Samoa Joe Wins NXT Title - DDT WrestlingStop the presses and back up the truck. Reports are coming out from #NXTLowell that Samoa Joe has won the NXT championship! Our friends, the New Age Insiders were live at the event and were among the first to report the news.

This is a fantastic development for the Samoan Submission Machine and, more broadly, all fans of WWE/NXT. My initial reaction is that the timing and venue for this title change is somewhat suspect, given that Samoa Joe only recently lost his title bid against Balor at #NXTTakeOverDallas on WrestleMania weekend. Although it seems odd that a new champion would be crowned on a house show, this turn of events only underscores the greater plans that WWE has in store for the now-former NXT champion, Balor.

Or so I thought, until I started hearing that Balor may have been legitimately injured during the title defense and putting the title on Samoa Joe was an audible.

OK, well, that seems rather clear cut. Except...

Now I have no idea what to think and, frankly, I love it! The implications of this title change extend far beyond the borders of NXT, and I cannot help but wonder what this means for the main roster. Just as I couldn't predict a clear ending to Shane v. Undertaker, this adds a whole new level of intrigue to the current Roman Reigns v. AJ Styles feud being built for the upcoming Payback event.

This past Monday we finally saw AJ Styles reunite with his Bullet Club brethren, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. The three presented as a seemingly united front against Roman Reigns, but the smark in me couldn't help but wonder if Gallows and Anderson were maybe a little too friendly with Styles. As excited as I was by the reunion, I couldn't help but think that Gallows and Anderson would be turning on Styles to cost him the WWE Championship at Payback. Still, I thought, the possibility existed that the reformed Bullet Club could end up being a formidable stable at the top of the WWE main roster. And, after all, Balor was still stuck in NXT as champion, so it only makes sense to have AJ Styles present as their leader.

After last night, however, the Demon has been unleashed. Balor is now free to show up on the main roster, just as he expertly teased at the end of the NXT Lowell event. Unless, of course, Balor is actually injured - we don't know! And that's fantastic storytelling through misdirection. Honestly, when I look at all of the pieces, I'm fairly confident that Balor is not injured and that he will be debuting at Payback with the Bullet Club to cost Styles the title. It even makes sense that Balor won against Samoa Joe at TakeOver Dallas, as this was a WrestleMania weekend event with more mainstream eyes on the NXT product. What better way to introduce Finn Balor to the mainstream audience than having him retain his championship at the biggest NXT show ever?

The only negative I can lobby against the above scenario? It seems like the obvious choice. No one really expects AJ Styles to beat Roman Reigns during his first title defense, given how management seems to favor the Reigns Express. Still, that's not much of a complaint. The one thing that gives me pause about making this my official prediction is that I don't know that WWE has ever switched someone's gimmick in the midst of transitioning them to the main roster. The one example I can think of is Neville, as he finished his NXT run as a heel and debuted as a face, but Neville did spend a significant portion of time as a face in NXT. Balor hasn't worked as a heel at all in his NXT run, and I can't see how he could be presented as anything else if he does end up costing Styles the title at Payback.

This is the sort of dynamic storytelling that has been missing from WWE in the past few years, but which has returned to the product with renewed vigor ever since the build to WrestleMania 32. There are possibilities abound, the intrigue is back, and I am excited! How about you? Leave a comment below!

After a whirlwind of a Wrestlemania weekend, it's common for fans to turn their wrestle-weary eyes forward and gaze into the future, trying to establish what is likely next for their favorite superstars, which I can happily say now include both male and female talents.

Trouble is, after this particular weekend, that task is difficult. . .If not out and out impossible.

Wrestlemania gave us more questions than answers and tonight's RAW could be one of the most intriguing in ages simply because we have no idea what to expect.  Will Shane be there?  Could Sting be there?  Is John Cena back?  Did the League of Nations break up?  What about Baron Corbin?  WHEN DOES EVA MARIE GET HER WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH?

. . . Ok, so maybe I'm the only one asking that one. . . And even that's just to be annoying. . .

So yeah, WWE is hard to figure out... But so is NXT, and the issues with that brand are even harder to solve!

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The Problems with NXT

There's no doubt that NXT has a TON of depth, and actually since I started writing this, NXT has signed eleventeen new talents, including YOUR favorite indie guy.  Go check, it could have happened!

