Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Japan Pro-Wrestling - The New Beginning in Sendai 2015 Review

Yuji Nagata challenges Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Title, while the NEVER Openweight Title is vacated!

NJPW The New Beginning in Sendai 2015
Sendai, Japan 2/14/15

It was announced before the show began that, once again, NEVER Openweight Champion Togi Makabe was off the show due to a severe case of the flu. Because of this, New Japan had decided to strip the NEVER Openweight Title from Makabe, declaring it vacant and announced that a Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma singles match later on in the night would decide the new champion.

1.) Captain New Japan & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Satoshi Kojima & Yohei Komatsu: *¾

We start things off with a pretty random tag team match. Nothing really much to say about this one, other than it sucks to see Kojima in this position, because he still has a good amount left in the tank. Nakanishi & Captain New Japan get the win in a pretty forgettable match.

2.) ROH World Tag Team Champions reDRagon vs. Tiger Mask & Jay White: ***

Our next contest sees the former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions reDRagon taking on Tiger Mask & Jay White. Fish & O’Reilly lost their titles in a three-way match in Osaka a few days before, but weren’t the team that was pinned. This was a very solid undercard tag team match. reDRagon are just so fun to watch, and they worked well here with Tiger Mask & Jay White. In the end, White would fall to Chasing The Dragon, which leads to Fish & O’Reilly getting the win.

3.) Six-Man Tag - The Time Splitters & Mascara Dorada vs. The Bullet Club (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks): ***1/4

Back at The New Beginning in Osaka, Alex Shelley & Mascara Dorada save Rysuke Taguchi from a Bullet Club beatdown, and Dorada make it clear that he’s the next challenger for Omega’s IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. As far as this match goes, it was pretty good. A very fun match, as you would expect for these six guys. Dorada gets the win for his team, continuing to build momentum towards his eventuall title match.

4.) NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title - Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Chase Owens (with Bruce Tharpe): **1/2

This is the first of two NWA title matches on the card. Liger actually won the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title from Owens back at Power Struggle 2014. This was a decent match, but not much else. A perfectly fine undercard title match. Liger ends up reversing a package piledriver attempt with a pin to retain his title!

After the match, Liger challenges Tiger Mask (who was in Liger’s corner) to a title match, Tiger Mask accepts. It’s odd to see a champion calling out a challenger, but I’m sure the match will be good.

5.) NWA World Heavyweight Title - Rob Conway (with Bruce Tharpe) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan: ***3/4

Up next we have our 2nd NWA title match of the night, but this time it’s Rob Conway defending the NWA World Heavyweight Title against Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Now I don’t think anyone was expecting much coming into this match. From what I’ve gathered, Conway really hasn’t set the world on fire in his previous New Japan appearances, but this match came out of left field. This was actually a really good match, bordering on great. It ended up being much better than I think anyone expected. I don’t know what it was, but this match just worked. Conway was good, Tenzan was good, and Bruce Tharpe played his role very well. In the end, Tenzan is able to overcome the attempted outside interference from Tharpe to defeat Conway and win the NWA World Heavyweight Title! Again, much better than you could have possibly imagined.

6.) Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano: **¾

This is an interesting tag team match. Ibushi & Naito are a semi-regular team, which Yano & Sakuraba have been partners for a few months. This was a fine tag team match. Nothing really much else to say. Naito is able to counter Yano’s shenanigans to score the win for his team.

7.) CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi): **¾

Once again, Okada is in tag team action against Bad Luck Fale, but this time, it’s a two-on-two encounter. I’d say this was very similar to the tag team match that preceded. It was totally fine and inoffensive, but not much else. Okada takes out Yujiro with a Rainmaker to get the victory for his team.

8.) Six-Man Tag - Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, & Katsuyori Shibata vs. The Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows): ***¼

AJ Styles is oddly not on this show, so instead we have Tama Tonga in this Six-Man Tag. I’d say this was pretty solid. It might have been the best Six-Man Tag of the two shows (though I think the Omega/Young Bucks vs. Dorada/Time Spitters match was on par with this one). Everyone did a good job here, and in the end, the babyface side of Tanahashi, Goto & Shibata would pick up the win.

