Takeover is NXT’s second live event, following the successful NXT ArRival. Coming to you live on the WWE Network, Takeover features a stacked card (and Mojo Rawley is there, too). The NXT Tag, Women’s, and Heavyweight titles are on the line, Adam Rose faces Camacho in front of a crowd that actually enjoys Rose’s gimmick, and Sami Zayn and Tyler Breeze will lock horns in a match to determine the #1 Contender for the NXT Heavyweight Championship.
Match 1: Adam Rose vs. Camacho
Adam Rose enters the arena straight from his bus, the Exotic Express, with his entourage in tow. Camacho enters next, still stuck with his “Tongan, Mexican, whatever, he’s brown” gimmick. I feel bad for anyone who has to wrestle in a pair of Dockers. After the bell, Rose prances effeminately around the ring, further obfuscating his gimmick. I can’t tell if his character is supposed to be gay or Russell Brand. Given that he has taken over Torrie Wilson’s lollipop gimmick, I think I can make an educated guess. Camacho gets to look like a real threat for once, showing some physical dominance early on. Rose counters a rear waistlock by grinding his hips against Camacho, Camacho recoils in a homophobic display of disgust, and I remember why I don’t tell my friends that I watch wrestling. Rose starts to mount a comeback with some stompy-punches followed by a big spinebuster that he must have learned from Leo Kruger. After a modified Bronco Buster-style splash to Camacho in the corner, Rose hits his new finisher, a cravate facelock driver called “The Party Foul”. Rose’s entourage celebrates with him as he leaves, basking in the achievement of their collective pro wrestling dream of being anonymous valets to a developmental talent competing under his third gimmick.
Rating: 2.5/5 Rosebuds. The match jerked the curtain just fine, but was short and nothing special.
Match 2: El Local and Kalisto vs. The Ascension (c) for the NXT Tag Team Titles
The Ascension enter first (blah, champions should enter last), still not quite sure which entrance video to use. I’m not a fan of the new, up-tempo music and bright, abstract video. I understand that they were stepping on Undertaker’s toes a bit with their old entrance package, but the new music and video don’t really seem to fit them. El Local (Ricardo Rodriquez under a hood) and Kalisto enter next, getting the crowd fired up with “Lu-cha! Lu-cha!” chants.
As soon as the bell rings, The Ascension rush at the challengers and start pounding on them. The luchadores counter a double Irish whip with tandem hurricanranas, and the champions exit the ring to regroup. Kalisto and Local gesture to the outside, and hit the ropes for stereo suicide dives. As they are about to dive out, Konnor and Viktor counter with stiff uppercuts, knocking the challengers back into the ring.
Everyone finally gets back in the ring, with Viktor and Kalisto as the legal men. Kalisto is a very talented luchadore, and possibly the heir apparent to Rey Mysterio (in terms of in-ring abilities, not in terms of putting orthopedic surgeons’ kids through college). He made a name for himself on the indie circuit as Samuray del Sol, making him the first guy whose WWE-assigned name is less of a mouthful than his original name (this is known in the business as a “reverse Kassius Ohno”). Kalisto plays the beaten-down little guy in the match, as Viktor and Konnor take turns beating him up. After getting thrown against the outside ring ropes by Konnor, Kalisto breaks free and makes the hot tag to El Local, who shows some surprising athleticism for his size. Local mounts a small bit of offense (including a 2nd rope moonsault!) before a clothesline from Viktor takes him out and sets up the Fall of Man from The Ascension for the win. A pretty typical Ascension squash match, just a bit longer than usual. I guess they wanted to let the meter run a bit on this one.
Rating: 3/5 Fat guy moonsaults
Match 3: Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze to determine the #1 Contender for the NXT Title
Sami Zayn enters first, sporting some snazzy new entrance music. Am I the only one who thinks he bears a passing resemblance to the lead singer of The National? The fans greet Zayn with a rousing “Ole” chant, acknowledging his previous body of work as El Generico. Tyler Breeze enters next, and he’s got some new music too. It seems like at least one of these guys is looking at a call-up to the main roster soon, where they can find the same level of success as Xavier Woods and Emma. So basically, I’m going to enjoy this match while I can, before two great workers are reduced to midcard jobbers.
The match opens with some chain wrestling and lots of wrist locks. Zayn is showing some aggression in addition to his usual fire, playing the determined babyface with something to prove. Breeze is building on the vicious, focused personality he’s added to his character. There’s a nice innovation from Breeze where he bulldogs Zayn into the 2nd turnbuckle while jumping through the ropes himself. Breeze charges at Zayn, who falls back and pulls down the top rope, causing Breeze to fall to the outside. Sami follows up with an Arabian moonsault to Breeze, sending both men falling into the entrance ramp. After both men return to the ring, Zayn hits a great-looking top rope cross body takedown. He whips Breeze into the ropes and hits the spinning Blue Thunder Bomb. Breeze kicks out, and Sami sells it with a lot of frustration and disbelief. As if he’d ever won a match with that move before. Both guys are selling the match as if they’re gassed and digging down deep to get the win, and it adds a great dramatic element to the match. Breeze’s best spot of the match is a brutal-looking alley-oop powerbomb to Zayn, pulling him out of the corner and getting some great hang time.
