Recapping Everything That Happened At #NXTTakeOver & The WWE #RoyalRumble
If you’re a wrestling fan, chances are you watched NXT TakeOver and/or the WWE Royal Rumble this weekend. It’s the second best weekend of wrestling behind WrestleMania, and it did not disappoint. Let’s recap all the fun and important things that happened.
TakeOver was Saturday night and featured a five match card.
Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly retained the NXT tag belts over the Authors of Pain. This match featured a lot of leg work and submission holds, which was to be expected if the champs were going to beat their monstrous challengers. The roll up win was a little underwhelming, and the Authors didn’t have the same chemistry in this match that they had with Revival or DIY.
The Velveteen Dream continues to be the best. Earlier in the night Velveteen Dream accepted the Rivalry of the Year award for his great feud with Aleister Black. He also guaranteed a 30 second KO of the knockout artist Kassius Ohno later in the night. Dream came to the ring in boxing trunks and wore a mouth guard, because he understands the little things about his character so well. While he didn’t knock Ohno out, he did pick up his first victory at a TakeOver event. We also got to see his beautiful finisher:
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) January 28, 2018
I’m assuming Aleister Black is next in line for an NXT title shot, but Dream should not be far behind.
Shayna Baszler is the truth. She didn’t defeat Ember Moon for the women’s title, but she made quite an impact. I loved the character work in this match. Ember is so easy to root for and sells so well. Shayna is a bully with a legit fighting background who can break you in two. If this was an MMA match, Shayna would have won. It was a pro wrestling match though, and while Shayna dominated and seemingly had Ember finished, Ember used her knowledge to eek out a win. Shayna is skilled enough to beat most wrestlers even though she’s inexperienced, but Ember has been doing this for a long time. After she was unable to escape the submission, she was able to shift her weight and cover Shayna for the three count. Once Shayna’s ring awareness catches up with her fighting skills, she’s going to be a force.
Aleister Black should be the next number one contender. Black took on Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules match with some creative spots. As expected, Cole’s stable mates Fish & O’Reilly interfered in the match but were ran off by Sanity. Black and Cole brutalized each other with Black eventually coming out on top and staying undefeated. He should be the favorite to challenge whoever is holding the NXT title during WrestleMania weekend.
Andrade Almas & Johnny Gargano had one of the best matches in NXT history. It’s easy to say something like that when the match is so fresh in your mind, but it’s the truth. This was the third match between the two, and they delivered on the highest possible level. The match featured a ton of counters and reversals since these two are so familiar with each other. Almas is turning into the best in ring performer champion NXT has had since Balor, and Gargano continues to get better. I’m glad NXT made the call for Ciampa to attack Gargano post match, because that match deserved a clean ending. We were also formally introduced to Candice LeRae, Gargano’s real life wife. After Zelina Vega continued to insert herself into the match, LeRae hopped the barrier and beat her down. Almas was still able to retain in an instant classic.
Tommaso Ciampa is back! Gargano’s former friend tag team partner showed up briefly as TakeOver was going off the air. He’s still sporting a huge knee brace from his injury last May, so it makes sense that he didn’t do anything too physical. He did wallop Gargano with a crutch though, throwing salt in the wounds of Gargano after his hard fought loss. As long as Ciampa is medically cleared, these two should steal the show at TakeOver WrestleMania weekend.
Friendly faces in the crowd at TakeOver included EC3, Ricochet & War Machine.
WWE Royal Rumble
The rumble was last night and featured six matches, including the men’s and women’s rumbles.
Let’s start with the not so good. AJ Styles retained the WWE championship over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The Usos retained the tag titles over Gable & Benjamin. The Bar defeated Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan for the Raw tag titles. Neither of the three matches were bad, but they certainly weren’t exciting. The best match was probably the Raw tag titles bout, but they put it right after the men’s rumble. The crowd was exhausted and didn’t wake back up until Strowman and Lesnar started beating the crap out of each other. I’m glad The Bar won back the belts, because now Rollins and Jason Jordan can really start hating each other.
Styles/Owens/Zayn was disappointing, especially since the build involved so much of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. To have the match end with a roll up after 16 minutes of boring wrestling was severely disappointing. I don’t know how you have those three in match and make it lame, but WWE pulled it off.
