Is this the beginning of the end for NXT? Or the end of the beginning? It’s a very cryptic name for tonight’s WWE Network special, as fans get ready for NXT TakeOver: The End. With it being probably the most low-key Takeover event in ages, NXT waltzes back into Full Sail with a tremendous build-up behind it. Finn Balor and Samoa Joe – after disappointing with their first two televised matches – were shackled with the first ever cage match in NXT history after some of the best TV build-up since Owens vs. Zayn. Austin Aries is set out to face Shinsuke Nakamura, who debuted in the best match in NXT history against Sami Zayn in Dallas. The Revival challenges American Alpha in a rematch of the best tag match in NXT history, and Asuka makes her first Women’s Title defense against Nia Jax. Add that on with La Sombra’S NXT debut, and we have what is sure to be a noteworthy Takeover event.
1. Andrade Almas vs. Tye Dillinger
We’re finally due for the hyped debut of the former La Sombra, who I must admit I am not too familiar with. Lucha and I aren’t exactly acquainted, sue me. But either way, I’ve heard wonderful things about the guy from his NXT house show matches, and Tye is a great guy to debut him against.
Winner – Andrade Almas
This is probably the best you could hope for out of this debut. Andrade got his big spots in, Dillinger got to show what he was made of, and both men had the crowd eating out of their hands because of it. Not much to complain about here.
2.NXT Tag Titles: American Alpha © vs. The Revival
These two teams had a sensational match in Dallas, a bout that really gets better every time you watch it and at this point, a darkhorse Match of the Year candidate if you really want to go that far. Both teams are utterly tremendous talents, and I don’t see a world where this match isn’t phenomenal as well.
Winner – The Revival
Before we get down to it, no, this wasn’t as great as the Dallas match and I’ll tell you why. Mainly because A) that Dallas crowd is probably the best crowd in NXT history and B) the storytelling and general atmosphere of that match was better. That said, this was yet another tremendous installment in this rivalry. Both teams are just phenomenally cohesive, and in different ways. American Alpha is cohesive in how they’re able to just run circles around their opponents in perfect stereo, and Revival in how they’re able to isolate an opponent at any given moment. They set an furious, torrid from the jump and did a wonderful job in progressively heightening it, so by the time the finishing sequence hit, the crowd and the match itself were at a fever pitch. I loved how again, American Alpha’s sheer speed and tenacity in the earlygoing had The Revival flustered, as even the underhanded attempts at gaining control seemed to backfire for Dash and Dawson. But at the end of the day, the story was that The Revival was the better team this time, so even if American Alpha had their numbers early, Dash and Dawson were able to out-last them. There were a lot of good callbacks to the Dallas match, particularly that Powerbomb/Blockbuster that Dash and Dawson messed up in Dallas, only to be countered spectacularly by Gable. But as I said, The Revival was the better unit and they told that story perfectly. I’m sure a lot of questions are sure to arise from American Alpha losing the belts on their first defense, but I’m willing to bet there’s a call-up in their future. Either way, they’re the best team under the WWE umbrella and they’re going to be superstars once they hit the main roster, so I can’t say I hate this result. Great stuff as expected.
3.Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries
Nakamura and Aries both started going after each other with holds, but to no avail. Nakamura went for a big kick but Aries ducked and they squared off again. Nakamura then went after the injured ribs of Aries. Aries then went after the legs of Nakamura, sending him to the ground. Nakamura using his legs for big strikes, so this was great work from AA. Aries then worked Nakamura for a while, until the latter came back with strikes to the gut. Aries then hit a big dive through the ropes and got a near-fall. As Nakamura looked for the Kinshasa, Aries went for a submission move in the middle of the ring. Nakamura seemingly had nowhere to go but wouldn’t tap. Aries looked for a 450 splash but missed, Nakamura went for a running knee in the corner, but Aries countered. Following a Death Valley Driver, Aries went for a tope, but flew into the guard rail. Nakamura hit Kinshasa, a reverse exploder, and Kinshasa again.
