NXT Takeover: Dallas – REVIEW

So you are probably all wondering why I am reviewing this show? Well it was my very first Takeover, it was the Takeover before Wrestlemania 32 and the first time they did what has now become a staple of the big PPV invasion of a city having the NXT show open the weekend. I had heard so much fuss about NXT so finally got round to checking it out for this show and chose to watch it live. And well… I’m now the biggest NXT fan you could get so that tells you everything. This show was… well… I’ll explain… and you’ll see a lot of familiar names along the way which I hope gives you some insight on where they were at 3 years ago compared to now, and how well they were used in NXT. So without further or do here is my review of what was one of the best NXT shows in history.

There was a great video package to open the broadcast; it outlined the history of Texas wrestling, and then told the stories around all the matches on the card. Tom Phillips and Corey Graves are the commentators for NXT at this time, and they were on this show as they always were during their time together in NXT; absolutely tremendous. Greg Hamilton (who in 2019 is the ring announcer for Smackdown) was doing the introductions for the show.

NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) defeated The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) to become the NEW NXT Tag Team Champions

Talk about a ‘hot-opener’! It pretty much always happens nowadays that the tag match opens Takeover shows and off the back of this match it is easy to see why. American Alpha were SOOOOOOOO over with the crowd and alternatively The Revival were very much booed when they came out. The wrestling throughout was great even with a couple of botches along the way. The Revival executed great heel tactics for the whole match and Alpha played the underdog babyfaces so well and none more so than when Gable went for a hot tag to Jordan… but Dash Wilder went under the ring and stopped the tag from happening which was great. The finish was really hot with the crowd; Jordan tagged in Gable as Scott Dawson didn’t realize what had happened, Jordan did his big running charge to Dawson in the corner, he tagged in Gable and then they did their tag team finisher Grand Amplitude (which sees Jordan lift the guy up for a backdrop and then Gable almost carry the opponent down to get some extra impact on the slam… it looks great basically). American Alpha get the win and the crowd pop huge! Gable and Jordan were both in tears and very emotional at the win, it came across even years later as a great babyface moment of 2 underdogs that have fought for so long finally getting their big moment. This was a very good match.

****1/4

The showed ESPN’s Michelle Beadle (her from the video where Lesnar announced he had re-signed with WWE just prior to WrestleMania 31) and also WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross sat ringside in the crowd. Jim’s late wife Jan was next to him also, which in 2019 is both warming and sad.

Elsewhere in the crowd were shown former WWE star Funaki and also Kota Ibushi, who was shown ahead of the then-upcoming Cruiserweight Classic (the idea of Kota Ibushi in WWE is still incredible to me, for those who don’t know he was one of THE best wrestlers in the world in 2016 and is such still in 2019).

They showed video footage of Bayley meeting fans at WWE’s Axxess event. She got a big pop from the crowd when she appeared on screen. They also showed footage of Asuka training by hitting the pads with strikes, which also got a big pop.

Austin Aries defeated Baron Corbin

The pre-match video package reminded me of just how big a deal it was at the time when Aries signed, and also how well NXT built Corbin to be a big, bad dickhead. Corbin was booed when he came out and Aries was cheered in what would be his WWE NXT in-ring debut. When Aries stood in the ring with Corbin it became apparent just how small in comparison he was. The match itself was what you’d expect between these two… it was OK… it did exactly what it should have in that it got Aries over as a fighting guy who can move about well, and it got Corbin over as a powerhouse heel. They traded strikes in the early stages, Corbin then just punished Aries as he demanded the ref ‘ring the bell’ as he had an anti-independent wrestling gimmick going at the time (and still does today to a certain extent). Aries then got back into it with strikes, big chops, more strikes, a neckbreaker with the 2nd rope, a flying dropkick off the top, a dropkick into the corner and a Tope Suicida through the ropes that sent Corbin crashing into the barricade. Corbin then caught Aries with a Deep Six on the floor, before rolling back in the ring and telling the ref to count Austin Aries out. Aries only just beat the count in time. They then exchanged strikes once again, before Corbin went for the End of Days but Aries rolled him over into the pin. The crowd were happy as Corbin was in disbelief at the result. This was a fine match, the crowd were kind of flat but it was about as good as these two were going to produce. Aries looked good in everything he did and Corbin played his role really well. Just for some context by the way, Baron Corbin would win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 32 two nights later and start on the main roster on Raw that Monday.

