NXT Takeover San Antonio Thoughts- What A Glorious Bastard!
It's hardly a controversial thing to say that today's Takeover wasn't highly anticipated. It looked weak on paper, due to a roster that has been steadily getting poached over the last year, from Sami Zayn all the way to Samoa Joe, who has disappeared from NXT TV without explanation after losing to Shinsuke Nakamura in a steel cage NXT title match. Then- and I don't want to speak for everyone here, but this is how I was feeling- there were question marks whether the wrestlers involved could deliver Takeover quality matches. Eric Young has done more talking than full length matches in NXT, Roderick Strong was also having his first Takeover match. The Authors of Pain are green and yet to impress. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay don't have much experience in big NXT matches. Bobby Roode had one standout match against Tye Dillinger, but was that a great match or did the hometown crowd in Toronto boost the atmosphere? And finally, the NXT champion, Nakamura. After bursting on the WWE/NXT scene with a MOTY candidate against Sami Zayn, his long feud with Joe failed to catch fire. So, a lot of questions, and not a whole lot of optimism.
I'm happy to see that I was wrong in my misgivings, and the NXT cast blew my expectations out of the water! Everyone had their working boots on, and it's possible that they had a bit of a chip on their should after Triple H said in the last week that he wasn't happy with NXT as it was in its rebuilding phase. Let's look at what went down.
-The show kicked off with a lady saying "10" over the loudspeakers and the crowd losing their shit. Man, is Tye Dillinger over. He has an uphill battle with Sanity at ringside, as he takes on their leader, Eric Young. The commentators refer to Young training Dillinger, which I don't think was mentioned on NXT prior to this. If it was, it needed to be explored in more detail. This Takeover build did suffer from dealing with the Christmas break and broadcasting the international tour, which outside of the title matches, wasn't really NXT canon. Anyway, Dillinger has come a long way from his rookie days, and Graves astutely points out that this incarnation of Eric Young is a much different man to the one the Perfect 10 knew when he was a lowly 4. Tye has to deal with the numbers game, and does so admirably. Unfortunately, after Tye wipes out Fulton and Dain, Young takes advantage, reversing Dillinger skinning the cat into the wheelbarrow neckbreaker for the win.
-Normally, I'd be a bit mad about Dillinger losing again- okay, honestly, I am a little- but there's a couple of stories at play here. One, with this whole feud being about Tye questioning himself, it makes sense to push that with a losing streak angle. Alternatively, Dillinger may be main roster bound (#10 in the Rumble, please!). Putting both those things to the side- even though he's been around NXT a while and been a prominent part of the weekly show, this was Eric Young's first Takeover match, and despite the Sanity stable consistently looking strong, EY didn't actually have many victories to his credit, especially not high profile ones.
-Moving on to Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Roderick Strong. This was flimsily put together after Strong eliminated Almas from the no. 1 contenders fatal 4 way last month. But, Almas can go, and has really hit another level since turning heel. And I'm yet to see it as I didn't follow his pre-NXT career, but apparently Roderick Strong can go too. And so it begins, and damn, yeah, some slick chain wrestling. Then they transition into a hard hitting, almost strong style match (no pun intended that time, I promise). Strong shows why he's called the Messiah of the Backbreaker by hitting a really cool high cradle backbreaker, followed by a top rope backbreaker, using the top turnbuckle in lieu of a knee- the spot that Charlotte and Sasha tried at Summerslam and botched. After a bit more back and forth, the Sick Kick gives Roderick Strong his first major NXT victory. He just needs to work on his character and promo, based on the little I've seen, he makes Cesaro look like The Rock. Really fun match, and we're two for two on those.
-DIY clash with the Authors of Pain for the NXT tag titles. Fortunately, these are two teams that know their roles. DIY are the scrappy underdogs, AOP are the devastating powerhouses. AOP look more comfortable here, guided by the veterans Gargano and Ciampa. Some fun spots down the stretch- Ciampa slaps the shit out of Aikem about 10 times in a row, Aikem no-sells it and levels him with a clothesline. Fun callback to Toronto when DIY lock in a double submission. Then, stereo superkicks from DIY are countered into the Super Collider, shortly followed by the Last Chapter. Authors of Pain are your new tag champs.
