– The original title for the column was 11 Reasons Why ‘The Best And Worst Of NXT Takeover Fatal 4 Way’ Is The Future Of Wrestling Columns. What Culture rejected it for being “too difficult.”
– Here’s a direct link to the show on the WWE Network, for your convenience.
– Be sure you’re reading our retro recap of NXT season 3. The show wasn’t always this good.
– Comments, likes, shares and other things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of NXT Takeover Fatal 4 Way. It’s fatal in four ways!
Best: THE LUCHA PALS
Man, I got this all wrong.
If you read my predictions or listened to my roster grading on the Have A Nice Day podcast, I predicted Bayley winning the NXT Women’s Champion and Adrian Neville losing to anybody in the main. The Ascension were the only champs I picked to retain. I should’ve went all the way with it and predicted Bull and Mojo to go Broadway.
That’s one thing I love about NXT, though: I have no idea what they’re doing. That’s part of what makes it so much fun. If someone debuts on Raw and has an instant hook — Adam Rose, Stardust, Bo — you know they’re gonna be nothing BUT that hook until the crowd refuses them. Even if that happens, they might be Fandango and drag it out another year and a half. On NXT, compelling characters debut, change and evolve. They move forward. If you’re predicting a WWE pay-per-view, it’s usually very easy. You just remember what they’ve done before and reapply it. WWE’s main roster works on a cycle, and you can usually predict wins and losses based on the characters’ plans for the next month. On NXT, there’s no “ending” and no spot to protect. Everyone’s working toward the goal of becoming a WWE Superstar on the main roster, so the plans and actions and happenings on NXT can be dynamic. They can go anywhere, and wrestlers can do anything. Because of this, more emphasis is put on character motivation and consistency. One thing causes another all the way down until your regressive wrestling show for stupid people and babies has become mainstream North American wrestling’s last little utopia. The problems zipper up and fix themselves.
So yeah, the Lucha Dragons knocking off The Ascension was a welcomed surprise, and I’m excited about two things:
Best: And Now, An Actual NXT Tag Team Division
1. Never having to hear “this tag team won a match, DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS THEY’VE GOT A CHANCE TO BEAT THE ASCENSION” again. When Renee stopped Sin Cara and Kalisto on the stage I swear to God I thought she was gonna ask them whether or not they could beat The Ascension.
2. A real NXT tag team division.
Think about it. Since the Wyatt Family moved up to Raw (and before that, honestly), NXT’s tag team division has been built around one strong heel team fighting off a bunch of unqualified challengers. The Ascension are big, WWE TV-ready guys who don’t really fit the indie super-mold NXT’s started building characters from, so they’ve felt a little tacked-on. They had the tag team titles because I guess NXT needs tag team titles.
While I’m not sure I would’ve picked Sin Cara and Kalisto to be the team to anticlimactically beat the longest reigning champions in WWE in the opening match of the show, them holding the tag straps opens up so many possibilities. Now it’s not just “who can beat the champs?” It’s champions who could win or lose ANY match. You can’t throw The Mechanics or The Vaudevillains or Wesley Blake’s Dumb Wolves against The Ascension. It wouldn’t work. But the Lucha Dragons? The Lucha Dragons can wrestle anybody and the drama will be there. Simon Gotch can pin Sin Cara. Scott Dawson could hit Kalisto with something and pin him. The belts could go anywhere at any time, and seeing people actively fight to keep them instead of lazily trouncing local talent with history’s weakest Total Elimination should be a huge improvement.
Best: Baron Leaves A Corbin Footprint
If you’d told me on Wednesday that CJ Parker vs. Baron Corbin was a match on NXT’s live special I probably would’ve stuck my finger down my throat. Even after the preview episode where Baron Corbin’s riding a motorcycle. I am not interested in Custom Chucky P’s alty little brother.
Then, THIS happened.
Baron Corbin (the Baron Corbin from NXT Takeover, at least) is the character Bull Dempsey should’ve been from the start. Instead of looking like a guy cosplaying a wrestler and cutting huffy-puffy promos about being the LAST OF A DYING BREED, he should’ve been quiet, physically commanding and quick to murder any stupid throwaway character that crosses his path. If Bull had just shown up, headbutted Corey Graves to death and bailed, he’d probably be my favorite wrestler. Instead, he came packaged with wacky nicknames and a singalong entrance theme. Baron Corbin? Baron Corbin just showed up, put CJ Parker in the f*cking ground and took off. That’s how you do it.
