The NXT Takeover Dallas event took place on the Friday night of WrestleMania weekend. Despite staying at a hotel about three blocks from the arena, I wasn’t able to secure a ticket at a good price. That’s because prices were jacked up in the last month and as much as I love wrestling, paying five or six times regular price didn’t interest me. I watched it live on Friday night, but I didn’t write about it then. That’s what I’m going to do now.
I don’t write about NXT regularly (Kurt Zamora handles it for us at TJRWrestling.net), but I do want to write reviews of the Takeover specials. Here we go with NXT Takeover Dallas.
NXT Takeover Dallas
The show began with a video package about wrestling history in Texas followed by some clips of the talent featured in the matches on this show.
The crowd is hot in Dallas as the show begins with American Alpha making their entrance. The announce team of Tom Phillips and Corey Graves welcomed us to the show.
NXT Tag Team Titles: The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable)
Loud chants for “Gable” similar to the Kurt Angle theme song. Funny chant from the crowd chant “which one’s Dawson, which one’s Dash” because they haven’t established personalities for them yet. Dawson’s the bald one in case you’re wondering. Gable showed some impressive mat work early on. Tag by Jordan, who hit an impressive dropkick on Dawson. Double back body drop by American Alpha. Wilder hit a back elbow on Gable. Dawson tagged in, Gable nailed a cross body block and then some arm drags. Jordan saved Gable from a double team move and then American Alpha hit dueling German Suplexes as the champs retreated outside the ring. Gable with an atomic drop on Dawson. Dash nailed a clothesline on Gable that caught Gable by surprise, so that led to the champs working over Gable. Funny “Save The Gable” chant as the champs continued to double team him. Gable tried to make the tag, he was blocked by the champs and then Gable gave them a double DDT. Dash crawled under the ring to trip up Jordan on the apron. Double team by The Revival on Gable. It looked like they messed up on a double powerbomb spot, so the fans chanted “Botchamania” at them. Dash missed a corner attack, Gable reached out again and Dawson stopped him. Gable crawled under Dawson's legs to tag Jordan.
Jordan was on fire after the hot tag with a dropkick, a back body drop and a t-bone suplex. Jordan with a running shoulder tackle on Dash and then an overhead suplex on Dawson. The champs tried to cheat on a pin attempt, but Jordan was able to kick out before three. Jordan got a rollup on Dawson, who kicked out and Dash nailed an uppercut on Jordan leading to Gable making the save. Jordan pinfall on Dawson gets two as Gable hit a dropkick on Dash. Jordan with a belly to belly suplex and his corner attack missed because Dash moved Dawson out of the way. Victory roll counter by Dawson gets two and then Gable’s rollup gets two. Gable with an inside cradle earns another two count. Jordan made the tag, hit a shoulder tackle, picked up Dawson and Gable brought him down with the back suplex for the victory after 15:12 of action.
Winners by pinfall and New Tag Team Champions: American Alpha
Huge ovation for American Alpha winning the titles. The crowd loves these guys as they should. It looked like Jordan was in tears because he’s been in NXT for like four years.
Analysis: ***3/4 That was an awesome tag match with a hot finish leading to the predictable title change. Just because it’s predictable doesn’t make it bad. Jordan and Gable have built up momentum since last summer, so it makes sense that they won the gold at this huge show. Loved that finishing sequence. Most Gable/Jordan matches have the same formula with Gable getting beat up for most of it, Jordan getting the hot tag and then going to the finish. The reason they do that is because Jordan’s offense after the hot tag is awesome. He’s as good as anybody after the hot tag because his offense is incredible and they know that it’s the perfect way to fire up the crowd. Give a lot of credit to The Revival because they acted like true heels that cheated all match long in ways that nobody else is doing it right now. Tag team wrestling is amazing when it’s done right and that’s what it was here.
The day after this show, I went to Axxess and got to meet Jordan & Gable. It was nice to be able to thank them for the great match and also congratulate them on their success.
A commercial aired for NXT going to England in June. If you’re near those venues, get there. NXT shows are worth your time and money. Trust me on that.
They showed WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross sitting next to ESPN’s Michelle Beadle at ringside.
There was a shot of talented cruiserweight Kota Ibushi at ringside with Funaki. The belief is that he’s signed with WWE. I’ve seen some of his work in Japan and he’s pretty damn good. That’s a smart signing for WWE. They have so much talent in WWE right now.
