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.
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.