NXT has fallen in to a bit of a pattern as of late. The weekly television, which used to be such a strong point, has been less of a focus, which has led to less buzz surrounding the past few Takeover specials. Despite this, the recent Takeovers have delivered strong overall shows on the back of a tremendously strong tag division. To help generate buzz going in to the events, Takeovers have been reliant on the debuts of already established indie superstars. While many have questioned the sustainability of this booking style, it shouldn’t effect what looks to be a strong card on paper.

Additionally, it will be interesting to see if this Takeover represents a bit of a changing of the guard. Will long established NXT stars such as The Revival and Shinsuke Nakamura have their final matches tonight before debuting on the main roster on Monday? Perhaps the results of this evening will serve as a crystal ball for fans moving forward. Will NXT use tonight as a tearful goodbye, or focus on setting the table for the next year as NXT continues to establish its own brand within the WWE universe? The unveiling of new look NXT titles could help spark a new beginning for what many have felt is a flagging product. It will be exciting to find out if this is the case.

NXT TakeOver Orlando
April 1, 2017
Amway Center
Orlando, Florida

Watch: WWE Network

Sanity (I’m not doing the random capital letters, it’s stupid) def. Tye Dillinger, Kassius Ohno (Replaced No Way Jose), Roderick Strong and Ruby Riot

Not going to lie, Sanity might be my current least favorite thing in wrestling so this match has an uphill battle. Talk about a group in which the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Or maybe not, because Eric Young is such a negative that the sum of their parts is like, -17: Still awful even though the other three are good.

Anyway, Jose has been written off in an injury angle. And we get a Kassius Ohno! He is good. I like Jose a lot but this is probably a step up. The early parts of this are all about establishing the offense of Riot and Ohno. After that, that narrative becomes pretty standard: the individual talent of Team Riot is superior, but Sanity has reps and chemistry and is consistently able to right the ship when it looks as though they are about to lose. They are setting up for a hot tag to Dillinger and the crowd is in to it. As the action breaks down, the numbers prove too much, and Wolfe is able to attack Dillinger and allow Dane to win the match. In a way I wish this match wasn’t the in ring debut for Riot, because it seems like they are trying to establish Riot’s offense but the match would be stronger if the face in peril role had been her instead of Strong. As it stands, this was a fun opener that was hurt slightly by people wrestling against the roles they excel in. Rating: 3 Anarchy Symbols out of 6

Aleister Black def. Andrade Almas

Nigel talks about Almas’ win/loss record as proof that he’s successful, which is bizarre because it seems like he basically loses every Takeover match he has right now. This match should be awesome because Black’s offense looks great in showcases like this and Almas is up there with Ohno as the best in ring talent in NXT.

Almas goes through a few of his normal tranquilo spots, which serve a nice purpose here of taunting the debuting Black, and showing that maybe he is slightly out of his depth. From there, Black is able to create some early wows from the crowd with a teased dive in to a moonsault back inside the ring and the first of his quick strike combinations. Almas is able to get back on offense from there and really establish some control, although he seems to be over confident. Nigel is good on commentary talking about how Almas’ offense not focusing on the legs of Black could hurt him later. Almas in each match in NXT seems increasingly comfortable working in more of his offense from CMLL rather than working like he thinks the fans want to see.

Black has made an odd choice to use a lot of roll ups, which I assume are to show his extensive training, but instead have made him seem a bit lost, because they have come in places in which he could have easily hit a strike or showcased other offense. Almas looked to be close to a victory and hit some really crisp looking offense of his own, but Black was able to win with some knock out strikes. I assume this will serve as a sort of blue print for future Black matches, in that he can win very quickly and from any angle.

This match was a good match overall, but probably not as strong as some of Almas’ other recent efforts. Black seemed to be accepted as a rather big deal, and I’m hoping that he can find a pace and style that seems more fluid. Likewise, I hope that Almas can be pushed as something beyond “The New CJ Parker”. Rating: 3 WWE Universe Approved Euphemisms for Satanism out of 5

NXT Tag Team Championship
The Authors of Pain (c) def. DIY & The Revival

There is absolutely no reason to think this won’t be awesome. Every iteration of it has been at least very good, and the elimination style has a chance to increase the drama of a potential title switch.

I love how the two smaller teams have clearly decided to try and take out the AoP, and it shows how dangerous they are that it takes two men to separate and take out a single member of AoP. Granted, they abandon this strategy after a few minutes and Ciampa ends up paying the price. The Revival ignores a tag attempt from Ciampa, only to cheat to help him. The Revival is so great at wrestling as though they have a very specific plan, which adds so much to their work. The camera work has been awful for this show, by the way.

