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.
— Triple H (@TripleH) September 2, 2016
Fresh off his shocking return and betrayal of Seth Rollins on Raw, Triple H jumped on Twitter to announce that the next NXT TakeOver will take place the night before Survivor Series, November 19th, in Toronto, Canada. NXT is sticking with the international theme for their end of the year TakeOver’s, as last year’s emanated from London and now this one will take place north of the border. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as people are still buzzing from TakeOver: Brooklyn, and I have to imagine the show in Toronto will sell out shockingly fast. Now that we have a set date, the next two months of NXT programming should be building towards that big Saturday night.
— WWE (@WWE) May 17, 2016
My favorite thing NXT does is that they go above and beyond expectations. Samoa Joe is fighting Finn Balor for the NXT Title at the next TakeOver special on June 8th. I’m sold. These guys are amazing in the ring together, and you just know they’re going to put on a great main event. Per usual, HHH and NXT one up themselves and make the match a steel cage match, the first time any NXT superstars have faced off in a cage. The only question that remains is will The Demon show up, and if he does, will he win? I’m a firm believer that Finn should not lose as The Demon in NXT (or ever) but at the same time, how much longer can you keep him down there? He really should debut on the main roster this summer, so how do you work around this? I don’t know the answer, but I do know I’m somehow more excited for this special than I was when I woke up this morning.
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.
NXT “Takeover: Dallas” event during WrestleMania 32 weekend:
WWE NXT Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor
WWE NXT Women’s Title Match
Asuka vs. Bayley
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
My favorite thing about NXT is their ability to not only put down four matches like that on paper, but the trust fans have in the product to build up these matches to make them even better. NXT had their final tapings before WrestleMania weekend last night, and these are the four major matches for the April 1st event. The only surprise for me was that Joe and Balor will square off again, and that Zayn will take on Nakamura in his debut. I want to see Zayn vs. Balor badly, but if Balor isn’t turning heel between now and April, it makes sense to put him up against someone like Joe. From everything I’ve seen and read about Nakamura, he is a complete game changer, and I fully expect him and Zayn to tear the house down. Gable and Jordan are my favorite part of NXT, so seeing them get their tag title shot is going to be insane. Asuka vs. Bayley is so wonderful, as they’re two VERY different kind of baby faces, and this will be the ultimate test for Bayley. When you combine this card with the fact that more matches will be added with the likes of Apollo Crews, Corbin, Austin Aries, the women’s division and the tag team division, you have an event that will rival WrestleMania. What a weekend that will be.
NXT’s latest live special is back at Full Sail University and should be one of the more emotional nights in NXT history. Not only will the semifinal and finals of the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team tournament take place, but Sasha Banks & Bayley will main event in a 30 minute Iron Man Match. Cody and Dustin Rhodes will also be on hand to present the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Trophy to the winners, so get your Kleenexes ready for one hell of a night.
DRTTT Semifinals: Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson vs. Finn Balor & Samoa Joe
Balor and Joe seem like an impossible team to beat, but you have to imagine that they were put together for one reason: to make Samoa Joe Finn’s next challenger for the NXT title. Kevin Owens is gone, Itami and Zayn are still hurt, so it makes sense to turn Joe (who is a natural heel) and they have to do it here. I think they decided not to have the NXT title defended at TakeOver for two reasons: to put the spotlight on the tag team tournament and the women’s match, and to sub in a title match for a major angle that sets up a title match. NXT does a lot of subtle things that separate them from the main roster, and this is one of them. Instead of rushing through an NXT title angle, they take the slow burn route and team up Joe and Balor. They have them advance to at least the semifinals of the tournament before Joe turns on Finn, which makes it sting just a little bit extra. Wilder & Dawson might be a secondary story in this match, but they are very good tag team wrestlers, and hopefully this match lasts a bit before the turn because you have four top notch athletes going at it.
Prediction: you can see it coming, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be great. Joe turns on Finn, giving us a new NXT title feud and a much needed bump to Wilder and Dawson.
DRTTT Semifinals: Jason Jordan & Chad Gable vs. Rhyno & Baron Corbin
If you don’t watch NXT and you’re thinking of tuning in tonight, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable are the guys to watch. No offense to anyone else on the show right now, but these guys are on a different level. They’re like version 2.0 of Hass & Benjamin, except a million times better in the ring and entertaining as hell on the microphone. It seems like a foregone conclusion that they’re going to go over Corbin & Rhyno, because come on, who in the hell would book it any other way? The only suspense here is who will they face? As I said before, I think Joe and Balor feud after this show, and as much as turning on Finn in the finals of the tournament would be heelish, I think it’s also important to put over Dash and Wilder too. Plus, Dash and Wilder vs. Jordan and Gable is my jam and I need to see it.
