Previously on “NXT“…”NXT TakeOver: Respect” was arguably the best wrestling show of the year, even if the entire Tag Team Division was booked to look strangely weak and very little of long term importance happened. Bayley has continuously retained her belt, even though the sharks of the division have constantly tried to take a bite out of her. Finn Balor has also remained NXT Champion, but in the process lost a good friend and ally, Samoa Joe- whose greed and jealously turned him into the new top villain. The Vaudevillains were dethroned as champions by Dash and Wilder, while Asuka and Nia Jax continue to rise through the ranks.
Episode 302 (10/14/2015): Bayley opens the show, discussing her win and Alexa Bliss interrupts with Blake and Murphy. Excellent segment, where Bliss almost convinces you she’s turning a new leaf before changing her tune and being a complete bitch. The way Blake and Murphy were used added a lot to the suspense and made me want to see Bayley CRUSH this woman. The Vaudevillains take on guys whose names I’ve yet to remember. Solid match. Dash and Dawson cut a promo back-stage and it was really good. These guys need more opportunities to speak! Nia Jax makes her debut against Evie, which was dull…but Jax is scary, so I won’t say that aloud. Seriously though, it’s just an introductory squash. Eva Marie has a vignette where she says she’s taking some time off…okay…Now comes the big Battle Royale, where the winner will go on to be the next #1 contender for the NXT Championship. The winner ended up being Apollo Crews…I like the guy, but isn’t this too early for him? Joe seemed like the best option, although maybe this was done to simply catch us off guard. Otherwise, standard battle royale. The action got exciting near the end and I’m glad that NXT uses this gimmick sparingly. Overall, good show.
Episode 303 (10/21/2015): ‘Asuka Vs Billie Kay‘ was the opening match and it was fun, primarily because Asuka is an interesting performer. A pretty good Baron Corbin video package follows. ‘Dawson and Wilder Vs Enzo and Cass‘ was pretty dull and anti-climactic, but apparently Cass is injured (in real life), so I can’t blame them. The post-match beatdown was brutal though. Now we have a Rhyno package, which I thought was better than the other one. Eva Marie has a vignette from Paris and it sounds like she’s reading from a script. James Storm makes his NXT debut against a guy named Danny Burch. I was underwhelmed by this, primarily because Burch got in too much offense and it made Storm seem…ordinary, I guess. Then there’s a really moving Apollo Crews video package- the best one tonight, followed by a pointless Nia Jax video package…Too many video packages…’Alexa Bliss Vs Peyton Royce‘ had some really cool moments, but the pacing was very sluggish. Bliss cuts a brief promo and while she’s yet to wow me in the ring, I really do like her villainous personality. I generally am a smark when it comes to who I root for, so I’ll always go for the likes of Kevin Owens or Sasha Banks, but Alexa Bliss makes me angry in the best possible way. I want to see her destroyed so…much…Finally, the main event- Rhyno Vs Baron Corbin- is upon us! Pretty average match, with a few neat spots mixed in with some very telegraphed spots. This wasn’t an especially good episode, but it’s not horrible either.
Episode 304 (10/28/2015): Emma starts off the show to compete in a match with…Shazza? She’s new, apparently. I thought the match was pretty subpar and Shazza’s personality is a little bland right now. I can’t tell if she’s doing the ‘vain diva’ or the ‘enthusiastic nice girl’ character, but don’t we have too many of both right now? We’ll see what they do with her in the future though. ‘Jordan and Gable Vs Ciampa and Gargano‘ was really good, although are Jordan and Gable babyfaces now? I’m not complaining, as I love those guys either way. Backstage interview with Bayley, which was standard babyface stuff followed by another vignette with Eva Marie. Someone named Kay Lee Ray fights Nia Jax, although I have to admit that my mind was elsewhere. While I’m sure many fans are skeptical, I want Nia Jax to become successful. She’d provide something different to the division, as there aren’t any ‘monsters’ among the ladies right now. Alexa Bliss continues to be the perfect bitch when she challenges Bayley to a 6-person tag team match during another backstage segment. ‘Tyler Breeze Vs Samoa Joe‘ was an excellent main event, having some ‘holy crap’ moments while making both performers look deadly. There were two exceptional matches, although the rest was a tad underwhelming. Solid show though.
Episode 305 (11/4/2015): ‘Asuka Vs Cameron’ is the first match and…wow, it has been a long time since I’ve seen Cameron…Not that I’m complaining! This was pretty good. Asuka’s attacks looked brutally stiff and even Cameron showed some good moves. Jordan and Gable have another really funny back-stage bit, where they challenge the Ascension. Bull takes on Dawkins and it was decent, with Bull showing some new moves. Next Up: The Ascension has a back-stage reaction to Dash and Dawkins (very good) back-stage segment. Bayley reveals that the Hype Brothers will be her team for next weeks battle with Bliss/Blake/Murphy. Purrrrreeeetttttyyyyyy annoying. Eva-Marie arrives…Jesus, Cameron and Eva-Marie in the same show? Eva-Marie plays up her heel mannerisms, but the match sucked. I loved the crowd chanting “What was that?!“. The main event is ‘Finn Balor Vs Apollo Crews‘ for the NXT championship. This was an intense, fast paced and brutal bout. The ending of the show is a surprise heel turn, which I totally support. This was a good episode, primarily because of the awesome final match.