9.) NEVER Openweight Title - Tomohiro Ishii & Tomoaki Honma: ****3/4

As mentioned earlier, Togi Makabe was unable to complete due to a bad case of the flu, so he was stripped of the title, and this match is going to decide the new NEVER Openweight Champion. All I have to say is this match was awesome!!!! These went right at each other right from the opening bell and didn’t let up until the end of match. Just great, hard hitting action from start to finish. These two nearly killed each other at several points in this match. Ishii came off like a badass and the crowd was SO behind the underdog Honma. Eventually, Ishii was able to put away Honma to reclaim the NEVER Openweight Title. An absolutely brutal affair, and one of the best matches of 2015!!

10.) IWGP Intercontinental Title - Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yuji Nagata: ***½

We’ve finally reached the Main Event. Nagata won the pre-show “Rambo” at Wrestle Kingdom 9, and used this victory to challenge Nakamura at New Year Dash 2015. Nagata’s family was at ringside to cheer him on. This was a really good match, though as the Main Event, it was slightly disappointing. I’m sure part of it had to do with the fact that they had to follow an incredible match between Ishii & Honma, but this match just didn’t reach the levels of their encounter during the 2014 G1 Climax. The finish of the match felt anticlimactic as well, as Nakamura won out of nowhere. With all of that said, this was still a very good match. Nakamura celebrates to close the show.

Overall: 8.0/10

While one would think that The New Beginning in Osaka would have been the better show of the two, The New Beginning in Sendai was actually slightly better. You had an incredible match with Ishii vs. Honma for the vacant NEVER Openweight Title, that was a legitimate Match of the Year Contender. You also had a NWA World Heavyweight Title Match that was significantly better than anyone anticipated. While the IWGP Intercontinental Title Match was disappointing, albeit still pretty good, the rest of the undercard was, as a whole, more consistent compared to the Osaka, and in the end, it made for a slightly better show.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling - The New Beginning in Osaka 2015 Review

AJ Styles challenges Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Title!

NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka
Osaka, Japan 2/11/15

Before the show, it was announced that NEVER Openweight Champion Togi Makabe would be missing the show due to a severe case of the flu. Some of the undercard had to be reshuffled as a result.

1.) Sho Tanaka vs. Yohei Komatsu: **¾

The show kicks off with a battle between two of New Japan’s Young Lions! This was a pretty solid opener. You can always count on Komatsu & Tanaka to deliver good performances in these spots, and this was no exception. Tanaka would pick up the win in this encounter.

2.) Captain New Japan & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Mascara Dorada & Tiger Mask: *3/4

Here we have a team of two heavyweights taking on a team of two juniors, which is a very rare occurrence in New Japan. This wasn’t very good, as you would expect, but it was the best match possible considering who was involved. Mascara Dorada gets the win for his team over Captain New Japan, which commentary makes a big deal out of (since it’s a junior pinning a heavyweight).

3.) NWA World Heavyweight Champion Rob Conway & Chase Owens (with Bruce Tharpe) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title Jushin “Thunder” Liger: **½

There are two NWA title matches taking place at The New Beginning in Sendai a few days later, so it’s natural that the two sides would team leading up to it. Tenzan & Liger is a pretty unique team. As far as the match itself goes, this was fine. It was a solid undercard tag team match. Completely inoffensive. In the end, Owens would pick up the win over Liger, setting up their upcoming title match.

Afterwords, Bruce Tharpe drapes the NWA Flag over the body of Liger.

