Friday, March 31, 2017

AAW Epic: The 11 Year Anniversary Review

Jimmy Jacobs says goodbye to AAW, while Eddie Kingston & Silas Young do battle once again!

AAW Epic: The 11 Year Anniversary
Berwyn, Illinois 3/21/15

Scarlett Bordeaux interrupted Phil Colvin & Dave Prazak while they were doing the opening introductions for the show. She took the mic and said that she's disgusted by the fact that things are still the same in AAW (with regards to the fans being “pigs” and such). All she sees in the locker room are disappointments and losers, and took a jab at her former client Shane Hollister. Scarlett said that she turns nobodies into somebodies, and once she’s done with them, they go back to being nobodies. She adds that when she says someone’s career is over, it’s over, and remarked that she thinks there’s someone out there who she can lead to greatness. This brought out Shane Hollister. He took the mic from Scarlett Bordeaux, and he made some sort of sexual joke towards Scarlett (something involving him taking the microphone out of her hand). He asked if anyone really wants someone else’s leftovers (again, referring to Scarlett). In response, Scarlett tried to slap him, but Hollister blocked it. Scarlett bailed, and Hollister said that his ankle is healed, emphasizing that his career is far from other. Hollister promised that he would be AAW Heavyweight Champion once again.

1.) Davey Vega & Justice Jones (with Knight Wagner & Angelus Layne) vs. Marion Fontaine & Paco Gonzalez: **1/4

Justice Jones & Paco Gonzalez have been having some issues as of late, while (I think) problems between Davey Vega & Marion Fontaine developed once the former turned heel. This was….an ok tag team match. It went just under five minutes. There was some nice back & forth action between Davey Vega and two guys on the babyface side, but then Justice Jones just KILLED Paco Gonzalez with a lariat. Vega then hit a brainbuster on the knee to score the win for his team.

After the match, Knight Wagner took the mic, and said that Justice Jones is the new face of pain, adding that nobody could take him off his feet. The heels are then interrupted by Ryan Boz. He got in the face of Jones, and the two traded blows. Boz not only took Jones off his feet, but he busted open Jones’ lip as well. The heels were sent packing, and Boz stood tall.

2.) Allysin Kay vs. Athena: ***1/4

I thought this was a pretty solid women’s match. Allysin Kay played her role as a heel very well and, of course, Athena is always exciting to watch. There was some good exchanges throughout the match. The only real complaint I have about this one was the finish, which saw Allysin Kay get the win via heel shenanigans. That definitely took away from the match a little bit, but besides that, this was pretty solid.

3.) AAW Heritage Title - Christian Faith (with Gregory Iron & Mr. Bernard) vs. Louis Lyndon: ***1/2

Christian Faith had been holding the AAW Heritage Title for a couple of months at this point, and here, he was defending the title against Louis Lyndon. I had a feeling that this was going to be solid, but this exceeded my expectations. These two had a really good title match. The start was a tad slow, but things did build up, and got better from there. The second half of this mach was particularly great, with some very cool back & forth action. In one particular spot, Lyndon hit jumping reverse hurricanrana off the top rope to Christian Faith, which was insane. The only drawback here was the constant interference from Gregory Iron & Mr. Bernard. Their interference attempts didn’t have that much of an impact, but their presence was certainly felt later in the match. Towards the end of the match, Mr. Bernard distracted the referee while Louis Lyndon had Christian Faith in the Dragon Sleeper. Faith tapped out, but the referee couldn’t see it. This massive distraction allowed Faith to recover, and he took out Lyndon to retain his title. Again, this was a very good match that featured some great action in the closing stretch.

4.) AAW Tag Team Titles - Three-Way Elimination Match - OI4K (Dave Crist & Jake Crist) vs. The Wet Bandits (Dan Lawrence & Markus Crane) vs. Zero Gravity (Brett Gakiya & CJ Esparza): ***3/4

This was originally supposed to be just OI4K vs. Zero Gravity for the AAW Tag Team Titles, but The Wet Bandits interrupted the proceedings before the match could begin. Dan Lawrence took the mic and said that he’s involving their rematch clause, meaning that this was now a Three-Way Elimination Match. I wasn’t very happy to see that The Wet Bandits were added to this match, given that their title reign was mediocre at best. However, once again, we got an undercard title match that totally exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed this A LOT!! This was basically packed with fast-paced action right from the opening bell. OI4K and Zero Gravity were both great here. As far as The Wet Bandits go, this was probably the best performance I’ve ever seen from them. Unfortunately, they were eliminated first after OI4K hit Crane with a spike tombstone piledriver. The match came down to the originally advertised bout, OI4K vs. Zero Gravity, and in the end, OI4K emerged victorious, retaining their AAW Tag Team Titles.

5.) Falls Count Anywhere Match - “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Jimmy Jacobs: ****1/4

These two met back at The Art Of War, and in that match, Page just sneaked away with the win. Now, they’re meeting in a Falls Count Anywhere Match, in the final AAW appearance for Jimmy Jacobs, who would be heading to WWE in a few weeks time. For the third time in a row on this card, a match that I thought would be good exceeded my expectations. This was a fantastic match!! It was probably the best match on the show, in my opinion. The first portion of the match was more lighthearted for sure, with weapons like a stop sign and a wheelchair being used. However, once things got more serious, this got really good. The hammer from the ring bell and some steel chairs were brought into the fray. At one point, Ethan Page got on the ring apron and actually mooned the crowd. That was…..something. Anyway, the latter portion of the match is when things got super serious. Jimmy Jacobs, of course, brought out his railroad spike. His initial attempt to use it missed, and later on, Page turned the tables when he used the spike on Jacobs, which busted him open pretty bad. Page would use the spike a couple of more times on Jacobs, which just made things even worse. Despite the punishment he took, Jacobs fought back, and took the fight to Ethan Page. Later on, Jacobs brought out a ladder, and managed to hit a huge senton off the top of it!! That was crazy. He later locked on the End Time, with an assist from a steel chain, but that couldn’t get the job done. Eventually, a Spinning Dwayne off the the top rope gives Ethan Page the victory. 

This was pretty awesome. They got a lot of time, and they certainly made the most of it. Again, it was a little slow to get going, when the match was more comedic, but once things got more serious in the second half, this turned into a great match. There were so many good near-falls in that second half, and that added a lot of drama to this one. I guess my only complaint was that they didn’t really utilize the “Falls Count Anywhere” stipulation. This was essentially a Street Fight, as they never made any serious attempts to score falls on the outside. Other than that minor complaint, this was fantastic, as I already mentioned. It was a big victory for Ethan Page, and a great final match in AAW for Jimmy Jacobs. 

