NXT TakeOver: Rival Report
NXT TakeOver: Rival was the first NXT ‘PPV’ (Network Event) of 2015. It had a hell of a challenge – top the event the promotion put on two months ago. That show was quite possibly the best wrestling PPV/Event of the past five years – so they had a tall order this time around. The card was stacked, but it’s hard for lightning to strike twice. So let’s dive into the breakdown of NXT TakeOver: Rival and see if they could make magic again.
The Announcers: One of the main reason NXT is markedly better than both WWE and TNA right now is that they have much better story tellers. The Pre-Show Panel was excellent – every single person involved sold the Zayn/Owens match like this was the biggest match in NXT history. But, they did it smartly. They didn’t over hype and they didn’t blatantly tell you, “This is the biggest match in NXT history.” That’s just stupid and both WWE and TNA are guilty of doing this way too often. Byron Saxton was probably the most impressive in his breakdown as he showed a ton of fire, intelligence and passion in his predictions. That’s what I want to see in a pre-show panel – people caring about the show that’s about to come on. Oh, and Renee Young is just gorgeous.
William Reagal: He wasn’t onscreen often, but I loved how he sold the importance of the main event without saying a word. When backstage with Owens he glared at The Zoo Enthusiast (look it up if you don’t get the reference) with disdain and contempt, but yet still a sense of respect. When he was with Sami Zayn he looked at the former Generic Luchador with concern and fear that Owens would indeed break Zayn, someone Reagal really likes, in half. Perfect.
Match #1: Hideo Itami vs. “Prince Pretty” Tyler Breeze
Is it me or has Hideo Itami not lived up to the hype surrounding him? I think taking away the KENTA name and replacing it with Hideo Itami was the first mistake. The second was having him feud with The Ascension – because only one of those guys isn’t clueless in the ring. Lastly, the debuts of Finn Balor and Kevin Owens really overshadowed Itami. In short, he needed to win tonight. Tyler Breeze is bullet proof. His arrogant gimmick will never get old because no matter what, you just want to see him get punched in the mouth. His feathered selfie stick (which reminds me of Johnny B. Badd’s Badd Blaster confetti cannon) was a nice touch and I’m surprised it wasn’t used in the match.
Itami looked strong as hell in this match. They really emphasized his toughness when he kicked the living crap out of Breeze despite having an injured leg. His strikes came off much stiffer than normal and one day when he hits the GTS, the crowd will explode with joy. Meanwhile, Breeze did what he needed to – make the new guy look strong, retain his heat and live another day to annoy the crap out of us.
Winner: Hideo Itami
Match #2: Bull Dempsey vs. Baron Corbin – No DQ Match
Dear NXT – you’re really good at creating characters – please figure out something for Bull Dempsey. The guy has a lot of fire and he can (not always) be a beast in the ring, but he has ’80s jabroni written all over his look. Meanwhile, Baron Corbin has a great look, he just needs to sharpen his skills in the ring… a lot. This was a pretty standard big man match and was pretty tame for a No DQ match. Dempsey and Corbin blew the final spot as Bull swings a chair, Corbin knocks it out of his hand and then he hits End of Days. It’s impressive he can muscle the big guy up, but the chair was supposed to be in a spot where Corbin could plant Dempsey face first during End of Days. This didn’t happen and we in essence get the same result from their first encounter.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Match #3: The Lucha Dragons vs. Buddy Murphy & Wesley Blake – Tag Title Match
They rushed the titles off The Lucha Dragons too fast. However, after watching this match, there might be a good reason. The Dragons were SLOPPY. Sin Cara only seems to work at half-speed and Kalisto tried too hard to cover for him. The victims of the sloppiness were Murphy & Blake. One of them took a terrible Victory Roll off the top and they literally stopped the match to make sure he wasn’t concussed. That’s bad. Sin Cara had an impressive one-armed power bomb, but otherwise he sleepwalked through the watch. Kalisto botched a bunch of spots but he had a great sequence with a “Listo Kick” followed by a baby-rana where he spiked his opponent on his head (intentionally). They then did the old ECW “Land of 1,000 Reversals” but it fell flat. Luckily Murphy and Blake were pros and hit some nice double team maneuvers including a great double toss into a neck breaker and then a brain buster followed by a frog splash combo. I like the tag champs and given time I think they could be something special. As for the Dragons – Kalisto is the star here and if they don’t saddle him with a gay hair stylist gimmick, he could easily be Rey Mysterio 2.0. As for Sin Cara – can’t we fire this guy again?
