Last week, we talked about the last NXT Special, Fatal 4 Way, and it’s so-so card filled with a few moments of gold and jobber matches. This week it’s time for a all new live special from Full Sail University in Florida.
So let’s take a look at NXT Takeover: R Evolution.
While there was little of note in the pre-show the biggest news was the retirement of Corey Graves, a superstar that seemingly had a lot of potential in the company but was plagued by concussions. While he won’t be wrestling, he’s been added to the announcer team, making the both occupied by a rotating cast of five people (three too many if you ask me). Tonight was his first night with the crew.
Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker:
Cue the generic music for the new NXT wrestler, Kevin Owens.
Coming off the indy scene with the likes of Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville, Owens (formally Steen) makes his first appearance in a WWE ring in this opener with jobber CJ Parker. From the first second we see Owens on the screen the crowd are firmly behind him and just about anything he does (foreshadowing). However, the match isn’t just a straight squash.
Owens opens the match with quick strikes and a canon ball into the corner. CJ retreats to the outside but Owens gets a full head of steam and hits a swanton dive to Parker. Parker recovers and starts fighting back hit a few counters and strikes, cutting Owens on the bridge of the nose. But Kevin soon regains the advantage hitting a stiff clothesline and then a pop up powerbomb to get the win in his first match.
The crowd seem to be super hot for Owens in his first appearance, but that could be due to the large amount of Indy fans in the attendance, either way the show seemed to lose momentum after this short opener. Owens looks to be a big focus going forward.
The Lucha Dragons (c) vs. the Vaudevillains for the NXT Tag Team Championships:
Next for the night was the Tag Titles match. Despite the huge opener the audience still stayed hot for these two teams probably due the team’s solid gimmicks that are over with the NXT crowd.
The match opens with Sin Cara catching both of the Villains of guard, but they soon turn the tables working him over. Both Gotch and English take quick tags and try to wear Sin Cara down with a grounded offence. The two stop a few hot tags to Kalisto, but Sin Cara eventually gets to his partner.
Once in, Kalisto hits a few moves before Sin Cara gets well enough to help his partner go for a double dive to the Villains. Before they can hit them, English pushes his partner Gotch out of the way thus taking all of the impact (cause he’s the manly one of the two). Once back in the ring Gotch tries to get in some moves in but is stopped when Kalisto hits the Salida del Sol for the victory.
While the match was fast paced and featured all the action you’d expect from the Lucha Dragons it felt like it was given the death spot, following the Owen’s match.
Tye Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin
Filling out the card was a jobber match (thankfully the only one) featuring Baron Corbin. For those playing at home, Corbin is a big guy who shows up and looks at a guy for four to five seconds and then hits a finisher (that’s literally his whole gimmick so far). This time however, the match lasts a whole 41 seconds before Corbin wins. While the match was happening Bull Dempsey comes down to ring side to watch, I guess they’re feuding or something. Moving on.
Finn Balor and Hideo Itami vs. the Ascension:
Next on the card was another match featuring two new arrivals on the roster. This time the dream team of Finn Balor and Hideo Itami take on the Ascension, in their we’ll be on the main roster soon farewell feud. While I have harped on the Ascension in the past for being no more than a entrance, this time they were even beat in that respect.
While The Ascension and Itami were out in the ring, Balor got to do one of the larger entrances he’s known for in Japan. This time coming from the smoke was a hybrid of Venom and the Predator inspired body paint and headdress. The entrance was pretty amazing, and my hats off to the WWE for letting him do it.
Past the entrances the match started like a big feud should, with the four beating each other before the bell. Once started the Ascension use their power to isolate Itami from Venom/Predator Balor. They do their usual shtick of strikes and few high impact moves, but nothing too exciting.
Eventually Balor does get tagged in and things start to kick off from there. Both sides go for big moves; Balor tries for the stomp off the top rope but misses, Victor hits a STO only getting a two, Itami goes for what looked like a GTS but is stopped, the Ascension go for their finish but are stopped as well. In the end, Balor and Itami hit their stomps in stereo and win the match.