Episode 306 (11/11/2015): Baron Corbin is supposed to fight Tye Dillinger, but Apollo Crews attacks. Next up is Bayley and the Hype Bros Vs Alexa Bliss and her valets. I thought this was a lot of fun and the ending was pretty interesting. The Ascension answers JJ/Gable’s challenge (decent) and Apollo Crews explains his actions early tonight (he looks intense!).Nia Jax has a squash match, which bored me, but I did like her back-stage confrontation with Bliss and Bayley. The main event is for the NXT Championship, ‘Vaudvillains vs the Mechanics‘. It was a good match, albeit not very memorable. Good episode.
Episode 307 (11/18/2015): Carmella arrives in the ring and…I’ve always had split feelings regarding her personality. On one hand, I find her to be a little annoying. On the other hand, she does play her part well and at least has a personality. I’d probably prefer her as a heel, but her opponent is Nia Jax. Another boring squash, which kind of surprises me as Carmella is a more prominent character than Nia’s previous victims. At least I get a fun Alexa Bliss back-stage promo, even if ‘Blissed off’ is a pretty lame pun. The Ascension takes on Jordan and Gable in a very good match, which is followed by a Bayley-Bliss package that would’ve had more meaning if this was a PPV event. Emma takes on a lady I don’t recognize in a decent match that emphasis Emma’s violent side. Dash and Dawson have a match with…two guys…Epic, brutal and lengthy squash that highlights the Tag Team Champs strengths. I’ve really grown to like Dash and Dawson, who are the former ‘two guys whose names I struggled with remembering’. The Main Event- Bayley Vs Bliiss- was really good and…then Eva Marie comes out…shit…and this segment is shit, thankfully upstaged by a very hostile crowd. There were good matches here, but…dat ending…ugh. I’d rather see a rematch with Bliss. I’ll give Eva Marie credit. She has improved. But that doesn’t mean she’s ready…ugh…gotta keep an open mind, I guess. Maybe she’ll surprise me.
Episode 308 (11/25/2015): Michael Cole…okay…opens the show to a loud chorus of boos. He seems amused by the reception and is kind of playing the heel, only for the booing to intensity at the mention of Eva-Marie. Apparently William Regal had not wanted her to get a title shot, but the (implied) Authority demanded she get put in that spot. But he’s primarily there for a contract signing between Balor and Joe. I liked how Joe ignored Balor, signed the contract and unceremoniously left. This didn’t stop Joe from ambushing his former friend though, leading to a much desired and intense brawl. The Vaudevillains get their Tag Team Championship rematch against Dash and Dawson for the opening match of the night. It was a solid bout, but upstaged by the triumphant return of Enzo and Cass. Eva-Marie has an interview in Regal’s office (nice touch), which definitely leaned on the fourth wall. It’s not great, but I actually do hope that she masters the aloof, detached persona as she kind of makes it work. Asuka gets ambushed by Eva while Dana Brooke distracts her. It’s nice to see her vulnerable, although something about the timing felt off to me. Apollo Crews DESTROYS some jobber, showing off his strength, athleticism and some really cool moves, even if it was just a glorified squash.He accepts Corbin’s challenge for a “TakeOver: London” match. Corbin fires back from…er, a room…But while I liked his intensity, he looked like he was reading off a script. Charles Robinson is brought up to be a supporting ref, meaning there will probably be some sort of screwjob for ‘Bayley Vs Eva-Marie‘- which is…NOW! Eva brings up Nia Jax, to stack the odds against Bayley even further. I have to confess…this worked, albeit not for the usual reasons. Not a technical masterpiece, but NXT made such a spectacle of it, trolling the fans in the most perfect way imaginable. Jax cuts Bayley’s triumph short with a sneak attack though, hinting that maybe she wants the belt as well. Good NXT episode. I feel like I can go back to watching RAW again after the “Survivor Series” abomination.
Episode 309 (12/2/2015): ‘Baron Corbin Vs Tye Dillinger‘ starts off the show and it was actually a pretty good extended squash match. I liked how both men played their roles and the action was fast paced, while it wasn’t just Corbin immediately executing his finisher. ‘Nia Jax Vs Blue Pants‘ worked for similar reasons, probably being the best match I’ve seen from Jax. Dash and Dawson have a very good back-stage interview. ‘James Storm Vs Adam Rose‘ was decent. The back-stage confrontation between the Vaudevillains and Jordan/Gable was odd because both teams acted like babyfaces. This was a very good match and both teams had moments to stand out. Emma’s match was fine, but for whatever reason, I can never get into any of her matches. I liked Nia’s backstage attack on Bayley. The Main Event is ‘Samoa Joe Vs Ciampa‘, which had some really stiff shots and was a really good Main Event. This was an excellent episode of NXT.