A video aired to set up Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries, which is up next.
Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries
This the WWE NXT in-ring debut for Aries. The crowd was strongly behind Aries early on. Huge forearm by Aries sent Corbin to the floor with Aries hitting a double axehandle off the top. Back in the ring, Corbin hit a stun gun and then stomped away on Aries. Corbin sent Aries into the ring post leading to a two count. Corbin grounded Aries with a nerve hold. Aries broke free, but Corbin continued to overpower him with a clotheslines and elbow smashes. Aries came back with chops, a leaping clothesline and a double axe to the back while Corbin was tied up in the ropes. Neckbreaker by Aries using the ropes as an assist followed by a missile dropkick. Aries nailed a suicide dive on Corbin outside the ring. Corbin nailed his Deep Six spinning slam on the floor to regain control. Corbin beat down Aries with forearm shots. Corbin went for End of Days, Aries turned it into a rollup where he sat on top and that was enough for the pinfall win after 10:43 of action.
Winner by pinfall: Austin Aries
Analysis: ** It was an okay match telling the basic story of the big guy trying to overpower the smaller Aries, but in the end the veteran smarts of Aries won out. The result was no surprise although I think it would have been better with a more creative finish. The crowd didn’t respond to it that well because it didn’t come at a time where they expected the finish. Considering Corbin won the battle royal at WrestleMania, I understand why they had him lose in this manner because this loss didn’t weaken him too much. Plus, Aries wasn’t going to lose his first match in NXT. Booking wise it was well done. I just think the finish could have been better.
There was a shot of Finn Balor arriving earlier in the day.
There was a huge pop from the crowd when the graphic showed the Nakamura vs. Zayn match. A video showed Zayn’s return to action a few months ago and then the Nakamura announcement.
Sami Zayn received a big reaction as the crowd sang along with his theme song. Nakamura got an even bigger reaction because a lot of these fans were aware of how great of a performer he was. They chanted “Nakamura” before his music hit. The entrance was really cool with a catchy song as well as his very charismatic way of entering the ring.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
The crowd was going wild for this with “yes” chants as well as chants for both men. They’re both faces. Nakamura ducked a lockup and followed it up with a strut. Zayn showed his quicks as he avoided some kicks from Nakamura. When Zayn took down Nakamura with an armdrag, he signaled him to bring it just like Nakamura did a couple of minutes earlier. Knee drop by Nakamura gets two. Nakamura hit an enziguri kick that rocked Zayn back into the corner, Zayn blocked a kick and Nakamura hit a spin kick using the front foot instead of the back foot like most people would use. Zayn with a suplex. Zayn with a leaping heel kick to the face for two. Forearm shot by Nakamura rocked Zayn, but then when he went to the top, Zayn nailed a forearm smash to send Nakamura to the floor. While on the apron, Nakamura nailed a leaping kick to the face and then two knee drops. Those knee strikes look nasty. The fans were doing a dueling “Nakamura/Sami Zayn” chant. Nakamura missed a corner charge, but then he came back with a running knee lift to the ribs for two. Zayn was able to use Nakamura’s momentum to send him to the floor. Zayn capitalized on that with a somersault dive over the top rope to take down Nakamura on the floor. Back in the ring, cross body block by Zayn gets two. Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them.
