Was NXT Takeover: Dallas better than WrestleMania 32? In one word: Yes! But you already knew that, didn’t you? The NXT name, connected with Takeover, always equates to greatness. And Dallas was perhaps NXT’s greatest event yet (even though I say that after every Takeover!).
The Revival (c) vs American Alpha (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
What a match to kick off the show! Ever since The Revival won the belts, this match was destined to happen. They’ve had a lengthy championship reign and the time was ripe for the most over babyface team on NXT to take the titles from them. Isn’t that what a big event is all about? The most hated heels fighting the most loved babyfaces? The first two-thirds of the bout were as good as any tag team wrestling you’ll see in the whole of WWE. Gable and Jordan are multi-talented in the ring. Dash and Dawson are masters of the smash-mouth offence. Put together, there was no way this match could fail. Unfortunately, the match feel apart in the final stretch. After a botched double powerbomb attempt by The Revival, everything seemed to go wrong. The flow was disrupted and the finish came out of nowhere. There were nearfalls aplenty, but they felt contrived and didn’t build up to the big moment of American Alpha winning the titles. However, the first two-thirds of the bout and the victory were flawless. American Alpha deserved to win. Jason Jordan’s tears of emotion had me welling up!
WINNERS (and NEW NXT Tag Team Champions): American Alpha
VERDICT: 7/10. A fine match pushed off course by the awkward last five minutes or so. Botch followed botch and AA’s victory came out of nowhere. Still, we have the tag team champions we need and deserve!
Baron Corbin vs Austin Aries
If there’s one match guaranteed to blot the quality of a Takeover event, it’s a Baron Corbin match. Apart from his match with Samoa Joe at Takeover: Brooklyn last year, Corbin usually stinks the joint up. This match was no exception, even with the ever-reliable Austin Aries. The debut of Aries was always bound to be overshadowed by Shinsuke Nakamura’s debut, so why didn’t Aries try harder to make an impression? He didn’t make much of one here. His predictable victory was cheap and came out of nowhere. I know they wanted to protect Corbin, but surely there was another way to give Aries the victory yet protect Corbin? Apart from Corbin’s Deep 6 on Aries on the outside, there was little to distinguish this match from any other. A wasted opportunity!
WINNER: Austin Aries
VERDICT: 4/10. A disappointing debut for Aries. True, he was lumbered with Corbin, but Samoa Joe made Corbin look like a wrestling god last year. I thought Aries was the greatest man who ever lived?
Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura
It will be nigh on impossible for any match to snatch Match of the Year from the incredible bout that Zayn and Nakamura put on in Dallas. I was overwhelmed with just Nakamura’s entrance; what followed was simply stunning. Nakamura was born to be a wrestling star. Everything he does gleams with brilliance. ‘The King of Strong Style’ could not have found a better opponent to debut against than Zayn. Zayn is the other ultimate underdog (along with Daniel Bryan) and sells like no-one else in the entire WWE. Their styles of wrestling were guaranteed to deliver in the ring. They did more than deliver: they blew away everything else I’ve seen on the WWE Network this year. I’ve only watched Nakamura fight AJ Styles, and I’d say that this bout bettered even that one. When the crowd chant ‘Fight Forever’ halfway through the bout, you know you’re witnessing something special. Unlike the typical NXT crowd, the crowd didn’t try to become the story of the match. They watched in awe, as I did. Suffice to say that my description cannot describe the quality of this match. If you haven’t watched it, do so right now!
WINNER: Shinsuke Nakamura
VERDICT: 10/10. WWE/NXT Match of the Year, even though there’s eight more months to go. Stop reading this and watch it!
Bayley (c) vs Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship Match)
Any match that followed Zayn and Nakamura’s bout would have difficulty getting off the ground. The crowd were exhausted, and so was I. They should have put Corbin and Aries on after Zayn and Nakamura, purely to give the crowd time to breathe. The match suffered from a subdued crowd reaction (it seemed that way on the broadcast, anyway), and the fact of two babyfaces fighting each other confused the crowd reaction even more. That being said, the two women put on a great match. It’s easily Asuka’s best bout in NXT yet, and for Bayley it was a few notches below her collisions with Sasha Banks. They didn’t meet my high expectations but that’s my own problem. Both women busted out some new moves to shock their opponent (such as Bayley’s baseball slide into a hurricanrana on the outside!). Like the tag team bout, the first two-thirds of the bout were pure quality. However, the final third, while not sloppy, did not build sufficiently to the finish. Asuka’s submission finish came out of nowhere, causing Bayley to lose consciousness. It came out of nowhere, and the unexpected nature spoiled what should have been a glorious moment for Asuka. Still, another quality bout!
WINNER (And NEW NXT Women’s Champion): Asuka
VERDICT: 8/10. It’s a shame they had to follow Zayn and Nakamura. Both women tried their best, but a subdued crowd and a surprising finish tarnished the bout. One that didn’t quite meet expectations.
Finn Balor (c) vs Samoa Joe (NXT Championship Match)
I thought this bout was superior to their clash at Takeover: London. Joe’s profuse bleeding from around his eye at the beginning threatened to derail the match, as the policy of no blood meant that trainers stopped the bout on more than one occasion. However, it made the match more legitimate, coming from the great brawl between the two wrestlers at the start of the match (that’s how you should start a match that results from a heated feud!). And Joe’s increasingly angry reaction to the stoppage only added to his early domination of Balor. He shoved the referee and the trainers, and looked to strike Balor even harder than normal. Story-wise, it was a similar story to their clash in London. Balor gets beaten down by the beast Joe, but keeps getting up. Balor’s resilience keeps him in the contest, rather than his wrestling ability. Of course, they couldn’t better Zayn and Nakamura’s contest, but they came close. I thought that, perhaps, the finish to this match and the finish to their London clash would be better being swapped around. The pinfall from this bout would have been better suited to set up a rematch between the two, as it meant that Balor barely escaped the match with the title. His victory at London was more definitive. But that’s a minor nag. A quality bout from start to finish.
WINNER: Finn Balor
VERDICT: 9/10. A superb clash that was even better than their bout at Takeover: London. Balor and Joe put on the second best match of the night.
OVERALL VERDICT: 8/10. Apart from the Corbin v Aries clash, every bout was bursting to the seams with quality. The women’s bout and the NXT championship bout were both very good. The tag team contest was solid, if let down by the final stretch. However, Zayn and Nakamura created the Match of the Year. I doubt anything will supersede that bout for the rest of the year! Once again, NXT gave WrestleMania no chance of besting the developmental league in quality wrestling matches.
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