Liger finally arrives in the WWE! Granted, he’s over fifty and can’t do half of what he’s famous for, but it was a great moment just to see him in a WWE ring. The match itself was a decent way to start off the PPV, but Liger had to play to the crowd rather than dazzle them with high-flying moves. His mocking of Breeze was funny, but it was telling that Liger had to use the bottom rope to get into Breeze’s lying pose in the corner. He simply couldn’t lift himself up like Breeze can. Breeze was the centre of innovation in this match, with his modified knee backbreaker and modified crucifix being notable in their novelty. Liger’s move of the match was the cannonball off the apron, but there was little to really appreciate from Liger. He is fifty, after all! His victory puzzled me. Surely Breeze needed the victory a lot more than Liger?
WINNER: Jushin Liger
VERDICT: 6/10. An opener that rose above just average due to Liger merely being in a WWE ring and Breeze’s innovation.
Blake and Murphy (c) vs The Vaudevillains-NXT Tag Team Championship Match
Their first match failed be anything more than a standard tag team match. I wasn’t looking forward to this match, but both teams erased the stink of their first match with their rematch. The Vaudevillains antidote for Alexa Bliss was Blue Pants, who received a booming ovation! Both teams looked worthy of tag team gold, as they grafted and grafted to produce a very good bout. Standout moments were Gotch’s double powerbomb to Blake and Murphy as they attempted to suplex English from the tope rope, Blake and Murphy’s double back drop into a neckbreaker on Murphy, and English’s senton bomb! After a lacklustre reign as tag team champions, Blake and Murphy finally gave us a very good match. It was probably The Vaudevillain’s greatest match thus far as well, and they deserved the victory.
WINNERS: (And New Tag Team Champs!) The Vaudevillains
VERDICT: 8/10 Five more minutes and this would have been a classic match, but a thoroughly enjoyable match nonetheless.
Tye Dillinger vs Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews? I still can’t over the stupidity of the ring name! Dillinger’s new gimmick and improved in-ring work threatened to outdo Crews’ debut, but Crews looked just as good as Dillinger. Dillinger got a surprising amount of offence in before falling to Crews’ Gorilla Press/Standing Moonsault combination. It struck me as strange that after being given a new gimmick, Dillinger would be chosen to lose to Crews. Why not some other dispensable wrestler? Dillinger’s Perfect 10 gimmick has struck a chord with the crowd. Don’t make him lose over and over again! However, this short but decent bout showcased the best of the two wrestlers. Seeing Crews doing a cartwheel and a flip at the start of the bout was eye-opening, and I’m sure he has more high-flying moves to impress us. But for now, we’ve seen just enough of Crews to be more than impressed.
WINNER: Apollo Crews
VERDICT: 6/10. Both wrestlers looked good in the short amount of time they had in the ring. Crews more than impressed in his in-ring debut.
Samoa Joe vs Baron Corbin
I say with no exaggeration that this is the best bout either wrestler has had during his time at NXT. A big man fight that centred around high impact moves, brawling and submissions, it had me hooked from the very beginning. The bout was structured to accentuate Corbin’s positives. His Judo background was utilised with his submission moves such as the heel lock. Their battle of hard strikes in the middle of the bout was unbelievable. Although Corbin has fought long matches before (against Rhyno was the last one), he’s always exhausted within the first few minutes and looked fairly terrible. This match was perfectly paced to give him breathing room and to show he’s more than a one-move wrestler. We’ve all seen how impressive Joe can be in ROH and TNA, but this is a match he will be remembered for during his NXT run. Great work from both guys in a big man contest that saw Baron Corbin being defeated!
WINNER: Samoa Joe
VERDICT: 8/10. Both man’s best NXT bout to date. A great big man bout, and Corbin looked good in defeat.
