Friday 9 October 2015

NXT Takeover: Respect review

Women headlining wrestling shows isn't unheard of. It happens on every SHIMMER and SHINE show. But with those being all-female rosters that's less impressive than it sounds. It's a rarity in mainstream wrestling where weekly TV shows are involved. In fact the last time I can remember it happening in WWE is the Stephanie McMahon versus Lita women's championship match on 21 August 2000. Even if it has happened since (which is entirely possible) that this is the last instance I can remember demonstrates how rare it is.

Takeover: Respect gave us a long overdue more recent example. Sasha Banks and Bayley got to main event this card in a title match and that's a big deal. A competitive match between two of the best in WWE's women's division getting the headline spot in one of the company's acclaimed Takeovers is a significant step forward for the way women are presented by the company (and in the careers of the wrestlers in question too). What's nice is that they weren't handed it as a stunt or an empty gesture, they and the rest of the division earned it by proving they can put on matches befitting the position.

As is always the case with Takeovers this wasn't a one match card, evidenced perfectly by the NXT champion wrestling in the opener. Finn Bálor teamed with Samoa Joe to take on Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson, a team that once upon a time went by the excellent name The Mechanics, in the first semi-final of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

Not only did the match work as the tribute to Dusty it was intended to be it also worked as a satisfying opener and fulfilled one of the stated goals of NXT: giving wrestlers a platform to improve. Dawson and Wilder got to share the ring with talented veterans Bálor and Joe. They may have been tagging for years but they've not shared matches with names like them that often.

This is why they were called The Mechanics!
Dawson and Wilder isolated Finn for the majority of the match, stoking the crowd like pros to keep them invested in the champ's plight to make a tag to his burly comrade. He eventually broke free and hot tagged Joe, who cleaned house and set Wilder up for a Muscle Buster. Bálor pleaded to get back into the match legally and end things for his team. Joe acquiesced, tagging out before hitting his move and hit his move. Bálor followed up with the Coup de Grâce and got the pin for his team but he hurt his knee in the process. It was a development that would (obviously) come back to haunt him later in the night.

The second semi-final saw Jason Jordan and Chad Gable face Rhyno and Baron Corbin. It was an amazing match, not least because of how raucously the fans reacted to everything Gable did. After opening with some slick teamwork Gable and Jordan got split, Gable being cut off by the heels. He eventually managed to escape to his corner after Rhyno missed a top rope splash. JJ battered everyone. After the match broke down with big moves and near falls Corbin caught Gable with End of Days and pinned him. It was a disappointing result because Gable and Jordan v Joe and Bálor could have been incredible but the match was still damned fine. And they did at least have a reason for this ending: continuing to build up big, bad Barry Corbin for better things by sharing the ring with NXT's two most significant regulars. A run at the NXT title can't be too far off for him.

Dat entrance gear doe.
Match three saw Asuka make her in-ring debut for both WWE and NXT. She faced Dana Brooke, who I maintain is good and constantly improving, although she clearly wasn't in the league of ten year veteran Asuka. They had a spirited match with Asuka easily upstaging Brooke and working over her arm with multiple armbars. Emma interfered but it came to nothing. Asuka tapped out 'The Total Diva' with the arm-centric Asuka lock and mocked her signature poses afterwards.

After the match Asuka fended off an attack from Brooke and then intimidated mean girl Emma at ringside. She left smiling. The segment made her look like an absolute beast. As an intro this couldn't have been better. We saw her trademark stiff work and her charisma as she mocked Brooke's posing. The NXT women's division has been made very strong with her addition.

After a shot of Finn Bálor being looked at by a doctor, while Samoa Joe had what looked to be a right old go, and a vignette for the still-yet-to-debut Nia Jax it was time for Apollo Crews versus Tyler Breeze. Their match was fast and filled with good stuff: 'Prince Pretty' going on an extended period of offence after an attack outside the ring; Breeze using a Sharpshooter; Apollo lamping Breeze with a leaping super kick; a great close two off a super model kick; Apollo catching a Swanton bomb and turning it into a power slam; Breeze getting his knees up on a standing moonsault and turning it into an inside cradle for two; and the match winning belly-to-back into a power bomb by Crews.

They didn't get as long as they could have (the match was just shy of ten minutes) but they did lots with what they had. The crowd were into everything the pair did and, even though it was frustrating to see 'The King of Cuteville' stare at the lights on another Takeover, it featured the right result. Breeze is the more established of the two within NXT. Crews is just starting out in the company and a win here was required to illustrate that he is the big deal he's made out to be.

The tournament finals were preceded by a reminder that Finn Bálor had a hurty knee from the opening match and that Corbin and Rhyno are Big Lads. Bálor continued to sell the knee as he entered. Corbin and Rhyno continued to be big lads. So did Samoa Joe for that matter.

Bálor started the match for his team, immediately going for quick rollups on 'The Man Beast' before drop kicking Corbin and tagging out to Joe. It was a sequence designed to demonstrate that he was feeling the injury. It did exactly that. Once it was established that the champ was hurt Joe was isolated by the heels (Corbin getting loud boos whenever he tagged in) as the commentary team teased that Joe was possibly trying to go it alone to improve his team's chances of winning by not tagging out.

