NXT Takeover: The End
Full Sail University
June 8, 2016
Finn Balor and Samoa Joe are wrestling their final match against each other this Wednesday at NXT Takeover: The End. At least, it’s being billed as such. The End actually marks Balor and Joe’s first title match at Full Sail University, as their previous Takeover bouts took place in London and Dallas. This one shall be a bit different, though, as the first ever NXT Cage Match shall decide the fate of the NXT Championship.
Also on the card, the debut of Andrade Almas (the former La Sombra of CMLL), as well as a superstar bout between Shinsuke Nakamura and Austin Aries. It’s the second NXT Takeover of 2016, and our VOW Preview Panel looks at what should be a fascinating night of NXT action!
*Thanks to special guest Kris Zellner for giving his thoughts on the NXT Tag Team Championship match this Wednesday!
- Joe Lanza: Cincinnati Reds fan, Tinder novice. Host, Voices of Wrestling
- Alex Wendland: VOW’s NXT Featured Columnist
- Jeff Hawkins: Co-Host, Shake Them Ropes. VOW’s WWE Raw Correspondent
- Rob McCarron: Host, Shake Them Ropes
- Kris Zellner: Host, Between The Sheets & Exile on Badstreet
NXT Tag Team Championships
American Alpha © vs The Revival
Joe Lanza: This is best tag team feud in the world today, and could easily wind up being the best match on yet another loaded Takeover show. What I really like about these teams is that they work to their strengths and have both developed a distinct style, which has been a smart focus when it comes to NXT tag teams, and a much needed change from the WWE trend of slapping singles wrestlers together or using tag teams to temporarily give singles wrestlers something to do or to advance singles feuds. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if we eventually see a revival (no pun intended) of real honest to god drawing teams in wrestling, but even if that’s asking too much, historically working in a long term tag team has been a proven catalyst for developing singles stars, which is something that has been missing from wrestling for a long time. With Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa looming (not to mention TM61), I’ll take The Revival here, but it doesn’t really matter and no outcome would surprise me. I could watch these teams wrestle each other for years, and we might just get the chance. Prediction: The Revival
Alex Wendland: I would love to see this match get a more prominent place on the card; NXT’s tag team division has been the high water mark on the brand in 2016. Given the rest of the card, however, expect these two teams to set an incredible pace in their rematch. They’re going to challenge the card, like they did at Takeover: Dallas, to match them throughout the night. I’m going to take a chance here and bank on American Alpha coming up with the brand split, though the next American Alpha defense is already set up with Gargano & Ciampa having defeating The Revival last week. Prediction: The Revival
Jeff Hawkins: I really have no idea how to pick these matches vis-a-vis how the WWE is going to handle the “Brand Extension.” Are NXT champs of Smackdown? Will the talent the main roster wants lose to free them of any connection? The Revival have Ciampa and Gargano and TAFATMDK to feud with after this match. American Alpha has….who? I expect American Alpha to win here, but there’s no one waiting for them after, so I assume promotion is imminent. I don’t put it past the Revival to win through an obvious blatant cheat so that AA, should they not be taking the belts with them, don’t lose any steam. Prediction: American Alpha
Kris Zellner: American Alpha vs The Revival has quickly become one of the best in-ring feuds in NXT history as these teams have tore the house down pretty much every time they have worked against each other whether it is on big shows or house shows. Gable & Jordan have become a phenomenon in their short time together and while Gable is the guy who has all the buzz of being a future megastar, it’s Jordan who is the glue of the team and in his own right will one day become a big star on the main WWE roster. These two are a perfect contrast to the old-school style that Dash & Dawson employ where they are basically doing an Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard tribute act in 2016. Dash & Dawson have become one of the best tag teams in the world the past year and are so good together that you never want to see them broken up and their chemistry with American Alpha is a special one which you don’t see a lot of today among tag-team wrestling. If this is their last big match against each other and it might be, I think both teams will turn it up higher than they have in their previous matches and we could be in store for one of the best matches in Takeover history.
