Lady J’s NXT TakeOver: R Evolution event review
I spent all day Thursday, December 11 2014, giddy with excitement. For anyone who watched NXT Takeover: Fatal Fourway, you knew as well as I did to expect a lot from the gang down in Florida. These are not “kids”. Some of these individuals have been wrestling as long (or longer) than guys on the main roster of WWE. They know how to draw in the crowd, they know what is expected of them, and they set the bar higher and higher. When it came time for NXT Takeover: R Evolution, you knew each match would attempt to out-do the one before it. And by the time we reached the main event, the show had built to a fever pitch.
Before getting into the actual matches, I just want to take a second and tip my hat to former NXT wrestler Corey Graves. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always enjoyed him. I was sorry to hear that the concussions he has sustained have ended his career, but I have a great deal of respect for him trying to take care of himself. He has, however, found a way to stay a part of the industry and I think he did a great job calling this program. Looking forward to more from Graves on commentary.
Whether you are an indie fan or an NXT fan, you’re aware that they’ve been building Kevin Steen, sorry, Kevin Owens first appearance on NXT for weeks now. The promos we’ve been seeing where he appears in the ring, lit from underneath and talking about how it’s his time and he’s going to fight anyone and everyone are amazing. This guy is the complete package. He has a pre-existing fan base, talent on the mic, and just demolishes people in the ring. For a Lady whose most used hashtag is #explicitambroseviolence, I knew I was going to be satisfied by Kevin Owens. And I was. I felt a little sorry for CJ Parker that he keeps getting fed to big dudes who are debuting (or, in the case of Baron Corbin, re-debuting), but at least he’s getting in the ring. I’m sure there are plenty of guys backstage who never get on TV and would love to have been Owens’ first opponent at NXT. And for those of you AC/DC fans out there, if you want blood – you got it. Leave it to the ROH darling to bust himself wide open amid the “FIGHT OWENS FIGHT” chants right at the top of the program. If anyone has any questions about whether or not these guys are really putting their bodies on the line, please check out this match.
I was eagerly anticipating the tag team championship match, which was given the difficult task of follow Owens’ debut. I’m a huge fan of the Vaudevillains, Simon Gotch and Aiden English, and I know that reigning champions the Lucha Dragons always put on a good show. This was a great example of the different styles that NXT has to offer. Sin Cara and Calisto are high flyers; Gotch and English are grapplers. There is a clear strategy for the challengers – keep the Lucha Dragons grounded. The match was built well, and once the Lucha Dragons got up to the top rope, it was over. But there is also a sense of camaraderie among teammates. When the Lucha Dragons come flying over the top rope at the Vaudevillains outside the ring, Aiden English pushes Simon Gotch (the legal man) out-of-the-way so he can pull Calisto back into the ring for the pin. Of course it doesn’t work out that well, and Gotch finds himself the victim of an SDS, but that was such a solid match from both teams that you can’t help but feel The Vaudevillains have been elevated, without even winning the belts.
After two excellent matches, out comes Tye Dillinger. I didn’t remember his name being on the card, so I had a feeling I knew who his opponent would be, and I was right. My favorite gimmick right now in NXT belongs to the silent giant, Baron Corbin. For those of you unfamiliar with Corbin, he never speaks, and he squashes his opponents so quickly that the NXT Universe now counts from the ring of the bell to see how fast he gets to his finisher, End of Days (a swinging reverse STO). A few weeks ago Bull Dempsey gave him the hairy eyeball as they passed each other on the way to the ring, and ever since then their matches have always been back-to-back on the card. At NXT Takeover: R Evolution, Dempsey appeared in the crowd to watch Corbin take roughly 40 seconds to plant Dillinger, and then there was a long stand-off. If this is the new feud, I am so ready to watch these two work for longer than a minute. Bull Dempsey is like a runaway train – fast, huge, and barreling down on his opponent. Baron Corbin is like a wolf, calculating, patient, and deadly. When these two collide, it will be vicious. Stay tuned.
