Say what you like about the build-up, but Takeover delivered once again.
We simply have to start with the Tag Team Championship match. Last year, NXT belonged to the tag teams and going by what we’ve seen in 2017 so far, it still does.
When #DIY and The Revival get in the ring together, magic happens. We all know what happened in Toronto last year and my favourite NXT match of 2017 so far was their title match back in January. Well, it was my favourite until last night because #DIY, The Revival and The Authors of Pain may have just put on the best NXT tag team match ever. I was absolutely blown away by what these three teams achieved on Saturday. This match was perfect in showcasing what these three teams are all about. #DIY are the best babyfaces in NXT and they got scrap around, punch above their weight and have love reigned down on them. The Revival continued to be a match of the year factory and the absolute best tag team on this planet. Meanwhile, AOP really turned up to the tag team party and they emerged looking like monsters. They rode out the 4-on-2 attack to eliminate both of NXT’s top teams. They actually got heat for it too, granted they were booed simply because they weren’t #DIY or The Revival, but take it where you can get it.
The story of the match was that #DIY and The Revival realised they needed to work together to eliminate AOP so they could take their chances with one another. However, they dislike each other so much that couldn’t co-exist for long enough to get the job done. They immediately teamed up to attack the champs but instead of going for the elimination, they ended up fighting each other. But whichever combination was in the ring, great things were happening.
When the challengers finally got back on the same page, it was exhilarating. DIY tried to powerbomb Rezar through the table that had been set-up in the rapid opening, but it wasn’t until Dash & Dawson joined in that they could finally drive the big Albanian through the table. I’d have thought that would be a DQ, but I suppose they got away with it considering it took all four to drop Rezar. Before the match, I thought AOP would retain, but suddenly I was sure they were losing, Rezar was laid out and Scott Dawson locked Akam in an inverted figure-four. Johnny Gargano ran in to slap on the Gargano escape to ramp up the pain, Tommaso Ciampa & Dash Wilder egged them on and Orlando bayed for Akam to tap. It was an incredible sight and there were such disappointment when Rezar powered through to break it up. But the match kicked up another level when Dawson & Gargano combined to hit #DIY’s superkick/knee strike combo and then we got a Shatter Machine courtesy of Ciampa & Wilder. There’s few things in wrestling that get me more pumped than someone using an opponent’s finisher out of nowhere, and the half-and-half we got last night was a nice riff on the old trick. I think it was a nod to their Toronto classic too, when The Revival cocked up #DIY’s finish only to walk into a Shatter Machine courtesy of Johnny & Tom, my favourite part of that match.
Dawson attempted a desperate last-ditch effort with an insane superplex onto the crowd of bodies on the floor, but it even that wasn’t enough. AOP took out #DIY with the Last Chapter on Ciampa, leaving The Revival all alone. Despite Wilder heroically sacrificing himself to save Dawson from the Last Chapter, it was too much for Dash & Dawson and AOP ended it with the Supercollider.
An absolutely outrageous match. I don’t believe in giving out star ratings or assigning arbitrary numbers to indicate the quality of a match, but this was wrestling at its best.
Main eventing the show, at least on paper, was Shinsuke Nakamura v. Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship. At Takeover San Antonio, Roode captured the title from Nakamura in a very good match, with a brilliant finale. It was the best NXT title match in over a year, but helped as it wasn’t preceded by anything truly great. That’s been the problem for the NXT Championship, by the time the main event rolled around, the crowd had already been blown away by the women or the tag teams. It was a tough act to follow, and last night it was the same. I pity anything having to follow that triple threat tag match, but Nakamura v. Roode II just didn’t quite stand out. It was a solid, perfectly watchable wrestling match that I will probably have no memory of in a few months. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything good about it. The match told a logical story and had the right conclusion.
