NXT TakeOver: Dallas – April 1st 2016
Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Centre: Dallas, TX.
NXT TakeOver: Dallas was clearly the best show of WrestleMania weekend. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either being a contrarian for arguments sake or has a very warped perception of what a great pro wrestling show is. I suppose you could make a case for the WWN Supershow as being up there also, however there was a good 45 minutes of downtime on the Supershow followed by two pretty dull matches before a great main event. TakeOver: Dallas had no downtime whatsoever, which actually hurt the show ever so slightly as the women struggled to follow the magic that Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn created. The atmosphere was also hotter than on any other show I saw all weekend, including WrestleMania, and I can only imagine what it was like being in the building during the peak of Nakamura/Zayn.
As noted, the lack of downtime failed to give the audience a chance to catch their breath after one of the best matches in NXT history. Apollo Crews vs. Elias Sampson was bumped to a dark match and Crews beat the Drifter in about twelve minutes. If they would have just trimmed five minutes off the main show they could have had Crews squash the Drifter in three minutes as a buffer between Nakamura/Zayn and Asuka/Bayley. Regardless, from top to bottom, TakeOver: Dallas was easily the best NXT live special to-date and is unquestionably a contender for show of the year.
Obviously, the big news from the show was Shinsuke Nakamura winning his debut match against Sami Zayn. Not only did Nakamura get to keep his first name (for the time being), but he didn’t change his style at all and even did all of his wacky Swag-suke mannerisms that got him over in Japan. The building was packed with hardcore fans and Nakamura was the most over guy on the show; people knew all of his signature spots and treated him like a legitimate mega-star. Even though he didn’t change his wrestling style, Nakamura managed to put on a classic match while still keeping a lot of stuff in reserve for bigger matches in the future. He didn’t work the match with Zayn like a huge Tokyo Dome or Sumo Hall main event; it was more like a big Korakuen Hall show main event, but that was more than enough for this crowd, who undoubtedly helped turn an excellent match into an all-time classic. Of course WWE gave him new music; it took a couple of listens for me to get used to the new theme but it actually fits Nakamura quite well. Another small change was the renaming of the Bomaye to the “Kinshasa” – the city that hosted the Rumble in the Jungle, so there is at least a connection there.
Finn Balor retained the NXT Championship over Samoa Joe in a great main event that could have been even better if not for WWE’s “strict” no blood policy. Joe got busted open within seconds after an inadvertent headbutt and was gushing blood from his eyebrow. The sight of the unstoppable monster continuing to fight while covered in blood tangibly changed the atmosphere and you could feel the energy of the crowd go up several notches as Joe pretty much no-sold being a bloody mess. The doctors stepped in to try and stop the flow of blood on at least five different occasions; each time the fans got more upset and eventually they chanted, “F**k PG.” I will continue to argue that there will always be a place in pro wrestling for a well-timed juicing. Even though this wasn’t planned blood, it was so evident that the colour took the match, and the fans, to another level that you simply cannot achieve without it. It wasn’t like Joe had a concussion, his eye didn’t swell up and the blood was running down the side of his face so it didn’t affect his vision. He was literally in no serious danger of any significant injuries, so in my view WWE went way overboard here in trying to clean him up. The match still turned out to be great, but it could have been so much better without all the unnecessary blood stoppages.
Asuka beat Bayley to win the NXT Women’s title. They struggled to follow Nakamura/Zayn, as they were essentially telling the same story, but the women worked their asses of to deliver a very good match. The finish seemed to catch the fans off-guard, as Bayley passed out in the Asuka Lock and some peopled initially booed the title change. Taking the title off the Bayley character was always going to upset the happy millennials, but they couldn’t have protected Bayley anymore in losing without turning Asuka heel, which definitely was not the plan.
American Alpha downed The Revival to win the NXT Tag Team Championship in the opener. Gable & Jordan were insanely over and the fans went nuts for the title change. There was one really badly blown spot with the Revival going for a Powerbomb/Clothesline combo, but Gable didn’t go up all the way and it looked like a mess. Still, it didn’t take away from the match and American Alpha showed why they need to be on the main roster immediately.
Poor old Austin Aries made his WWE in-ring debut on this show too and beat Baron Corbin, however he was a total afterthought compared to Nakamura and unfortunately for him, he also had the worst match on the show. It wasn’t terrible of anything, however whoever put it together decided to tell the basic big heel vs. small fighting babyface story and Aries hardly got to show anything other than his selling ability.
Mauro Ranallo was on the pre-show with Renee Young and Lita. Mauro was his usual encyclopaedic self with all kinds of awesome references and little factoids. Renee was solid as always, but Lita was no good at all and I have no idea why she is always on these NXT panels.