***

NXT Champion Finn Balor was shown arriving at the arena. Shockingly… he was very popular…

There was a BIG pop from the crowd when the match graphic for Zayn vs Nakamura was shown. This was followed by a GREAT video package not only hyping up Zayn’s work in NXT but also that a match with Nakamura was his reward for all his hard work. It also put over the stardom of Shinsuke and just how big a deal it was that such a big worldwide star was in WWE.

Scott Hall and X-Pac were shown in the crowd.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Sami Zayn

Zayn got a big pop coming out, as the crowd sang along with his theme. And THEN… A real-life rockstar walked into the Hutchison Convention Center… Shinsuke Nakamura came out with one of the coolest entrances you will ever see. This crowd went absolutely crazy for him; there were ‘NA-KA-MU-RA” chants, “HOLY SHIT” chants, and the crowd knew every one of his mannerisms and slight movements he’d do as part of his entrance. As big a fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling as I am now, back then I had no clue. I had never seen Shinsuke Nakamura wrestle before, so when this guy who seemed too cool to be from this planet came out I was mesmerized… and the match hadn’t even begun yet.! Sami Zayn just smiled as he had a front row seat for the arrival of a Megastar. There were dueling chants from the crowd as the match started, Nakamura was every bit the showman from the start, Zayn dodged some Nakamura strikes which the crowd appreciated, they exchanged arm drag holds, Zayn did an arm-drag takedown of his own as the crowd loudly chanted ‘NXT’… and rightly so! Nakamura hit some HARD strikes and knees and got a couple of nearfalls off the back, he then got an armbar in which Zayn couldn’t get out of even with elbow strikes as Shinsuke hit him back with a knee and then a headkick, followed by another not long after, they both got nearfalls, Sami Zayn then took over with some chops and then he rammed Nakamura into the corner and then did a great looking dropkick off an Irish Whip, only for Nakamura to kick out at 2. Nakamura hit some more strikes and then Zayn knocked Nakamura to the outside from off the top rope. Nakamura was then able to hit a series of hard knee strikes with Zayn laid out on the apron, they then were treated to more dueling-chants when they both got back in the ring. Nakamura hit his ‘Good Vibrations’ move in the corner and then Nakamura hist a hard knee to Zayn’s gut which got a 2 count. Not long after Nakamura went over the ropes and then Zayn did a big dive over and onto him on the outside, this got a huge pop. Zayn hit a crossbody off the top for a 2, Zayn then did a suplex but couldn’t pull it off and Nakamura hit him with some knees on the ground before Zayn caught him after and hit a Michinoku driver which looked great. They then both had a BRUTAL striking exchange which led to Nakamura having a busted up nose, the crowd showed their appreciation for the two exhausted guys efforts. Nakamura hit knees on Zayn when he was laid on the ropes which got a “KING OF STRONG STYLE” chant, Zayn hit a couple of big clotheslines, Nakamura then spun into an Armbar which looked super cool, although Zayn was able to get his arms locked so Shinsuke couldn’t get the hold in fully. Nakamura then transitioned into a Triangle, but Zayn stomped on Nakamura’s head to escape, followed by punches, more stomps with Nakamura on the ropes, this was countered with a HUGE right hand strike from Nakamura, a Zayn Koji Clutch hold (the crowd chanted “NO, NO, NO” clearly not wanting Nakamura to tap), Nakamura hit a step-up Enziguri kick to lay both guys flat on the floor as the crowd chanted “FIGHT FOREVER”. Nakamura hit a dropkick to Zayn in the corner, Zayn missed a Helluva Kick (which if he had of hit he may well of beheaded Nakamura such was the speed he ran into it with), Nakamura hit an inverted Exploder Suplex but missed a Kinshasa, and Zayn hit a Belly to Back Suplex for a 2 count. The crowd went absolutely wild for this and loudly chanted “NXT, NXT, NXT”! Zayn then flew into a kick on the outside as he went for a DDT that was patterned for him back then, this got “HOLY SHIT” chants. Zayn then hit a Tope to Nakamura, Nakamura hit some strikes, both men were hit down, Zayn missed an exploder, Nakamura hit some brutal looking elbows to Zayn, he then went to the top rope and hit Zayn with a knee strike to the back of Zayn’s NECK which knocked him down… and then after the big set up which the crowd went wild for he hit his big knee strike, the Kinshasa, for the 1, 2, 3! The crowd applauded and gave the match a standing ovation after, Nakamura then did his poses before going over to Sami Zayn in the corner and offering a handshake before helping him to his feet. The crowd chanted “THANK YOU SAMI”, both the competitors embraced, and as Nakamura was leaving they both held one another’s arm up in the air, Nakamura then left allowing for Sami Zayn (in what was his NXT farewell) to soak in an amazing crowd show of appreciation for him. It was a really emotional thing to watch a crowd show a guy this much love and adoration. Zayn would be in the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 32 two nights later.