Essentially, Bobby Roode is an intelligent wrestler that pays attention. The pre-match vignette showed him watching their previous match, when Nakamura buckled his knee and insisted on using it to hit a Kinshasa. Bobby knows Kinshasa is Nakamura’s best weapon because he felt the full force of it. In San Antonio, he was out for the count but survived because Nakamura was in horrible pain and couldn’t pin him quick enough. So here he spends most of the match working Nakamura’s dodgy knee and doing his damnedest to avoid Kinshasa. The first time he avoided it, he chop blocked the shit out of Nakamura’s knee and applied a figure-four. Shout out to Nigel McGuiness for implying the figure-four is 10x worse than childbirth, more on poor Nigel later. Bobby escaped the ring later backing off from a Kinshasa and turned another attempt into a lovely spinebuster. The first Glorious DDT wasn’t enough to put the King of Strong Style down but a beautiful tornado Glorious DDT did the trick.
I had some fears we’d end up with three-time champion Nakamura. Not out of dislike or anything, it just wouldn’t have been a good use of him. Hopefully now he can move on up to Smackdown or Raw and we can get some fresh faces in the title picture. Roode might have a new challenger already:
WHAT’S DREW MCINTYRE DOING IN THE NXT ZONE?!?!?!11!?1ONE!
I’m thrilled to see Drew back in WWE. I thought getting rid of him was a mistake anyway, but the time away has done Drew the world of good. I’ve seen Drew live a few times since he hit the indies and it’s clear to me that he’s one of the best in the world. Every time I left a show that Drew performed on, all I could think was how is this guy not a WWE main-eventer? The size of a wrestler is often exaggerated, but I actually think Drew’s size is downplayed. The guy is a giant and always seems to tower over his opponents, something something indie vanilla midgets etc.
The question is why NXT? While I could easily see Drew as WWE’s first British world champion, Drew in NXT can definitely be mutually beneficial. The last time a casual WWE fan saw Drew, he was a comedy jobber in a pretend rock band. The last thing he needs is a Raw crowd chanting 3MB or What or CM Punk at him. Muttonheads. But in NXT he can re-establish Drew McIntyre. Show everyone why he was “the chosen one”.
Welcome back Drew. NXT roster… You. Are. Fucked.
It was a battle of the streaks as Asuka put her NXT Women’s Championship on the line against Ember Moon. This is a match I’ve been looking forward to for a while, NXT’s top two women and a realistic challenger for Asuka. Initially, I thought this could be the end for Asuka but the clunky build-up quickly had me reconsidering. The foundations are there but I think this match came too soon. Holding Takeovers before the Big 4 PPVs presents scheduling issues. There were only nine shows between San Antonio & Orlando and one of those was pre-recorded before San Antonio, so that’s 8 hours to build to a show on the biggest weekend of the year, it’s not enough. The main story was that Ember Moon possesses a devastating move that could feasibly beat Asuka. Unfortunately, they beat us over the head with how deadly the Eclipse is. There was no subtlety, it was plainly THE ECLIPSE IS REALLY DANGEROUS, YOU GUYS. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised Asuka didn’t eat an Eclipse and kick out because of how silly the build-up was.
However, I liked what they did with the match. It’s always best to leave it to the professionals in the ring. Asuka hasn’t lost since arriving in NXT, she’s been champion for a year and she’s spent her entire tenure blitzing everyone who’s dared to face her. She doesn’t see how anyone can top her, so she hasn’t taken Ember seriously at all. After San Antonio, she didn’t even know Ember Moon worked at NXT. Asuka expected another geek like Liv Morgan or Billie Kay. But Ember is better than that and rocked Asuka. She threw some tasty forearm smashes, tossed Asuka with a couple of suplexes and resisted the Asuka Lock. Asuka was complacent and got spooked when Ember fought back, so much so that the champion resorted to cheating. When Ember went up top for the Eclipse, Asuka panicked and chucked the ref into the ropes, Ember crashed and burned, Asuka kicked her head in for the win.
This leaves us with several interesting options. Asuka has leaned towards being a heel in recent months but this is the first time she has outright cheated. I’d definitely be curious to see her go full Skull Reaper, she won’t get booed because it’s impossible to boo someone who looks this good in a sundress:
I got distracted, where we were? Options, right. Clearly, Asuka wanted nothing to do with it last night and thought as long as she avoided it, she had Ember under control. This, of course, was true but she probably never planned for Ember to even make it to the top rope. There’s an insecurity there and a chink in Asuka’s previously impervious armour. Ember can learn from her experience of facing Asuka once and exploit Asuka’s fears over the Eclipse. There’s a long time until the next Takeover, which gives us plenty of time to sufficiently hype Asuka v. Ember II.