Nakamura came back with some knee strikes on Zayn on the mat. Zayn with a Michinoku Driver. Both guys were out as the crowd clapped to get them going again. They had this really cool sequence where they exchanged forearm shots to the face as the crowd chanted “yay” for every shot as well as “yes” chants. Nakamura had a busted nose due to all the forearm shots he took. Both guys were selling exhaustion although they were probably so tired from that exchange that it was legit too. Nakamura won the forearm battle as he battered Zayn to the point that he was knocked out against the ropes. Another kick to the face by Nakamura. The ref cleaned up the blood on Nakamura’s nose. Nakamura ran the ropes and Zayn crushed him with a huge clothesline that Nakamura sold with a flip bump. Great spot. Another clothesline by Zayn. Knee by Nakamura followed by a flipping armbar in the middle of the ring. Zayn fought it off with some kicks. Zayn kicked away at Nakamura repeatedly in the head just like Nakamura had done to him. Zayn with a Koji Klutch submission on the upper body of Nakamura. The crowd chanted “please don’t tap” as Nakamura countered into a pin attempt for two. Nakamura came back with a step up enziguri that connected really well. Both guys were down in the ring as the fans chanted “fight forever” at them. Nakamura came back with a one legged dropkick to the face. Zayn went for the Helluva Kick, but Nakamura countered with an inverted Exploder Suplex. What a move! Zayn came back with a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. What a nearfall that was! Damn! The crowd bought it! Standing ovation from the crowd for that exchange. Wow that’s an amazing sight. Loud “NXT” chants for them. Zayn went for his leaping DDT outside the ring, but Nakamura nailed a hard kick to the face to counter it. They battled in the ring with Nakamura hitting elbow strikes to counter a suplex attempt. Nakamura went to the middle rope and hit a knee strike to the back. That was sweet. Nakamura hit the Kinshasa running knee strike for the pinfall win at the 20:07 mark.
Winner by pinfall: Shinsuke Nakamura
Analysis: ***** Wow! What an incredible match! That’s a five-star match and that’s as high as this scale goes. It was wrestling perfection, my friends. There was so much hype going into this match and they lived up to the hype. They got the perfect guy to face Nakamura because Zayn was willing to go toe to toe with him and they were able to tell an incredible story while also having a very physical match. The match came off like a mix of technical wrestling as well as a brutal fight. It’s not like they are the biggest guys out there, but they treated it like a real battle. The best matches are the ones that feel the most real. Sounds simple, right? It sounds that way, but it’s not always easy to execute. When you watch some main roster WWE guys they just can’t pull off a match like this. All of the knee strikes by Nakamura tell the story of this physical match. It wore down Zayn to the point that Naka was able to hit that final strike to get the win. I liked that it wasn’t a match with guys kicking out of finishing moves. It ended when Nakamura hit his finish. It felt like a fight more than a wrestling match and I absolutely loved it. Nakamura getting the win made sense in terms of the booking because it puts him over huge right away. Zayn’s on the main roster, so no problem with him losing in what is likely his NXT farewell match. If you’re wondering, I believe my last five-star match was The Undertaker vs. Triple H in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania 28 four years ago. It’s been a while. This match deserves that rating. I’m not sure when they’ll have another match, but I’m already looking forward to it.
Post match, they showed replays of the key spots in the match.
Nakamura posed in the ring for the crowd, who gave him a huge ovation for that performance. He deserves the standing ovation. Nakamura went over to Zayn in the corner. He extended a hand. Zayn shook his hand and they hugged in the ring. Nakamura left first.
Zayn was alone in the ring as the crowd serenaded him with “ole ole ole” chants because they knew this was his NXT farewell match. He looked pretty emotional as he surveyed the scene. He waved to the crowd.
Analysis: The NXT brand is so unique that it feels like his farewell on this show yet he’s probably got a solid decade of work ahead of him as long as he’s healthy. Zayn is as good as anybody in terms of in-ring performance. He’s going to do great things, but he will be missed in NXT. No question about that. It’s a reminder of what NXT is because it is something that is supposed to launch people to that next level and for Zayn, he’s ready to be a star on the main roster.
Samoa Joe was shown getting ready backstage.
A video aired to set up Bayley vs. Asuka for the Women’s Title. Bayley’s had the Women’s Title since last August while Asuka has been undefeated since she debuted on NXT shortly after that.
They showed Stephanie McMahon sitting ringside. She was booed.
NXT Women’s Title: Bayley vs. Asuka
This is also a face vs. face match although the crowd like Bayley more. The crowd did the “Hey Bayley” song that is a take on a song that was big in the UK, so the UK fans brought it here as well. Forearm shot by Asuka early on. Bayley with a hip toss and then she avoided a running kick by Asuka. The crowd applauded that sequence. Asuka with a flying hip attack followed by a kick. She missed a running attack against the ropes as Bayley came back with a clothesline and back elbow off the middle ropes for a two count. Bayley with a cross body block off the top rope gets two. Asuka took down Bayley with an armbar, but Bayley got to the ropes. With Asuka tied up in the ropes, Bayle hit an elbow drop for a two count. Bayley with a hurricanrana off the top gets two. That was well done. Asuka came back with an ankle lock submission in the middle of the ring, but Bayley was able to send her out of the ring to counter it. Bayley did a headscissors attack on the floor. Another cool looking spot. Back in the ring, Asuka kicked out at two. Asuka with a running dropkick and then she nailed a missile dropkick off the middle ropes. Bayley with a forearm smash, but Asuka came back with two knee strikes in a row for a two count.
