Singles Match for the NXT Women's Championship
Sasha Banks (C) vs. Becky Lynch
Glorious. Absolutely glorious. People have been talking for a good twelve months about the strength of the women's division in NXT and if this doesn't make Vince McMahon (or whoever is in charge of such things for the main roster) sit up and take notice then nothing ever will. From the moment Becky Lynch walked down her new steam-punk infused get up, and almost Rated-R Superstar style entrance, this was a slice of wrestling heaven.
Story-telling! Story-telling! Story-telling! That's surely the whole point of pro wrestling, the premise when you pay your ticket price or subscription fee. The idea that two performers will tell you a story with their bodies whilst completely showing every elements of that story through their mannerisms and body language is sometimes lost in modern pro wrestling. But it was here and it was here in bucket loads. Both females have submission holds that are heavily based on the arms, so guess what both females beat the shit out of each others arms. What makes it even better is the fact that both females sold their arms like they were about to fall off, meaning that when those submission holds were locked in, it was a hundred times easier to buy into and suspend that disbelief that what you were watching was simply a story. The pop when Becky Lynch finally managed to lock in the arm bar (Move #2) was something special.
Beyond the story that unraveled like scripture, the two performers worked hard to keep things interesting with a series of well-timed and well thought out moves. Things can get a bit heavy going when everything is focused on one body part, and the creativity of the two ladies keep things from going in this direction. Sasha Banks in particularly impressed as she adapted her offence to suit the needs of the match, a double diving knee drop onto Becky's arm being a prime example of this. Lynch also got in on the act, with a lovely arm trap suplex. All the while both were bringing an intensity, both through their offence and their selling, that made this match completely different to how main stream women's wrestling has been portrayed for some time now.
The finish saw Sasha able to catch Becky with an arm drag off the top rope before locking in the Bank Statement to get the submission victory. It would have been nice to have seen Becky last a little bit longer in the hold, however with the previous work done on the arm (and the quality of selling) then there was really no harm done in having her tap out so quickly and the standing ovation she received post-match highlighted this. Heading out of the show, I'm interested to see what direction the women's division takes over the coming months, with Charlotte and Bayley picking up the victory in their tag team match, they would both surely be back in the title picture, but a rematch between Becky and Sasha maybe too good to pass up on...Two out of Three falls?
Singles Match for the NXT Championship
Kevin Owens (C) vs. Sami Zayn
Before the main event both competitors appearance's on Monday Night Raw over the past month were featured. A nice touch that showcased both men against the biggest name in the industry of the last ten years, John Cena. We also got to see both men preparing for the match, again working towards the "big fight feel". Owens was also interviewed by Greg Hamilton, with a superb character driven promo putting over his big week with his debut on Monday Night Raw and three title defenses on the NXT Live Events in Philadelphia and Albany. There was a well placed reference to his war of words with John Cena on Monday Night Raw, as Owens offered Zayn some "veteran advice" in what a good way to keep his feud with Cena ticking over heading into Elimination Chamber.
The main body of the match was almost an inversion of their previous encounter as NXT Takeover: Rival, a much more fiery Zayn took the action to Owens from the outset as the two brawled all over ringside and the even out in the crowd. A lot of fun to watch and again different from what we had seen from the two men before and on the rest of the show. Zayn's determination to batter Owens suited the storyline and was played believably by both men, with Owens looking almost surprised at how much Zayn wanted to bring the fight. The crowd was hooked from the outset, which added to the action creating what felt like a great atmosphere within the Full Sail Arena.
Once the action was *almost* contained within the ring, a series of near-falls for Zayn as he pulled out some of signature offence, like the Blue Thunderbomb and the half and half suplex, were a nice addition to a match that didn't have a whole load of wrestling content. Both men missing their respective signature moves in the corner also allowed for both of those moves to be kept looking strong without having to have someone kick of either. The short amount of in-ring action was done well, it's just a shame there wasn't a little more of it, as we know that these two can really bring it in a main event setting.
Of course, one of the major talking points heading out of the show was the WWE debut of Samoa Joe, who headed down to the ring to make the save following Owens relentless assault on Zayn following a pop-powerbomb onto the apron, as well as a headbutt to NXT General Manager William Regal. The debut was one of those moments that nothing that had gone before it really mattered that much, because it was just so freaking cool. There's a lot of avenues to take this, I'm hoping we get to see a satisfying conclussion to the Zayn vs. Owens feud, whilst a Joe/Owens headliner would also seem to be on the cards for the next Takeover special. Whilst the match itself wasn't a patch on the first from NXT Takeover: Rival, the debut of Samoa Joe may be one of the coolest moments of NXT television history.