The problems I want to talk about today don't have to do with how to manage all of that talent, although that is certainly something NXT will need to figure out.  A 60 minute show once a week isn't going to work, long term, with so many superstars that need a chance to shine.

But that's another column.

No, the problems I want to delve into today are the fact that despite this depth, there aren't a huge list of top contenders for NXT's 3 championships.  Let's look at them one at a time, in order of the matches as they appeared at Takeover Dallas.

 

The Tag Titles

American Alpha has climbed the mountain and won their gold, and while I am delighted for Jordan and Gable, who do they face next? Besides a rematch with The Revival. . . What other teams are there?  The Vaudevillains?  Blake and Murphy?  We are all assuming that Enzo and Cass are showing up on RAW tonight. . . Are there even any other tag teams in NXT?

I don't think anyone would mind seeing Dash and Dawson continue their feud with Jordan and Gable into the summer - That tag match was one of the best we've seen in ages - But what happens when that is over?  How does NXT quickly establish qualified tag teams, when there aren't many in the first place?

Keep this in mind.

 

The Women's Title

Asuka has proven herself to be the most dominant female talent since Charlotte, and more than likely she's even better than Miss Flair was.  Bayley did a halfway decent job (though as we said on DDT Wrestling this weekend, neither Doc Manson or I were huge fans of their match), but even she paled in comparison to the Empress of NXT.

So who does she fight next?

Sure, we haven't seen a conclusion to the Asuka / Nia Jax and Eva Marie storyline, so there's something.  But, just like the tag team situation, who comes after that?  Carmella?  Alexa Bliss?  Dana Brooke?  Nobody seems like a qualified contender.  In fact, nobody seems remotely qualified to even come close to being a contender!

How does NXT quickly build up their young roster of female talent (Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Santana Garrett, etc.) to be able to even be in the same conversation as their new Womens' Champion?

Detecting a pattern yet?

 

The NXT Title

Both Doc Manson and I, along with a great number of you out there in the NAIborhood, were CONVINCED that Samoa Joe was going to win the NXT title on Friday night, and Finn Balor would be part of the WWE roster soon after, perhaps even as soon as Sunday's Wrestlemania.  That didn't happen, and now once again, we have questions about who becomes the next contender.

In this instance, at least, there are a number of viable contenders to choose from.  Austin Aries, Baron Corbin (complete with trophy), Apollo Crews and oh. . . That Nakamura guy. . .  All could be potential challengers for Balor's title.  Samoa Joe is likely also not done with Mr. Balor, although as Doc and I mentioned, the way Joe handled losing was particularly curious.  Not sure what his future is.

Either way, we can be reasonably confident that the NXT male singles scene is relatively set heading out of Takeover - We just don't know what it's going to look like or who's going to step up to challenge the champion.

Yeah we do. . . He's the guy with the knees.

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Confusion and questions reign in the two World Wrestling Entertainment properties.  Nobody is really sure what happens next. . . Some people can use that to be negative - To fault WWE / NXT for being so muddled and "unprepared".  Or, if you follow the Ten Commandments of the NAIborhood, you can be excited about the endless possibilities.

In a little over 24 hours, the stars of WWE NXT will converge upon the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in little ol’ Dallas, Texas. In the two short years the WWE developmental system has been airing “special events” (for goodness sake, they’re pay-per-views) on the WWE Network, this weekend’s Dallas production might just be the biggest show NXT has put on since their Brooklyn card. I promised DC I’d pump out a couple articles about WrestleMania weekend before the festivities really got started, so here goes on breaking down the NXT TakeOver Dallas card!

 

Apollo Crews vs. Elias Samson

Call me easy to please, but I’m actually kind of excited about this match. I have no clue what the Elias Samson character is about, and I couldn’t even begin to guess. However, for some reason he appeals to me. Physically, he’s a cross between Seth Rollins and Damien Sandow. He’s had some entertaining matches over the past few weeks, and I think with a talent on the level of Apollo Crews, this match Friday night can be something special. The best thing about NXT has been its ability to book a match on no more reason than the fact that two people don’t like each other and want to solve their problems with violence. I won’t lie to myself and say this will be a show-stealer, but I’m excited for it anyway.

