Previously on NXT…”NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn” bent over had its way with anything RAW has to offer! The Vaudevillains won the Tag Team Championship, Baron Corbin suffered a huge loss to Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews had a victorious debut and Bayley conquered Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s championship in what was certainly the best match of the year! But most importantly, I could actually enjoy a wrestling show without being a cynical nitpicker!
Episode 294 (8/26/2015): The film opens with an 8-man Tag Team match that was actually filmed at “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn“. ‘Enzo, Cass, Ryder and Mojo’ take on ‘Jordan, Gable and…some guys’. It was a lot of fun and I loved the high energy of all the performers. Charlotte and Becky Lynch have a backstage interview and it was…bad. The timing of the “jokes” and face pandering was off, making the whole bit feel awkward. ‘Carmella Vs Eva-Marie’ was rejected by the crowd, who wanted Blue Pants. It wasn’t very good, but it’s still one of Eva-Marie’s better matches. Emma and Dana Brooke do a much better backstage interview, preparing for their match with Charlotte and Becky. We’re getting all sorts of Diva Video Packages, all of which did their job at explaining the characters and their development. The Main Event is a Fatal-Four way between Dana, Emma, Charlotte and Becky. It was solid work, although Dana does suck and I think the timing of the ending was rushed. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but it deflated Emma’s victory. Overall, I guess the roster got the week off, because the matches were filmed at “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn” and everything else was based around video packages and interviews.
Episode 295 (9/2/2015): The Ascension returns to NXT to…do the job…putting over the combined forces of Rhyno and Corbin. Not a bad match and the Ascension looked better here than they have on the Main Roster, but the crowd sure was indifferent 50% of the time. ‘Alissa Bliss Vs Blue Pants‘ was kind of boring, but I blame the dead crowd more than the performers. Apollo Crews takes on…some guy whose name I’ve yet to remember! Solid work, primarily designed to make Apollo look good. Jason Jordan and Gable are so fun to listen to and I hope they go far in the Tag Team Division. I’m definitely ready…willing…and Gable…Eva-Marie fights Billie Kay and I have to give it to the star of Total Diva’s, she got more of a reaction from the crowd than anyone else on the show. While I think she overdid the kiss blowing, she showcased more personality and kept an easy pace. It’s just too bad I think she botched kicking out of being pinned, as the ref had to stop his hand because she wasn’t kicking out before the 3-count. Now the fans are just pissed. The Main Event between Jordan/Gable and Neville/Crow was pretty awesome though, delivering plenty of exciting action and psychology. Once again, I can’t stress enough how entertaining Jordan and Gable are together. Overall, while I didn’t care for the Diva’s matches, I thought this show was pretty good.
Episode 296 (9/9/2015): Carmella takes on…a jobber whose name I believe is Peyton Royce. It was actually a good, competitive match that only occasionally fell flat when the crowd was silent. Next up: Bull Dempsey and Tyler Breeze unite to take on guys with long names. I’ve never heard of them, but apparently they’re pretty big deals. Surprisingly, they won and impressed me as performers, so I better learn quickly. Intriguing match, designed to make Bull look strong and Breeze look unreliable, while putting over these ‘upstarts’. Breeze attacks Bull, probably setting up a feud. In retrospect, the ‘unlikely alliance between opposites’ angle is already being done with Corbin and Rhyno, so this was probably a good idea. Dana Brooke seems to be reading off a teleprompter again….Brooke and Billie Kay have a dull match that no one cared for. The Main Event- Lucha Dragons Vs Balor/Joe- was stunningly good for a normal NXT episode. Fast paced, exciting maneuvers and an intriguing story. I suspect Joe will turn on Finn before the end of this tournament, but I’m excited for Round 2. I thought this was a really good show, overall.
