WWE NXT airs its next live special this Thursday night, December 11, on the WWE Network. It has the most impossible-to-type name ever: WWE NXT TakeOver: R Evolution. They could’ve just called it “NXT Revolution,” but nope; capital T take, capital O over (one word), colon, R, space, capital E evolution. I feel like I’m typing in code. I hope the next live special is called WWE NXT TakeOver: R Evolution 2: FaTal 4-Way: Re Demption.
Anyway, here’s your complete WWE NXT TakeOver: R Evolution card:
1. NXT Championship Match: Adrian Neville (c) vs. Sami Zayn
2. NXT Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks
3. NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The Lucha Dragons (c) vs. The Vaudevillains
4. Hideo Itami and Finn Balor vs. The Ascension
– The debut of Kevin Owens
And now, as always, our 15% correct and legally-binding staff predictions.
NXT Championship Match: Adrian Neville (c) vs. Sami Zayn
What You Need To Know: Adrian Neville is NXT’s dominant, high-flying champion. He looks like a Hobbit, but he’s good, and he’s got the muscles of like 14 people crammed into one little weightless guy. Sami Zayn is a world-traveled veteran and impossibly-beloved fan favorite who is the nicest guy in the world, but has two problems: (1) he’s into ska, and (2) he can’t win the big one. He lost his match to Cesaro at NXT Arrival, lost to Tyler Breeze at NXT Takeover and lost to three guys at NXT Fatal 4 Way. Zayn promises that if he doesn’t win the big one here and become NXT Champion, he’ll leave the company. Neville and Zayn are old friends and doesn’t want that match stipulation, because he’s kinda overconfident and just assumes he’ll win and end dude’s career.
Prediction: Sami wins the big one. I don’t know if it’ll actually happen, but I’m putting my pessimism aside. Zayn is due, and in developmental you’ve got a shorter character “lifespan” so to speak so you can’t afford to drag a guy along for a decade and pay it off when we’re old and jaded. Chris Benoit, Daniel Bryan, I’m looking in YOUR directions. Okay, just Bryan’s.
But no, I think Sami’s got it. Neville wowed everyone during the NXT guys’ Raw appearance earlier this year, and his mic work’s improved about as much as it’s going to (which is, admittedly, a big improvement). Zayn’s ready too and is doing some of the best in-ring and on-the-stick work of his career, but his story in NXT needs an ending. Neville could get called up on Monday and it wouldn’t matter. If Zayn got called up, it’d leave a wound. Give him the strap, let his “road to redemption” end with some definition of that and move him forward. With or without Kevin Owens.
David D. – Usually the guy who has to leave town if he loses the title match ends up winning the title. But I think NXT pulls a fast one on us and we get a win from Neville and Sami Zayn gets called up to the main roster. Then he’ll lose to Adam Rose in three minutes.
Danielle Matheson – Remember when Tyler Breeze had his chance, and was kind of the best thing ever? Can that happen again? …no, I have to pick one of these dudes? Uhhh, Neville via ~shenanigans, unless gravity suddenly remembers him, or some guy named Kevin decides to break the internet.
Austin Heiberg – Do not be surprised if this ends up being a Match of the Year candidate. Sami is going to win this, the only question is how much of an emotional wreck this match will make me. OLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, OLE OLE OLE
Nate Birch – Everything seems to be building to Sami Zayn winning the title, but I dunno – I have feeling it’s not happening. Zayn is ready for the main roster and Adrian Neville isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Neville is tops in the ring, but the character isn’t there yet, and screwing Zayn out of the title here is his chance to go full-bore heel. Zayn winning would be the cathartic thing, but the a developmental promotion like NXT isn’t always about tying up storylines in nice bows. It’s about making guys better, and Neville winning makes him better.
Jessica Hudnall – How many kinds of rad will this match be? Probably at least six. I’m picking Zayn to win this thing because he’s a good dude.
