How was NXT Takeover Dallas?
I’d be hard-pressed to not admit that this week has and will continue to be crazy. I wasn’t able to review this week’s NXT episode –I would give it a 4.5, the episode didn’t really do much for Takeover in the grand scheme, but it was able to highlight the Tag Teams, and the finish between Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe was enthralling,– reviewing Takeover, WrestleMania, and RAW will be more than interesting, because it requires attending the event, re-watching it, then gif’ing it, so forgive me if they’re shorter than I would have hoped. Anyhow, let’s get into Takeover.
First off, Takeover’s atmosphere was out of this world, everyone was loud from the point the line started to form, all the way to the conclusion of the show. There were chants from beginning to end, you can hear how loud all of us were on the WWE Network, and it was just as involving as one would hope from a Takeover show. One of the most disappointing parts of Takeover was seeing that Apollo Crews vs Elias Samson got moved from the main card to the pre-show dark match, even after being announced just two days earlier. It turned out to be a good thing though, as the match dragged on –Apollo won with his Lifted Sit-out Powerbomb,– the crowd wasn’t positively responding at all, and the main card ended up going over on their time without this match being involved.
The opening match was American Alpha against The Revival with the NXT Tag Team Championships on the line.
The crowd was firmly behind American Alpha –understandably,– hoping from bell to bell that Chad Gable and Jason Jordan would find a way to finally unseat Dash and Dawson. Gable had things pretty firmly in hand at first, but The Revival did what they do best, using their team chemistry to overpower their opponents, and Gable did what he did best, which is selling like a friggin’ champ. For several minutes, Gable was getting dominated, until managing to fight to his corner and tag Jordan in, which looked to turn the tide:
Jordan and Gable seemed to have crossed the line into the realm of getting the win shortly thereafter, but The Revival fought back, and it was too much for Jordan in the moment, but when Dash and Dawson went for a shady pin, Jordan somehow kicked out:
Jordan saw that he needed out, Gable had recovered enough to get back in, but were it not for a complete and utter screw-up on the part of Dawson, The Revival may have secured the win:
American Alpha weren’t giving up though, not by a long shot.
The pacing got interesting from there, as Gable began a series of pin attempts that shoved the audience to the front of their seats, pulses ran high, and deep sighs were abound. The Revival continued to avoid the loss, kicking out each and every time, but when Jordan tagged in without Dawson realizing it, Jordan allowed Gable to distract Dawson until Jordan came rushing in for a Spear in the corner, setting up the Grand Amplitude and the happiest win of the night –so far:–
After the match, cameras panned over to people in the crowd, showing JR, Michelle Beadle, and the biggest non-wrestling surprise of the night:
Kota Ibushi is the man who wrestled Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9, which was my International Match of the Year for 2015. Ibushi is a free-agent right now, rumored to be interested in WWE, and when it was mentioned on commentary that he’s “one of the greatest cruiserweight’s on the planet,” it was a dead giveaway that he’ll be in WWE’s Crusierweight Challenge show that’s coming this summer.
Baron Corbin vs Austin Aries was the second match of the night, and much like any other big events, the second match often is the one that suffers from following a great opening bout. That unfortunately happened here, with Corbin doing what he could to make things interesting, Aries doing some risky things to pump drama into it, but in the end, neither one of them did enough to warrant being a good or great match. This was the worst one of the night by a mile, which is a shame when you consider that Corbin is a rising star, someone who has gotten better by the day, and Aries was making his in-ring debut for NXT, after having a star studded career in TNA. I expected a lot out of these two, but felt like neither one of them even came close to living up to the billing I had in mind; they weren’t terrible, it wasn’t that bad, the match was just uninteresting overall, the finish made sense, but was unsatisfying, and it seemed more about setting up things in the future, than being in the moment and trying to steal the show.
