NXT Takeover: New York – Review

This is either going to be the best or worst blog I’ve ever written. So here we go…

So the kick off show was your usual stuff of the panel previewing the matches for the upcoming event. Charley Caruso was leading it and with her you had Sam Roberts and Pat Macafee. It was fine… and then Sam (after his slagging off of Bianca Belair at the last Takeover pre show) decided to really out of nowhere say Matt Riddle would ‘CHOKE’ tonight and that he had been handed everything since he came to WWE… seemed like to get heat for the sake of heat and it seemed really uncessary to say it. He would go on to, when the panel bought on NXT UK commentator Vic Joseph to discuss the UK Championship match, asked ‘who is this guy?’ when talking about WALTER and ‘how’d he end up in this match?’… which all credit to Joseph he did a great job of putting the match over. Then we had O’Reilly, Strong and Fish of the Undisputed Era cut a very entertaining backstage interview with Sarah Shreiber (Era wore new t shirts that STILL HAD THE STICKY WWE LOGO YOU GET ON NEW WWE SHIRTS ON… these guys are the best)!

AND THEN…

We had the WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge. Essentially a guy who beat a load of other guys to get here faced the game’s cover star AJ Styles in a match on the game, and if he won he’d win a million dollars. This guy was a complete asshole and was cutting funny yet really obnoxious heel promos and the crowd HATED him. Corey Graves and Xavier Woods were out to oversee things and they just stood back as this guy took every second of his big moment. They stood on the top of the entrance ramp and played on the titantron. The guy (who dressed in an all gold suit went by the moniker of Real Golden Voice; Stephan Benson) played the game as Brock Lesnar and AJ was himself.

WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge: Brock Lesnar (controlled by Stephan T.Benson aka The Golden Voice) defeated AJ Styles (controlled by… AJ Styles) 

YES I’M REVIEWING THIS MATCH. JUST ACCEPT IT OK!?

It very quickly became apparent why this guys was in this spot… because he was really good at the game funny enough. Props to him for using Brock Lesnar as he would wrestle IRL. He did a tonne of suplexes as Benson continued to act like the biggest of assholes. The live crowd that was in the arena at this stage HATED this guy and DID NOT want to see him become a Millionaire in front of the world. The crowd went pretty dead as the guy F5’d AJ and won the computer game match. He was an asshole after too and even took digs at AJ and said Orton would beat him at Mania. He held the big novelty cheque after and the crowd hated him.

Dear Triple H,

Your shows are excellent. But please never sell your sole for this kind of thing ever ever again.

Regards,

Everyone who watched this.

*

That was basically the kick off show.

The main show began with an AWESOME video package looking back at the history of NXT Takeovers before leading into the matches ahead tonight. The “record attendance of 15,697” was announced by a delightful-Salmon coloured suit sporting Mauro Ranallo with Percy and Nigel by his side.

NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) (C) defeated Aleister Black & Ricochet to Retain 