4.) Kota Ibushi vs. Tomoaki Honma: ****

Now this was a match that I was really looking forward to coming into this show, and sure enough, it delivered! Both guys are just so entertaining to watch in the ring that it was almost impossible for this match to be bad. You also have a bit of a backstory here, as Honma was the one who replaced Ibushi in the 2014 G1 Climax when the former IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion had to pull out due to a severe concussion. A great match here, which sees Ibushi getting the victory.
5.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - Triple Threat Match - reDRagon vs. The Young Bucks vs. The Time Splitters: ****

This is basically a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 9, except it’s a three-way match instead of a four-way match (no Forever Hooligans in this one). As you would expect, this was a great match. These are three of the best tag team in the world, so it should be no surprise that this delivered. Really fun action from start to finish. The Young Bucks regain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles here by pinning one of The Time Spitters, not reDRagon, which is a key note, since reDRagon have only one loss as a team in New Japan at this point, that being their debut at the Seibu Dome.

6.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title - Kenny Omega vs. Ryusuke Taguchi: **

So Omega won the title back at Wrestling Kingdom 9, and this is Taguchi’s rematch. This rematch has been built up by Kenny Omega shoving flagpoles up Taguchi’s ass. No seriously, that’s how they’ve actually built this match. This was….barely passable. Omega’s comedy stuff just doesn’t work in a New Japan environment. Omega gets the win (as expected) to retain his title.

After the match, Omega & The Young Bucks attack Taguchi until Mascara Dorada & Alex Shelley make the save. Dorada has a stare down with Omega, so I guess that’ll be the next title match.

7.) Six-Man Tag - CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano) & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Yujiro Takahashi): **¼

Okada is still reeling from his devastating loss to Tanahashi and Wrestle Kingdom 9, and to make matters worse, he’s stuck in a feud with Bad Luck Fale, after the former IWGP Intercontinental Champion pinned him in a tag team match at New Year Dash 2015. As far as this match is concerned, there really wasn’t much to it. The main objective here was to continue building the coming Okada/Fale singles match, which it did. Okada gets the win for his team with a Rainmaker on Tama Tonga.

8.) Six-Man Tag - Satoshi Kojima, Tetsuya Naito, & Yuji Nagata vs. CHAOS (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, & YOSHI-HASHI): ***

Here we have another Six-Man Tag, but this one has a more immediate build, as Yuji Nagata is challenging Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Title at The New Beginning in Sendai. This was much better than the previous Six-Man Tag. Everyone is this match is good, so it’s no surprise that this turned out to be a very respectable undercard match. Nagata’s team scored the win, continuing the build towards Nakamura vs. Nagata.

9.) IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. The Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows): ***1/2

Goto & Shibata ended the one year title run of Anderson & Gallows back at Wrestle Kingdom 9, and this is the chance for The Bullet Club to take the titles back. I really enjoyed this match. I’d put it on-par with their match from Wrestle Kingdom 9, but if I had to pick, the match in the Tokyo Dome was the better of the two. Still, this was a very good match. In a shocking result, Anderson & Gallows won the titles back, ending the reign of Goto & Shibata before it could really begin.

10.) IWGP Heavyweight Title - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles: ****

Styles lost the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Tanahashi at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014. However, Styles was able to score a pinfall victory over Tanahashi in a multi-man tag team match at New Year Dash 2015, which has led to this rematch. This was a great Main Event. It wasn’t fantastic, by any means, but it was still a really good match. At one point, Tanahashi hit a huge dive from the top rope to the floor onto the rest of The Bullet Club, and clunked heads with one of The Young Bucks, busting Tanahashi open. It was unintentional, but Tanahashi being busted open definitely added to this match. In the end, Tanahashi’s best efforts weren’t enough, as AJ Styles picked up to win to regain the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Styles celebrates with The Bullet Club to close the show.

Overall: 7.75/10

While nothing on this show was a Match of the Year Contender, The New Beginning in Osaka was a very solid outing from New Japan. You had three real standouts with Ibushi/Honma, the Three-Way for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and the Main Event for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. All three of those matches were great, but I don’t think either of them really stood out as a definitive Match of the Night. You also had another really good match for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. The rest of the undercard was largely forgettable.

WWE Royal Rumble 2015 Review

This isn't going to end well...