This was one of THE best matches in NXT and WWE history. 

***** 

Samoa Joe (ahead of his challenge for the NXT Championship later in the show) was shown backstage.

There was a great video package ahead of Asuka Vs Bayley. Bayley got a big pop when she was shown on the graphic. The video really put over Bayley as the most ultra of babyfaces and a hero to young girls. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Carmella and Sasha Banks all put her over. Asuka was put over as a vicious and tough competitor and had Dana Brooke and Emma talk up her case.

Stephanie McMahon (the creator of women’s wrestling…) was shown sat ringside. She got the biggest heel reaction of the entire show which was hilarious.

NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka defeated Bayley (C) to become the NEW NXT Women’s Champion

Asuka got a pop coming out, Bayley got a bigger one. Crowd also did the “heyyyyyyy, hey Bayley, ooo, aaaa…” chants and “Bayley’s gonna hug you” in the very early part which made me smile. They traded offence in the first part of the match as Bayley was put over by commentary for keeping up with the undefeated challenger, even getting a nearfall with a good-looking Flying Crossbody. Asuka tried to get an armbar in but Bayley got her leg on the ropes, and not long after following some attacks in the corner Bayley got another nearfall. The crowd did dueling chants for both, Bayley got another nearfall with a hurricanrana off the top, Asuka rolled beautifully into an Ankle Lock but Bayley was able to get her to the outside, they traded more strikes, Asuka hit a HUGE kick and then a knee for a 2 count, Bayley rolled her over for a 2, Bayley caught Asuka after an attempted hip attack and then hit her with a suplex. Asuka hit an enzuigiri that sent both women down, they did a tonne more moves which all looked really good and crisp, Asuka exquisitely rolled into an Armbar, Bayley tried to not let her lock it in fully but Asuka transitioned almost into a Dis-Arm-Her and then Bayley rolled over for a nearfall. The crowd chanted “both these girls”, Bayley got a big clothesline for a 2 count, crowd chanted “hug me Bayley”, Bayley prepared herself then went for a Bayley to Belly but Asuka striked out of it, Asuka hit a spinning heel kick, and then a suplex into an armbar. Bayley fought and fought as the crowd willed her on but Asuka transitioned it into the Asuka Lock. Bayley rolled and fought so much as the crowd were really behind her still, but after being in the hold for SOOOOOOO long the ref checked Bayley and determined she had passed out. The crowd audibly gasped as the bell was rung (Corey Graves commentary of the finish was really great and very much encapsulated the magnitude of the moment). The much-beloved babyface had lost her title. Videos have since come out of young girls crying as their favourite had lost. Asuka was the champion now and the era of Bayley was over. A new one was beginning, and it ended up being one of the all-time great championship reigns maybe in wrestling history let alone WWE or NXT. As sad as the crowd were that Bayley had lost they did cheer for Asuka celebrating as Bayley, perfectly selling how gutted she was, looked on. This was a good match and would probably be considered one of the better women’s main roster matches of the year in WWE if it were to happen in 2019. It was always going to be tough following Nakamura Vs Zayn but these two did about as good a job as anyone could have. 

***3/4

The video package ahead of the main event looked back at their previous match at Takeover: London. The story seemed that, and Finn said as much himself, that Balor just got the win in what was a brutal war (remember that statement). It did give the rivalry a real intense feel.

They showed BOBBY ROODE in the crowd and everyone went crazy. Commentary put this over as a huge deal (it was at the time trust me). Tom Phillips called him ‘one of the hottest free agents’.