After the match ended, a good portion of the locker room empties out to celebrate with Jacobs. Someone from AAW management takes the mic (Was it Jim Lynam or Danny Daniels? I’m honestly not sure). Whoever it is, he said that if AAW had a Mount Rushmore, Jimmy Jacobs would be the first guy on it, adding that AAW wouldn’t be here without him. Jacobs takes the mic and thanks the wrestlers for coming out to the ring and the fans for coming out to the show. He said that he appreciates every single fan that comes out to see AAW events. Jacobs then said that after sixteen years in wrestling and ten years in AAW, the only thing he could say is thank you. The crowd gives Jacobs a standing ovation as he exits through the crowd.

6.) Josh Alexander vs. Johnny Gargano: ****

After failing to capture the AAW Heavyweight Title from Eddie Kingston at The Chaos Theory 2015, Alexander managed to bounce back in a big way. He scored a huge victory over Ricochet at The Art Of War, and he managed to get another big win here when he defeated Johnny Gargano. I thought this was a great match. It wasn’t quite as good as the Falls Count Anywhere Match that preceded it, but still, I really enjoyed this. Both guys are awesome, so it’s no surprise that this delivered. This match featured some great action from start to finish. The second half of the match was particularly good, as Gargano did everything he could to avoid the spinning tombstone, but once Alexander hit it, the match was over. I wouldn’t call this a truly spectacular match, but it absolutely delivered.

Alexander got on the mic after the match. He said that for months, his goal had been to be AAW Heavyweight Champion. Last month he beat Ricochet, and tonight, he just beat Johnny Gargano. He then calls out Samoa Joe for a match on AAW’s next show on April 10th.

7.) Four-Way Scramble Match - Candice LeRae vs. Chris Sabin vs. DJ Z vs. Mat Fitchett: ***1/2

This one, at least initially, was being conducted under Four-Corner Survival rules. Of course, things broke down as the match progressed, but as a whole, this was a really fun match. All four participants had the chance to shine here, and there were plenty of entertaining spots. At one point, Candice LeRae went for a ballsplex on Chris Sabin, but she couldn’t execute the move, as she claimed she couldn’t hold on to Sabin’s small dick. LeRae would eventually hit all three men with ballsplex, but in response, the three guys gave her a triple superkick. Eventually, Sabin managed to score the victory after hitting Fitchett with the Cradle Shock.

8.) Blindfold Match - Dick Justice vs. Gregory Iron (with Mr. Bernard): DUD

I never thought I’d see a Blindfold Match in a promotion like AAW, yet here we are. To be fair, this did have a decent build to it, as Gregory Iron and the rest of The Iron Curtain had tried to blind Dick Justice on a number of occasions. As far as the match goes, there really isn’t much to say here. It was pretty awful. At one point, Iron tried to cheat, as he took off his hood and attacked Dick Justice while Mr. Bernard had the referee distracted. This didn’t work, however, as Dick Justice managed to fight back, and got the win over Gregory Iron. Again, this was pretty bad, as you would’ve guessed. Thankfully, it didn’t go very long, so I suppose that’s one positive. Regardless, you should probably skip this.

9.) AAW Heavyweight Title - Eddie Kingston vs. Silas Young: ****

There’s a lot of history between these two. They had a very heated rivalry that started in 2013 and continued throughout 2014, culminating in a Steel Cage Match at Day Of Defiance 2014. After being out for a number of months with a knee injury, Silas Young made his return to AAW at The Chaos Theory 2015, when he attacked Eddie Kingston who, since that Steel Cage Match, had won the AAW Heavyweight Title. This was an interesting contest, because the babyface/heel roles had essentially reversed. As far as the match itself goes, I thought it was pretty great! This was a very physical bout that saw both guys beat the crap out of each other. These two went back and forth, and the match nearly ended on a number of different occasions. While it wasn’t quite as good as their Steel Cage Match from several months prior, it was still pretty awesome. Ultimately, Eddie Kinston would get the win to retain his AAW Heavyweight Title.

After the match, Silas Young took the mic. He asked if the applause from the fans was supposed to cheer him up, because he doesn’t appreciate it. Young said that he doesn’t care about the fans, and then the “Last Real Man” makes his exit.

Overall: 8.25/10

This was a pretty great show from AAW. Aside from the opener (which was ok for what it was) and the Blindfold Match (which, unsurprisingly, was terrible), everything on this show delivered. In some cases, we had matches that exceeded expectations. The two undercard title matches certainly feel under that category, as they were both much better than I was expecting. Ethan Page vs. Jimmy Jacobs in a Falls Count Anywhere Match was easily the match of the night, with Josh Alexander vs. Johnny Gargano and Eddie Kingston vs. Silas Young for the AAW Heavyweight Title not that far behind. AAW celebrated their 11th Anniversary with a great night of wrestling, and this is a show that you should definitely check out.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Random Match Reviews #12 (3/28/17) - A Look At Lethal Lockdown: Part 2

Part 2 of my extensive look at TNA's Lethal Lockdown!

To be clear (in case it was missed in Part 1), I’m not doing this because I’m a big fan of TNA (I don’t hate them, but I’m far from a fan of them). I’m doing this because I enjoy the concept Lethal Lockdown, and wanted to do a project on it. Additionally, I’ll will continue to give these matches numbers for organizational purposes. Finally, all of these matches (and the matches I reviewed in Part 1 of this two part series) can all be seen on The Fight Network's Roku app.

In Part 1 of this mini-series with the context of my Random Match Reviews, I looked at the Lethal Lockdown matches from 2006 to 2010. Based on that review, it’s clear that the match got off to a really hot start, but started to decrease in quality as time went by, and a number of other factors started to dilute it. In Part 2, I will be taking a look at the Lethal Lockdown matches that took place from 2011 through early 2015. Would the match quality improve, or would things be more stagnant? Let’s find out!