WWE Royal Rumble 2015
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1/25/15


1.) Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (with Adam Rose & Natalya) vs. The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingson with Xavier Woods): ***

Our pre-show match on this PPV sees Cesaro & Tyson Kidd taking on The New Day. This was when Adam Rose was in the middle of getting a more-heelish character (he had just had his feud with The Bunny), and actually joined up with Cesaro & Kidd (calling themselves The Brass Ring Club). This was a pretty solid pre-show match. The New Day were still babyfaces at this point, and had yet to morph into The New Day we all know & love now, but they still had a good match here with Cesaro & Kidd, who are always on-point when it comes to their in-ring work. In the end, Cesaro & Kidd get the win.


1.) The Ascension vs. The New Age Outlaws: *¼

So after “getting chased out the territory” (leaving NXT) following their loss to Hideo Itami & Finn Balor at NXT TakeOver: [R] Evolution, The Ascension made their debut on the WWE Main Roster, and kind of took on a Road Warriors-esque gimmick, complete with shoulder pads with face paint. Here they’re taking on The New Age Outlaws, who somehow are still wrestling in 2016. There really wasn’t much to this match. It went five minutes, and The Ascension won (as they should have). Moving on...

2.) WWE Tag Team Titles - The Usos vs. The Miz & Damien Mizdow: **½

So between TLC 2014 and this show, The Usos won the WWE Tag Team Titles (I think on RAW, I can’t remember), and now, The Miz & Damien Mizdow are getting another shot. This was a fine match. As expected, the crowd in Philadelphia LOVES Damien Mizdow. In the end, The Usos retain their WWE Tag Team Titles, as tension between The Miz and his “stunt-double” builds.

3.) The Bella Twins vs. Paige & Natalya: **

Of course, Nikki Bella is the WWE Diva’s Champion, and she’s teaming up with her twin sister Brie Bella to take on Paige & Natalya. This is also the 4th straight tag team match on the card (counting the pre-show match). While the crowd was disinterested at various points, this was an ok match. They did a nice little story where Nikki & Brie kept isolating Natalya, until eventually, they took out Paige, and just pinned Natalya for the win. It was interesting that this was a tag team that went differently than you would think, as Natalya never got to make the hot tag to Paige, and just got pinned. Again, the match was decent.

4.) WWE World Heavyweight Title - Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (with J & J Security): ****3/4

I found it really weird coming into this match that Seth Rollins, who was still holding the Money In The Bank Briefcase at this point, was in a WWE World Title Match. It just didn’t seem right. However, in the end, it worked out for the better. This was an incredible Triple Threat Match!! From start to finish, this match had a ton of incredible action. What’s amazing is that John Cena felt like he was just the third guy, in that he didn’t stand out compared to Brock Lesnar & Seth Rollins, who were on FIRE in this match!! Lesnar is just a beast, tossing people around left & right. He’s a monster, and he’s awesome in this match! For Seth Rollins, this was a really a coming out party for him. He was all over the place, putting Brock Lesnar through one of the announce tables, and breaking out the PHOENIX SPLASH for the first time in WWE! In the end, Lesnar gets the win, and retains his WWE World Title in an incredible match!! Lots of great action in this one, and the crowd in Philadelphia loved it!

5.) 2015 Royal Rumble Match: *

Well, everyone is usually excited for The Royal Rumble Match, and this was no exception, at least coming into it. Plus, Daniel Bryan had just made his return, and would be in the match after getting snubbed the year before. Well, to say that the 2015 Royal Rumble Match was terrible would be an understatement. I won’t go over every entry and elimination, but I’ll give some highlights. Surprise Entrants in this Royal Rumble included Bubba Ray Dudley, The Boogeyman, and DDP. This match also saw the start of Curtis Axel’s “AxelMania” gimmick, where he was supposed to enter the match, but got taken out by Erick Rowan before he could enter. Axel would go on for the next year protesting that he never been eliminated from the Royal Rumble, which was fantastic.