 

Predicted Winner: Elias Samson
Reasoning: Elias Samson has already gotten his first loss out of the way. If NXT wants to build him as, at the very least, a solid part of their midcard, he needs a win over a star the caliber of Crews.

 

Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin

Baron Corbin has unfortunately been relegated – for lack of a better term – to welcoming in NXT’s big Indy name signings the past couple of Takeover events. He put on an *exceptional* match against Samoa Joe in Brooklyn, arguably his best special event showing to date. He had a great match against Apollo Crews in London, and I was actually shocked when he picked up the win. As much as I love both Joe and Crews, Austin Aries is arguably in a league of his own. Not many people can call themselves “The Greatest Man to Ever Live” and actually have the talent to back it up. Aries is one of the best professional wrestlers on the planet, and I am *STOKED* to see him on a niche platform like NXT, and with a talent like Baron Corbin. Corbin has shown he can hang with both big and smaller guys, and tell an absolutely amazing story. This one is gonna shock a lot of people.

 

Predicted Winner: Austin Aries
Reasoning: Simple, he’s The Greatest Man to Ever Live. However, this might be just the start of what could be one of the most compelling angles NXT has done in months.

 

Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

This is the match that sold me on writing this little prediction article to begin with! I have only been a Nakamura fan since January 2015, when I watched him and Kota Ibushi put on one of the best matches of ALL of 2015. I have only been a fan of Sami Zayn since February 2014, when I watched him and Cesaro put on one of the most exciting matches of ALL of 2014. Putting these two talents in the same ring is a recipe for success. Zayn’s legacy in building NXT, in helping to make it some of the most intense, compelling wrestling of the past two years, is the perfect counterpart to Shinsuke’s legacy from all around the world, especially in New Japan Pro Wrestling. When he’s on his game, there is no one better on the planet – both as a ring technician and an entertainer – than Mr. Nakamura. Given that this might be the biggest stage he’s ever performed, Shinsuke will bring every part of his soul into this match, and I have no doubts Zayn will be there every step of the way. This match has the potential to not only be the best match on the Takeover card, but the best match professional wrestling fans watch all weekend.

 

Predicted Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Reasoning: I truly believe Sami Zayn was chosen for Shinsuke’s debut opponent because he could handle the King of Strong Style’s….style. 😉 This is going to be brutally hard-hitting, we’re going to get taken on an emotional roller coaster for however long the match is, and the story might just drain us before we even get to the main event. However, Nakamura will come out the victor in this insane battle.

 

The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) (c) vs. American Alpha (Jason Jordan & Chad Gable) – NXT Tag Team Championship Match

When Dash & Wilder first showed up as a tag team, I was NOT impressed. However, over the course of a few months, and especially once they won the NXT Tag Team titles from the Vaudevillains, I’ve become a believer. They aren’t flashy like Big Cass and Enzo, they aren’t characters like Gotch and English, and they certainly don’t have quite the appeal of Jordan and Gable. However, their hard-hitting technique, their focus on getting in, handling their business, and getting out has its own appeal. Jordan and Gable have taken over the NXT Tag Team division. They have meshed as well as just about any tag team I’ve seen in the past three years. They’re fun, they’re charismatic, they’re unbelievably talented, and they epitomize what tag team wrestling is supposed to be. The same can be said for Dash and Dawson (I still have issues with their tag team name, but that’s neither here nor there). I’m going to borrow DC Matthews’ prediction here and say that this match will set the foundation for what tag team wrestling (both NXT *and* the main roster) will look like for the next decade.

 

Predicted Winner: Jordan and Gable
Reasoning: It actually has nothing to do with Jordan and Gable, but all to do with Big Cass and Enzo. If ever there was a time for those boys to start dominating the tag team division as its biggest faces, it was back in August in Brooklyn. However, once Jordan and Gable crashed the party, it was clear NXT Creative was going in a different direction. Jordan and Gable are just now hitting their peak as faces, and beating Dash and Dawson could set both teams up for a feud that could indeed last across NXT and WWE for the next ten years.