Sasha Banks (c) vs Bayley-NXT Women’s Championship Match
Stephanie McMahon commended the women for being in the co-main event of NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. It’s all well and good being in the co-main event, but the women weren’t in the last match of the evening…so they weren’t in the main event! It’s simple logic, isn’t it? I would have loved to have seen this match in the main event. The women need to main event a Special Event, sooner or later, and NXT Takeover: Brooklyn would have been the perfect place to do that. Just think of the message it would have sent, on NXT’s biggest night ever. But oh well…
I’m still not sure whether to claim the match of the night as this match or the actual main event. I’m edging towards this match, simply because by their very nature, ladder matches are disjointed. Bayley and Sasha Banks, however, carved out a match that ascending with perfection to a gripping finale. Bayley came out of the blocks quickly, hitting a springboard elbow drop to Banks in the Tree of Woe position. Banks turned the tables and dominated much of the match; she is the ultimate female heel! Her top rope double knee drop looked excruciating. Before Banks assault on Bayley’s injured hand (with a particularly nasty looking kick to the steps onto Bayley’s hand), the crowd started chanting ‘This is Wrestling!’ And they were not wrong! Bayley’s comebacks were timed beautifully, giving the crowd hope for a while until Banks cruelly dashed it. The big moves came out at the end of the match. Bayley attempted the Bayleycanrana from the top rope, but Banks shoved her off and Bayley took a brutal landing on her head. After reversing the Bank Statement, Bayley slapped on her own Bank Statement. Banks reached the ropes, and soon after kicked out of the Bayley to Belly. The end of the bot came after an incredible reverse Bayleycanrana from the top rope on Banks, and the Bayley to Belly for the victory!
It was a lovely moment seeing Bayley win the title, another Daniel Bryan-esque victory for the underdog. Charlotte and Becky Lynch coming down to congratulate and celebrate with Bayley and Banks as The Four Horsewomen was wonderful!
WINNER: (And New NXT Women’s Champion!) Bayley
VERDICT: 9/10. Almost a perfect bout. Almost as good as Lynch vs Banks or the Fatal 4 Way Women’s match. Another notch in the column of women’s greatest matches, and a great match regardless of gender.
Finn Balor (c) vs Kevin Owens-Ladder Match for the NXT Championship
Finn Balor’s entrance was fantastic; Owens’ reaction to the entrance was even better. He sat in a chair by the announce table, almost falling asleep. Now that’s being a heel! The men had a hell of a match to follow, and they just about managed to follow the women. That’s saying something in itself! It gave us the prerequisite dose of high risk moves off and on to the ladder, whilst telling a great story in the ring. By their nature, ladder matches are a disjointed affair, as trying to climb a ladder doesn’t flow as well as trying to beat someone down until they are pinned for the three count. The best ladder matches are the ones that mimic a normal match, rather than rely on high risk moves. Owens and Balor gave us the best ladder match of the year.
This ladder match was fought onto the ramp and into the audience in the early moments. Balor jumped off the announce table to dropkick a ladder into Owens in an early highlight. When the match settled down in the ring, Owens took control, slamming Balor onto a ladder and hitting a brutal high senton. Moments later, Balor backdropped Owens onto an open ladder than looked extremely painful! Shortly after that, Owens missed his cannonball and hit a ladder in another body vs metal scene. The only sequence that felt awkward was Balor’s superhuman recovery after being hit with Owens’ Apron Powerbomb. Merely twenty seconds afterwards, he ran into the ring to stop Owens grabbing the title. I mean, come on, even Super Cena missed a week of action after receiving the Apron Powerbomb! It was a moment of excess in an otherwise well-conceived match. Owens didn’t give all of the punishment, however; his fall onto a ladder from the top of another ladder made me hold my back and head in sympathy! Balor’s Coup De Grace from the top of a ladder was the best way to end the match, and Balor shortly afterwards grabbed the title. Simply, what a match!
WINNER: Finn Balor
VERDICT: 9/10. A satisfyingly brutal and hard-hitting ladder match that managed to mostly avoid the usual excesses of ladder matches (see Rollins vs Ambrose), apart from Balor’s quick recovery from the Apron Powerbomb. A fitting crescendo to a Special Event.
OVERALL VERDICT: 8/10. A Special Event that built to a two Match of the Year contenders. Stil unsure of which was the better match: the women’s bout or the ladder match, but both were brilliant. Every match had something to offer, and simply seeing Liger in a WWE ring made up for his lacklustre performance. Not a poor match on the card. Bayley’s victory was one of the in-ring moments of the year, as well.
Leave your thoughts/comments below!
(Click here for my review of NXT Episode 292)