-Not a fan of DIY losing their belts so quickly after a long chase, but I suspect this feud is far from over. Gargano and Ciampa might be better in chase mode- I don't think they're main roster bound yet at all, that would be a huge blow to NXT. They did an admirable job taking the AOP to a match around the 3 star level.
-Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit. The commentators are interrupted by a familiar voice, pan to the ring and there's Seth Freaking Rollins! The Architect is no dummy, he wants Triple H, and he knows Hunter is backstage at all these NXT Takeovers. So, Seth says he's taking over, refusing to leave until the COO comes out. Surprisingly, Triple H obliges rather quickly... but calls on security guards to take Rollins out of the arena. Seth fights them off for a time, then another wave of guards come and the numbers game is just too much. What a segment. Raw just invaded NXT. Amazing surprise.
-Moving onto the women's title fatal 4 way. Interestingly, Peyton and Billie enter together, even though their technically opponents. I referred to the Aussies as afterthoughts on my last NXT blog, but they play their role as cowardly heels really well, getting out of there and letting the battle of the crazies play out between Asuka and Nikki. Graves makes a great Game of Thrones reference, calling Cross a Wildling. Asuka hits a double German suplex in a big spot on Peyton and Billie. Cross wipes out Asuka with a big Roll The Dice off the apron. Peyton and Billie take over on Nikki, and hit a double suplex off the announcers table through another table. Big time spot. The Aussies go back to the ring and beat up Asuka. In another cool sequence, Asuka battles back and goes for the roundhouse kick on Peyton- who ducks and hits a big kick of her own, followed by the Widow's Peak! Damn, that was sick. Asuka rallies and goes kick crazy moments later to take the victory and the NXT Women's title, all the way to Wrestlemania weekend where she'll presumably face Ember Moon. This was fast paced, frenetic, and just plain fun. Not on the same level as when the Four Horsewomen battled it out, but there was enough cool spots for it to stand out in its own right.
-Big match entrances for the NXT Championship main event. Bobby Roode gets a bevy of beautiful women accompanying him to ringside, and they do a nice job of acting like they want to be on his dick. Hey, they may not be acting. He is glorious, after all. Nakamura gets a big one, with a cool light display and a motorised platform that carries him to the ring as he dances. Enough to give an epileptic fits with that amount of flashing lights.
-The crowd treats both men like mega-stars, and Roode and Nakamura smartly play to it with a slow feeling out process. It gradually picks up speed, with both men having their moments, like a pendulum back and forth. Hey, Roode actually gets some heel heat by stealing Nakamura's Good Vibrations signature move! This angers the King of Strong Style, who begins to take control. Roode tries to go to the outside to take refuge, but takes a top rope Kinshasa while standing on the apron! Nakamura lands hard and starts selling the knee like death. Somehow, he pulls himself together, gets back in the ring and hits another Kinshasa! But that did it, Nakamura's knee is history, and you'd think he got shot. The doctors, trainers, and even head coach Matt Bloom (aka Albert/Tensai) come out to check on him. Nakamura, with his warrior spirit, wants to continue. Roode, who recovered from the Kinshasa while Nakamura was writhing in pain, seizes the opportunity and hits the Glorious DDT! Nakamura spiked like a lawn dart... but he kicks out at two! Roode, being the sadistic bastard he is, locks in a single leg crab on the injured leg/knee. "Roode's going to end Nakamura's career right here!"- is the call from the commentators. With a last gasp effort, Shinsuke reverses position and goes for a Hail Mary triangle choke- a move he had some success with earlier in the match. Unfortunately, the injured knee gave out! Roode, free from the choke, hits a second, and equally devastating Glorious DDT! 1-2-3, we have a new NXT champion!
My humble paragraph there can't do justice to what a fantastic match that 30 minute epic was. That blew away the last 6 months of Nakamura vs.Joe, and was the most motivated Shinsuke had appeared in a long time. Best Nakamura NXT match to date- not counting the debut against Zayn- and Roode was masterful in his role as well. Early MOTY contender. Just awesome.
Well, that does it for me. Off to try my hand at teaching high schoolers tomorrow, and I'll have the Rumble waiting for me when I get home, making sure that no matter what these teens do to me, I'll be able to end the day on a positive way. On a serious note, I'm excited for the challenge at work, and you can bet your ass I'm excited for the Rumble!
Until next time, take care,