In many ways, the current WWE product is tailor made for the age of social media. . . Quick matches, a LOT of commercial breaks, plenty of time to live-Tweet, poke fun, and as the New Age Insiders proclaim, to Be Heard.
Last night’s NXT extravaganza, Takeover: R-Evolution was not, by definition, “current WWE product.”
I know this because I was not drawn to my computer repeatedly throughout the show, as I am so often during RAW or even PPV’s. In fact, at one point last night, I closed my Chromebook and slid it across the room – I love ya, NAI-bors, but you weren’t going to get in the way of this epic event.
For the first time since The Attitude Era, I was transfixed by the action I saw on a wrestling show. From top to bottom, R-Evolution was an amazing card. . . Well, OK, there were a select few weak spots, but we’ll get to that.
My friends Mr. Moltov and Mr. Stryker, went to ROH’s Final Battle a week or so ago, and were reminded what real wrestling looks like. For those of us who missed that show, last night’s NXT caught us up in spades.
Rather than take you through step by step, I thought I’d go a different route today – Who are the winners and losers coming out of Takeover?
Winner – Kevin Owens
You’ll notice I’m using his WWE-given name, which isn’t what I tend to do with this “previously existing megastars”. But after last night, who’s Kevin Steen?
Many of us, be it on NAI, on Twitter, or just on our own, pondered how NXT would handle the debut of “KO”, but none of us, methinks, predicted that he’d open the show. (Full disclosure: I did, slightly in jest, opine that CJ Parker would be an ideal opponent. I’m not saying I’m prescient or anything. . . But I’m not saying I’m not, either!)
One of the few things I did manage to post while watching Takeover was the following – “Brutal. . . Bloody. . . Badass.” That pretty much describes my overall thoughts on the man, especially after taking out our newly crowned NXT champ to end the show. Kevin Owens’ “televised” NXT career is 2 hours old and he already seems to be the number one contender – that’s a debut!
Loser – Tyler Breeze
I mentioned this already, but Breeze has quickly found himself much further down the talent totem pole with all these debuts. While he might have been considered the top singles heel a week or so ago, no longer is that the case. I truly do think WWE dropped the ball by not calling him up to the main roster during his whole “music video” bit – Hate to say it, but he might not hit those heights again.
Winner – Finn Balor
We knew he was going to do something impressive. We even had a hunch it would involve paint. (Or, at least, I did. By the way, use 34 when getting today’s Lotto ticket. You’re welcome.) Even knowing all that, there was no way to keep from marking out last night. In fact, when the crowd starts chanting those words specifically, you know you’re doing something right.
Loser – Hideo Itami
You’ve vanquished The Ascension, Hideo. Now run as fast and as far away from Finn Balor as you can – nothing good will happen to your career standing by his side. You’re just the guy who gets beat up until you can make the hot tag now. I might have to start calling you Marty Itami pretty soon.
Winner – Women’s Wrestling
I’ve seen more technically proficient women’s wrestling than I saw last night. I’ve even seen what I would call better matches overall. However, last night was as brutal a women’s wrestling match as I’ve ever seen, and that’s a very good thing. Sasha Banks and Charlotte could have easily been run over by the Owens / Balor / Main event freight train, and they held their own. The future is very bright, especially since my expectations that Charlotte would be on the main roster may be a bit premature. . . See, I told you I wasn’t psychic!
Loser – Anyone competing in a “Divas” division
It’s practically an entirely separate category now, isn’t it? Paige, things aren’t working for you in WWE, time to go back to Full Sail; that’s where the real wrestling happens.
Losers – Lucha Dragons and The Vaudevillains
Had last night been just your average, run-of-the-mill NXT show, their tag title match would have been a welcome addition. But remember that freight train I mentioned? It creamed these guys. They couldn’t compete with what was going on around them.
High marks to Aiden English for pushing Simon Gotch out of the way, inspiring the first ever “Chivalry” chants I’ve ever heard in a wrestling arena. Otherwise, fellas, you got your work cut out for you.
Winners AND Losers- Baron Corbin and Bull Dempsey
Look, I get it, OK? Bull Dempsey isn’t your cup of tea. I’m not asking you to fall in love with Goon McGoof, alright? Can you all at least admit that in his minimal role last night, he did an acceptable job? He was supposed to look relatively unimpressed, do a sarcastic clap, and stare down Corbin. He did ALL of those things!
Corbin and Dempsey have a captivating unspoken feud going (though I still think they could wind up as a team), so they “win” for that, but they were also victims of the Freight Train. Just slightly less so than the tag title match was.
Winner – The Announce Team
I’m saddened that Corey Graves, a submission specialist, had his in-ring career cut short due to injuries, but for someone making their NXT announcing debut, he did a commendable job. I really liked the trio of Rich Brennan, Alex Riley and Graves; for the first time in a long time, I heard people calling the actual in-ring action instead of just telling a story that has nothing to do with what’s happening on the screen. Rather than turning down the volume, I actually put it louder so I could hear the commentary.
Note: I’d put Lawler, Cole and JBL in the “losers” section, but we already knew that. At this point, it’s just mean to keep picking on them.
Loser – Roman Reigns
First of all, what in the hell was he doing there? Stop shoving this guy down our throats, WWE! Look, I want to like this guy, I really do. . . And I’m not just saying that to pander to all his avid fans, who are also loyal and wonderful DC Matthews followers. . . I honestly want this guy to be a big star, but WWE keeps shooting itself in the foot with Roman. First, they put him on RAW with multiple promos – the one skill he is weakest at. Now they bring him down to NXT, where he is outshined by just about every single one of the “next wave” of talent?
How am I supposed to see Reigns as “the next Cena” when I already think Owens, Balor, Zayn, Neville and the like are going to be better than he is? What purpose did this serve?
Winner – Sami Zayn
Just ask him yourself, he’ll tell you – “He’s the F&%^ing Man!”
The road to redemption has ended for Zayn, and while it was finalized with an apron powerbomb, Sami is the NXT champion. Both he and Adrian Neville (another winner, but also in my mind, no longer an NXT superstar) were able to live up to the pressure set to them by the opening hour and change of Takeover, and we have never been so sure of Sami’s ability to . . . forgive me for quoting someone you all despise here, but “never give up”. Cheers to you, Sami, you’ve earned it.
Biggest Winners of all: Us
As Triple H tweeted, there’s a whole box of brass rings missing. These guys and girls of NXT showed everyone on the WWE roster what a real wrestling card can look like. We didn’t need guest hosts or authority figures, though I always appreciate seeing William Regal’s angry face. . . We didn’t need stupid storylines or comic relief.
At just under 2 hours long, NXT Takeover: R-Evolution reminded us all why we became wrestling fans in the first place. Best WWE product of 2014? That’s debatable, but its certainly a top contender. And we all know it’s going to be world better than TLC(S), don’t we?