Wednesday, December 16, 2015

NXT TakeOver: London Review

TakeOver: London kicked off with a match between Asuka and Emma. They were given nearly fifteen minutes and really did well with it. Emma played the cautious heel, knowing that Asuka is one bad chick. Emma's heat segment lasted a while, as she tried to take the hot crowd out of it. Asuka fought back, using multiple hip attacks, but then we got a ref bump. Normally that is groanworthy, but it made sense here as it allowed Emma and Dana to get in some underhanded tactics. They teased an actual loss for Asuka via DQ and then again when she made Emma tap behind the referee's back, only for Emma to roll her up. Asuka knocked her out with a kick to win a really good opener that proved to be the match of the night for me. Emma came off great in a loss. The NXT Women's Division is in good hands if the focus is put on Bayley, Emma and Asuka. ***1/2

The NXT Tag Team Championship match followed up and the fans were MOLTEN hot for it. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady have been the most over tag team in NXT by a mile, though Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are quickly catching up to them. Here, they had the crowd in the palm of their hands for this. There was an old school vibe to it. Dash and Dawson just get how to work a classic tag match, doing all of the little things to draw heat. They cut the ring in half on Enzo and even when Cass got the tag, they went to work on his bad leg, looking like smart champions. The false finish of Enzo and Cass winning just brought the fans to their feet. When Dash and Dawson won with a super Shatter Machine, the crowd was absolutely crushed. At this point, I don't think Enzo and Cass are ever going to win the belts. This was a good performance by both teams, making for another good Tag Title match on a TakeOver. ***

Two of the bigger stars in NXT right now, Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin, did battle next. I'd like to start by saying that I obviously see big things in the future for Crews, but there's something about Corbin's new heel persona that is just clicking. The character he's playing seems to fit him much better, which makes sense if his Breaking Ground persona is how he actually is. The match itself was rather slow and lost the crowd at some points, but it had some good points. Crews did a fantastic job of selling, while Corbin was on point with the trash talk. A highlight was him shouting for Crews to "go back to Ring of Honor", even though Crews wasn't really known for that promotion. Corbin surprised me by winning cleanly, giving Crews his first pinfall loss. Outside of a near fall after Crews hit a moonsault, this seemed to lack drama. They worked fine until the finish but it was certainly missing something.It looks like Corbin is next in line for a big time NXT Title match, so the win here made sense. Crews should be fine and is absolutely a guy I'd peg as a future NXT Champion. The match itself was decent at best. **1/4

In the co-main event slot, Bayley faced Nia Jax in a match where a lot of pressure was on. 2015 has seen the best women's matches in company history, but with Becky, Sasha and Charlotte exiting for the main roster, Bayley has the task of leading unproven ladies like Alexa Bliss, Eva Marie and Nia Jax around. This was expertly booked. Knowing that Nia isn't accomplished in the ring, they just had her play the dominating heel, while Bayley was the ultimate underdog babyface. It worked well, though Nia still seems unsure of herself at times. It's clear that she still needs tons of work, but with time, could become a good monster heel for the division. They played on the fans' emotions, with Nia obliterating Bayley and nearly winning a few times. Bayley didn't go all SUPERBAYLEY, but found a smart way to turn things around, wearing down Nia with a guillotine choke before making her submit. I'd rather Nia pass out instead of tap out, but this was a smartly worked match that was about as good as it could have been. **3/4

With the show in London, Finn Balor's "Demon" character had an added dimension, playing off of Jack the Ripper. It was really fucking cool. As for the match itself, I've seen high praise, but I didn't feel that way. Technically, it was fine, with two really good workers going at it. However, something about it felt hollow. For a match that was built on a friend turning on his buddy, there wasn't much in the way of emotion here. It was just two guys working a solid match. That's fine, but I wanted more. They teased the Samoa Joe victory a few times before Finn was able to retain with the Coup de Grace. A pretty good match to close out the show, but ultimately underwhelming. ***1/4

Coming into the show, this was one of the weaker TakeOver cards ever and honestly, it was probably the weakest TakeOver in execution. It's the only NXT special where I didn't give out at least one **** rating. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine way to spend two hours, but it lacked something to make it special.

NXT TakeOver: London Predictions

Honestly, outside of the NXT Title match, this is what I'm looking forward to the most. These are two of the three best female workers in NXT and they should have a really good match. Emma has been absolutely nailing her new heel role, including the more vicious aspects she's shown in recent weeks. Asuka has been pretty must-see, showing off some incredible skills in her short time in NXT. Asuka has been booked as a dominant badass, and I don't see her losing just yet. Except a good to great outing from both women.

Winner: Asuka

I like both of these guys, I really do. Apollo Crews has the potential to be a future NXT and WWE Champion, while Baron Corbin has really grown over the past few months. The heel role really suits him and his in ring work has come a long way, delivering some solid performances. I expect a hard hitting match since this feud has been built pretty well. It'll be odd to see Corbin lose again after being so dominant for so long, but losses to Samoa Joe and Crews, two of the top guys, won't be so bad. Crews wins here because I don't see him taking his first pinfall loss until his next NXT Title match.

Winner: Apollo Crews

I don't understand the booking of NXT tag team division. At TakeOver: Brooklyn, you had the perfect opportunity to put the titles on the hottest team, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. They had just lost to BAMF because of Alexa and were insanely over in New York. Instead, the Vaudevillains won. Their reign was short and the belts were put on Dash and Dawson. Now, Enzo and Cass get a shot when Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are the hottest team in the division. Would they really have Dash and Dawson drop the titles already? Why have Cass and Enzo lose another big time TakeOver match? Unfortunately, that's what I see happening.

Winners: Dash and Dawson

2015 has been the year of phenomenal women's matches on NXT TakeOver specials. From the Fatal Four Way at Rival to the Ironman match at Respect, I've given every TakeOver women's match at least ****. I don't see that happening here. That's okay though. With three of the four horsewomen gone, there has to be some new women established. I would rather see Emma or Dana get this chance, but Nia Jax is interesting. I believe that Bayley can help her along well enough to a good, solid match. This is the match I'm split on. On the one hand, Bayley retaining makes the most sense. On the other, Bayley followed a similar path to Sami Zayn, who only held the NXT Title for a few months before dropping it. That could be what happens to Bayley. I'll go with my heart and pick Bayley to retain though.

Winner: Bayley

The arrival of Samoa Joe to NXT, after wasting away his prime years in TNA, didn't really interest me the way it did for a lot of other people. Since turning heel though, he seems to have turned it up a notch, though he's not on the level of Kevin Owens as a top heel in NXT. If they plan on bringing Finn Balor up to the main roster soon, Joe could be a good choice to run with the belt for a bit, before dropping it to a returning Hideo Itami. Two things make me go the other way. One, I don't see Finn getting called up soon and two, Joe has dominated this rivalry. Finn has to win to make up for that a bit.

Winner: Finn Balor