WrestleMania weekend officially starts in the ring tonight, and BackBodyDrop.com – in conjunction with Wrestling-Online.com – brought you live coverage of an early candidate for show-of-the-year: NXT Takeover in Dallas, TX.
The main event tonight sees Finn Balor defend his NXT championship against Samoa Joe – four months on from their battle at NXT Takeover: London. Elsewhere, Bayley defends her NXT Women’s title against the undefeated Asuka, and former New Japan star Shinsuke Nakamura (curiously listed as just “Nakamura” in the WWE WrestleMania program) makes his NXT debut against Sami Zayn.
Elias Samson vs. Apollo Crews was apparently moved off of the Takeover show – so that leaves us with just the five matches on the main show. The other dark match saw Manny Andrade (the former La Sombra) face Christopher Girard (formerly Biff Busick).
No Triple H opening promo…
NXT Tag Team Titles: American Alpha vs. The Revival (c)
Gable and Jordan have matching tracksuits, and yes, they got the monster pop you’d expect. The Revival have new t-shirts too, and their WrestleMania (Weekend) gear… oh, and the chants we saw at Takeover: London made a welcome appearance (well, perhaps not the “Which One’s Dawson… Which One’s Dash?” chant)
After some cheap shots from the Revival earlier, it was all American Alpha, at least until Scott Dawson raked the eyes of Jason Jordan whilst the referee was distracted. Stereo back body drops gets Jordan a near-fall on Wilder, whilst some stereo German suplexes sent the champions rolling out of the ring for cover.
Wilder flattens Gable with a clothesline on the outside and the champions start to utilise quick tags to double-team the smaller Gable. Wilder locks in a cobra clutch on Gable, and manages to hold onto it as Gable tried to roll through, and when Gable looked like he’d made the hot tag, Jordan was yanked off the apron.
Dash and Dawson missed what looked like an assisted powerbomb – and the Dallas crowd quickly chanted “Botchamania” just in case you didn’t notice. Gable finally made the tag to Jordan after crawling through Dawson’s legs, and Jordan slats Wilder with a spear, then flattens Dawson with an Exploder suplex.
Wilder grabbed onto Dawson’s legs to save him from a pop-up belly to belly superplex, then used his neck towel to try and give Dawson a rope assist during a pinfall, but Jordan kicked out. More double teaming as Wilder connected with a European uppercut through the ropes on Jordan to give Dawson a two-count. Jordan avoids the Shatter Machine, and nails an overheard belly to belly on Dawson, before hitting the turnbuckle with a spear.
Gable sees a victory roll blocked by Dawson for a two-count, with a resulting roll-through getting another near fall as the pair trade wacky pinfall attempts for a series of two counts. Very reminiscent of the classic RVD/Jerry Lynn exchanges in ECW…. and after Jordan snuck in a blind tag, we had an assisted back suplex, and we have new tag team champions! A fun opener, with a lot of near-falls – what a way to get us going!
They show Jim Ross, Michelle Beadle and Kota Ibushi in the crowd applauding that match. One of those guys may very well be wrestling in NXT this summer… Oh, and the NXT UK tour got confirmed as the Download Festival, plus Dublin, Belfast, Plymouth and Bournemouth.
Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries
Corbin got his new gear, with some skulls attached to his biker-not-biker ring jacket, and judging from his entrance video, that looks to be an addition to his character. Aries got a decent pop for his NXT big match debut, and he immediately attacks Corbin at the bell.
They do some big man/little man stuff early on, with Corbin flipping Aries off his back, before a roaring forearm sends Corbin to the outside, where Aries connects with a double axehandle off the top rope.
Corbin skids Aries across the canvas and into the ringpost, shoulder-first, and that leads Corbin into the natural progression of a nerve hold. O-kay then…Corbin yells at the timekeeper to ring the bell, and my feed suddenly jumps a few seconds and drops in quality by like 75%?! C’mon WWE, not even New Japan World played this badly!
When my feed recovers, Aries wipes out Corbin with a tope, sending Corbin into the barriers, but Aries quickly runs into a Deep Six (spinning side slam) on the floor as Corbin returns to the ring to seek the count-out win. Aries just about makes it at the count of 9, and that seems to anger Corbin. Aries flips out of an End of Days, then rolls up Corbin out of nowhere for the win. Good match, but the stream issues kinda killed my enjoyment.
