This year, NXT Takeover: Orlando repeated that trend, as WWE’s third brand put forth a stellar showing Saturday night at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Not only were the matches very good, but most of them told some very good stories that showcased why NXT is such a beloved brand; it is because it tells stories that fans, including the so-called smart ones, can invest in.
Since I have some thoughts and analysis about each match, I will go through them in chronological order.
Before I get into the matches, there were two important pieces of information to delve into. At one point, Drew McIntyre was shown sitting in the stands and it was later announced that he had inked a deal with NXT.
This is a fantastic signing for the brand, in my opinion. When McIntyre was released from WWE a couple of years ago, he was comedy act as part of 3MB and felt like another instance of WWE failing to tap into someone’s full potential.
Since he has been from underneath the WWE banner, he has reinvented himself in multiple promotions under his real name, Drew Galloway.
The name was not the only thing that changed for McIntyre, as he underwent an entire tone shift to become more of a serious act. It has helped him win a bunch of titles, and now, a spot back on the WWE/NXT roster.
Another piece of news coming out of this show the unveiling of new title belts for all three of NXT’s championship.
I think they all look good, but they all have a big “X” on them. I understand that WWE wants the “X” in NXT to be prominently featured, but I couldn’t help but think that they all looked like a variation of Impact Wrestling’s X Division championship.
Outside of that, I liked all three designs.
With that said, let’s get to the matches:
Sanity def. Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno & Ruby Riot
This was a far better match than I expected. To be frank, I should not be all that surprised. Although the story was not all that enthralling heading in, the talent involved is all worth their salt in the ring.
That includes newcomer Ruby Riot, as she had some very entertaining interactions with Nikki Cross.
Ohno was a last-minute addition to the match due to No Way Jose being written out of the contest after being attacked by Sanity. Ohno’s inclusion of the match may have Jose off the card, but it definitely helped the match exceed my personal expectations.
Aleister Black def. Andrade “Cien” Almas
This was one of the matches I was looking forward to the most on this card.
It wasn’t only because it marked the Black’s NXT television debut, but also because he was working with Almas, whom I believe is one of the more underappreciated members of the NXT roster.
The first thing I want to touch on is Black’s entrance, which was very cool. I thought it had some similarities to Finn Balor’s entrance with its dark motif, but the most spectacular thing about to me was that Black already has his own custom nameplate and Saturday night was only his first match.
The only other members of the WWE roster that have their own custom nameplates are The Undertaker and Bray Wyatt. What that tells me is that NXT has some big plans for the man formerly known as Tommy End.
The outcome was inevitable, as Black won his first televised NXT match, but it wasn’t without another great outing from Almas. Although he feels like the heel version of Tye Dillinger, which is essentially the gatekeeper for new and up-and-coming babyfaces, but Almas plays his role to near perfection and I think it has only helped him in NXT in the long run.
NXT Tag Team championship – Authors of Pain def. DIY & The Revival
This was easily the best match of the night.
It was not only because of the action, which was fantastic, it was also because of the story that was told for the bulk of the match and its near perfect execution.
The story of the match was DIY and the Revival, who have been heated rivals for months, being forced to team up in an effort to nullify the dominant Authors of Pain.
This story was told in a couple of ways that all ended with my jaw on the floor with how clever it was. The near sacrilegious alliance between DIY and the Revival involved a member of each team working together to pull each team’s finisher.
Despite all of their efforts, it was not enough to keep the Authors of Pain down for too long. The champions managed to eliminate DIY and eventually marched their way through the Revival to retain the NXT Tag Team titles.
I thought the decision to have DIY be eliminated first was an interesting one, as it left two heel teams to close out the match. If it meant that it was NXT’s way of sending off the Revival to the main roster, I like the decision.
Regardless of who was eliminated first, this was one of the best tag team matches I have ever seen and is easily in consideration for match of the year for 2017.
NXT may not be hitting on all cylinders overall, but its tag team division is.
