NXT Takeover: Dallas
NXT assumes its role as a true indie by doing a WM weekend show for the first time.
American Alpha vs The Revival NXT Tag Team Championships
I'm assuming this will be match of the weekend. Hope they can live up to such thoughts. This has slowly been building since September of 2015, when Gable and Jordan broke out and went on a winning streak, defeating each former tag team champs until getting their shot. They didn't even need to have interactions with each other to build for it, and it's probably my most anticipated match of WM weekend. Gable and Dawson begin. Dawson sets the tone by giving disrespectful slaps to Gable. Gable does some awesome shit in a Lynn/RVD spot, but with amateur holds. It's hard for me not to be super into the idea of a match where one team does Maeda/Brisco spots, and the other is a full on Arn/Tully tribute act. Everything Gable does is so smooth. I wish he was even a little bit bigger, because he'd be a huge star otherwise. Which is not to downplay Jordan, who is also pretty great. Revival have an interesting way to get into some cheating: Dawson tries a tag from the floor, Dash gets in the ring, which gets him tied up with the ref and allows Dawson to do some eye raking. What an interesting spot. AA are on fire with RNR Express and Steiners spots. And the crowd, of course, loves them. The momentum shifts when Dash lays Gable the fuck out with a lariat on the floor. God damn. Starched that boy. Gable is stuck as FIP, and Revival's cut offs are so great. I mean, shit like crawling under the ring to sneak up to pull Jordan off the apron. JJ gets the hot tag, but the match goes into a second FIP section, with tons of near falls and false finishes. American Alpha get the momentum and hit their finisher, which is apparently called "Grand Amplitude". New champions! Very good match. Wonderful old school Southern tag. Both men cry after the match, and part of the bigger picture story of this match was both Gable and Jordan finally being able to win at the top level after both had failed to do so in the amateurs.
JR, Michelle Beal, and...KOTA IBUSHI are in the crowd. Funaki is going to get got by the Yakuza if he keeps making these deals with NJ guys to come to America.
EARLIER TODAY. Asuka and Bayley prepared for their matches. In very different ways. Asuka practices her striking with Seth Petruzelli while Bayley hugged kids.
Baron Corbin vs Austin Aries
Man, fuck Austin Aries. He hasn't been shit in a decade. I'm already tired of NXT becoming TNA 2.0, and Aries looks absolutely ridiculous against Corbin. Corbin is almost legitimately a foot taller than him. I've enjoyed Corbin's gimmick of hating your favorite indie shits, but considering the only one he's actually defeated is Apollo Crews (who got his match bumped to the dark match for this show), Corbin having anything less than a dominating win leaves him dead in the water. So, of course, Aries actually dominates the opening minutes and has Corbin scurrying away like he's Seth Rollins. Aries is completely unengaging while selling, and Corbin does what he can to shit talk to keep the crowd into it. It isn't really working. In fact, Aries on multiple occasions knocks the shit out of Corbin. Like...out brawling a guy a foot taller than him. Corbin hits a spinning back suplex on the floor, and it's basically sold as a desperation move. Then he gets back in the ring to sell and try to get a count out win. Against a guy a foot shorter than him. This is, possibly, even worse booking than Bayley/Nia from London. Then Aries wins with a roll up OUTTA NOWHERE. Of course. Garbage booking. Absolutely terrible. Corbin looks like a total loser, having proven he can't beat top level indie guys, despite his entire gimmick being that he is better than top level indie guys. And Aries has no upside potential in NXT. He's nearly 40, is 5 feet tall, and is never going to be more than an indie name to draw for NXT house shows. A loss for him wouldn't hurt him at all with this audience, but Corbin losing makes him look like a joke.
Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Before I talk about how weird it is for Nakamura to be making his WWE debut, I have to point out that Sami looks extremely nervous. In fact, I've never seen him look so nervous. If I may project and assume, I have to think the idea of such a giant match when he knows he still isn't back to what he was before the injury, in what will very likely be his NXT send off, has him visibly rattled. Part of him has to be a little resentful that this guy is basically replacing him in NXT, while also knowing it is his duty to make Nakamura look as great as possible, despite knowing he's physically not the same guy he was a year prior. Then Nakamura makes his entrance, as weird as ever, to a thundering ovation and pretty dope music.
It's an interesting reaction, because the crowd can't decide who they like more, but definitely don't want to pick sides, either. More interesting, though, is Sami's annoyed demeanor at Nakamura's...eccentricities. Sami gives some of it back, and you can tell tempers are going to flare at some point. Unsurprisingly, Nakamura's strikes knock the shit out of Sami. And while Sami has clearly scouted Nak, he still has to rely on his speed to avoid the strikes. Including his tope that he nearly missed. Sami breaks out some Generico moves, and things break down into a straight up NJ strike battle. And while Sami's elbows don't look very good, they do manage to bust Nak's nose open. Things start getting serious after this. The generally respectful one upsmanship gives way to Nakamura bringing the surly cunty Japanese wrestler attitude to NXT. Fans are very conflicted over it. I mean, he's doing that to Sami Zayn, not some shit head like The Drifter. This fires Sami up to give Nak the same treatment, which is very out of character for him, but perhaps quite fitting with Ibushi in the crowd, as similar spots happened in both Nak/Ibushi and Generico/Ibushi. Both continue to avoid signature maneuvers until Nakamura hits both a flying and running BOMAYE for the win. Very good match. Probably on the same level as Nak vs AJ. Post match has Sami in tears in the ring, waving goodbye to the NXT crowd as he leaves for the main roster for good starting at Wrestlemania.
