Sunday, 3 April 2016

Special Event Review: WWE NXT Takeover: Dallas (Zayn vs. Nakamura)

Check out our review of this week's NXT, featuring thoughts on Samoa Joe vs. Bull Dempsey here.

On 1st April 2016, WWE aired NXT Takeover: Dallas live from the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, USA on the WWE Network. Shinsuke Nakamuara made his WWE debut against Sami Zayn, Finn Balor put the WWE NXT Championship on the line against Samoa Joe and Asuka challenged for Bayley's WWE NXT Women's Championship...but was it any good? Let's find out?

nxt takeover: dallas match card

Match 1 - WWE NXT Tag Team Championship - American Alpha: Chad Gable & Jason Jordan vs. The Revival: Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson (C)

Match 2 - Singles - Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries

Match 3 - Singles - Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Match 4 - WWE NXT Women's Championship - Asuka vs. Bayley (C)

Match 5 - WWE NXT Championship - Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor (C)

Commentary: Tom Phillips & Corey Graves

Ring Announcer: Greg Hamilton

fast-forward...Opening hype video with a focus on the many stars that have come from the state of Texas and Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and the WWE NXT and WWE NXT Women's Championship matches...

american alpha defeats the revival to win the wwe nxt tag team championships

A quality opener here that has to be considered one of the best tag team bouts that the NXT brand has ever put on. The two teams styles completely meshed together and ended up producing some great action inside the ring. The no-nonsense, old-school tag team vibe that the Revival have going on is pretty much the antithesis of what American Alpha have been doing recently. I was slightly surprised to see Chad Gable and Jason Jordan get such a long face shine, but it actually worked fantastically here. Despite the underhanded tactics of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, American Alpha continued to find a way to get back in control, and this idea drove the narrative of the match as The Revival had to find new ways to take the momentum back. A lively Dallas made the contest even easier to watch and made it easy to get swept away in the excitement of it all.

It was such a shame that parts of the match weren't as crisp as they should have been. Obviously, there was the moment where The Revival went for a double team manoevre in their corner and majorly fucked it up, with the crowd jumping straight on them, but there was also a couple of moments where everyone seemed to be trying to rush the moment, perhaps this was down to the nerves of performing on such a huge show. Luckily those moments didn't seem to effect any of the four guys for two long, as they could easily have continued to go downhill afterwards. The crowd quickly got back into the action popping for every near fall and going nuts for a great pinning sequence between Gable and Dawson. The moment when Gable & Jordan finally won the gold hitting Grand Amplitude for the win got a huge reaction and seeing Jordan in floods of tears to celebrate his victory made the moment even more special!

aries defeats corbin

Now this was never going to be a technical masterpiece and it was never going to able to compete with the four other matches on the show, but that's not what it was designed to do. It was seemingly designed to introduce former TNA wrestler Austin Aries to the WWE audience, whilst also raising Baron Corbin to a new level himself. On those two counts, I think everyone involved in putting the match together did a pretty good job. Did they do the best job they could've done? Maybe not. But Aries looked comfortable working with the crowd and bought a few little touches to his performance that should stand him in good stead in his WWE career. 

It was always going to a difficult night for Aries to make his in-ring TV debut for WWE, as he was doing so on the same night and directly before Shinsuke Nakamura made his, in a bout with a much higher profile. Personally, I'd have like to have seen more of Aries offence to really show what he can do in the ring to a new audience, but I do understand why the structure that was chosen here was chosen. Corbin needed to look impressive, because Aries was going over and he did so with a long period of scrappy dominance at the start of the bout and a huge Deep Six on the outside of the ring. The finish of Aries flipping out of End of Days and turning it into a sunset flip pin looked pretty cool, but for me felt just a little flat as I'm sure many were expecting it to be only a near fall. But once again I can see why WWE didn't want Corbin to take a barage of offence on his way to defeat, especially after coming out on the losing end of the Triple Threat #1 Contender's bout a few months ago. I'm looking forward to seeing where Aries and Corbin go heading out of Dallas over the next few weeks and months.