NXT Championship: ‘Demon’ Finn Balor (C) defeated Samoa Joe to retain

The crowd loudly chanted ‘JOE, JOE, JOE’ as he came out. And then the champion came out. Following up from his Jack the Ripper homage entrance in London, Balor kept up his murderous theme by coming out here as the Demon with a CHAINSAW (as in like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre star)!!! This was spectacular and in my opinion the best Demon entrance there’s ever been, seek it out on YouTube immediately I implore you. I was equally as mesmerized watching this at the time as I was by Nakamura’s entrance. It was incredible. There really was a huge big fight feel as there were dueling chants during the introductions and as the bell rung. They began with a hard exchange of strikes as Joe kept throwing Balor to the outside, Joe was bleeding already from the head. Joe was then on the outside and Finn did a huge dive over the ropes. The ref held Joe back as he was bleeding heavily as he was trying to destroy Balor. Joe looked like an absolutely psychopath as the blood ran down his face in an amazing visual. He then absolutely launched Finn into the fans, even taking out a security guard in the process. As the ref kept Joe away there was a great camera shot of Balor coming up from behind the barrier (think Vince McMahon Wrestlemania 19 if you know that one), and he then dove onto Joe over the barricade. They exchanged more absolutely brutal strikes as Joe kept talking smack, an enzuigiri by Joe sent Finn to the outside, SAMOA JOE DID A DIVE TO THE OUTSIDE THROUGH THE ROPES which was an amazing thing to see given Joe’s size. Doctors then tended to Joe with towels to try and stop his bleeding, to which the crowd booed as ‘let them fight’ and ‘Bullshit’ were the chants. Then immediately after Joe had a cut on his head tended to he went back in the ring and Finn Balor striked Joe… in the head… wrestling… Joe then really took charge of the match… and then the ref put the X up which the crowd were fuming at (the X from the ref usually means the match is done so I think they thought the ref was calling it). The doctors came in the ring to try and wipe the blood again from Joe’s head, crowd chanted “Bullshit” and “Fuck PG”. When the action resumed Joe went back to work on Finn until Balor ended the dominance with a dropkick to send Joe down… and then the Docs came over to Joe AGAIN with towels as the crowd booed and chanted “Let Joe Bleed”… Christ!!! Finn later hit two running forearms to Joe, Joe was dropped and fell into the corner, Finn hit some huge chops eventually sending Joe to roll to the outside, Finn then hit a missile dropkick and a running kick as the crowd cheered, and with both now back in the ring Balor looked for a slingblade but Joe caught him and launched Finn with an overhead Belly to Belly suplex which got a nearfall. Joe punished Finn some more until Balor rolled out of a crossface and hit a double stomp, a slingblade and the dropkick to the corner to set up for the Coupe de Grace, but Joe got up in time and tried to hit Balor with a Muscle Buster, but Finn fought out only Joe was quick enough to regain control and hit the Muscle Buster… 1,2… FINN KICKED OUT! Joe was in disbelief as he continued to bleed, they exchanged strikes again until Finn hit a Pele kick that sent both men to the floor as the crowd applauded. Both men got up at a count of 8, Finn roared and then hit a series of strikes, the dropkick, the Coupe de Grace and then set up for his 1916 suplex (his old finisher) but Joe was able to transition it into the Coquina Clutch! Crowd went wild for this thinking Joe could win the title, but Finn was able to push against the ring corner with his feet and roll them over for the 1, 2, 3! Finn Balor once again survived a match against Samoa Joe and retained his NXT Championship. Joe was furious afterwards with Balor looking exhausted. The show closed with Joe on the ramp and Balor in the ring with the two starring at one another. It was clear that this was not over. And FYI Joe would win the title at a HOUSE SHOW in Lowell, Massachusetts 3 weeks later and retain in a rematch at Takeover: The End in a cage match in June 2016 in what was the only defeat of the Demon Finn Balor in WWE. Finn went to the main roster not long after and Joe began a feud with Nakamura over the championship. In the first 5 minutes this match was 100 miles an hour, but the cut to Joe (caused by a headbutt in the opening exchange) and the necessary but near-constant interruptions of the Doctors to tend to Joe’s cut killed the rhythm of the match and stopped it from being a classic. It was still super fun to watch though.

***3/4

I remember this show being excellent and super fun and I wasn’t mistaken. It was off the back of this show I started watching NXT and have had the time of my life as a wrestling fan following NXT ever since. If you now are like me then and have heard about the buzz from NXT and want to give it a try then I’d say there’s no better time to start than the biggest Takeover show of the year, before Wrestlemania. And luckily for you this year they are having the Takeover show on the Friday night and not the Saturday as usual, so just as I did in 2016 you have Saturday to recover and catch up on sleep after late, late nights on Friday for Takeover and Sunday for WrestleMANia. But this show was incredible and showcased everything good about NXT then, and I say this quietly but NXT now in 2019, and the line up for Takeover: New York the Friday before Mania this year, has the potential to be EVEN BETTER! I am very proud to be able to say that my very first NXT Takeover was excellent, and widely viewed as great and one of the best Takeover shows there has ever been.

Josh.

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