By Chris Withers
The developmental territory for the WWE, the world’s most financially successful Professional Wrestling Company, has become something of an alternative brand to the main branch. This is largely because the main WWE story is absolutely terrible, while NXT also features far more talented members. It’s because of this that the NXT pay-per-views, or special events as they call them, have become far more interesting to the hardcore WWE fan. That’s why I was super excited for this most recent event, Takeover: Rival. The event was sold to fans as incurring change in NXT, and it certainly did that.
Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze
This matchup wasn’t announced until the night of the match, probably because both stars have been trying but failing to break into the main event picture. In the case of Tyler Breeze it’s simply a matter of him not being mean enough as a heel, bad guy in wrestling. His character is that he’s a self-involved male model who is constantly taking selfies and calling himself “Prince Pretty.” I actually really like him, since he actually is rather pretty and is actually a male model. His character comes across as an ass who brags about how much better he is than the average person. The problem is that he isn’t mean enough; he always accepts defeat a little too easy and never seems to hold a grudge. Hideo Itami, also known as KENTA in other parts of the world, has simply failed to find much of a personality aside from being an international superstar.
The match, and forthcoming feud, seems to be trying to fix these problems, and based on its beginning I look forward to future matches. Breeze especially stands out here; he wraps Hideo’s leg around the steel post in the corner of the ring and hits him with the figure-four leglock. At one point he seemingly debuts a new submission hold for himself, a moderately modified Sharpshooter. For the most part it’s a pretty good match, and ultimately ends in a diving double foot stomp from Itami that leads into a running knee, winning him the match.
Baron Corbin vs. Bull Dempsey (No Disqualifications)
This was the match I was dreading, because Baron Corbin isn’t very good… neither is Bull for that matter. NXT have been trying to push these guys as unbeatable monsters. The universe will even count along with their matches, which normally will last under a minute. Basically one of them will punch the guy a couple of times and then just hit their finishing maneuver and the match will end. The two have had matches before, all of which were won by Corbin, and this match was teasing fans as the potential end of their feud, with a No Disqualification stipulation.
As it is I certainly hope that this is the end because the match was terribly boring and strangely badly performed. I haven’t been a fan of either competitor because of the lack of wrestling in their matches, but still I didn’t think that their match would have two botched moves in them. At one point Dempsey starts looking under the mat for a chair to hit Corbin with, only to come away with nothing? Either Bull didn’t notice the chair underneath, or the prop guys forgot to put a chair under the mat, either way it’s a screw-up that makes Dempsey look like an idiot. And later in the match Corbin is supposed to launch Dempsey over the top rope with a running clothesline, only for him to fail and get launched over, himself. Dempsey then follows him down, presumably because he was following the script, which the crowd booed the crap out of. Now, I understand the mentality of Dempsey here, I get it. He was probably freaking out, since the move didn’t go as planned, and tried to correct the situation in order for the match to continue as easily as possible. But it makes him look like an idiot, and his opponent like a failure. If he had stayed afloat, then it would have simply looked like he blocked and no one would complain.
Then again with Dempsey his career might be over anyway considering how badly NXT seems to be burying him. It’s unfortunate as I thought that between the two he was more interesting, as he did at least have a character. He calls himself “The last of a dying breed” and acts as a throwback to eighties wrestlers, Vader especially as he’s also a big guy with quite a bit of agility. Corbin kicks out of Dempsey’s finishing maneuver, a diving head butt from the top rope, and yes Corbin wins.
Blake/Murphy vs. Lucha Dragons (Tag Team championships)
This was admittedly a match that I was excited for, as Blake/Murphy had recently upgraded from jobbers, constantly losing to make other teams look good, to actual champions. They’re also pretty good, they lack personality but make up for it with an exceptional amount of teamwork and some real fun moves. However, the Lucha Dragons come out and a sense of dread washes over the crowd as you realize that you’re in for a very messy match. The gimmick is that The Lucha Dragons come out and cheer “Lucha, Lucha, Lucha,” over and over with the music doing the same in tandem. The problem is that during this routine they out-of-sync with the music and also each other. Not only that but one of the wrestlers, Sin Cara, looks absolutely bored.
