NXT TakeOver: The End – June 8th 2016
Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.
It is probably worth mentioning again that NXT is not coming to an end. In fact if you saw Uncle Paul’s post-show interview with Cathy Kelly, you heard the “news” that “the End” moniker was a reference to the end of NXT as developmental and the start of a new, fully-fledged third brand. Whether that comes to fruition or if an actual new developmental league Evolves remains to be seen, however it appears that the main roster brand split has already begun to have an effect on the NXT product and business model.
If we are grading The End on a curve against previous TakeOver specials, it undoubtedly was towards the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the overall show quality. Still, the amount of negativity this show received online is utterly baffling and there seemed to be a number of people upset by the fact that they didn’t get another blow-away show like Brooklyn or Dallas. There may have been nothing at the level of Sasha/Bayley or Nakamura/Zayn, but absolutely none of the matches on the show were bad and we did in fact get one excellent match with American Alpha surprisingly dropping the Tag Team titles to The Revival. Samoa Joe retained the NXT title over Finn Balor and they managed to have a very good Cage Match even with all the restrictions like the no blood and the escape the cage rule, which has been around for over thirty years and is still stupid. Shinsuke Nakamura downed Austin Aries in what was nowhere near either man’s best performance and it is completely understandable that a lot of people were disappointed in the match. Not in this, or any other, universe was it a bad match, but they never really got out of third gear and it certainly didn’t come across like a big-time dream match that it was hyped as. The debut of Andrade “Cien” Almas was perfectly fine and he beat Tye Dillinger, however it also could have been much better and having seen plenty of La Sombra, he barely displayed 1% of what he is actually capable of. Asuka also managed to drag Nia Jax through the best match of her career and retained the Women’s title.
With Balor failing to regain the NXT title and American Alpha dropping the Tag belts, it would certainly appear like they are main roster bound. They did shoot an angle after the Tag title match and introduced some new monster heels, who left American Alpha laying. Nobody had a clue who the two guys were and the fans chanted, “Who are you?!” They were Sunny Dhinsa & Gzim Selmani, the Authors of Pain and Paul Ellering of all people came out on the ramp to stand with the latest attempt to recreate the Road Warriors here in 2016. It is likely that Alpha and maybe even Balor shoot some stuff at the NXT TV Tapings on 9/6 to tie up any loose ends. Alpha could conceivably even put the Authors of Pain over on their way out.
One thing that did hurt the show was Full Sail itself. The NXT crowd is very divisive and many people find the fans at Full Sail to be nothing but a bunch of hipster millennials who try and get themselves over with their wacky chants and post-ironic support for certain performers. Others just see a lively crowd having fun and making a bunch of noise at a pro wrestling show, which is certainly better than the majority of the RAW crowds that come across like they have been shot up with a bunch of tranquilizers before the show starts. I’m somewhere in the middle on the argument, in that fans should in no way try and make the show all about themselves, however I would take an audience making a bunch of noise over a dead crowd all day long. Regardless of your personal opinion on the Full Sail crowd, the small 300 seat building just could not produce the same “big show” feel as some of TakeOver shows that were held in bigger arenas. If NXT really is going to become the third brand then maybe reserving TakeOver specials for bigger arenas and only using Full Sail for TV tapings is the way to go.
