I think I’ve made it abundantly clear already that, for me, Wrestlemania weekend was gonna start and stop on April 1st. Indeed this is the show I’ve been anticipating for months now, and whatever happens on Sunday is not really my concern. Of course, having such high expectations, can sometimes leave you somewhat underwhelmed once you’ve finished watching. So, the big question, did NXT Takeover Dallas live up to the hype? Let’s find out:
NXT Tag Team Title Match: American Alpha defeated The Revival (c) in 15:13 via pinfall to become the New Champions:
This match followed the classic tag team formula and I absolutely loved it. After all, there is a reason why such formula’s are called classics isn’t there? Anyway great pop for American Alpha’s, with gable clearly being the absolute crowd-favorite here. And that’s exactly why the aforementioned formula worked so well, Gable is just great as the face in peril, while Jordan brings exactly the right amount of fire and energy to the game when he finally gets the hot tag. The Revival also did great with their old-school heel tactics, constantly finding new, inventive and amusing ways to keep Gable isolated. Unfortunately, there was one huge botched spot in the middle of the match when The Revival completely missed a powerbomb/clothesline off the top rope combo, that was followed by dash attempting the cover while he wasn’t the legal man in there. very awkward looking spot that earned them “You fucked up” and “Botchamania” chants. Fortunately both teams were more than talented enough to quickly put this behind them and almost effortlessly regained the crowd’s attention going into the finishing stretch. Some great near-falls from Gable here and this all lead to the crowd’s favorites hitting their Grand Amplitude finisher for a very popular win. Botched spot aside, this was some great work from all four involved, and while most will remembered that this was the night Jordan and Gable finally added gold to their resume, kudos to The Revival for having been such great heel champions.
In-between matches They showed Jim Ross and Michelle Beadle in the crowd before the camera’s switched to… Kota Ibushi (with Sho Funaki). The commentators noted that is was interesting one of the best cruiserweights in the world was on hand just when the Global Cruiserweight tournament is right around the corner. Have to agree there, very interesting indeed.
Bayley was then shown signing autographs and taking pictures with her fans. Meanwhile Asuka was murdering some pads in the gym. Very amusing contrast there.
Austin Aries defeated Baron Corbin in 10:45 via pinfall:
This kinda worked for me, not necessarily from a in-ring work point of view (although the action was sound), but more from a storyline point of view. Say what you will about Corbin, but the fact that they’re highlighted the big, WWE trained guy’s hate for everything “indie” is a smart move for the simple reason it’s very believable in a WWE environment. It also helps Corbin’s character, since now he gets boo-ed for a reason other than just being plain boring. Because that’s still Corbin’s main problem, he’s supposed to be this dominating powerhouse but the fan’s usually switch off whenever he’s dominating for any extended time-period. Fortunately for him, Aries was easily able to fill most of the blanks and effortlessly played off the dominating big guy/experienced and technical small(er) guy story. The fact Austin basically outsmarted Corbin to take the win and then smirked at ring-side should give Corbin the necessary tools to add some layers to his character in the coming weeks. I do say should, it’s now up to the Lone Wolf to step up and show us all he CAN indeed work on his weaknesses and improves them to the point they won’t really matter anymore. Because slow and methodical CAN work in wrestling. As long as you can work the crowd while doing that. As for Aries, match was kept short for obvious reasons (Corbin) but A Double still managed to showcase what it is he can bring to the table and, let’s face it, Aries/Balor, Aries/Joe or Aries/Nakamura all sound damn fine to me. Good start for The Greatest Man That Ever Lived.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Sami Zayn in 18:55 via pinfall:
“Holy Shit”, “This Is Awesome”, “Fight Forever”. A lot have been written about such chants in recent times, especially about them not always reflecting what was actually happening in the ring. Well, let me tell you, when it come to this match, each of those chants were EXCATLY reflecting what was going on in the ring. It started with the entrances and the crowd chanting along with Zayn’s music, always a good sign. Then the lights went out and it was finally confirmed. Yes, NXT is indeed gonna allow Nakamura to be Nakamura. And while his entrance music hasn’t completely erased Nak’s trademark “Subconscious” yet, I must say they made a very good choice there, by somehow managing to find something that’s isn’t clichéd Japanese while still having some Oriental under-tones. More importantly, it’s the kind of music Nakamura can go wild with and that was what everybody wanted. And then the match started and we were immediately treated to the sight of both wrestlers expertly playing off the crowd with nothing more than pure charisma and basic moves. A masterclass on how to start a match right there. From there, both when on to work a breath-taking, hard-hitting, amazingly fluid, completely awesome back-and-forth match that got the crowd (and me) bat-shit crazy. If anyone was still wondering what Japanese strong-style is all about, well boys and girls, this is it.
I spoke about magic in this article’s title, because, for me, that exactly what it was. Wrestling magic. Two amazing talents, on top of their game, in complete control and having everybody who’s watching eating out of their hands. Hell they could have stopped at one point and read from the phone-book for a couple of minutes and they still wouldn’t have lost us, that’s how incredible this was. Add to all of that amazing chemistry between those two and it’s no wonder this match has already earned a whole constellation of 5-star ratings out there. Closing stretch was off the charts as both puled out some fantastic counters to the other’s signature stuff. Finish came when Nakamura nailed his KinShasha (sort of a high-kick variation of his Boma Yé) finisher. Post-match saw Naklamura extending his hand and Zayn struggling to get to his feet before accepting the embrace. And the crowd? they roared their approval.
