August 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY
Last year’s NXT Takeover Brooklyn was a great show and an incredible experience overall. Add in an opportunity to see my favorite wrestler live for the first time since she was signed, and possibly the most charismatic wrestler in the world for the first time ever, and I was beyond excited for NXT’s return to Brooklyn.
Small fortuitous moment on the way in, as the location of our seats took us right by the announcers table for the pre-show. Was neat to see them so close.
The pre-show portion was a decent enough way to kick off the festivities. As with last year whoever was in charge of match order was spot on and made the wise choice to send out surprising crowd favorite “Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger out to open against Wesley Blake. Dillinger has been gaining steam and the soft face turn of simply booking him against heels is the right way to go with him. “Murphy’s Better” chants greeted Blake alongside constant cries of “TEN” for Dillinger from the loud crowd, and while basic this match was a great start to the show.
The Authors of Pain are a bit plodding for my tastes, but they have some impressive power spots and bring something new to the division, and TM61 at least got to show a little life against them before being squashed like pancakes.
Moving on to the show proper, No Way Jose vs Austin Aries was again a perfect choice to start with. Aries is always crazy over in NYC and looked sharp and motivated, and Jose somewhat surprisingly hang in nicely and had a good portion of the crowd behind him by the end. I personally don’t really care for the gimmick, but Jose’s coming along very well and is clearly putting in a lot of effort to be the best wrestler he can be. That’s all I ever ask from anyone, and kudos to him. Despite the cheers he received Aries stayed well within his heel persona and mannerisms, which paid off big time when Hideo Itami (KENTA) saved Jose from a post match attack to a huge reception and loud boos for Aries (again, a huge accomplishment in Aries friendly NYC). Even better, Hideo was allowed to break out the GTS, which had the crowd going WILD.
Speaking of the crowd going wild, I had maintained before the show that while Ember Moon (Athena) is a phenomenal athlete in general, if they wanted to get her over instantly all they had to do is let her keep her finisher. Sure enough, she ended a short debut contest against Billie Kay with her “diving corkscrew stunner” (the obviously-was-always-going-to-be-renamed “O-Face”) to send the fans into an absolute frenzy. Decent enough match before that too, although the finish is all anyone will remember. I like Kay’s new look and heel tendencies, which should bring fresh life into her character, and Ember’s entrance and red contacts add a nice distinctive feel to her presentation. And as a huge fan of Shimmer it was a special treat for me to have two matches on this card exclusively featuring Shimmer alumni.
The almost Wrestlemania-like pageantry done with NXT Brooklyn entrances is awesome in general, and one of the best was next as Bobby Roode practically descended from the heavens on an elevated platform as his AWESOME theme music echoed throughout the stadium as nearly everyone sang along. Perhaps not great for a heel, but it certainly adds to his presence and made him look like an immediate star.
On the other hand, poor Andrade “Cien” Almas was totally sent out to die in his ridiculous getup trying to work face against Roode. He tried, but NYC’s pre-established bias combined with Cien being a little sloppy at times made the task impossible and Roode was the clear favorite no matter what dastardly things he did. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Roode using the pump handle slam as a finish, but while it’s not one of my favorites either a derisive heel like Roode is better served by a no nonsense finisher than something flashy, so I don’t mind it that much. Great debut for Roode in terms of presence and being memorable, but match was nothing and their going to have a hard time getting him over as a heel instead of being cheered.
Between the CWC first round match and their ascension up the tag ranks in NXT, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have been given a lot to work with recently and have been consistently knocking it out of the park. I was a big fan of both on the indies and it great not only to see them gets these opportunities but also to see their incredible chemistry as a team. The arena was fairly rabid in support as the duo came out for the NXT Tag Title match against The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) (c). The Revival are the best old school style team I’ve seen in ages, and I get a total Arn Anderson and <insert random AA partner name here 😉 > vibe whenever they wrestle.
The match was fantastic, with natural babyfaces Gargano and Ciampa constantly getting the better of the champs until Dash and Dawson would cheat for the advantage and then grind away at the “upstarts.” Finish could have been a touch better executed, but overall this was excellently built and performed and was neck and neck with the other two title matches for best of the night.
Time to show my bias: Kana (Asuka) has long been my favorite wrestler in the world, and as I wrote about after Takeover Brooklyn last year her surprise appearance there left me floored and intensely curious about her future. So with all due respect to all the other amazing athletes on this show, Asuka (c) defending her NXT Women’s title against Bayley is the match I went to see.
It delivered. 🙂 Maybe not quite up to last years Bayley vs Banks title match due to a lack of believable points at which Bayley looked like she could have defeated the champion, this was still an incredible back and forth contest that I enjoyed a touch more than their first encounter. The buildup was great and the continued story of Bayley now knowing what she was getting into and being determined to use that knowledge to defeat the undefeated provide a compelling backbone to the match. The crowd was appropriately split and behind both competitors, and while Asuka showed a bit of her bullying tactics neither really worked heel.
I would have reversed the order of them kicking out / escaping each other’s finishers, as Bayley being the first person to ever break the Asuka Lock without getting to the ropes made it quite obvious Asuka was kicking out of the Bayley-to-Belly she received seconds later. Still it’s an appropriate way to show toughness and determination in big matches and worked brilliantly in that respect. I know there have been some complaint about Asuka steamrolling the division, but Bayley got to push her further than ever and Asuka’s win here was the right call. Her long, dominant reign will eventually make a star when someone unseats her (like say, Ember Moon down the line).
As I previously mentioned Roode’s entrance was fantastic, and Asuka, Bayley and Ember all had impressive ones as well, but NOTHING was going to top Shisuke Nakamura coming out to a live violin version of his theme song. before his NXT title match against Samoa Joe (c). The presentation was top notch, with numerous rotating spotlights on the violinist giving way to red lights when Nakamura came out. As with Roode the entire crowd was singing along. Was incredible to be there live.
The no nonsense champ glared his way out to the ring as normal, providing a nice contrast to the flamboyant and charismatic challenger. As good as Joe is, there was no split crowd here. They built the story and tension between the two perfectly leading up to this, and Nakamura’s eccentric charm had the audience FIRMLY behind him.
I’d never seen Nakamura wrestle live before, and it was a privilege. This was two professionals holding the crowd in the palm of their hand and beating on each other until one fell. Worthy main event, and the title change was a HUGE moment. NXT now has two undefeated champions reigning over their singles divisions.
What a follow up to last year’s historic show. This was possibly a touch better, featuring three incredible matches on top and a strong undercard with big debuts. Not as many surprises as last year, but sometimes things should be predictable because they are logical and appropriate. The atmosphere live was absolutely electric and a joy to be a part of.
I said it last year and am happy to say it again: shows like this are why I watch wrestling.