NXT Tag Team Championship: The Revival (C) vs. American Alpha. – American Alpha became the new champs at 15:13. Great opener. They worked a traditional tag team formula and did it tremendously. Gable & Jordan got the mother of all babyface shine, which culminated in Jordan saving Gable from a Suplex then they sent Dash & Dawson flying with a pair of Germans and the crowd came unglued. Revival cut Gable off after some misdirection and a Clothesline on the floor for the heat. Here’s where the botched double-team Powerbomb occurred and the fans chanted, “You f**ked up” and “Bothcamania.” There was also another funny chant of, “Which one’s Dawson, which one’s Dash?” Jordan got the hot tag at 11:00 and ran wild with a bunch of Suplexes. They did a bunch of near-falls, including a great series of pinning combos from Gable & Dawson. Finish saw American Alpha hit their awesome Grand Amplitude alley-oop Back Suplex on Dawson to get the clean win. (*** ¾)
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin. – Aries over in 10:45. Aries started off quick and hit a Randy Savage Axe-Handle off the post to the floor. Corbin cut him off with a Stungun and proceeded to get the heat in a very methodical and dull manner. He applied a Nerve Hold of doom for approximately an hour and killed the crowd. Aries came back briefly with a Missile Dropkick and his Heat-seeker Tope, but Corbin cut him off again with Deep Six on the outside. Aries beat the 10 count and Corbin worked him over some more. Finish saw Corbin go for the End of Days and Aries countered into a roll-up for the flash pin. (**)
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn. – Nakamura over in 20:11. Excellent, MOTY contender. Zayn was also over like a hero and Nakamura instantly became the most charismatic guy in the entire company just a couple of seconds into his entrance. The match was completely different from the usual WWE formula and the story was simply two babyfaces fighting to see who the better man was. They started off slow and kept it fairly even with back-and-forth exchanges. Nakamura hit his running knee and knee drop on the apron then did his vibration and running knee in the corner. Zayn countered the Reverse Powerslam and hit a big tope-con-hilo over the top at 9:00 then got a near-fall with a Crossbody off the top. Nakamura came back with some knees on the ground but Zayn hit a big Michinoku Driver for a double-down at 10:18. They had a fighting spirit forearm battle which last about 90 seconds and Nakamura’s nose got busted up. Shinsuke wiped the blood from his nose and licked it off his fingers; what a guy. Nakamura got the better of the exchange and stomped Sami’s head while he was in the ropes like the Ibushi match from the Tokyo Dome last year. Zayn fired back and turned Nakamura inside out with a big lariat at 13:25 but Nakamura caught him with his Flying Armbar a few seconds later. Sami fought out by stamping on Nakamura’s head then returned the favour with some stomps to the head in the ropes. Zayn got the Koji Clutch at 15:20 but Nakamura fought out and hit an Enzuigiri for another double-down at 16:02. The fans lost their minds and chanted, “Fight forever,” which was pretty damn cool. They both avoided each other’s finish; Nakamura hit the Reverse Powerslam, which Todd Phillips called a “Reverse Exploder” – close enough I guess. Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a huge near-fall at 17:26 and the building erupted with a standing ovation. Zayn went for his diving DDT through the ring post and Nakamura countered with an Enzuigiri at 18:22. Finish saw them battle down from the top rope and Nakamura countered an Exploder into the corner then hit a big knee to the back of the head off the ropes at 19:50. Nakamura hit the Bomaye – Corey Graves made sure to yell “KINSHASA!” but wasn’t as convincing as Shimpei Nogami – to get the pin. (**** ¾)
NXT Women’s Championship: Bayley (C) vs. Asuka. – Asuka became the new champion at 15:25. Just like the previous match, the story here was two babyfaces fighting to see who was the best. Also, just like Sami Zayn, Bayley came into the match as the slight underdog in the story due to the hype surrounding the quality of their opponents. They was a stand-off early after some back-and-forth; Bayley went for a Clothesline but Asuka turned it into a Fujiwara Armbar. Bayley used the Guillotine choke she used to beat Nia Jax, which was a nice touch and the announcers even pointed it out. Bayley hit a nice Hurricanrana through the ropes to the floor, but Asuka came back with a Shining Wizard and some stiff kicks. Asuka hit a Saito Suplex and went for a Dropkick, but Bayley caught her with a Flying Kneebar which was awesome. Bayley worked on the leg for a bit; Asuka hit her Flying Arm but Bayley turned it into a pinning combo for a near-fall. Bayley used the modified Rings of Saturn that she applied to Sasha Banks for the finish of their Iron Man match. Finish saw Asuka hit a spinning kick, a Suplex then she locked in an Armbar. She transitioned into the Asuka Lock and Bayley fought for her life, but Asuka got the hooks in and took her to the ground. Bayley passed out and the referee stopped the match. (*** ¾)
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (C) vs. Samoa Joe. – Balor retained at 16:22. Great main event. Joe got busted open early after an accidental headbutt. He continued to wrestle and landed a big clothesline on the floor then screamed like a savage while the blood ran down his face. It was awesome. Joe was as intense and fired up as I’ve seen in years and it was such a shame that the referee and doctors kept disrupting the match for a cut which wasn’t dangerous in anyway whatsoever. At the rate the match kicked-off at, Joe & Balor very well could have had a match on par with Nakamura/Zayn. Joe, just like the crowd, was clearly not happy with all the stoppages and rightfully so. If you want to look at it another way, all the stoppages added to the story of the match by Joe’s momentum being halted which gave Balor the chance to recover. Still, the match would have been so much better if they just let the thing go. Joe launched Balor over the barricade, but Balor rose up like a demon and hit a Springboard forearm off the rail. Joe hit his monster Tope and the doctors attended to the cut some more. Joe landed his signature Chop, Kick, Kneedrop combo then delivered a big Overhead Belly-to-Belly. Balor got a Sling Blade in for a hope spot but Joe cut him off with the Powerbomb into the Boston Crab. Balor made his comeback but Joe hit the Muscle Buster and Balor kicked out! They traded shots and Balor landed a Pele kick for a double-down. Balor hit another Sling Blade, a Shotgun Dropkick and the Double Stomp off the top. He went for the Bloody Sunday but Joe countered and applied a standing Coquina Clutch. Finish was the Roddy Piper/Bret Hart WrestleMania VIII deal or Steve Austin/Bret Hart from Survivor Series 96, as Balor climbed the ropes and flipped over into a pinning combination; Joe refused to let go of the hold and Balor got the pin to retain the belt. (****)