However, the turning point of this match was when Daniel Bryan got eliminated by Bray Wyatt. From that point on, the crowd revolted against the match, and rightfully so. The remaining story of the match was Roman Reigns fighting “against the odds”, while The Big Show & Kane (not even demon Kane, but corporate Kane), working for The Authority, eliminated pretty much everyone else from the match, dumping out Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, & Dolph Ziggler like they were jobbers. The Big Show & Kane beat up Reigns after he had eliminated both of them, until The Rock came out and made the save. Then Rusev came back in (who had been outside the ring, but had never actually been eliminated), but was soon tossed out by Roman Reigns for the win. The Rock held his hand high as the Philadelphia crowd booed Reigns out the building. This was easily one of the worst Royal Rumbles of all time. It was a bad idea to have both Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns in this match to begin with, because if Bryan wasn’t winning it (which he never was going to), the crowd was going to turn on it. What made it worse was that the booking insisted on “telling a story” with two over-the-hill monsters eliminating all of the younger talent that people actually care about, and forcing Roman Reigns, who the crowd doesn’t like as “the next guy” to begin with, to “overcome the odds” ala John Cena. It just didn’t work.

Overall: 5.0/10

This really was not a good showing from WWE at all. The Royal Rumble is usually one of the most anticipated shows of the year, but it ended being (for the most part) a massive disappointment. The undercard was really uninspiring, but things turned around with an incredible Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Title that was a legitimate Match of the Year Contender, and at the end of the day, was one of the best matches in 2015. Then the Royal Rumble Match itself happened, and it was trash. The booking was just so bad on so many levels. What is usually one of WWE’s bright spots ended up being one of the most disappointing matches of 2015.

WWE TLC 2014 Review

Tables, Ladders, and Chairs......and Stairs? Wait, what?

WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (and Stairs) 2014
Cleveland, Ohio 12/14/14


1.) The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods) vs. Goldust & Stardust: **1/4

It’s so weird reviewing this show with the benefit of hindsight. The Goldust/Stardust brother tag team was still a thing, and The New Day had just made their debut as a unit, as babyfaces. The match was ok. Nothing special. The New Day gets the win here.


1.) WWE Intercontinental Title – Ladder Match – Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler: ****

Ziggler lost the Intercontinental Title to Luke Harper on RAW as part of the build-up to the Team Cena vs. Team Authority match at Survival Series the month prior. This Ladder Match is Ziggler’s chance to get the title back, and he does have the home field advantage (being from Cleveland). I thought this was a great Ladder Match! These two took some insane bumps left & right, and some might say that things got a little too dangerous in this one. Still, these guys game an amazing effort here. Ziggler eventually retrieves the Intercontinental Title to a huge reaction from the fans in Cleveland! A great, brutal opener.

2.) WWE Tag Team Titles – The Miz & Damien Mizdow vs. The Usos: **

The Miz and his “stunt-double” Damien Mizdow won the WWE Tag Team Titles in a Four-Way Match back at Survivor Series. Here, they’re defending their titles against The Usos. This was an ok match, but it had a stupid finish, as The Miz hit one of The Usos with a Slammy Award (which I believe Mizdow won, if memory serves me correctly). This gets his team disqualified, meaning that they retain their titles. At least Damien Mizdow was entertaining. Why have a match with a DQ finish on a PPV?

3.) Stairs Match – The Big Show vs. Erick Rowan: ½*

So this came about after The Big Show turned on Team Cena at Survivor Series. Having a match with Erick Rowan (who is now a babyface) is one thing, but a Stairs Match…..A STAIRS MATCH?!?! Absolutely ridiculous. I’m not going to delve into this too match. Simply put, this match sucked. It was easily one of the worst matches on 2014. The Big Show wins, and nobody cares….NEXT!

4.) Tables Match – John Cena vs. Seth Rollins: **3/4

Another match on this card that involves two guys who were on opposite sides of the Team Cena vs. Team Authority match from Survivor Series, and it involves the two team captains from that match. If Cena loses, then he forfeits his future WWE World Title shot. Paul Heyman is also at ringside. This was fine, but it was plagued with a lot of issues. J & J Security constantly interfered. There was a ref bump and Rollins went through a table when he was out. Both Cena & Rollins then went through a table simultaneously, and the match ended up being restarted. Big Show tried to interfere, but he was thwarted by the returning Roman Reigns. This leads to Cena putting Rollins through a table for the win. It would have fine on RAW, but on a PPV, it was disappointing.