We got another super cool Viking themed War Raiders entrance. It may have been as cool as their one for Takeover: Phoenix. The crowd very loudly chanted along with the “One and Only” part of Ricochet’s song and sang the first part of Black’s theme too. The live crowd even given the computer game stuff some of them just endured were really fired up for the start of the main show and this first match. The theme of this match was that the two very popular babyface teams had a lot of respect for eachother but still wanted to have a killer match and leave the seemingly obvious result in doubt. They did that and then some! If you want big spots, this match had loads. If you like good old fashioned ‘rasslin, they gave us that at times too! At one stage during this match there was apparently a very bright light that was shining directly into the upper deck of the building, so much so that when it was turned off the crowd went wild for it and chanted ‘you deserve it’ and the YES chants. Although momentarily the attention was away from the match I thought it a good sign that this crowd was excited by a light being switched off, it turned out I was not wrong… There were so many ridiculous spots and exchanges in this match it wasn’t really a match you could watch and take notes on as there was not a second to catch your breathe! By far the most unbelievable spot of an insane match was the surely 300 pound-odd Hanson doing a SENTON SPLASH off the top turnbuckle to the outside to take everyone out! Not to mention Ricochet picking up and slamming Hanson to the ground (Ricochet is a cruserweight and Hanson a heavyweight so bare that in mind). They teased a possible countout and a draw but Ricochet and Rowe JUST made it in the ring in time. Aleister Black then soon after hit the Black Mass on Rowe and Ricochet a shooting star press for a nearfall. Ricochet then missed a 630 and the War Raiders soon then hit ‘Thor’s Hammer’ before Hanson got rid of Black with a Suicide Dive and then they hit the Fall Out on Ricochet for the 1, 2, 3. Medical staff seemed to tend to Ricochet right away after this. Black checked on him to and it seemed War Raiders stopped celebrating for a moment also. It was unclear how badly or what was hurt but Ricochet to me at least looked somewhat dazed when he looked up. But both members of each team embraced after and then Hanson and Rowe put their belts down and bowed to Black and Ricochet before leaving. The fans gave the beaten main-roster bound challengers a giant standing ovation that brought Ricochet to tears. The fans chanted ‘You Deserve It’. If this was main roster someone would have come out and beat them up. Not in NXT. This was all absolutely wonderful all-round. 

****3/4

They showed NXT UK’s Piper Niven and Women’s Champion Toni Storm in the crowd. This made me happy.

NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (C) defeated Matt Riddle to Retain

This match was extraordinary as well! So in the early stages it was clear Dream was going to be the cocky one and Riddle the fighting babyface. But (and I’m not exaggerating) this crowd was probably 85-90% in the corner of the Velveteen Dream. So I’m not sure if this was planned or if they decided to call it in the ring, but as the match went on they completely switched the way they both acted to suit the crowd response, so it was Dream who played babyface and Matt Riddle who acted more of a heel. It was amazing to witness. Riddle came out first and then Dream came out in typically understated fashion… he was dressed up as the STATUE OF LIBERTY and was carried on top of a platform by people in his t shirt. It was awesome and made him with that belt look like a megastar, which he already is. For the first few seconds of the match the crowd were so loud and pretty split with “BRO” and “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants. This was a really unique match were both guys showcased their styles really well and told a fun story. It may have dragged in the middle but the crowd noise along with the start and finish made it a great match overall. Dream stomping on Riddle’s foot (he wrestles barefoot) was a spot I really enjoyed as I’ve never got why more people don’t do that against him. Riddle showed pretty amazing levels of strength throughout using various throws and holds. It was clear towards the end he was the working heel of the match with his much more aggressive approach to Dream, and the crowd really took Dream’s side. Be it via an Ankle Lock or a crazy looking German Suplex from the outside of the apron into the ring there were many occasions it looked like Riddle would get the win. Dream also coming back by HULKING UP with the point and the “YOU” and the powerslam and leg drop ala Hogan was super cool too.  But in the end the finish came when Riddle locked in the Bromission but Dream managed to roll through and get the pin. A finish clearly designed to protect Riddle somewhat even in defeat so I applauded that thought. Dream celebrated after as a clearly upset Riddle stood and watched. I was convinced Riddle was about to turn heel and beat the shit out of him, but to my pleasant surprise Riddle extended his fist out to Dream and they did the Bro fist bump to a HUGE pop. At the beginning of the match Dream has turned down a bro fist, but by now he had grown to respect Riddle. And then Riddle applauded him and left. So no heel turn at least for now. So that (given the amount of HEAT gaining segments we see on main roster) was a welcomed surprise. I loved this. Dream is great, Riddle is exceptional.