The crowd is hanging on every move, and a “this is awesome!” chant breaks out. After some back-and-forth, Breeze damn near decapitates Zayn with a fantastic-looking super kick. I guess he thought Trouble Will Find Me wasn’t anywhere near as good as Boxer. Zayn counters an Irish whip with a kick to the gut, and tucks Breeze’s arms under him. My heart skips a beat, because I’ve been waiting for months to see Zayn bust out his old double pumphandle orange crush maneuver. I remember seeing it for the first time, and it was like watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wasn’t sure what the hell I had just seen, but I knew that it had profoundly affected my mind. Zayn flips Breeze up for the second part of the move, and IT’S BOTCHED. I can’t tell if Breeze lost his balance, or Zayn wasn’t able to cradle him correctly, but both men fall down. It’s as if millions of voices cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. Zayn and Breeze try to recover and finish the move, and there’s ANOTHER BOTCH. The timing is all off, and Breeze hits the mat before Zayn does (the move looks so much better when both guys land together). It would’ve been a truly amazing moment, but now it’s ruined forever. It’s a damn shame, considering how great the rest of the match has been.
Business picks up again after Breeze tries to catch his breath on the outside and Zayn follows him with a diving senton splash to the outside. Back in the ring, Zayn gets Breeze in the corner and charges at him for the Helluva Kick. Breeze hold up his arms to “block” the move, but Zayn falls back, selling a low blow. Breeze hits the Beauty Shot and picks up the win.
Rating: 4/5 selfies, plus one broken heart due to the big botch
Match 4: Lana’s ass vs. her skirt’s hemline
Lana comes out to introduce Rusev for no reason. He comes out waving a Russian flag because he’s Bulgarian (Camacho feels no sympathy for your misplaced nationality!). Lana puts over Rusev and Vladimir Putin. Mojo Rawley’s music hits, and he runs out waving an American flag and wearing a shirt he presumably got from the airbrush guy at the mall. And he’s got a microphone. Christ. Mojo cuts a promo, just to show us that his English is worse than Rusev’s. Supercuts waves his flag all the way to the ring, at which point Rusev bum rushes him and puts him in the Accolade (I’m surprised JBL didn’t come out to remind everyone that he was a member of the Accolades, MAGGLE!). Mojo tries to crawl back to the stage, but Lana commands Rusev to put him in the Accolade again. Rusev locks in the hold, and Mojo sells the attack like he’s having an orgasm.
That’s the most I’ve ever liked Rusev.
Match 5: Natalya vs. Charlotte for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship
Paige enters first, because WWE is determined to have champs enter first even when they’re not in the match. I’ll allow it this time, because it’s Paige and she has a way of rearranging the blood distribution in my body. She cuts a promo thanking the audience for their support and puts over the importance of the upcoming match. Be still, my heart.
Charlotte is out first, with new entrance music that is a remix of Also Sprach Zarathustra (Daddy Flair’s music). The Nature Boy himself is with her. Natalya enters, with the night manager from a local Waffle House. Wait…that’s actually Bret Hart, who couldn’t be bothered to put on a tie or a jacket or something. The match starts not with sassy finger wagging and head bobbing, not with slaps, not with rolling around pulling each other’s hair…no, the match starts with some actual WRESTLING. Thank you, NXT. Charlotte and Natalya are countering holds, working wrists and arms, and if the match ended after two minutes they’d have the third best women’s match of the year. The ladies continue with a series of submissions and reversals, until Charlotte whips Nattie into the ropes and the match really gets going.
Charlotte’s wrestling acumen has improved by leaps and bounds in the last few months. She’s always had a heaping helping of natural athletic ability, but she’s now showing that she knows how to tell a story in the ring. She’s selling better, and everything she does in the ring leads logically into something else. Nattie’s always been solid in the ring, and she’s been allowed to show her stuff more this past year than in the previous four years combined. Both women are making the most of their opportunity in the spotlight. Natalya and Charlotte are showing that the term “women’s wrestling” doesn’t need a qualifier. Wrestling is wrestling, regardless of what kind of genitals the participants have.