Episode 297 (9/16/2015): Tyler Breeze, Adam Rose and Bull Dempsey exchange a three-way banter and brawl that I found to be clumsy and awkward. Tye Dillinger takes on some guy in a match I would not describe as a ‘perfect 10’…more like a ‘6’…Rhyno and Baron Corbin cut a promo and Corbin sounds very awkward to me. I’m not sure why. He seemed too emotional and it just felt unnatural. ‘Apollo Crews Vs Solomon Crow‘ was awesome, being competitive while showing more of the athleticism and physical strength of Crews. ‘Baron Corbin/Rhyno Vs Gargano/Ciampa‘ was pretty good, although I wish there was more friction between Rhyno and Corbin. Maybe it would be distracting, but I think it would be a compelling angle. Bayley takes on someone new in a solid little match before Sasha Banks comes out and they banter. Excellent stuff, with their tension and respect feeling genuine and making me really want to see the rematch. This leads to Regal announcing that they will main event NXT Takeover in an Iron Woman match. Sweet! Even though the show started off a little clumsy, it ultimately ascended into greatness- in my opinion. The weekly NXT shows are never really designed to be spectacular, but the difference between this and RAW is that it makes you want to tune in next week, especially if a TakeOver special is nearby. I’m excited!
Episode 298 (9/23/2015): Eva Marie is taking on- er…wait, you’re going to open the show with HER?! RAWR! Her opponent is…oi, Carmella in a rematch that no one demanded. Pretty boring and while Eva Marie has improved, her attempts at psychology are awkward. Next we have ‘Tyler Breeze Vs Bull Dempsey‘, which I thought was rather average, although Bull seems over with the crowd. Asuka’s- why couldn’t they just let her keep the Kana name?- NXT signing was interrupted by Emma and Dana, who bully her out of the ring. Instead of kicking their asses, she complies but not before shooting a death glare that actually freaks the heel ladies out. Not sure how I felt about this, but I suppose it’s different than most contract signings. The Tag Team Champions take on Blake and Murphy, but this underwhelmed me. Solid stuff, but nothing amazing. Cass and Enzo have a vignette about how they plan on defeating Joe and Balor next week, who have their own. This actually was very interesting, as Enzo seems genuinely nervous and focused, giving them an underdog vibe. On the other hand, was it just me or were they teasing a rift between Joe and Balor? I’m eager to see where this goes, but this NXT episode was pretty weak. It got me pumped up for the future, as I want to see where the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Tournament goes and I want to see what happens with Asuka. But the matches weren’t very good.
Episode 299 (9/30/2015): Samoa Joe and Finn Balor start off the show by taking on Ezo and Cass! This was a good match, but I felt it was a little short and didn’t think Joe and Balor should’ve won. We’ll see where it goes! Gargano battles Apollo Crews and they provide an interesting match, with a nice mix of strength, athleticism and submission maneuvers. Too bad the crowd didn’t seem very interested. Regal informs Dana and Emma that Dana will battle Asuka at ‘NXT TakeOver‘, although I’d rather see Asuka fight Emma. The girls take on…erm, Kay and Royce, I think their names are? This was slow, awkward and suffered from a noticeable botch near the end. Jordan and Gable have a back-stage confrontation with the Mechanics (Dawson and Wilder), which would make for a strange final match as both teams are technically heels, but I enjoyed this. ‘Tyler Breeze vs Ciampa‘ didn’t do much for me, although once again, I blame the crowds indifference. On a technical level, the match was fine. The last 10 minutes is a video package dedicated to the ‘Sasha vs Bayley‘ feud. I thought this was a mostly solid show, ignoring the occasional crappy moment. I’m looking forward to TakeOver!
NXT TakeOver: Respect PREDICTIONS
- Balor and Joe Vs the Mechanics- Joe and Balor.
- Jordan and Gable Vs Corbin and Rhyno- Corbin and Rhyno, although I’m rooting for Jordable!
- Winner of the Dusty Rhodes Classic: I have no idea. But I suspect that Joe will turn on Balor, so he can challenge him for the belt.