Prediction: Ready, willing, Jordan and Gable.
DRTTT Finals: ? vs. ?
This obviously depends on who wins the semifinals matches, but I want Cody and Dustin to hand the trophy over to Jordan & Gable. They’re the best team by a long shot, and they have a legitimate chance to revitalize the tag team division throughout NXT and the WWE. I know Cody wants to finish out his Stardust gimmick, but I also wouldn’t hate it if he and Dustin teamed up for one last run against Gable & Jordan. And by ‘I wouldn’t mind’ I mean I would absolutely fucking love it.
Prediction: Jordan & Gable.
Tyler Breeze vs. Apollo Crews
This is Tyler Breeze’s biggest match on the NXT roster by a long shot. Crews is going to be a MAJOR player in NXT and on the main roster, but Breeze needs this win bad. NXT has done a great job of not letting us focus too much on wins and losses, but Breeze is at his breaking point. He’s watched all the ‘Indy darlings’ come in and sky rocket to the top, and now he’s even losing matches to ‘one and done’ guys like Jushin Liger. Breeze is so talented, and a win against a guy like Crews would be enormous for his character going forward. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the earlier Crews loses a match the better, because undefeated streaks in wrestling are storylines that never culminate how want them to. Plus, losing to a guy like Breeze who has been in NXT for awhile and knows how Full Sail works wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Prediction: I’m on team Prince Pretty tonight.
Asuka vs. Dana Brooke
Oh poor Dana Brooke. Poor, poor Dana Brooke. Asuka is somewhat of a Japanese legend, and if you’ve never seen a Japanese women’s wrestling match, you should definitely brush up on it before tonight. They work stiff, and it’s kind of brutal. Dana Brooke is this legitimate weightlifting champion who’s in phenomenal shape and thus has an ‘I’m better than you’ attitude. While that might work on Billie Kay or Carmella, Asuka is a different animal. Just look at the look Asuka gave Emma & Dana Brooke when they ruined her first appearance in NXT. That was an ‘I’m going to kill you & there’s nothing you can do about it’ look. Dana Brooke the wrestler isn’t quite there yet, but Dana Brooke the character is great, and I have a feeling she’s going to take a very believable beating tonight.
30 Minute Iron Man Match For The NXT Women’s Title: Bayley (C) vs. Sasha Banks
This is the culmination of the Sasha Banks/Bayley feud and it should be a doozy. I don’t know how they’re going to top their match in Brooklyn, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. As special as Brooklyn was, Full Sail is a different animal, and they LOVE Bayley and Sasha. This is the first time women are in the main event of an NXT special and they couldn’t be more deserving. The NXT Women’s title picture has been the main event for a long time whether they went on last or not, and this match is vindication for a job well done. Bayley will probably win, because she’s the new face of the NXT women’s division, but this match isn’t about a win or a loss. Brooklyn was about the win for Bayley. Tonight is about proving she belongs in the spot she’s in, and Full Sail gets to shower Sasha with love one final time.
The Main Event Of NXT TakeOver In October Will Be Bayley vs. Sasha Banks In A 30 Minute Iron Man Match
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) September 11, 2015
In what might end up being the peak of the NXT Women’s division, NXT Women’s champion Bayley will take on Sasha Banks in a 30 minute Iron Man match in the main event of NXT TakeOver in October. I honestly cannot remember the last time (or if it ever happened) that the women were the main event of a big time show like this, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Guys like Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn have the name appeal, but what HHH, Sara Del Rey and all the NXT women have done over the past few years is remarkable. Great matches, great storytelling and most importantly competitors that love and respect pro wrestling and give it their all every time they’re in the ring. I don’t know if they can top their match from TakeOver Brooklyn, but I’m excited to see them try.
— Triple H (@TripleH) August 27, 2015
Per HHH on Twitter this afternoon, the next NXT TakeOver special will be LIVE from London, England on December 16th. Assuming they won’t be having the crowd there at 1 in the morning, the special will probably air in the afternoon here in the states on the WWE Network. You had to expect NXT would keep expanding, especially after the incredible success of last Saturday’s special in Brooklyn. The event in London will be held in the SSE Arena, which has a capacity of 12,500 people, so it should be a similar look as Brooklyn’s show. My only request is that William Regal opens the show with a 4 and half hour standing ovation.