5.) Diva’s Title Match – Nikki Bella (with Brie Bella) vs. AJ Lee: **

Nikki Bella won the Diva’s Title back at Survivor Series after basically a repeat of the Daniel Bryan/Sheamus match from WrestleMania 28 (expect Brie kissed AJ). After months of having a “supposedly” intense, heated rivalry, the Bella Twins are back together with no real explanation given other than “we’re sisters”. Here they have a proper match, and it was fine. Again, it would have been fine on RAW, but a PPV? Eh…I don’t know. Nikki Bella retains the Diva’s Title.

6.) Chairs Match – Kane vs. Ryback: **

Here we have the fourth match of the night that involves participants from the Main Event of Survivor Series. This time it’s Kane vs. Ryback in a Chairs Match. Once again….an ok match. The Chairs Match is a weird stipulation, but not as insulting as a Stairs Match. Ryback won here, as he should have.

7.) WWE United States Title – Rusev (with Lana) vs. Jack Swagger: **

So Rusev and Jack Swagger are seemingly reigniting their feud from the Summer on this show. I believe Zeb Colter had been taken out in the buildup to this match (presumably by Rusev), so he’s absent from ringside. A decent match here. Nothing much else to say, other than Rusev retained his title.

8.) TLC Match – Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose: ***

For the record, this is a TLC Match that will end by either pinfall or submission. Nothing is at stake here. As far as match quality is concerned, this was the 2nd best match on the show, but a DISTANT 2nd. The action was solid. Ambrose excels in these kinds of matches, and Wyatt looked fine. It was actually on it’s way to being a pretty good match, but then Ambrose went to hit Wyatt with a TV (that was still plugged in), and it exploded in his face. Wyatt wins via “magic”. That finish SUCKED. It ends the night on a sour note.

Overall: 4.0/10

My gosh…..this show was TERRIBLE!!! It was easily one of the worst WWE PPV’s in recent memory. The Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title is the ONLY redeemable quality this show has. Otherwise, everything else just sucked so much. This shows looks even worse when your consider the fact that NXT TakeOver: [R] Evolution, which was a great show, took place only a few days prior. Watch that amazing opening match, but stay as far away from the rest of this show as humanly possible.

WWE NXT TakeOver: [R] Evolution Review

Sami Zayn challenges Adrian Neville for the NXT Title, while Kevin Owens & Finn Balor make their debuts!!

WWE NXT TakeOver: [R] Evolution
Winter Park, Florida 12/11/14
1.) Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker: **1/2
The show kicks off with the NXT debut of Kevin Owens, formerly known as Kevin Steen. He comes out to a great ovation, as one would expect, and his first opponent is CJ Parker. This was a very strong debut for Kevin Owens. He got a lot of his stuff in, and the crowd really reacted to everything he did. We also saw some blood split when Parker broke the nose of Kevin Owens, which, in an interesting way, actually added to the match. In the end, Owens got the win (as he should have), and has an impressive showing in his debut.

2.) NXT Tag Team Titles – The Lucha Dragons (Kalisto & Sin Cara) vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English & Simon Gotch): **¼

Thankfully the NXT Tag Team Titles are finally off The Ascension. Here we have The Lucha Dragons defend their titles against The Vaudevillains. This was a fine match. I’ll freely admit that I enjoy The Vaudevillains (though, realistically, I think their ceiling is in NXT), and it’s nice to see Kalisto getting a push of some kind. Again, this was decent, but nothing really special. Kalisto & Sin Cara get the win here to retain their titles.
3.) Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger: N/R
Yeah, there really wasn’t much to this match. Corbin squashes Dillinger in less than a minute, and then he has a confrontation with Bull Dempsey. Looks like we’re getting a match between those two in the future.

