Date: February 4, 2015
Location: Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Commentators: Rich Brennan, Corey Graves, Alex Riley
Reviewed by Tommy Hall
It's the go home show for Takeover next week and the main stories are the tournament to crown a new #1 contender and making Zayn vs. Owens a title match at Owens' demand. Tonight we have two semi-final matches with Hideo Itami vs. Finn Balor and Adrian Neville vs. Baron Corbin with the winners facing each other next week. Let's get to it.
Emma vs. Carmella
The fans want Blue Pants but Carmella says she's back on the clearance rack. Enzo and Cass dance in the background while Carmella talks to a less than thrilled audience. Thankfully Cass does his spelling and the fans are right back. Carmella shouts at the guys and gets kicked down as we hit a brief catfight. Emma gets choked on the ropes and Carmella mocks her dancing while checking the nails. They fight out of the corner and the Dilemma has Carmella in even more trouble. Not that it matters as she trips Emma down and puts on that leg lock crossface for the submission at 1:52.
#1 Contenders Tournament Semi-Finals: Adrian Neville vs. Baron Corbin
Baron easily takes him back into the corner to start and Adrian looks at him with a realization that he might be in major trouble. A cross body doesn't work but some kicks to the ribs work a bit better. Neville hits a running dropkick but gets his head taken off by a right hand. Adrian rolls outside with his bell rung but Baron throws him right back inside to stomp away in the corner.
A big slam gets two on Neville but he dropkicks the knee out to send Baron into the buckle. Neville scores with a springboard dropkick to knock Baron outside but the springboard plancha is caught with ease and Baron drops him on the barricade. With Neville going back inside, Bull Dempsey comes out and posts Baron, setting up the Red Arrow for the pin at 5:27.
Rating: C. For once, I really don't like the booking here. They easily could have had the posting lead to a countout (Corbin barely beat the count back in) instead of a pin, but at least it wasn't clean. That being said, does ANYONE want to see Corbin vs. Dempsey again? As Riley said, what does Corbin have left to prove against him? The match was a decent power display from Corbin but I didn't like the ending and it hurt things a good bit.
Sami Zayn says Kevin Owens played this perfectly to get what he wants. Even Regal didn't see this coming and Regal has seen it all. All that matters now is Takeover next week and Sami is bringing everything he has. Of note here: Sami said the date of the show. That's such a lost little thing in WWE today. They always say “in X amount of weeks” or something other than just the date. Say the date of the show and get it in the fans' heads instead of just the name of the show so they'll know when it's there.
Corbin vs. Dempsey next week in a No DQ match.
Bayley vs. Becky Lynch
Bayley's music is very, very catchy. The fans aren't sure who they like better here but it seems to be Bayley with more support as she grabs an armbar. Becky goes after Bayley's bad knee to take over and hits a nice snap suplex. Three straight legdrops get two but Bayley sends her outside.
Cue Sasha Banks as Bayley misses a charge into the post, allowing Lynch to kick at the knee again. A dragon screw leg whip looks to set up a leg lock but Bayley counters into a small package for two. I actually bought that as the pin. Bayley SNAPS and goes after Becky's leg before throwing her into a half crab, sending Lynch into the ropes. Sasha throws Becky back inside and the Belly to Bayley is good for the pin at 4:18.
Rating: C-. Neither girl is all that great in the ring but they're both capable of doing something passable enough to get through a ring. Lynch is far more attitude than in ring ability and there's nothing wrong with that. The four way next week has a lot of potential and while Banks winning probably makes the most sense, all four are options and that's one of the great things about NXT: it can be hard to predict sometimes, which is a very rare case in WWE.
Becky shoves Banks down as Charlotte comes out to watch.
Owens says of course it was a plan and Sami knew that's what was happening. Now he's going to take the NXT Title two months to the day of his debut.
We see a graphic for the next tournament match and the Solomon hacker screen comes up.
Blake and Murphy vs. Lucha Dragons for the Tag Team Titles next week.
Tyler Breeze is asked what his plans are now that he's out of the tournament. After calling that a stupid question, he says he's going to watch the rest of the tournament closely.
#1 Contenders Tournament Semi-Finals: Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami
Neville is on commentary, which isn't something you see that often in NXT. The bell rings and the fans debut a new chant: “WE'RE NOT WORTHY!” They hit the mat to start for a nice wrestling sequence and the fans give the stalemate a big ovation. Fans: “BETTER THAN RAW!” Balor's chinlock attempt is countered into an armbar as Graves brings up being Tag Team Champions with Neville for a nice bit of continuity. Finn scores with a dropkick and we take a break.
Back with Itami getting two and putting on a quickly broken chinlock. Balor rolls through into a hard basement dropkick for two before putting on an arm trap chinlock of his own. A pair of rollups get a pair of near falls on Itami before it's off to a chinlock. The announcers are basically interviewing Neville about what it means to be champion again and getting inside his head instead of just asking him generic questions and plugging Twitter. Hideo fights up and goes up top, only to get kicked in the head for two as we take another break.
Back again with Balor taking the skin off Hideo's chest with chops. A running knee in the corner has Balor in some quick trouble, followed by a top rope clothesline for two. The GTS is teased again but Balor escapes and they trade kicks to the head. They slug it out with Itami getting the better of it and hitting a running basement dropkick in the corner. Back up and Balor scores with a Sling Blade but he tweaked his knee on some of those kicks. It's good enough to dropkick Itami hard into the corner and the top rope double stomp is good enough to send Balor to Takeover at 17:58.
Rating: B. The ending was a bit abrupt but this was the kind of match both guys needed. They both held their own for a long match and it never got boring. Balor still looks better but the second that GTS finally hits, it's going to blow the roof off the place. The best part is you can't even say it's stealing anything because Punk took it from Itami in the first place. Really solid match here and Neville vs. Balor is going to rock.
Balor and Itami shake hands and Neville stares Finn down.
One last Owens vs. Zayn promo ends the show. Zayn should have seen this coming but Owens surprised him. They were the best of friends but then Owens got married and had a kid and things changed. Next week, Zayn is going to see what Owens is made of.
Overall Rating: B-. The earlier stuff hurt it a bit but the main event brought the show up a good deal. More than anything else though, I want to see Takeover next week. The card is stacked and they've done a great job of building up the show in just a few weeks as opposed to the multiple months they usually have. Next week feels like new stuff crossed with an R-Evolution sequel, which is actually a cool feeling.
There are two things I want to bring up here here that continue to make NXT feel special. First of all is of course the crowd. That BETTER THAN RAW chant they started tonight kept up the feeling that the fans are having a great time every week at this show. How many times do you feel that fans coming to Raw are naturally excited to be there? It's like they show up and hope for a good show but don't expect much. When the NXT fans show up, it's time for a great show and they know it because NXT has earned that respect.
The other thing that stood out to me tonight is the commentary. Every week I have to spend the first half hour of the show figuring out who the commentary team is this week because they always rotate and it's hard to pin them down given how similar their voices are (save for Albert and Renee of course). For a long time that got on my nerves because I had to listen for them to say their first names, but the more I think about it, the more that's a good thing. The announcers are just faceless entities most of the time and that means the focus stays on the action and not on them. That's the polar opposite of WWE and it's so nice.
Carmella b. Emma – Leg lock crossface
Adrian Neville b. Baron Corbin – Red Arrow
Bayley b. Becky Lynch – Belly to Bayley
Finn Balor b. Hideo Itami – Top rope double stomp
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