“The End” is certainly an ominous subtitle. NXT obviously isn’t ending, but it does feel like we are reaching the end of an era. At some point, NXT became the #2 wrestling promotion in the United States and the primary alternative/competition to WWE. When the idea of bringing back the brand split was brought up, many people suggested that Smackdown should be replaced by NXT.
Obviously, that isn’t happening. Instead WWE is going to try to create competition between Raw and Smackdown, and perhaps turn Smackdown into an alternative brand. Where does that leave NXT? Maybe it becomes more of a true developmental territory than it has been in the last few years. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor maybe weren’t all main roster ready as soon as they showed up…but their stints in developmental went on a lot longer than they needed to. Balor is presumably on his way to the main roster, and the question becomes what should be done with guys like Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and Austin Aries. They’re all ready to be on national TV and probably have been for a long time. Where they go next depends on what the vision for NXT is: Is it a developmental program to get guys ready for the main roster, or is it a legitimate competitor to Raw and Smackdown?
OH SHIT, they brought back “THE END IS HERE” song from Armageddon. I just marked out for that.
Tye Dillinger vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Was the primary motivation for this match that they both have number-related nicknames? Interesting look and gimmick on Almas. A lot more Godfather-ish than I would expect. I feel like they’re at their quota for masked wrestlers with two on the main roster.
If you’ve ever seen Almas wrestle, you know he’s an insane athlete. He shows that off quickly here. I absolutely love the spot where Almas does the headstand on the turnbuckle for the second time and Dillinger kicks him right in the fucking face.
Quick ending with Almas getting the win with big double knees in the corner.
Rating: *¾. That was good for the time they had. Showcased the crazy athleticism of Almas, which was the primary purpose of the match.
NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha (c) vs. The Revival
Two of the best tag teams in the world right now. This should be a treat.
I don’t know if it’s a problem that I still don’t know which one is Dash and which one is Dawson.
I’ll never stop being impressed by how smooth both Jordan and Gable are. American Alpha really getting to showcase in the early part of the match here. Naturally, the dastardly villains cheat to take the advantage and beat the piss out of Gable.
Jordan takes the tag and dishes out some the spiciest heat I’ve seen in a long time. Revival cut him off and now it’s his turn to get pummeled. The second tag comes quicker than I would have expected, and it looks like we’re headed for triple heat. Dawson goes for the Arn Anderson classic “fake the haymaker, get them to duck, stick them with the DDT,” but Gable grabs the rope to block.
I’m not really sure what happened on that Powerbomb double team, but it was crazy.
Revival pull the upset. Not shocked, though I assumed it meant Alpha was getting called up.
Rating: ***½. That was baller. I absolutely love the way these teams work. Such classic 1980s tag wrestling. Really is like watching two teams from the golden age of the NWA tag division.
PAUL ELLERING?!?!?!?! That’s amazing. No idea who the guys that attacked Jordan and Gable are, but they looked impressive.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries
That cape outfit on Aries looks really cheap.
Nakamura’s theme is an all-time classic. Tells you everything you need to know about him without a single word.
For a guy who’s pretty petite, Nakamura hits with incredible intensity.
They’re taking their time getting going here. Nice slow build. We’ll see what happens when they kick into the higher gear.
The pace has really drawn the crowd in. Aries is throwing everything he’s got at Nakamura right now.
Death Valley Driver on the apron should be kayfabe death. Ring the fucking bell, Nakamura’s done. Aries instead nearly dies on a Suicide Dive into the guardrail, and Nakamura comes back to life with a Super Kinshasa. And then another one for good measure.
Rating: ***¾. That was a little different that I expected, but I really enjoyed it. Hell of a fight, tons of big spots. I think Nakamura recovered way too fast from the DVD, but that’s pretty much my only complaint.
NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax
Basic story so far with Nia overwhelming Asuka with her power. Asuka is able to counter with speed, but keeps getting knocked down. Asuka fights back with such ferocity that she makes it seem plausible for her to be taking it to someone so much bigger.
Asuka wins sort of out of nowhere with a huge kick to the head.
Rating: *½. Not bad, but nothing special. Nia is still a work in progress, and Asuka is great. It’s just sort of the same match every time with Nia at this point.
NXT Championship: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Finn Balor
These two have been feuding for a really long time. Fair to assume that the loser of this match is headed for the main roster.
Joe is absolutely killing Finn. This is ugly. This match just needs blood.
Production of this match is hit and miss. On one hand, the close-up shots make the cage look huge and imposing. On the other hand, the constant cuts are distracting.
I was hoping the rules of this cage match would be different. Either just escape (with no door) or just pinfall/submission. Just something different from the main roster.
Love the physicality here. They’re really going at it and you can feel the intensity.
There’s an ominous feeling as Finn climbs the cage. Something terrifying feels like it’s about to happen. And it does, as Joe hits a Muscle Buster from the top rope!
Rating: **3/4. I didn’t love it or hate it. A little slow, too short, and it’s hard to pull off a cage match without blood. I also just wasn’t as into their series of matches as most people were. I’m not sure it needed to go this far, Joe probably could have just won the title back in Dallas.
No stinger or twist ending, just Joe heading to the back with his title.
Overall: A strong show, but not at the same level as most TakeOvers. Nakamura/Aries and the tag match were really good, but the other matches were a bit disappointing. Not the end of the world, this clearly something of a filler show to set-up the big one in Brooklyn in August. NXT remains my favorite wrestling show going right now.