NXT TAKEOVER: RIVAL
Great Caesar’s ghost! What a night it was for NXT and everybody in their locker room on February 11th, 2015. It was the date of one of their live Takeover specials, broadcast exclusively on the WWE Network. The card was packed. At the bottom, we had Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze, and at the top, we had Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for Zayn’s NXT Championship. Spread throughout the rest of the show, we also got matches like Adrian Neville vs. Finn Balor, The Lucha Dragons vs. Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake for the NXT Tag Team Championships, and a Fatal Four Way for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze kicked off the show. This was the opener, so both guys had to come to play. The opening match sets the tone for the rest of the event. If it’s not good, things start on a down note. Thankfully, both Itami and Breeze are talented. They went out and established an aggressive mood for the evening. At a point, things broke down to some brutal trading of kicks. Both men looked like they kicked the s–t out of each other.
In an effort to continue building the tone of the night, Baron Corbin and Bull Dempsey took the stage next for their No Disqualification match. This was supposed to be the rubber match of their feud. It should’ve been exciting, with Corbin and Dempsey going full throttle until one man had no fight left in him. Of course, none of that happened. Instead, they went back and forth for a few minutes, and then Baron Corbin picked up his third win in a row over Bull Dempsey. This and the next match are the two that you can skip past if you need to.
I hate to do that to Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake, but the Lucha Dragons were not on their game last night. They had multiple botches during their match with the Champions. They did everything they could to recover, but that was a really bad time to mess up. There were a lot of people watching, all of them anxious for some great wrestling. Once there was one botch, people started to tune out.
Lucky for them, they didn’t have to wait long. With the tag team match out of the way, it came time for the finals of the tournament to determine the number one contender. Facing off: Finn Balor and Adrian Neville. The winner earns the right to face whoever leaves Takeover: Rival as the NXT Champion. Balor and Neville was exactly as awesome as I hoped it would be. The pace was quick and the hits were hard. Finn hit Adrian with a dropkick on the outside, right into the barricade, sending him through it. It was one of many brutal moments.
My favorite moment came at the end. I finally learned what Finn Balor’s finisher is called: the Coup de Grace. I incorrectly attributed that move to Hideo Itami after I saw NXT Takeover: R Evolution. I assumed it was his move, but I was wrong. It’s Balor’s, and it’s way more dangerous with him dropping the diving double foot stomp on you. It was a thing of beauty to see him deliver it to Neville and get the one, two, three to become the number one contender for the NXT Championship.
After Finn knocked my socks off, it came time for four lovely women to come out and do the same. It was Sasha Banks, Bailey, and Becky Lynch all going after Charlotte’s NXT Women’s Championship in a Fatal Four Way. They all went back and forth for a while. An early spot saw Charlotte get tossed into the LED screen on the side of the ring, breaking it in the process. They made sure the audience knew they weren’t messing around from the beginning. This was their chance to make a mark. Not only for themselves, but for all women wrestling today.
This match drew “This is Awesome” chants. I don’t know how long it’s been since a WWE Diva’s match has even drawn a chant, let alone one that declared it was awesome. These girls have made me hopeful for the Diva’s Division after their performance. I’m excited to see where they go from here.
Finally, we come to the Main Event of the evening. The last time I was as excited to watch wrestling as I was for this, was back in 2011. Sami Zayn versus Kevin Owens was the best example of in-ring psychology I have seen in a WWE ring in a long time. They made everyone watching the show, feel something. Whether they were psyched to see Owens win the belt, or they couldn’t believe that Sami Zayn got picked apart like he did. Either way, they were invested, myself included. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, SPOILER ALERT: Sami Zayn was barely able to muster an ounce of offense the entire time. There was a short period of time that saw Kevin Owens become flustered by Zayn’s attacks, but Kevin dominated the majority of the match. Then, Sami went high-risk and everything went completely off the rails for him. He used the ropes to do a springboard moonsault onto Kevin Owens on the outside, but he jumped a little too far. On his way down, Zayn clipped his head on the steel grating of the entrance ramp way.
He was checked out for the rest of the match. His body was there, but his mind was long gone. It seemed like an obvious concussion. Then the trainers came down to check on him and it became a big deal, but Sami wouldn’t give up. Owens hit him with power bomb after power bomb, but he wouldn’t stay down. Sami was so devastated that he had to kick out of a pin by simply rolling over. He didn’t have enough energy left to lift his shoulder off the mat.
It got so bad that the referee had to stop the match and declare Kevin Owens, the new NXT Champion. I cannot wait to see where this show goes from here, and I especially can’t wait for the Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens NXT Championship match.