NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable airs live Wednesday night, May 20, on WWE Network. It’s the latest NXT live special, which means every WWE fan worth their salt will be glued to whatever they use to watch the Network to see if John Cena interferes in the championship match. I’m kidding! OK, I’m only sort-of kidding.
Here’s the card, as of now:
1. NXT Championship Match: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn
2. NXT Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Becky Lynch
3. NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Blake & Murphy (c) vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
4. No. 1 Contender Triple Threat: Finn Bálor vs. Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze
5. Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno
6. Bayley and Charlotte vs. Emma and Dana Brooke
As per usual, here are our legally-binding predictions.
Bayley and Charlotte vs. Emma and Dana Brooke
What You Need To Know: Emma was once a fan and hipster favorite at Full Sail; one of those Divas who could go, and you knew she’d get called up to the main roster and flourish. She got called up, got repurposed as “girl Santino” complete with a pink snake sock puppet, was fired for accidentally shoplifting an iPhone case from a Walmart, got re-hired immediately because that’s a ridiculous reason to fire someone and got shuffled into oblivion. Now she’s slumming it in developmental again and feeling terrible. She’s recently befriended fitness model and chronic self-toucher Dana Brooke, who is the walking personification of Terrible. They’re facing Ric Flair’s cocky and dominant daughter Charlotte and her impressionable frenemy Bayley, who is stupid enough to team with a lady who once turned on her in a tag match against two other jerks.
Prediction: Bayley and Charlotte seem like such an obvious duke that I’ve gotta give it to Emma and Dana. If I’m fantasy booking it, you turn Charlotte on Bayley again and have Emma there to point it out, giving Bayley the emotional moment she needs to snap and flip out and become Dark Bayley. You run her against the Fitness Horsemen or whatever and into a No. 1 contender grudge match with Charlotte. Maybe have her go too far and be too rudo to win, and then do the Sami Zayn morality play with her in a championship match with her forever-rival Sasha Banks.
Plus, there’s really no point in putting Dana Brooke in the match unless she’s gonna win by proxy and have something ridiculous to brag about.
David D. – Dana Brooke. A work in progress. She’s going to get hidden and protected during this match while vociferously rubbing herself. Bayley and Charlotte win in what might be her farewell match.
Jessica Hudnall – Let’s go Team CharLey! They have unstoppable Grab Attacks, which is the most dangerous thing in wrestling.
Austin Heiberg – First of all, Dana Brooke has two first names. I’m going to start calling her Ricky Bobby. Anyway, Emma is one of my new favorites thanks to her devastatingly meta, French New Wave attitude. While I’d love to see her get a big win, let’s not forget that she’s dragging Dana around here. This is tag TEAM wrestling, and Bayley and Charlotte are an awesome team. They’ll get the win. Hug life.
Nate Birch – I’ll admit it, I’m a Dana Brooke fan. Her hand-jive muscle flexing, her 90s girl group looks — I’m into the whole wonderfully unsubtle package. I’m also a fan of calloused wet blanket Emma. It goes without saying that I love Bayley. Hmmm, can Bayley, Dana and Emma just team up to pin Charlotte?
Danielle Matheson – Bayley and Charlotte are the better wrestlers, but if Emma and Dana win via ~shenanigans so Dana can keep that nuclear heat, then fine. I mean, she legitimately doesn’t have anything else going for her, so they might as well. Without someone nipping at her heels pushing her forward, and realistically no place to go after reaching the top of NXT, I’m OK with Charlotte being involved in a situation where it’s acknowledged that she’s the best one, but the emphasis is all on character and storytelling. This is still developmental, so if they can all work together to drag something useful out of Dana Brooke, even if it means sacrificing some potentially great matches here and there, so be it. And you know at lest three of these women will have great matches anyways. So wow, yeah, Dana Brooke and Emma I guess.
Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno
What You Need To Know: One of these guys is an “unstoppable force” who mows through jobbers and struggles against top talent, but man, they sure do mow through jobbers. The other is the exact same thing, just taller. And he might be a werewolf?
Prediction: The Baron Corbin/Rhyno beef doesn’t have a lot to it, and in my head only exists so they can have Corbin counter a Gore with the End of Days. I can’t imagine anything else happening.
David D. – Corbin is getting the rub here because Rhyno’s arms are too short to box with regular-sized people. It’s really like an episode of Beetlejuice where the fun house mirror versions of a regular person come to life. But I digress, Corbin wins because #Dadbods are hot now.
Jessica Hudnall – Wait, that’s a real match and not some sort of goof? OK,, whatever, Motorcycle Bae wins with his crazy werewolf powers.
Austin Heiberg – Much like Brian Kendrick, it’s pretty clear that Rhyno is here to make the new crop look like STARS. Corbin hasn’t really had a convincing hoss fight yet, but I think he wins here and gets more of the respect he’s looking for.
Nate Birch – Holy moly, am I profoundly uninterested in this one. Do they make former main roster guys like Rhyno and Alex Riley boring and terrible on purpose to make the homegrown NXT talent look better? I honestly think they do. Anyways, Rhyno is Rhyno and it’s 2015, so Baron Corbin wins en route to, uh, wherever he’s going.
Danielle Matheson – Corbin over Rhyno, because if Rhyno wins this is just TNA. Don’t be TNA. Don’t ever be TNA.
No. 1 Contender Triple Threat: Finn Bálor vs. Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze
What You Need To Know: The NXT Championship has three viable contenders. Finn Bálor is a beloved, theatrical Irish guy who can summon a demon to empower him in important situations. Tyler Breeze is a narcissistic male model and Secret Canadian who feels overlooked and underappreciated, because these big-name independent and international stars keep waltzing in and claiming the spots he’s worked for. Hideo Itami is a good dad and a passionate ass-kicker who probably would’ve won if he hadn’t injured his shoulder and been forced to drop out of the match.
Prediction: Itami’s injury makes this a complete toss-up, as we don’t even know what the match will be. Will it be one-on-one? Will Samoa Joe show up and take Itami’s place? The finish here relies heavily on the finish of the main, because each possible champion has an appropriate challenger. If Owens retains, Bálor should win and challenge him again. If Zayn recaptures the title, Breeze should win. Then we either get an epic Zayn/Breeze feud (to put Sami over as a champion who can actually retain, maybe?) or we run another Zayn/Owens cycle and have Breeze continue to feel overlooked.
Owens retaining makes the most sense to me, so I’ve got to give it to Finn. Or Joe. Hell, maybe Crazy Ace Steel will show up and become the new No. 1 contender.
David D. – With Itami out, there seems to be a need for a replacement and usually replacements win their matches. OK, HERE’S where Joe the Samoa Person shows up and wins. No? Shut up.
Jessica Hudnall – I’m picking Finn here mostly because I don’t want to see Breeze getting absolutely trucked by Owens down the line.
Austin Heiberg – Realistic prediction? Finn wins in convincing fashion, now that it’s just a one-on-one match and he doesn’t have to worry about agitating his friend Hideo. Crazy, over-the-top prediction? William Regal comes out and announces that it’ll still be a triple threat match, prompting the arrival of SAMOA JOE, who muscle-busters everyone into oblivion and wins in under five minutes. Either way, Tyler Breeze is screwed and I’m starting to feel bad for him.
Nate Birch – I have no idea why they’re still advertising Itami for this one. It has to be purposeful. They must be building some sort of angle around Itami’s injury, something that’s going to play into the match in a big way. The most obvious is that they’ll announce he’s injured and bring out a big-name replacement. Samoa Joe, Uhaa Nation, somebody. I don’t see them just doing a singles match. No offense to Tyler Breeze (OK, maybe a little offense to Tyler Breeze) but they may as well just give the No. 1 contendership to Balor right now if Breeze is the only thing standing in his way. Whatever happens, I have a feeling neither Balor or Breeze walk out of Unstoppable as No. 1 contender.