4.) The Ascension vs. Finn Balor & Hideo Itami: ***1/2
Back at NXT TakeOver: Fatal Four-Way, The Ascension tried to make a statement after losing the NXT Tag Team Titles by attacking the debuting Hideo Itami (the former KENTA). It didn’t work out for them on that night, and they’ve been feuding ever since. Itami needed a partner to even the odds, and it ended up finding a great partner in the debuting Finn Balor (the former Prince Devitt). Balor makes his entrance for this match in his famous body paint which, seeing it for the first time in WWE, was AWESOME!!! The crowd went crazy for his entrance, and the reactions of The Ascension to this really added to the whole thing as well. As far as the match goes, it was actually pretty good. This was probably the best match The Ascension have ever had, and it should come as no surprise that it comes against two great wrestlers like Hideo Itami & Finn Balor. Eventually, Itami & Balor pick up the win, seemingly putting The Ascension behind him and looking forward to 2015.

5.) NXT Women’s Title – Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks: ****

These two used to be partners, but Banks eventually broke off and went on her own, to the point where she’s now earned a title shot against Charlotte. This was a great women’s match! It’s so great to see the women treated seriously on NXT, as opposed to the Main Roster. They worked really hard, and their efforts resulted in the best match of the night up to this point. Great back & forth action from start to finish in this one, and both looked really good. Eventually, Charlotte was able to pick up the victory to retain her NXT Women’s Title.
6.) NXT Title – Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn: *****

We’ve finally arrived to the Main Event! Over the last few months, Sami Zayn has really become the face of NXT, but he has yet to claim the NXT Title. He came incredibly close at NXT TakeOver: Fatal Four-Way, but lost out to Adrian Neville via less-than-honorable means. Additionally, Zayn put on a self-imposed stipulation, saying that if he failed to win the NXT Title, he’d leave NXT. Before I talk about the match, I actually want to say that I really like what they’ve done with Neville’s character in the buildup to this match. He hasn’t fully turned heel, but he certainly is leaning in that direction, and it really added to the built of this match. The promos that he & Zayn had leading up to this match were great.

Now, as far as this match goes, it was absolutely incredible!!! From start to finish, this match was so awesome in so many ways. One of the things I love in wrestling is that when we’re able to get the perfect combination of great wrestling and great storytelling, the result is usually spectacular, and this match was no exception. Of course you had awesome wrestling in this match. Adrian Neville & Sami Zayn are two of the best out there. At the same time, you also had a great story being told, with Sami Zayn trying to put his losses at the previous NXT Specials behind him, while going up against Adrian Neville, who’s been nearly-unbeatable since winning the NXT Title in February. The action was incredible, the story was fantastic, and the crowd was invested in everything that happened. This is exactly what you want out of pro-wrestling, and in my eyes, this was an instant classic. In the end, Zayn is finally able to put away Neville to win the NXT Title!!!

After the match, Zayn celebrates his massive achievement. The roster comes out to congratulate him, including Kevin Owens, who gives his best-friend a massive hug. Neville eventually comes back to, and hugs Zayn as well. It’s a dream come true for Sami Zayn, and it looks like a happy ending….until Kevin Owens shows his true colors, attacking Sami Zayn, and giving him a Powerbomb on the ring apron!!! What an incredible way to close the show.
Overall: 8.5/10

I think this was by far the best NXT Special. While you did have a bit of a lull in the action with the NXT Tag Title Match and the Baron Corbin squash, we saw some really cool moments and great action. The debuts of Kevin Owens & Finn Balor (and Balor’s demon-body paint) were awesome, and both made instant impressions upon their debut. We also saw some great wrestling, including the best match The Ascension have ever been in, an awesome women’s match, and a Main Event that was an emotional rollercoaster and one of the best matches anywhere in 2014 (and that’s saying something). The ending was especially powerful as Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn bring their famous rivalry to the WWE. A truly enjoyable show from start to finish, and (at the time) one of the best outings from NXT.