NXT Takeover: Rival Review – One Show, Three Instant Classics

Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn by referee stoppage to win the NXT Championship

Match Grade: A

Owens repeatedly rolled out of the ring, toying with Zayn, but Zayn launched himself over the referee with a plancha. Back in the ring, Zayn assaulted Owens with a flurry of strikes in the corner. Owens responded with a jawbreaker and two big clotheslines to gain the advantage.

The two exchanged stiff forearms, before Owens hit a gorilla press slam for a near-fall. Owens hit a slingshot suplex for another two-count. Owens followed up with a sidewalk slam, then tossed Zayn from the ring.

Owens continued to dominate, using vicious chops and driving Zayn face-first into the ring apron. Owens hit two short-arm lariats, getting Zayn back in the ring for a two-count. Owens hit a burning hammer gutbuster, followed by a running senton for another close near-fall.

Zayn finally fought back with a series of clothelines, driving Owens from the ring. Zayn bounced Owens’ head off the ring steps, then clotheslined Owens onto the floor. Back in the ring, Owens came up empty on a clothesline, and Zayn hit a blue thunderbomb for a near-fall.

Owens hit a huge superkick, following up with a cannonball into the corner for another two-count of his own. Owens hit a pumphandle neckbreaker, but Zayn countered a pop-up powerbomb with a dropkick. Zayn hit a half-nelson suplex for a close near-fall.

Owens bought himself some time with a jawbreaker, then climbed up top. Zayn caught him up top and tried for a superplex. Owens fought him off and hit a swanton bomb, but Zayn got his knees up. Zayn hit an exploder suplex into the turnbuckle, but came up empty on a Helluva Kick.

The action spilled outside, and Zayn countered a powerbomb with a springboard plancha. Back in the ring, Zayn tried for a Helluva Kick, but stumbled, seemingly light-headed. Owens took advantage and hit it a pop-up powerbomb for a near-fall.

Zayn got a glassy look in his eyes that was Oscar-worthy, as the referee asked him if he could continue. Owens hit an uppercut, and doctors checked on Zayn, as the crowd chanted “Z-pack!” Owens hit Zayn with two more pop-up powerbombs, but Zayn still managed to roll out of the pin.

Owens grabbed Zayn and hit him with two more powerbombs, and the referee shoved Owens into the corner, calling for the bell. The referee grabbed the title belt and handed it to Owens, who rolled around on the mat laughing and kissing the belt.

Scott’s Thoughts: A fascinating match, and a truly shocking finish. I loved Owens’ sheer brutality in this match, but I also enjoyed how Zayn wasn’t purely squashed. There were several stretches during the match in which Zayn rallied, but came up short every time. This is how you create a monster in professional wrestling. This is how you create an unstoppable heel.

So…this means we’re getting an Owens/Zayn/Finn triple threat sometime soon, correct? Holy crap, do I ever hope so. This was a completely awe-inspiring match that capped off a live event that likely won’t be outdone anytime soon.

 

Sasha Banks def. Charlotte, Bayley and Becky Lynch in a fatal four-way to win the NXT Women’s Championship

Match Grade: A

Becky and Sasha worked together early, driving Charlotte into the ring apron so violently that the LED video board shorted out. Becky and Sasha tossed Bayley into the turnbuckle, then both tried to pin her. They argued for a moment, until Becky hit Sasha with a pumphandle suplex.

Becky hit Bayley with repeated leg drops for a two-count. Becky followed up with dragonscrew leg whips and submission maneuvers, working over Bayley’s left knee. Sasha broke up the hold, before coming up empty on a double kneedrop.

Becky hit a missile dropkick on Sasha, but Charlotte broke up the pin. Charlotte hit an over-the-shoulder neckbreaker on Becky, following up with a corkscrew neckbreaker on Sasha for a near-fall. Charlotte hung Becky from the second rope and dropped with her with another neckbreaker variant, forcing Sasha to make the save.

Sasha dodged Charlotte, who speared an unsuspecting Becky. Charlotte picked up Sasha with a wheelbarrow, and Bayley came out of nowhere to hit a Codebreaker on Sasha. Charlotte drove Bayley down with a big boot, but Sasha sent her flying into the turnbuckle.

Sasha hung Charlotte on the second rope, then used a headscissor to fling Becky into Charlotte. Sasha hung Becky on the bottom rope and hit a top-rope double kneedrop to both women. Sasha covered Charlotte and Becky repeatedly, earning only two-counts.

Bayley snuck up behind Sasha and hit an exploder suplex, then connected with repeated corner back elbows on Charlotte. Bayley took Charlotte up top and hit a top-rope hurricanrana, followed by a Belly-to-Bayley. Becky broke up the pinfall, but Bayley bounced her face-first off the apron.