NXT Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks
What You Need To Know: Charlotte is the NXT Women’s Champion thanks to a combination of genetic superiority, pro wrestling heritage and INCREDIBLE learning ability. She went from a green-as-goose-shit gymnast to one of the best wrestlers on the show faster than anyone expected, and she’s main show ready. Sasha Banks is NXT’s best-kept secret. She’s a lot like Charlotte in that she started off without a lot to offer and morphed into the most hilariously evil, confidence-free “mean girl” ever. She’s got an in-ring charisma that can’t be taught. They’re fighting because they used to be friends, and now they aren’t. Charlotte and Sasha used to run with the BFFs, and when Summer Rae left town the act splintered and turned them against one another. Now Sasha wants to prove her superiority, and justify her own exaggerated belief that she’s “the boss” and better than everyone. Charlotte just is.
Prediction: Picking Sasha to win seems easy, because Charlotte showed up on Raw and got a bunch of praise. I think that’s a red herring. I’m picking Charlotte to retain and stick around a little longer, and worst case scenario she’ll get the Paige “you can’t be NXT Women’s Champion and Divas Champion at the same time” speech. The first two NXT Women’s Champions getting called up without being defeated sets a dangerous precedent for the third, and that moment will be huge.
So yeah, I’m going with Charlotte. If don’t see them switching all the titles in one night. If I’m wrong, I hope the finish involves Bayley going rogue, throwing in with Sasha and Becky Lynch’s “BAE” team and changing their name to “BAE-ley.”
David D. – I’m angry. I’m angry that Charlotte lost to Nattie in three minutes on RAW. It’s the most angry I’ve been at wrestling in ever and it damn near ruined my excitement for this match because the light at the end of the tunnel is the sun glistening off the end of a shovel. That may not stop me from running around my neighborhood naked when Sasha Banks wins.
Danielle Matheson – Sasha Banks is the greatest pro wrestler of this or any generation. BANK ON IT. And that’s my BANK STATEMENT. Something something OVERDRAFT.
Austin Heiberg – Charlotte showing up on Raw might be the key here. I mean, she is READY for prime time, so I guess that means she’ll get the Paige treatment and lose the title while making the main roster transition. Plus, Bayley’s beef is with Sasha… imagine how much her title win will mean if she beats The Boss without Charlotte’s help. So just to set things in motion, I’m picking Sasha.
Nate Birch – Well, they can’t strip the title twice in a row, and Charlotte is headed to the land of milk, honey and two-minute roll-up matches, so Sasha Banks wins here. Personally though, I’d pull a switcheroo, leave Charlotte on NXT for a while longer, and promote Sasha, since I think she actually has the best main roster potential of any of the girls.
Jessica Hudnall – BOSS STATUS, Y’ALL. Sasha is gonna win that title and I’m going to high five my laptop.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The Lucha Dragons (c) vs. The Vaudevillains
What You Need To Know: The Lucha Dragons are a team because NXT has two luchadors. The Vaudevillains are a team because NXT has two dorky theater kids. The Dragons ended The Ascension’s endless tag titles run back at Fatal 4-Way, and the Villains have threatened them with a series of silent films. That’s not a joke.
Prediction: The Lucha Dragons retain. I wouldn’t be shocked if they switched the tag straps here so we don’t assume EVERY team that holds the belts will hold them for a year, but this feud doesn’t seem to have enough heat to justify a change. We haven’t really gotten to know the Lucha Dragons or seen everything they can do, and I’d rather watch them defend in exciting matches than chase. Plus, as much as I love the Vaudevillains, they don’t need title belts. They just need to be themselves in front of people.
David D. – This should be a showcase for the Lucha Dragons doing crazy sh*t in the ring. I hope this leads to Vaudevillians vs. Enzo and Amore next.
Danielle Matheson – You spelled “Vaudevillians” wrong.
Austin Heiberg – I want to live in a world where the old-timey weightlifters from Family Guy are champions. Vaudevillains, please and thank you. Plus, I want Samuray Del By-God Sol on the main roster ASAP.
Nate Birch – Oh right, Kalisto and Sin Cara are the tag champs. The Vaudevillains are basically my old e-fed characters, so when they win, it’s a win for my teenage writing skillz.
Jessica Hudnall – If the Vaudevillains don’t come to the ring on a Penny Farthing, I’m going to be really mad. That said, I’m taking the Dragons to retain.