There’s a value in leaving a crowd wanting more. It’s what got Goldberg so over during the early days of his streak in WCW. We weren’t tuning in to see Goldberg ask “who’s next” and get into stories about cattle prods, we wanted to see him enter the ring, dismantle Jerry Flynn in 30 seconds and leave. He wasn’t interested in screwing around and wasting our time, he was just very strong and very good at this. If Corbin can stay cool by being the guy who doesn’t really say or do much, he’s money.
I reserve the right to throw him under the bus if he shows up next Thursday yelling about the BARON WASTELAND.
Best: The Legionnaires Disco Theme
There were a few new entrance themes last night. Bayley’s was the most notable, as she dropped her placeholder music for an Owl City/Carly Rae Jepsen soundalike. Not sure how I feel about it yet, but it’s Bayley, so I’ll learn to love it. My FAVORITE new theme of the night was Sylvester LeFort and his DISCO BREAKDOWN. I don’t know why evil French guys are asking the audience to pay attention and then blasting disco, but it works. I am way too interested in the Legionnaires’ personal lives.
Also great: ‘SAWFT Is A Sin,’ which now has a TitanTron video that looks like ‘The Wire’s’ opening credits. Every NXT star should sing their entrance theme. It should be part of the Performance Center curriculum.
Worst: This May Have Been A Little Much
Aside from the two squashes, this was our breather match. It wasn’t ever going to be a clinic — Enzo Amore and Sylvester LeFort aren’t exactly Sami Zayn and Cesaro — but they had fun and did their thing. The worst match on NXT is still usually pretty good. I’m not sure I loved how heelish Enzo and Cass were, though. Yeah yeah, here comes Moral Compass Brandon Stroud again, sorry everybody.
Enzo won the match by holding LeFort’s tights. After the match, LeFort runs away, so the faces (and the announce team) decide “somebody’s gotta lose their hair,” so they beat up Marcus Louis and dump the mysterious Carmella hair removal potion on his head. He runs away and they play to the crowd a bunch, and that appears to be that … but then later they hunt the Legionnaires down backstage, beat up Louis AGAIN, drag him out into the ring and expose his baldness to the crowd. He runs away and they pose more. Isn’t that a little much?
I mean, it’s not something I’m bent out of shape about. The Legionnaires jumped Enzo for basically no reason and tried to shave him first, and this is really their first opportunity to get revenge for that. LeFort bailed because Louis attacked them, so attacking Louis back makes sense, too. When they’re hunting them down backstage they’re looking for LeFort to make him honor the stipulation of the match, and Louis ends up the fall guy again. So they’ve got reasons for it all, I was just starting to get a little bummed out about it the fourth time they posed for the crowd. The Legionnaires are the biggest jobbers on the planet, they don’t need to be taken down THAT many pegs, do they?
Yeah though, Marcus Louis going full Schlitzie was pretty funny.
Best: My TitanTron Is The One That Says ‘Bad Motherf*cker’ On It
To answer a quick question I’ve been asked several times since Takedown aired, the hero KENTA is paying homage to with the name Hideo Itami is “WWE copyright.”
Now, if I may type holy crap 100 times in a row, the KENTA segment. It starts with William Regal introducing him, which is a huge upgrade from Ric Flair because it’s not 1989. Regal’s the GM, after all, he’s the guy who SHOULD be introducing NXT’s Next Breakout Star. KENTA shows up, speaks a little Japanese to the people watching for the first time on Japanese television and announces his name change. First of all, big ups to the good apples in the Full Sail crowd who shut down random “CM PUNK” chants and wanted to drag that guy who yelled YOSHI TATSU into the parking lot and beat him with a curtain rod. You’re soldiers in an important fight and I appreciate you. (Stop calling Sasha Banks ‘ratchet.’) Second of all, I hate the name change as much as anyone, but if you’re gonna have a well-known puroresu star show up with a new name, having him debut as the thing he’s known for and change it himself (with an explainable reason) is LOVELY. That’s all you’ve ever needed to do. “I’m known as this, but since I’m starting over, I’m now gonna be known as this.” If we can accept a wrestler suddenly spelling his name in all caps, we can accept ‘Hideo Itami.’
SO~! After that, THE ASCENSION shows up, shitcans Itami (sorry if I type “KENTA” for a few months, I’ll eventually work through it) and demands a tag title rematch. Before they can even get the words out, Itami’s back in the ring, taking off his jacket. ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW. Cesaro proved that calmly taking off one’s jacket is the most badass thing a wrestler can do, so having this tiny Japanese man disrobe and start KICKING THE F*CK out of your two biggest, strongest guys is INCREDIBLE. CAPITAL LETTERS. He shitcans THEM, grabs a chair, SITS IN IT and tells them to bring it on. Regal snickers in the background because he knows how rad this is.
