Previously on NXT…Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and his difficult to remember name fought a hostile reception from the crowd in his debut, The Revival became the first ever 2-time NXT Tag Team Champions, while American Alpha were ambushed by a pair of mysterious behemoths. The other champions (Asuka, Joe) successfully retained their belts and Shinsuke Nakamura triumphed over Austin Aries in another strong “NXT TakeOver” special.
Episode 340 (6/15/2016): It turns out that the giants who ambushed American Alpha at “NXT TakeOver: The End” are called ‘The Authors of Pain’ and they debut with a pretty cool squash match. While the rematch of ‘Tye Dillinger Vs Andrade‘ was not as exciting as their TakeOver bout, it was still fun. Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura set up a program, which should be awesome and the remainder of the matches were fine. Solid episode of NXT.
Episode 341 (6/22/2016): When No Way Jose approached Austin Aries, I thought he came across as a condescending douche, so I liked it when Aries turned on him. This is an interesting set-up and I’m curious to see what happens next. The remainder of the show was fine, but very little stood out. Bayley and Nia Jax had their own squash matches, which were still pretty entertaining. The main event was ‘Shinsuke Nakamura Vs Buddy Murphy‘, which was also an energetic squash. The remainder of the show was dedicated to recapping the previous NXT TakeOver special.
Episode 342 (6/29/2016): Carmella loses to Alexa Bliss in an OK bout and a future match with Bayley seems to be in the future of Bliss. I don’t get why Cien Almas gets such a lukewarm reaction, as his style is flashy and unique. The Tag Team division gets the spotlight, as Ciampa and Gargano defeat the Hype Bros in a good match and verbally declare themselves as the #1 contenders, which draws out American Alpha, leading to the Revival to shoot them both down. Nevertheless, Regal steps in and gives American Alpha their rematch, only for the Authors of Pain to show up and destroy both American Alpha AND Ciampa and Gargano. Pretty compelling episode that makes me excited for next week!
Episode 343 (7/6/2016): Alexa Bliss and Bayley open the show with a good match, although I still feel Bliss is more interesting with Blake and Murphy in her corner. Speaking of whom- Blake and Murphy are trying to work together once more against the Hype Bros and I laughed when they started arguing during the match. Rhyno comes out for no reason and destroys everyone. The Main Event- The Revival Vs American Alpha for the Tag Team Championships- was a good, story-driven match that was sometimes undermined by an unpleasant crowd. This was a really good episode.
Episode 344 (7/13/2016): This episode was built around the hyped ‘Shinsuke Vs Balor‘ match, which did not disappoint. They also set up a Samoa Joe/Rhyno program. Really good episode!
Episode 345 (7/20/2016): The show was built around 3 big matches- “Samoa Joe Vs Rhyno“, “American Alpha Vs Authors of Pain” and “Bayley Vs Nia Jax“. Although Austin Aries also had a pretty cool squash match against one of the previous Tough Enough contestants. Of the big three, the only bout that impressed me was the Tag Team match, while the other two were pretty standard. To be fair, it was very easy to predict the winners and this still worked overall as a show because it felt important.
Episode 346 (7/27/2016): Shinsuke Nakamura and Wesley Blake had a fun little match, with the ‘blowing kisses’ bit being hilarious. You can tell that NXT is struggling with building up its remaining talents, as so many principle performers have moved on to the main roster. Billie Kay might be getting a push, but the crowd didn’t seem to care and that seemed to be part of the problem with this show- they seemed bored throughout most of the night. Kota Ibushi made his debut against Murphy and while the match was solid, the comparisons to Nakamura felt hollow because it was a surprisingly competitive match. This was a somewhat lethargic episode, but it did feel important, setting up and continuing major programs that will presumably be the focus of the next TakeOver event.
