More than any other previous NXT special, NXT Takeover: [R] Evolution signified a changing of the guard not only in NXT but in WWE. It may take many years to come to fruition and there may be casualties along the way but [R] Evolution will go down as the beginning of a new era in the company. Why? Look at this card. Former ROH star Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens) made his debut and inserted himself into the main event picture, former ROH star El Generico (now Sami Zayn) defeated former DGUSA and independent wrestling star PAC (now Adrian Neville) to become the NXT Champion in one of the best moments the brand has ever had. International superstars KENTA (now Hideo Itami) and Prince Devitt (now Finn Balor) defeated The Ascension in another great match while Charlotte (daughter of Ric Flair) and Sasha Banks had a women’s match between than any main roster “Divas” match in quite some time.

I’m a firm believer in the cream rising to the top. There are numerous examples of guys being held back, not getting pushed enough or just not working out in WWE for whatever reason but I firmly believe that if you’re good, you’ll make it happen. NXT Takeover: [R] Evolution was a few of the best and brightest professional wrestlers in the world making it happen.

NXT Takeover: [R] Evolution
December 11, 2014
Full Sail University

Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker

Rich Kraetsch: Wow. That’s all I can say here. The former Kevin Steen came out to a gigantic pop, looking like the Kevin Steen of old (sans 50 pounds) and working like the Steen of old. All the normal spots were there but with an added intensity we haven’t seen on NXT in quite some time. Let’s hope the machine doesn’t tone him down because this was incredible and he can have a fantastic run in NXT. **1/2

Rob McCarron: Kevin Owens came in to fight, and fight he did. In the process, Owens broke his nose and nearly his ass. CJ Parker bloodied, and possibly broke, Owens’ nose during the match, which in a Steen-like way actually helped the feel of this match. Owens was in to fight, pretty or not. It wasn’t pretty, but Owens gets the win in the opener on what has already been made a historic night. **1/2

Bryan Rose: What a debut for the former Kevin Steen. Owens looked fantastic here and I have high hopes for him. People were into him from the very start which was pretty cool. Kinda weird he broke his nose in his very first match, but I think it added to the gimmick he’s doing here. Pretty good, short and solid match. **1/2

Larry: KO?  Kassius Ohno?  This was a memorable debut for Kevin Owens.  To see Steen nearly tear up at the top of the ramp and get a great reaction to kick off the show was just one of those things.  He is clearly is in the best shape he’s been in the past like eight years and is bringing that VINTAGE Steen intensity.  And then…he bleeds.  Awesome.  The whole ten minute segment was great.  ***

NXT Tag Team Championships
Lucha Dragons © vs. The Vaudevillains

Rich Kraetsch: Hmm, this wasn’t nearly as good as I think it could have been. Don’t get wrong, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t much different than your run-of-the-mill NXT match. Kalisto in particular looked great here and is perfect for the hot tags. Sin Cara was just there and the Vaudevillains are a fun act but not exactly stalwarts in the ring. They are both very capable wrestlers but not quite capable of having a “WOW” match, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m burying a decent match here so I’ll just stop, this was fine. **1/4

Rob McCarron: The Lucha Dragons retained in a mild surprise to me, as I thought this was the time for the Vaudevillains. A quality tag match that the crowd was into, this wasn’t a classic by any means but it didn’t have to be. Nor should we keep expecting every match to be. This match made both teams look good, and I look forward to big things from all four soon. It should also be noted that Twitter went down during this match, which I credit to Simon Gotch being too manly. ***

Bryan Rose: This was a pretty solid match. Not much to it. It was your prototypical heels get heat, faces make the comeback, do some cool dives and one of them wins with their finish. Lucha Dragons do look pretty good though and given the tag team scene right now I wouldn’t mind if they just brought them up already to the main roster. But I think that overall, this match was solid, if kind of predictable. Also the lucha chants are starting to…well…yeah, I dunno about them. **3/4

Larry:  Prodding and slow until the token hot tag to Kalisto…which always delivers to a certain extent.  He has a bright future in the WWE as long as they continue to harness and nurture his development.  They don’t stumble upon luchadors that speak english, have a cool mask, and can get over with the crowd too often and they have one here.  As for the match, its the token WWE two-star special (TM JoeMLanza).  **

Baron Corbin vs Tye Dillinger

Rich Kraetsch: C’mon, what did you expect? Corbin came out and dominated, Tye looked like a man in great shape and they teased some more Baron Corbin/Bull Dempsey tension. One thing I want to note is how Corbin is getting the long-long “screaming girl” pop which used to be a staple of classic wrestling and is back in some form or fashion for Corbin. He’s going to be a big deal until he has to go long then we’ll see, but until then, let’s enjoy the ride. NR

Rob McCarron: Squash match, as usual. Bull in the crowd continues the build up for these two eventually battling in the ring in a match that will also be short, I can only hope. This match gets ONE STAR from me for the sole fact that at least it served a purpose, Corbin didn’t screw anything up, and the crowd enjoyed it. *