Takeover marked the official debut of Aleister Black, and I’m very excited to see what he’s got in store. Tommy End was one of those wrestlers I always wanted to see in-person on the indies and while I was never fortunate enough, I’ll settle for seeing him on TV every week. He looks fantastic, he’s totally unique (especially for WWE), and he immediately looked like a big deal. His entrance was full of mystery and all eyes were on him.
It was good debut from in-ring perspective, Black and Andrade Cien Almas worked well together, apart from one dodgy pin. Black throws his strikes with real malice and it’s always good to see someone who makes it look legit. The way he lifted Almas by the chin using his foot was badass and he put him back down with the Black Mass spin kick.
While it was Black’s night, how good is Almas? I say get this man a championship ASAP, but I think it’s a little way off sadly. At the moment he’s stuck in the Tyler Breeze/CJ Parker role of making the new guy look good. Clearly, there’s a lot of trust in Almas to do this role but I think he could be so much more. I had little knowledge of La Sombra and his introduction to NXT was underwhelming but since turning he’s been a highlight of NXT. There’s a real intensity to his work and he’s starting to put together a good collection of work in NXT. Him and Oney Lorcan have had a couple of good fights and his match with Roddy Strong in San Antonio was arguably match of the night. There should be great things on the horizon for El Idolo. Dare I say he should recruit some Ungovernables, perhaps?
Also, Nigel called NXT Ring of Honor. Incorrectly referring to ROH, who does he think he is, Baron Corbin?
I have to pick fault with Sanity’s tactics. At Axxess, they took out No Way Jose, ruling him out of action. Tye Dillinger’s dream team were allowed to replace him and got a serious upgrade in Kassius Ohno. From Sanity’s point of view, why take out the weakest member of Tye’s team. Obviously, they wanted to punish Tye in the match so he wasn’t an option, but why not take out the team’s best wrestler in Roderick Strong? Attacking Ruby Riot was an option too, who would they have replaced her with, Aliyah? Deonna Purrazzo? As it happens, it didn’t matter too much as Sanity put on their best showing to date, getting the win, but they probably could’ve made it easier for themselves.
In all seriousness, the opener was a lot of chaotic fun. There was action happening all over the place, the sort of multi-man tag that WWE does really well. In amidst the madness, Killian Dain got the win for his team with an Ulster Plantation on Dillinger. I really do love Big Daino, I’m barely used to his new name and seeing him in NXT but on Sunday I was watching him at Wrestlemania. Surreal stuff. Back in October, I watched him face Joe Coffey in a small room in a university in front of about 400 people. Last night, he was performing for 70,000 people. Really happy for him. Bonus points for his new berserker look.
Sanity’s success comes at the expense of Tye Dillinger, though. Not only was he on the losing side, he ate the pin, too. I have no problem with Sanity winning, the dedicated unit should beat the thrown together individuals, but where does Dillinger go from here? I don’t see him as future world champion or anything like that, but he’s consistently getting huge reactions from the crowd, it’s hard to ignore.
We didn’t see a lot of Ruby Riot in her first match, she and Nikki Cross just ended up brawling whenever they locked eyes. I’ll confess that I’ve seen next to nothing of her work as Heidi Lovelace but I enjoyed her promo that was on Youtube after her debut, my only problem is that I keep calling her Ruby Rose. With regards to Nikki, she’s playing her role well but I would like to see her actually wrestle. There’s a reason why Nikki Storm was called the Best In The Galaxy, and I think she’s a bit better than what she’s been allowed to show so far. Hopefully we’ll get to see a bit more in her inevitable singles match with Ruby.
Final thought, Roddy Strong is really winning me over. The guy is a hell of a wrestler and posesses a fantastic moveset. He’s still garbage on the mic but as long as he’s breaking backs, I’ll look forward to his matches.
Another Takeover in the books, then. I’m already excited for the next NXT Tag Team Championship match.