NXT Women’s championship – Asuka def. Ember Moon
I was definitely surprised by the outcome, but after watching it play out, I am more than interested in what is to come next when it comes to the NXT Women’s title.
The story was essentially that Moon was such a threat to Asuka that she resorted to cheating to beat her, as she shoved the referee into the ropes to knock Moon off the top turnbuckle.
Asuka quickly capitalized on the situation by kicking Moon right in the noggin to pick up the win.
What this did was make Asuka a full-fledged heel, as she has been straddling the line between heel and babyface ever since she won the NXT Women’s title.
Now that she seems like a full-on heel, it not only helps her but it helps Moon. Now, Moon can be the true babyface in the feud that people will want to see defeat Asuka.
Asuka has been so dominant for long in NXT that it almost feels beneath her to cheat, which will make people want to see Moon defeat her even more.
NXT championship – Bobby Roode def. Shinsuke Nakamura
This match was as much about the action as much as it was about the story that was told between the two combatants.
The story of this match was that Roode was working on Nakamura’s previously injured knee whereas Nakamura worked on Roode’s left arm/shoulder, which hampered his ability to hit the glorious DDT.
I thought Roode and Nakamura did a great job of selling their injuries during the match and I think it helped make the match much better than their encounter at NXT Takeover: San Antonio back in January.
At the end of the day, Nakamura’s knee saw too much damage and it allowed Roode to deliver the glorious DDT for the win and wrap a very productive night for NXT.
|(PHOTO COURTESY OF WWE)|
NXT TakeOver: Orlando match recaps and ratings
NXT championship: Bobby Roode (c) def. Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall
In what could be the final chapter for two-time NXT champion prior to a main roster, Shinsuke Nakamura suffered a rare double whammy. Not only did he lose his championship rematch to Bobby Roode, but his entrance rated only second-best (though there's no shame in that, considering what Roode had to offer).
While Roode's first victory over Nakamura was portrayed as a fluky effort, Roode dominated much of the early proceedings while keeping the two-time former NXT championship from using his explosive offense.
But before we dig too deeply into the results of the match, let's get to what was really important about this match: the special versions of two of the most iconic entrances in NXT history. While Nakamura's dancing in the shadows was a nice minimalistic touch on the often-bombastic moment, Roode's dueling pianos was a tremendous evolution to his growing character and presence on NXT.
After a slow, silent stare-down during introductions, which introduced the final new title of the night, dueling chants and an incredible atmosphere filled the Amway Center.
Roode's concentration on neutralizing Nakamura's greatest weapons was consistent and thoroughly effective. After Nakamura had a surge and took control, Roode took away Nakamura's greatest offensive threat -- the Kinshasa knee -- by once again targeting that vulnerable limb. It was Nakamura's undoing in the first showdown between the two, and it made all too much sense in the overarching story to go back to the well.
After a chop-block sent Nakamura reeling, a long figure four spot continued to work the limb. After fighting from underneath for most of the match, he finally broke the hold and transitioned it into a cross-arm breaker of his own. Once the hold was broken, Roode dove for Nakamura's knee once again and drew things even.
Every exchange took more and more out both men, but their punches just had more behind them. Every time Nakamura set up the Kinshasa, Roode was there to counter it, one way or another. After a kick to the middle rope that effectively caused a low blow, Roode quickly hit a "glorious DDT." However, after a delayed cover, Nakamura kicked out at the final moment.
Dueling chants once again reached deafening levels as Nakamura stared blankly ahead and Roode struggled to reach his feet. Roode rolled out and then back in with the ring bell, seemingly ready to walk away as champion via DQ. Referee Drake Wuertz stepped in to take it away and leave Roode open for a kick. Yet again the Kinshasa was countered, as Roode caught Nakamura with a spinebuster that rattled the ring.
Even as it took Roode everything he had to get off the mat, he countered with one more chop block and a rotating "glorious DDT" from the middle rope to the ground. With a three-count, Roode confirmed his status as the top guy in NXT -- but that won't be the lasting image of NXT TakeOver: Orlando.
