NXT Takeover: Orlando (April 1, 2017)

NXT may be have cooled off in recent months, but their WrestleMania curtain-raiser was anything but cold. At least until the main event…

During the pre-show they aired footage from Axxess of No Way Jose being beaten up by SAnitY – that leaves Jose off the card, so it’s either going to be a handicap match, or Jose’ll be replaced with another partner. I wonder if they can find a hero?

Triple H voices over the Takeover intro from backstage, proclaiming “tonight is our night”. It’s the same sort of rabble rousing speech that we’ve heard before, ending with the line that “tonight… we are home”. Well, it is the closest they’ve been to Full Sail! We start with a video package highlighting NXT’s growth, seguing into the usual building up of tonight’s title matches.

SAnitY (Eric Young, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe & Nikki Cross) vs. Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno & Ruby Riot
SAnitY had the panda eye makeup going for them, whilst Wolfe was so insane he wore his own group’s t-shirt. The mystery man came out as Kassius Ohno, making his Takeover debut too!

We start with an all-out brawl with Ohno giving a discus boot to Dain at the start whilst Riot and Cross kept windmilling each other with punches. Cross misses a charge in the corner then gets her face driven into the middle turnbuckle with a modified headscissors as Riot wanted more… but instead Wolfe comes in as Riot’s forced to tag out. Kassius Ohno just punches Wolfe and Young as they arsed around, before a flip senton onto Wolfe gets him a near-fall. My Network feed pixels out like crazy, then recovers as we go to Strong elbowing Wolfe, before an Angle Slam (?!) and a uranage backbreaker sees Strong clear house!

In the end, Strong gets overwhelmed by the SAnitY numbers game as he’s left laying before Killian Dain comes in. Repeated elbows from Dain leave Strong laying, but Roddy hits an enziguiri and almost leaps over the big guy to make a tag, only to be flown into the corner with a shotgun dropkick. Strong’s kept isolated by SAnitY, who target Roderick’s arm before an elbow drop sees Tye Dillinger walk in to break up the pin.

Roderick tries to fire back with forearms, before Eric Young’s attempt at cutting off ends with him missing a corner dropkick. Tye finally tags in and clears out SAnitY, decking Wolfe with a DDT as Ruby Riot neutralised a run-in from Nikki Cross. Dillinger lands a crossbody off the top rope, then a tope to Young, only for his energetic spree to end with Dain attacking him from behind. It all goes wild on the floor, but Ohno handstands his way to the floor… only to get charged into the apron by Dain.

Ruby Riot teases a dive, but a Cross forearm ends that before Riot goes back to the catfight punches as those two roll to the outside. We’re back to Young and Dillinger in the ring, and Tye’s a house on fire, dropping Dain with a superkick for a near-fall, before Ohno knees Wolfe… Young catches Ohno with a neckbreaker, only for that wheelbarrow neckbreaker to be halted with a Sick Kick from Strong.

Roderick faces up to Dain now, but Cross and Riot piggyback their respective opponents with chokes. The rabid women continue to take aim at each other, ending with Cross taking a missile dropkick off the apron as Riot looked to whack herself on landing. Dillinger tries to go for the Tye Breaker (ushigoroshi), but Wolfe breaks that up as the Ulster Plantation seals the win for SAnitY. This was a wild riot, and a great car crash to open up the show. Not a blow-off by any means, but Riot/Cross and Ohno/Dain are two mouth-watering feuds for down the line. ***¾

Enzo Amore’s still hell-bent on making out with some KFC… we see Edge and Beth Phoenix in the crowd next, and we’re onto the next match!

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black
Not counting his surprise at the UK Championship Tournament finals (as Tommy End), this was Black’s NXT TV debut. Black’s entrance saw him rise from his back to his feet as if he were coming off his deathbed, and he’s got a custom chyron with the symbols that flip into his name.

We start with wristlocks and takedowns, before Almas leaps into the ropes to end a series of waistlock reversals. The crowd’s not liking this, and to be honest, I’m surprised it’s taking this long to see even a teased kick from Black. The Dutchman sends Almas to the outside, then backflips into a meditation, and now we’re going to the strikes! A combination of kicks takes down Almas, but “Cien” comes back with some strikes of his own to leave Black in the corner.

A rope-hung armbar gets Almas back in it, as does a missile dropkick, but Black comes back with more kicks and elbows to rock the Mexican, with a knee to the gut taking down the former La Sombra. Black connects with a moonsault off the middle turnbuckle to the floor, but when he returned to the ring, Almas threw in some kicks of his own.

Black knees Andrade as he comes into the ring, but that armbar’s tried again in the ropes… so Black just kicks his way free. A missile dropkick’s caught and turned into a powerbomb for a near-fall, but after kicking out Almas goes to a Fujiwara armbar, before he misses a charge into the corner. Of all things, Black almost wins with a small package, then gets sat down on a wheelbarrow roll-up for a near-fall as they knocked each other down with simultaneous kicks.