Winner – Shinsuke Nakamura
Perhaps not as drop-dead incredible as the Zayn/Nakamura match, but that’s not really a fair expectation to have. I hope this isn’t seen as a disappointment just because it wasn’t a five star match. That said, this was pretty damn great on its own. I loved the storytelling with Aries out to prove something, having Nakamura’s number in pretty much the entirety of the opening segment of the match. Aries immediately targeting the famed knee of Nakamura to try and minimize the risk of the Kinshasa was great, but in the end, Nakamura was just too good for it to work. Nakamura also having to get real serious in the early goings was a great touch, as he had to abandon all of his fun idiosyncrasies to make sure he could put the focused Aries away. Good character work from both men, and sure, while the match wasn’t the most dangerous or high-octane of all time, it was a wonderful display of storytelling. All’s I know is, I got what I wanted from this match, and I have nothing to really complain about.
4. NXT Women’s Title: Asuka © vs. Nia Jax
Of all the matches on this card, this one is lodged firmly at the bottom in terms of anticipation. I understand it’s developmental, so I can’t really blame anybody, but Nia Jax does absolutely nothing for me in any way. However, Asuka has enough physical charisma that she should be able to offset Nia’s lack of… well, any charisma, and hopefully come up with something that surprises me.
Winner – Asuka
Not quite as good as what Bayley was able to drag out of Nia, but I’d be willing to say however that this was Nia’s best solo performance to date. She actually did a good job in keeping the pace going – for 9 minutes only albeit – but at the same time, the girl is in the developmental fed for a reason. If this match is anything to go by, she’s improving at a decent pace. But Asuka did hold this match together, and did a great job playing the overwhelmed babyface in a way she only can. She’s not an underdog babyface, more so a woman who’s just so incredibly great at everything that you can’t help but love her. But nonetheless, she played a great underdog here and there’s not much negative here to speak of. It was worked within the right length for Nia’s experience level but in terms of big picture it was too short to be anything memorable. They worked it as well as you could hope for though.
5. Steel Cage Match for the NXT Title: Samoa Joe © vs. Finn Balor
It’s truly a testament to the great writing team NXT has behind it, as both matches between these two have been total disappointments, but the booking of their confrontations (as well as Joe winning the belt at a house show) has been of such a high quality that I’m STILL excited to see them wrestle. Hopefully we’re finally treated to the match this feud deserves, because they’ve got a LOT of hype behind them.
Winner – Samoa Joe
Probably the best match of this rivalry, but again something here just didn’t click to the fullest extent. I think at this point, these two probably just don’t have very good chemistry with each other, but they still put in a good effort. NXT tried to give us a big fight feel with a big stipulation, but neither guy seemed very up to the task of providing something memorable. I wasn’t going in expecting the Jay Briscoe cage match from ROH, but I got a TV main event with a cage around it in the end. I didn’t feel like these guys hated each other, nor did I think for a second that Finn Balor was winning. This didn’t have much heat – which I thought it would have plenty of – nor did it really feel like a big cage match. There wasn’t much in the way of violence aside from a stiff kick or two. So, for the third time in a row, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe fail to excite me in the ring after a great set of TV to build them up. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited for say, a potential Joe vs. Nakamura match up, or a Finn Balor main roster run. You can’t win ‘em all I suppose.
As most expected, NXT’s latest addition to the Takeover series is a great, consistently entertaining wrestling card. As most expected, Nakamura vs. Aries and American Alpha vs. The Revival were the premier efforts and they didn’t disappoint one bit. American Alpha continues to be the best tag team in WWE, and Nakamura continues to be perhaps the most charismatic person that has ever walked the Earth. However, this Takeover falters in its last two matches and thus doesn’t bring it up to the standard of say, Dallas or Brooklyn. That being said, for 2 hours of entertainment, you cannot go wrong with Takeover: The End.