As Nakamura lay prone in the ring, he got the hero's sendoff with the loudest Nakamura chants of the night. He eventually struggled to his feet, let out a "Yeaoh" with everything he had left, and likely walked off into the sunset for the final time.
NXT women's championship: Asuka (c) def. Ember Moon
Built up as the most anticipated NXT Women's Championship match in history, to say expectations were high would be an understatement.
The talented women were put in a tough spot following a classic Tag Team Championship, and it hurt them a bit. The pace was slower than expected, and it culminated without that nail-bite-inducing final sequence.
Having said that, they worked hard, executing some fine spots, including a springboard cross body by Moon from the inside of the ring to the outside.
Both combatants traded stiff slaps later on in the match, reminiscent of John Cena and Daniel Bryan from SummerSlam 2013 as the intensity level picked up.
The conclusion didn't come by way of Asuka's patented Asuka Lock, but via a swift kick after she shoved the referee into the ropes, causing Moon who had been perched to lose her balance.
It was the next step on Asuka becoming a full-fledged heel as she continues to evolve into the face of the NXT Women's division.
NXT tag team championships: The Authors of Pain (c) def. #DIY and The Revival
It would be hard to compare any tag team match in NXT to the transformative title showdowns from Brooklyn and Toronto, but for upwards of 15 minutes, #DIY, The Revival and The Authors of Pain absolutely held the same kind of power and energy over the crowd.
The one-sided ending led to heavy boos from the crowd to the successfully defending tag team champions, but the handful of moments that will transcend the memories of any result were well worth the eventual disappointment. With the introduction of the first of three new title belts introduced prior to the match to a thunderous reaction, all six participants rewarded the crowd in a big, big way.
The storytelling was there from the beginning, as longtime rivals #DIY and The Revival teamed up to neutralize the Authors of Pain in the early going, That became the entire story of the match -- their ability to team up, and then the long history of bad blood that scuttled it all. After each team took out half of the tag team champions, they looked up from opposite corners of the ring and created a mid-ring moment reminiscent of their title match classics in Brooklyn and Toronto.
For the first time since San Antonio, the Authors of Pain found themselves looking vulnerable, over and over again. As creative and cohesive as #DIY and The Revival have been, AOP integrated themselves into the occasion almost perfectly. The first eye-catching moment saw Gargano used as a weapon to damage multiple opponents as he was thrown into Ciampa, who was diving through the middle rope, and then tossed into Scott Dawson like a projectile.
Ciampa got a hot tag and annihilated the Authors of Pain, with a knee, a momentum-driven German suplex and then a dead-lift German suplex to finish it off. The crowd was once again held in the palm of #DIY and The Revival's hands as Ciampa set up a sunset flip powerbomb to the outside, but couldn't quite finish it, so Gargano ran to help. Still, they couldn't get it done, so The Revival charged across the ring and provided enough momentum to finish the job.
A kneebar from Dawson and crossface stretch from Gargano locked on simultaneously led to the lengthiest stretch of the two rivals working together. It was a tremendous moment, and the crowd once again got behind this unusual, but logical, fusion. A pile of bodies eventually crashed into the proceedings, breaking up the submission attempt, and as all six men laid prone, "This is awesome" chants rained down upon the ring.
Then the pairings got ridiculous. Dawson and Gargano hit DIY's finisher. Dash and Ciampa hit the shatter machine. But that once again left Ciampa and Gargano staring down Dawson and Wilder. The temptation to scrap was just too great, or so it seemed; when AOP got up, Gargano and Wilder hit stereo tope suicidas to Akam and Rezar to once again neutralize the champions.
Even in a match with so many big moments, one stood up above the rest. The anticipation built and then crested as Dawson hit a superplex on Ciampa to the floor, onto all four of their opponents and teammates waiting below. The Authors of Pain rolled Ciampa into the middle of the ring and hit the "Final chapter," gaining the first elimination as thunderous boos of disapproval replaced the deafening cheers of mere moments prior.