Danielle Matheson – I was at one of the recent NXT house shows, and got to see a slight variation on this with Breeze, Balor and Kevin Owens, and man, was it ever disappointing. From the cheap Owens heat to the predictable spots, it was honestly such a bummer. The whole time I was left wishing that it was just Breeze and Balor throwing down, and I guess this is where I get my wish. If they let them wrestle — and really wrestle, not just go through the motions again — this could be the match of the night. Breeze is so underrated in the ring, and was so close to really being a breakout star, but he keeps getting passed over for Triple H’s shiny new international toys. Balor is that new toy who’s basically just happy to show up and be weird and stomp people because he’s….well, he’s about as accurately rated as you can get, I suppose. I want Breeze to win, but if Balor does and I get the match we all should have gotten in Philly, then whatever, we all win. And if Breeze gets passed over for a replacement contender in Uhaa Nation, it won’t matter because I’ll have floated into the ocean on a wave of happy wrestle tears.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Blake & Murphy (c) vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
What You Need To Know: Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady are two charismatic New York/New Jersey types who have a Spike and Tyke relationship and serve as caretakers to a former hairdresser who lost her job when they spilled a bucket of hair-removal cream on a dog. Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy are two regular dudes who formed a tag team and discovered their shared interest of being unconvincingly-heterosexual stalkers. They want to get with Carmella (the hairdresser) at the same time (?), but are really only doing it to mess with the heads of their challengers. Anyway, they also enjoy leapfrog and dubstep.
Prediction: I’m not picking the NXT or NXT Women’s Championships to change hands tonight, so I’m calling an Enzo and Cass victory here. Blake & Murphy really have nothing in the tank besides being competent wrestlers, and Cass and Enzo are an act we’ll eventually see on the big stage. No reason not to give them a run with the belts. On NXT, championships feel more like a reward for good service than a plot point.
All I ask is that Carmella doesn’t turn on anybody. Have her give Murphy a slap or something to set up the Cass/Enzo Rocket Launcher to bring that story to a close, unless you’re planning to put her in Benoit tights and have her start leap-frogging dudes to EDM too.
David D. – Enzo and Cass are in that tricky spot where their promos are leaps and bounds better than their matches. I’m expecting an epic intro and sort of disappointing matches. Also, Blake and Murphy stunk up the joint last time they had a big match. So this could get ugly. Still, Enzo and Cass don’t need any belts and a Camilla heel turn is the most obvious move here. I can’t take all of these break-ups.
Jessica Hudnall – While I really like Enzo and Big Cass, I’m kind of expecting the Cowboys to retain here — partially because we can’t have ALL the good things in this world, and partially because I want SHOOT NATION to fustigate those dudes and take the belts for themselves.
Austin Heiberg – Blake and Murphy are fine wrestlers, but let’s face it, were they ever anything other than transitional champions? They’ve been keeping the titles warm for Enzo and Cass for a long time, and I think the realest guys in the room are finally about to make it to the top. And you CAN’T. TEACH. THAT.
Nate Birch – I’ll admit my NXT viewership has been a bit spotty lately. In the interest of getting to the good stuff, I may skip most tag-team-related things. Blake & Murphy are still champs huh? Well, they won’t be after this show.
