El Genero on WWE TV is fucking insane. We really have gone through the looking glass and out the other side.
Nakamura’s entrance lived up to the high expectations. And I like how Sami sat in the corner during it to not let it phase him.
Nakamura hits so damn hard for a guy who’s skinny and flamboyant.
This is one of those matches where I have trouble writing much because I got so sucked in while watching it. This match is a lot more physical than you’d expect. I sort of came in expecting a lot of big moves, and instead they’re just trading shots.
I love fights, and this was a damn fight. Blood, super intense, stiff shots. Great close kickout by Nakamura on the Blue Thunder Bomb. And then that sick kick to block Zayn’s Diving DDT. Nakamura put Zayn down with his big knee strike. I believe they’re calling it “The Kinshasa?”
Rating: ****1/2. That was something. Huge hype, lived up to it. Incredibly intense, loved the way they really drove those strikes in. One of the most physical and intense matches I’ve seen in a long time. Tremendous work by both guys.
Emotional send-off for Sami after the match. Hope he doesn’t flounder on the main roster like I fear he might. He’s meant so much to NXT.
NXT Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Asuka
The two best NXT (and possibly the entire world) has to offer. The right match for NXT’s Wrestlemania.
Bayley is one of my favorite acts in wrestling. A colorful character, kid-friendly, but 100% authentic and beloved by the crowd.
Tough act to follow for these women. I think it was smart to take a deliberate pace in the beginning and ease the crowd into the match. Then the bombs started getting thrown.
Bayley honed in on Asuka’s leg and kept going after it. Then she walked right into an Armbar. Bayley slipped out with a Cradle for two. Bayley applied the Armbar, but Asuka slipped out. Asuka blocked the Bayley to Belly and followed up with a Suplex and an Armbar. Asuka transitioned into the Asuka Lock. Bayley passed out and Asuka won the title.
Rating: ***¾. Tough act to follow but they pulled it off. Took their time, drew the crowd in. I really like the shock pass out finish. Chokes can come out of nowhere. It protects Bayley, sets up a rematch. Possibly a Submission match.
Bayley did a great job selling both her injuries and devastation over losing after the match.
And because things weren’t hot enough, they throw in a Booby Roode cameo.
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) vs. Samoa Joe
I like that Joe had to earn his way back to a title match after losing at the last TakeOver. Rematches don’t have to be bad if there’s proper foundation set for them. Joe had to beat Zayn in those epic matches, he wasn’t just handed another title shot.
Love showing the competitors walking to the ring for their match. Adds to the big fight feel.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre entrance was baller. And I liked Joe no-selling it. He’s a strong enough character to pull that off.
God, Joe is bleeding everywhere like 30 seconds into the match. Eye split wide open. And they roll with it as Joe just flips out and throws Finn into the crowd. Camera zooms right in on Joe. NXT is not PG. Joe follows with a massive Suicide Dive. We’re absolutely crackling three minutes in.
I go back and forth on blood. I love the visual. I understand the health risks. Interrupting the flow of the match to clean up a cut is irritating, even if it is realistic.
Joe continues to overpower Balor. Joe has an answer for everything Balor tries. Our champion is on the ropes. Balor makes his comeback and goes for the Coup de Grace, but he hasn’t done enough damage. Joe crushes him with the Muscle Buster for a close two count.
Finn gets up from a double KO and the demon comes to life. He nails the Coup de Grace, but it’s not enough. He goes for a DDT, but Joe slips out and locks on the Coquina Clutch! We get the Wrestlemania VIII finish as Finn runs up the turnbuckle and bridges into a pin for the win.
Rating: ***½. Quite good, but the doctor interruptions definitely hurt. I really like the way these guys work together and I’m surprised Joe didn’t get the title here. Guess Finn isn’t coming up to the main roster anytime soon? I question the wisdom of that. He’s ready. He’s not getting any younger, the bump card is filling up. Make money with the guy while you can.
Overall: Excellent show. I don’t know if it’s the best TakeOver, but it’s on-par with the best of the previous ones. NXT really is an excellent product. They give me hope for the future of WWE.