Posts Tagged ‘NXT’

NXT TakeOver Dallas & WrestleMania 32 Review

April 18, 2016

A few weeks ago, NXT TakeOver Dallas and WrestleMania 32 happened. I’ll summarize my thoughts of both shows in this post and I’m going to rank the matches from best to worst. This is combined for both shows, so it will help to demonstrate the overall quality of each brand.

  1. Sami Zayn v. Shinsuke Nakamura

This was easily the top match of the weekend. Hell, it was the best match in a WWE ring since Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25. I’m not a follower of a lot of professional wrestling outside of the WWE umbrella these days other than finding an acclaimed match from ROH, NJPW, or the like here and there. This match delivered so much that it could have main evented WrestleMania. The anticipation for Nakamura was completely insane. Added to that was the feeling that this was Zayn’s last NXT match and even though you knew he was losing, you wanted to see what he was going to do.

The crowd was amped from the time Zayn’s music hit until the time he walked back through the curtain. Watch the first post-TakeOver NXT show during the backstage interview with Austin Aries and listen to how deafening the crowd is. You can barely hear Aries. This match was incredibly smooth, yet also stiff at times. I thought Nakamura was overrated coming in, but he definitely has ‘it’. It’s the small things. The cocky attitude in the beginning, firing up when he tasted his own blood, the mannerisms. The guy is legit. Zayn was classic in the underdog role. He was the guy defending his home turf and not wanting the new guy to make his name at Zayn’s expense.

The forearm sequence was incredible. The entire sequence with the missed Helluva Kick into the suplex, to the dodged Boma Ye, to the Blue Thunder Bomb was insane. The kick to Zayn’s face as he dove for the DDT was insane. No botches and everything was practically perfectly executed.

NXT can hardly be referred to as developmental anymore. This was far above anything else I saw all weekend. Roman Reigns, you are not ‘The Guy’. Nakamura is ‘The Guy’. The only downside is that there is just no way anything in the future can live up to this match.

  1. Bayley v. Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship)

This was an unexpected result for me. I thought for sure that Asuka would come up short on her first try (akin to Zayn, Bayley, Balor, etc.). This was a really good match and very physical at times. Bayley took a few brutal-looking shots. This was also another one of those matches where the crowd is split. Asuka is popular and respected, but Bayley is Bayley. You have to be a sociopath to not like Bayley.

In the end, Bayley passes out to the Asuka Lock. The crowd was stunned in a way that says, “Asuka is cool, but we’re really sad that Bayley lost.” Bayley sold the dejection really well. Just a really good, dramatic match. Wikipedia says this went over 15 minutes, but it felt much shorter.

  1. Finn Balor v. Samoa Joe (NXT Championship)

This match would have been #2 if not for the multiple stoppages to clean up Joe’s face. I respect WWE’s efforts to improve wrestler safety and health, but sometimes things need to be allowed to play out. Joe’s blood was everywhere and there was a cut on his eye. Short of stopping the match immediately and hauling him to medical, the risk for an infection or something of that nature isn’t going to change. The blood definitely added to the drama (No blading, but a legitimate accidental head butt), but the stoppages just killed the flow and momentum early on. This match really picked up in the second half and these guys beat the hell out of each other. The finish was a throwback to the old Bret Hart finish – at least I recall him using it twice: against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 8 and Steve Austin at Survivor Series 1996.

Balor added some blue into his attire and paint, which is brilliant. This guy has unlimited potential for merchandise if he stays healthy and stays over. As the Demon, he’s still undefeated. Who’s going to be the guy to beat him as that character? Without the stoppages, this match is easily the second best match of the weekend. That’s no knock because the Zayn/Nakamura match won’t be topped for years to come. Another surprising finish since I thought Balor’s main roster debut was imminent.

  1. Charlotte v. Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch (WWE Women’s Championship)

This was arguably the best match on the WrestleMania card. The build-up and videos were major. The entrances were major. The new Women’s Championship was major. The match was excellent with just a few sloppy spots (Sasha overshot a sunset flip off the second rope). Overall, there was some good drama. Charlotte’s moonsault to the floor was perfect. They all busted their asses and were given a good deal of time to have a great match. I would have preferred Sasha winning the title, but at least Charlotte retained/won in heel fashion.

Who would have ever thought in a million years that the women would have the best match on a WrestleMania card in 2016?