Danielle Matheson – “We’re gonna keep harassing this lady even though she keeps saying no, and then we’re going to keep beating up her mouthy, size-mismatched friends and now we have pigtails.” At least give Enzo and Cass the belts so Blake and Murphy have something to legitimately be weird about, I guess. (Also I love Enzo and Big Cass and would like to see them happy thankssss)
NXT Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Becky Lynch
What You Need To Know: NXT’s arena features an evil, mystical mirror we like to call the Full Sail Oculus. The show loves the idea of female wrestling attitudes creating monsters, so they use moments where formerly good Divas look into the mirror and realize they’ve got to be powerful and arrogant and evil to succeed. They do it, they find success and it consumes the person who convinced them to seize it. Summer Rae told bland nobody Sasha Banks that she needed to look in the mirror and THE BOSS emerged. Banks became a force of nature, one of the very best characters and performers on the show, and Summer Rae was obliterated. Banks passed that on to bland nobody Becky Lynch, who went from “Irish, and likes rock music?” to a world-traveled ass-kicker who will break your arm if you mess with her. Becky’s power now threatens to overtake Sasha, and the cycle continues.
Prediction: Becky’s been extra great lately, but Sasha is a diamond. Taking the belt off her already would be a huge mistake in my eyes, as the NXT Women’s Champion has historically been the most protected and unbeatable champ in the company. This should steal the show and make both women look great, but Becky’s gotta tap. Hopefully we can avoid the constant post-match hugging with these two, because the respect and love the behind-the-curtains performers have for each other is awesome, but not always super necessary.
David D. – You guys know my feelings about Sasha. She’s the best wrestler on the roster and improves every single week. The woman signed the contract with a stamp and stepped on her opponent’s head. Not to mention that she walks around with people’s weaves in her head after matches. Be still my heart. Banks wins.
Jessica Hudnall – THIS MATCH IS GONNA BE RAD. Obviously Sasha will retain since she’s the Bees Knees. You can Banks on that.
Austin Heiberg – I love Becky Lynch, but it’s simply not her time. It’s coming, trust me. Maybe it happens on NXT, or maybe she finds a definitive role on the main roster, but Becky will get her day in the sun. It’s just not going to happen right now, because Sasha Banks is simply on another level right now. Don’t bring a wrestler to a Boss-fight. The champ retains.
Nate Birch – Aw, Becky Lynch. I’ve always had a soft spot for wrestlers who are really good at their jobs, but lack that certain X-factor. The Christians of the world. Becky Lynch falls squarely into that category, so I’m glad she’s getting a shot. She’s not going to win, she shouldn’t win, but it should be a killer match.
Danielle Matheson – SASHA. Oh, sorry, I’m supposed to write more? …SASHA WILL WIN. OK, glad that’s taken care of.
NXT Championship Match: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn
What You Need To Know: Before they were NXT Superstars, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were best friends. They were also bitter enemies. They tagged for years and sometimes cut each other open with ladders. They are connected by their shared experiences, their love of pro wrestling and their commitment to being the best, but they’re very different people. Zayn is friendly, good-hearted, an extrovert. Owens is withdrawn, unconfident and pessimistic. They’re two halves of a whole.
Zayn got to NXT first and made a name for himself without Owens. Owens thought his journey was over, and that he’d just start a family and have some kids and try to be happy. Zayn’s popularity eventually led to Owens getting a shot he never really thought he’d have — WWE stardom — but it was on Zayn’s back. Owens knew from the second he arrived that people would say, “Hey, what’s he gonna do with SAMI ZAYN” or “I can’t wait for him to wrestle SAMI ZAYN.” He was an accessory to a bigger star — a Colt Cabana to a CM Punk. On his first night in the company, he watched his former best friend complete an 18-month journey to the NXT Championship, hugged him in the middle of the ring … then turned on him and powerbombed him into the ring apron. Owens couldn’t stand to be another man’s accessory, so he planned to use Zayn’s fame, notoriety and championship to further his OWN career as quickly as possible. The irony, of course, is that he’s still riding Sami’s coattails, he’s just convinced himself that he’s doing it on his own terms.