The biggest problem, the one that absolutely kills this match is the fact that The Lucha Dragons are terrible, at least in this moment. They haven’t been this messy before. At one point Sin Cara hits Murphy with a powerbomb, lift in the air and throw down to the mat, and Murphy doesn’t seem to be getting up. It looks like he wasn’t supposed to be hit that hard, and ultimately it once again screws the story up. Then Sin Cara just sits there… he just sits there. The commentators try and excuse this by saying that Sin Cara was… hesitating. No, he was sitting on the mat, doing nothing. Later Kalisto is supposed to jump over the top rope and land on Blake, only for him to trip and fall off the rope. That isn’t the only screw-up that he lands either. At one point he hits a Headscissors Takedown, jump and use legs to throw opponent, but rather than a throw he slams his opponents head into the mat, which rattles him. Kalisto, realizing perhaps that his opponent isn’t getting up, starts doing a “Lucha, Lucha” chant to take up time. Ultimately Blake/Murphy ends up winning by Murphy hitting a combination of a running suplex into a frog splash. It was a terrible match, with a pretty good ending but that doesn’t do anything to save the match and the lack of effort by The Lucha Dragons.
NXT #1 Contender’s tournament
Finn Balor vs. Adrian Neville
The Demon hath returned! Finn Balor stunned the world at Takeover: [R]Evolution he came out in a strange vampire demon makeup job, frightening his opponents and intriguing his audience. He hasn’t had that look for quite a while, namely since Takeover, so this seems to be just for pay-per-views. Which is alright, certainly pumps me up to see him at a pay-per-view. This was an excellent match and you really need to see it for yourself. Very Japanese match, lots of chops, enzigiuri’s, and numerous others.
Women’s Championship Fatal 4-Way
Charlotte vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
One of the most fun women’s matches I have seen, and that is saying something considering that Sasha has had some of the best matches with Charlotte in the past months. The match itself was quite fun, Charlotte got taken out very quickly as she was thrown into the LED screen. Ultimately it ends with a big final confrontation between Charlotte and Sasha leading to Sasha Banks to take the championship. Yes the heel wins the championship. I basically couldn’t believe that happening I rewound the tape… repeatedly. I tweeted at Sasha Banks after the match congratulating her, because I was so stunned. Not at her winning, goodness knows she deserves it, it’s just that I was so surprised at a heel winning being accepted and respected. At the end of the match Charlotte, the now former champion, shakes her hand and hugs her in a show of respect.
The match itself was a fantastic showing for all competitors, especially Bayley, who has been out of commission until just recently. She hits a Headscissors from the top rope on Charlotte, and then hits her with a Bayley-to-belly. Charlotte of course performs wonderfully, as does Sasha, if you have any doubts check out their Takeover: [R]Evolution match. Becky Lynch is the one that needs the most work. For one she needs to keep her regular outfit, cause this red/silver getup is completely off-character, she’s supposed to be an Irish Hard Rocker so the color scheme doesn’t work. Similarly, the Rocker Leg Drop, two leg drops followed by her whipping her hair in her opponents face before hitting the last one, is dumb as hell. I’ve heard people compare it to Cena’s Five-Knuckle Shuffle, which is similarly stupid, but is at least quicker. She does a mean Underhook Suplex which is a lot better and could be a far more impressive signature move. NXT seems to be trying to reinforce her personality, but I agree with commentator Corey Graves, she’s trying too hard to the point where she comes across as fake. She is a great athlete though, and she could definitely be more interesting if they let her just show her stuff.
NXT Championship Match
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
The match that shocked the NXT universe. Kevin Owens, two months to the day since he joined NXT, and his third match in NXT. So it was a surprise to not only see him win, but win by referee stoppage due to him hurting Sami Zayn so badly he couldn’t continue. For those thinking that this match would be rather uncomfortable to watch…you would be correct. The match starts with fourteen minute long beatdown by Owens to Zayn. Now Zayn did eventually fight back, at least for a little while. He did hit a few big moves, but ultimately Owens started hitting powerbomb after powerbomb, eventually causing the referee to stop the match. The final image of the pay-per-view is Kevin Owens standing over Sami Zayn’s stationary body surrounded by doctors while Owens holds the title high above him. This is the reason that I think that if you’ve stopped watching wrestling this is the show to watch to get back in. NXT is available on the WWE Network, the $9.99 a month subscription service, or available on Hulu. Anyone interested can start watching at anytime and you won’t regret it.