  1. American Alpha v. The Revival (NXT Tag Team Championship)

The crowd was hot for the opening match at TakeOver. Jordan and Gable are the best tag team the WWE has seen in a decade. Gable is like a mini-Kurt Angle in my opinion. Olympic amateur wrestler, deceptively strong, sells like crazy, lots of charisma. Jordan is perfect in the role of the big powerhouse waiting on the hot tag.

This match illustrated how tag team wrestling psychology is supposed to work. The Revival made a point to never allow Gable or Jordan to their half of the ring when they had them in trouble. They teased the tag a few times before Jordan finally got it. I might have moved this up a spot or 2 had there not been a really badly blown spot by the Revival.

The crowd was red hot for the finish and it was really cool seeing Jordan pretty much crying after the win. Really cool and well deserved.

  1. Ladder Match – Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn v. Ziggler v. Miz v. Ryder v. Stardust v. Sin Cara (WWE Intercontinental Championship)

Let me start out with the good: Everything that Owens and Zayn did against one another. Zayn’s diving flip through the ladder to the floor and DDT through the ropes was incredible. Also, the half-nelson suplex that saw Owens go headfirst onto the ladder was just brutal.

The rest of the match was pretty standard ladder match fare. There was the ladder airplane spin spot that never looks as good as a wobbly legged Terry Funk doing it. There was the obligatory ladder broken in half spot. The finish was surprising. Zack Ryder won the title only to drop it to the Miz the next night and lose the rematch on SmackDown. So, the entire match was used to get Miz over and re-introduce Maryse the next night. Luckily, the Owens/Zayn feud seems to be continuing. Unfortunately, I feel like the payoff will come at Payback or some B-level PPV.

Either way, I’m not a big fan of multi-person ladder matches. The novelty has worn off and no one sells. Just a big spot fest usually.

  1. Chris Jericho v. AJ Styles

This was another good match between the two. We’d already seen them wrestle several times leading up to this, so there wasn’t much new. AJ obviously lost nothing from losing since he’s facing Reigns for the title at the next PPV, but it was a confusing finish taking the clean loss to Jericho. Solid match overall.

  1. Undertaker v. Shane McMahon

This match wasn’t really very good and it was way too long. It earns the #8 spot solely for Shane’s jump off the cage. Yes, there was an airbag under the table, but he still hit very hard. Again, the veteran Undertaker knows how to make a match good without using a move. His facial expression after Shane almost killed him told the entire story: “This guy was actually going to kill me to win.”

My gripe is that the match didn’t really matter since Shane McMahon went on to run RAW anyways for 2 weeks running. Also, these matches just don’t have the same effect without some blood. There are situations where blood is needed and it should be really rare. This is one of them. A bloody and lifeless Shane McMahon being brought back into the ring for the final tombstone would have been a more striking visual.

  1. Brock Lesnar v. Dean Ambrose

On the WrestleMania card, I would say this match was the biggest disappointment. WWE teased barbed wire bats, chainsaws, stairs, and other weapons. We know Ambrose’s history in CZW. Would there be glass? Tacks? How crazy would it get? In the end, there was a kendo stick and some chairs. I’m sorry guys, but this is a Street Fight with Brock Lesnar. Ambrose should have tried everything. He should have been being thrown through tables and onto tacks. There needed to be blood. The audience should have been saying, “Oh my God, this guy is bleeding, covered in tacks, and hurt really bad and he keeps getting up.” In the end, a suplex and F5 on the chairs ended it after only 13 minutes. There was next to no drama or excitement in this match.

  1. Baron Corbin v. Austin Aries

Tough first match for Aries. He was somewhat limited to what he could do against a bigger guy like Corbin. Still, there were a few really good sequences. Corbin losing via roll up was OK as it protected him for his main roster debut (more on that later) by making it seem like a fluke. Aries seems like a better heel though. I think he will go that direction soon enough.

  1. Triple H v. Roman Reigns (WWE Championship)

This match was what people expected. The crowd despises Reigns more than any heel other than Eva Marie in NXT. Instead of using WrestleMania as an opportunity for a swerve or heel turn for Reigns, WWE went ahead and gave him the clean babyface win. He even was able to spear a woman. I suppose he got his WrestleMania title moment so his family wouldn’t start killing members of the audience in protest.

No really, though. This match was 27 excruciating minutes long. And the show was running way over time as well. At least we didn’t have to listen to Flo Rida perform. Don’t work, WrestleMania 33 is in Florida, so you just know he’ll be back. This match had no business being the main event, but then again, what else was there? Shit, the women arguably could have main evented WrestleMania. Anyway, a very anti-climactic finish and ending.