I really dug Corbin’s new vest, appreciated Aries’ willingness to put his neck out there, and definitely have to say there were a few cool spots, but other than those handful of moments, the rest of the match felt like a letdown:
There wasn’t a finisher to close out the match, nor did we witness another Corbin tap-out, instead, Aries flipped out of an End of Days, then rolled up Corbin for a quick pin:
Next up was my most anticipated match of the entire weekend, the debut of Nakamura –who got to keep his full name!– in a match against Sami Zayn. I was so nervous about whether or not I would be a fan of the new theme, of Nakamura’s new gear, of everything, all because we’ve seen WWE change people in the past, trying to convert them into something they’re really not; but, Nakamura came into WWE as himself and no one else.
It was eccentric, it was dramatic, and most importantly, it was memorable; all of which make up exactly who and what Nakamura is, so I couldn’t be happier.
Right from the start the vibe was great, the crowd was super into it, chanting and cheering throughout the entrances, while the two men got ready in the ring, and even started up the, “this is awesome,” “this is wrestling,” and similar chants before anything even happened in the ring. The mere fact that we were witnessing something that seemed so impossible even a few months ago, that Nakamura, arguably the biggest star in Japan, one of the biggest stars in the entire world, and the fact Nakamura was about to do battle with the well established face of NXT, all contributed to the feeling that this was special. The moment wasn’t lost on Zayn either, as he ate up Nakamura being in a WWE/NXT ring, and even let Nakamura soak it in, not getting up for a minute or so while Nakamura stood in the corner. It was a moment I’ll never forget, one that I imagine neither of these men will either.
I was elated to see that Nakamura didn’t lose or drop a single thing in terms of his signature stuff. He had the hand gesture during the ramp part of his opening, his Matrix-esque rope grab, his mind game stuff where Nakamura places his forehead on his opponents stomach, and more.
Nakamura and Zayn’s outing had everything a fan could want, story, drama, powerful moves, aerial attacks, submission attempts, signatures, finishers, near falls that barely came in under the wire, and two wrestlers that are in the category of the best in the world. When I saw Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9, it reinvigorated my love for wrestling, it reminded me of that feeling one gets when you see an event that leaves you speechless. This match was no different, I sat on the very edge of my seat the entire time, I breathed a sigh of relief when Nakamura managed to escape Zayn’s submission hold, and even more so when Nakamura just barely kicked out of Zayn’s Blue Thunder Bomb:
The referee’s hand was a hair’s width from counting three when Nakamura’s shoulder finally rose, and in that moment, the entire NXT Universe was completely enthralled by what these two were doing, as evidenced by the crowd’s, “Fight Forever” chant, which was the perfect thing to be said.
Nakamura finally finding a way to take out Zayn was a hard fought, highly rewarding venture:
Getting to the point of Nakamura hitting the Kinshasa –formerly the Boma Ye,– was one of the most satisfying journey’s in the ring I’ve ever seen. I think the best part of what went down, is the fact that it lived up to all expectations, and even exceeded them. I thought they’d be able to steal the show if given the time; well, they were given the time, they did steal the show, the may have stolen all of ‘Mania weekend, and it’s a surefire Match of the Year candidate, if not the outright winner already. Zayn put everything out there, Nakamura went above and beyond with his performance, taking the full brunt of Zayn’s shots, so much so that it bloodied Nakamura’s nose. I cannot possibly say enough good about this match, it was so good that nearly the entire thing needed gif’d, because it all deserved to be shown off. Do yourself a favor, if you’ve got a spare 20 minutes, watch this match; it was the best of the night, and threw down the gauntlet for everyone at WrestleMania and RAW to top what they accomplished.
Unfortunately for Asuka and Bayley, they had to follow what should go down as the greatest NXT match of the year, if not the best WWE match of 2016, period. I enjoyed seeing Asuka unseat Bayley, but I thought we would see another level of viciousness from Asuka, and a better underdog story out of Bayley during the course of the match. Asuka was her usual self, but she didn’t have to find another gear to beat Bayley, instead, Asuka proved that she’s already a step above even Bayley. Bayley put up a great fight, but even with Bayley pulling out some crazy spots, it proved to not be enough:
Bayley losing to Asuka was predictable, but that’s not a negative, the only bad takeaway I had from this match was how awkward the finish felt. In person, it seemed like the referee was ready to call it as soon as Asuka locked in the Asuka Lock, which made it all the more strange when he called the match, even though Bayley didn’t tap. It took a couple seconds to realize that Bayley had passed out, which honestly is a good move, because it protects Bayley –since she didn’t give up,– but if Bayley goes to RAW/Smackdown soon, that’s an unflattering way to have Bayley lose the Championship, Asuka win it, and then not have another Title match; and I can’t picture Bayley staying in NXT for another four months in order to face Asuka at another Takeover.