Hideo Itami and Finn Bálor vs. The Ascension
What You Need To Know: Konnor and Viktor of The Ascension were the longest reigning tag team champions in NXT history. They’re sorta gothic, sorta Egyptian, sorta occult guys who beat Local Talent #1 and his friend Local Talent #2 on loop for a year. When they lost the titles they got in general manager William Regal’s face, and Regal was bailed out by debuting Japanese superstar Hideo Itami, formerly known as Pro Wrestling NOAH’s KENTA. He’s Daniel Bryan with CM Punk’s moveset, but Japanese. Note: it’s HIS moveset, but if you don’t know who he is it’s a frame of reference.
Anyway, The Ascension beat Itami up for like 40 straight weeks until Itami debuted his tag team partner Finn Bálor, aka New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Prince Devitt. Combine Sheamus and a young AJ Styles and imagine him jumping off things and stomping people and you’re close. Close-ish. He’s his own thing. The fights have continued, and now they’re having the big final one.
Prediction: The Ascension gets brow beaten and sent off to Raw with their tails between their legs. If they’re headed to the main roster (which vignettes aired on this week’s Smackdown say they will), it makes it easier for Charlotte to stick around. There’s barely logic in that but shut up, I’m predicting. Bálor claims he’s bringing something The Ascension’s never seen before, and smart money’s on Prince Devitt BIG MATCH BODY PAINT. I don’t know if he can paint himself up like a comic book character like he normally does, but expect some crazy corpse paint and so much stomping.
David D. – I’m sort of nervous about this match. Itami has been really hit or miss since his debut and a live show might really push him into Sin Cara debut territory and that scares me.
Danielle Matheson – In theory I love this match up. I mean, it sounds like a Miyazaki dad and a scrapped character from The Secret of Kells are fighting two Followers of Set clan members with their own snake-handling revival cult. My money is on the magical fantasy men full of kicks and abs and mystical wonder.
Austin Heiberg – Oh, it’s going to be Balor and Itami in a walk. I’m just trying to figure out what Finn’s body paint is going to be. Um… Solomon Grundy? I’m dreaming big here.
Nate Birch – Hopefully the match ends with Itami and Balor literally loading The Ascension into a cannon and blasting them to the main roster, because it’s time to shit or get off the pot with those guys. The Ascension aren’t going to get any better because, well, they just aren’t, so it’s time to give ’em the mega push on Raw and see if they stick. The good foreign fellas win.
Jessica Hudnall – Part of me wants Finn to paint up like a rat to get into Konnor’s head, but that would just be silly. Instead, I’ll say he paints up like Drax the Destroyer. Itami will just kick dudes and the Ascension will go down.
Kevin Owens debuts
I don’t know what they’ve got planned for Owens, but I have two thoughts:
1. I actually want them to keep him away from Zayn for a bit. Build to that. Explain why it matters to the NXT crowd. It’s fun to make “Sami quits and returns as El Generico” jokes, but Sami is so far beyond El Generico right now and doesn’t need to wallow in the past. Do what CM Punk did with the Summer of Punk in WWE: don’t vaguely reference the old stories from another promotion and expect them to get heat, just do them over. Fans that didn’t see it will think it’s brilliant. Fans that did will be excited to see it again, because they know what’s coming.
2. If the Young Bucks walk out with him, I swear to God
David D. – Okay, so let’s say that Sami Zayn does win the title. I’m hoping the ppv ends with a standoff between Owens and Zayn. Either that or Owens murders Bull Dempsey in cold blood.
Danielle Matheson – I feel like whatever happens – whether he becomes instant BFF or instant package-piledrivenemies with Sami Zayn – my twitter feed will turn into this.
Austin Heiberg – And finally, Kevin Owens will show up after the main event. Sami’s in the ring with his new title, Kevin’s at the top of the ramp. Batman/Joker staredown. “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
Nate Birch – As long as he doesn’t come out to “Somebody Call my Momma” I think we’ll be cool.
Jessica Hudnall – Kevin Owens will be backstage, possibly doing squats. Sami Zayn will walk past and Kevin will have a squinty-eyed stare, trying to figure out if he knows this dude. Then he’ll go out and punch let’s say CJ Parker in the nose.