Episode 347 (8/3/2016): Two things stood out about this show, the first being the Asuka/Bayley program, which has gotten more compelling in my eyes. Now it feels more personal than their previous feud. The second is the debut of Bobby Roode. His introductory promo was underwhelming though and the crowd sounded bored. When he reveals himself to be a heel, it gets a little better, but I was still pretty bored. The matches were all solid though, although the Main Event (Revival Vs TM61) reflected a big problem with the Tag Team Division right now. While they’re all good wrestlers, they’re mostly interchangeable white guys with colorless personalities. Ciampa and Gargano actually do cut an amusing promo at the end and I’ve really grown to respect the Revival for being among the only true heels in the NXT, but we need a team like Enzo/Cass and the American Alpha, as they had more natural charisma and were unique. Hell, I’d be content with The Vaudevillains, Lucha Dragons, Ascension (they might as well return at this point) or even Blake and Murphy, as they brought something different to the table. All of the current Tag Teams are too alike right now. The show as a whole was fine and ends with this hilarious exchange by the commentators: “I hope they go play Pokemon GO off a cliff somewhere“, “and that’s what it’s all about.“.
Episode 348 (8/10/2016): The contract signing between Asuka and Bayley was great because both women manage to upstage the other with their attitudes and mind games, adding a lot of credibility to their upcoming match. Billie Kay and Liv Morgan seem to be wannabe versions of Eva-Marie and Carmella, even though they’re also better wrestlers and put on a decent bout. Samoa Joe’s main event clash with Mojo Rawley was pretty good, actually making Mojo look dangerous without taking away from Joe’s momentum as champion. Nakamura’s subsequent trolling of Joe was pretty amusing. The show was solid, considering it seemed to be lacking star power.
Episode 349 (8/17/2016): Is it just me or does the crowd seem completely indifferent to Hideo Itami? It’s a shame, as his bout with one of the ‘Cruiserweight Classic’ competitors was pretty good, especially as it showcases the athletic abilities of the cruiser-weight. You’d think that they’d have these guys act like cruiserweights and not generic jobbers, if only for promoting the event. Speaking of promoting, this show exists to build up “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II” using video packages. I laughed when Billie Kay refuted Regals’ claim that this was shaping up to be the best TakeOver event ever because…she wasn’t in it…she who has spent 99% of her career in the company putting people over. The Main event is Carmella, Liv Morgan and a lady I don’t recognize Vs Alexa Bliss and two ladies I don’t recognize. Pretty average match, but Carmella actually looked good and the debuting women were intriguing enough. The show ends with Shinsuke and Joe having a sit-down interview, which I thought was compelling. Joe has valid points and Shinsuke’s trolling can be seen as disrespect, but it really has pumped me up for the match.
NXT TAKEOVER: BROOKLYN II (2016)
No Way Jose Vs Austin Aries– No Way Jose’s entrance reminds me way too much of Adam Rose, whom Jose seems to be an expy of. I’ve enjoyed how this feud has developed, as Aries is far more intriguing as a heel and he’s bringing out a more intense side of Jose. However, I’m not a fan of these kinds of party gimmicks and the entrance sort of derails all of Jose’s character development- at least in regards to this program. You can argue that this is a form of psychological warfare though, as once the match started, Jose embodied ruthless aggression. This was a strong opening bout, having a solid balance of in-ring storytelling and exciting action. This is probably the best match either man has had since coming to NXT, showing off Jose’s strength, size and agility while emphasizing the more technical side of Aries. I was impressed! Hideo Itami appears to set up a program with Aries, resurrecting his classic ‘GTS’ finisher (finally!).
Billie Kay Vs Ember Moon– Ember Moon appears to be a very athletic, strong and skilled performer, but this was not the ideal introduction for her. The formula is: A jobber demands an opportunity to prove themselves, so is placed against a debuting superstar at a TakeOver event, which they are doomed to lose. I can get behind this if the right people are involved, but Billie Kay isn’t even credible talent enhancement at this point, as she only started (occasionally) winning or participating in lengthier matches very recently. Yet Ember Moon spent the majority of this match on the defensive, which made her look weak to me. She should’ve squashed Billie Kay in the same way that Asuka dominated Dana Brooke when she made her debut- and Dana had a lot more credibility than Kay at that time. Moon- if NXT really believes in her- should be presented as a potential rival to the likes of Asuka, Bayley and…um…Asuka? But now I have to assume she’s a midcard female competitor, who might be able to fight…Okay, I just realized the big problem is the women’s division was hollowed out by the RAW/Smackdown drafts. If only they anticipated this and started building up the likes of Billie Kay earlier. While Kay isn’t horrible in the ring, she isn’t good enough yet to really shine or bring out her opponents’ strengths. Tye Dillinger might be a jobber who usually serves the same function, but his style usually compliments his opponent and makes them look flashier. It seemed like Kay’s offensive maneuvers flailed around awkwardly and their tangling looked a little sloppy, although I will concede it’s probably Kay’s best match for pacing reasons. I’m probably making this match sound a lot worse than it really is and truthfully…it’s watchable, maybe even OK on its own, but it was the wrong kind of match for Ember Moon’s debut. Once again though, it reflects a problem with this current division, as they didn’t properly build up the lower card performers into credible competitors before the draft removed the likes of Bliss, Jax, Carmella, Brooke and even Eva Marie (the people who actually win matches).