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs Tye Dillinger
Joe Lanza: Tye is NXT’s “good hand”, in the same vein of WCW Brad Armstrong, or late WWF career Tito Santana or Jim Brunzell. He’s seemingly been floating around the company forever, with various stints going back a decade, first as a legitimate prospect as Shawn Spears (which led to a very short run on WWECW as Gavin Spears), and now as the trusted veteran who is not in developmental to develop himself, but rather as the veteran who helps others develop. Wrestlers rave about his work and love getting in the ring with him, and he’s found a niche as the go to guy to pair with and put over a new talent. I’ve heard whispers that the former La Sombra has been slow to acclimate to WWE. “Dark Match Manny” has been given another name change, some strong vignettes, and has the perfect opponent to lead him through what should be a short, safe match with one or two flashy highspots, which is all Almas needs to show in a spot like this. It probably wouldn’t hurt to work the next Florida loop against Dillinger, either. Prediction: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Alex Wendland: This one is pretty clear. Tye Dillinger is to be fed to another new guy getting hot for the Cruiserweight tournament. This’ll be a nice showcase for a talent against a mega-over, mega-midcard commodity like Dillinger. Come for the “ten” chants, stay for the “cien” chants. Prediction: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Jeff Hawkins: Dillinger’s been built up for this, and that’s fine. He’s the mirror of “The Drifter” Elias Sampson in that regard, a guy with some steam who is never going to topline but you build when it’s time to put over a star. Andrade is going to the finals of the Cruiserweight Classic one way or another, so it’s time to start treating him like a star. Should be a fine little match, I just hope Dillinger isn’t allowed too much offense. Winner: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Rob McCarron: The question is when will Andrade’s name undergo another change. Something has to happen. Either just become ‘Cien’, or drop the last name, or transition to Cien Almas. Something. Carlito Caribbean Cool didn’t last too long. Hell, WWE nowadays can’t even handle two names, let alone three (Cesaro, Neville, Rusev, etc). Cien is getting the jump on the Cruiserweight Classic – a tournament he’s the pretty heavy favorite to win. Prediction: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Top Contender Match
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Austin Aries
Joe Lanza: This Shinsuke Nakamura thing confuses me. He didn’t come cheap. He’s one of the most charismatic people on the entire roster. His work is world class. Yet here we are, almost six months into his WWE run, and he’s slumming it up on NXT house shows working opposite The Drifter, as TV ratings continue on a bad trend. I get that NXT needs to fill mid sized buildings, but that’s a monster they created themselves. I’m just not seeing how a legitimate proven drawing star like Nakamura being used in that capacity is a good return on investment, especially when NXT is an accepted money loser overall. My fear here, is that Nak wins and moves into the title picture, which just extends his stay. Aries, on the other hand, is a lot like Dillinger, in that he’s almost the perfect guy to keep around developmental forever. He probably wouldn’t be too thrilled with that, but he’s a world class in ring talent whose chances I wouldn’t bet on when it comes to the main roster due to his height. But enough about business. This could be a killer match, and I’m sure Aries will be motivated to have a breakout performance after being saddled with Baron Corbin for his debut. Nak hasn’t blown doors off on NXT TV, but he has a history of dogging it when he can get away with it and turning it up in big spots. This is a big spot. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
Alex Wendland: Outside of the tag team division, Shinsuke Nakamura has been the pulse of NXT since debuting. The problem is he’s so much better than his colleagues in Orlando that he sticks out, like, a lot. Austin Aries has been solid since his debut, but there’s a much greater future in the company – and in NXT this summer – for Nak. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
Jeff Hawkins: We’ve asked this question on Shake Them Ropes: Will this match be as good as the Sami Zayn one? No. Will it still be very good? Yes. Does Aries have a shot here? No chance in hell. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
NXT Women’s Championship
Asuka © vs Nia Jax
Joe Lanza: The problem with loading up your development with super talented people like Nakamura and Asuka and turning it into a a hybrid touring brand is that your true developmental talent really gets exposed as being super green. I’ve buried Jax hard on multiple podcasts, so I will lay off of her here, but she has a long way to go in many areas, namely in how she projects herself in the ring and working to her size. I’m hoping the physical style of Asuka can bring that out of her, and the go home contract signing angle was an encouraging start and the first time that Jax has ever come across as menacing in any way. Her softer than bread offense needs to look stronger, and Asuka is someone who won’t be shy about taking some stiff blows. I want to see an aggressive, nasty, violent Jax here, and I believe Asuka is the right person to extract it. Prediction: Asuka