I often speak about “letting a match be a match” and this was the perfect example. All those two needed was a ring and enough time to show how incredible wrestling can be. What a perfect beginning for Nakamura. What a perfect ending for Zayn. Whatever it is you plan on doing between now and Monday, forget about it. This is THE match you need to see. So, GO! WATCH! NOW!
NXT Women’s Title Match: Asuka defeated Bayley (c) in 15:25 via technical submission to become the New Champion:
I was really amused by the (excellent) pre-match video package, which saw Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Carmella putting over Bayley’s spirit and drive while Emma and Dana Brooke played somewhat reluctant cheerleader for Asuka by highlighting her ass-kicking skills. As Dana put it, once you see that smile of hers, it’s game-over. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
This match was a bit strange in a way, not in a bad way mind you, but, it’s perhaps best explained by the crowd reactions and by comparing it to what happened in the previous match. As stated, Sami vs Nak was the story of an ending and a beginning so the crowd’s favorite vs crowd’s favorite thing worked like a charm. Here there was some confusion as, at times, the crowd didn’t really seem to know who to cheer for. And, in hindsight, it’s not very difficult to figure out why. When we, wrestling fans, look at Asuka and Baley, we both love them, but for very different reason. With Bayley we have the girl next door feel, the ultimate underdog, the hugger, the girl we like too cheer for because she give it her all no matter what. Whit Asuka, we have the fact she’s amazingly talented, that awesome ass-kickery of hers but also that incredible creepy/sexy smile of hers and that whole menacing aura that somehow still manages to be enticing. So yeah, who do you cheer for when two characters are liked for such different reasons?
I mention all of this because the crowd reactions, in my opinion, gave this match kinda strange feel. Again, I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish and both worked an excellent back and forth match, but, while I stated before that those two probably didn’t need a story, it turns out I was wrong on that account. The finish actually highlighted this. I found I didn’t mind the Bayley passing out thing at all, for the simple reason I WANT said story to be told. And that’s how you have to see this match, I think. The start of the story, the feud that could very well become THE feud of 2016. And don’t pay too much attention about the rumors of Bayley going to the main roster, even if she does, it won’t change a thing, the Asuka/Bayley story will still be told, almost certainly with some character changes here and there (I mean when did Bayley EVER show frustration and anger before) simply because it HAS to be told and the finish of the match suggest NXT has realized that.
Perhaps not exactly the fireworks we were expecting beforehand, but, I think we might have been given something even better in exchange. Long live the Empress.
NXT Title Match: Finn Balor (c) defeated Samoa Joe in 16:22 via pinfall:
Before commenting on the match in itself, I need to address something here. Joe was busted open almost immediately (during a head-butt spot). And started bleeding a lot. This prompted the ref to stop the match quite a few times to allow the medical staff to intervene. The crows reacted to that with “Bullshit” and “Fuck PG” chants. Now there is no doubt that, from a wrestling fan point of view, those frequent stoppage hurt the flow of what would otherwise have been an excellent match. That being said, if you search around the internet a bit, you’ll find those stoppages had little to do with PG but more with medical/commission issues. So my point is, I AM indeed a wrestling fan but I also fully realize that what should come first is indeed the safety of the wrestlers.This is actually an interesting debate as some will say that being busted open has happened before, these guys know what they’re doing, let them go at it, while others will say, no, this can be dangerous, safety first. I honestly don’t feel qualified enough to comment on if Joe’s injury indeed warranted those frequent interruption, I think someone like regular commentator on IP Mister Miracle is much more qualified for that, so I hope he’ll read this and find the time to share his thoughts.
That all being, if you gloss over the stoppages, I felt this was a very good match, above their Takeover London match quality-wise.A bloodied Joe going for the kill is always a mesmerizing sight and he looked genuinely ready to kill someone at times while I feel this is the closest Finn Balor has come to NJPW Prince Devitt’s fire and intensity since hes arrived in NXT. That all gave me the feeling I was watching more of a fight between two guys who hate each-other than a wrestling match. I don’t know if I’m a big fan of the finish though. The Bret Hart/Stone Cold Steve Austin/Survivor Series Finish tribute came a bit abruptly and I don’t know if it was that good of an idea in this situation. It does give Balor a clean win, but without really giving it t him, if you know what I mean. If you’re gonna prolong that feud (and, eventually add Nakamura, for example, to the mix), why not let Joe win here? Would have made more sense than a roll-up in my opinion. But OK, that’s their decision, and, despite the aforementioned issues, still a very good match to close down the show
Conclusion: Everybody expected NXT takeover to be great and the show definitely answered and even surpassed those expectations. 5 matches ranging from good to absolutely awesome, well-told and intriguing stories, it did have some minor issues here and there, but that’s nitpicking really. I was entertained from start to finish, as was the crowd and, I expect, most of those watching it at home and in the end, that’s the best compliment you can give any wrestling event. All I can add here is a huge THANK YOU to all the NXT talent for working their asses off just to give us such amazing matches. Great job guys! And to those of you who haven’t seen it yet I say: STOP READING AND GO WATCH IT!
Tags: American Alpha, Asuka, Austin Aries, Baron Corbin, bayley, Finn Balor, NXT Takeover: Dallas, sami zayn, Samoa Joe, shinsuke nakamura, The Revival