  1. Andre the Giant Battle Royal

The good: Baron Corbin won. The bad: Where to start? Shaquille O’Neal showed up unannounced. I assume that was to build toward the inevitable ‘Embarrass the Big Show at WrestleMania’ match next year. Shaq against Big Show is a match that exactly no one is clamoring to see. A few people got entrances. Baron Corbin didn’t. Tatanka was randomly in there and not acknowledged for quite a while.

It was a standard boring battle royal. I’m just glad Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry, or someone else generic didn’t win.

  1. League of Nations v. New Day

This earned a spot this high solely for the New Day entrance and the appearance of Austin, HBK, and Foley. Inexplicably, the New Day loses the match. It wasn’t for the tag titles, though – that was never made clear at any point.

Could the post-match not have been accomplished even if New Day won? League of Nations could have beat them down post match and cut the same promo. Again, just a totally weird finish.

  1. Rock v. Erick Rowan

This was a 6 second squash and I still ranked it above 3 matches. This was fine. It may have been more effective to have just had the Wyatts get the upper hand on the Rock and beat him down only for John Cena to make the save.

  1. Kalisto v. Ryback (US Championship)

This was just awful. Ryback is the worst professional wrestler on the roster and that includes talents in NXT who haven’t wrestled a televised match in their career.

  1. Usos v. Dudleys

This match got 5 minutes. It was even more awful than Kalisto and Ryback. The Usos are a tired act. They’ve made no changes at all to their characters since the beginning. The crowd is slowly turning on them either from being featuring in Total Divas or by association with Reigns. Or because they’re generic and boring. And I can’t believe the Dudleys are in this position.

Finally, the worst match of the weekend goes to….

  1. Team Total Divas v. Team BAD and Blonde

This spectacle is everything that was wrong with the ‘Diva’s’ division. I’m not sure how Emma got roped into this since she had sort of reinvented her character in NXT. Hey Emma, here’s your second shot on the main roster and we’ll stick you with this 10-Diva tag team clusterfuck. The big story here was supposed to be Lana wrestling. Of course, since NXT is on the Network, we all know she doesn’t wrestle. She could be the only Diva with less ability than Eva Marie. How about Eva Marie being on the babyface team, by the way? Classic.

Anyway, Lana sucked as we expected. What irritated me the most is that most of the Divas were in the ring the next night on RAW as the new Women’s division was christened. Look, 80% of those women are not wrestlers. Paige, Natalya, and Emma can wrestle. The rest? I’d have future endeavored them that night.

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Brooklyn RAW Crowd / “Diva Revolution”

August 25, 2015

Opinions are mixed on the Brooklyn crowd’s disrespect toward the Raw Divas match featuring Team Bella (Brie, Nikki, and Alicia Fox) against Team PCB (Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch). I’m of the opinion that it was appropriate. Not toward the new Divas, obviously. They’re just doing what they’re told. The chants from the crowd were more directed to WWE decision-makers. It was the realization that the “Diva Revolution” was just another trendy hash tag fad that tried to take advantage of the recent momentum of women in sports (Rousey, USA Soccer, Serena Williams, etc.). The crowd realized that it was disingenuous, like most of what WWE’s main product puts out these days. If you needed any other proof that it’s a branded tagline with no meaning, count how many times JBL and Cole say ‘Diva Revolution’ during their segments. It’s enough to want to make me mute the TV. Not because I’m anti-women’s wrestling, but because it’s so forced that it makes me want to cringe.

First, you have to start from the beginning of what’s wrong – and what is wrong with WWE in general. There are very few storylines. Sure, the main event feuds typically have storylines, but they’re generally vague and lack logic. NXT women’s wrestling works because not only can they work a match, they can tell a story. It’s back to basics. Wrestling is good overcoming evil. The babyface is held down, screwed, and always comes up short while the heel cheats their way to the top. The babyface finally overcomes heel. Why was Bayley against Sasha Banks so amazing at NXT Takeover? Not just because they had a great match – those can be a dime a dozen. It’s because people had a reason to emotionally invest. Bayley was down and out again and she overcame Sasha and beat her – fairly. I mean, just the promo video before the match got you fired up. There was a finish without interference or timekeepers ringing the bell. Kevin Owens against Sami Zayn worked because they had history and a storyline. I mean, there are still massive portions of fans that think Undertaker is a babyface just doing what he has to do to win. That’s a direct result of the idiocy of WWE announcing these days. I could see Undertaker sacrificing a litter of kittens in the ring and JBL screaming, “HE’S JUST DOING WHAT HE HAS TO DO TO WIN.”