 

Bayley (c) vs. Asuka – NXT Women’s Championship Match

Since Sasha Banks, has Bayley faced a more daunting mountain to climb than when she steps into the ring with Japanese sensation Asuka? When Regal announced this match-up, I was pretty surprised. Asuka has been in a pretty steady feud with Dana Brooke and Emma for the past few months, and only just recently started interacting with the current NXT Women’s Champion. I actually thought we’d see Asuka vs. Nia Jax before we saw Asuka competing for the Women’s Championship. However, now that this match *is* happening, I think I’m more excited for this than I was for Bayley’s Iron Man Match against Sasha. Both women bring a level of experience to this match-up that can only make for some of the best in-ring storytelling we’ll see in our lifetime.

Predicted Winner: Bayley
Reasoning: I don’t want to see Bayley on the main roster until there is a spot for her. If she drops the title to Asuka, that tells me she’s headed straight for Monday Night RAW, and I don’t think the other three Horsewomen are quite done telling their story over the Divas Title enough to bring Bayley into the picture. On the same side of that coin, as much as Asuka has been beating the crap out of Dana Brooke and Emma, I don’t think she’s completely ready to be the face of the NXT Women’s Division. Come back in 4-5 months when we’re heading into SummerSlam weekend, and my opinion might change.

 

Finn Bálor (c) vs. Samoa Joe – NXT Championship Match

Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor have been around this business for a LONG, LONG time, and while Bálor might have made his NXT debut first, it didn’t take Joe long to make his way to the main event scene right behind him. Doing quick research for this article, Bálor has been NXT Champion for over 9 months, and Joe has been his most intense opponent in those 9 months. Joe brings an athleticism and level of conditioning to this particular matchup that might actually give Bálor problems tomorrow night. Joe has never been more focused, more determined, in the past few months he’s been locked in this feud, and I think tomorrow night, we’ll see the absolute best Samoa Joe we’ve *ever* seen. It won’t be easy in the least. Then again, anything worth having is worth battling your heart out over, isn’t it?

 

Predicted Winner: Samoa Joe
Reasoning: I want to see Joe vs. Aries on a WWE platform. I want to see Baron Corbin thrown in the mix. I think NXT needs a dominant champion the level of Samoa Joe, and they need a heel champion the level of Samoa Joe. He can work with just about any talent on the NXT roster, and tell stories with his eyes closed. If he doesn’t win, I think this is the last we see of Joe in NXT. Third time’s gotta be a charm, right?

 

So, those are my analyses, predictions, and reasoning! Let me hear your thoughts, friends! What are you most looking forward to on the NXT TakeOver Dallas card? Who steals the show? Who shocks us the most?

It occurs to me that since I do not talk about the matches themselves during my ROH columns, calling it a "recap" doesn't seem fair.  If people are looking for an actual review of the show, comment below, or head over to the DDTpod forums and make your own!

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As I watched this week's ROH TV, I couldn't help but think about the things Ring of Honor has that WWE lacks.  I know, I know, I shouldn't bring up Titan Sports in an independent wrestling column, but I can't help it.  95% of the wrestling I've watched since picking up my pen has been McMahon driven, so that's where my head is at.  Regardless, I'd like to highlight two specific things that World Wrestling Entertainment could benefit from "borrowing" from ROH.

Number One - A talent sharing deal with International Promotions

This week's show was the beginning of the push to Supercard of Honor, which is a Ring of Honor crossover show with New Japan Pro Wrestling.  ROH and NJPW have a solid working relationship that has resulted in Jay Lethal defending his World Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10, multiple New Japan champions appearing on ROH TV and, very recently, the World Television title changing hands as Tomorhiro Ishii defeated Roderick Strong for the belt.

Ishii defended his title in a match against Cedric Alexander on this episode and we also saw an appearance of NJPW legend Hiroshi Tanahashi, who teamed with Michael Elgin against the Young Bucks.  All four men in that main event match are big names in both Japan and the US, so it was an indie darling's dream.

WWE doesn't have, as far as I know, a working relationship with any other International company.  In fact, until recently, I'm not sure they had a working relationship with ANY company.  We're seeing that change a bit with this Global Cruiserweight Series, as EVOLVE will be hosting some qualifying matches, but by and large, WWE is on their own in the world.  To be fair, as the only true WORLD wrestling promotion, I do understand why that is.