Episode 310 (12/9/2015: Enzo and Cash crush some dudes I don’t recognize, acting a lot more aggressive than usual. Afterwards, they cut intense promos to hype up the NXT TakeOver special. Pretty good opener. The same goes for Emma and Dana’s back-stage interview, where even Dana sounded confident and natural. Asuka’s match was cool, as she just knocked out her opponent without even pinning her, terrifying Emma and Diana. The Hype Bros have a back-stage segment and while I’m not a fan, I can’t deny that they play their characters well. Alexa Bliss, Blake and Murphy fire back with their own segment, although some bickering amongst them made me concerned that they might split up.The match was really good though. Bayley had a solid match against Peyton Royce. Nia Jax and Eva Marie try to talk her down from the ramp, but are drowned in a sea of boos. The Main Event is ‘Corbin/Joe Vs Balor/Crews‘ and it’s pretty good, as was this episode.
NXT TakeOver: London PREDICTIONS
- Asuka Vs Emma: Asuka
- Dawson and Wilder Vs Enzo and Cass: Enzo and Cass
- Baron Corbin Vs Apollo Crews: Tough call, but I’m going with Corbin.
- Bayley Vs Nia Jax: Bayley
- Finn Balor Vs Samoa Joe: Balor
WWE NXT TAKEOVER: LONDON (2015)
Asuka Vs Emma- This was an excellent bout, with hard hitting action and compelling drama that had me on the edge of my seat. The strikes looked stiff as hell and there were plenty of smooth wrestling maneuvers. I really liked how Dana Brooke was utilized on the outside of the ring, as it really built up tension as the audience embraced themselves for a screwy finish. But the ending wasn’t a predictable cop-out and actually meant something. In a lot of ways, the presentation of this match was similar to that ‘Bayley Vs Eva-Marie‘ match a few weeks ago, except this one was faster paced, more intense and showcased awesome acrobatics and techniques. Bravo, ladies. This will be very difficult to top.
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Dawson and Wilder Vs Enzo and Cass- This was a good match, being a lot crazier than the majority of matches involving these two teams. Some good spots, a strong grasp on psychology and the crowd had some awesome chants. It exceeded my expectations, considering that I wasn’t impressed by their previous bouts.
Baron Corbin Vs Apollo Crews- This was also a solid bout, although I have a feeling that many fans will feel letdown by its slow pacing. It tells a standard story, but I thought the bumps looked nasty enough and both men played their parts very well. When Crews reversed the End of Days, I gasped because of how fast he was in executing a fairly complicated counter. This wasn’t great or especially exciting, but it met my expectations and worked efficiently as a cooldown match.
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Bayley Vs Nia Jax- This was actually a very emotional, story driven match and I really liked it. As much as I adore the high flying, more technical oriented womens matches, I do think that the division needs to try something different every once in awhile. This didn’t include many notable spots and the bout had its own leisurely pace, but Nia Jax was perfect in her role as the vicious, dominant heel and Bayley excelled as the heroic, underdog babyface. Nia’s power and Bayley’s submission holds were played up for all they were worth and I found the clash of vastly different styles to be compelling. It was also smart to do something completely different from the show stealing ‘Asuka Vs Emma‘ bout, instead of trying to match it.. My only complaint is that Nia’s leg drops look very weak. I’m also not sure I care about this unstoppable monster tapping out. But it truly connected with me on an emotional level.
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP: Finn Balor Vs Samoa Joe- This was an incredible match, probably being their best since appearing at NXT. They told the right kind of story, with both performers jacking up the violence, but for very different reasons. Joe was the monster who is pragmatic about his assault, but Balor wanted nothing but vengeance. The commentators often promoted the match as ‘the demon vs the monster’ and that is the best way to describe it on a psychological level. I didn’t see Balor as a traditional babyface, as he was a lot more aggressive and often kicked Joe’s ass. But Joe is no cowardly, dirty heel in this fight either, roaring defiantly when he’s getting his ass kicked. It was truly a clash of titans. The action was fast paced and intense, highlighting both of their strengths and making sure there were some memorable moments. It excelled on every level.
Overall: “NXT TakeOver: London” was another awesome event in a series of mostly awesome events! I’m beginning to run out of things to say simply because these shows tend to work for the same reasons: Exceptional booking, writing, psychology and a strong balance of different-but-exciting in-ring styles. Even the weaker matches resonated with me on some level, with the more electrifying bouts standing out as special. I found myself liking that there were no title changes, simply because it ensues that NXT is somewhat unpredictable. Furthermore, the crowd was having a blast and they were often a blast to listen to, without ever hijacking the show from the performers. My favorite match is probably ‘Balor Vs Joe‘, although Asuka and Emma gave them a run for their money. But I believe the entire event deserves your attention!