Bryan Rose: I had it at around 45 seconds. At least the Corbin/Dempsey stuff is interesting. NR

Larry:  A reminder that if you buy anything from @amazon this holiday season and want to support VOW, use (Editor’s Note: I didn’t make him do this) (Writer’s Note:  Yes he did) Perhaps buy your loved ones one of these fantastic Baron Corbin T-Shirts to show your fancred.  The wolf on this guys jacket makes me laugh every single time and it won’t get old any time soon.  Its clearly a ****3/4 jacket.  If only it was howling.  Squash complete with audible female cat calls.  NR

Finn Balor & Hideo Itami vs. The Ascension

Rich Kraetsch: This match had me fighting back yawns during Konnor’s control period but since we knew where it was going it worked. Konnor is not really good at doing it, so it dragged a bit but once this match got going, it was something else. Itami was at his absolute best here and certainly better than I’ve seen him in any other NXT match. Balor looked fantastic and the crowd and energy these two get is incredible. Viktor looked solid as well and The Ascension did a great job taking punishment at the end here. Itami teased a Go To Sleep which made the crowd go insane but it was cut off by The Ascension. The finish was a double foot stomp from the two and Balor got the pinfall. This was really great. Oh yeah and Balor had his body painted like Venom, that was sweet. ***1/2

Rob McCarron: This match was laid out exactly how I thought it would be, and how it should have been. The Ascension were the long running, dominant team in NXT. Finn & Itami were the unproven newcomers. Ascension got control early and often, keep Itami from making a tag with the fresh Bálor for several minutes. I can see how people may have been less than enthused by this match, but it was necessary to lead to what was a hot and more than worthwhile finish. Bálor finally gets in, running wild with his body paint wearing off slowly, while Itami helped out when needed to keep it a fair fight. The crowd went crazy when Itami teased the Go To Sleep, the crowd went crazy for Finn’s entrance, and the crowd went crazy for the victory. This was everything. ***3/4

Bryan Rose: Balor’s entrance was amazing. I want to say WWE can’t find a way to not get the guy over, but then again, you know, it’s WWE. But he’s in NXT, so here he came across as a star. The match itself I liked. The middle part was…there, but I got into the near falls in the end and the finish was a fun one. Was anyone else amazed by that pop for the GTS attempt by Hideo? That was probably the most amazing thing in the entire match. But this was good stuff. **3/4

Larry: Finn Balor has the best entrance on planet earth.  ALL OF THE STARS.  This guy is going to make so much money in the WWE he’ll be able to quit after medical malpractice, poor concussion prevention, and being passed over for a main event at WrestleMania by a returning Bill Goldberg.  Not to be overlooked, this match will be immortalized forever in gif form once the VOW gfx team gets the Konner dafug face up on reddit.  Pretty slow and boring until the melee breaks out once Balor gets the hot tag.  Then things escalate quickly.  Huge pop for a GTS tease by Itami late in the match.  He must get his move back.  ***1/4

NXT Women’s Championship
Charlotte © vs. Sasha Banks

Rich Kraetsch: I’ve been saying for weeks now that Sasha Banks is on another level and an easy candidate for Most Improved, she was amazing here and Charlotte was no slouch either. I’d venture to say this is the best Charlotte has EVER looked and that includes her first match with Natalya (let us never remember #2). Great back and forth when the match called for it, they slowed down when it was needed, I don’t know who the agent was here or if this was all the women putting it together but everyone deserves a raise. This was about as perfect as you can structure a wrestling match. Sasha missed on a dive to the outside and Charlotte’s chops still leave a lot to be desired for but that’s nitpicking. This was amazing, Sasha played her role to perfection and Charlotte came across as a monster, which she is when you compare the body types. God, this was great. ****

Rob McCarron: This may have been better than I could have expected, even knowing both of these women have been flat out fantastic over the course of this year. Charlotte and Sasha were doing things that women in WWE just don’t do during matches. Not only was this a hard fought contest for the title, but they called back spots from previous matches to a wonderful degree in getting the meaningful action over. The entire presentation of the women in this match was amazing, and just leads me still to think how more successful WWE could be if they just tried stuff like this on Raw more often. Not just with women, but with everyone. Charlotte and Sasha went out there to have the best match of the night, a nearly impossible task considering the main event, but they may have just done it. ****

Bryan Rose: Everything about this match was awesome. I knew that Charlotte was really good, and I also know that Sasha Banks is pretty good, but I didn’t realize until watching it just how good both are at this stage. They’re seriously better than the majority of the divas on the roster, and that’s not a knock because when given time most of the main roster divas can have a solid to good match. This was further proof that if given time and with the right presentation, the women can go. Loved all the near falls, loved the athleticism of Charlotte and while I was surprised by the finish, I liked it regardless. Excited to see where this division goes from here because it’s filled with some of the best talent in North America. ****

