— WWE (@WWE) April 11, 2016
I know it’s only been two weeks, and the Raw after WM is always great, but how GREAT have these last two Raw’s been? Ignoring Shane’s match with The Undertaker at WM, this has been a great storyline. Ideally they would have had Shane come back and say he wants to take charge of the WWE, only for Vince to give him a shot on a trial basis. Shane would succeed, and the WWE Universe would support him, and eventually he would take over as Raw GM full time. Since WWE is not an ideal universe, they had to throw Shane vs. Undertaker at WM in there, have Shane lose, and then have him become Raw GM anyway. Maybe Vince really wanted to see him jump off the cell? Either way, the WWE is on an upward swing creatively for the first time in forever. Let’s look at what’s happened these past two Raw’s:
- No Authority, meaning no long winded promos that accomplish nothing.
- A logical, showing his work GM that sets up feuds and matches that make sense
- The debuts of Apollo Crews, Enzo & Cass, Baron Corbin and Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows
- Two of the four debuts above have instantly reinvigorated the tag team division
- A tag team tournament (with actual tag teams!) to determine the #1 contender for the belts
- Cesaro returning and becoming the #1 contender for the IC belt against a great heel with a new valet who he has great chemistry with (Miz and Maryse)
- AJ Styles becoming the #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
- Bray Wyatt finally getting a chance to look like a main event talent, which gives Reigns another contender beyond Styles
- Kevin Owens entering a feud with Shane McMahon – yes, please
There’s so much happening right now, and all of it makes perfect sense. Giving Raw a GM who has little to no ego and who explains why he’s doing what he’s doing allows us to just sit back and let the performers perform. Instead of trying to connect the dots and wonder why things are happening, we get to see the men and women interact in logical stories. This is such a great improvement over pre WM Raw and I really hope it keeps going. You can even have The Authority return over the summer and have them feud with Shane, and don’t forget that we haven’t seen Brock Lesnar either. You also have Rollins, Cena, and Orton coming back soon. I know it’s only a few Raw’s in a row, but this is a big step in the right direction. Let’s hope they keep it rolling.
This Friday night, two days before WrestleMania 32, NXT will run it’s biggest and most important show to date. While this won’t be as big of a crowd as NXT Brooklyn, this is the first TakeOver event during WrestleMania weekend. NXT Takeover Dallas will air live on the WWE Network at 10pm. On paper, it has the ability to blow WrestleMania out of the water and force Vince and WWE to pull out all the stops in order to top it. Let’s get to the preview and predictions!
Apollo Crews vs. Elias Samson
This match was set up last week after Johnny Gargano beat Samson, and Samson beat him down post match. That post match beat down brought out Crews for the save and alas, a match was born. Even if NXT is giving Samson the Baron Corbin treatment (short, quick wins even though he has the ability to wrestle anyone on the roster and look good) this should be a squash win for Crews. He lost at the last TakeOver special to Corbin, and he has really hasn’t had much character development since debuting. He’s got a boat load of potential and is a phenomonal athlete, so I can see him winning rather easily here to get on track. Samson, on the other hand, has been underwhelming since debuting both in the ring and as a character. I hope we see a little more character work here, but I still think Crews should take it.
Prediction: Apollo Crews
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin
This is a really interesting match up. You have an Indy darling making his NXT in ring debut vs. a guy who has a lot of momentum going for him after his win vs. Apollo Crews. This match will most likely be great, and I’m excited to see Corbin in there with a smaller guy, which is where he has done his best work so far. Aries excelled in TNA, but it’s not a given that his transition will be smooth. I think Corbin will be next in line to challenge either Joe or Balor, so look for him to pick up the win here. The best thing about NXT: Aries will look like a star in defeat.