****3/4

They recapped from WWE’s social media a few hours before the show began the news that former New Japan Pro Wrestling star KUSHIDA had signed to NXT. He was then shown in the Barclays Centre sat in the crowd which got a huge pop. He’s really, really good trust me.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: WALTER defeated Pete Dunne (C) to become the NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion 

The crowd popped HUGE when the graphic for the match was first shown. Their noise only continued as they chanted along to WALTER’s theme and gave Dunne a huge ovation when he came out. NXT UK Commentator Vic Joseph replaced Percy Watson to call this match with Nigel and Mauro. In the least surprising thing probably of the entire weekend this match was brutal, really really good, and… BRUTAL! They started at a methodical pace and then began pretty much a constant exchange of really nasty looking submissions and strikes. WALTER chopped the piss out of Dunne, and Dunne bent and twerked WALTER’s fingers in places and ways human fingers should not go. It seemed everytime Dunne defied belief and seemed to hurt the big Austrian WALTER would comeback with a power move, such as the avoidance of Dunne by jumping over him and then seemingly kicking him into WrestleMania weekend next year with a huge big boot. WALTER putting the champion on the turnbuckle and standing on his HEAD looked absolutely vile as did he later stomping on his head and then hitting a powerbomb. There were just so many spots and moments in this match that looked horrible to have to take. Dunne did in fact at one stage hit his Bitter End finishing move but WALTER somehow kicked out. The finish was by far the most insane moment of a long but brutal looking match; the absolute giant WALTER climbed to the top turnbuckle, Dunne went up to and locked in a triangle hold, but WALTER gave Dunne a POWERBOMB OFF THE TOP ROPE and Dunne went absolutely flying across the ring!!! Then WALTER went back up and hit a big Splash off the top.. 1, 2, 3! The 685 day reign of The Bruserweight is OVER and your NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion is WALTER! WOW! This was everything I wanted it to be. In one word this was a WAR!

****3/4

Edge and Beth Phoenix were shown in the crowd. Both of whom the crowd liked a lot.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (C) defeated Bianca Belair & Io Shirai & Kairi Sane to retain

They, in the spot they were in, did about as good a job as they possibly could have done. The 3 challengers all got decent reactions, and the champion was seen backstage walking with her accomplices Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir but they did not accompany her to the ring for the match. The four of them went 100 miles an hour but did a great job of it not looking like a clusterfuck. After Baszler and Belair cleared The Sky Pirates out to brawl amongst themselves both Sane and Shirai would team up after to then return the favour and do the same. Baszler did the stomp-on-the-elbow spot she does to Bianca, who in turn would later get her own back when on the outside Shayna tried to pull Belair into the ringpost by her hair, but Bianca kicked her foot off the post and pulled back to send the champion colliding with the post instead! Later in a crazy spot Belair and Baszler were on the top rope with Bianca looking to hit a superplex, but then Kairi Sane came underneath to try and throw them down but couldn’t manage it, so then Io Shirai helped and the gave Shayna a double-powerbomb who in turn gave Bianca a superplex all at the same time. Later on something extraordinary happened; Shayna had Belair in the Kirifuda Clutch but in what I believe is a first Bianca Belair POWERED OUT of it! She would follow up with a KOD but Io Shirai came in to only allow for a near fall. Io and Kairi then seemed to fall out after Sane broke up a Shirai nearfall on Shayna, so then they went at it, which lead to Kairi picking her friend up and hitting her with an Alabama Slam on to Shayna Baszler! Kairi then hit her finishing move the Insane Elbow on Baszler but again it was Io Shirai that broke up the pin! Then in another crazy Bianca moment she knocked Sane off the top by whipping her with her hair then lifted BOTH Kairi Sane AND Io Shirai on her shoulders at the same time for a double KOD… but then Shayna came back in and with both the other challengers OOA she locked in the Kirifuda again and got the win. The crowd seemed in a stunned silence. All the challengers looked visibly upset as Shayna was then joined by Duke and Shafir (who surprisingly didn’t get involved in the match itself at any stage) to celebrate. In my group chat to say one of my friends was unhappy with this result would be like saying it would probably be a bad idea to jump off a cliff. Taking away my personal disappointment at the result here and looking at it objectively this was probably as good a match as they could have put on in this spot and with this result. Although as my friend Dan pointed out, after weeks and weeks of Shayna and co basically burying the entire NXT female roster each time… she then won this match fairly clean. Which I don’t think is a great reflection on them…

