NXT Takeover Dallas
Dallas, TX
April 1, 2016

Watch: WWE Network

WWE NXT Takeover: Dallas is arguably the most anticipated show of the weekend. The in-ring debuts of both Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura flank a triad of highly anticipated title matches, including a Samoa Joe-Finn Balor rematch from Takeover: London for the NXT Championship.

Reviewing tonight’s festivities:

Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland): Known mostly for reviewing NXT and piggybacking on group reviews and previews.

Rich Kraetsch (@VoicesWrestling): Known mostly for owning this place.

Aaron Bentley (@AaronBentleyVOW): Known mostly for reviewing tiny action figures and keeping us out of prison.

Taylor Mitchell (@MrTCMitchell): Known mostly for the unenviable task of running VOW’s Match of the Month.

NXT Tag Team Championship
American Alpha def. The Revival ©

Alex Wendland: With the exception of The Revival’s match at Roadblock, both of these teams had fallen into a formula on the neverending NXT weekly shows. This match broke that mold for both teams. I said in our preview that this could be the sleeper for best match of the night, and I’d upset if it were the best having seen it, but this was such a hot opener. I love anything either of these teams do, so objectivity is sparse. My biggest critique is that both teams seemed to have their nerves up, which is entirely understandable. I also loved that the finish came out of nowhere. The American Alpha hot tag led to a lengthy back and forth until American Alpha snuck in the Grand Amplitude. This is was just as good a match as the NXT tag match at Roadblock, but with a crowd that was absolutely jacked. I think my rating went up a half star as I digested the match writing my review. I love it. ****1/4

Rich Kraetsch: Back in the day, these two teams would face each other for in every town for a few years and we’d never get sick of it. Today, well, I’m still not sick of it. Formulatic? Maybe. But all they are doing is sticking to a tag wrestling format that’s stood the test of time. This was a classic Southern-style tag match on steroids with the heel team working over the babyface-in-peril leading to an insane hot tag. Throughout both teams utilize teamwork to get the better of their opponents. Again, it’s formulaic but it’s a formula I’ll never tire of it. This was as good a modern tag match as you’ll see on this continent. Bonus points for a molten hot crowd and the babyfaces getting the big win. Maybe I’m nuts with my rating but I don’t care, I fucking loved this match. ****1/2

Aaron Bentley: I suggested in the preview of this show that this match could be a letdown. It certainly followed the script I expected. It’s not so bad that every American Alpha match is the same; it’s just that Gable has not yet perfected a compelling face-in-peril segment. Unfortunately, The Revival’s offense isn’t believable enough to make up for Gable’s relative shortcomings. However, that segment is the most important part of the story. If it doesn’t work, the match fails. Luckily, Jason Jordan was out of his mind with energy and made up for a lot of the lesser moments of the match. I would never have expected Jordan to be the best performer in a contest between these two teams, but here we are. I hope we see American Alpha grow to be more versatile during their run as champions. **3/4

Taylor Mitchell: Nearly every American Alpha match follows the same recipe. Gable gets beat down and then we see the Jason Jordan hot tag…And I will never complain about it, because they are so incredible that it always comes off amazingly. Very few wrestlers are as good as Gable as the babyface in peril, the fans are so invested in him and then you have the best hot tag in wrestling today in Jason Jordan who throws guys around the ring in a way that makes me reminisce about the great Steiner Brothers matches of the early 90’s. This crowd was hot, these teams are great, and there couldn’t have been a better way to kick off this show. ***¾

Austin Aries def. Baron Corbin

Wendland: What the hell happened to the crowd during this match? You don’t normally expect a hot opener to suck the air out of the crowd, but starting this match with an extended Baron Corbin offensive segment didn’t help. This won’t end up high in Corbin’s portfolio, but it was a good debut for Austin Aries and both guys leave the match in better shape than they entered it. I’m a huge fan of Corbin’s Deep Six side slam and it looked absolutely devastating outside the ring. I like that the first two finishes have come out of left field. It makes you think that anything can happen at any time on this show. ***

Kraetsch: Following a fast-paced hot opener is bad news for someone like Corbin who likes to work slow and methodical. It’s not simply the style for Corbin either, he’s just not very good at it. Aries carried most of this match and while Corbin’s big man offense is improving, it’s not there yet. This was fine but will likely be the worst match of the night. Oh well. **1/4