If you already follow me on Twitter, you know I happen to be full of black magic. Every once in a while, I call a finish a little too accurately, or request something far-fetched that actually ends up happening, and some of my favorite followers accuse me of voodoo. In the case of NXT Takeover: R Evolution, I cast a bit of a spell in requesting that Finn Balor not let me down in his entrance. I have spent more time than I should admit to googling Prince Devitt entrances in a variety of body-painted characters. When it came time for the Ascension vs. Hideo Itami & Finn Balor match, I was first struck by Itami’s ring gear. I am 100% for wrestlers having special gear for big events such as pay-per-views. And I guess if your partner is Finn Balor, you have to get on his level. Or near it anyway. When Balor came out painted like some sort of demon from another world, I was not disappointed. His entire entrance was perfect, down to the fact that “Balor” now appears on the titan tron in comic book font. He’s either a super hero or a super villain and I can’t wait to see what he does next. This is another tag match that is built brilliantly. We get everything we could want in terms of a team’s style and move-set. We saw some things that were new, the crowd got to yell “YAH” enough times to keep themselves content and in the end, we got a double foot-stomp for the victory. If you didn’t spent that whole match on the edge of your seat, raking your hands through your hair with stress, I don’t know what you were watching. Please go back and view it again. I don’t know what happens now, though. Do Balor and Itami battle The Ascension again? Do The Ascension find someone else to pick on? Do they get moved up to the main roster to job to the Usos (sorry, bitter)? Whatever comes next, I know we have only scratched the surface with Balor and Itami.
I would just like to take a moment to ask what Roman Reigns was doing at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. It appeared to me like a pretty poorly-executed publicity stunt and the time for Leaki to get over with the NXT Universe has passed. We loved you once, Roman, but anyone would start to resent having something they loved forced on them.
If you are like me in that the Diva’s Division on the main roster makes you want to throw your TV out the window, then allow me to introduce you to the Women’s Championship match between Sasha Banks and reigning champ Charlotte. If you watched RAW on Monday, you know Charlotte got beat by Natalya in about three minutes in a match I missed because I wanted something to drink. This same duo was in a championship match on NXT back in the spring after Paige had to vacate her title for the Diva’s Championship. That match was awesome. So what happened? Well, when you put the women’s division of NXT side-by-side with the divas of the main roster, you notice an overwhelming amount of talent, drive, passion, and hunger on the NXT side. On the main roster there’s AJ Lee and the cast of a reality show. I don’t know for sure that the divas themselves are as much of a problem as the way they’re being booked, but if you’ve grown tired of them generally as a group, try the women of NXTon for size. Charlotte and Sasha had a fantastic match that included a lot of brutality that you often don’t get from women in WWE including Sasha sending Charlotte into the steps on a pretty nasty toss. I will say that I’m not sure there really is an opponent for Charlotte. She’s bigger and badder than anyone she’s been put up against and when it’s time for her to head up to the main roster, the rest of the women in NXT will be far more evenly matched. But this particular bout was fun, aggressive and never once made me feel that the women of NXT were less than the men.
When it comes time for a main event like Adrain Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship, you almost don’t want it to start. Once the match starts, there has to be a finish, and the story is over. The longer it takes to begin, the more the tension builds. The crowd was squarely in Sami Zayn’s corner here, with chants alternating between “Let’s Go Sami” and “Ole” (isn’t that an El Generico chant?) Knowing that Sami had put a stipulation on himself that if he didn’t win, he was going to quit NXT, the build had reached a fever pitch. Everything about this match was perfect. It began slowly, with Neville keeping Zayn on the mat for several minutes. Then every time you figure Zayn was out of it, he’d come back with a massive clothesline or a lariat. The back and forth had brough these two to the brink of what their bodies to could give and then, once again, Zayn found himself in a moral dilemma: with the referee out nursing his head, and the championship belt in his hand, does he hit Neville? No, of course not, because Zayn is the good guy. And though it momentarily seems he’s going to get punished for doing the right thing again, he ends up getting Neville lined up for the Helluva Kick and wins the championship.
At that moment, I was satisfied. And here’s my massive error: I took a phone call. I was still looking at the screen, watching the locker room empty out to the ring, and saw Kevin Owens embrace Zayn in a moment of Indie Canadian glory. Neville turned down a handshake from Zayn for a hug. It was all perfect. I felt good about the entire thing, and was already planning this article in my mind. And then…
Kill, Owens, Kill. Kill Sami’s dreams. Rain on his parade. Show him who’s boss. Show everybody that you didn’t come here to be best friends. Show them all that you cam here to fight. To be champ. To win.
It was a great show, right up to and including the ending when Kevin Owens power bombs Sami Zayn off the edge of the ring. We know where this story is going. We know where a lot of stories are going. We got endings and beginnings as well. And if you think there is any chance that this Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view is going to come close to what NXT Takeover: R Evolution was, think again.
all images via WWE
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