It’s Wrestlemania weekend, and you know what that means. Yes, it’s time for the most anticipated show of the year so far. No, not Wrestlemania 32. The show everyone’s been waiting for is NXT TakeOver: Dallas.
NXT shows have been outperforming their main roster counterparts for well over a year now so it is only fitting they get their very own Pay Per View sized event just before the company’s flagship event, Wrestlemania.
TakeOver was held in front of a packed crowd in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. The card was never going to disappoint so the real question going into this event was just how high they would set the bar that Wrestlemania would then fail to hurdle over.
With the preshow quickly out of the way, Manny Andrade defeated Christopher Girard and then Apollo Crews defeated Elias Samson, it was straight into the non-stop action of the main card.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match- American Alpha vs. The Revival (c).
This was something that every fan watching around the world was excited for. American Alpha have shot up the rankings in the tag team division and have become one of the most beloved and talented tandems in all of wrestling. They blend their amateur styles perfectly and create wrestling magic when they lock up with opponents. Opposite them you have The Revival who, as will be mentioned in every article regarding them, are a true throwback team. They put one in the mind of The Fabulous Freebirds or The Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Their style is no nonsense and to the point, as is pointed out by their saying of ‘No flips, just fists’.
Right out of the gate these two teams brought it as Gable used his Olympic wrestling background to tie up Scott Dawson and take the advantage. From there they had a nice back and forth with momentum swinging like a pendulum.
Dash and Dawson used their now patented heel tactics to get the advantage and keep it. They isolated Gable for much of the match, starving him of support and working him over in the typical Revival fashion. This lead to the highest point of the match as Gable, through an innovative sequence, got the hot tag to Jordan who cleared the ring in an impressive display of power.
The end came via AA’s Assisted Back Suplex and thus new champions were crowed much to the delight of the fans who had also been entertaining throughout. Chants of “Which one’s Dash, which one’s Dawson” were brilliant and highlighted the small problem that this team have not carved out individual personalities for themselves. They also made sure to get a “Botchamania” chant going when Revival messed up a Double Team Powerbomb spot. Said botch is the only real reason why this match does not get a perfect rating, along with another smaller blown spot shortly after.
All around though, this was a tremendous match and from here you should expect to see Revival move on up to the main roster where their services are desperately needed.
Winners and New NXT Tag Team Champions: American Alpha.
Match Grade: A
Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries.
Ask any fan and they will tell you that this is the match they were least hyped for, excluding the preshow contests. That shouldn’t be taken as a comment on the debuting Austin Aries, who is a world class competitor and someone who has made an immediate connection with the NXT crowd. No, instead it should be seen as a knock on Corbin who just doesn’t have that connection with the audience.
To be fair, Corbin has been improving week after week in front of your eyes and is now a good performer who has his heel character down to a tee. Despite this he still gets Roman Reigns heat thrown at him as he is seen as a poor worker, undeserving of his spot. This match was his chance to silence those critics and produce something great with ‘The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived’, Austin Aries.
It was hardly a showstopper of a contest but it did prove that Corbin can hang with a veteran like Aries. He dominated the majority of the match with big clubbing blows and an impactful Deep Six on the outside. Aries fired back with hard forearm shots and dropkicks. Nothing stands out as a mark out moment but the right man won as the debuting A Double countered the End of Days into a roll up for the pin.
Corbin looked strong as he took the fight to his popular opponent, and Aries started his WWE career on a high note.
Winner: Austin Aries.
Match Grade: B-
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.
Oh boy, was this ever good. For those of you who don’t know, Shinsuke Nakamura is a Japanese legend dubbed ‘King of Strong Style’. Strong style is a type of wrestling innovated and popularised in Japan and it basically consists of hitting your opponent, for real, as hard as you can. Just to reiterate, Shinsuke is the king of that style. Do not take this man lightly, despite his somewhat goofy demeanor, he will knock your teeth out.
On the other hand, Sami Zayn is also an Indy favourite who is no stranger to competing in the most brutal matches around. He has made a name for himself as one of the toughest, pluckiest guys in the industry and is undoubtedly one of the best wrestlers on the planet. So it should be no surprise to you that this match was also being waited on with feverish anticipation. It delivered.
Shinsuke didn’t sacrifice what brought him to the dance in order to appease the WWE higher ups, in fact he worked just as stiff as he always has, likely because Sami can take it. Zayn answered this new challenge by putting a little more pepper behind his strikes too and what resulted was, as the legendary JR would say, a good ol’ fashioned slobberknocker.
The two men teed off on each other with vicious forearms and jaw rattling knees. Shinsuke, being more versed in this game, got the better of Zayn in the exchanges using his long legs and MMA background to his distinct advantage. Take nothing away from Zayn though, he looked a million bucks out there as the two produced pure magic in that ring together.
