In an ongoing search for programming that could draw new subscribers to the WWE Network, shows built as well as NXT Takeover may be the answer. Dubbed by my review tag team partner as “NXT Clash of the Champions II”, NXT Takeover is everything that’s right about a big event build in professional wrestling: top-notch hype videos, intriguing stories, opportunities for new beginnings and a card of never-before-seen matches.
NXT Takeover was unlikely to top Arrival but somehow, someway, it did. Takeover topped Arrival in terms of build, it topped Arrival with an awesome pre-show featuring Christian, Renee Young and Paul Heyman (who can sell literally anything) and more than anything, it topped Arrival with one of the best all-around in-ring events in recent WWE memory.
Teaming up with me on this review will be frequent VOW contributor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla reviewer and Match of the Year voter Larry! Let’s get to it.
The show began with an awesome hype video talking about NXT taking over the main WWE roster with juxapositions of former NXT talents in WWE (The Shield, Paige, Bray Wyatt, etc.), this helped hype the upcoming event but more than that made the NXT brand sound and feel important.
Adam Rose vs. Camacho
Rich: This match was built for a number of weeks with Camacho interupting Adam Rose’s parties and genuinely being a total lemon. I expected a little more back and forth here but it was the right decision to have Rose go over and go over strong if he’s going to be your main roster guy. It was also fun to remember that Rose is actually over in some circles. This is such a small room act and it’s so much fun at Full Sail. Match itself was nothing special, Camacho partied like it was a 1986 House Show and Rose isn’t the most crisp in the ring. **
Larry: Adam Rose shows up in the re-painted Lex Express. Camacho shows up in pleated pants from JCPenney and Converse. I guess that makes him a party pooper…? Crowd is hot and really into the Adam Rose gimmick, but its a small time gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, I was really into it the first time…but damn, talk about diminishing returns. Whatever this guy gained in personality when shedding the Leo Kruger gimmick, he lost in in-ring ability. Camacho looked good getting heat before Rose with quick comeback win. Meh. *¾
Early prediction, someone from the Exotic Express becomes a bigger star than Adam Rose.
NXT Tag Team Championship
The Ascension vs. El Local and Kalisto
Rich: Sure, it’s a tallest midget contest but this was without a doubt the best Ascension match ever. The action was almost constant and The Ascension showed more in-ring charisma in this match than any of their usual squashes. The crowd was super into both teams which helped the match tremendous and outside of a few El Local botches, this was a perfectly well worked match. The Ascension took some damage but never looked weak which is exactly what you want to do with a monster team. Kalisto continues to impress and is so supremely talented, I can’t wait to see him more. ***
Larry: Try as they might, The Ascension aren’t The Road Warriors or any variation of Demolition. These two aren’t even the best incarnation of their own tag team, including the one that was managed by El Local himself. At the sake of full disclosure, I’m more entertained by Devastation Corporation. Anyway…I love Kalisto, and was interested in seeing how they’d book this match. Unfortunately, it was booked exactly how I thought it would be. Ascension dominate early with a small hot tag spot for the luchas that El Local nearly killed dead with a botched spot. Comeback thwarted quickly and big men hit the always awful Total Elimination variation “The Fall of Man”. Kalisto taking some nice bumps was the highlight. Paint by numbers. **
Number One Contendership for the NXT Championship
Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze
Rich: Halfway through this match I was about to write that I was disappointed and didn’t think Breeze steupped up like he needed to, then the last half of the match happened and man was this thing special. Breeze kicked his game into another gear and Zayn was top notch as always. The last 5-10 minutes is the best sequence I’ve seen on WWE TV since Cesaro/Zayn from Arrival. I’m not sure if it will end up in the top 10 of my Match of Year ballot, but it will be in the conversation. Great action, a sequence of believable near falls and a finish that made perfect sense. Zayn is in perpetual chase mode and is the best man in the world at that role. Breeze gets the big push and looked like a million bucks, Zayn continued his rise as one of the best all-around in-ring competitors in the industry. ****1/2
Larry: OLEEEE, OLE OLE OLE, OLEEEEE, OLE! This is the match I tuned in for. Sami Zayn is the only reason I’ve tuned into NXT since the Kassius Ohno-William Regal feud. They changed both guys entrance music. For Zayn, its an improvement. For Prince Pretty (yup, I just called another man Prince Pretty, deal with it), its for the worse. Starts slow with the Saint of Selfies getting heat, before El Sami Zayn takes the offensive. Zayn is so good at gaining symphathy, he can make even the most average wrestler look good, which he does here and then some. Everything is going well here until a sloppy botched roll around thingy turned ugly powerbomb happens. Missed Yakuza Kick to the corner yields an elbow to the nuts for Zayn followed by the Beauty Shot by Breeze for the win. Zayn sold his ass off. Breeze held up his end of the match, which was important for him. He is getting a call-up sooner rather than later after this match. I liked it, but didn’t love. ***1/2
Lana introduced Rusev and began to cut a promo about Russia and Vladmir Putin, HYPEMAN Mojo Rawley came down with an American flag, ran in the ring and immediately got Rusev crushed. This wasn’t even a match just a segment.
