Samoa Joe and Finn Balor vs Dash and Dawson (Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final)
A good match to start off NXT Takeover. It’s one that won’t be remembered long after the event, but kicked off the event with two fan favourites and an underrated tag team. Balor gave the fans his usual high-flying antics with an early somersault plancha on Dash and Dawson, outside of the ring. It looked like Balor was going to win it singlehandedly, but then Dawson chop-blocked Balor’s knee. The story of the match then centred around Dash and Dawson savagely attacking the hurt knee of Balor. Dash and Dawson are a very good tag team, and this was very apparent during this match. Their double timing is perfect. Of course, they built up to Balor’s hot tag to Joe, who battered both Dawson and Dash. He set up for his Muscle Buster, but Balor wanted the tag…after hesitation, Joe tagged him in. Joe hit the Buster, and Balor hit the Coup de Grace for the victory! An expected victory, but at least it was entertaining!
WINNERS: Samoa Joe and Finn Balor
VERDICT: 6/10. Dash And Dawson were as aggressive as ever, and Joe and Balor did their usual thing to open the show more than adequately.
Jason Jordan and Chad Gable vs Baron Corbin and Rhyno (Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-Final)
How come, in tag team matches, Corbin seems to be more on the defensive than the offensive? He executes his big moves, but is nowhere near as dominant as he usually is in singles matches. It’s not a complaint: it makes the tag team matches a hell of a lot better than his normal fare! It’s just a strange change of action for Corbin. Although a very odd pairing, Rhyno and Corbin work well together. Rhyno manages to hide the negatives of Corbin and accentuate the positives. Jordan and Gable have the potential to be one of the best tag teams of the modern era. And that’s no exaggeration! Put together, these two teams put on a great match. Early on, Jordan and Gable foucsed on the shoulder of Rhyno, but soon Rhyno and Corbin isolated Gable. The crowd were in love with Gable: from chanting ‘Save The Gable’ (A la The New Day’s ‘Save The Table’) and chanting Gable to the tune of Kurt Angle’s theme tune, it was clear who the fan favourite was in this match.
After Gable managed to tag in Jordan, the last past of the match was one of the hottest of the night. Jordan went crazy, taking out both Corbin and Rhyno. Shortly after, Gable tagged back in, and hit a roll-up into a German suplex on Corbin! The crowd went crazy for that awesome move! The question of who would win hung heavily in the air, as all wrestlers took each other out. A Gore by Rhyno took Jordan out. Gable looked as if he had reversed Corbin’s Black Hole Slam, but Corbin caught him for a great End of Days. Corbin and Rhyno advanced…Unexpected, as I thought at least one ‘proper’ tag team would make it to the final. However, both teams deserved the victory. The last five minutes of the match were unbelievable!
WINNERS: Baron Corbin and Rhyno
VERDICT: 8/10. A good match for two-thirds of the duration, but ramped up to an edge-of-your-seat battle in the last third. Jordan and Gable are destined for greatness!
Dana Brooke vs Asuka
Poor Dana Brooke. I actually felt sorry for her in this match. It was her best in-ring performance thus far in NXT. She played her part well. However, that part meant being battered by Asuka! It more than made up for Asuka’s questionable contract signing, where she walked out of the ring after being told to by Brooke and Emma. Apart from a moment in the match where Asuak had to wait for Emma to trip her on the apron (which was painfully obvious) and Brooke managed a modicum of offence, Asuka dismantled Brooke. Brooke couldn’t escape from Asuka’s many submissions, due to Asuka’s freakish ability to roll around any reversal attempts. From armbars to ankle locks to the chicken wing, Asuka stretched Brooke in many unpleasant ways! Asuka’s German Suplex on Brooke looked brutal, as did her flurry of kicks and strikes. It looked like she was legitimately choking Brooke with her ‘Asuka Lock’ submission finisher. Brooke tapped out almost immediately.
A scarily impressive in-ring debut from Asuka. But where does Brooke go after this decisive defeat? I thought they could have fed an expendable wrestler to Asuka for her defeat…and with Nia Jax on the way, will Brooke be pushed to the sidelines?
VERDICT: 7/10. A slaughter! I almost thought I was witnessing an assault in a J-Horror movie! Brooke took her beating like a pro, and Asuka dished it out like a pro. The rest of the NXT Women’s division had better watch out…
Apollo Crews vs Tyler Breeze
Poor Tyler Breeze. Fed to Jushin Liger at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn a few months ago, now fed to Crews. Let’s face it: we knew Breeze didn’t have a chance. The random pairing of the two, without any sort of build, harmed the heat of the match as well. However, both wrestlers worked hard to cancel out the lack of build with a great match. They didn’t reach greatness, but gave us a very entertaining match up. Crews’ running shoulder tackle on the outside simply took out Breeze early on in the match. Breee reclaimed the momentum after executing a roll-up to dump Crews outside of the ring. He then hurled Crews into the ring apron, in a move that looked painful but a little forced; how could Breeze move a wrestler the size of Crews? And, shortly after that, give Crews a hard Irish Whip? Those two moves dispensed with suspension of belief, but thankfully the rest of the match brought it back!