1.) TNA Lockdown 2011 (4/17/11) - Lethal Lockdown IX - Fortune (Christopher Daniels, TNA X-Division Champion Kazarian, & TNA World Tag Team Champions Beer Money Inc. [Robert Roode & James Storm]) vs. Immortal (Ric Flair, Abyss, Bully Ray, & Matt Hardy): ***1/2

In an interesting note, there was a slight tweak to the layout of the match, as the initial period was reduced from five minutes to three minutes. The two minute period between entrants coming into the match remained the same. Like Bound For Glory 2010, all of the competitors involved were at ringside, and waited until it was their turn to go in. Kazarian & Abyss started the match off for their respective teams. Immortal would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Matt Hardy, Christopher Daniels, Ric Flair (who was wrestling in street clothes), James Storm, Bully Ray, and finally, Robert Roode. This was definitely a step up compared to the Lethal Lockdown matches we saw in 2010. There really wasn’t any bullshit, and the older team (Immortal, in this case) was able to do more than what EV 2.0 did in their match. Of course, there was the hardcore schmoz once the roof came down. Here, it was Christopher Daniels & Matt Hardy who fought on top of the cage (Interestingly enough, they had a singles match against each other in ROH all the way back in 2005). Hardy took out Daniels with a Twist of Fate on the roof of the cage, but Daniels responded soon thereafter with a massive dive off the roof of the cage onto Abyss & Matt Hardy! That was pretty crazy. Immortal then had the edge for a brief period, but then AJ Styles came out and attacked Bully Ray! Styles had been taken out by Bully Ray a few weeks prior on Impact. Roode then eventually got Ric Flair (who was bloodied up) in an armbar, and Flair tapped out, giving the win to Fortune. This was surprisingly good, especially considering who was on the heel side.

2.) TNA Lockdown 2012 (4/15/12) - Lethal Lockdown X - Team Eric Bischoff (Eric Bischoff, Bully Ray, Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, & Gunner) vs. Team Garett Bischoff (Garett Bischoff, TNA X-Division Champion Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Mr. Anderson, & Rob Van Dam): ***

The losing Bischoff would have to leave TNA forever. In an interesting note, this match started the show. That was an odd move, because Lethal Lockdown was either in the main event, or was the semi-main event. They also returned to the traditional of format of guys making their normal entrances when it was their time to come out, which was good to see. Garett Bischoff & Gunner started the match off for their respective teams. Team Eric Bischoff would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Bully Ray, Austin Aries, Kazarian (with his freshly shaven head), AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Mr. Anderson, Eric Bischoff, and finally, RVD. This match did have some entertaining stuff before the roof got lowered. Once such spot occurred when Eric Bischoff came out. He held his son and let all of the heel just destroy him with chops and kicks. It looked brutal. Plus, you had a good lineup of competitors in this match. There were some solid guys on the heel side (Daniels, Kazarian, Bully Ray), and when you look at it, the babyface side actually had A LOT of really good guys on it. There was solid action throughout, and the match was doing well.

Unfortunately, one the roof got lowered, the rest of the match was a massive disappointment. We got the hardcore schmoz for a bit, and some noteworthy spots. I think Aries got TOSSED into the cage really hard at one point, while AJ Styles & Kazarian hung from the rafters on the cage, which led to Kazarian getting knocked off and Styles hitting a big elbow drop. Eventually, we got to a point where the only guys left standing were the team captains. Eric Bischoff attacked his son with a kendo stick repeatedly, but Garett Bischoff recovered, hit his father with a guitar, and just won. That ending was very anti-climactic. Similar to Team Hogan vs. Team Flair from 2010, the regular roster members worked hard, but in the end, the spotlight was put on the Bischoff Family. What made the match even worse was the fact that they didn’t go on top of the cage. Now, the match doesn’t necessarily need that spot to be good, but what really irked me was the fact that they had a Ladder and some tables on the top of the cage. Why would you place those items on the top of the cage, and not even use them? It made absolutely no sense, and honestly, took away from the match. Those two aforementioned issues seriously hurt this match, and in my view, it was probably the worst Lethal Lockdown yet (even though it was still pretty solid).

3.) TNA Lockdown 2013 (3/10/13) - Lethal Lockdown XI - Aces & Eights (Devon, D.O.C., Mr. Anderson, Knux, & Garett Bischoff) vs. Team TNA (Sting, Magnus, Samoa Joe, James Storm, & Eric Young): ***1/2

This was the first time that Lethal Lockdown didn’t have a roof. I’m not exactly sure why this was changed. Maybe it was because they were running in a small corner of the Alamodome, and couldn’t actually hang up the roof (I don’t know, I’m just guessing)? It was also the first time that Lockdown wasn’t an all steel cage PPV, as only the main matches were held inside the steel cage. In an interesting note, this show was (I think) the highest attended TNA show ever, as they had over 7,000 fans in that small section of the Alamodome. Magnus & Mr. Anderson started the match off for their respective teams. Aces & Eights would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Knux, Samoa Joe, Garett Bischoff, Eric Young, Devon, James Storm, D.O.C., and finally, Sting.

I was a little unsure of how this one would work without the roof, but it turned out to be a pretty good match. It was definitely a step up (in general) from the Lethal Lockdown a year prior. It’s so weird seeing Aces & Eights again a few years after the fact. They were far from the best stable in TNA’s history, but in this particular match, I thought they were fine. There was some solid action throughout, and some very entertaining spots, including the return of the Tower Of Doom spot, which hadn’t been seen in this match in a long time. The way they handled the weapons was that, when Sting came out as the final entrant of the match, he brought two trash cans out filled with weapons. The momentum changed a few times in this final section of the match, and in the end, Team TNA got the victory after Eric Young hit a massive elbow drop off the top of the cage. That was actually pretty awesome, especially considering that this steel cage that TNA used is very high. Again, as a whole, this was pretty fun.

4.) TNA One Night Only: Hardcore Justice 3 (12/29/13) - Lethal Lockdown XII - Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, James Storm, & Abyss with Eric Young) vs. Team Roode (Bobby Roode, TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus, & The BroMans [Robbie E & Jessie Godderz]): ***

Starting in 2013, TNA really started to reduce the number of traditional PPVs they would run. Instead, they started running these One Night Only PPVs, which are taped and air on PPV at a later date (similar to what ROH did from 2007-2009). All of them usually had some sort of gimmick behind them, and in this case, it was Hardcore Justice 3. It was taped in Lowell, Massachusetts, in a venue that WWE used in the late 1990’s, and that NXT & ROH have all used in the last year. As far as this particular match was concerned, there was no roof once again, but we saw the return of initial five minute period to start the match. James Storm & Jessie Godderz started the match off for their respective teams. Team Roode would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Robbie E, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, Magnus, and finally, Abyss.