They wrestled, and Owens MURDERED him — powerbombed him repeatedly until the ref had to stop the match. Two months (to the day~) from his debut, Owens was NXT Champion. An injured Sami went back home to Canada and felt sorry for himself. He was eventually drawn back in because of Kevin’s cruelty to others, and because of the lingering questions of “why?” He knows why, but he wants to hear it from Kevin’s mouth. He wants Kevin to state the bullsh*t that’s gone on between them for years clearly to everyone listening, but Kevin won’t do it … if he does, it becomes real, and stops being a thing he can control.
They are destined to do this forever.
Prediction: The next part of the story complicates things. It made sense for Sami to come in fired up and get his championship back, but he showed up on Raw to wrestle John Cena in a United States Championship open challenge and f*cked up his shoulder. He’s medically cleared to compete at Unstoppable, but he’s legitimately hurt. Owens’ response to this is to say Zayn was hurt before that match, because he hurt him. He did it on purpose. He knows how Sami’s injured and why, and he’s going to do it again, but this time it’s going to be worse. This time Sami’s not coming back. Owens punctuated that by showing up on Raw himself, accepting Cena’s challenge only to throw it back in his face, and walked out of the show with his foot on the U.S. title.
As it stands, Sami’s hurt. Owens is facing Cena at Elimination Chamber in a week and a half. The story isn’t just “will Sami beat Owens” now, it’s a huge conversation about who needs surgery and who doesn’t, who’s gonna get called up and when, what Cena’s gonna do, whether Owens is a one-time thing to pop a Network audience or an actual call-up beginning his main roster story, the works. It’s so complicated.
The simple answer is that I think Sami’s in no condition to become the first two-time NXT Champion tonight, so I’m picking Owens. If Cena shows up and AAs Owens to give Sami the win, I reserve the right to throw my computer and everything on it into a river.
David D. – It’s really hard to type and chant THIS IS AWESOME at the same time but I’ll persevere. This one is hard to call as it seems like both of these guys could get called up any minute and never be in NXT again. I’m going to say that Owens retains for the visual of him holding the belt at Elimination Chamber. What if Samoa John (Trademark pending) shows up at the end though? FIRE EMOJIS.
Jessica Hudnall – It’s amazing how much context can change things. NXT Kevin Owens is a big mean jerk for hurting Sami Zayn, but he’s a rad jerk for powerbombing John Cena. I’ll say Owens retains through advanced Ruthless Aggression, and possibly some Attitude Adjustments.
Austin Heiberg – This is one of the hardest calls to make right now, because there’s SO MUCH you can do with either outcome. The popular theory is that Zayn will win, thereby freeing up Owens to run roughshod on John Cena and turn the U.S. Championship into the new and improved Canadian Heavyweight title. But do you really want an NXT champion with such a fragile shoulder? In any other case, I’d say no. But this is Sami Zayn that we’re talking about, and gosh darn it, I believe in him. Skank your way to victory, you wonderful man.
Nate Birch – This match is the ultimate case against guys having to come out on TV every single week to build their feuds. I’m more hyped for Zayn vs. Owens than any other WWE title match in a good while, even though basically nothing has happened since the last time they fought for the title. That last match told all the story we needed.
Owens will win the rematch handily. Not as handily as the last Zayn/Owens match, but pretty handily. Sami Zayn isn’t the guy who holds the title. That’s not his role. He got it once to justify the fan’s faith in him, and that’s all he needed. Besides, Zayn is so far beyond ready to move up and probably won’t be hanging around NXT much longer, if at all. Oh, and by the by, Owens is going to beat John Cena in two weeks as well.
Danielle Matheson – I feel like Owens can retain and still answer John Cena’s challenge with the belt. There’s nobody greater than Owens in Owens’ mind, and he already tried to take credit for hurting Zayn away from John Cena. I’d rather see a frustrated rage monster barrel back into NXT than Zayn win a belt because Owens has to try for another one. (I would also like to see said belt be won by Sami getting a second crack at Cena, but hey, if wishes were horses something something I’m deathly allergic) So. Owens.