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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable.
Best: I’ve Fallen And I Kenta Get Up
News broke about Hideo Itami’s year-ending shoulder injury a couple of weeks ago, but they continued to advertise him until showtime. The good news is that they saved it so they’d have a great out, and the presentation really brought it home.
So yeah, a “member of the WWE Universe” was using TECHNOLOGY to record his Full Sail parking lot interaction with Enzo and Big Cass (because that’s what people do in 2015) when he hears screams, and jogs over to find Hideo Itami laid out and holding his shoulder. Trainers run over and do the GET BACK thing, and Kevin Owens walks by. “That’s a shame.” Isn’t it funny how the one guy in the No. 1 contender triple threat match who said he specifically wanted to fight Kevin Owens ended up brutally injured with Kevin Owens nearby?
I love everything about it, as it furthers the trend of Owens not only defeating his championship challengers, but trying to end their careers. Itami’s on the shelf for the rest of 2015, Sami Zayn’s in a constant state of helplessness … maybe Finn Bálor’ will leave the next live special with bat wings and spinal horns shoved up his ass. I also loved the explanation for why a camera would have been in the parking lot. It’s so easy to justify that kind of thing these days because everybody has cameras and tapes everything, but for some damn reason we’re always stuck backstage looking just-offscreen and watching wrestlers pretend nobody can see them.
Best: Team Breezy
The Demon Bálor is great and all, but entrance of the night goes to Tyler Breeze in a walk. In a … uh, catwalk.
If you missed it, Breeze had a group of models cosplaying him and running Periscope so he could not only see himself on a phone, but see himself on ALL the phones. The minimalist video screen with fashion-show information made it even better. If you read my recap of the match and think, “wow, this guy’s an asshole, how could he not like Finn Bálor,” don’t be alarmed, I am simply Team Breezy for life. They could put Tyler Breeze in a match with a Make-A-Wish kid and I’d root for Tyler.
Best: F*ck Finn Bálor
Kidding. Totally kidding.
Bálor is the best. He’s a ready-made star and cool as sh*t and everything you could want from a WWE Superstar besides “height” and “common American accent.” He also happens to be the most overpowered character in NXT history, and when you paint him up like Michonne wearing the Carnage symbiote it gets even worse. The Beauty Shot is one of the most protected finishes in the promotion, and Bálor kicked out of one after being sent into an exposed turnbuckle. Bálor is at least more powerful than the Ryback. ALREADY.
Watching Breeze try to beat him is like watching Darren Young try to beat Brock Lesnar. The Demon actually decreases the drama of the match, I think, because it’s an automatic win. If they have somebody say “f*ck your demon” and pin him, they’ve killed the specialness of it. I guess we’ll find out for sure when he breaks out a Godzilla head and tail for Owens.
In all seriousness, though, the match was great. Breeze is NXT’s go-to guy for having great, WWE-style matches with guys who aren’t necessarily accustomed to WWE-style matches. I wouldn’t be surprised if Samoa Joe’s first victory is over Breeze, because that’s the role he’s best for, and because “Tyler Breeze keeps getting overshadowed by entitled randos from other companies” is one of the most compelling (and probably accidental) undercurrents of NXT storytelling.
Best: The Mountain
Although they probably won’t let him be “The Mountain.” They’ll run him through the NXT name generator and call him something stupid like “Gregor Clegane.”
Now all I want is to watch him crush Creepy Greg’s head in front of that lady with the sign.
Best: A Perfectly Fine Match
We had a lot of ideas about the Bayley and Charlotte vs. Dana Brooke and Evil Emma tag match in our Unstoppable predictions, mostly revolving around Emma’s motivations, Dana Brooke’s inevitable future and Bayley being the updated girl version of Sting. As it turns out … none of them were accurate, not even the parts where we’re like, “the heels should win because of course they should?” Nope. Charlotte and Bayley win clean. Nothing happens. It’s fine.
My only complaint I guess is that Charlotte pinned Emma, which is the least desirable finish. If Emma pins Bayley, she further proves her point about Bayley needing a mean streak and not being good enough to make it. If Emma pins Charlotte, she’s toppled the most dominant Diva in the company and re-established herself as a legitimate threat. If Dana Brooke pins anybody, it furthers her nuclear heat with people like me and adds some validation to her otherwise pointlessly-arrogant complaints. If she pins Charlotte specifically, she continues their beef beyond “you were in a commercial I wanted to be in.” That actually goes somewhere. If Bayley pins Dana Brooke, she gets retribution for the stunt Emma pulled on her a few weeks ago. If Bayley pins Emma, she’s making a statement about how she can do things the right way and still rise to the top, and that Emma’s just jaded.