This was relatively fine, but as a whole, it was essentially a glorified house show cage match. James Storm brawled with Jessie Godderz on the outside of the cage before the match even began. There was decent action throughout, but nothing really stood out. The way they handled the weapons here was that the final man to enter the match on each respective team would bring out the weapons. Magnus came out with a trash can filled with weapons for his team, and Abyss (who was revealed to be the mystery partner for Team Angle) had some help from Eric Young when he brought his weapons out. We got the hardcore schmoz at the end, and Abyss won the match for his team after hitting Robbie E with a Black Hole Slam onto a barbed wire board. Again, this match was good, but it was probably the most forgettable Lethal Lockdown Match.

5.) TNA Lockdown 2014 (3/9/14) - Lethal Lockdown XIII - Special Guest Referee: Bully Ray - Team Dixie (Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, & TNA World Tag Team Champions The BroMans [Robbie E & Jessie Godderz] with DJ Z, Rockstar Spud, & Dixie Carter) vs. Team MVP (MVP, The Wolves [Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards], & Willow): ***1/2

In this Lethal Lockdown, we finally saw the return of the roof, which was good to see. The storyline here is that Dixie Carter and MVP (who recently made his TNA debut alongside The Wolves) are battling for control of “wrestling operations” in TNA. Dixie Carter had promised Bobby Roode at 10% stake in the company if he led her team to victory. Austin Aries & MVP started the match off for their respective teams. Team Dixie would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Robbie E, Eddie Edwards, Jessie Godderz, Davey Richards, Bobby Roode, and finally, Willow (aka Jeff Hardy).

Most of the reviews I’ve seen of this show rated didn’t rate this match too highly, but honestly, I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of solid action throughout this one and, of course, we did get some crazy spots. When he came into the match, Willow jumped off the top of the cage onto the heel team, but unfortunately, the heels barely caught him, and Willow essentially belly flopped onto the mat. Some other crazy moments included Austin Aries giving someone a brainbuster on a chair, Willow hitting Aries with this sick reverse powerbomb into the cage, and The Wolves hitting and awesome Double Coast-To-Coast to The BroMans (while Jessie Godderz was in a trash can). Once everyone was in the match, Dixie Carter introduced an “insurance policy from New York” as the Special Guest Referee, and this turned out to be Bully Ray. He brought a table in the ring, and it seemed like he was on the side of the heels, but when he was confronted by Roode, he retaliated! This allowed MVP to take advantage, and he won the match for his team, leaving Dixie Carter shocked (she and Rockstar Spud were watching from the stage). Again, I enjoyed this match a little bit more than most. I thought it was pretty good.

6.) TNA Lockdown 2015 on Destination America: Part II (Aired 2/6/15) - Lethal Lockdown XIV - Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Austin Aries, Gunner, & TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Lashley) vs. The Beat Down Clan (MVP, Samoa Joe, TNA X-Division Champion Low Ki, & Kenny King): **3/4

At this point, a lot of things had changed for TNA. They had moved from Spike TV (their longtime home) to Destination America, and they really weren’t doing live PPVs anymore outside of Slammiversary & Bound For Glory. Instead, they did PPVesque specials on their normal TV show. This was one of those, and it took place inside the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center (the room that WWE used for RAW during the mid-1990’s, and the same room that ROH has used many times over the years). TNA had also brought back the six-sided ring, meaning that the Six Sides Of Steel was back for this match. There was no roof for this Lethal Lockdown (I don’t think that would’ve been logistically possible in the Grand Ballroom), and as far as the weapons are concerned, they were attached to the side of the cage. Kenny King & Gunner started the match off for their respective teams. The Beat Down Clan (what a wacky name for a stable) would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Low Ki, Austin Aries (in street clothes), Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, MVP, and finally, the mystery partner from Team Angle, Bobby Lashley. There’s honestly not much to say about this match. It was probably the weakest Lethal Lockdown out of the bunch, taking that honor from the Lethal Lockdown from One Night Only: Hardcore Justice 3. The action was very standard, and as a whole, it was pretty underwhelming. The weapons were used, and we got a hardcore schmoz, but it wasn’t as noteworthy as past matches. Of course, Lashley revealed himself to be a member of Team Angle, after initially teasing joining The Beat Down Clan. I did like the finish, as Lashley speared MVP for the win while the rest of Team Angle had the other members of The Beat Down Clan in their respective submission holds. Again, it had it’s moments, but this Lethal Lockdown was very weak, especially compared to all of the others.

Well, there you have it! That concludes my look at the Lethal Lockdown Match from TNA. I know there was a Lethal Lockdown later in 2015, between Team TNA & Team GFW, but I’m saving that match for a different project! Thanks for reading this special two part series! I will continue to do my Random Match Reviews in the future, but in addition to doing just random matches from an assortment of promotions, I might do more Random Match Reviews projects like this in the future.

Random Match Reviews #11 (3/28/17) - A Look At Lethal Lockdown: Part 1

I take an extensive look at a longtime staple of TNA Wrestling!!

Over the years, TNA has given up a plethora of different, and unique, stipulation matches. Some of them have been pretty awful (The Reverse Battle Royal, The Last Rites Match, The Electrified Six Sides Of Steel, etc...), but on the other hand, they've also produced some pretty cool concepts that have come to define TNA throughout it's long and tumultuous history. This includes Ultimate X Match, King Of The Mountain Match (which is a match that I probably enjoy more than most), and the match that I'm looking at here in this post, the Lethal Lockdown Match. 

Now the basic layout of this match isn't an original TNA concert. It's essentially a variation of the WarGames Match that was made famous in the late 1980's, and throughout the 1990's, first by the NWA, and then by WCW. The general concept was still the same. Two guys started out the match, and then after five minutes, another competitor would enter the match (alternating between teams, of course) every two minutes. This would continue until everyone on both teams had entered the match. Only then could the match be won by pinfall or submission. When looking at Lethal Lockdown, the main thing (and the most obvious thing) that differentiates it from WarGames is that it only uses one ring instead of two rings. However, what really separates Lethal Lockdown from WarGames is what happens once everyone has entered the match. After the final competitor gets inside the Six Sides Of Steel (or the regular Steel Cage, once TNA changed to a regular ring), a roof was lowered onto the cage. This roof had all sorts of weapons either hanging from it, or sitting on top of it. Usage of these weapons were encouraged, and often, led to some spectacular and memorable stunts.