Larry:  Sasha didn’t do herself any favors with those cornrows.  I loved the bell-to-bell intensity of this match.  More than previous Clash of the NXT Champion Divas matches, this match carried an aura of a classic heel-face rivalry.  Sasha is the type of female antagonist NXT hasn’t had yet where the landscape has typically had friendly, competition-based matches, which makes this a fresh take in this forum.  Sara Del Rey is the Diva Whisperer.  She has legitimately made stars at each of these events.  The construction of the matches continue to be some of the best the WWE has shown of recent vintage, showcasing the ladies’ talents while providing a forum for them to succeed.  Once again, the Divas steal the damn show.  ****

NXT Championship
Adrian Neville © vs. Sami Zayn

Rich Kraetsch: My fucking god this match. What else do you want out of a main event match, hell, what else do you want out of wrestling? Sami Zayn spends the last 3-4 months building to this moment, he doesn’t have the killer instinct, he can’t win the big one… he just can’t do it. So you book a match where every previous reason he lost prior (being too nice, not pouncing when he had the chance, referee distracted, ref bump) throw them into this match and have the babyface overcome them. That’s what happened here and it was done to perfection. Everything that was thrown at Zayn, he overcame. Whatever Neville tried, it didn’t work. This is how you book pro wrestling. We already know these two can have a great match but this was next level due to the callbacks from prior matches and Neville taking his game up another notch. There were points in the match where it was fast, then others that were slow when it was all said and done, what came out was one of my favorite matches ever. That’s not hyperbole, this match has me invested like few others. I’ve been saying for the past four years that El Generico/Sami Zayn is the best babyface in pro wrestling and this sealed it. This was one of the most incredible matches I’ve ever witnessed and you may disagree with me but I don’t care, this is getting all the stars I can give. The pacing, the in-ring, the spots, the crowd, the emotion, the callbacks and that pinfall moment. When wrestling is done well, there’s nothing like it. This was incredible and deserves five stars. *****

Rob McCarron: The long match you’d expect, this bout certainly didn’t disappoint in both length and quality. The first ten minutes saw the two feel each other out, working to gain an advantage. Then, sparks flew, and Sami and Neville went back and forth with all out assaults. 18 minutes, we had a REF BUMP. I say that with no disdain, as this was maybe the most well executed ref bump in forever. Neville was pinning Sami, but Sami kicked out emphatically sending the back of Neville’s head to the back of Referee Shawn Bennett’s head. The ref sold, Neville sold, Sami looked worried, and it was his near downfall. A few more minutes went by, and they called back to the ref spot when Neville pulled Bennett into the corner during a Zayn charge. With the ref down again, Neville went for the title belt, but Sami cut him off. The big question then was whether Sami would use the belt on Neville. Sami debated for a long time, with Graves urging him on commentary to use it while Rich Brennan urged the opposite. The tension was building. Ultimately, Sami decided not to use the belt on Neville, but was able to overcome the hesitation to win the NXT Title in a match that was both perfectly told as a story and wonderfully executed as a pro wrestling match in the ring. ****1/4

Bryan Rose: Another awesome match with great intensity and storytelling throughout. For the first time this year in North America, maybe aside from Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania, no one wanted to see Sami Zayn win the NXT title more than those people at Full Sail University tonight. These two brought it and had a fantastic match, pulling out all the stops and doing some great stuff like the reverse hurricanrana by Neville. Then Zayn, after a moment of question regarding using the title or not, opts to be the good guy and pin Neville the right way. And it wasn’t corny at all. GOOD. The post match celebration was awesome. It’s one of those rare moments in wrestling nowadays where it actually feels real as opposed to being overproduced like in WWE. It’s kind of amazing how Vince McMahon has lost sight of this while Triple H knows exactly how to do it. The entire presentation was friggin awesome and made this such a memorable show that blew away anything and everything WWE did this summer or fall. And as for the very end, well…I guess we’ll have to see where that goes! ****1/2

Larry: If this motherfucker skanks to the ri– he fucking skanked to the ring. Shake my damn head.  Anyway…I appreciate BIG MATCH FEEL more than most.  This has it.  More than any other Clash main event, in fact.  So, I was all-in and took the ride with’em.  It paid off.  Man, when the WWE tells a great story, they hit it out of the damn park. The best match the WWE has offered this year.  A real match of the year contender.  Best match of Neville’s run in the WWE.  Overall, this was a great show.  The best Clash of the NXT Champions since ArRival, and my immediacy bias says it was a better card top to bottom.  Huge props to the geeks in attendance…they were great.  The future of the WWE was on display tonight, and it was El Generico, PAC, Kevin Steen, Prince Devitt, and Samuray Del Sol.  Tears are shed.  I’m markin’ out, bro.  AND THEN KEVIN STEEN WITH THE POST MATCH APRON POWER BOMB.  Fuck it…EVERY.SINGLE.STAR.  *****