If Charlotte pins Emma, nothing happens and nothing changes. Charlotte pinned Emma. So …?
Worst: Corbin vs. Rhyno
One of the things I like about our precious little Wednesday night paradise of progressive and Actually Entertaining pro wrestling (read: NXT and Lucha Underground) is that when things are bad, they aren’t that bad. They’re either a total anomaly that gets fixed — the Angelico/Ivelisse match that LU eventually spun into gold, for example — or they’re just not as good as everything else. That’s what Corbin/Rhyno was. Just not as good as everything else.
I don’t want to make the “what was the point of this” point twice in a row about an NXT live special, but it just wasn’t much of anything. It was Corbin/Dempsey with a bigger name, and not as much organic growth. The story of Corbin/Dempsey is that they were two of the same breed. They were “unstoppable monsters” plowing through the lower-tier NXT talent, on a collision course with one another. Only one of those types can survive at a time, you know? So they start getting in each others’ faces for a few weeks, brawl a few times and have the match. Corbin beats him with authority, and Dempsey just kinda turns into Play-Doh. The Corbin/Rhyno feud is the exact same thing, minus the time and the motivation. They’re two guys plowing through lower-tier NXT talent, and then one week they’re like, “hey, we should fight each other.” Then they do? It’s just basic.
I’m mostly upset that they didn’t do the finish I wanted, which seemed to be the only reason the feud existed. Rhyno finishes people by running at them headfirst. Corbin finishes people by having them run at him headfirst so he can catch them and slam them. Isn’t the finish Rhyno running at him with a Gore and getting caught in the End of Days? How do you not DO that? Could they just not work out the timing? I guess “punch” is just as good.
Best: Kevin Owens Vs. Creepy Greg
“Sorry to bother you…”
“Well then you did it anyway. You’re sorry but you still bother me. That’s nice.”
Kevin Owens and Devin Taylor should become best friends and never talk to these people again.
Best: A GIRL LIKES US, WE ARE SO INTO GIRLS YOU GUYS, HERE’S PROOF
Blake & Murphy retained the tag team championships against The Realest Guys In The Room, and it was without a doubt the best Enzo Amore match I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a better role for him in life, much less in pro wrestling. They’ve built him as this little weirdo prop guy who runs his mouth but can barely wrestle. His finish is tagging in his partner, and their tag team finish is his partner throwing him. He basically does nothing. In the finishing stretch here, the drama isn’t whether Cass and Enzo can come back, it’s if Cass can help Enzo recover enough to get into position to do the moves. It’s great. What’s also great is that everybody knows this is how Enzo rolls, so when he actually DOES break out something (like that gorgeous jumping DDT off the second rope) it gets over huge.
I liked the finish enough as well, with Bliss formally getting involved and joining Blake & Murphy’s dubstep and pigtails squad. I want her to go full raver next week. I don’t care if it’s an outdated 90s version of it like Solomon Crowe’s hacker, either. Just give her some glow-stick necklaces and a pacifier and have her join in with the leapfrogging. The pairing makes sense, right? Blake & Murphy love dubstep and epileptic seizures, so of COURSE they’d bond with the lady who can sneeze glitter.
I also really want to see an Enzo vs. Alexa Bliss match. Not a joke.
Worst: Eva Marie
Eva Marie gets announced as “one of the stars of Total Divas” and given a “hey, look who’s in the crowd” moment. Why? Because she’s not even a wrestler anymore. There are LOTS of wrestlers at the wrestling show. Nobody’s panning over to The Miz during Raw and having him wave to the crowd as “the star of Christmas Bounty.”
This had to be on purpose. If they bring her back as a super worker and team her with Dana Brooke, the world might explode.
Best/Worst: Steampunk Becky Lynch
THIS ISN’T EVEN HER FINAL FORM!
Becky Lynch started as Extremely Irish, evolved into a lady who likes rock music and owns a lot of plaid (?) and is now steampunk. She shows up with bright orange hair, goggles and pillars of steam, because why not? Nobody’s explaining why she’s suddenly like this, but if you’re a dork who likes wrestling today you’ve probably told someone she looks like Chandra Nalaar from Magic: The Gathering. I have no idea what that is, because I would never make such an uncool reference.
Best: Match Of The Night
The disconnect between women’s wrestling in WWE and women’s wrestling on NXT is so absurd, but it’s been that way for a long time now. I’m pretty OK with it, as long as NXT continues to be a thing that exists, and Sasha Banks sticks around in developmental long enough for NXT to officially become its own brand and stop being a thing people get “called up” from.