Bentley: Baron Corbin still seems a little lost on offense but he has gotten so much better at every other part of his game. He might have overdone it some with his vocalizations tonight but I liked the idea. He moved with more urgency and purpose. He also sold pretty well for Aries, who clearly showed up to work. Aries was as good as expected but the layout of the match was too much for either man to overcome. Considering that Corbin has come up short so often, it’s really hard to explain the finish. This would have been a good TV match but will have been slightly out of place on this card once the night is over. **1/2

Mitchell: As far as star ratings go, this wasn’t a great match. It did, however, succeed is continuing the story of the Internet Darling Killer vs. one of NXT’s hottest new signees. The match was laid out just as it should have been. The monster, Corbin, beating down the much smaller Aries and controlling the match. Aries then pulls out the win out of nowhere after making Corbin look better than he ever has. A good start to what will be Corbin’s best feud yet. **3/4

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Sami Zayn

Wendland: This is why I watch wrestling. The unbelievable sight of Shinsuke Nakamura walking to a WWE ring, the molten hot reaction of this crowd and the incredible scene that was this match make watching all the dregs of Raw and weekly NXT episodes worth it. Hands down. This is instantaneously one of my favorite moments in all of my wrestling fandom and one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. I loved every second of this and I’ll be watching it again a half dozen times before WrestleMania weekend is over. Everything about this was wonderful. In my eyes, perfection. *****

Kraetsch: Joe and I legitimately considered if this match was going to be a disappointment. When I’m done typing this I’m going back to delete that audio. We were so, so wrong. This was a spectacle, a scene and a match you absolutely have to see. You cannot be a wrestling fan and watch this match without a grin from ear-to-ear. If you didn’t love this match you don’t like wrestling. Just stop, it’s not for you anymore. Nakamura didn’t miss a beat coming stateside and Zayn was the absolute perfect opponent for him. These two had an elite-level New Japan Pro Wrestling main event in front of a raucous NXT crowd complete with an elbow strike sequence, Boma Ye attempts (now renamed Kinshasa, which is a much better name, actually) and high-level work. If this is Zayn’s swan song in NXT, he’ll leave as arguably the best big match wrestler in NXT history. This was so, so good. It needs to be seen. *****

Bentley: What I saw of this match was amazing. It was everything I knew I wanted. Yet, I had such awful WWE Network issues throughout that it would be impossible for me to say whether this match connected in the way I think it did. When I’m much less pissed off about missing much of my most anticipated match of the weekend, I will watch this one back and try to get Kraetsch to replace this paragraph. I hate everything.

Mitchell: There is not a wrestler on this planet that conveys the exact emotion you need them to at the perfect time than Sami Zayn. Zayn is an all-time great. No questions asked. Zayn took this dream match and doused it in a gasoline of emotion that you would only expect from a match between two guys entrenched in a blood feud. Zayn went toe-to-toe with Shinsuke Nakamura in a legit Strong Style match that was chock full of fighting spirit. For anyone who is worried about Sami Zayn’s run in WWE, stop. Zayn is the ultimate “cream rises to to the top” wrestler and can make any match feel important. Oh, and by the way, Nakamura has arrived and made possibly the biggest impact of any top signee NXT has ever had. Holy crap, this match was incredible. *****

NXT Women’s Championship
Asuka def. Bayley ©

Wendland: I don’t know how to rate this match. I saw Bayley and Asuka put on a really good match, but I was in a haze the entire time. I wasn’t able to fully invest in this match until the armbar attempt, but it felt like Asuka really controlled the entire match. Bayley got the John Cena treatment in what I can only assume was also her swan song for the main roster. Asuka has been a monster since she debuted and now she’s a monster with a crown. And who can challenge her? Another Bayley program would be exceptional (and a great main event for a Takeover between now and Summerslam, because please don’t make me review another four months of NXT without a Takeover), but Asuka has a stranglehold – pun fully intended – on the NXT women’s division. ***1/2

Kraetsch: Differently worked than any of the prior major NXT Women’s matches. This one was all about submissions, limb work and a methodical pace. It was a nice change of pace and the finish came seemingly out of nowhere because we didn’t get the 15 finisher kickouts or reversals. What this match did, more than anything, was establish how dangerous Asuka is and what a threat she is to the rest of the women’s division. At the same time, Bayley doesn’t look like a chump but rather someone who needs a different plan to defeat “The Empress of Tomorrow.” This won’t be a match that stands the test of time, it’ll act more as a bridge to a larger story but it was still very good. ***3/4