Almas takes Black into the corner for the rushing double knees, before setting up for a hammerlock DDT… but Black avoids it, only to get caught in a strait-jacket German suplex for a near-fall. Black comes back with a knee strike, then some stiff boots to the head, before finishing him off with the Black Mass roundhouse kick. A fine debut, although a weird match to debut in – Almas hasn’t been booked well enough for this to be anything other than a debut unless it was a squash, but they weren’t about to squash Almas either. A perfectly fine debut, but now we need to see what’s next for the former Tommy End. ***½

Elimination Match for NXT Tag Team Championship: The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. #DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) (c)
There was no Jim Cornette managing the Revival tonight, just in case anyone was thinking that could have happened. William Regal unveiled the new tag titles before the start of the match, and they look SWISH – almost remniscent of the TNA tag belts.

We started with both sets of challengers combining to lay into the Authors of Pain, with #DIY working over Akam whilst the Revival double-teamed Rezar. Gargano and Ciampa grab a table early to pop the crowd, but it’s not used as we end up with the Authors being laid out… and now the Revival stare down with #DIY and they go head to head! Double dropkicks take down the Revival, as Wilder takes a step-up forearm in the corner for a near-fall from Gargano. Ciampa tags in, but Akam also gets a blind tag and flattens Ciampa as the champions look to take over, mixing in some clubbing blows.

The Revival cower away from a tag as Ciampa looked for some respite, so he just gets clubbed again by the champs. When Ciampa does make a comeback, Dash Wilder forces a tag in as the Revival take over with an assisted legdrop that gets them just a one-count, and when Dawson tries to tag out, #DIY back away. Now Gargano tags in, and scores a slingshot spear for a near-fall on Dawson, before an up-kick to Wilder put the Revival ont he back foot. Gargano keeps up the pressure with a superkick off the apron as #DIY go flying! A slingshot DDT from Gargano gets a near-fall on Dawson, but Johnny’s quickly used by the Authors to block a tope from Ciampa – literally throwing Gargano into his partner’s path!

Gargano gets thrown into the Revival next, as the Authors tag themselves in to pick apart Johnny. Akam lifts up Gargano into a torture rack, before Johnny slips out and lands an enziguiri, only for his attempt to tag out fail as he instead shoves Akam into Dawson on the apron. Finally Ciampa gets the tag and flies in with clotheslines, then a big boot as he tries to knock Akam down, eventually succeeding with a German suplex! Another German takes Akam back to the mat, where a knee trembler almost eliminates the champions! That table comes into play as Rezar takes a sunset bomb from Ciampa – with the help of Gargano and the Revival!

The crowd go wild here, and now it’s just Akam left on his own against four men whilst Rezar pulls himself together. Akam’s quickly overwhelmed, but manages to knock down Ciampa and the Revival, who come back with a blind tag to hit a chop block on Akam, then an inverted figure four. Gargano rushes in to instinctively break it up, but then decides to throw in a Gargano Escape for the hell of it… but Akam resists two submissions as Rezar bulled his way back in to break it all up. The Revival worm out of a fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo as Rezar’s superkicked to the mat again, where he takes a #DIY superkick and knee from Gargano and Dawson. Ciampa and Wilder deliver a Shatter Machine to Akam as they mix up their finishers, and we’re back to #DIY vs. Revival…

Or are we? Yes we are! Gargano and Wilder break free of the pack to land a pair of topes to the Authors, and this is where I joined the match live, where we see Scott Dawson superplexing Tommaso Ciampa into the pile on the floor, before Rezar tags in and clotheslines Ciampa… the Last Chapter follows, and #DIY are the first team out! That’s not a popular elimination, and the Authors continue with something as my feed buffers. It recovers as Rezar chokeslams Dawson, who’s then set-up for the Last Chapter, but Dash Wilder sacrifices himself before Dawson rolls back on a sleeperhold to nearly win the match. A double powerbomb takes down the Revival, and we’re left with a prone Scott Dawson in the ring… to the point where he keeps collapsing every time he’s set up for a powerbomb.

Wilder holds Rezar back as Dawson small packages Akam for a near-fall, and the camera misses a pair of death valley drivers from the champions. A super collider follows, and the Authors of Pain retain. A hot start that held up – and despite the unpopular finish, this would end up being the match of the night. Good stuff, but we’ll hold off calling the AOP improved until they’ve had a few more matches against varied opposition. ****¼

NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon vs. Asuka (c)
One year ago, Asuka won the NXT title on the night before WrestleMania, beating Bayley. She’s still champion and still undefeated, and before the match, she handed in the title belt for a newer model, which had a bigger, shinier X in the middle, and looked like a cross between the old TNA X-Division belt and the old WCW World Heavyweight title strap.