This will the first in a two-part series looking at TNA's Lethal Lockdown Matches. Here, I will be looking at the Lethal Lockdown Matches up to 2010. All of these matches (as well as A TON of TNA PPVs) are available to watch on The Fight Network app on Roku. To be clear, I'm not doing this because I'm a massive fan of TNA. For these posts, I decided to use Roman Numerals when referencing the Lethal Lockdown Matches (just because I feel like it's more organized, and helps each match stand out a little more). I won't be discussing the first Lethal Lockdown, which occurred at Lockdown 2005, because I personally feel like the Lethal Lockdown that occurred a year later was true start to the match that we are familiar with today. Additionally, I'll briefly mention the order of entry and the start of each individual match review. With any further ado, let's get this going!

1.) TNA Lockdown 2006 (4/23/06) - Lethal Lockdown II - Jarrett’s Army (Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, & America’s Most Wanted [Chris Harris & James Storm] with Gail Kim & Jackie Gayda) vs. Sting’s Warriors (Sting, AJ Styles, Rhino, & Ron “The Truth” Killings): ****

AJ Styles & Chris Harris started the match off for their respective teams. Jarrett's Army would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was James Storm, Rhino, Jeff Jarrett, Ron "The Truth" Killings, Scott Steiner, and finally, Sting. I feel like when people think of Lethal Lockdown, this particular match is one that comes to mind a lot. It took place during TNA's golden years, and even thought it was technically the second Lethal Lockdown Match, it was the first time that we got the involvement of the roof with the weapons. This was honestly a lot of fun to watch. You had some cool moments in the first portion of the match, including a massive Tower Of Doom spot involving many of the competitors involved. I also liked how the order of the entrants was handled, particularly on the heel side. Of course, you had AMW as the first two guys for Jarrett's Army, which makes sense, as you immediately have an established tag team in there to pick apart AJ Styles. It seems odd (at first) that Jeff Jarrett would be the third entrant for his team (since he's the team captain), but having Scott Steiner as the last entrant from Jarrett's Army was smart, since out of the four guys on his team, he's clearly the most limited (although I'll give him credit for busting out a Frankensteiner).

Sting was the final entrant in the match, and he took on all four members of Jarrett's Army for a good minute or two, hitting some Stinger Splashes after he stacked all of them in one corner, before calling for the roof to be lowered. One thing I've always found odd about these matches is that the roof never lowers immediately. They always waited a minute or two before bringing the ceiling down on top of the cage. Once the roof did come down, everyone scrambled for the weapons that were hanging from the ceiling of the cage. The match turned into a big hardcore schmoz, which is something that is very common in this match once the roof gets lowered. I should mention that Gail Kim (who was the valet for AMW) tried to climb the cage, but Jackie Gayda (who I guess was being forced to work with Gail Kim) pulled down Kim's skirt to reveal her panties, and she chased her to the back. It's at this point (in these early versions of Lethal Lockdown) when a big spot occurs, and the one that happened in this match is probably the most memorable spot in the history of this match. AJ Styles and James Storm climbed to the top of the cage. They brawled for a little bit, but then a ladder and a table (which were sitting on the roof) were set up. Styles then put Storm on the table, climbed the ladder, and then grabbed onto (what I guess was) a lighting truss that was several feet above the roof of the cage. Styles hung from this truss for a good few seconds before dropping onto Storm, putting him through a table. That was a spot that still amazes me to this day. Absolutely crazy. The match eventually came to an end when Sting got Chris Harris to tap out to the Scorpion Deathlock. I consider this to be the original Lethal Lockdown, and when the dust settled, it was definitely one of the best.

2.) TNA Lockdown 2007 (4/15/07) - Lethal Lockdown III - Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Rhino, Sting, & Jeff Jarrett) vs. Team Cage (NWA World Heavyweight Champion Christian Cage, AJ Styles, Abyss, Scott Steiner, & Tomko with James Mitchell): ****

2007 saw a slight increase in the field of competitors, as the two teams went from four members to five members. Additionally, there's a unique twist to this match, as whoever scores the fall will receive a shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Title at SacrificeAJ Styles & Kurt Angle started the match off for their respective teams. Team Cage would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Abyss, Rhino, Tomko, Samoa Joe, Scott Steiner, Sting, Christian Cage, and finally, Jeff Jarrett. They also had Harley Race at ringside as a special enforcer, of sorts. The big story surrounding this match was the sudden return of Jeff Jarrett, who aligned himself with the babyface Team Angle. I thought this was just as good as the Lethal Lockdown from 2006, but not quite as memorable. We did see some of the same spots we got last year, as we had a Tower Of Doom spot along with Scott Steiner (once again) busting out the Frankensteiner. Even Harley Race got physical, as he attacked James Mitchell at one point. I think what helped this match a lot, once everyone had entered, was the fact that certain guys were brawling in different areas. Of course, we got the usual hardcore schmoz when the ceiling lowered, but the fighting soon became a little more spread out. AJ Styles & Kurt Angle (who had started the match) made their way to the roof and started brawling there. Rhino hit a Gore on Tomko that send him flying through the cage door and onto the floor, which allowed for some guys to brawl outside of the cage. I think it really helped this part of the match. The big spot in this match saw Kurt Angle toss AJ Styles off the top of the cage roof onto the guys on the floor who had made their way outside of the cage. It wasn't quite as dramatic as the massive stunt Styles did the year prior, but it was still pretty cool. 

Towards the end of the match, thumbtacks came into play, and of course, they were put to use. Christian Cage got a double chokeslam onto them courtesy of Sting & Jeff Jarrett. Later, Abyss filled a guitar with thumbtacks, and it looked like he was going to use it, but Jarrett took it from him. It then looked like he was going to hit Sting, but Jarrett told Sting to move out of the way, and he hit Abyss with the guitar full of thumbtacks. He then let Sting cover Abyss, not only winning the match for Team Angle, but giving the title shot to Sting in the process. This was clearly part of Jarrett's recent face turn, as he showed he was loyal to his side by helping his team win, while letting someone else secure that title shot. Again, I don't think this match really stood out as much as the one from 2006, but it was just as good.

