NXT Takeover: London
SSE Arena, Wembley
Watch: WWE Network
On December 16, WWE presents NXT Takeover outside of the United States for the first time. In London, England, Finn Bálor will defend the NXT Championship against former TNA & ROH Champion, Samoa Joe. Plus, Bayley looks to retain her NXT Women’s Championship against a newcomer, Nia Jax. The event has a special start time of 3pm EST live on WWE Network.
Meet our preview panel…
- Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland): Alex reviews NXT TV weekly here @voiceswrestling, while also performing many behind-the-scenes duties. His interests include alpaca farming, bonsai trimming, and long walks on abandoned airport runways. At least, we’re guessing. He didn’t confirm any of this, unfortunately.
- Jeff Hawkins (@CrapGame13): The tolerable one on Shake Them Ropes, Jeff brings his comic timing and historical perspective to NXT from the sunny lands of southern California. Follow him on Twitter, stalk him on the VOW Forum, and watch him on YouTube.
- Aaron Bentley (@AaronBentleyVOW): Aaron is a contibutor to Voices of Wrestling, which is the most obvious statement ever seeing as how you’re reading his contribution to VOW right now.
- Joe Lanza (@JoeMLanza): In between tweeting about Cincinnati Reds offseason moves and the rise of Georgetown basketball, Joe enjoys discussing the latest news in pro wrestling with Rich Kraetsch on the Voices of Wrestling podcast.
Asuka vs. Emma
Alex Wendland: Asuka is probably the most complete indie darling to hit NXT so far and both her and Emma are perfect in their roles preparing the next generation of the #DivasRevolution in NXT. The fringe benefit is that we occasionally get to see them wrestle each other. Asuka is going to play the role of aggressor and I think she’ll win with relative ease pending a failed interference from Dana Brooke. Prediction: Asuka
Jeff Hawkins: Asuka by murderdeathkill seems obvious, but I’m interested in this match more than any other on the card. Emma is perhaps the most undervalued asset in the company other than Cesaro, more due to the fact that the she’s a building block to revamp the NXT women and would be a major contribution if Mr. Entertainment knew how to run a competent women’s division. Those types are scarce since the “fun” league has many women that are learning and growing and the “big time” has women dying on the vine. Should be a fun time. Prediction: Asuka
Aaron Bentley: While roster depletion deserves some of the credit, Asuka has been my favorite NXT performer to watch since her debut. She has it all: great characterization, snug, believable in-ring work, and a look that is both fresh and intriguing. I don’t know anything about Emma personally but I wonder if there is any legitimate jealousy here. As more time passes, it becomes clearer that she bears the responsibility for the success of her match with Paige at the first Takeover. And despite being in Asuka’s league with regard to both character and in-ring work, Emma is clearly an afterthought here, a foot soldier in the larger Dana Brooke/Asuka war. The victor is relatively obvious, though Dana Brooke’s potential involvement is a stick in that spoke, but my bet is that Emma comes in with a chip on her shoulder, intent on proving she deserves a bigger spotlight. If they are given the time, this match should easily eclipse the Women’s Championship bout. Prediction: Asuka
Joe Lanza: I saw an NXT house show in Houston this past summer, and the best match on the show was It’s Bayley vs Emma. The best worker in that match was Emma. I very badly want to see a good, back and forth wrestling match here, but the story dictates that Asuka cuts through Emma with minimal effort. I’ll be hoping for the former, but I believe we’re getting the latter. Prediction: Asuka
Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin
Alex Wendland: I’m going to ride the “Baron Corbin is the new Tyler Breeze” train until I’m proved wrong. Corbin is WWE’s most improved in 2015, but he hasn’t turned that improvement into many victories. Still, to his credit, he’s remained a sizeable force and dangerous opponent. Prediction: Apollo Crews
Jeff Hawkins: The most “even” match in my mind in terms of percentage of certainty of the victor. Apollo’s the new hot thing, and his presence on Breaking Ground is a more than welcome one to help. But, Baron Corbin has greatly improved both in and out of the ring and Breaking Ground has helped expand his popularity amongst naysayers. Honestly, I think Apollo can take a loss here clean or otherwise and be okay in the long run due to his newness though the pundit class may think it’s a bad move. Corbin might get bumped to the next level with a great showing here. Prediction: Baron Corbin