Alex Wendland: Asuka is the obvious choice, but the uncertainty of the brand split makes any certainty in NXT questionable. If Asuka is going up (and she should), then this is a good opportunity to provide a realistic exit point. Nia Jax certainly isn’t ready to carry the division, but she’s closer to ready (thanks to her style, really) than anyone else outside of Bayley. Speaking of Bayley, she’s got built-in rematches with either winner. The tag and women’s division mirror each other once again. Still, you can’t have Asuka lose the first time someone actually poses a challenge for her. This isn’t the main roster. Prediction: Asuka
Jeff Hawkins: A tale of two pressures. For Nia Jax, I truly hope she doesn’t read match reviews. The reason I say this is that on Breaking Ground, she was still trying to find her confidence.This can be a double edged sword at times for the performer with lofty expectations but doubts: if they’re not living up to greatness, they can get on themselves about not living up to the expectations and never realize full potential and sometimes if during a performance it’s not going well, it can make things worse. It’s almost as if being delusional and confident works in your favor (thus “fake it til you make it”). For Asuka, she’s great. She’s great with other people who are great. She’s been very good in taking someone green in Dana Brooke to a quick match. Now she has to carry Nia Jax into a long credible story of a match, which Bayley already has. Asuka’s winning, I just think our streak of “overdelivering” on women’s main events could end. Prediction: Asuka
Samoa Joe © vs Finn Balor
Joe Lanza: People seem to be down on this feud, and admittedly I was feeling the same malaise until the tremendous sit down MMA style face off interview they did with Corey Graves. No scripted lines, just two guys getting across why they want to beat the other. Very refreshing, and very effective in pulling me back in. The story is a simple one, very sound, logical and old school, with Joe turning on his tag team partner and pal who he felt was holding him back. Balor barely survived in Dallas, but fell a few weeks later on a house show (a great move, but would it kill them to air the match?). Now, Balor wants his title back. What I love about this, is Joe didn’t use nefarious means to “steal” the title, he didn’t cheat, he isn’t the stooge of a heel authority figure. We want him to lose because he’s simply a dick. This is the type of modern storytelling that we need more of. We don’t need to be hit over the head with the idea that heels are cartoonish buffoons who can never succeed on their own devices or constantly behave like cowards (which just serves to make them seem inept and is ultimately counter productive, explaining why the only real effective main roster heels are McMahons), we need more heels that are seen as dangerous threats but are dislikable because they’re pricks. The former is easy, a tired story, and lazy. The latter is difficult to pull off, but way more interesting and more conducive to flipping those heels into money drawing faces, because fans already believe in them as credible threats. Joe has nailed the tough nuance of this, and Balor has been the perfect sympathetic babyface. Shame on me, and shame on you, for losing faith in some great storytelling.
The path of the story tells us Balor should win, but it also feels like the loser here will be leaving the territory. Balor badly needs to move on, but how do you beat him here without looking like a total chump? Does that really matter anyway, since the main roster is essentially a reset button? I’ll go with Balor, which extends the “Balor never gets called up” meme, as Joe gets drafted to Smackdown to have a dream feud with John Cena. Hopefully as a massive asshole, and not an Authority stooge. Prediction: Finn Balor
Alex Wendland: I’ve already cataloged my issues with the storytelling at the top of the card in NXT. Creating buzz at house shows is great, but you’ve got to keep the audience informed. The interview storytelling on the weekly programs has been really good and kind of uncomfortable to watch. They’re creating the illusion of real tension. The match should be great, as all the Joe-Balor matches have been. Can’t wait for this one. Prediction: Samoa Joe
Jeff Hawkins: In terms of intrigue, this is a one match card, the main event. It will be a really good match, no doubt. I think you will have some aspect of real “heat” in terms of a fight in this, as the Dallas match and the house show match both had a certain tinge of real violence rather than skilled choreography. This is an “enjoy the ride” match because I have no idea where it’s going. My money’s on Joe to win it. Prediction: Samoa Joe
Rob McCarron: One of these guys isn’t long for NXT, with the brand extension coming one month from now. However, we’ve been saying that forever about Balor, it seems. I’ve given up any thought that Balor will be connected to The Club if and when he gets called up. If he goes, he goes alone. Is he ready?
Finn Balor is looking to become the first two-time NXT Champion. No one has done it before him. Of course, the usual reason is because former champs get called up. Rollins, Neville, Zayn, Owens, even Dallas. They aren’t down there long enough to become two-time champs. So the fact that Balor has been is probably a sign he’s been down there a bit too long. I could easily see him becoming the champion, though, and riding out some more time as a top star of the NXT brand.
However, Joe is almost more perfectly made for NXT than Balor is. With Joe’s teases of the cage keeping others out of the ring, when the original story was that the cage was meant to keep these two inside, leads one to think that something may be up here at the end. Prediction: Samoa Joe