Charlotte attempts a moonsault off the top rope, but Nattie moves out of the way. The crowd rewards the effort with a “this is awesome!” chant. Nattie locks in the Sharpshooter, and Charlotte counters with a roll-up into a Figure Four Leglock. Natalya tries to roll over to counter, but Charlotte rolls through with her, maintaining her leverage. Now it gets brutal, with both women trying to slap the teeth out of each other. The stalemate ends when Nattie pushes Charlotte out of the ring while their legs are still locked, and she grabs the ropes for leverage, forcing Charlotte to release the hold. Papa Ric shouts encouragement to Charlotte, while Bret looks on, wondering if he remembered to set his DVR to record Cake Boss. Both women return to the ring, and Charlotte locks Natalya in the Sharpshooter. Nattie reverses, and tries to put Charlotte in the hold. Charlotte kicks her away, and hits her flipping neckbreaker for the win. The Flairs celebrate, showing what appears to be (understandably) real emotion. Charlotte and Natalya embrace afterward (face turn for Charlotte, or breaking kayfabe?), knowing what they just accomplished. I just can’t say enough good things about this match, and what it could mean for women’s wrestling in NXT, or hopefully even WWE. This match may even top Paige vs. Emma from ArRival back in February.
Rating: 5/5 Proud Papa Flairs. Possibly the best women’s match of the last decade, and a contender for NXT Match of the Year, men or women.
Match 6: Tyson Kidd vs. Adrian Neville (c) for the NXT Heavyweight Championship
THE CHAMP ENTERS LAST! THE CHAMP ENTERS LAST! BAH GAWD, THE CHAMP ENTERS LAST! It’s like finding a box of puppies at the end of a glorious rainbow. I hope Tyson can remember how to wrestle for longer than five minutes.
Lots of intensity to start the match, with a mean-looking lockup that moves both guys around the ring. After some quick chain wrestling, Kidd gives Neville a condescending pat on the back, and we’re into the third wristlock sequence in as many matches. Neville flippedy-doos around before countering Kidd’s wristlock with an arm drag. Soon enough, we’re back to the wristlocks, with the crowd chanting “Arm bar! Arm bar!” Credit to the college crowd for referencing a Chris Jericho bit that aired around the time they were potty training. Kidd sets Neville up in a tree of woe, and smacks him around a bit before hitting a running dropkick to Neville’s face. Kidd slaps on a headlock and tells the ref to “ask him!”, showing the crowd that he too is familiar with Chris Jericho’s oeuvre.
After Neville retreats to the outside, Kidd does the Sami Zayn flipping senton dive from two matches ago. Having so many skilled hands competing in one event is presenting problems, as the impressive spots tend to get repeated compared to a main-roster WWE event where only one or two guys use the high-flying, chain wrestling “indie” style. That’s not a knock on the performers by any means, though. It’s just an indication that great minds tend to think alike, and the results can be simultaneously impressive and repetitive. It’s like hearing a great song on an album, and then finding out that the next two tracks are the same song repeated.
Back in the ring, a brief exchange culminates in a double cross body collision. Neville, The Man That Gravity Forgot, climbs the top rope, but Kidd charges at him and gravity remembers Neville for a second. He hangs Tyson up in a tree of woe of his own, kicking him in the back. Neville later tosses Kidd out of the ring and attempts a dive to the outside, but Kidd counters with a kick because he and Sami already both did that spot. Kidd sets up Neville for a top rope sunset flip powerbomb, which Neville counters with a nifty-looking backflip followed by a successful powerbomb. Neville attempts a springboard back elbow, but Kidd jumps up and pulls him down in a Russian leg sweep variation. Both guys sell being gassed, and Kidd manages to get Neville in the Dungeon Lock, a combination Sharpshooter/head scissors. Neville gets to the rope to break the hold. Neville ends up hung upside down in the ring ropes, and Kidd drops a top rope somersault leg drop on him, popping the crowd. Kidd goes to the top rope for his Blockbuster finisher, but Neville counters with a Frankensteiner. Kidd rolls himself into position to take the Red Arrow, which Neville delivers for the win.
Though the match started out very similar to the Sami Zayn/Tyler Breeze contest earlier in the evening, Neville and Kidd managed to break away and stand out on their own by the end of the match. Both guys are not only capable of executing impressive moves, but they also know how and when to use those moves effectively.
Rating: 4.5/5 ARMBARS. A very well-wrestled match that only suffers from repeating some sequences and high spots from matches earlier in the show. Out of context, it’s just a flat-out great match.
NXT Takeover was an embarrassment of riches, with the three main events all delivering in a big way. The wristlocks and outside dives all ran together a bit, but each pair of performers managed to put their own spin on their respective matches. It was a refreshing change from the mainstream WWE style of, “hit your signature moves from the video games for five minutes”. The two undercard matches were entertaining but unremarkable, and did a fine job of getting the crowd invested in the show for the three big matches.
Match of the Night: I’m giving this one to Natalya and Charlotte. If it’s possible to change the game of women’s wrestling in WWE, then they did it.
Best Booking: The controversial finish to Zayn vs. Breeze, allowing Breeze to step into the NXT title picture while giving Zayn a reason to still be involved after losing.
Worst Booking: Nothing was bad, per se, but it would’ve been nice to give Adam Rose and Camacho a little more time to help them get over a bit more. Camacho especially could use the exposure.
Thanks for the eyeballs. Until next time, don’t stop Bo-lieving!