Aaron Bentley: I’m much less convinced of Baron Corbin’s alleged improvement than my colleagues. I agree with Alex’s comparison to Tyler Breeze if he means Corbin can play a gatekeeper role in NXT and has no real future on the main roster. But Corbin shows no promise of being able to approach Breeze’s wrestling or promo skills. That’s why I’m not terribly conflicted on who should prevail here. Yes, Corbin needs a win and that booking makes sense if Balor is to hold on to the title but I think everyone realizes Crews is the future star of the pairing. Perhaps I’m letting Breaking Ground work me into a shoot but the fact that it disclosed that Crews apparently got a raise that only Kevin Owens had previously received makes me think WWE has plans for Apollo to rise high quickly. A decisive win over Corbin fits into that narrative. Prediction: Apollo Crews
Joe Lanza: I like Crews as a worker, but I don’t know if he’s the right guy to lead Corbin through an important match. Samoa Joe did a great job with Corbin, but Joe is a pro’s pro and works a style more conducive to matching what Corbin’s strengths are as a worker at this early stage of his career. Crews held his own in arguably the most challenging place to work in the world in terms of schedule, physical demands, and workrate standards with arguably the deepest & most talented roster around, but I can’t think of too many instances where he has been asked to work the type of match that this will likely be, particularly with a man who is larger than him. I’m worried about this one meshing from a nerd perspective. As far as the result, I see it as a coin flip. Crews wins and continues his rise up the card, or Corbin wins and we have ourselves a genuine feud. Maybe the best thing for both of these guys is to work long term with each other. Prediction: Baron Corbin
NXT Women’s Championship
Bayley © vs. Nia Jax
Alex Wendland: The parallels between Bayley’s and Finn Balor’s positions in WWE at large are really interesting. Both have seemingly hit their ceiling in developmental with relatively simple characters and both their divisions on the main roster (assuming you project Balor as a main event player) are in shambles. Finally, in their current incarnations, both of their characters would be eaten alive on the main roster. Bayley, then, seems like a strong candidate to win this match, but the Bayley reign hasn’t been much more than acceptable – she’s much stronger on the chase. Knowing WWE dearly wanted the Eva Marie Era to work out, using Nia Jax as a talented conduit to push that agenda seems like a very WWE thing to do. Prediction: Nia Jax
Jeff Hawkins: More of a barometer for Nia in terms of performance given her predecessors. No one should blame Bayley if this is a step back in terms of not stealing the show, as she’s become the “good hand” trusted to try and make people look good now that she’s the champ. A screwjob via the “Red Queen” to give Nia the title given the amount of time they usually let women hold the belt, and just to shuffle the deck a bit wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I could also see a beatdown disqualification here. Bayley winning after a struggle probably the obvious play but I’m going against my head on this one. Prediction: Nia Jax
Aaron Bentley: There is no part of me that thinks Nia Jax is going to win this match. Bayley’s reign has mostly suffered from a lack of legitimate opponents, but can you imagine what some of those title matches would have looked like if Nia Jax were the champion? Bayley has to maintain the credibility of the division while the rest of the very talented roster gets up to snuff. It’s unfortunate for her because she deserves to be showing off her skills at these Takeover special events. However, this is her role and I expect she will continue to play it for the foreseeable future. Prediction: Bayley
Joe Lanza: They rushed this. Or more accurately, they rushed Nia Jax. The outcome is not in doubt (or at least, shouldn’t be), I don’t connect with It’s Bayley like others do, and Jax has been totally unimpressive in every way, so for me the only intriguing thing here is whether It’s Bayley can carry Jax to something watchable. The problem with putting the title on Jax is that NXT has established a work standard with the women that they may not be willing to punt in order to tell a story. Plus it’s way too early to cut off It’s Bayley. Prediction: Bayley
NXT Tag Team Championship
Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson © vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
Alex Wendland: Enzo and Big Cass aren’t going to win here. I know we’re supposed to accept New Jersey’s finest as Super Serious Contenders now, but Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson have been portrayed as the stronger competitors. Brooklyn was the time to put the NXT Tag Team Championship on Enzo and Cass, but it feels like they’re running in place on NXT since September. The future of the NXT tag team division is bright, but Enzo and Cass are no longer the division’s shining stars. Prediction: Dash and Dawson