3.) TNA Lockdown 2008 (4/13/08) - Lethal Lockdown IV - Team Cage (Christian Cage, Rhino, Sting, Kevin Nash, & Matt Morgan) vs. Team Tomko (Tomko, AJ Styles, Team 3D, & James Storm with Jackie Moore): ***3/4

2008 saw another five-on-five variation of Lethal Lockdown, as former partners Christian Cage & Tomko were the respective captains in this one. AJ Styles & Christian started the match off for their respective teams. Team Tomko would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Brother Ray, Rhino, James Storm, Kevin Nash, Brother Devon, Matt Morgan, Tomko, and finally, Sting (who always seems to come out last, or towards the very end, in these matches). They actually pulled a nice little swerve at the start, as it appeared that Tomko was going to start off against Christian Cage, but it was a trap, as AJ Styles climbed into the structure from behind and attacked. I was actually a little nervous about this match. When you look at the lineup of participants, it wasn't exactly appealing. However, despite that, they still managed to put on a really entertaining match. Of course, we had some incredible moments before the roof was even lowered, such as Christian Cage hitting a big crossbody from the top of the cage. Of course, we got the hardcore schmoz one the roof came down. Christian Cage and James Storm initially made their way up to the top of the cage. They brawled for a little bit, and at one point, they actually broke part of the roof, to the point where Storm's leg was sitting in that hole. AJ Styles then made his way to the top of the cage, and they started to pick apart Christian. A table was set up in the center of the cage, with a ladder sitting on the triangular part of the roof that was closest to the entranceway. Christian Cage & AJ Styles both climbed it, and Storm decided to sacrifice Styles for the betterment of the team, as he pushed the ladder over and sent both guys crashing through the table! That was actually a very precarious spot, with the ladder being so close to the edge of the cage. Thankfully it never toppled the other way. This spot was definitely one of the most memorable spots in the history of this match, right up there with the AJ Styles spot from 2006.

Unfortunately, the finish hurt this match a little bit, and it kept it from being as good as the two matches that preceded it. After the aforementioned stunt with Christian Cage & AJ Styles, James Storm got back in the cage itself. He hit Matt Morgan with a beer bottle, but was immediately hit by a Gore from Rhino, who pinned him to score the win. I guess Rhino pinning James Storm made some sense, since the two had been feuding (they had an Elevation X Match back at Destination X 2008), but the finish came out of nowhere, and that took away from the match, in my eyes. Still with that being said, this was still very good, which is saying something, considering who was in the match.

4.) TNA Lockdown 2009 (4/19/09) - Lethal Lockdown V - Team Jarrett (Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, & Christopher Daniels) vs. The Main Event Mafia (Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner, Booker T, & Kevin Nash with Sharmell): ***1/2

In 2009, Lethal Lockdown returned to the four-on-four format, as a team of TNA Originals took on the Main Event Mafia. Kurt Angle & Christopher Daniels started the match off for their respective teams. The Main Event Mafia would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Booker T, AJ Styles, Scott Steiner, Samoa Joe (in his ridiculous "Nation of Violence" getup), Kevin Nash, and finally, Jeff Jarrett. I actually really like the babyface team here, as you had TNA's founder along with three guys who defined TNA in 2005/2006 when the company was really on fire. This match was pretty good, but it didn't live up to the standards set by its predecessors. The action before the roof got lowered was solid (of course it would be, considering you had Kurt Angle, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, & Samoa Joe in there). I enjoyed seeing Angle mix it up with Daniels, as I don't think they had wrestled each other up to that point. There was a little bit of development with regards to Samoa Joe's storyline, as he was talking to some "mysterious figure" before he came out. Kevin Nash was sporting a brace on one of his arms, as he was just recovering from a recent staph infection. We did get some brawling on the floor, but none of it was really consequential. We got the usual hardcore schmoz, and like 2007, Kurt Angle & AJ Styles made their way up to the roof. They had apparently "reinforced" the cage so nobody could get on the roof, but they managed to get up there anyway. Angle took out Styles, and went back down, leaving Styles trapped on the roof.

What followed was one of the wackiest bumps in the history of Lethal Lockdown. AJ Styles stood on one of the triangular corners of the roof (those sections are elevated slightly compared to the main part of the roof). He jumped from that part of the roof, through the main part of the roof, through the ceiling and crashed to the mat. I say he crashed to the mat, but none of the guys underneath really caught him. That must've been a painful landing. Anyway, they ended the match with teasing a Jarrett heel turn (which felt pretty forced), but Jarrett proved his loyalty and hit Booker T with a guitar and got the pin for the victory. A pretty good match, but it wasn't exactly memorable.

Did I say that AJ Styles stunt was wacky? What was ever wackier was an appearance by Bobby Lashey, who just came out on the stage and pointed to the ring. This first stint in TNA was a very weird one for Bobby Lashley. After this appearance, he wasn't seen again until the summer months, when (I think) he teased joining the Main Event Mafia, only to turn them down. He wrestled in TNA through the end of 2009 and briefly into 2010 before departed. He wouldn't return until 2014, when he would start the run in TNA that he is probably most known for.

5.) TNA No Surrender 2009 (9/20/09) - Lethal Lockdown VI - Beer Money Inc. (James Storm & Robert Roode) & Team 3D vs. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The British Invasion (Brutus Magnus & Doug Williams) & TNA World Tag Team Champions The Main Event Mafia (Booker T & Scott Steiner): ***1/2

This was the first time that a Lethal Lockdown Match didn't take place on the Lockdown PPV. It was used to settle the score between four of TNA's top tag teams. Doug Williams & James Storm started the match off for their respective teams. The heel side would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Brutus Magnus, Robert Roode, Scott Steiner, Brother Devon, Booker T, and finally, Brother Ray. It was interesting to see this match outside of Lockdown, but I don't think it was the best idea. One of the reasons why this match is special is that it only happens once a year on one specific show. If you start doing more than one a year, and on a different show, it ruins that special feeling. With that being said, this was still a pretty good match. The beginning portion of the match with The British Invasion and Beer Money was very solid. Things did slow down a bit in the latter portions (but hey, Steiner still busted out his Franksteiner, so that's cool, I guess). Before he could enter the match, Brother Ray was attacked by Rob Terry before the match. It looked like he wasn't going to continue, but he managed to recover and got in the cage. We got the mandatory hardcore schmoz, and the big spot saw Beer Money deliver a suplex to Magnus on top of the cage. They return to the ring, and hit the DWI on Doug Williams for the win. Again, I enjoyed this match, but similar to the Lethal Lockdown Match from earlier in the year, it wasn't exactly memorable.