Asuka starts out on fire with takedowns, but Ember more than matches her with armdrags and dropkicks as they seem evenly matched at the start. Plenty of shoving as both women are frustrated with the other, ending with an Asuka hip attack as she taunted Ember to go for a shoulder tackle. Ember thumbs her nose at Asuka before kicking her to the outside, but another hip attack leads to Moon bumping into the barriers. Back inside, Asuka nonchalantly boots away at Moon in the corner, before some spinning backfists take the challenger down, and it’s all Asuka here with kicks and hip attacks as Ember Moon’s left reeling.

Moon throws away from an Asuka lock and drills the champion to the floor with a forearm, before flying with her to the floor with an Ibushi-esque crossbody from the inside to the floor! Asuka’s rolled back inside, but she avoids an Eclipse, then shoves Ember down for a Shining Wizard for a near-fall. Another Asuka Lock’s rolled out of, but the champion holds onto it and traps Ember in the middle of the ring.

Ember holds on, but she looks to go limp and fall to the mat, before powering up and taking a back bump to free herself. Another hip attack misses, leading to Asuka taking a kick to the head as she was wedged in the ropes. A caught kick from Ember’s turned into a headscissor takedown, as the challenger strings together some moves ending with a fallaway slam!

Ember pops up and hits a handstand into a clothesline, before Asuka cuts off a springboard in the ropes, and turns it into a German suplex for a near-fall. Moon hits a rolling forearm, but Asuka pops back up, only to take a capture suplex from Moon, who rolls backwards to score a two-count out of it. Sensing an Eclipse, Asuka shoves the referee into the ropes to save herself, then scores a headkick to Moon to retain the title – and her undefeated streak. A great match that continued Asuka’s slow descent onto the other side of the good/evil divide. Rematch please! ****

Drew McIntyre was shown at ringside on NXT. Using that name. Guess someone’s had enough of the indys! Or specifically, one where he’d been in a months-long storyline to win a newly-created title, only to be written out of the match on show night!

NXT Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode (c)
Nakamura didn’t get a flashier entrance than usual, but he did get some new gear that made him look like a red and black tiger. A pair of grand pianos played out Bobby Roode, who wasn’t fading away and classifying himself as Obsolete, but rather… Glorious! The new NXT title looks a LOT like the women’s belt, but with a golden X instead of a silver one, so they’re going down that road, I guess.

Roode starts by grounding Nakamura in a headlock, but Shinsuke turns him around and mocks Roode after a clean break. Nakamura boots Roode away as he tried to proclaim “glorious”, and it’s all the challenger’s way from there as he takes Roode into the corner for some choking with a boot.

Nakamura tries to suplex Roode to the outside, but instead the champion lands a dropkick and shoves Nakamura into the guard rail with a shoulder tackle. More feed stuttering as we return to Roode chopping Nakamura in the corner, before we get a nerve hold out of the champion. A knee drop gets Roode a near-fall, but Nakamura starts to show signs of life, rolling away from a sleeperhold and then kicking Roode to the mat.

Some kicks from Nakamura take Roode into the corner, where he takes a running forearm before being sent to the floor. A Kinshasa-like knee rocks Roode on the apron, but Roode recovers back inside to hit a clothesline, only for Nakamura to land a dropkick… then get his knee chopped out as he went for a Kinshasa. Roode wraps Nakamura’s knee around the ringpost, then takes him back inside for a figure four to add some pressure to the knee. They roll over as Nakamura reverses it, but Roode grabs the ropes and keeps up the attack, only to get caught in an arm triangle by Nakamura. The move transfers into a cross armbreaker, but Roode gets the ropes, and Nakamura looks to kick the arm out of Roode from there, but he’s caught in a back cracker as Roode almost retained!

From there, the pair reel as they go back and forth with forearms, before Nakamura knees his way free from a Glorious DDT and follows up with a diving knee strike for a near-fall. Roode rolls to the floor to get some distance, and by the time he’d been thrown back in, he’d recovered enough to hit another Glorious DDT, this time for a two-count. Frustrated, Roode heads outside and grabs the ring bell, but the referee stops him from using it… that distraction allows Nakamura to hit an inverted Exploder, but the Kinshasa is turned into a spinebuster as Roode came close to retaining. Nakamura charges into the corner to avoid another Glorious DDT, but Roode hits another chop knock to the knee as he goes for a tornado into the Glorious DDT… and Roode retains! Well, as a match it was fine – nowhere near the levels of the main events that some fans would expect, with several dull moments. I’d expect that Nakamura’s getting called up, as two losses in a row leave him in the same boat as the Revival in terms of having nothing left to do in this roster. Let’s see… ***

Well, for a Takeover that felt flat coming in, it was a good show – plenty of great wrestling up and down the card, until the main event just seemed to send the crowd to sleep. It’s a shame, but this felt like the NXT equivalent of those late 90s WCW PPVs with fantastic undercards, an a passable main event.