Bayley was a great Champion, but her time had gone by, it was time to make a change, and Bayley has earned the right to join her fellow Four Horsewomen up on RAW. Now is the time of the Empress of Tomorrow and may she reign until a worthy opponent is found; for now, I’ll settle for seeing Alexa Bliss try her hand, along with Carmella trying to avenge her friend.
Last on the card was our main event, between Bálor and Joe, which got bloody almost from the start. It was impossible to notice the moment Joe got busted open, at least from the crowd, but one of the most memorable parts of Takeover was seeing the ref try to wipe Joe down, to get rid of the blood, Joe pushing the ref away several times, and the crowd cheering his efforts to be strong. Just like with the Women’s Championship match, Bálor and Joe had to follow Nakamura vs Zayn, which was a tall order, one that they came up short on, but the match that went down between The Demon and the Samoan Submission Specialist was easily the best of their feud, along with being one of Bálor’s best matches in NXT.
I was convinced that Joe was going to win, I felt like I knew Bálor was going to lose the first time I got to see The Demon in person, but I was wrong. Despite the brutal beating Joe delivered to the NXT Champion, Bálor escaped by the skin of his teeth:
Joe seemed like he was going to finally capture Gold, to choke out Bálor with the Coquina Clutch, but somehow, Bálor found a way to gather enough strength to counter the submission hold just enough to force a pin on Joe. Now, if Joe would have wanted to not lose in that moment, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to simply let Bálor go, which would release the leverage pin, and let Joe continue to battle on, but to hell with logic, right? It was the second straight unusual finish, one that seemed to come out of left field, and while it was creative, it left a lot of questions –which in all fairness might be the point.– I thought Joe was going to win because I thought Bálor was going to ‘Mania and/or RAW in a surprise debut; now, now I don’t think that makes much sense. If Bálor shows up with the Gold, whether he’s got friends in toe or not, what does that mean for the Title? What does that say about Joe not being able to capture it, especially in a match that seemed to have Joe’s name cemented in the winners block. I don’t see that being a good look, but who knows, WWE has found ways to handle more precious situations.
NXT MVP: Shinsuke Nakamura —Honorable Mention: Sami Zayn—
I’ve been saying for weeks, that when Takeover Dallas airs, The King will have arrived, and with the help of Zayn –who laid it all out there,– Nakamura did just that. When you’re the biggest reason for a match being up for the best of the year, you’ve more than earned the MVP vote.
NXT LVP: Austin Aries
Aries is one of TNA’s best, so to see him come out and end up having a match against a guy who’s steadily been rising to the occasion each and every night, it’s a massive let down. I felt like Aries should have been one of the highlights of Takeover Dallas, but he ended up being one of, if not the lowest.
Takeover dropped an announced match from the card, had one utterly lackluster outing, a Title match that left fans wanting more –not in the good way,– but also had a Match of the Year candidate, arguably the best Tag match in NXT history, and one of Bálor’s best matches as well. It’s impossible to say NXT Takeover Dallas was okay, not when there was so much good and great elements given to us fans. That said, I give Takeover Dallas a:
+ Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn stole the show and possibly the entire WrestleMania weekend
+ Finn Bálor/Samoa Joe was the best of their feud and one of Bálor’s best matches in NXT, so far
+ American Alpha winning was one of the best feelings in wrestling for 2016
– Austin Aries let me down
– The finishes to the co-main events were weird in an indescribable way
That’s The Lowedown on NXT Takeover Dallas, thanks for reading, and remember to watch more wrestling!
The future is bright and full of suplexes!
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