I’m with you, Mr. Regal. I couldn’t have loved this more. Can’t wait to see him blister Tye Dillinger or whomever next Thursday.
Best: Hahaha Well Shit, All Right
Worst: This Video Package Is Great But I Am Not Emotionally Prepared For Bayley Crying
1. I hear you, ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ music.
2. BAYLEY NO, WHY ARE YOU CRYING, STOP CRYING.
Caring about the well-being of a fictional character so much it ruins your day is stupid, and the best stupid thing about pro wrestling. The first time we saw the video package was during the pre-show, between Jason Albert speaking Japanese because he’s excited about KENTA and Sasha Banks almost Boss-Locking Alex Riley for being an idiot. Like Bayley herself, it was a sincere, emotional core in the center of absurdity.
The best thing about pro graps right now is WWE’s mission statement of signing amazing pro wrestlers to developmental and nurturing them there for a hot minute until they’ve learned WWE style without fully compromising what made them worth signing in the first place. They still hire models and body builders and ex-football players with the dexterity of a couch, but NXT’s full of talent from England, Japan, PWG, SHIMMER and pretty much anywhere else great wrestling independent of The WWE Style might exist. So when you see someone like Bayley with tears in her eyes talking about how she wants to be the best more than anything, you can believe her. She’s been in Big Time Wrestling. NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. Shine. She’s feuded with the Canadian Ninjas. Killed herself to get in the best shape and learn the most she could for six years. She means it. She’s not in a ‘Stand Up For WWE’ promotional video or an episode of ‘Total Divas,’ wiping away a dry tear and saying she wants this “so bad.”
Don’t get me wrong. Those people have a place in wrestling, too. I just feel more empathy for the ones whose journeys didn’t begin and end with “being sent to the audition by my agency.”
Best: BIG MATCH BAYLEY
My heart is breaking and the match hasn’t even started.
Best/Worst: A Great Match That Makes Me Feel Terrible
This match hurt my heart a lot, but I’m not sure it could’ve been better.
The kayfabe result of a wrestling match hasn’t affected me this much in a while. As wrestling fans (and especially as guys who snarkily write about it for a living), we’re quick to see wins and losses as “decisions.” Somebody in a writer’s room said “this person should win” and it was filtered through Triple H, Vince McMahon and whoever else decides who’s in the dog house and who isn’t. Who shook whose hand. Who said the right thing. Who is trusted and who isn’t. Then we worry about egos and buyrates and blah blah blah. Shit we have no reason worrying about.
This match made me feel like I was 6-years old again, crying in the nosebleeds at the Greensboro Coliseum because the Midnight Express cheated to beat my favorites.
Aside from the melodrama of me getting lost in the high art of America’s lowest art, it was a good goddamn wrestling match. Charlotte is the genetically superior, second-generation Women’s Champion. She showed up green, got better than everyone almost instantly and let it go to her head. She’s a Flair, so she’s never learned to be a good person. Her opponent is Bayley. She gives headbands to kids with disabilities. She watches cartoons and thinks it’s cool to meet WWE Superstars. She wasn’t really born with anything, but all she’s ever learned is to be a good person. She’s got none of Charlotte’s gifts, but she’s trying SO HARD, and she BELIEVES IN HERSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME and I can’t even type about this without getting stupid in my heart.
That’s the story they tell. Charlotte has shown nothing but disrespect for Bayley, but by the time the match starts, she actually kinda likes her. When she tells Bayley to stand down or get destroyed, she’s doing it from a good place. She honestly doesn’t want to have to wreck this poor little nice girl. Bayley’s got confidence and won’t let reality or niceties stop her from trying to validate it. She has to prove that she’s as good as her heart and brain suddenly tell her she is by beating this tall, perfect, historically-significant blonde. She has to defeat the woman she’ll never be. The woman she wishes she was. As the match progresses, the story intensifies. Bayley won’t give up. Charlotte keeps wrecking her and wrecking her and Bayley keeps kicking out. Charlotte hits a moonsault, Bayley kicks out, and they exchange a look so smothered in pathos and significance that it in one crystalized moment expresses everything right with pro wrestling, and with the women’s wrestling NXT produces. WWE likes to say they “tell stories” in the ring. This is them really doing it.