6.) TNA Lockdown 2010 (4/18/10) - Lethal Lockdown VII - Team Flair (Sting, Desmond Wolfe, & Beer Money Inc. [Robert Roode & James Storm]) vs. Team Hogan (Abyss, Jeff Hardy, Jeff Jarrett, & Rob Van Dam): ***1/4

Here we have the first Lethal Lockdown under the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff regime. Of course, when Hulk Hogan joined TNA, Ric Flair wasn't far behind, and we got the 20th incarnation of Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair, this time as the leaders of teams for Lethal Lockdown. This regime change also meant a change to the ring, as they scrapped the six-sided ring for the traditional four-sided ring. Thus, this was the first Lethal Lockdown to occur in a normal, four-sided ring. Abyss & Robert Roode started the match off for their respective teams. Team Hogan, interesting enough, would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was RVD, Desmond Wolfe, Jeff Jarrett, James Storm, Jeff Hardy, and Sting. Two notes right off the bat with the format. Team Hogan having the numbers advantage here was so backwards. In almost every instance of this match (and others like in different promotions, including WCW & ROH), the heel team ALWAYS has the numbers advantage. The psychology of this match was all wrong from the beginning. I guess this was "swapped" later on in the match, as Sting had apparently attacked Jeff Hardy before he came out to enter the match. This gave Team Flair a four-on-three advantage for a little bit, but then Jeff Hardy returned and entered the match. 

For the most part, despite the backwards psychology, the bulk of this match....actually wasn't that bad. The action was relatively solid, the hardcore stuff was fine (Abyss hit Sting with a chokeslam onto thumbtacks) and we got a crazy stunt from Jeff Hardy (are you surprised?). He went to the top of the cage, set up a ladder, gave Robert Roode a Twist Of Fate on the top of the cage, and then hit a splash off the top of the ladder, putting James Storm through a table. This was all well and good. What really hurt the match a ton was the involvement of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, & Eric Bischoff. Essentially, Flair got involved, which led to Hogan coming out. They brawled for a bit with each other and with the other guys in the match. Eric Bischoff then got in the cage. He teased teaming up with Flair as he almost handed him brass knuckles, but he tossed them to Hogan, who used them on Flair, busting "The Nature Boy" wide open. He then rammed him into the cage, and then Flair did his signature Flair Flop onto the thumbtacks (that bit was actually funny). Abyss then just hit Desmond Wolfe with the Black Hole Slam for the win. Given how involved Hogan & Flair were, they should've just made those two official participants in the match. It really sucks because all of the guys who were actually in the match worked very hard, only for Hogan, Flair, & Bischoff to come in and steal all of the spotlight. Honestly, it was sad. A fun match ruined by a bunch of glory hogs. Even thought it was still technically "good", this was easily the worst Lethal Lockdown Match we had seen thus far.

7.) TNA Bound For Glory 2010 (10/10/10) - Lethal Lockdown VIII - EV 2.0 (Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Rhino, Sabu, & Stevie Richards with Mick Foley) vs. Fortune (AJ Styles, Beer Money Inc. [Robert Roode & James Storm], Kazarian, & Matt Morgan with Ric Flair): ***1/4

Similar to 2009, we had two Lethal Lockdown Matches in 2010. This time, the second Lethal Lockdown of the year was on Bound For Glory, and it featured EV 2.0 (a stable of ECW Originals formed following the Hardcore Justice PPV) going up against Fortune (a stable created by Ric Flair that was essentially Four Horsemen-lite, but had a lot of talents guys involved). What was odd about this one is that, instead of guys coming out from the back as they entered the match, everyone was at ringside, and just ran in the cage when it was their turn to go in. Kazarian & Stevie Richards started the match off for their respective teams. Fortune would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was AJ Styles, Tommy Dreamer, Bobby Roode, (bald) Sabu, James Storm, Raven, Matt Morgan, & Rhino. This was a fine match that featured some memorable moments, such as Sabu eating a vicious powerbomb into the cage courtesy of Matt Morgan, but as a whole, it was very underwhelming. This was the definition of a mid-card match, which is so unfortunate. I mentioned this earlier, but once you start having Lethal Lockdown on other shows besides Lockdown, you really ruin the unique feeling that this match has. What was once a major, once-a-year spectacle was reduced to just another match on the card. While this match did play into the strengths of Team ECW EV 2.0 (with a hardcore schmoz once the roof came down), it just seemed like a bunch of old timers (as the babyfaces) fighting against the young heels. In general, that can be a good story, but did we really need the likes of AJ Styles & Beer Money getting beaten up by a bunch of ECW Originals who were past their prime? We even had more focus on older guys on the outside, as Ric Flair & Mick Foley got into multiple altercations.

Even the "big spot" at the end was underwhelming. Kazarian & Stevie Richards were on top of the cage, and it looked like Kazarian was going to jump off a ladder to put him through a table (both the ladder and table had large, flat bottoms on their legs to help made them more sturdy on the cage roof), but Brian Kendrick emerged from a black cloth covering on top of the cage. I guess he had disguised himself as a bag of weapons or something. He put Kazarian through a table in a very weak spot. Apparently the storyline at the time was that Kendrick (who was doing some sort of religious zealot gimmick, I think) was trying to gain acceptance into EV 2.0. Kendrick meditated on top of the cage as Tommy Dreamer pinned AJ Styles to win the match for his team. Yes, you read that result right. In hindsight, that's just.....insane. EV 2.0 going over the younger talent is just crazy. Again, some of the action in the match was solid, but largely, this was forgettable.

Well, that concludes the first part of this little mini-project within the larger context of my Random Match Reviews Series!! It's pretty clear that Lethal Lockdown started off incredible strong, but the matches decreased in quality slowly but surely as the years went by. The inclusion of the match on other PPV's not named Lockdown, and the changes brought about by the Hogan/Bischoff regime certainly had an impact (no pun intended) on the worsening match quality as well. Don't get me wrong, even the worst of theses matches were still "good", but by 2010, Lethal Lockdown was turning into a shell of its former self. Look out for Part 2, which will cover this match from 2011 through early 2015, very soon!

Monday, March 27, 2017

WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas Review

Shinsuke Nakamura makes his NXT debut!!

WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas
Dallas, Texas 4/1/16

1.) NXT Tag Team Titles - The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) vs. American Alpha (Chad Gable & Jason Jordan): ****

The Revival have been holding these titles for several months at this point. Meanwhile, American Alpha had risen through the tag team ranks quite rapidly, leading to this title shot. I thought this was a great tag team opener, and an awesome way to start off the show. The match did have one or two really noticeable rough points (the most noteworthy being a double powerbomb attempt by The Revival that failed so badly that “Botchamania” chants broke out), but other than that, the action was really entertaining from start to finish. The Revival really have their roles as the throwback to the old school Southern heel tag team down pat. They do such an incredible job, but to be fair, that role also needs a good babyface tag team to play off of, and American Alpha certainly filled that particular role in this one. This match was so much fun to watch, and the crowd made it even better. In the end, American Alpha scored the victory to win the NXT Tag Team Titles!! The crowd exploded when the titles changed hands. Again, this was a great way to kick off the show.