Winner – Buddy Murphy & Wesley Blake
Adrian Neville vs. Finn Balor – #1 Contender’s Match
This match should’ve been called NXT: False Finish...and I loved every second of it. Finn Balor has an absolutely sick entrance. While some may criticize it for being too theatrical or not fitting his in-ring style, it’s different and it gives me chills. In the ring, Neville and Balor gel together perfectly and this felt like a changing of the guard – one high flyer (Neville) eaving town gives the crown to the new high flyer (Balor). This was a pretty solid much until Balor DROPKICKED NEVILLE THROUGH THE DAMN BARRICADE. Then it kicked into ludicrous speed. They followed this with a breath taking up angle shot of Balor ascending the ropes and hitting a BEAST foot stomp to the back of Neville’s dome — but for only a two-count. Sorry, that should’ve been the finish. The two then traded sick moves – Neville hit a mid-air twisting German suplex followed by a dead lift German. He also hit a version of the Red Arrow from the second rope. Balor countered with the Pele Kick, Sling Blade and the lifting reverse DDT. Neville’s frustration and intensity in this match were awesome. The ending sequence with Neville doing the Red Arrow into Balor’s knees, Balor going for the cradle, hitting the lifting DDT and then the double foot stomp for the win was amazing.
Balor has a definite future in WWE and he has “main event” painted all over him. Neville is fantastic, but he has “Tyson Kidd/Evan Bourne circa 2011” written all over him.
Winner: Finn Balor
Charlotte vs. “The Boss” Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Bayley — NXT Women’s Title Match
Charlotte seems destined for WWE and if used right she will be over like Rover. I love the Sasha character as her diminutive statue literally means nothing as her in-ring skills and brassy personality make up for it. Bayley is phenomenal as the lovable Mikey Whipwreck/Mick Foley-esque character. She will be ridiculously over with kids when she’s called up — luckily she’s not a comedy worker, she can go for real. Becky Lynch is a solid worker who he needs some more time to get over, but she fit in nicely as the fourth piece of the match.
This match, to quote the kids, was all sorts of wow. The double, triple and quadruple team spots and multi-person spots were phenomenally executed. Lynch and Banks throwing Charlotte into the LED screen on the ring and “breaking it” was a great touch. Lynch threw a T-Bone suplex that Banks solid like a million bucks as she launched herself halfway across the ring. Bayley looked strong throwing a slew of corner elbows and multiple “Bayley to Belly” duplexes, including one off the top.
Charlotte got the least amount of offense in, but she made everyone look strong. Sign of a great worker. The finish was a little flat but totally logical. Banks had a great arching crossface on Charlotte and then rolled it into a pin. A little sudden, but it made Banks look strong and Charlotte lost nothing. The two ended the match on a great note with the two women embracing out of character and then quickly going back into character with Banks shoving Charlotte. Nice touch.
Winner: Sasha Banks – New NXT Women’s Champion
The Main Event: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens – NXT Title
They built this match up perfectly playing the personal history of both men. They had a simple vignette and then punctuated it with showing both men psyching themselves up and walking to the ring. It’s a nice, non-convoluted moment that totally worked.
In the ring, Zayn and Owens told a killer story – one man driven by both ego and a sense of duty to provide for his family; the other driven by revenge and the desire to be the best wrestler in the world.
The match wasn’t the best match these two have had but in no way could it live up to the hype heaped upon it — but damn it they tried. Sami hit all his trademark moves including a superhuman Blue Thunder Bomb, a short exploder into the turnbuckles, the skin the top rope tope and a the ‘half-and-half’ duplex. Owens counter with thunderous chops, a lariat, a vicious corner cannonball, and his Adam Cole special (brain buster into the knee). The best sequence came when Owens went for an apron power bomb, Sami clutches the ropes to counter, then hits an Asai moonsault. Unfortunately he “cracked” his head on the ramp and was “out of it” for the rest of the match.
The story then told in the ring was Owens viciousness – and how he didn’t care if Zayn was concussed he wanted the title and to hurt Zayn. Zayn’s story was he’d never give up no matter what. So, how do you end the match? Technical knock-out/ref stoppage. It’s a little surprising the belt changed hands, but it makes perfect she. More on that in a second.
Winner: Kevin Owens – New NXT Champion
Overall Thoughts: Definitely not as good as last the last big show, but still damn good. Putting the belt on Owens, despite the oddness of the victory, makes perfect sense. He’s the asshole, Ric Flair-esque heel who always finds a way to win, he pisses you off yet you respect him. He’s going to be really fun to watch as the main dog. Also, Sami Zayn is best served as the under dog. The man in pursuit. The money is in the chase here and if booked right, the return match when Sami does win the title back, will be big money. The Women’s Match might’ve been one of the best of all-time, seriously. Balor and Neville tore the house down for sure. The rest of the card was sloppy, but fun. Maybe we all heaped a little too much expectation on this show to be the greatest thing ever, but it was entertaining and as a friend told me, “that’s all we really want from wrestling.”
NXT airs Wednesday Nights on the WWE Network.