Bayley hit a between the ropes dropkick near the entrance ramp, but Sasha took out both Bayley and Becky with a suicide dive. Charlotte followed up with a springboard over the top onto all three women. Charlotte tossed Becky back into the ring, but Becky hit her with a fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall.

Becky hit Charlotte with repeated European uppercuts in the corner, setting Charlotte up on the top rope. Bayley came from behind and hit Becky with a German suplex, followed by a second-rope Belly-to-Bayley to Charlotte. Sasha tossed Bayley out of the way and covered Charlotte herself for a near-fall.

Sasha locked Charlotte in a crossface, and Charlotte failed to reach the ropes. Charlotte tried to break the hold, but Sasha flipped Charlotte over onto her back with a crucifix, pinning her cleanly to win the title.

Charlotte extended her hand to Sasha, and the two briefly hugged, before Sasha smirked and shoved Charlotte, holding up the title belt. Tears filled Charlotte’s eyes as Sasha exited, holding the belt high.

Scott’s Thoughts: An instant classic, and a refreshingly unexpected finish. This match is absolutely in the discussion for best women’s wrestling match ever — I can’t think of a clear-cut better one off the top of my head, even Trish/Lita.

Sasha absolutely deserved this victory, and made a huge statement by pinning Charlotte in the center of the ring to win the title. The pacing and storytelling of this match was top-notch, as was the in-ring work done by all four women. The booking was perfect, giving each woman a chance to shine.

Going on after the Finn/Neville match seemed like a near-impossible task. These four women proved that was far from the case.

 

Finn Balor def. Adrian Neville by pinfall in the finals of the NXT Championship #1 Contender’s Tournament

Match Grade: A

Neville controlled the early portion of the match, with a shoulder tackle and several mat-based maneuvers. Finn rolled through a sunset flip and hit a basement dropkick. Finn landed another dropkick, but Neville responded with a missile dropkick.

Finn tried a springboard, but Neville countered with a dropkick. Neville followed up with a delayed vertical suplex for a near-fall. Neville hit a big boot, but Finn responded with a step-up enziguiri, knocking Neville off the turnbuckle to the floor.

Finn hit a plancha, then dropkicked Neville into the barricade. Back in the ring, Finn climbed up top and hit a double footstomp to the back of the head, but Neville somehow kicked out. Finn hit a Pele kick, but Neville landed a superkick before falling to the mat himself.

Neville planted Finn with two German suplexes, bridging the second one for a near-fall. Neville climbed to the second rope and hit a Phoenix Splash for another extremely close two-count. Neville landed uppercuts and forearms, but Finn nailed Neville with a Sling Blade.

Finn turned Neville inside out with a lariat, then planted him with Bloody Sunday, yet Neville still kicked out. Finn climbed up top, but Neville caught him with a step-up enziguiri. Neville hit yet another enziguiri and climbed up top.

Neville hit the Red Arrow, but Finn got his knees up and rolled Neville up for a near-fall. Finn dropkicked Neville into the turnbuckle, then finished him off with a brutal Coup de Grace diving double footstomp for the pinfall victory. Neville and Finn shook hands as a mutual show of respect, and Neville walked away up the entrance ramp.

Scott’s Thoughts: That — as expected — was completely breathtaking. The numerous convincing near-falls and incredible feats of athleticism combined perfectly with a pace that slowly escalated into pure chaotic mayhem of the highest order. I thought it was completely impossible that the rest of the card could possibly live up to this match…and I was very glad to be proven wrong.

 

Hideo Itami def. Tyler Breeze by pinfall

Match Grade: B

Breeze entered with a fur-covered selfie stick, and was mobbed by an obsessed female “fan.” Hideo hit a single-leg dropkick, but Breeze quickly recovered and worked over Hideo’s left knee. Breeze channeled his inner Bret Hart, locking Hideo in a figure-four around the ring post.

Breeze applied a half-crab, but Hideo reached the ropes to break the hold. Hideo set up for the Go 2 Sleep, but Breeze reversed it into a schoolboy for a near-fall. The two traded superkicks, with Breeze earning another two-count. Breeze and Hideo exchanged stiff strikes, which fired Hideo up.

Hideo kicked Breeze in the chest about ten times, then planted him with a corner dropkick. Hideo hit a single-leg dropkick for the pinfall.

Scott’s Thoughts: A nice match with a brisk pace to open the show. I still have a problem with Hideo using the single-leg dropkick as a finisher. I know he’ll almost certainly be switching over to the G2S eventually, but it’s just awkward that Hideo’s finisher is the same move that he landed as his first offensive move of the match. It’s just not a move that should keep anyone down for a three-count.