But does it have to be that way?

Think of the problems that many fans (perhaps yourself included) have with WWE.  Repetitive matches with the same group of superstars.  Mishandling (or underuse) of certain talents on the roster.  An overall lack of "freshness" with the product.

A talent exchange could solve all of those problems.

Imagine a deal between WWE and a major International wrestling promotion.  WWE sends some of their stars over there, perhaps giving Fandango a chance to find a new gimmick, or Jack Swagger a chance to showcase his style of wrestling in front of some fans who might truly appreciate it.  In exchange, for one week a month, a group of stars from their promotion come wrestle on RAW or Smackdown, or perhaps on a WWE Network special event.  If WWE paired with a UK promotion, perhaps we'd get Zack Sabre, Jr vs. Sami Zayn, or Timothy Thatcher vs. Dolph Ziggler.  If it was Japan (maybe even New Japan), we get Orton vs. Okada, or American Alpha vs. . . . . . . . I don't know any Japanese tag teams, but put your favorite one in there, alright!

I think this could be a great way to bring some excitement to WWE and foster some positive business partnerships between these top organizations........

Or WWE can just keep signing the top stars, making my entire point moot.  Either one.

Number Two - A Rebirth of Managers (using some ROH talent)

If you're a veteran fan like I am, or even if you've just watched some of the WWE Network archives a bit, you know that there was once a time where managers were EVERYWHERE in professional wrestling.  At one point, Bobby Heenan, Reverend Slick, Jimmy Hart, Sensational Sherri AND Mr. Fuji all had talents to manage at the same time, and I'm probably missing a couple of other ones as well.

Now what do we have?  Heyman is an advocate (he doesn't get involved in the matches, though to be fair, with a guy like Brock Lesnar, he doesn't have to), I don't remember the last time Lana accompanied Rusev to ringside, and. . . . . . That's about it.

WWE doesn't seem to have the time or the inclination for managers, which is a shame, because they have the need for them.

A professional wrestling manager serves many purposes.  They are a voice for talents who can not (or, rather, SHOULD not) speak for themselves.  They offer a number of branching out points for storylines and, to be honest, they're just plain fun.

As I watched ROH this week, I saw three talents who may never get signed to WWE as wrestlers, but could have a very solid career as managers.

1. BJ Whitmer

Besides the guy named after fast food, there was nobody I disliked more on the ROH roster than Mr. Whitmer.  Since I only started watching their weekly TV show when it got its latest deal, I didn't (and still don't, really) understand the backstory between him and Steve Corino, I didn't like the whole storyline behind Corino's son Colby, and I just found Whitmer to be an annoying, irritating, complete and total waste of space.

Which meant he was doing his job, I suppose.

He was a good talker, though, and this week, when he came out to face Ishii for the TV title only to be bought off by Veda Scott, I started to see his value for the first time.  He wasn't abusing a kid or trying to provoke an aging retiree with a broken neck, now he was blatantly admitting to the crowd that he'd take a payoff.  I found it hilarious.

Whitmer is the kind of guy who could help a lot of heel talents, specifically in NXT.  Blake and Murphy might be more than just total Black Holes of Charisma if paired with Whitmer instead of Alexa Bliss.  Perhaps BJ could be the guy to finally convince Elias Samson to hit somebody with the chair instead of playing it.  BJ could be the heel manager NXT needs right now.

As for a WWE manager. . .

2. Christopher Daniels

Trust me, this hurts a whole lot more than I'd like it to, but at 45 years of age, I think we can safely say that the book has closed on The Fallen Angel ever having an in-ring WWE career.  In truth, that book probably ended years ago, but ever the optimist, I kept hoping as long as I could.

That doesn't mean Daniels doesn't have value for the main roster, though.  He is a microphone master and as his "Almighty" title and look suggests, he's one of the best in-ring strategists the world over.  He's tailor made for a renaissance as the WWE's next great manager.

The aforementioned Jack Swagger.  Cesaro.  The Revival.  Baron Corbin.  All talents who could use Christopher Daniels to reach their fullest potential.  Not to mention the history you can revisit between Daniels and basically any other talent who ever had ROH experience, beginning and ending with one Mr. AJ Styles.