nakamura defeated zayn 

This was alright. Okay. Not bad, really. Decent. A solid encounter. Entertaining. Fun to watch, Maggle. Oh who am I kidding? This was utterly incredible, wasn't it? I mean, I was a little apprehensive going into the bout, because I was worried that the match had been so heavily hyped up on social media that it would never be able to live up to the expectations of the fans, which would ultimately lead to disappointment. How wrong was I? This match was everything that I wanted it to be and more. The crowd was super hyped, the debuting NJPW wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura looked like a mega star and Sami Zayn raised his game to a ridiculous level, this match was the full package.

I'd expected the two characters to mesh well, but I'm not sure I was expecting them to mesh THIS well! The King of Strong-Style really came to town as Nakamura brought it to Zayn with some of the stiffest strikes that the WWE has ever seen, whilst Zayn got to take the Underdog from the Underground to the next level, selling like a dream and fighting valiantly against his more aggressive and violent foe. Two moments in particular stand out where the characters and the story-telling were at their most effective. 1. Zayn firing Nakamura back with some stiff strikes of his own, showing a more fiery side and getting a great reaction out of the crowd. 2. Zayn going for the trademark suicide dive through the turnbuckles into a Tornado DDT, only to be hit with a huge kick to the head by Nakamura. 

The pair created some fantastic sequences of action throughout the bout, including world-class submission and strike based arrangements. The crowd roaring "Fight Forever" made things even more perfect as Zayn and Nakamura continued to knock seven shades of shit into each other. The contest built to a satisfying crescendo with Zayn looking to hit the Helluva Kick, whilst Nakamura searched for the opportunity to hit the Kinshasa (fka Boma Ye). The closing sequence saw Nakamura fight out of Zayn's exploder suplex (his usual set up for the Helluva Kick) deliver a knee strike to the back of the head off the second rope before leveling Zayn with the Kinshasa to pick up the win! Just a fantastic close to the match, making Nakamura look very strong indeed, whilst Zayn gave back to the brand that he has helped to build over the last two years as he heads towards a spot on the main roster.  

asuka defeats bayley to win the wwe nxt women's championship

I found it really hard to get into this match at the start and that isn't anything to do with what the two girls were doing in the ring. Having to settle back down from the utter brilliance of the bout it had followed was a difficult thing to do, I was pretty drained from being so invested. To be honest with you, I did consider going back and watching this match on it's own and do the review that way, but I don't think that would be particularly fair. This is a show review and therefore everything needs to be reviewed in context to the rest of the show. I would have liked a bit more of a buffer between the two matches to allow things to settle down, before picking them back up.

With that being said, this was another great match in the women's division on NXT. There was a danger that it could have ended up being a little too similar to the Nakamura/Zayn match in terms of it's story-telling, but luckily it took things down a different direction and was all the better for it. I like the idea of Bayley starting off strong, as it showcased her respect for her opponent and her acknowledgment of how much of a challenge this would be, in a way being reminiscent of her bout with Nia Jaxx from NXT Takeover: London in December. Despite coming out on the losing side, I thought that Bayley shone bright in this bout, as alongside some crisp wrestling, her selling throughout the bout made the match for me. She looked in pain, which made her valiant fight all the more admirable in the story, and meant her eventual defeat was cushioned.