Bayley with a back suplex. Bayley ducked another Asuka attack, but Asuka was able to connect with an enziguri kick to the head to knock Bayley down. Hard slap by Asuka. When Asuka went for a kick, Bayley caught the foot and applied a knee bar on her. Wow that was an outstanding sequence! Asuka broke free. Bayley got some more offense in and looked confident, but Asuka applied an armbar takedown. They got back to their feet, Bayley ducked two Asuka kicks and Bayley got an inside cradle for two. Suplex by Bayley. Bayley applied an arm submission on Asuka and then a nearfall gets two. Asuka blocked the suplex, then she hit a spin kick and a suplex. Armbar by Asuka. They got back to their feet. Asuka hooked Bayley’s arm/shoulder as she applied the Asuka Lock and took her back down to the mat. Asuka had her legs wrapped around the waist of Bayley to prevent her from moving much at all. Bayley stopped moving as the referee checked on her and rang the bell. Asuka wins by submission after 15:23 of action.
Winner by submission and New NXT Women’s Champion: Asuka
Analysis: ***1/2 A great match between two outstanding female performers with different styles. It was a tough spot following Nakamura/Zayn, but they made it work. They found a way to work in Asuka’s physical submission style with Bayley’s babyface fire and the ability to always keep fighting back until she had nothing left. It was a smart finish too. Asuka is booked like a deadly performer, but Bayley coming back with her own submissions worked really well too. The booking of Asuka from her debut to this moment has been great. Why can’t they book a male wrestler like that on the main roster? Just give them wins, make them look like a star and the crowd will buy in if the performer has a lot of talent like Asuka does. While I’m sad that Bayley’s title reign is over, this frees her up to go to the main roster in the near future. They’ll probably have a rematch first.
Post match, Asuka celebrated with the Women’s Title while Bayley was checked on by referees because she was selling the shoulder injury.
The video package aired to set up Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe for the NXT Title. This is a rematch from NXT Takeover London in December, which was also for the NXT Title.
Prior to the main event, Bobby Roode was shown in the front row. That drew a big reaction from the crowd because he was well known as one of TNA Wrestling’s top guys for 14 years.
Analysis: I know Roode has gone public in saying he hasn’t signed a WWE deal yet. Maybe he didn’t physically sign it yet, but it was likely agreed to verbally. It’s not like they would show him on camera unless he had a deal. That’s a great move for NXT and for him because he’s an outstanding performer. The guy is almost 40, so I don't think staying on NXT that long is necessary.
Samoa Joe entered first for the main event. A good reaction for him although he’s a heel, so it’s not like he was begging for cheers.
Balor got a really nice ovation as the babyface champion that also included his “demon” body paint. He also had a chainsaw with him on his way to the ring. I guess it’s a tribute to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
NXT Title: Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
They bumped heads early on leading to Joe getting busted open above the right eye. The ref put on the white gloves as WWE refs usually do when there’s blood. Balor tossed Joe out of the ring and nailed a dive out to the floor. Joe came back with a hip toss over the guard rail in a move that took out a security guy nearby. The ref Drake Wuertz tried to clean up the blood, but Joe shoved him away. Balor came back with a forearm smash. Back in the ring, Joe overpowered him with fists and then a hard kick to the head that sent Balor to the floor. Joe did a suicide dive into a forearm smash that sent Balor into the barricade at rings. Crowd chanted “holy shit” for that. A trainer also tended to Joe’s cut. The crowd wasn’t happy about it. Joe rolled Balor back in. Another trainer tended to the blood on Joe’s face as the crowd booed this pause in action. Fans chanted “PG sucks” which is kinda stupid, but I get why they did it. Back in the ring, Joe nailed a one armed slam as fans chanted “Joe’s Gonna Kill You” for him. Joe worked on the back of Balor with a knee to the back. Joe nailed an enziguri kick for a two count. The ref told Joe to pause so they can tend to the cut again. More boos from the crowd plus a “bullshit” chant.