Homework Assignment: If you haven't seen the matches between Styles and Daniels in TNA (or anywhere else for that matter), go watch them.  Now.

Christopher Daniels could be the best manager WWE has seen in quite some time.  All he needs is a chance.  Don't drop the ball again on him, WWE.

3. Dalton Castle

I'm cheating a bit here, since there's a very good chance Castle winds up on the roster as a WRESTLER at some point in the near future.  In truth, I'm only mentioning Castle so I can mention this guy...

Remember Rico?  Stylist for Billy and Chuck, manager of 3 minute warning, former co-holder of the tag team titles with Charlie Haas (go look it up, it's true!)  Behind the wild attire and persona was a legitimate bad ass who went to military school, police academy and participated on American Gladiators.

Hmm, actual tough guy masquerading in a guise of flamboyance.  Sound like anyone we know?

If, for some odd twist of fate, WWE decided to pass on Castle as a wrestler (which would make them even more insane than most of us think), Castle could make an intriguing manager.

Fandango, Adam Rose and Dalton Castle?

Don't lie - You'd totally watch it.

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What do YOU think?  Register to be a member of the ddtpod.com forums and comment below!

My goodness, it's been a while since I've done one of these rankings.  Matter of fact, it's been a while since I've written anything at all.  Every time I came up with an idea, I figured I'd save it for the podcast.  However, in celebration of the launch of DDTpod.com, let's get back on the horse, shall we?

If you've perused the archives, you know how this works, although I'm tweaking it a bit.  Rather than judging based on potential or overall performance, this is now a completely biased and subjective list.  This is MY top ten.  I encourage you to stop by the forums or, perhaps, write an article yourself in which you give us your own personal rankings.

Noticeable Omissions

Finn Balor is not included in this list and neither is Bayley.  If you're a podcast listener, you know why this is.  I enjoy Bayley's work, though the underdog gimmick is wearing a bit thin with me.  As for Balor. . . Oh, Finn, you are floundering right now.  He needs the Balor Club far more than NXT or WWE does.

Number Ten - The Vaudevillains

 

Aiden English and Simon Gotch have been part of my top ten rankings since the beginning of my writing career, and that is NOT a good thing.  That means it's been almost two full years with them in NXT, and they still don't seem to be any closer to the main roster than they were previously.  While the WWE tag division could use some young blood, there are other teams who are going to get there before them.

Number Nine - Baron Corbin

Baron and I have a rocky history. I liked him a lot when he first made his debut but immediately realized what NXT was doing - accentuating his strengths and hiding his many weaknesses.  My enjoyment quickly turned to utter disdain for Mr. "Tall and Terrible", and it would have remained that way forever had he not told Apollo Crews (not on this list until they give him something to do besides "Smiling African American") to go back to Ring of Honor.

Since then, Corbin has found his place in the wrestling world, as the "Anti-Indie" guy, and it really works for him.

Number Eight - Santana Garrett

Remember when we all worried about the future of the NXT women's division once Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch all got called up to the main roster?  How we worried that it would just be "Bayley and Friends?"  Or maybe that was just me.

Either way, NXT has a very talented crop of young female wrestlers all just waiting for their chance to shine.  I could have picked Billie Kay or Peyton Royce to take this spot, but Miss Garrett has been on TV more frequently and has impressed me each time with her in-ring chops.  I don't think she'll wind up being the female member of the Wyatt Family (as her Twitter feed creepily alluded to some months ago), but I do think she's going to have a successful career in WWE.

Number Seven - Enzo and Cass

I debated leaving these two off of the rankings, since the writing is so evidently on the wall that they'll be joining WWE following Wrestlemania.  The only reason they stayed is because of the significant improvements they have made, both in the ring and on the mic.  I know you're saying, "DC, Enzo is a microphone maestro!", and you're not wrong.  But they didn't kick it into high gear until they got very serious with The Revival, and that's when I began taking them seriously as main roster candidates.

Here's the thing, though - Carmella needs to stay in NXT.

Unless they are going to make her solely a manager / valet, I don't think she's ready to be part of the Diva's Division.  Keep her at Full Sail for a few months, let her only be a wrestler, THEN bring her up sometime in late summer.  Sending Carmella to WWE before that only hurts her in the long run.

