DALLAS – In a short time, NXT has grown from a developmental showcase touring around the state of Florida to a full-fledged brand third brand for the WWE. In my mind, the NXT revolution stated just a year ago in San Jose over WrestleMania 31 weekend. There second venture outside Full Sail attracted 4,700 people. Being in that crowd was something special and the energy was unlike anything I had experienced before. I got to experience a roof blown off when Enzo Amore and Big Cass ran through their intro, witness Charlotte and Sasha Banks wrestle an instant classic, and see an international showcase of Neville and Finn Balor. Now, NXT has become the leadoff to WrestleMania weekend with its NXT Takeover Special.
With the Internet Wrestling Community frustrated with the main WWE product, fans are more excited about this NXT special than WrestleMania itself. Who can blame them? On this card you have international superstar Shinsuke Nakamura debuting for the company against the heart and soul of NXT, Sami Zayn. You also have the debut of Austin Aires against Baron Corbin, who is NXT’s best heel in my opinion. In one main event, you have a battle between Asuka and Bayley for the Women’s Championship. In the other main event, a clash of titans square off between Samoa Joe and Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. Does NXT start off wrestling utopia with a bang or does it fall short of expectations?
Crowd Atmosphere / Show Presentation
Words can’t express the atmosphere at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center was simply electric. Everyone in that arena was interested in every match. After selling out Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it was a questionable move putting it in a 9,000 seat arena however, in my opinion, the “less is more” aspect worked to its advantage. My only real complaint was the sound system in the arena was not very loud at all. When it came to entrance music and Greg Hamilton’s voice didn’t carry at all compared to regular arenas. I couldn’t tell you if it’s because of the arena itself or it’s because the crowd was hot all night.
Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura Tear The House Down
The term “hottest signee in NXT to date” seems to get thrown around every lead up to an NXT Takeover. I’m unfamiliar on Nakamura’s work over in Japan, however, NXT did an amazing job explaining why Nakamura is the biggest performer to come to the company. From the moment he stepped out on the stage, I realized that he really is a big deal. Shinsuke oozed charisma from walking down the ramp all the way to every move he executed. Sami Zayn was an excellent person for Nakamura to start his NXT chapter with. “The King of Strong Style” really did deliver as advertised. Shots from both Zayn and Nakamura looked stiff as can be. This match will not only be a standout for WrestleMania weekend but it’ll be a standout for NXT itself.
Balor and Joe Deliver A Bloodbath In The Lone Star State
When Samoa Joe’s entrance theme hits, it turns into a big fight feel. Joe not being intimidated by Finn Balor’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired entrance added a nice little vibe for what was to come. The intensity was amped up as soon as the bell rang. Joe being cut early, set a different tone compared to their London encounter. When Joe threw Balor into the crowd it seemed like we were going to get stiff match like in London. However, the doctor stoppages really did kill some momentum in the match. It’s possible that if the cut bleeding was minimized right away, the momentum could’ve continued to be at that high level. Balor ‘rising from the dead’ spots were a sight to see as well as Joe being a wrestling powerhouse. It was a fun main event for the event, however, it seemed like the finish came out of nowhere for the crowd. The flash pin along with no Balor Club arrival left the crowd yearning for something a little more.
After a Tough Act To Follow, Bayley and Asuka Shine
Match placement on a wrestling card is hard thing to do. I was at WrestleMania at Metlife Stadium. One of the biggest problems with that event was stacking three main events in a row. By the time Rock and John Cena started up, it was clear the crowd was completely gassed. It is a huge vote of confidence in Bayley and Asuka for them to follow up Nakamura vs Zayn. Everyone I was sitting next even questioned if they could follow it up. And they did… Sort of. It took a little bit for the crowd to get into the match. Being in the crowd and experiencing some of these chants, they seemed robotic. The match wasn’t bad at all. Asuka’s kicks look insane live and Bayley is an unbelievable face to watch live. For me, this match could’ve been way better if you popped in a quick match between Nakamura/Zayn and Bayley/Asuka. A perfect match between would’ve been Apollo Crews vs Elias Samson, however, that was one of our two dark matches prior to the start of our special.
A fantastic hot opener between The Revival and American Alpha. Dash and Dawson continue to do things I’ve never seen before, crawling under the ring to prevent a tag for example. (Yes, the Revival messed up a move, but it really didn’t take away from the match.) American Alpha have a tremendous look and character to them. It was clear both got emotional post win and it was exciting to see raw emotion from a tag team for a change.
Aries debuting against Corbin was a fine match. I didn’t realize how big of a size difference there was between both the wrestlers. The flash pin seemed to come out of nowhere. Corbin has improved so much over the course of the last year. I believe he’s ready for the main roster.
NXT Takeover Specials are always fun to watch. However, it’s an absolute blast to be a part of one. This is the most fun I have ever had attending a wrestling event. This doesn’t feel like developmental anymore. This feels like an entirely separate company under the WWE umbrella. While the wrestling is exciting and crisp, it’s the storylines and characters that you come back for. It’s exciting to see this brand grow from touring exclusively in Florida to regular touring across the United States regularly. I am personally excited to see NXT become a bigger staple in WWE’s plans for big weekends like Summerslam, Royal Rumble and WrestleMania weekends.
(Photos Taken By Rick Foster)