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Did NXT Takeover Wrestlemania Weekend?

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Sometimes, a child may participate in team sports, trying to emulate their big brother or sister. Every now and then, that child will become good enough to surpass their older sibling and become the star of the family. That is as apropos a statement as I could make about this year’s NXT Takeover event. The card is so loaded with potential five star matches that many expect this event to be better than Wrestlemania this Sunday. So just how did the card stack up for this event?

AMERICAN ALPHA vs. THE REVIVAL (NXT Tag Team Championship): If you could go back in time and get an in their prime the World’s Greatest Tag Team and pit them against Arn & Ole Anderson, you’d get this match. Scott Dawson opens the match with some very disrespectful slaps to Chad Gable’s face. Chad then decided to play to his strengths by taking it to the mat, only to then return the favor and slap Dawson. Wilder kept the ref distracted just enough to allow the Revival to build sufficient heat. I haven’t seen such a fundamentally sound tag team title match on WWE television in quite some time. The only issues were with a botched double team by the Revival and the referee giving a bit too much leeway to both teams. But the rest of the match was so solid that it’s completely forgivable. There was a spot where Dawson went for a pinfall and had his feet on the ropes for extra leverage and without the ref noticing, Wilder placed his towel around his partner’s feet to cover up that it was an illegal pin. Little bits like that made this match that much more enjoyable. After several blind tags by the Revival, American Alpha pulled one from Dash & Dawson’s playbook and a blind tag, right hook by Gable, a spear into the turnbuckle by Jordan, then they delivered Grand Amplitude and finally achieved their dreams by winning tag team gold. WINNERS: AMERICAN ALPHA

BARON CORBIN vs. AUSTIN ARIES: Given how Corbin blindsided Aries during Aries’ debut a few weeks ago, Aries unleashed fisticuffs from the opening seconds of the match. His anger got the best of him as he realized that Corbin delivered way more powerful blows of his own. Aries wisely worked the leg from there on out as well as relying on his speed and high flying. However, Corbin averted a splash and launched Aries throat first into the ropes. Corbin slowed the pacing down with holds on the shoulder and traps, cutting off all potential comebacks. One thing I’ll praise the NXT athletes until the end of time for doing better than the main WWE roster…telling a convincing story in the ring by working a body part. Corbin went for his finisher, End of Days. Aries had it scouted and countered it into a victory roll and pick up the pin. A solid match in a feud appears to be far from over. WINNER: AUSTIN ARIES

SAMI ZAYN vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA: Calling this a dream match would be an understatement of the highest order. Both men had the split crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, even during their ring entrances. From the signature Nakamura taunts, to Zayn’s high intensity arm drag series, the crowd couldn’t decide who they wanted to cheer for, so started cheering for one, then the other, louder and louder each time. This did not turn into a high-spot fest. Both men are masters of solid ring psychology and it showed tonight. The match eventually came to fisticuffs and Nakamura proved why he is the King of Strong Style. Zayn delivered some very hard hits of his own, not trying to get shown up in his house (NXT). A series of back and forth forearm shots to the head got one of the loudest crowd reactions of the night. Nakamura’s assault seemed to only enrage Zayn, with Sami delivering some of the most vicious kicks and punches seen from him to date. Zayn escaped the front sleeper hold. Nakamura kicked out of the Blue Thunder Bomb. Zayn escaped the Cross Armbreaker. Nakamura fought out of the Koji Clutch and barely escaped the Helluva Kick. Nakamura nearly got nailed with the Exploder Suplex, but was able to avoid it and deliver his running knee strike, now known as Kinshasa. This was one of the best matches on WWE television in about a decade and kudos for Zayn for doing the favors before stepping up to the main Raw/Smackdown roster. WINNER: SHINSUKE NAKAMURA

ASUKA vs. BAYLEY (NXT Women’s Championship): This was another match that the crowd made just as awesome as these amazing athletes. Asuka off the bat nailed Bayley with a straight right to the jaw and nearly got taken out of the fight early. They both went to the mat with some holds and reversals, only for Asuka to nail a flying hip attack. Asuka was looking for corner kicks, but Bayley escaped and delivered the springboard elbow drop, followed up by a Bayleycanrana. She then locked in the modified guillotine, but Asuka reversed it into the Asuka Lock, but Bayley quickly escaped. Asuka then proceeded to deliver several vicious kicks to the mid section of Bayley. Asuka went for one too many kicks and Bayley caught her with a leg submission which she transitioned into an ankle lock. Asuka then worked her way to an armbar submission on Bayley. They went back and forth several times trying to lock in submissions. Finally, Bayley got caught by the Asuka Lock and nearly passed out, making Asuka the new NXT Women’s Champion. A hell of a match and one that I’d love to see again, if it weren’t for the strong possibility that Bayley may move up to the main roster the Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania. WINNER: ASUKA

SAMOA JOE vs. FINN BALOR (NXT Championship): This is a heated feud and when a feud is taken to the next level, blood will spill. This was proven in the first two minutes of the match as Balor busted open Joe’s eye, causing an insane amount of blood to pour into his face and body. Enough blood that the referee nearly stopped the match when doctors had to patch up Joe’s eye. Joe came back even more aggressively, slinging Balor over the security barrier. As Joe had to get tended to again by doctors, Balor emerged from behind the wall, the demon make up made this look like a scene from a horror film. Balor is not just an amazing wrestler, but has the uncanny ability to know where all of the cameras are at any given moment. Despite blood still pouring out, Joe got in every one of his signature moves. If Samoa Joe wasn’t considered one of the toughest wrestlers of the 21st Century, this match should cement it. Balor delivered multiple punches, elbows kicks and even a high impact dropkick off the ring apron, all striking Joe right in his injured face. At a point in the match, both men’s familiarity with each other allowed each to counter the other’s more high impact moves, such as Balor’s corner dropkick, or Joe’s attempt at the Muscle Buster. Balor went for the Coup de Grace, but Joe countered it and his second attempt at the Muscle Buster connected. Balor somehow kicked out of the pin and delivered the Pele kick right to Joe’s injured eye. Balor went into a full rage and nailed the Coup de Grace. But Joe was not out for the count yet and locked in the Coquina Clutch. Balor had it scouted and kicked off the ropes and delivered a variation of Sliced Bread #2 and pinned his heated rival. Joe appears to still be in the title hunt though. WINNER: FINN BALOR

After a pay-per-view of this caliber, one of NXT’s best (and that’s saying alot) I have to say that I’m concerned. Many on the main roster are down with injuries. Some of the matches only have unfavorable potential finishes. But there’s a sliver of optimism in me that believes the main roster can pull off as strong of a show on Sunday as was seen tonight.

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