- Asuka Vs Dana- Asuka.
- Breeze Vs Crews- Crews.
- Bayley Vs Sasha: Bayley.
WWE NXT TAKEOVER: RESPECT (2015)
DUSTY RHODES CLASSIC: Finn Balor and Samoa Joe Vs The Mechanics– This was an intense opener, filled with high impact spots, stiff shots and and psychological…what rhymes with spots and shots? I also want to add ‘fast pacing‘ to that list of awesomeness, but I can’t figure out how to make that rhyme either. The Mechanics might’ve lost, but they won my attention by focusing mostly on Balor’s leg, which looked brutal! When Joe and Balor went on the offensive, they really looked like they were going all out! Such intensity! Furthermore, my prediction that Joe will turn on Balor continues to come closer to reality, although now I’m wondering if it will be the opposite. Will Finn Balor turn heel? The suspense is nerve wracking! I’m so excited! Really good match and I’m pumped up for the rest of the show!
DUSTY RHODES CLASSIC: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable Vs Baron Corbin and Rhyno– This was even better than the first match! Gable showed the extent of his abilities, using some very unconventional wrestling maneuvers but also being able to show a level of strength that I didn’t realize he even had. He also worked as the babyface in peril (was I hearing “Save the Gable!” from the crowd? BEST CHANT EVER!), although Jason Jordan also got to show off his own athleticism and physical abilities. Rhyno did very well, keeping up the pace while continuing to display his own brutal style. Baron Corbin was mostly just there, but his entanglements with Gable were very interesting. Actually, that’s not fair. Corbin was used very effectively and proved that if he has chemistry with his opponent, he can be an important part of a great match. Overall, this was an exceptional match and my only complaint is that the finalists are all individual competitors. Wouldn’t you want to put over an Official Tag Team, whether it be the Mechanics or Jordable?
Dana Brooke Vs Asuka– The match did its job, establishing Asuka as a dominant force and her flashy moveset definitely made me eager to see more, but…it is still a Dana Brooke match…I still find myself wondering why she was selected over Emma, but maybe WWE sees Emma as a wiser investment at this time, so wants to protect her. I’m not complaining though, because this was intended to be a breather match after the first two epic bouts. So it worked on two levels, giving me a break and showing off Asuka, which makes this a successful match. To her credit, Dana kept up and played her part well.
Tyler Breeze Vs Apollo Crews– This was a much slower paced match, being conventional but satisfying. The ‘Strong babyface vs Crafty heel‘ is in play, with the former spending most of the match taking a beating. The finish surprised me, as Crews did not use his established finisher, but some strange powerbomb (probably because Breeze had previously countered his finisher twice). I wish more time was spent on pumping this ‘feud’ up, because…was it even a feud? They had maybe one back-stage interaction, so it was hard to get emotionally invested, although both men are good enough workers to make this entertaining. The match was solid stuff, but we’re still in the cooldown portion of the event. We need our strength for what is to come…
DUSTY RHODES CLASSIC: Baron Corbin and Rhyno Vs Finn Balor and Samoa Joe– I was getting pumped up for this until I remembered that this match involves a wounded Balor and a Baron Corbin…Oh dear…But while a little underwhelming, I was mostly entertained. It was evenly paced and everyone had their moment to shine- The Baron included. If I’m disappointed, it’s only because I believe the finals in a tournament should be the best, but the semi-finals were far more amazing. That doesn’t mean that this was a bad match and I didn’t feel like it dragged the rest of the show down. Everyone worked hard and it all payed off. Cody Rhodes presents a trophy and gives a touching speech afterwards. No betrayal takes place, which in retrospect is probably for the best, as it would ruin the moment.
WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Bayley Vs Sasha Banks– THE BIG ONE! This was…Amazing…On a technical level, this had a slow burn pacing, except they were dishing out some dangerous stuff from the very beginning! By the half way point, they were using highly risky moves, brutal attacks and even managed to take the action outside of the ring. But the psychology of the match is what made this a true classic. At first, this is less about who is good or bad, as both women display respect for each-other. But then Sasha shows her true colors and reminds us that she is not a nice woman, but turns outright malicious when she starts bullying a young audience member. Usually I am the kind of viewer who roots for the performer I prefer, regardless of whether they are a face or heel. Have I mentioned that I consider Sasha Banks to be the best female performer in the company? Yet I was calling for her destruction at the hands of Bayley when she made that kid cry. I wasn’t being a critic, I was just being a fan of wrestling who wanted the heroine to slay the villainous. I was somewhat annoyed afterwards when I looked at my notes and saw…nothing…I was too invested in what was going on to take the time to write anything down (which is why this is more of a reaction than a review). But as the clock kept ticking closer to its 30 minute mark, I was chewing my nails and on the edge of my seat! So intense! So emotionally charged! GO BAYLEY! WIN! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!! Erm, sorry…got a little carried away…I clapped at the resolution and was moved by the post-match celebration as well. This was more than just a wrestling match. It was an experience and what an experience it was.
OVERALL: I wish I could say that this was the greatest NXT event ever, but I can’t…primarily because I haven’t seen them all! When it comes to match quality, this probably is the best WWE show of 2015. There were no dead spots and even the cooldown period was still really well done, not to mention the three exceptional matches- two of which are among my personal favorites of the year. Furthermore, NXT has such a strong grasp of its characters and stories that it made every aspect of this event feel important. Contrast this with Nikki Bella being dethroned on the main roster, with her historic reign coming to an end at the hands of Charlotte (“Night of Champions“). It should’ve been the most important event within the history of the Diva’s Division and yet…it earned a collective shrug from everyone. It didn’t feel important. Or what about ‘Seth Rollins Vs John Cena‘ in a ‘World Heavyweight Championship Vs United States Championship‘ bout at “SummerSlam“? Awesome match, but it felt so irrelevant, provably BECAUSE IT WAS PLACED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE F@CKING CARD! ‘Bayley Vs Sasha Banks‘ felt larger than life, like I was truly experiencing a historical event that will resonate with audiences for many years to come. The conclusion to the Dusty Rhodes Classic also brought a tear to my eye, without feeling too heavy handed or manipulative. It was just a natural, satisfying resolution. I found myself appreciating performers whom I’ve never liked, as Baron Corbin had excellent chemistry with Gable and Dana Brooke made you want to see her get destroyed by the supercool Asuka (usually I just don’t want to see her). Much like “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn“, the pacing was perfect- not moving too slow or too fast.
Plus, “Save the Gable“!
But underneath all of this awesomeness lies some seeds of doubt. I’m not sure I like the idea of the NXT Championship not being defended at a TakeOver event, but I definitely don’t like the absence of the Tag Team Champions, considering this show was partially built around a Tag Team Tournament. The Vaudevillains are supposed to be the best Tag Team, which is what those belts represent and yet they were taken out during the SECOND ROUND?! That undermines their credibility, but the fact that the finalists were singles competitors working as part time tag teams undermined the credibility of the entire division. Samoa Joe should defeat Dax and Baron Corbin should defeat Jason Jordin, but Tag Teams are usually comprised of people whose styles are built around each-other. It just makes sense for Enzo and Cass (who probably should’ve won the tournament) to go over Joe and Balor in a Tag Team bout, even though they wouldn’t stand a chance in a ‘1 on 1’ match. NXT has done an excellent job at making the Women’s championship and the Tag Team Championship feel just as important as the NXT Championship, but can we say that now? The best within the entire division ultimately failed in their own specialty match, so I have to say no…Nevertheless, maybe there is a long term plan that will justify this…I don’t know…but “NXT TakeOver: Respect” was a fantastic show. I should just save my concerns for the future…well, for the future.