Naturally he did end up tagging Bálor in. Despite a minor twinge he controlled the pace against Corbin. But he couldn't overcome a cheap shot from Rhyno or the targeting of the knee that 'The Wolf Shaman' followed up with. Bálor got flattened for several minutes before getting a desperation slingblade on Corbin and tagging back out to Joe, who cleaned house before getting hit with a Gore. Bálor broke up the following pin attempt and threw Corbin out of the ring. The faces then hit their Muscle Buster-Coup de Grâce combo for the win at just over eleven minutes.

Note the lack of Stardust.
Dusty's family hit the ring to congratulate the winners. Cody Rhodes (as Cody Rhodes, obviously) gave a heartfelt speech talking about Dusty's impact and significance in wrestling and NXT specifically. His dad's Common Man theme then hit as the audience chanted "Thank you, Dusty!" It was the perfect cap to the tournament. Nice to see that it wasn't used to hotshot a Joe and Bálor feud too. That was teased and I wouldn't have been against seeing it but there was something nice about two mates winning and celebrating together.

That left only the main event: a half hour iron woman match for the women's championship. Bayley defending against Sasha Banks. It was preceded by a recap of the Bayley versus Banks feud, which was obviously great, and a shot of Lita, Stephanie McMahon, Charlotte and Becky Lynch chilling at ringside. Because I'm sure Steph hangs out with the talent all casual like all the time. This wasn't designed to paint her in a specific light at all. Definitely not.

Their last match before Bayley gets called up to join 
the other Horsewomen on the main roster.
"Women's wrestling" and "You deserve it" chants rang out at the start of the match. The pair were slow to get going, understandably not wanting to rush when they had half an hour to play with. Banks was first to get advantage, going for flash pins on the champ. Bayley retaliated in kind. 'The Boss' would come back with a drop kick and the top rope arm drag before trying a Bank Statement. Bayley sandbagged her then offered a handshake. Banks accepted only to sling Bayley down to the mat. Because hey, she's a devious heel and Bayley was naive to trust her. Bayley fired up and came back to hammer Banks with clotheslines and her drop kick through the turnbuckle spot.

Back in the ring Banks tried a rope assisted rollup but the ref caught her in the act. He didn't catch her thumb gouging Bayley's eye seconds later though. That was enough to get Banks the first three count of the bout.

'The Hugster' threw Banks head first into a turnbuckle. Sasha turned the tables and tried her double knees. Bayley escaped and got her Bayley-to-belly for a three count. Banks rolled out of the ring looking for space. Bayley followed and tried for her turnbuckle drop kick again but Banks caught her and tossed her into steel stairs. Then she picked her up and tossed her in twice more before getting herself some crazy heat by rubbing her success in the face of Izzy (Bayley's ever present ringside super fan) and rammed her into the LED board in the entranceway to earn herself a count out victory (and set up Bayley for the big comeback, natch).

Banks had a 2-1 lead when Bayley crawled back into the ring. She immediately tried to extend it to 3-1 with a cover but Bayley kicked out. Sasha ran her mouth and cut off a comeback with a backbreaker and the Lion Tamer. Bayley made the ropes and then surprised the challenger with a hurricanrana to even the score to 2-2.

Bayley continued to fire up with clotheslines, forearms, elbows and a spear before popping off the second rope with a back elbow and a suplex into the tree of woe to set up an elbow drop. Banks fought back with her corner hung double knees and a tree of woe of her own. Bayley pulled herself up to avoid a spear from Sasha then drop kicked her outside the ring and slammed her hand into the steel steps, a call-back both to Sasha's actions earlier in this bout and their collision in Brooklyn back in August.

Bayley leapt off the steps with a clothesline then got kicked back into them by the challenger. As the clock hit five and a half minutes Banks flew out of the ring with a suicide dive, only to be caught and Bayley-to-bellied on the outside. Back in the ring Sasha kicked out. Then they headed to the ropes for a reprise of their exchanges at Takeover: Brooklyn. Bayley got a second rope Bayley-to-belly but Banks saved herself from the pin by getting her foot onto the ropes.

Desperate for a decisive win, Bayley hauled Banks to the second rope again, this time hitting an inverted hurricanrana. Banks rolled through and hit a belly-to-belly of her own then clamped on a Bank Statement. The crowd lost it at that, a combination of the two women telling a great story and the timing of bringing out such an over and protected move. It's been so well-established as a match-ender that people could easily believe Bayley would tap and be left prone to further pins from Banks.

Bayley fighting to survive Banks' devastating finisher.
Bayley was still in the hold at the one minute mark. She loosened Banks' grip then slammed her hand to the mat (another nice call-back). Banks again went for the Statement but Bayley reversed it, an armbar with some nasty torque. Banks gave up to the hold seconds before the match ended. It was absolutely worthy of the main event slot. A great match between great wrestlers for a belt that means so much.

After the match champion and challenger were greeted with a standing ovation from the entire roster in the aisle. Banks got a "Thank you" chant from the crowd, this very obviously being her last regular appearance at Full Sail. Meanwhile Bayley was congratulated by Triple H in the ring. It was the perfect end to yet another top notch NXT Takeover.


Results summary:
Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe defeated Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semi-final
Baron Corbin and Rhyno defeated Chad Gable and Jason Jordan in a Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semi-final
Asuka defeated Dana Brooke
Apollo Crews defeated Tyler Breeze
Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe defeated Baron Corbin and Rhyno in Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals
Bayley defeated Sasha Banks 3-2 in an iron woman match to retain the women's championship

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