Singles Match for the Number One Contendership to the NXT Championship
Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze
After an inventive angle explained Hideo Itami's absence from the match on the Pre-Show, this one became a regular one on one match (which the commentary reminded us of every few seconds). The two were given strong character based entrances that really set the tone for not only the match but the rest of the show. Both men looked like stars as they headed to the ring and everything from the new NXT set to the extra used during Breeze's entrance were part of opening the show right and creating a big fight feel heading in.
The match was a smashing opening bout fought at a high pace with the two clicking very well. Whilst they haven't been seen in a singles match on television, it was clear that the two have worked numerous matches on live events over the last two months, as everything was crisp and the reversal sequences flowed so well. The two worked in a strong false finish that saw Breeze remove the turnbuckle pad, eventually reverse a pinning combination sending Balor into the turnbuckle before hitting a Beauty Shot. The crowd bought into the finish and I don't think there would have been any complaints if that was how the match had ended. It was Balor however who went on to pick up the win with the Coup de Grâce following a running front dropkick into the turnbuckles. I can't help but wonder how different this match would have been if it were a main event as opposed to the opening match.
Tag Team Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships
Blake & Murphy vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass with Carmella
A thoroughly entertaining tag title contest, with Enzo Amore putting in his strongest performance to date. Amore looked good in the Realest guy in the room in peril role, taking a considerable beating from Blake and Murphy, who pulled out some good tag team moves in the process, including their own version of The Wolves' Force of Nature for a good near fall. The finish itself could have been slicker, as Alexa Bliss ran in cause the distraction that would end up allowing Blake to pin Amore for the win, as Cass seemed to waiting a long time for Alexa to run in. Apart from that slight hiccup at the finish, this was an engaging tag team match, that proved the worth of Amore & Cass as a tag team going forward.
Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno
This match did absolutely nothing for me. I've tried hard to find something about Baron Corbin that I like and I just can't find a thing. Maybe I'm being harsh and maybe my bias towards Corbin is why I couldn't get into this match. Bar a cool spot that saw Corbin knocked Rhyno off the top rope to the floor, this was a dull slugfest type affair. It was frustrating to see Corbin refuse to interact with a crowd that was giving him shit and for that matter the crowd were almost completely ignored throughout the match. Corbin picked up the win with End of Days, in just over seven minutes, probably about five minutes too long!
Tag Team Match
Emma & Dana Brooke vs. Charlotte & Bayley
For what this was it was absolutely fine, it worked nicely in it's slot just after the opener and allowed for a feel good moment on a show that was dominated by the heels. Cleverly booked to reduce Dana Brooke's involvement in the match, whilst also giving her space to learn from three more experienced workers, although she looked uncomfortable in the ring. The finishing sequence that saw both Bayley and Charlotte hitting their finishing moves before Charlotte was able to pin Emma was solid way to end proceedings in what was a fun women's tag. A bit more interaction between the two team members, maybe some double team moves would have been a nice addition, just to give this match a little something extra.
A superb highlight package detailing NXT's recent live events in Philadelphia and Albany aired, the NXT live experience was pushed heavily, expect to see NXT beginning to tour more extensively over the next twelve months. The newest Performance Centre recruits were shown at ringside, with Uhaa Nation getting the biggest reaction from the live audience, which made me happy. Eva Marie is here! EVA MARIE IS HERE! EVA MARIE!
In terms of match quality, I think it would be fair to say that NXT Takeover: Unstoppable would struggle to compete with the previous Takeover shows. But that doesn't stop it from being a fantastic two hours of entertainment that had me hooked from start to finish (except for a ten minute gap for Baron Corbin). Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks stole the show with the magnificent Women's Championship match, whilst the debut of Samoa Joe will go down in history. Breeze and Balor put together a strong bout to make up the mid-card, whilst the Tag Team Championship match stands out as the highlight from the undercard.
NXT continues to grow and continues to produce a creative and engaging television product. The next two or three months of television stand to be very interesting indeed, with the title picture being wide open with Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe and Finn Balor all having issues with the Champion and reasons to go after the belt. If you're not watching NXT, what the fuck is wrong with you.
Next TV Review: WWE Monday Night Raw #1148