Joe took down Balor with a forearm smash followed by a boot to the face against the turnbuckle. Joe chopped Balor while on the top rope, then an atomic drop, big boot, kicks and a knee drop gets two. Joe’s always been great at doing those combination moves. Balor made a comeback with a dropkick while officials tended to Joe again and the crowd chanted “Let Joe Bleed” for it. Balor laid in some huge chops on Joe. With Joe seated on the top rope, Balor nailed a kick to the head to knock him down, then a dropkick to the floor and a running kick on the apron. Back in the ring, Joe nailed an overhead belly to belly suplex. Balor with the comeback, but then Joe avoided an attack and nailed a senton splash for two. Joe with a Powerbomb, then he turned it into a Boston Crab and then a Crossface submission. Balor was able to roll out of it and nailed a double foot stomp. Balor with the Slingblade, then the dropkick and he went up top, but Joe stopped that. Kick to he head by Joe while Balor was on the top rope. Joe hit the Muscle Buster for the one…two…no. Damn. Thought that was it. Joe sold it well with a shocked look on his face. They exchanged strikes as they got to their feet and then Balor won that battle with a Pele Kick. Both guys were down. Balor let out a yell, hit the Slingblade, dropkick and he connected with the Coup de Grace double foot stomp. Joe slapped on a Kokina Clutch sleeper. Balor kicked off the ropes, rolled back on top of Joe and while Joe held him in the hold, Balor was able to keep him down for three seconds. Balor wins by pinfall after 16:22 of action.
Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor
Analysis: **** It’s a four-star main event similar to their match at NXT Takeover London with Balor getting the win again. The finish is similar to Hart/Piper at WrestleMania 8 and Hart/Austin at Survivor Series 1996. Joe was on offense for about 3/4 of the match, Balor made the comeback and then it was really even. Tough to call who was going to win. It was a physical match that had an interesting twist with the legit blood from Joe’s head. That led to some interesting moments where the crowd was angry with the officials stopping the match due to blood, but that’s how WWE operates these days. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for WWE to do that, but I get why the crowd gets mad about it. I thought that there was a chance that Joe might get the win because of the possibility of Balor moving up to the main roster. However, Balor winning makes me think that Joe will be on the main roster very soon, which is where he should be. I mean they both should be, but I think it was a match where the loser is the one that is on the main roster first. Joe was outstanding in this match, proving once again he can be the best heel in all of WWE if they let him loose.
Post match, Joe walked away frustrated. Balor celebrated with the NXT Title once again. No angle to end the show. It ended right there.
Five Stars Of The Show
1. Shinsuke Nakamura – What a debut.
2. Sami Zayn – What a NXT farewell.
3. Samoa Joe – He didn’t win, but he was the best heel on the show by far.
4. Asuka – Incredible performance by her again.
5. Jordan/Gable – Huge title win for a very deserving team that has such a bright future.
I feel bad that I couldn’t pick others, but I’ll stick with the five (or six).
What a great show this was. Call it a 9 out of 10. With a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes for five matches they were able to give all the matches a significant amount of time.
That Nakamura/Zayn match was the best match this year. It may be difficult for anybody to top it. Then again, the WWE roster is full of talent with a lot of potential dream matches, so it’s possible that it could be topped. I just think they were in front of the right crowd on the right night that was very appreciative of everything they did. Nakamura had a lot of pressure in his WWE debut and he lived up to the hype thanks to the greatness of Zayn as well.
The two title changes didn’t surprise me. It made sense to put the gold on Jordan & Gable since they’ve been built up so well. Asuka has been booked perfectly as well. They were smart title changes that followed awesome matches.
I liked the main event a lot. It wasn’t the match of the night, but it was still awesome. Maybe in hindsight they should have put Nakamura’s match on last because that generated the best reactions. However, I get why Balor/Joe was last since it was for the title.
The only match that was below average was Aries/Corbin, but it’s not like it was that bad. It was done to put Aries over, so mission accomplished in that regard.
I don’t like to compare these Takeover specials to regular WWE PPVs because they are shorter, but if you go back over the last two years these shows are usually better than WWE PPVs. That’s because they tend to have fewer matches and they give them more time in the ring.
The NXT brand continues to be a huge bright spot for WWE. NXT Takeover Dallas proved it again.
John Canton – [email protected]