Prediction: Baron Corbin
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
Just to get this out of the way, this will be the match of the night. I love American Alpha and I think they might pull out some stuff that could be match of the night worthy, but this match gives me goose bumps. Nakamura is one of two guys debuting at TakeOver Dallas, and no offense to Austin Aries, but this is BIG. NXT being the wonderful thing that it is has matched up Nakamura against the perfect opponent – Sami Zayn. This is one of those matches where alignments don’t matter; it’s just two guys who are excellent at what they do going out there and putting on a show. Of all the matches, this one is the easiest to predict, especially now that Zayn has an IC title match at WM and is pretty much a permanent member of the main roster. Out of all the things that are going to happen at TakeOver, Nakamura’s debut is what I’m the most excited for. He’s fought in Japan his whole life, so outside of YouTube compilation videos, I’ve never gotten a chance to see him perform. The good news is that everyone who has ever seen him wrestle says he’s not only great in the ring, but his charisma is off the charts. Anyone who considers Freddie Mercury an idol is OK in my book. Anyway, the outcome of this match isn’t in doubt, but the match itself is going to be bonkers.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The Revival (C) vs. American Alpha
In what will be the 1A match of the night, American Alpha takes on The Revival (formerly Dash and Dawson) for the NXT tag belts. This is the match I’m the most emotionally invested in, because American Alpha are my jam. They’re the best tag team on any WWE related roster, and they came from out of nowhere. Remember when Jason Jordan was looking for a tag team partner and this short, dorky guy with a ‘ready, willing & Gable’ towel was following him around? Yeah, well that guy ended up being Chad Gable, the second coming of Kurt Angle and one hell of a wrestler. I have to imagine Enzo & Cass were slotted to win the tag belts at one point, but once HHH and the rest of the NXT brain trust saw the momentum Gable & Jordan were creating, it was impossible to put them anywhere but in this slot. The Revival are very old school in their approach and in ring styles, and I love that it feels like they can lose the belts at any given moment. They remind me of Ole and Arn Anderson, who were never the focal point of the tag matches they were in, but they always came out looking great. With that said, I will be devastated if American Alpha doesn’t win the tag belts. This is the perfect team at the perfect time, and Dallas is going to go INSANE for Jordan and Gable. I have complete confidence NXT will do the right thing.
Prediction: American Alpha
NXT Women’s Championship Match: Bayley (C) vs. Asuka
Is this match card real life? There isn’t one bad match on the card and there are 4 or 5 REALLY good ones. From the day Asuka debuted and started beating the crap out of everyone, you know this match was an inevitability. Bayley is the crown jewel of NXT, but she’s running into an oncoming train. I think this match and the main event will have the crowd’s split pretty evenly, because all four competitors are just so good. Asuka has yet to be defeated in NXT, and I love that they aren’t beating that point to death. Undefeated streaks in wrestling, except for maybe Taker’s WM streak, are the most overrated thing in the world. Asuka’s seems different, though, and I think it’s because she’s so different from any other women in the division. Her attire is different, her entrance is difference and her wrestling style is different. She doesn’t really speak, but when she’s in the ring, she is kicking and back handing you until you collapse in a heap. Bayley is probably the best ‘character’ in NXT, and I put character in quotes because she seems like the same person in real life. A wrestling fan who got to live her dream, and who ended up being great at it. This match could go a few different ways, but I’m rooting for a Bayley win and a post match beat down from Asuka, which sets up a dynamite heel/baby face rematch.
NXT Championship Match: Finn Balor (C) vs. Samoa Joe
This main event is going to be so good. SO GOOD. Joe and Balor had a decent match at TakeOver London, but they’re capable of so much more. At NXT’s biggest show, I think we’re going to get a classic. Balor is the second longest reigning NXT Champion, and he’ll be 17 days behind Adrian Neville’s reign by the time this match starts. Do they want to make Finn the longest reigning champion, or do they want the reign of Samoa Joe to lead them into the next chapter of NXT? Either outcome won’t be wrong, because both guys are great, but I sense some kind of swerve coming. The one thing NXT hasn’t really done is use a swerve to determine a main event at a TakeOver. Owens attacked Zayn after he won the NXT title, but that was post match. Every Finn Balor main event has been him winning clean. Here’s what I think goes down: Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows debut, but they turn on Finn and start the new version of the Bullet Club with Samoa Joe as champion. Maybe they were mad at Finn for leaving Japan without them, or maybe they want to get out from underneath his shadow. Finn and NXT have been teasing the Bullet Club for awhile, and I wouldn’t put it past them to swerve us. This will go down as the greatest NXT show ever, and I cannot wait to watch it.
P.S. We’ll be live tweeting the event, which starts at 10pm on the WWE Network.