Jeff Hawkins: It’s an interesting conundrum put forth in this match as old school booking says Enzo and Cass should get revenge here with a win due to the injury angle. The problem is Dash and Dawson are just getting rolling with their title reign and you have a hot face team in Jordan and Gable starting to also build momentum. It’s a nice problem to have, but one wonders if Enzo/Cass become novelty like the New Age Outlaws without the win in big events heft to maintain the popularity. In a perfect world you could “tween” them up between the two, depending on which they’re fighting. But we don’t live in that world. Prediction: Dash and Dawson
Aaron Bentley: In a product that has few huge missteps, not putting the tag titles on Enzo and Cass in Brooklyn was a major one. It was an especially major misstep considering that the tag division has focused on Blake and Murphy, The Vaudevillians, and Dash and Dawson since then, none of whom are a real threat to be main roster stars. It appears that I’m on an island here but the only way this long-term story makes sense is if Enzo and Cass win. Their performance of late has shown they still have more potential than any NXT tag team other than Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, and I still might take Enzo and Cass if given the choice. Prediction: Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
Joe Lanza: Some people are going to love this match, because even a blind man can see that Dollar Store Minnesota Wrecking Crew is going to work over Enzo forever, building to the Big Cass hot tag. I like how different Dash & Dawson are from the rest of the roster, and I like the intensity the Fugazi Bros showed in the build. I’m into this. I think they dropped the ball not putting the belts on Enzo & Cass in Brooklyn, but I don’t think they make the same mistake here in front of what will be a molten crowd. Prediction: Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady
Finn Balor © vs. Samoa Joe
Alex Wendland: I initially thought Samoa Joe would win this and have a lengthy, successful title run as a gatekeeper of sorts for talent moving to the main roster. We all sort of assume that Joe won’t be going for a full run on RAW and SmackDown, so a long-running championship on NXT makes sense. Currently, however, I don’t see Finn Balor moving to the main roster before WrestleMania and, truthfully, not for quite some time following WrestleMania. Balor needs a kick in the character, but we’ve seen him becoming more bold and standoffish in the past few weeks when he wasn’t being choked into unconsciousness by Joe. I expect Balor will win by not-necessarily-nefarious means, but he’ll win with an edge we haven’t seen from him yet in NXT. Prediction: Finn Balor
Jeff Hawkins: Can Joe win? Stranger things have happened. I never expected Kevin Owens to get this title nor be called up to the main roster. Is the company secure in NXT being a parallel universe to give the NXT title to a guy for whom it’s thought there is no main roster future, but in order to solidify NXT as a touring brand? Again, it’s a great problem to have. It angers me that while Balor has been champ for six months, he’s never seemingly gotten consistent promo time to prove he’s carries any heft. The irony here is developmental didn’t develop the promos of Neville nor Bo Dallas, but did for Sami Zayn. I think we need to build Balor as a character, and he wins here and moves on to Corbin as the next big threat. Hopefully with both showing great improvement on the mic. Prediction: Finn Balor
Aaron Bentley: I’ve already predicted that Apollo Crews will win his matchup with Baron Corbin and, presumably, establish that he is next in line for a title shot. That does create the problem that they’re both babyfaces but NXT has shown the ability in this very division to have intriguing face/face title matches. Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville carried on an incredible feud with Neville displaying heelish tendencies while never turning. When Zayn finally overcame Neville, the two men embraced in the middle of the ring. Balor and Crews are capable of having a similar program, though neither is anywhere near the babyface that Sami Zayn is. As Alex suggested above, Balor seems to be displaying very subtle tweener tendencies and I, too, expect to see more of that on Wednesday. One potential wrench in these plans, however, is Sami Zayn’s guaranteed return and the lack of top heels in the promotion. Prediction: Finn Balor
Joe Lanza: The most interesting feud in the company right now. The Joe turn was excellent, as they managed to do one of the oldest stories in the book without relying on some of the more lazy tropes that kill a tag team split. Joe’s facial expressions after attacking Balor told the story of a man who was very much conflicted with his actions, but ultimately chose his pursuit of the title over his friendship. Real people are forced into similar decisions every day, which is another example of why the simple, direct nature of NXT storytelling blows away the stuff that is happening on the main roster. Prediction: Samoa Joe