Bobby Roode Vs Cien ‘Adrade’ Almas– I don’t understand why the NXT Universe doesn’t seem to like Almas, as his style is both unique and flashy and he has a lot of personality despite saying very little. While Roode has yet to do anything to stand out as impressive, maybe because it feels like he’s playing the same character that Austin Aries is, this match did feel important as it’s Roode’s debut and Almas is undefeated. There isn’t anything else to the story, but the match was good. Once again, Almas is just so stylish and yet gets tepid reactions. Roode handled himself as well and he does have a certain kind of roguish charisma that I like. His entrance was awesome! This match kind of slipped between the cracks of better matches, but it was still an entertaining cooldown bout that made both competitors look good.
TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: The Revival Vs Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa– This was a really good, story-driven match that won over the crowd. Even though this story-line has done little for me, as I feel the Tag Team division seems to be comprised of too many teams that are too alike thanks to the RAW/Smackdown draft taking away its more colorful talents, I was emotionally invested in the match. When the villains used dirty tactics, I couldn’t wait to see them suffer retribution. When the heroes suffered, I suffered with them and when they made their valiant comebacks, I was thrilled. I fell for the false finishes and the ending moved me. Is it as exciting or as memorable as the Revivals bouts with American Alpha? No, but it won me over on a feud that I had previously felt indifferent about.
WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Asuka Vs Bayley– I actually preferred Chapter 2 of their feud, which seemed a lot more personal and intense this time around, making the build up to their rematch much more exciting. This was an improvement over their last bout, thanks to a steady pace, very stiff shots from both ladies, effective psychology and an intriguing exploration of their characters. At first, Bayley looked like she had doubts about her chances and she spent the majority of the match as the underdog. But over time, she grew stronger, more aggressive and even a little vicious, which only excited Asuka. Once again, I was completely into the match, chewing my nails at the intensity and cheering whenever something big happened.
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP: Samoa Joe Vs Shinsuke Nakamura– I loved the buildup, as Nakamura has a naturally entertaining personality and Joe’s rage felt so genuine. Every interaction they’ve had has been captivating, with their individual segments also standing out in their own way. This carried into their match, where you could feel the animosity and their desire to hurt each-other. I loved the use of strategy from both men and how their agility seemed so pronounced. I knew Nakamura could move, but I wasn’t expecting Joe to be able to keep up at times. His technician skills also deserve a lot of praise, as he seamlessly switches holds quite often. Each shot felt real, making this the most brutal bout of the night. The pacing was a little strange, as this was much more methodical compared to the previous matches on this card. I’m not saying this was a bad thing, as they told a good story, but it was an odd way to conclude such a briskly paced event. Overall, an excellent bout that might be more effective if you watch it separate from the rest.
Overall: I thought “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II” had a really good card and the matches mostly did not let me down. Sure, Ember Moon’s debut was a little underwhelming, but it was short and still watchable. The remainder of the bouts were exceptional, highlighting everyones strengths and fleshing out their characters. The show also moved at a solid pace. I never experienced any drowsiness or burnout, even if the Main Event did occasionally test me, but I’d be content witnessing rematches. The crowd was also very enthusiastic, giving an additional boost of energy to a show that was already exciting. This might be my last NXT TakeOver review, so I’m pleased that “NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II” was a great show.