So…Roman Reigns was there…:
Breaking up the action between matches was, instead of another jobber match, as awkward interview with Slammy Winner for Superstar of the Year (as if that means something) Roman Reigns. He says the generic baby face things about being happy to be there and he’s excited for the main event. It killed five minutes. I’m guessing this is there way of reminding us he’s still around and will be back on the main roster soonish.
Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship:
I’ve said in the past that the NXT Woman’s Championship is WAY better than the Diva’s counterpart, and this is one of the reasons, it’s the daughter of Flair vs. the Boss of NXT. It should also be noted that the ref for this match is Charles Robinson (Flair ref).
The match starts off with the two trading strikes and chops, with Charlotte using her…DNA memory (?) of chops to get the better of the situation. Banks soon takes advantage and starts to wear Charlotte down with a series of submissions like a modified surfboard and a figure-four headlock which Charlotte breaks out of with a electric chair.
Charlotte tries to rally back and goes for the figure-four leg lock but Banks counters into a pin for a two. Banks soon gets frustrated and lets Charlotte get the advantage. While she misses the moonsault, Charlotte lands on her feet and then hits a standing swanton onto Banks for a two count. Going to the top again, Banks tries to stop her but gets hit with a Natural Selection from the second rope letting Charlotte retain the title.
Again the woman impress with a higher match quality. A lot of the WWE roster could take notice from these matches, as this and the last special’s match between Bayley and Charlotte are better than some main events on the main roster the past few months.
Adrian Neville (c) vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship:
Following the impressive Woman’s Title match comes the main event we’ve been waiting for, with two friends fighting for title. This feud has been hot over the past few months and it all comes to a head in this match. The commentary team let the moment breath as they stay silent for the entrances and introductions letting he crowd give this one have that big fight feel.
Starting things slow, both guys feel each other out with lucha exchanges and basic holds. It doesn’t take long for the large spots to start as Zayn hits a spring board moonsault to Neville on the outside. Shortly after that Neville tries to take control and slow Zayn down but this doesn’t last long as Zayn hits another dive.
The two are pretty even as the match goes back and forth. Zayn hits more signature moves, like the Blue Thunderbomb, but only gets a two count. Both hit a bunch of suplexs and try to go for their finishers. Neville tries for the Red Arrow and gets hit by Zayn’s knees. During one sequence the referee gets knocked down, Zayn being the good guy tries to help the ref but as he gets up Neville hits a kick and a reverse hurricanrana for a two count.
It doesn’t take long for another ref bump as Zayn hits his finisher, the Helluva Kick, and hits both Neville and the ref. Neville goes out of the ring and grabs the belt, trying to use it a weapon. Zayn knocks him down and teases using the belt himself (even calling Neville a few bad words that were censored). But the baby face goes to give the belt back to the time keeper as Neville rolls him up for another two count. Zayn still with the advantage, hits a exploder suplex to Neville in the corner and then hits the Helluva Kick clean winning the NXT Championship.
Following the match, the locker room comes out to congratulate him, led by the new Kevin Owens, Zayn’s former tag partner and rival. The two hug and the roster carries Zayn around the ring. Zayn and Neville shake hands and the show starts to wind down from there.
As Zayn leaves the ring, Owens returns and hugs Sami one more time. With the copyright leaving the screen, Owens pushes Sami over, then hits a powerbomb to Zayn on the ring apperon. The Steen/Generico feud finds new life in NXT.
This moment was made big again by the lack of commentary. The moment was shocking not because we’re told it is, but because of the action itself. Again this is something the main show needs to learn.
It’s clear that the match of the night was the main event, but the show had a number of big moments. Whether it was the debut of Owens, his quick heel turn or the Balor entrance this is a better paced and presented show than the last special. If you’re not a WWE subscriber this whole show is worth the search. There was really one one filler match and it didn’t mess with the show at all.