Bentley: This was a strange match, at least relative to my expectations. Bayley and Asuka largely traded submission holds; however, there was not a great flow or great psychology to the match. The problem may have been that this kind of match showcases Bayley’s weaknesses as an in-ring performer. For example, Bayley attacked Asuka’s legs at one point but, within a minute, she switched the legs she was working and never returned to either after that initial attempt. Still, there’s no way I could say this match was bad. Both women worked hard and kept my attention throughout. It just wasn’t what I wanted, which isn’t Asuka and Bayley’s fault. ***

Mitchell: I have never been as high on Bayley as the general public. Bayley plays the role of the underdog very well, but the verdict has been out on if she can evolve past that. Bayley showed glimpses in this match that she can evolve past that role as she was going toe-to-toe with an absolute killer. Asuka is still more ready for the main roster than Bayley, but I am not the least bit surprised that Bayley will be getting promoted first. Bayley passing out to the Crossface Chickenwing was the right move to display the monster that Asuka can be while keeping Bayley strong for her main roster jump in, likely, two days. ***3/4

NXT Championship
Finn Balor © VS. Samoa Joe

Wendland: As I tweeted during this match, the whole thing was chaos and I loved it. The entire pacing and story of the match was thrown to the wind when Samoa Joe caught a headbutt in the first minute of the match and “had to” be attended to by doctors multiple times throughout the match. Even with all of the doctor involvement, though, Joe has never looked better. He beat the bajeezus out of Balor and looked like the world beater he was billed as on his debut. I even thought that all of the attention being given to Joe’s cut meant he was going to win the title and they wanted as little blood on him as possible for the archival footage. Balor snuck out the win with the old Bret Hart sleeper reversal spot, but Joe came out looking like a legitimate badass. The match itself wasn’t particularly great, but the chaos and aura surrounding it was great fun. NXT Takeover: Dallas is arguably the most fun I’ve had watching a wrestling show. I can’t tell you one I’ve enjoyed more from front to back. This was an incredible night of wrestling. ***3/4

Kraetsch: This was a surreal match as a legitimate cut above Samoa Joe’s eye both added to the mystique of the match while at the same time ruining much of it’s heat. When Joe rose up a bloody mess and started tossing Balor around the ring, chopping the shit out of him and hitting Finn with stiff shots, the match was really working. Then, WWE officials slowed the match down to check on Joe’s status. Nearly every time Joe was on the canvas officials ran to wipe blood off his face. While I’m all for the health and well-being of wrestlers, this definitely ruined any and all momentum the match had going. In the end, it was nothing more than a solid WWE main event. Would it have been any better or worse without the blood is hard to say. ***1/2

Bentley: The match turned out, rather decidedly, to not be the best match of Balor’s NXT run. However, it was absolutely the best Finn Balor performance since he left New Japan. He had more fire, seemed more like a fighter, than he had before tonight. Joe’s face spewing blood certainly played into that. Joe, of course, was at his normal level. He always brings the sense that a legit fight is happening. The ringside doctors did everything they could to ruin the flow of the match. They mostly succeeded. In a match of this caliber, the performers have to be able to perform. Balor and Joe seemed to be legitimately angry at the interference and I could not have blamed them. Despite that, the match was reaching a peak when it abruptly, and disappointingly, ended. I thought the bout was easily on its way to four stars but the premature ending sucked the life out of it. ***1/2

Mitchell: This match started out perfectly. Joe was brutally cut above his eye and he retaliated by viciously throwing Balor into the crowd. The medical staff tending to Joe added to the severity of the drama, but it did seem they tended to him one too many times. I get it. It is a legitimate safety precaution, but if you are going to allow the match to continue then they should have stayed with the cut longer when Joe was on the outside of the ring rather than patting the cut 4 or 5 times. Who knows, I don’t have a medical degree, it just appeared as if it could have been handled a little better. With that said these two world class talents did their best to bring the dying crowd back into the match. The finish was great. I will always pop for a Bret Hart/Roddy Piper finish. Balor is 17 days away from breaking Neville’s record for longest NXT Championship reign in its history and he will most deservedly achieve that. ****