With debuting Japanese wrestlers, the theme in the past has been to make the racist caricatures. That is no longer the case in NXT as they are shown the proper respect and that has allowed for one of the greatest wrestlers alive today to bring his unique personality over to WWE and entertain millions alongside Zayn. Every fan sat at home was echoing the crowd’s sentiments as they chanted “Fight forever”. Who wouldn’t want to see more of those brutal strikes coupled with stunning technical displays like the Arm Bar transitioned into the Triangle Choke?
In the end Shinsuke Nakamura won with his newly renamed Kinshasa, which is a violent running knee to the skull. This was likely Sami’s last match before going up to the main roster permanently and it is hard to think of a more fitting send off for the life blood of NXT.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura.
Match Grade. A+
NXT Women’s Championship Match- Asuka vs Bayley (c).
From one hard hitting Japanese worker to another, Asuka looked to take home the Women’s title in this also highly anticipated matchup. Asuka burst onto the scene in NXT late last year and made an immediate impression as the softly spoken killer who damn near takes her opponents heads off with her kicks and breaks them with deep submissions.
Acting as the polar opposite to her, Bayley is the beloved underdog who has managed to retain her championship against impossible odds and has won the adoration of every fan in the process. These two vastly disparate women do have one thing in common though, they can wrestle better than almost anyone else.
That being said, it is important to realise that this was never going to be as good as the matches involving the Four Horsewomen. Those had so much of a buzz going into them and featured the four best female workers in the business so it would be unfair to expect the same levels from this match. However, that didn’t mean it couldn’t deliver big in its own way.
Much like with the contest that came before it, both of these competitors unloaded on each other with impactful shots. Asuka kicked and punched her way through a feisty Bayley, who in turn punched her right back.
The real highlight here was the excellent submission work between two women which saw Bayley catch an attempted kick and turn into a Knee Bar that proved she has a resilient move set any wrestler would be proud of. For her part, Asuka caught Bayley in a Flying Arm Bar which, no matter how many times it is seen, will always be a thing of beauty.
The ending is where this match really loses point though. Bayley was locked in the Asuka Lock and rather than tapping out she fought on and eventually passed out. There was a time when this was incredible effective at generating sympathy and respect for a tough face but it has become such a commonplace finish that it has been rendered somewhat useless. Still, everyone should rejoice that Bayley will now head on up to the main roster where she belongs and Asuka can take her chance at leading the Women of NXT.
Winner and New NXT Women’s Champion: Asuka.
Match Grade: B+
NXT Championship Match- Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor (c).
Before the contest had even begun the tone was set for this energetic encounter as Balor made his way to the ring brandishing a chainsaw. Get it? Because they’re in Texas. It actually made for yet another iconic Balor entrance, just as the Jack the Ripper costume did in London. It does make you wonder what he’ll do when they wrestle in a town that doesn’t have a famous serial killer attached to it. Or one that isn’t fictional/weirdly iconic, he can hardly come out dressed as Ted Bundy now, can he?
Costume based ponderings aside, it was time for the undisputed match of the evening. That’s before the bell even rang, by the way. Nobody could argue that this was what people really paid to see. The rivalry between these two top tier athletes had been incredibly intense for months now as they both fought over the championship and over a shattered friendship.
Their encounter in London was incredible but something told fans that this was going to be even better.
No sooner had the bell rung, Joe was bleeding from above his left eye as the two bashed heads in the centre of the ring. The sight of his blood running down his face only heightened the drama as they continued to pummel one another. Joe even threw Balor over the guard rail and took out a security guard seated behind it.
Fans, and Joe, became agitated however when the Referee and medical staff continuously paused the match to tend to the cut above Joe’s eye. Now, wrestler safety should always be paramount but these guys are no strangers to being busted open and you could see that Joe just wanted to continue with the match, knowing the blood added to things. He even nodded along as the crowd chanted “Fuck PG”, a sentiment everyone can agree on.
Despite the interruptions, these two men still rallied and put on some of the most intelligently paced, interestingly performed, and main event worthy action you are likely to see in a WWE ring. They left it all in the ring as both men clobbered one another with heavy hands and hit their finishers for a series of false finishes. The crowd was on the edge of its seat when the ref finally counted three on Joe and they erupted when Balor once again retained his NXT Championship.
Some will definitely have thought the Joe was taking home the title but this is a better move. What needs to be done now is for Balor to reign until the next TakeOver where he can drop the belt to whoever is most promising at that time and then move on up to Raw. As for Joe, it’s time for him to debut on the main roster and you should expect to see that the night after Wrestlemania. The ideal scenario? Have him beat the hell out of AJ Styles and start the feud of the year off with a bang.
Winner and Still NXT Champion: Finn Balor.
Match Grade: A+
This was an event that featured two A+ matches. Call it generous grading if you must but there can be no denying that this show delivered from start to finish. The commentary team actually called the action in the ring, the wrestlers actually wrestled like they loved the business and knew what they were doing, and the fans were on top form throughout all of it.
NXT is the premier brand in wrestling right now and this event was a perfect example of why that is.
Match of the Night: Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
Highlight of the Night: American Alpha winning the Tag Team Championships.
Most Underwhelming Match of the Night: Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries.
Event Grade: A+
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