Breeze zeroed in on Crews’ lower back, with his innovative knee backbreaker (that he used against Liger) and a Sharpshooter. He used a HBK-esque Hurricanrana with a few punches to the head at the end, and a few minutes after that, Y2J’s springboard dropkick! The move of the match was Crews’ mid-air powerslam on a leaping-from-the-top-rope Breeze! Breeze avoided Crews moonsault by holding onto his legs. However, the end came when Crews lifted Breeze up for a back body drop, but tossed Breeze up into a powerbomb! A great move to end the match. But when will Breeze get his moment in the spotlight? He needs a big victory!
WINNER: Apollo Crews
VERDICT: 7/10. Hard-fought by both men. A few moments in the middle of the match took away suspension of belief, but their efforts brought it back. A very good match!
Samoa Joe and Finn Balor vs Baron Corbin (Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final)
The story of the match was Balor’s injured knee. Could he still wrestle? Would it lead to Joe and Balor falling out? I think many people expected Joe and Balor to fall out in the final. What other reason was there to bring the two wrestlers together? After his feud with Kevin Owens, Balor needs another long feud for his NXT Title. And who better to face than a heel Joe? I was convinced Joe would take out Balor’s knee and leave him to be pinned. However, the swerve turn didn’t happen. What did happen was a fairly plain tag team match. After the heat of the second semi-final match, this match fell a little flat. It hovered around being adequate, and not much more. Joe looked like he was really hurt and taking a double-handed chokeslam from Corbin early on in the match. Corbin and Rhyno focused on Balor’s knee, but in a less entertaining way than Dash and Dawson managed at the start of the night. At one point, Corbin completely missed a kick to Balor’s knee, but Balor sold it anyway!
That was a low point. With a hot tag to Joe, the match heated up a little towards the end. But it all seemed so perfunctory. Joe got his opponent ready for the Muscle Buster, but Balor wanted the tag. I waited for the swerve turn, but Joe simply tagged Balor in, without any hesitation! One Coup de Grace later, the match was over.
WINNERS: Samoa Joe and Finn Balor
VERDICT: 5/10. A mostly average match. The last couple of minutes were a little heated, but all wrestlers seemed to be going through the motions.
POST-MATCH: The Rhodes family, with a normal Cody Rhodes, came out to give the trophy to the winners. Cody gave an emotional speech about his father, and everyone posed in the ring. It was a beautiful show of respect, and a heart-warming remembrance of Dusty Rhodes. Also, let Cody Rhodes be Cody Rhodes! Not flipping Stardust!!!!
Bayley (c) vs Sasha Banks (30-Minute Iron Man Match for the NXT Women’s Championship)
The most anticipated match of the night without doubt. The one with a proper build, and the one that was truly historic. Women main eventing a Special? Never! But Bayley and Banks sure did, and in the process put most of the main events from WWE’s Specials to shame. The heat and the emotion could be felt even before the match again. When the match did start, the wrestlers took a minute to soak in the ‘This Is Awesome’ and the ‘You Deserve It’ chants. Both women did/do deserve to be in the main event. They proved it in an astounding match. There were a few hiccups here and there, but the action around them erased them after a few seconds. Bayley and Banks gave us an in-ring psychology and story-telling clinic. From trying to get quick pins early on in the match, to trying their finishers after that, to Banks’ total domination for ten minutes, it was gripping to watch. A particular highlight was Banks’s countout victory after slamming Bayley into the entrance LED screen. During the referee’s count, Banks took off young Bayley fan Izzy’s headband and taunted her! Izzy was soon in tears. Simply brilliant heel work: Banks made a little girl cry!
There were so many highlights that it’s hard to mention them all: Bayley’s jumping clotheslines off steel steps. Banks simply hurling Bayley into said steps. Bayley’s springboard elbow into a Tree of Woe prone Banks. Bayley attacking Banks hand, just as Banks did to Bayley’s injured hand at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. Banks’ suicide dive caught and turned into a Bayley-to-Belly on the outside! The last minute of the match, with the Bank Statement locked in on Bayley, was a truly gripping moment. I was grinding my teeth with excitement! The women were at 2-2, so the last fall was at stake…Banks’ hand was her downfall, as she couldn’t lock in the Statement properly. Bayley reversed it into her own submission and got Banks to tap out seconds before time ran out!
What a match! I’m not sure if it was superior to their match at Brooklyn, but it was a great match. Truly deserving of the main event slot. Anything else would have been a disservice to the wrestlers and the audience. In a tear-inducing post match scene, the entire NXT roster came out, and HHH and Stephanie greeted Bayley and Banks with a bouquet. Banks broke down in tears, and Bayley celebrated in-ring in tears. From start to finish, unparalled brilliance!
VERDICT: 10/10. A rare perfect score. There were a few hiccups during the match, and it’s arguable as to which of their matches was the best. But the build, the psychology, the story-telling, the main event placing, and the post-match congratulations elevated the match to an unbelievable level. All-round perfection!
OVERALL VERDICT: 8/10. The final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was a letdown. However, the Semi-Final involving Corbin and Rhyno against Jordan and Gable could be a script for how to execute a great tag team match. In between, Crews and Breeze put on a good showing. Asuka demolished Brooke in a scene that made Lesnar’s beatdowns look tame. And the main event was on another level to any other WWE main event this year. NXT knocked it out of the park again!
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(Click here for my review of NXT Episode 299)