Before the next match, Kota Ibushi was shown in the crowd. Ibushi would be working Kaiji Big Battel, as well as WWN’s Mercury Rising, during this weekend, but his appearance here would essentially confirm that he was going to take place in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic later in the year.

2.) Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin: **3/4

NXT made a lot of headlines when Austin Aries was brought into the fold, but “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” immediately drew the ire of Baron Corbin, who attacked Aries during his debut. I probably enjoyed this match slightly more than most, but this was definitely the weakest match on the card. That’s not to say it was bad, because it certainly wasn’t. The issue was that it was a solid match on a card that filled with fantastic matches. They told a good story with the smaller guy (Aries) trying to overcome the size of his larger opponent (Corbin). The crowd wasn’t exactly hot for this match either, which didn’t help. There were some good spots in this one, such as Corbin hitting the Deep Six on Aries on the floor. Ultimately, Aries would emerge victorious when he countered an End Of Days attempt by Corbin into a rollup for the win. Again, the match was perfectly fine, but it was certainly out of place on this card.

3.) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn: *****

Arguably the biggest story of 2016 was the exodus of four major stars (AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson, & Luke Gallows) from New Japan. Styles was already on the main roster, after making his debut in the Royal Rumble Match, while Anderson & Gallows would make their debut on RAW a month or two after WrestleMania. Nakamura was the only one out of the four who didn’t go the main roster, which was surprising at the time, since he was one of New Japan’s biggest stars. Instead, he went to NXT, and his first match was on this show against Sami Zayn, who was making his final NXT appearance before going up to the main roster full-time. Zayn got a great reaction when he came out (as he always did in NXT), but they EXPLODED when Shinsuke Nakamura came out. His new music was awesome, and the crowd already treated him like a superstar. Nakamura looked like one of the biggest stars in WWE before the bell even rang for his first match. That just speaks to the charisma of Nakamura. He instantly had the fans in the palm of his hands.

Nakamura’s entrance was amazing, but his debut match with Sami Zayn was even better. This was a PHENOMENAL match!!! From start to finish, it was simply incredible. Both guys put on a show, and it was so much fun to watch. There was so much awesome action in this one, and the crowd absolutely LOVED it. They even broke out into a “fight forever” chant, which is just insane. Once again, Sami Zayn steals the show on a TakeOver, while Shinsuke Nakamura proved why he is considered to be one of the best in the business. Everything about this was so cool. In the end, after a hard-fought battle, Nakamura finally secured the victory with the Boma Ye, which, in WWE, is now called the Kinshasa. Not only was this one of the best matches of the entire weekend, but it was arguably one of the best matches of 2016. An incredible effort from both guys. This was a match that nobody will forget.

4.) NXT Women’s Title - Bayley vs. Asuka: ****

These two had the unenviable task of following a legitimate MOTYC. Asuka had been undefeated ever since she arrived in NXT a several months prior, while Bayley had been having a successful run with the NXT Women’s Title ever since defeating Sasha Banks in an instant classic at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. Opinions of this match seem to vary a little bit, but honestly, I thought this was great. It could’ve been a little better, but considering the circumstances, they did a really good job. They worked a more methodical style here, which was an interesting choice. Asuka relied on her strengths (submissions and striking), while Bayley was forced to fight from underneath. It was an interesting position for Bayley to be in, not that I think about it. For the second big show in a row, she was presented as the underdog, despite being the champion. While she was able to overcome the monstrous Nia Jax, she was unable to get by the “Empress of Tomorrow”. Eventually, Asuka locked Bayley in the Asuka Lock, and that was pretty much the end. Bayley passed out, and Asuka captured the NXT Women’s Title.

Before the main event began, they showed Bobby Roode in the crowd. Roode had recently left TNA, and decided to make the move to NXT. While he wouldn’t make his debut for another few months, it was immediately clear that Roode was going to be a player.

5.) NXT Title - Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe: ****

This is a rematch from the main event of NXT TakeOver: London. Of course, Finn Balor came out in his demon warpaint, but he added a little twist this time around, as he had a chainsaw with him (obviously inspired by Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). I thought this was a great match, but it definitely had its issues. The first few minutes were actually quite awesome, as they this really cool brawl. Unfortunately, the match came to screeching halt when medical staff interjected themselves to clean up a significant cut that had opened above one of Samoa Joe’s eyes. The crowd was not happy with this at all. They booed each time Joe was attended to, and we got a number of….interesting chants. These included “PG Sucks”, “Bullshit”, and “Let Joe Bleed”. Those stoppages definitely interrupted the flow of the match, and hurt it without question. However, despite the issues, these two still managed to come back and produce a compelling main event with tons of really good action. This match wasn’t quite as good as their match in London, but still, it was great. Additionally, what helped this match was that you really didn’t know who was going to win, since it had been rumored that one of them was going up to the main roster soon (they would both get up to the main roster eventually, but it wasn’t “soon” by any means). Ultimately, Finn Balor pulled out an old trick made famous by Bret Hart to score the win. As Samoa Joe had him in a choke, Balor got on the turnbuckle, pushed off, and turned the choke into the pin. I’ve always liked that finish, but in hindsight, I’m not sure this was the right finish. It would’ve made a lot more sense if this was the finish of their match in London, as it would have been a more natural leadup to this rematch. What we ended up getting was a little more backwards, as Balor beat Joe decisively in London, but just barely escaped with victory here in Dallas. Still, this was a great match that capped off an incredible night of action.

Overall: 9.5/10

I don’t think this show reached the heights of Wrestle Kingdom X, but it was definitely one of the best WWE shows of 2016, and certainly one of the best WWE shows in recent memory. If you removed the Aries/Corbin match, and replaced it with something that was, at least, really good (it didn’t even necessarily need to be great), we would’ve had an all-time classic show. Alas, Aries vs. Corbin was the only thing holding this show back. The three title matches were all awesome in their own right, and interestingly enough, all of them had to overcome different, unique issues (botches, following a MOTYC, and medical staff interrupting the flow of the main event). Of course, the match that this show will be remembered the most for was Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn. What else is there to say about this match? It was simply amazing, and one of the best WWE matches we’ve seen in a long time. The bottom line is that this show was fantastic, and in my view, it’s probably one of the best NXT TakeOver specials ever.