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Oh lord, the reaction just for Nakamura’s face appearing on the pre-match graphic! Scott Hall and X-Pac are shown in the crowd for the hell of it. This crowd is on fire just for Zayn’s arrival… and yep, they went ballistic for Nakamura! “Holy S***” chants, and yes, Nakamura kept his “Yea-Oh!” entrance! (side note: his music is already up on WWE’s YouTube channel…)
Duelling chants at the bell for this one, and I’m just going to let this sink in. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura on a WWE-promoted card…
Nakamura swings a knee at Zayn, who has to duck a few early kicks, before Zayn hits a rewind leapfrog as we start things off open… well, at least until Nakamura uses a snapmare to down Zayn and go to town with some kneedrops. Nakamura locks in a tight armbar (as the crowd chants “Shinsuke’s gonna kill you”), before an enziguiri sends a dazed Zayn into the corner.
A stiff forearm by Zayn sends Nakamura into the corner, before a dropkick gets him a near-fall. Nakamura replies with a running knee into the face of Zayn as he was on the apron, before going for another face-wash in the corner, and a Kinshasa (formerly the Bomaye knee strike) as Zayn was draped across the top turnbuckle. Zayn backs off from a charging Nakamura, and low-bridges him to the outside, before Zayn goes flying with a tope con hilo on the débutante.
Flying cross body of the top gets Zayn a two-count, but Nakamura counters a suplex by kneeing Zayn in the head, before drilling some more knees to the head of a grounded Zayn, who counters a rushing Nakamura with a Michinoku Driver-esque slam. Zayn and Nakamura go for the lesser-spotted yay/yay forearm strikes, which busts open Nakamura’s nose, as we see the referee sheepishly reach for the latex gloves.
Nakamura licks his own blood as he continues to lay in the knees on Zayn who’s caught in the ropes, and after being cleaned up by the referee, Zayn turns Nakamura inside out with a lariat. That might get the blood flowing again. Another clothesline, but Nakamura catches Zayn with a flipping armbar, but Zayn keeps the grip, only for Nakamura to transition it into a triangle. Zayn counters by stacking him up and kicking away at Nakamura’s head, before repeatedly kicking him into the ropes for good measure.
Zayn catches Nakamura in the Koji clutch as the crowd chants “please don’t tap! at Nakamura, who rolls up for a near-fall whilst in the submission. Zayn elbows out of a back suplex attempt, but eats the turnbuckle as he tries a Helluva kick. Nakamura with the old Regalplex (inverted exploder), before missing a Kinshasa as Zayn retaliates with a Blue Thunder bomb for a very close fall. Good luck topping this match guys!
Zayn goes running for his through-the-corners DDT, but all he gets is the boot of Nakamura as he went flying. Nakamura fights out of a superplex attempt, and kicks Zayn to the mat, but another Kinshasa attempt sees Zayn block it and try the Exploder suplex, which is also blocked. Kinshasa off the top rope to the back of the head by Nakamura! A standard Kinshasa and Shinsuke Nakamura wins on his debut!
Absolutely awesome match that lived up to the hype – and I’m sad that they couldn’t “fight forever” as the Dallas crowd wanted. They let moves sink in, rather than fall for the typical “spot-spot-spot” that you’d expect from a match of this ilk. With any luck, Nakamura won’t be forced to change too much, but don’t expect everyone else on the roster to be as willing as Zayn to adapt to Nakamura’s Strong-Style, err, style. Good luck to everyone else wrestling this weekend trying to live up to this!
Nakamura and Zayn shake hands afterwards, and that looks to be all she wrote for Sami Zayn in NXT now he’s been called up. Zayn gets nothing but “Ole” chants from the Dallas crowd as he soaks in the atmosphere in the ring for perhaps the last time in NXT.
Stephanie McMahon is shown on screen, and gets booed. Not sure that was a wise call…
NXT Women’s Title: Asuka vs. Bayley (c)
Asuka gets showered in cherry blossom for her entrance, and the wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubemen get a loud pop too! Bayley came out in a jacket that brought back memories of Sting out of the early 1990s, for those of you watching WCW then. Interestingly, both women got a smattering of boos amongst the cheers, and of course, the “Hey Bayley” chants from England made it to Dallas.
Asuka stuns Bayley with a shot to the jaw in the early going, but after ducking a high kick, Bayley gets taken down with a shoulder block. Asuka knocks Bayley to the apron with a hip attack, before missing with a second-one as Bayley sidestepped it. A flying cross body off the top gets Bayley a two-count, but Asuka catches Bayley with a Fujiwara armbar as she tried to connect with a low dropkick.
Bayley catches Asuka in the tree of woe, and comes off the bottom rope with an elbow drop to get a two-count, as Bayley reverts to a guillotine to try and get a submission win. Bayley mounts Asuka (not like that), but Asuka spins out and ties up the champion with an ankle lock, but she’s able to break free, before slingshotting herself out of the ropes and taking Asuka down with a headscissors.