The story, obviously, is the quest for submissions. Becky breaks arms for a living now and has gotten one-ups on Sasha in the past by snatching her in quick arm bars, so that’s her plan. She almost gets Sasha early, leading to one of those wonderful moments where Sasha is a fragile, vulnerable soul trapped in the body of a Boss. Notice how Sasha always looks worried? It’s because she’s basically fighting Captain Marvel.
She’s also smart, so she does her homework. She knows what Becky’s gonna do, so she works her arm. It’s an insult. It’s an “anything you can do, I can do better.” It also ties into the finish, thank God, with Sasha hitting that rad Alberto Del Rio armbreaker off the top rope and floating over into the Bossface. The submission doesn’t have anything to do with the arm, but the setup to it did, and it’s believable that Becky would be in so much arm pain that she’d be more willing to give up, or that she’d lose an option for escaping.
Just great, great stuff all around. Becky having the crowd chant her entrance theme after the match was a great moment, too. I’m glad we got a hug between the performer and her audience instead of the Show Of Respect they do a little too much.
Best, But Also Worst: Way To Go, Sami
Man, Sami Zayn.
When you build up a feud like this and guys get real-life hurt, you do what you have to do. I imagine that the match wouldn’t have played out like it did if Zayn hadn’t blown out his shoulder, so we have to look at it for what it is and go from there.
Zayn shows up ready for blood and takes the fight to Owens, beating him around the arena. He’s in total control until one mistake on the outside, which fulfills Owens’ promise: He knew what injured Zayn and he knew he could do it again, and would. It was the powerbomb on the ring apron, and that’s all it takes to put Zayn out for good. Owens keeps up on the attack as an exclamation point, but it’s not necessary. Zayn wasn’t ready for this, he was too injured, and Owens is too hungry and hateful and smart to lose. It’s perfect, but sad. You want Sami to have a bigger moment, or at least something that moves him forward, but how can you move forward when you need shoulder surgery? Your best-case scenario is taking a big step to the side and moving out of everyone’s way so you can heal up and get back to stepping. That’s what happened. Owens puts Zayn out “for good” so we can forget about him for a while and let him get better, and that side-step lets a big motherf*cker step forward.
Cue the Godzilla music.
Best: TNA Died So That Samoa Joe Might Live
This happened. In real life.
Owens tries to chair Zayn to death and gets interrupted by Samoa Joe, former Ring of Honor and TNA World Heavyweight Champion. TNA everything champion. He’s not “Polynesian Pete” or whatever joke you came up with for his bad NXT name, either, he’s just Samoa Joe. He’s a pre-existing, fully-formed character ready to be the best version of himself against the best versions of people he knows. Joe vs. anybody of note in NXT is a “dream match” of sorts because even though he’s wrestled them all somewhere at some point in the world, this is where it matters. This is on The Network. T-shirts are for sale on WWE Shop. A feud with Owens connects him to Zayn and Bálor and JOHN DAMN CENA.
That’s another thing that’s so good about Owens. He’s not just interacting with one character, he’s creating a presence that makes EVERYBODY hate him and want to see him defeated. He’s got William Regal hooking his nose to get him off Zayn. Owens vs. Regal? Yes please. He’s got Finn Bálor waiting as the new No. 1 contender. Owens vs. Bálor? We’ve seen it, but we know they can do more. Now Owens vs. Joe is a thing that can happen. Owens is wearing a John Cena shirt on an NXT live special and heading into Elimination Chamber to either destroy him or … something else. Don’t you want to see that? Don’t you want to see ALL of that?
I’m excited to see where this goes. That’s the best thing you can ever type about wrestling. “I want to see what happens next.”
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
*samoa joe music plays*
Tyler Breeze: GODDAMMIT
Know what I like about this ref? I got older, he stays Younger.
See, the problem is they keep mistranslating, as Pentagon, Jr. has actually been dedicating his sacrifices to his Boss.
“Can you two start over from the beginning, but do it slower next time” -Eva Marie
It’s cute that NXT is giving the men a chance to main event tonight.
The Real Birdman
Salmon blazer? Has Graves retirement been a work this whole time?
Nice to see Blake and Murphy finding Hypnotoad to be in their corner tonight.
“Here’s the new class of NXT signess, guess which one Seth Rollins is sending dong pics to! Take our poll on the WWE App!”
please let dario cueto walk behind sami in the bathroom
Dave M J
A professional male model vs. a demon with wings and spikes.
Pro. Goddamn. Wrestling.
Thanks, everybody. See you next week!