There’s so much to love. Charlotte’s cutter getting a new, much-better name (‘Natural Selection’). Bayley’s new entrance gear and theme happening because she knows this is the most important night of her life. All the hype. The hurried transitions. The facial expressions. A crowd that NEEDS this woman to win. The post-match stuff with Charlotte showing she respects Bayley without actually showing it. The cruelty of Sasha Banks, who is great at what she does but fractured and flawed because she’s never put enough wins together to step into a spotlight. The BAYLEYCANRANA:
It wasn’t as “good” on paper as Paige vs. Emma or Charlotte vs. Natalya, but it had a raw emotion and gravity that neither of those matches could touch. It was women’s wrestling. More importantly, it was wrestling. And I’m gonna be wrecked about it for days.
Best: Tyler Breeze’s Harem Of Assistants He Hates
Next week I hope he throws his phone at them.
Breeze having a full staff of cronies as his manager should be the next step in the character’s evolution. Sorta like a functional Rosebuds that he hates having to have around. They should bring in David Tutera and have him get stressed out because Tyler hates his concept for an upcoming match.
Best: How The Hell Did They Top Themselves?
One word to describe this match: BONKERS. No, no other word. Just “bonkers.”
Unlike Bayley vs. Charlotte, I didn’t care who won. Any of these guys could be great going forward. If Tyson Kidd wins, he reaches MAXIMUM SMUGNESS as a 10-year vet lording a developmental title reign over a bunch of rookies to prove to people he’s as good as his wife. If Breeze wins, he checks himself out in the reflection of the belt and settles in to a run that proves he’s secretly one of the best workers in the company. If Zayn wins? That new batch of talent can show up and wrestle some of the best matches you’ve ever seen. Zayn vs. Devitt? Zayn vs. Hideo Itami? Zayn vs. Kevin Steen? Steen is never, ever as good as when he’s in the ring with him. If Neville retains he’s conquered all os his early challengers and can move on to the next phase of his title reign.
By the end of the match, though? I cared as much as I cared about Bayley. That’s how good this match was.
Tyler Breeze was HOT FIRE in this match. The sequence where he Beauty Shots Zayn out of nowhere, hits a superkick on Kidd and dropkicks Adrian Neville out of the air was an incredible nearfall. Kidd showed the value of being a veteran by gluing everything together, making sure everyone was in the right place at the right time. Sami Zayn once again proved that his greatest talent is in making you forget you’re thinking about wrestling so you can FEEL it. If you weren’t excited when he knocked Neville into the crowd with a dive, took out Breeze with the tornado DDT through the corner ropes and started beating his chest like a gorilla, you might not be alive.
As for Neville … God, I didn’t think I could ever feel as much emotion toward the guy as I did when he pulled the referee out of the ring instead of breaking up the pin. I wanted to dive through the ropes and knock him into the crowd MYSELF. What’s great about it is that he was basically pulling heel moves, but the crowd would react to them differently based on the context. Why’s it bad that he pulled out the referee instead of breaking up the pin on Zayn, but fine when he dives into the ring and stops Breeze from tapping instead of breaking up Kidd’s Sharpshooter? I don’t know, BUT IT IS. IT’S SO BAD.
NXT’s important show introduced new characters, gave new motivations to old ones, showed the world that sex and gender have never limited the scope or impact of amazing pro wrestling storytelling and did it all with two hours of really good wrestling matches. It’s my favorite thing in the world and I can’t wait until Takeover 3: The Takeovering.
Sorry, I say “I?” I meant Buzzfeed.
Buzzfeed can’t wait.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
You just *know* that all of his cats are named Tyson Kitt
So, who had money on Sin Cara being the first main roster guy to win an NXT title?
“I’m Enzo Amore. I was diagnosed as dyslexic and illiterate. And you can’t teach that!”
What’s that on the side of Amore’s head? S.P.A.W.T.S SPPPPPAAAWWWWTTTTTSS
KENTA’s new name is a Kojima tribute.
He will spend half of his matches hiding inside of a cardboard box
HIDEO killed the IWC Star
WWE acknowledged the Buzzfeed article, maybe Buzzfeed will follow suit and acknowledge whoever they stole the article from.
Charlotte is Summer Rae after she gets a Venom injection.
When Bayley wins the title they need to draw title belts on the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men.
I see Tyson has has Nattie cancelling headphones with him.
Thanks, everybody. See you back here next week for a regular episode of NXT, okay? Okay?