There was a lot of submission based offence here, and it took up the majority of the fight's narrative. Bayley looking for the guillotine choke she defeated Nia with was a nice callback, an arm-bar sequence between the two was spot on, as was both girls locking on knee bars at points in the match. The submission offence was supplemented nicely with some incredibly well-timed strikes from Asuka. I've said Bayley looked like a star in this match, but Asuka looked every inch of the star Bayley did here, and potentially more and therefore it was very interesting to hear the reaction of the crowd when Asuka picked up the victory after Bayley passed out whilst in the Asuka Lock. Whether Dallas wasn't quite ready for a title change, or they didn't like how the finish was handled I'm not sure. Either way, I enjoyed the finish, I felt like it was Asuka's time to take the title and have the women's division molded around her in NXT, whilst Bayley now has the opportunity to step up the main roster.

balor defeated joe to retain the wwe nxt championship

I've got start the review of this one by talking about the lengthy stoppages of the contest, due to Samoa Joe suffering a nasty cut just above his eye in the opening exchange between he and Balor. The visual of an angry Joe with blood down one side of his face and dripping onto his chest was fantastic, he looked like such a bad ass. However, I was definitely uncomfortable when fans started chanting "Let Joe bleed" when the doctor's where looking over him. The cut looked nasty and needed to be dealt with, but I don't think the doctor's went the right way about it and this wasn't helped by Joe's early refusal to be looked at. It was obvious with the cuts position that it was going to keep opening up and bleeding more, so the doctor's surely should have done something a little more permanent to stop the cut from bleeding? Wrap a bandage round him and Joe would still look a real ass kicker in there. The pacing of the first piece of the match really suffered from the numerous stoppages and it inadvertently turned Joe into a babyface with portions of the crowd. This should have been handled much better by all involved.

Luckily, the really connected later on putting together some cool stuff inside the ring and transitioning from one hold to the next well. The sequence that would lead to Joe hitting the Muscle Buster stands out as some of the strongest activity of the outing and the moment where the match truly began to live up to it's earlier promise. The crowd's reaction to the near fall off the Muscle Buster was superb and goes to show the value of protecting certain moves on holds. Joe has used the move sparingly in WWE and it's been built as a move to be feared, so when he does hit it and his opponent isn't down for the count it makes the moment all the more important. Joe's reaction to Balor kicking out was almost as good as that of the live crowd!

The closing sequence of the match was as good as anything that had gone on previously and the best piece of work Balor and Joe have done together to this point. Balor bringing the Demon gimmick to it's highest point to date by bring in a new vicious determination to the gimmick and flowing through his back catalogue of moves in the lead up to the Coup de Grace was great to watch with the crowd adding something to the moment also. We've seen Balor follow up Coup de Grace in recent months with the Bloody Sunday DDT, so when Joe managed to lock in the Coquina Clutch as a reversal I was convincing the match was over. It seemed almost inevitable that Joe would win the title at this point and that was due to both men's facial expressions, as well as the brilliant work of Corey Graves and Tom Philips on commentary. There was however one last twist in the tale as Balor fought back to his and used the turnbuckles to flip over and steal a pinfall to retain his title. It's a finish that we've seen multiple variations of over the years, but after what had gone before it felt right to bring it back here. The last half and especially the final third of the bout makes me wonder just how much better the contest would had the match been allowed to play out properly in the earlier stages. Still a very good match in my opinion that managed to close the show well.


atpw scale rating - 7.79/10

This is the biggest rating I've given to an NXT Takeover special, just slightly ahead of NXT Takeover: Respect and I feel that that's probably about right. Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn put on an instant classic of a bout that I feel will be talk about for a long time to come. Finn Balor's WWE NXT Championship defense against Samoa Joe had it's troubles in the opening stages, but managed to turn in some great action and false finishes by the end of the contest. Asuka capturing the WWE NXT Women's Championship from Bayley was crafted superbly by both women and a pleasure to watch from start to finish. The undercard was highlighted by American Alpha's excellent performance en route to winning the WWE NXT Tag Team Championships, whilst Austin Aries looked comfortable in his in-ring TV debut for WWE also. 

After this killer show, I can't wait to see the direction that NXT takes coming out of the show over the next few weeks. With Balor holding onto his title, surely Shinsuke Nakamura and Austin Aries are immediately pushed to the front of the que for a title shot after winning their matches on the big show? I'm looking forward to find out! 

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