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Tye Dillinger. – Almas over in 5:25. Dillinger was super over with the fans to the point where a lot of them didn’t really care about Almas, although there was an, “He’s one hundred” chant for “Cien.” Dillinger took most of the match. Almas did his double Moonsault after landing in the ring after the first one. Finish saw Almas win with his running doubles knees in the corner. – Dillinger was not the best choice as Almas‘ first opponent. He’s a perfectly good hand, but the crowd are into him in that weird post-ironic sort of way and cheer him no matter what. The goal was to get Almas over as a big deal, but the crowd were more interested in chanted “Ten” for Dillinger. (**)
NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha (C) vs. The Revival. – Revival became the new champions at 15:45. What a match this was. Story was that Dash & Dawson knew they couldn’t out-wrestle the champs, so they started out throwing fists and tried to turn it into a brawl. Alpha managed to use their wrestling anyway and they did a couple of really awesome synchronized spots early that brought the crowd to its feet. Revival got the heat on Gable after a double team Hot Shot; Gable got some good hope spots, including an Armbar while upside down in the ropes. Jordan ran wild off the hot tag and threw Dash & Dawson around with some great Suplexes. Heels cut off Jordan and Gable got the chance to make a big comeback and they did a bunch of tremendous near-falls for both teams. Finish saw the Revival counter the Grand Amplitude and hit Jordan with the Shatter Machine for the clean pin. As noted, Sunny Dhinsa & Gzim Selmani attacked American Alpha and left them for dead then Paul Ellering came out to stand with his new team. – I liked this match a little more than their Dallas match, although the one thing this was missing was the rabid Dallas crowd. Match itself was a perfect example of how tag team wrestling is done. (****)
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries. – Nakamura over in 17:03. Good match, but not in the same league as the Zayn match in Dallas. Aries had his ribs tapped up for some reason that was never fully explained, nor did it pay into the match in anyway. They worked a pretty slow pace, with Aries getting a lot of offense and he hit a Dragon Screw and worked over the knee briefly. Aries turned his attention to the neck and began to work it over to soften Nakamura up for the Last Chancery. Aries hit his Heat-seeker Tope and got a near-fall, but Nakamura caught him in a Triangle. Aries countered the Kinshasa with a Knee Crusher and a Back Suplex, which impacted both the knee and the neck of Nakamura. Areis got the Last Chancery, but Nakamura got to the ropes then after some back-and-forth Aries hit Nakamura with a Death Valley Driver on the apron. Finish saw Aries go for another Heat-seeker Tope, but Nakamura moved and he crashed into the barricade. Nakamura followed up with a knee off the second rope, the Reverse Powerslam and the Kinshasa for the win. – Story they tried to tell was that Aries brought his best and one mistake cost him the victory. A fine idea on paper to protect Aries, however as a result the match lacked any real intensity and came nowhere near the same levels of drama that Nakamura & Zayn reached. Still, a very solid match. (*** ½)
NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka (C) vs. Nia Jax. – Asuka retained in 9:10. They kept this short, which was a smart move. Story was basically Jax being a monster and Asuka trying a bunch of submissions which didn’t work. Jax bent Asuka around the ring post during the heat and did a couple of basic power moves. Jax missed her Leg Drop of Doom and Asuka made her comeback with a fiery flurry of strikes. Jax hit a Powerbomb for a near-fall but Asuka turned it into an Armbar, which Jax ultimately powered out of. Asuka struggled to get the Asuka Lock on the monster and Jax powered out again. Finish saw Asuka land a series of kicks to the head to get the pin; Jax sold like she was KO’d and the trainer ran out to check on her afterwards. – They protected Nia and hid her greenness very well and the story of her being to big and powerful to be submitted is kind of cool. Although the fact that Asuka knocked out the giant doesn’t do much for her status as the monster of the women’s division. Asuka came off strong though and deserves a lot of credit for the match being as good as it was. (***)
NXT Championship, Steel Cage Match: Samoa Joe (C) vs. Finn Balor. – Joe retained in 16:09. Very good cage match for 2016 WWE standards. Joe tossed Balor into the cage early on and tried to win this heated blood feud by escaping out of the door. Balor tried to escape too, but Joe gave him a nice German Suplex and continued to control things. Balor countered the Muscle Buster and ended up hitting a Slingblade off the top rope for a near-fall. Joe hit the Muscle Buster about at about 11:30 but Balor kicked out and the announcers played it up like a big deal. Balor sent Joe into the cage and made his comeback with a bunch of Slingblades and Dropkicks. Joe kicked-out of the Double Foot Stomp and applied the Coquina Clutch, but Balor broke free and went to escape over the top of the cage. Finish saw both men fighting on the top rope and Joe sent Balor’s face into the cage then he hit a massive Muscle Buster off the second rope to retain the strap. – With the obvious restrictions of a WWE cage match, this match wasn’t quite as good as their two previous TakeOver matches, although as noted they did about as good a job as possible at delivering a good cage match in 2016. Clearly Balor is main roster bound, but Samoa Joe absolutely should be right behind him because they are going to need all the talent they can get when the brand split goes into effect. (*** ¾)