A note: The Bomaye has been renamed to the Kinshasa. Bomaye comes from the Ali/Foreman Rumble in the Jungle. It means "Kill Him" in Lingala. Likely, Nakamura's usage of it actually comes from Antonio Inoki's co-opting of the phrase. However, Kinshasha is the name of the city that fight took place in, which makes it a pretty neat way to keep the Ali connection without having his move literally be 'Kill Him" in another language.
Asuka vs Bayley NXT Women's Championship
I expect this to be very disappointing, and be a match that makes Bayley look bad by being clearly outclassed, and make Asuka look bad for having to take it easy. Not unlike the Jericho/AJ matches. We'll see, though. The crowd immediately starts singing some of the dumb shit from the London show. I'm surprised they can chant anything after chanting for the entire Sami/Nak America match. This is essentially the Zayn/Nak match for women. Same general story, same general characters and styles. It's kind of interesting to run them back to back. This plays out almost too similar to the past match, with Asuka's strikes being difficult for Bayley to handle, forcing Bayley to go into strikes and do out of character moves herself. Although huge props for the fucking VOLK HAN shout out from Bayley. How bizarre. Asuka responds with a Shinya Aoki reference, which leads to Bayley passing out to the crossface chicken wing. New champion! Also very good, but somewhat hurt by happening right after a match with the same story, premise, and styles. Still, I was very impressed with Bayley, who I really thought was going to be completely blown out of the water. She definitely is is a rung or two below Asuka, but she held her own.
Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor NXT Championship
Now, let me start off with FUCK Balor. So tired of his shit. On the other hand, Joe has been one of the best dudes in the world during his NXT run. Possibly the best he's ever been. Seeing Joe's return to greatness after having his soul and passion killed in TNA has been nothing short of incredible. And he's also in the best shape he's been in in about 8 years. Balor comes out with...a fucking chainsaw. Two days before a marquee match on WM has a dude specifically built to get a chainsaw involved in his match. What the fuck. Who approved that? And how does Balor come off as even more of a fucking goof with a god damn chainsaw? I'd say it was a positive that he changed his colors, but blue/red/black look terrible. About 30 seconds in, the two collide heads, which busts Joe open something fierce. He came up from it with half of his face covered in blood. Finn hits his tope right away and then Joe just screams, covered in blood, and fucking chucks Finn over the guard rail and into a security guard. God damn. It was so violent. A couple of minutes in, this is far and away the best anything Balor related I've seen in NXT. It's bloody, it's violent, and it is hype. Joe looks like a legitimate MONSTER. The ref tries to stop the match to clean Joe up. I'm sure the irony is not lost on Drake Younger, former CZW Champion, stopping a match to clean up blood. It doesn't seem to matter, because seconds later, Joe is covered in blood again. It's not going to stop without stitches. So Joe SLAPS THE PISS out of Balor because he's frustrated with the stoppages. After an elbow suicida, medical staff again stops the match to clean Joe up. The match literally stops. Just grinds to a halt, while fans chant "PG SUCKS". And Joe is so awesome in this that they're chanting for him over Balor. The match AGAIN stops for clean up, this time with the chants upgrading to "FUCK PG". Each time they stop to clean him up, Joe gets more and more pissed and takes it out on Balor, which I support 1000%. God damn, Balor's apron soccer kick is right in the fucking face. JEEEEZUS. Balor kicks out of the muscle buster, which is ridiculous. That move should have been built as a legit career ender after Tyson Kidd. And if you're thinking, "that's offensive blah blah blah", go fuck yourself. He's a part of the Hart family. He knows how the business works. Balor hits the double stomp and then goes for the Bloody Sunday, which Joe counters into the rear naked choke. Balor then counters that into the Bret/Piper finish OUTTA NOWHERE to retain the title. You have got to be shitting me. After all that, Balor wins with, essentially, a flash roll up? Fuck outta here. No way Joe should have lost this match.
A very good show. Probably great if you got rid of Corbin/Aries and that absolutely dog shit finish in the main event. I've been very vocal across multiple platforms about my distaste of Balor even in his Prince Devitt days. However, this was the first time he really ramped up the intensity and violence as the demon, and it coincided with Joe being a bloody mess and beating the shit out of him. It could have been something special if the stoppages didn't repeatedly halt the momentum, but even with them, it was still very good. Which, considering how much I don't like Balor, says a lot. Joe is one of the best guys in the world right now, and he was AMAZING during the whole match. Balor did more than just be there, but the story was really about how great Joe is right now. I'm talking 2013 Daniel Bryan, Attitude Era Steve Austin, early 90s WCW Ricky Steamboat great. He's in rarefied air at the moment, and it is a real shame he didn't win the title in this match. After losing two straight to Balor, it's hard to come up with a reason why he would deserve another title shot.
My hope with this show was that Joe would win, Balor would get called up to Raw, and we'd get a Nakamura/Joe feud. Instead, it will probably be Nakamura vs Balor in Japan, which is neat, but Joe deserves to be the top guy right now. And I'm significantly more interested in Nakamura vs Joe than Balor vs Nakamura.
But anyway, this was a very high quality show in spite of a pretty shitty build up. Wrestlemania is going to have trouble competing. Oh, and I forgot, BOBBY ROOOOOOOOOOOO was in the crowd for this. Because what NXT needs is another TNA castoff.