****

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano defeated Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to become the NEW NXT Champion 

The video they showed before the match, considering it was a change from the original match with Ciampa, was exceptional. Gargano came out to a mixed reaction sporting an Iron Man inspired attire, Cole came out with the rest of the Undisputed Era and got possibly the biggest reaction for an entrance of the entire show, he was like a God to this crowd. The ‘boom’ and the ‘ADAM COLE BAY BAY’ chants during his entrance were absolutely thunderous. The chants were duelling as the match started at a slow pace with Cole and Gargano eventually colliding in the air as they both hit a crossbody, Gargano later hit a Flatliner after moving out the way of a superkick and got a nearfall, and not long after got another with an inside cradle pin attempt. There was then a really fun spot where they both went to superkick one another but both stopped at the same time realising what one another was going for, but it was Gargano who reacted quickest after hitting a kick to the knee of Cole instead. Gargano then went for a Sunset-flip but Cole rolled through it and connected with his Last Shot knee strike to score the pin and the first fall. 1-0 to Adam Cole.

Adam Cole continued to be in charge as the second fall began. He pretty soon hit the Last Shot a 2nd time but somehow Johnny Gargano kicked out. Later Adam Cole tried to get a powerbomb off the top rope but Gargano hit a form of body-drop instead which got a nearfall, and not long after that Gargano hit his signature slingshot DDT on to the apron which looked as good as always. Cole was on the verge of having the match tied at 1-1 but chose to break the refs 10 count as Cole was on the outside. And so then of course Cole immediately got back in to it by sending Johnny into the ring post. After they both went for submissions Gargano was able to transition into the Gargano Escape and Cole tapped frantically almost right away after the hold was put in. 1-1. I felt at this stage the match was good, but not a classic… that changed…

They had a brutal looking exchange of strikes in the ring before Gargano got the better of it with a big Clothesline for a 2 count. A notable cut then appeared above Gargano’s eye I wasn’t sure where from the cut was caused to be honest. In retaliation Gargano picked Cole up and launched him half way across the ring, head-first into the middle turnbuckle on the far side. Ouch. There was then a great spot where they simultaneously hit one another with Clotheslines and then Superkicks to the side of the head which the crowd loved. Cole after hit another Superkick then a German Suplex for a 2 count. Johnny Wrestling came back with a beautiful reverse Hurricanrana and then a Superkick… only for Adam Cole to roll out of the ring. Cole then pulled Gargano to the outside and gave him a big German Suplex into the apron which looked horrid, but Gargano cameback with a draping DDT and tried for another slingshot Spear only to be caught with a Superkick by Cole. He then hit an exquisitely executed Canadian Destroyer for a very, very close 2 count. So Adam Cole as the heel went in on the heroic Gargano and called him a ‘failure’… so Gargano got mad and launched him over the Spanish announce table at ringside. But with both men on the announce table it was Adam Cole who got the better of it and of ALL the moves in professional wrestling… Adam Cole hit Johnny Gargano on the announce table with… THE FAIRYTALE ENDING (the finishing move of a certain TOMASSO CIAMPA)… beautiful stuff!!! Cole made his way back in the ring as the ref began the 10 count. I legitimately thought this COULD be the finish and I don’t think I was alone! Gargano though made it back in to the ring at probably 9 and 1/2! Cole not long after hit another Superkick for another close nearfall which everyone again bought as a possible end of the match. They then traded kicks again before Cole eventually went for another Canadian Destroyer… only for Johnny TAKEOVER to transition into the Gargano Escape again… and just as the crowd went wild the rest of the Undisputed Era made their presence known. Roderick Strong came running out to divert the referees attention and allowing for Kyle O’Reilly to get in the ring and despite Cole tapping out the ref was dealing with Strong so didn’t see it and O’Reilly instead raked at the eyes of Gargano to break the hold. Cole then pushed Gargano in to the ref to take him out, and then Bobby Fish came in and he and O’Reilly hit their tag team finisher on Gargano before they all retreated. This though only got a 2 count! In his anger Johnny Gargano threw Cole onto all 3 other Era members outside the ring, and then one by one fought them all off. Adam Cole then hit two superkicks and then the Last Shot but Gargano kicked out again! The crowd by now were going wild and by far the loudest they were all night (and they were pretty loud all show to be fair to them). AND THEN COLE WENT FOR THE LAST SHOT AGAIN BUT MISSED, GARGANO PUT IN THE GARGANO ESCAPE, COLE NEARED THE ROPES BUT GARGANO ROLLED OVER WITH THE HOLD STILL LOCKED IN SO THEY WERE AWAY FROM THE ROPES ONCE AGAIN… AND ADAM COLE TAPPED OUT!!! JOHNNY GARGANO HAD FINALLY DONE IT AND WAS THE NEW NXT CHAMPION!!! That 3rd and final fall was probably over ****1/2 on its own! Despite the fact upon the entrances and all show it appeared Adam Cole was the most popular guy with the fans, when this match was drawing to the end and then for the finish this crowd was so desperate for Gargano to win you would not believe it. It was pointed out to me Gargano may have lost a tooth in the process to but I’d presume he wont mind too much. They laid this match out so well to ensure Gargano got the biggest of babyface pops at the end. Johnny Gargano it was noted was now the only man to have won the NXT Championship, the NXT North American Championship and the NXT Tag Team Championship. This was one of the all time great NXT Takeover matches. And that is saying something!