NXT Women’s Championship
Charlotte vs. Natalya
Rich: Paige kicked this match off by coming to the ring in jeans, she needs to do that more. Anyway, what, there’s a match, oh right. This was so much better than it had any right to be. I’ve been saying it for weeks, Charlotte is the real deal. I may have went a bit overboard but I think Charlotte is already better than Natalya in-ring. This almost went too long which is just insane to say for a women’s match in WWE. The match started with an exchange of grapping and some mat work as is typical in Charlotte matches but it really hit a next gear in the final few minutes. Natalya did a good job of selling her knee throughout and the match played into that. The finishing sequence in particular was something to behold, Charlotte trying to beat Nattie via Sharpshooter in front of Bret Hart was really cool and although it wasn’t the finish, I loved the spot. There were also a few Figure Four attempts and reverals, woos, slaps all we needed was some color and this had all the makings of a classic Flair match. Go watch this, I’d honestly listen to arguments that this was the match of the show. Kudos to those ladies. ****
Larry: I really want to engage in narcotic-fueled coitus with Paige. Anyway…Back when she was in college, Ashley Fliehr’s facebook picture was of her in just one of her dad’s robes putting a figure four on one of her hot chick friends in her dorm room. We were facebook friends because of this. Good luck finding better analysis about this match on the internet. You’re welcome.
This match was built up very well and they promoted the hell out of it. Ric Flair and Bret Hart show up to give it some star power. The pre-match promos really played up the history between the two families which gave those special feels. With all that said, I’m sure Charlotte is going to win this one. Charlotte worked the best match of her short career so far including a great looking moonsault. Awesome Sharpshooter-Figure Four reversal spot. Minoru Suzuki would be proud of how much shit Charotte talks during the Figure Four. Pretty sure she called Nattie’s mother a whore. Ric Flair’s random “WOOOOO’s” on the outside really added to the whole thing. Charlotte with a nasty Sharpshooter, reversed into her flippy face buster finisher. The only thing disappointing about that match was Charlotte’s non-existent ass. Ric and Bret celebrate. The chicks are crying in an embrace. Maybe a hair lower than the Paige-Emma match from ArRival. I really liked this. Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd won’t be able to better this match. Show stolen. ***¾+
Adrian Neville vs. Tyson Kidd
Rich: Perhaps it couldn’t possibly follow Charlotte/Natalya or perhaps Neville is still not there as a major single stars but this match didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t bad, it was just okay and in a night when two other matches are Match of the Year contender, just okay stands out. Neville and Kidd both looked good but the match moved at a much slower, longer pace than either of these two should work. Kidd started playing heel in the early stages of the match and it carried into the ending, Neville looked crisp as always but he’s still missing something. Neville’s 2-for-2 in having the worst “big” match on NXT supershows. The crowd was taken out of it early and again, that could be burnout but I’ve always said a great match will overcome any semblance of burnout and this wasn’t great. I feel like I’ve been far too negative on this and that’s not fair, Neville looked really good, Kidd was solid, it was a perfectly acceptable match on any card. ***
Larry:They really made this match something I wanted to see with the pre-match promo interview with Tyson Kidd and Nattie making for a real awkward dinner table moment. I’ve also been looking for an honest Tyson Kidd push for a few years now. NXT is the perfect environment for Kidd to develop into a workrate gatekeeper. He is also developing an edge, which works great. Its subtle. They play the early stages of this match off great. Two workrate athletes just…working. Bunch of nice spots sprinkled throughout a match filled with nice pace and mat work. These are the types of matches Adrian Neville needs to be involved in…ones with good workers, showing off the workrate, which has been lacking in his run in NXT. Also, these are the types of matches Tyson Kidd need to be involved in, ones that show off his range as a worker. Huge hurricanrana off the top that leads to a Red Arrow win for Adrian Neville. Nobody loses in matches like this. I didn’t feel disappointed, but I wasn’t wowed either. The definition of workman-like. ***½
Post-match, Tyson Kidd rolls the shoulder on Neville after a handshake. This should be a program going forward.
Rich: These NXT specials are slowly becoming my favorite thing on the Network. I loved Arrival but assumed that was just a one-time thing, the next NXT supershow didn’t have a chance to be that good, it couldn’t compete with an all-hands on deck show. NOT SO FAST! Takeover blew the doors off Arrival and “NXT Clash of the Champions” are quickly becoming WWE’s workrate shows. Hot crowds, intriguing characters, sensible booking, big match feels… these shows are so great. Just the idea of having fresh matchups is what makes them intriguing, NXT TV is boring at times with an endless array of squash matches but Takeover is the result.
Guys (and gals) are built up strong, do battle in a megashow, the crowds into it, Twitter buzzes, it’s just like the good old days (or, well, most of 2013). Go watch this, now, seriously, stop reading… maybe finish Larry’s part, then go watch it. If you already watched it, I don’t care, go watch it again.
Larry: I love these Clash of the NXT Champions events. They are appointment viewing. They hype them like crazy. Triple H, Paul Heyman, and everyone involved sell them like they are the most important event they have going. The talent, for the most part, shows up. Now, if only their weekly show could catch up with this quality. Takeover started a bit slow, but with three matches way over ***’s, with a hot crowd, with good showcase matches for their top guys at the moment, make this show a success, to me. Go watch, just fast forward to the Sami-Zayn match and watch from there.