This match is hugely dynamic, as the pace changes drastically with almost every possible in ring combination. The Authors of Pain have improved their timing so much, and now always seems to be in the perfect place. As they have an extended control segment on Gargano, the match seems like an inevitability. The control segment here, in my mind, is much improved to the match in which they won the titles, but still shows the inexperience of the AoP as they give Ciampa enough time to recover and make a tag.

Again, the Revival in the role of the opportunists is joyous, as they help DIY but Razor through a table. The super team spots are so well timed that they really keep the match fresh and help to reinvest the crowd. As the two teams switch partners to hit signature maneuvers, it felt like reading a comic book when the X Men and the Brotherhood put aside their differences to stop an even bigger threat. The two smaller teams are in some way hoisted by their own petards, as when they use huge maneuvers to the outside like the superplex, it ends up putting everyone once again on equal footing, and subsequently allowing the AoP to regain momentum.

The final portion after DIY was eliminated was still very strong, although it didn’t have the same unique pairings that made the first section stand out so much. While I never would have thought it going in, the match perhaps should have been a single fall, allowing the teams to interact all throughout.

This was really wonderful, and could end up being a contender for match of the weekend. I would say that it had higher highs but lower lows than the DIY/Revival 2 out of 3 falls match, and was probably just under that level of quality. Rating: 4.27 stars

NXT Women’s Championship
Asuka (c) def. Ember Moon

I have found many of Asuka’s matches in NXT a little lacking thus far, although that could be because she has been portrayed as more dominant than any of the women during the Horsewomen era, and therefore the stories haven’t been conducive to back and forth high quality matches.

This match feels like the first time someone has been presented as a true physical equal to Asuka, and the early moments are worked like it, with a fast pace and lots of stand off style ends to sequences. Once the pace slowed a bit for the initial Asuka control segment, the match felt a little listless as they started to tell a story that Asuka was taking her opponent lightly, which didn’t really come across in ring. In the moments in between the truly compelling back and forth sequences, the match felt disjointed, which is a shame. Maybe it’s just a stylistic thing with how Asuka likes to structure her matches that doesn’t appeal to me.

A missed hip attack gives Moon her first chance at a true control segment but instead they use it as a way to do more back and forth, fighting spirit style work. The finish saw Asuka in peril for the first time, and she used the ref to knock Moon off the top and win the match. While I think the finish was strong, it could have landed more if at any point in the match, it felt as though Asuka was in peril. The finish could have been a champion doing anything to keep a title, but instead it came across as almost unnecessary. I wonder if these two have a better match in them when the roles are a little more solidified. Rating: I dunno, I’m sure your opinion is probably different than mine.

NXT Championship
Bobby Roode (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura

So I didn’t like the title change last Takeover, but I am trying to go in to this with an open mind. I actually valued the story they were trying to tell, I just felt as though inconsistency within the work itself held it back. I am hoping that tonight they can succeed in having as ambitious a match as last time.

While I do have problems with Roode’s work, I commend him for always having a clear plan and character. Here, he is great as the person who thinks he’s smart, but he’s not quite as unflappable and clever as he tells himself. Essentially, he’s HHH with built in vulnerability. Roode is again doing a lot of neck work here, which is great from a kayfabe perspective as it was so successful for him last time, although it has me worried because Nakamura shrugging it off was something I found irksome about that match. Anyway, focusing on tonight, this control segment from Roode is very good. It has purpose and is timed with the idea of keeping the crowd involved. It’s really well done, and it’s not something that a lot of other wrestlers would be able to do with the same level of detail.

As Nakamura takes back over on offense, he essentially uses the same sequence as he did in the previous match. I am surprised that the crowd doesn’t seem invested in Nakamura coming back, but Roode again goes to the neck and has some really well timed cut offs, the culmination of which is an attack on the knee.

It’s interesting, as Nakamura has gotten closer and closer to taking over completely, the crowd has been relatively apathetic. I wonder if this is a side effect to them being conditioned to his matches having such extended finishing and particularly paced finishing stretches, so near falls in the mid match are met with incredulity.

The latter portion of this match is built around Roode finding different ways to avoid getting hit with the Kinshasa, which serves to build some much needed anticipation for the match. As Roode won with a Tornado Implant DDT, the rematch here felt like almost like a final draft of their first match, aided by a more definitive finish, helping to secure Roode as a credible and strong champion moving forward.

If you liked their first match, I would imagine that this one would also be up your alley. Rating: *** stars but double that in the Tokyo Dome