 

Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake def. The Lucha Dragons by pinfall to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship

Match Grade: D-

Sin Cara hit a double dropkick on Murphy and Blake, followed by a springboard headbutt on Blake. Sin Cara attempted a hurricanrana, but instead basically just did an awkward flip about a foot to Blake’s left and fell down. (Kudos to Corey Graves on commentary, who tried to cover up the botch as a “brilliant counter.”)

Sin Cara connected with a hurricanrana, and Murphy attempted to interfere. Kalisto tried to springboard over the ropes, but got tangled in the ropes. He then simply jumped out of the ring onto Murphy. Sin Cara hit a step-up enziguiri on Blake, followed by his top-rope sunset flip powerbomb, but Blake kicked out.

For some completely inexplicable reason, Sin Cara just sat there and watched Blake slowly make his way to Murphy, finally making the tag after about 15 head-scratching seconds. Kalisto tagged in and hit a springboard arm drag, followed by a single-leg dropkick.

The Dragons hit a wheelbarrow senton, earning Sin Cara a near-fall. Wesley and Blake hit a double-neckbreaker, earning Blake a two-count of his own. Blake hit a gorilla press slam, which Murphy followed with a springboard senton.

Sin Cara hit a jawbreaker and tagged in Kalisto, who hit a corkscrew crossbody. Kalisto followed up with a Listo Kick and a very impressive spike headscissor DDT. Kalisto didn’t make a cover and simply waited for Murphy to get back up. I can only suspend my disbelief so far, and this is getting ridiculous. Cover the guy. Come on.

Kalisto tried for Salina del Sol, but Murphy countered it into some sort of gorilla press, which didn’t really work out as planned, so he just set Kalisto down. Murphy tried a powerbomb, which Kalisto awkwardly reversed into some sort of arm drag for a two-count.

Murphy and Kalisto exchanged pinning maneuvers in a fashion that I would never describe as “smooth” or “fluid.” They then pinned each other’s shoulders to the mat, and the ref started counting for a double pinfall (okay…), forcing Sin Cara and Blake to make the save(s).

Sin Cara hit a top-rope crossbody on Blake, who seemingly decided several seconds too late that this might be a fun time for a roll-through. He got a near-fall anyway. Blake picked up Sin Cara, but Sin Cara countered into a crossbody (I guess) for another two.

Sin Cara tried for a schoolboy powerbomb, which Blake countered into a sunset flip, in yet another poorly timed, awkward spot. Murphy tagged in and something actually went right, as Sin Cara hit his always-impressive schoolboy powerbomb for another near-fall.

Blake tagged in blindly, as Murphy hit a running suplex. Blake finished off Sin Cara with a frog splash.

Scott’s Thoughts: Wow. It’s not every day you see a televised match of this poor quality. I can appreciate that these four were trying to put on an ambitious match, but they simply lack the chemistry together to make such a counter-heavy match work. There were so many botched — or at least awkward — spots in this match that I lost count.

Furthermore, the ring psychology was absolutely non-existent. The Dragons frequently allowed Murphy and Blake time to recover, in ways that made so little sense in kayfabe that even the announce crew was highly confused. The double-pin spot was also really dumb — why would they both just continue to lie down with their shoulders on the mat when the referee is counting?

It almost felt like they were trying to steal the show with this match, when they would have been better served to accept their spot on the card and put on a fun, fluid tag match.

 

Baron Corbin def. Bull Dempsey by pinfall in a no-disqualification match

Match Grade: C-

Baron charged the ring during his entrance, hitting Bull with a series of strikes. The action spilled outside, where Bull drove Baron into the ring apron, then suplexed him onto the entrance ramp. Bull drove Baron into the ring post, then looked under the ring for weapons that apparently were not there. That was awkward.

Bull bounced Baron’s head off the apron, then tossed him back into the ring. Baron planted Bull with an impressive spinebuster, then tried to clothesline him over the top. Bull didn’t fall out of the ring, and Baron fell to the floor. Bull unceremoniously dumped himself over the top rope, leading to a chorus of boos as the fans acknowledged the awkward botch.

Back in the ring, Bull hit his diving headbutt finisher, but Baron kicked out. Bull took Baron back out of the ring, driving him into the ring steps. Bull retrieved a chair and re-entered the ring, but Baron caught him with the End of Days for the pinfall.

Scott’s Thoughts: It was very strange that there were no weapons under the ring, as even the announcers played up Bull going to retrieve them. This match never really got going, and the clothesline botch was really bad.