*****

As Gargano was celebrating his wife Candice LeRae came out as Gargano got a massive ovation from the crowd. The two went in to the crowd to celebrate with Johnny’s family including his parents which was super cool. And then just as they made their way to the top of the ramp… out from behind them came… TOMASSO CIAMPA!!! He hugged them both as everyone went wild… and I’m not going to lie when I said I cried my eyes out at this. I, after seeing an incredible match and a guy I’ve seen in over a dozen Takeover matches finally win the big one, was not ready to see the injured former champion as a total surprise, and then for him to embrace his IRL best friends on the ramp was an absolutely surreal moment. One of those that if you know the full story transcended professional wrestling. This was one of the most special moments I think I’ve seen in wrestling for a long long time possibly ever. Yes as a grown man I cried at this. But FUCK YOU if you think that is not a worthy reaction. This was absolutely beyond belief cool. The final shot we saw of the show was Gargano, Ciampa and Candice embracing to end what may be the best story in the history of NXT and one of the best in the business for many years.

There was a lot of talk online after the show of ‘best Takeover ever’. Right now in the immediate aftermath I think it was. One thing I don’t think is up for debate is in terms of the quality of the matches this was the best NXT show I’ve seen EVER. Yes this time last year we had two ***** matches but the matches in between I didn’t feel were as consistently strong as this show had. The crowd was certainly one of the best and Takeover crowds are usually good but this one was exceptional and credit to them. The ‘Mamma Mia’ count from Mauro tonight was off the scale! I’ve never seen a bad Takeover and with the historic implications of what took place on this show: Ricochet and Aleister Black’s NXT swansong, Matt Riddle being pinned for the first time in WWE, the arrival of KUSHIDA, the ending of the reign of Pete Dunne and the beginning of WALTER’s, the women’s 4 way being great and of course the main event with the embrace of Ciampa/Gargano/LeRae to end the show… this once again took me on an emotional rollercoaster maybe even more so than NXT Takeover New Orleans this time last year. And after that show was over I thought that was the best Takeover I’ve ever seen. But this bettered it. ANOTHER absolutely incredible show, and considering the standard NXT Takeover shows set, to say this was the best one EVER says all you need to know. If I’m ever going to have to convince someone to like professional wrestling I’m going to get them to watch this show. And I think that’s maybe the biggest compliment I could possibly give it.

Josh. 

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.