On 28th January, NXT Takeover returned to Texas for the second time in ten months, as San Antonio hosted the event from the Freeman Coliseum, with Bobby Roode challenging Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT Championship headlining the event, as well as action featuring the likes of Roderick Strong, Eric Young, NXT Women's Champion Asuka and NXT Tag Team Champions #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa). Could NXT pull out a repeat of Takeover: Dallas?
(with Alexander Wolfe [Axeman] & Killain Dain [Damian O'Connor])
"The Perfect Ten" Tye Dillinger [Shawn Spears]
Dillinger's role of jobber to the stars continues in another spirited showing that will do nothing to harm the former OVW Television Champion's runaway popularity among fan all over the world (just attend any British wrestling show to find out just how over Dillinger (or at least, the number ten) is right now). The bout set out it's stall early on, with Eric Young and his SAni†Y co-horts doing all they could to hold Dillinger down, with plenty of dubious activity inside and outside of the ring. The Perfect Ten's face shine went on a little too long for my liking, but considering the crowd's reaction for him, it's understandable why NXT had Dillinger running wild for an extended period before settling things down. The numbers game became the cliche from then on in, but a number of well placed near falls and cute spots kept this entertaining, helped, perhaps, by the rocking Freeman Coliseum. The finish featured a nice nod towards the Royal Rumble happening on the 29th, with Dillinger "skinning the cat" straight into Young's signature Youngblood, in perhaps another piece of the story being told about Dillinger getting carried away during the brand's more high profile matches.
Andrade "Cien" Almas [La Sombra]
This match did very little for me, if I'm honest. There was some lovely sequences at times and the two showed they could change gear, but it just felt strikingly disjointed and Strong and Almas never seemed to completely "click". There was early stuff with Strong hurting his arm, which was initial sold well, but got completely lost latter on, almost as soon as "The Messiah of the Backbreaker" had escaped Almas' Ring of Saturn-esque hold. Following this the match upped the pace and went back and forth, with the pair working hard in an attempt to mesh their various signature holds, but with a lack of anything substantial. I don't want you to think that this was a bad match, because it wasn't at all, there was A LOT of good to very good work here and there, and some very pacy wrestling in the closing stages, but none of it seemed to slot together to create a match that could hold my interest for the length required.
The Authors of Pain
Akam [Sunny Dhisa] & Rezar
(with Paul Ellering)
Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa
to win the NXT Tag Team Championship
I called The AOP taking the titles here (ask Jozef), for the simple reason that #DIY were so good when chasing the titles from The Revival, that it felt like the natural extension of that story to have them go on to chase a bigger, badder, meaner and very different tag team. That's exactly what unfolded here as we got Gargano and Ciampa taking the fight to the challengers and Akam and Rezar, in a hard-hitting clash that ended with AOP swatting the game champions to the side. The match structure kept the rookies protected, lending from #DIY and The Revival's MOTY at Takeover: Toronto last November to bolster the drama when necessary, whilst giving #DIY just enough hope that a potential rematch is still an exciting prospect. The crowd reaction to Ciampa's electric German suplex comeback as well as when #DIY caught The AOP in their respective submissions holds was superb and a tribute to the hard work that all five men involved put in here. By the conclusion both teams had been elevated and a potential rematch, with #DIY looking to win back their belts, is positively mouthwatering. There's more to come in the story of both these teams, here's to the next chapter!
- Seth Rollins made a surprise return to NXT, calling out Triple H, only to be carried away by security in a segment that was almost perfect tonally.