Number Six - Samoa Joe

The number one contender and, seemingly, obvious next NXT champion certainly impressed with his marathon performance in that two out of three falls match against Sami Zayn (not ranked because he's already a main roster guy).  NXT would benefit from Samoa Joe being the dominant champion for much of 2016, building up new stars just by deciding to step into the ring with them.  NXT is going to need some time to get the next level of main event singles stars ready for prime time.  Joe helps with that.

Number Five - Tye Dillinger

The Perfect 10 is Number 5 for me, even though I know what's coming.  There's going to be a problem in NXT in the near future - With all of the new talents coming in at an almost alarming rate (How long until Bobby Roode and Eric Young sign with WWE - two weeks?  Maybe three?), guys like Dillinger, who have been in the developmental system for YEARS now, are going to get pushed back down the totem pole.

It's a shame.  This guy finally finds a gimmick that works and is likely not going to get to capitalize on it because Shinsuke Nakamura, Austin Aries (both not listed until they have their first match) and others will be in the way.  I get why it's inevitable, but I'm sad for the Perfect 10.

Number Four - Eva Marie and Nia Jax

Hate on it all you want, folks, but these two are doing an excellent job filling the void left in the women's division. Dana Brooke and Emma weren't going to cut it as main event level heels, but between Nia's intimidating look and Eva's star power (I don't want to hear it- She is a STAR), they've made things very interesting for Bayley and friends.

Plus, they have planted the seeds for a split at some point, with Nia Jax becoming a face to replace Bayley or another female not yet mentioned who will probably be WWE bound by the end of the year.

Deal with it - Eva and Nia are great.

Number Three - The Revival

Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson (he's the bald one) might not be the flashiest tag team as they walk to the ring or when they pick up a mic, but between those ropes, they are everything you should like about tag team wrestling.  Go back and watch some of their matches. Notice how they actually do all of the things you're supposed to do as a tag team - Cutting the ring in half to isolate an opponent, working over a single body part, latching on to it when making a tag, to keep the fresh partner from getting involved.  Their new name is appropriate.  They could be part of a REVIVAL of tag team wrestling in WWE, and I can't wait.

I want one of their jackets personalized just for me.  Make it happen, NAIborhood!

Number Two - Asuka

This is for you, Doc Manson. This is for you.

Do I really need to say anything here?  She might not win the NXT Women's title at Takeover (Still not sure Bayley gets the call-up yet), but it's only a matter of time before she wins it.  We could see 2016 being the year that the NXT Champions (Joe and Asuka, along with whomever the tag champs might be) absolutely dominate the competition, waiting for challengers worth fighting.  I'd be very OK with this notion.

Number One - American Alpha

Could there have been another choice?  I don't think so.  I might take umbrage with the recent formulaic pattern of their tag matches but without question, Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are my favorite wrestlers in NXT, and among my favorites in the world right now.  Jordan's suplexes might just be better than Brock Lesnar's and truthfully, I don't think there's anything that Chad Gable can't do.

Oddly, though, I don't need them winning the tag titles at Takeover.  I want this Alpha / Revival feud to last a good long time, well into the summer.  These guys are going to set the world on fire if they get the chance, and I can't wait to see it.

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So there you have it, folks, the first NXT Top Ten of the DDTpod Era.  Comment below and let me know how wrong I am.

 

Today’s TakeOver came to us from Jolly Old England, as some people apparently say, so rather than an 8 PM date with WWE Network, I was able to come home after work, run a couple errands, make some nachos and then settle in with the talent of NXT.

Well, not Jordan and Gable. . . Or Tye Dillinger, despite the three of them perhaps being the most popular guys on the roster. . . Or Sami Zayn, set to make his highly anticipated return to NXT. . .Sigh. . .

Anyway, since I was starting the show right as it ended in real time, I decided to stay off of social media, and since many of you fine NAIborhood residents asked for a column instead of live tweeting, I pulled out my trusty looseleaf notebook and got to writing.  The following is a running diary of my thoughts during the show.

NXT TakeOver: London

I’m glad Triple H played a little kayfabe with his introduction, admitting to Sunday’s beatdown by the NEW World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns.  Though, I have to say, “Scream with me” was a little silly.