I predicted the Smackdown tag title match to be the match of the night. Let’s just say I was very wrong. The first fall was a ton of fun with the Usos gaining the 1-0 advantage. Instead of giving us another 10-15 minutes of tag team wrestling, the Usos won the second fall with a roll up and the match was over. It’s a cardinal sin to waste a Chad Gable tag match on a major pay per view.
Brock Lesnar pinned Kane to retain the Universal championship. Everyone knew that result was happening, but the match was still a blast. Lesnar and Strowman apparently didn’t the ‘this is fake’ memo and legitimately beat the shit of each other. Here’s an example:
BROCK! ☠️ pic.twitter.com/9e5jk8GzZr
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) January 29, 2018
This match had an incredibly frenetic pace thanks to the urgency between Lesnar and Strowman. At 11 minutes it was also the perfect length with zero dead or rest time. I would have loved for Strowman to pin Kane and then have Brock challenge him for the title at Mania, but this was still excellent.
Men & Women’s Rumble
The men’s rumble match was the best one since 2010 or 2011. The last six have not been great, and the crowds have consistently booed the winners. Last night’s match was a ton of fun and featured some great performances AND a fresh, worthy winner. The match started off with Finn Balor and Rusev, who was massively over with the Philly crowd. Both guys had great showings, with Rusev lasting 30:27 and Balor lasting almost 58 minutes. In less than excellent news, my friends and I did a rumble pool and I picked numbers 3, 19 and 29. For those who didn’t watch, that means I picked Rhino, Matt Hardy and Goldust.
The best surprise entrants were Andrade Almas, The Hurricane & Rey Mysterio. Almas had a hell of a weekend, and capped it off by lasting almost 30 minutes in the rumble. The Hurricane was a fun surprise, even if he only lasted 24 seconds. Mysterio was the biggest surprise of the night, and somehow is in the best shape of his career at 43. Kofi Kingston had one of his best Rumble saves with the help of his New Day mates and a plate of pancakes.
It wasn’t a particularly heavy elimination year, as Balor and Reigns lead the charge with 4 each. The main story was who was going to win, and this was one of the more intense final 5 minutes in rumble history. The final four were Balor, Nakamura, Cena and Reigns. It was a fantastic dynamic, as the crowd loved everything Balor and Nak did while shitting on everything Cena and Reigns did. Nak and Reigns were the final two, which was a genius move by the WWE. Nobody in that building wanted Reigns to win, so even if you don’t like Nak, you were rooting for him by default. Nak was able to overcome the Big Dog with an impressive 44:25 rumble time. If all goes right, Nakamura and AJ Styles will be fighting for the WWE title at WrestleMania.
The women’s rumble went exactly as it should have. I thought the women exceeded expectations in their first ever rumble. There are so many moving pieces in a rumble match that it’s easy to get thrown off, but the match had a great flow to it. It was also a perfect mix of current stars, NXT up and comers and former wrestlers. Similar to Finn Balor in the men’s match, Sasha Banks needed a statement making performance. With 4 eliminations and a 54:46 ring time, consider that statement made. She even tossed out Bayley late in the match, which could reignite one of the best rivalries in NXT history. Ember Moon & Kairi Sane were cool additions, and we got to see a few top rope elbow drops from the pirate princess.
As for old school entrants, my personal favorites were Lita and Trish. Vickie Guerrero was a cool surprise and we got to see some great stare downs. Beth Phoenix/Nia Jax was a great moment, and Trish and Mickie James firing it up one last time was awesome. The match belonged to Asuka though, and I’m so happy that the right person won the inaugural women’s rumble. Kudos to WWE for realizing what they have with Asuka, ESPECIALLY since it turns out someone was waiting backstage the whole time.
That’s right, Ronda Rousey officially joined the WWE last night. It would have been easy for WWE to put her at #30 and have her win, but that wouldn’t have worked for the fans. You don’t want to debut Rousey and immediately put her behind the 8 ball, so I’m glad they waited until after the match to bring her out. She didn’t say a word, but she clearly knows what to do when you’re in a WWE ring this time of year. One point at the WrestleMania sign is all it takes. For the first time in a few years, the road to WrestleMania is off to a perfect start.