Peyton Royce, Billie Kay [Jessie McKay] and Nikki Cross [Nikki Storm]
to retain the NXT Women's Championship
Another storyline driven bout here as NXT looked to make the most of it's female roster which has been heavily depleted since July's brand split and they actually did a cracking job, with Peyton Royce, Billie Kay and Nikki Cross all stepping up to create a fun jaunt, alongside NXT's resident female bad-ass Asuka. The story of Royce and Kay wanting to win the match together was refreshingly handled as it easily could have descended into the cliche of them both trying to nick pins on each other. This lead to some of the most interesting movement in the Women's division for sometime, as Cross was presented almost as an equal to Asuka. The storyline elements were tent poled with a handful of big spots, including Cross nailing a elevated spinning neckbreaker off the apron to the floor, before the SAni†Y member took a double release verticle suplex off the announce table, that sent her crashing through a regular table below. Asuka was eventually able to secure victory with a stunning flurry to remain champion, but it seemed like everyone involved took a step up here and delivered beyond many expectations. With these four ladies, as well as Ember Moon and the likes of Crazy Mary Dobson and Kimber Lee waiting on the sidelines it feels like NXT's Women's division is going to be just fine in 2017.
- Fuck me on a bicycle made of sticks, the entrances for the main event were all I wanted them to be and more.
to win the NXT Championship
Genuinely, I hadn't been that excited for Roode v Nakamura, after the oddity of Nakamura's feud with Samoa Joe, the bout came at an odd time in NXT's history. However, by the end of the match I was on the edge of my seat, completely gripped by some marvelous theatricality as Nakamura grabbed hold of his knee after hitting a knee strike from the middle rope that knocked Roode off the apron. From that moment forward Roode and Nakamura knocked their match up several notches, with desperate near-falls or non-falls (The King of Strong Style being unable to cover after hitting a clean Kinshasa). Both men sold every element of desperation and pain across their entire bodies and whilst the Doctors seeing to Nakkers went a little long, the commentary team and the two lads in the ring made it unbelievably captivating piece of television. By the time Roode held the title a loft, after hitting two Glorious DDT's and holding Nakamura in a Boston Crab for about two weeks, I was gutted and ecstatic all in the same moment.
Okay, that was the finish, but what about the meat and potatoes of the match? The duo took their time early on and allowed the crowd to settle themselves down, so that they could take them on the journey that they wanted to take them on and to be fair to San Antonio, they went with Roode and Nakamura on every step. The two wrestled a little and it was passable, not the smoothest stuff you'll see, but watchable, mainly thanks to the two characters involved and the crowd's energy. The Red Roodester controlled following a nasty moment that saw Shinsuke pushed from the top rope and crash the floor onto his upper back. There was some decent submission work in the middle of the bout, as Nakamura flew into an armbar and transitioned it into a chicken wing, which I think the pair could potentially have built upon. Roode has regularly used a Crossface and Fujiwara Armbar in his past, so I would've liked to have seen them go down this route, rather than the kind of messy power out routine they went down.
In his first Takeover main event and title win, Roode's character work stood out more than his wrestling. He looked great as dominant bruising heel, happy to take advantage of any situation that came his way (Nakamura crashing to the outside and the knee problems). The former TNA World Heavyweight Champion also showed his intelligence as he lay prone on the mat following an inverted exploder suplex that had been well built towards, denying Shinsuke the chance to hit the Kinshasa, whilst also earning strong near falls off a roll up and a backstabber. There did seem to be a few moment however where the Glorious One looked a little awkward taking some of The King of Strong Styles' offence, especially some of the kicks. Yes, it could've have been slicker, but this match showed how strength of character and theatricality are arguably the two most important elements in modern pro wrestling. Any way you shake it, this was Roode's best singles match in over four years and perhaps his crowning glory as a sports entertainer.
ATPW Scale Rating - 7.31/10
A rock solid show from NXT, with a card that over delivered on my expectations going in. Whilst it wasn't as strong as Dallas, there was still a strong variety of action on display with a focus on telling stories and developing characters. With Takeover: Orlando during WrestleMania weekend so close and with only one hour a week to build, it certainly felt like there was one eye on that show here, but if this event ends up making that show even more compelling and dramatic then I'm all in. All three title pictures look more interesting than they did before and we got to watch some quality wrestling along the way.
Wrestling is good. Believe in wrestling.
Review - James Marston
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