Back to RAW. Since debuting, the Divas have been on teams. Sasha is saddled with the incumbent Naomi and Tamina. Becky and Charlotte are saddled with Paige. Team Bella is saddled with Team Bella. With the exception of possibly Paige, the incumbent Divas don’t know how to work the crowd and tell much of a story. I also think that they have no interest in doing so and instead are more concerned with keeping their spot and backstabbing – this is wrestling, after all. Would you rather model, be on an atrocious reality show, and work 2 minute matches or be paid the same to do the same and bump around 10-15 minutes a night and possibly have your lack of talent exposed? It’s also nearly impossible to get over by having endless 3-woman tag matches with no meaning or backstory. We are forced to sit on our hands until Nikki breaks AJ Lee’s title reign record because personal grudges are more important to McMahon. Instead of the obviously more talented new women squashing the current Divas, they were subjected to not only being forced to sell for them, but to trade wins – essentially rendering the entire thing pointless. After watching those women in NXT, the idea that Brie Bella could pin one of them is as realistic as Bo Dallas taking Brock Lesnar out, yet Brie pinned Becky at one point.

Monday night was the culmination. The most popular Diva, Sasha, wasn’t even on the show. What we got was an absolutely awful promo where the Divas bickered amongst each other about absolutely nothing, which lead to yet another 3-on-3 tag match that also meant nothing for the winners or losers. This match lasted somewhere around 15 minutes and 75% of the match was Team Bella working rest holds on Team PCB. It ended with Alicia Fox pinning someone. Some Divas Revolution. It was an awful match. Why was it so awful? Because there is no storyline. Who cares who wins because it means nothing?

Triple H said this weekend that he doesn’t just put the NXT women in the main event; they earn their way into it. WWE is forcing the Divas to have more time, but not giving them any opportunity to earn it. Sometimes I wonder if it makes Triple H sad that he has to watch people that he made stars in NXT are marginalized and snuffed out in WWE. NXT just sold out a 15,000 seat arena with a roster of independent wrestlers and development talents. Pretty much every match on the card and the wrestlers were OVER with the crowd. Is it genuine? Is it just the audience rejecting the bland, meaningless WWE product? Who knows, but I do know Triple H can promote and book a wrestling show. I look forward to the day that he takes over WWE, but he’ll be saddled with Stephanie, who I think is just as clueless as Vince.

WWE WrestleMania XXX Thoughts

March 6, 2014

Photo Credit: WWE

WrestleMania XXX is just around the corner. Theoretically, the 30th WrestleMania should be the biggest one ever. Not so much in terms of attendance (The Super Dome can’t hold over 93,000) and not in terms of Pay-Per-View buy rates (Due to the WWE Network, PPV buy rates won’t touch the ~1 million they’ve been averaging for the last decade). Rather, it should be the biggest WrestleMania in history simply due to the milestone. The 30th WrestleMania should be ridiculously loaded from start to finish. A new era should be ready to begin. Hulk Hogan dominated from WrestleMania I through WrestleMania IX. The New Generation/Attitude Era went from roughly WrestleMania X until WrestleMania XVII. The Invasion/Brock Lesnar Era lasted From WrestleMania XVIII to XX. The John Cena Era has endured since WrestleMania XXI.

By most accounts, the pieces are (were) there for the change to happen. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn, AJ Lee, Paige, and other NXT talents should be the present and the future. Those names are just off the top of my head. Heading into WrestleMania XXX, I am slowly starting to realize that the actual event, as grand in scale as it may be, is going to be awful.

I am going to explore some of the main event-level matches and explain how I would do things differently and how the audience will likely respond to WWE’s version- starting with the WWE Championship.

1.  WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs. Dave Batista

This is the main event of the biggest (In terms of milestones) WrestleMania, ever. The first WrestleMania with the newly recognized WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE gives the audience THIS pile of BS. Before I get to the Batista debacle (and that is putting it nicely), let me discuss Randy Orton’s storylines and booking heading into the event. Last summer, Orton was booked to continue getting screwy wins over Daniel Bryan. In the short-term, people were furious. In the long-term, what kind of payoff would it be if Bryan triumphantly overcame it all when it mattered? Am I right? It would be tremendous.

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