Wilder and Dawson hit a pair of clothesline/German suplex combinations, but that was the last gasp of the two-time NXT tag team champions. As The Revival looked doomed, with Dawson set up for the Final Chapter, Wilder ate the clothesline to save them, at least temporarily. But the Authors of Pain were simply too physically devastating; despite numerous near-fall roll-ups, Wilder and Dawson ate big move after big move. Following a double collision powerbomb, the Authors of Pain grabbed a decisive victory in their careers -- and quite possibly shuttled off one (and possibly both) of their opponents off to the main roster.
The most interesting element in the Authors of Pain's favor is the creativity behind their violence. Rather than the typical brutish big men, there's a rhyme and reason behind each and every attack. It's that kind of attention to detail that makes the Authors of Pain, and the NXT tag team division as a whole, consistently enthralling. They should become stronger and stronger standard-bearers as the weeks and months go on.
Aleister Black def. Andrade "Cien" Almas via pinfall
You have only one chance to make a first impression and Aleister Black knocked it out of the ballpark in Orlando.
With NXT once again serving as the palette for creative chances and innovation, Black arose from a casket that was laying on the stage with a vampire-like levitation into a stand-up position.
Almas got up to his "tranquilo" shtick early on, and Black sent him out of the ring before defiantly sitting cross-legged in meditation. Over and over again, Almas got off to a big run, like a missile dropkick and several other big spots, but every time he slowed down the pace, Black came charging back.
Neither Almas nor Black held anything back throughout the match, laying in punches and kicks snugly into each other's heads and torsos. They even traded simultaneous kicks and forearms to the face at various points in the match. A trapped arm flurry gave Black his best chance to shine, leading to a kick that sent Almas out of the ring. Black ran to the corner, hopped over the top rope before nailing a springboard middle rope moonsault to Almas on the outside.
Almas hit him with everything he had to offer in a final push, but Black came back again. After numerous late flurries where it still looked like anyone's match, Black hit a spinning roundhouse kick to Almas' head to secure a three-count victory in his debut. Both men looked great, and Black seems poised for big things. There's a danger in Almas suffering another high-profile loss, but there's still a bit longer to go before there's serious worry to be had.
SAnitY (Eric Young, Killian Dain, Alexandre Wolfe and Nikki Cross def. Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno and Ruby Riot via pinfall (Dain on Dillinger)
With No Way Jose taken out during an event at WWE Axxess, Tye Dillinger's SAnitY-battling squad needed a fourth. The moment Kassius Ohno's music hit, it was clear he was an instant crowd favorite. Ruby Riot quickly proved herself as well, with an early flurry earning her appreciation from a discerning crowd.
Dillinger would be the one anxiously waiting on the outside of the ring for his moment to shine. After Roderick Strong had an early flurry where he took out every member of SAnitY multiple times, the numbers game would leave him isolated and beaten.
As the crowd chanted "10" and willed Dillinger on to get the tag, each and every near-call brought the energy up. When Strong finally got his window of opportunity, he took full advantage, leveling Young and neutralizing Dain, before hitting a spike DDT on Wolfe that sent the crowd into a tizzy.
Everybody hit or just missed most of their signature offense, and the car crash chaos felt just right for this rivalry and all of the involved competitors. Ohno showed his agility by flipping over the top rope and landing on his feet and Riot sacrificed herself with a fully laid-out dropkick on Cross on the outside.
The final moments of the match dissolved into absolute chaos. Ohno hit a roaring elbow to Dain, Young's finisher got broken up by Strong. Cross jumped on Roddy's back, Riot jumped on Dain's back and everybody bumped around like a crash test dummy.
A blind tag by Dain kept Dillinger from getting his revenge on Young yet again, as the giant hoisted Dillinger onto his shoulder and hit a hybrid One-winged Angel (ala Kenny Omega) and Michinoku driver-like maneuver to score the pinfall win for his team.
All eight competitors shined in a well-executed circus attraction of a match to start off a night full of potential masterpieces.