Back in the ring, Bayley drills Asuka with forearms, but Asuka returns fire with some knees to the chest, and a missile dropkick off the top to lead up to some more leg kicks to the chest. Bayley catches a high kick from Asuka and locks in a kneebar, Asuka gets free, but Bayley knees away at the legs to try and neutralise those kicks… and just like that, Asuka catches Bayley in an armbar (a la Nakamura), and rolls her into the middle of the ring. Bayley ducks some more kicks and catches a small package on Asuka for the near-fall, then catches Asuka in a Rings of Saturn-like submission which is rolled into another near-fall.
Asuka blocks the Bayley-to-Belly, and lays in a spinning back kick to Bayley’s midsection, before a suplex and another armbar. Asuka goes for the Asuka lock, and keeps it locked as Bayley goes for the ropes, and yet again as Bayley fought her way up, only for Asuka to ground her a second time. The referee’s checking on Bayley… and we have a ref stoppage! Asuka is the new champion!
The crowd really doesn’t know how to react to that, apart from cheering Asuka when she got the belt. I guess this means Bayley’s going up to the main roster? Bayley sells her neck by the ring apron afterwards as the still-undefeated Asuka walks away with the title, giving us plenty of lingering shots of a forlorn Bayley. Another good match, even if the crowd were quiet for the start of it after their exertions for Zayn/Nakamura.
Bobby Roode is shown in the crowd… the reactions keep getting better! I guess he’s next up for the NXT title scene?
NXT World Title: Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor (c)
Balor’s in his Demon gear tonight… and he’s got Dean Ambrose’s chainsaw! Holy hell, it’s a live chainsaw… but it does mean that Balor can’t do his arm raising intro, but if it means we can reference the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then what the hey?
After an initial flurry, Joe throws Balor out of the ring at the start, and Joe is already bleeding. From his own headbutt to Balor in the early going… That’s the second time that the referees have had to get the gloves out, but Drake Wuertz is delayed in his attempts to clean up Joe as Finn goes flying and takes him out… at least until Joe dumps Balor into the crowd with a hiptoss over the guard railings.
Joe uses his own towel to wipe away his bloodied eyebrow, as Finn rises from the crowd and takes down Joe with a shot off the barricade. Joe pushes away the referee as he tries to clean him up some more, and Joe slaps Balor so hard I’m convinced he’s trying to get double blood here. A tope through the ropes sends Balor into the guard rails, as a pair of doctors (instead of one ref) tends to Joe, as the crowd boo.
Joe is an absolute mess, but that adds to the “Joe’s gonna kill you” vibe, and they’re pausing the match to let the doctors try and close the cut that’s above Joe’s right eye. The ever-so-caring crowd chant “f*** PG”, and a now-cleaned up Joe goes back to face-washing Balor in the corner. A dropkick from Balor sends Joe down, and the crowd is booing every time the medical staff come to clean up Joe.
Seriously guys, “let them bleed” chants? In 2016?
Balor downs Joe with a trio of flying forearms, and he follows up with chops and a kick that knocks Joe off the top rope to the floor, where Finn follows up with a running kick on the apron. Joe blocks the Slingblade and counters with an overhead suplex for a near-fall. Balor misses a dropkick, which gives Joe a chance to splatter him with a senton for another two-count. Joe gets another two from a powerbomb, before twisting into the Boston Crab, then the crossface submissions sequence. Balor escapes and drills Joe with a double stomp, but Joe catches Balor up top with a Muscle Buster… and Finn kicks out at two!
Joe runs into a Balor forearm, and they revert back to trading slaps… guess Joe wants to bleed some more? Balor knocks Joe down with the Pele kick, and the Demon wakes up! Dropkicking Joe into the corner, he sets up for the Coup de Grace and plants Joe with it. Balor went for the Bloody Sunday, but Joe slips out and locks in the Kokina clutch… Finn makes it to the ropes and mounts the turnbuckles, Bret Hart style, and gets the pin out of nowhere on Joe to retain!
Despite the “medical interference” that was a good match, but a solid number three behind Nakamura/Zayn and the Bayley/Asuka match.
Overall, an amazing show, with every match offering something different – and crucially, kept the crowd live for the entire evening. WWE’s going to have a hell of a job on their hands coming close to this on Sunday. I’ll be back for live WrestleMania updates on Sunday night, with updates on Saturday and Sunday of the various indy shows I’ll be catching on-demand (sleep wins that battle, I’m afraid)… so don’t you dare miss it!