Opening Video Package

I completely forgot about the tag title package going into this show, though in my defense, I didn’t care one iota about Enzo and Cass until about a week ago.

What in the world is #ApolloNation?  Is that a thing?  Do people say that?  Come on, NXT, I gave you absolute gold for Apollo!

#CrewsShip!

I’m officially done with Demon Balor. . . In fact, I’ve been done since about the second time he came out.  Really hoping for something different this time around.

Every time I see this Jack the Ripper silhouette, I can’t help thinking about how great Simon Gotch would look with that gimmick.

Asuka vs. Emma

A few weeks ago on #DDTWrestling, Doc Manson and I discussed the definition of “Mark Out Moments”.  I decided to keep track of what I consider “MOMs”, and the first one happened when NXT decided to open their show withAsuka.

I like the mask on the video screen more than I like the actual one, though I did think it was cool that she wore it all the way to the ring.  Though how does she see?

Emma comes out with those stupid, stupid gloves and some new shades.  Apparently she is trying to channel Big Bossman circa 1990.

As for Dana Brooke, Natalya is going to want her outfit back after the show.

The opening of this match was a little rough.  Emma should not try to match speed and technique with Asuka, since it’s never going to work.

Mini MOM (hereby known as MMOMs) - Asuka’s spinning Fujiwara armbar.  Just so good!

I’m not a fan of the hip attack most commonly known as ‘Rear View’. . . Like at all. . . But at least the one from the apron to the floor looks like it would hurt.

There’s a guy with an Asuka mask in the crowd.  Did she toss it to him or are they for sale?  Did I just find Doc Manson’s Christmas present?

More of Emma trying to be Dean Malenko.  I’m reminded of those adorable nature videos where a lion cub is wrestling his daddy, trying to be all big and bad.  Papa lion is sitting there humoring his son, when you know full well Papa could easily just reach out and swat his baby across the savannah.  Emma’s the baby. . . Asuka is Mufasa.

I dig this London crowd, especially when they found a way to turn Zayn’s “Ole” chants into Asuka ones.  Well done.

This just in from the #NAI150 - I miss the full nelson.

Ok, help me out, NAIbors. . . Why does Asuka scream so much?  I get that she’s trying to overcome a language barrier, so primal noises are better than half-learned phrases, but I don’t need the constant bellowing.  It’s the one thing about her I don’t like.  Am I wrong?

MMOM - Emma slapping Asuka. I chortled with glee thinking about what was going to happen next.

The crowd likes to continue the referee’s count for him. . . Odd, but kind of cool.

This just in from the #NAI150 - Emma has been getting a lot of love from NXT fans, listing her as one of the best female talents on the roster.  This match officially sold me on her as a talent.  I still don’t think she should be trying to match Asuka in catch-as-catch-can style grappling, but I really liked the Tarantula and the butterfly suplex into the turnbuckle.  The girl can wrestle.

MOM - I had a mini-moment for the ankle lock, but that turned into a kicking my feet with glee reaction when she turned it into a German suplex.

I know I spent a lot of 2014/2015 singing the praises of Charlotte as perhaps the greatest female talent in history, and the latter half of this calendar year has gone out of its way to prove to me how wrong I was. . . But Asuka is on a level that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before.

Dana Brooke did very little for me in this match, which goes along with her track record so far in NXT.  Her cheering on of Emma was annoying and she was as blatantly obvious a cheater as I’ve ever seen.  Please, get her off my television.

MOM - That counter into the Asuka Lock.  Just. Too. Good.

This was an excellent match to start the show.  The storytelling was spot on; there were a couple of moments where I really thought Asuka was going to lose, totally ruining my #PreDCtion from last week’s DDT show where I claimed she’ll go undefeated throughout her entire NXT run.  I really liked this contest.

Interstitials

It’s a shame William Regal couldn’t be a part of this show.  Health comes first, it’s true, but he could have had an all-time moment.  I hope Regal doesn’t even fall victim to the “What If’s” of his career and spends his time realizing what a HALL OF FAME talent he truly is.

Tag Team Title Match Promo

This video really gives me the impression that Enzo and Cass are WWE bound.  This looked more like a career retrospective than anything else.  If they don’t win the titles, I really think we’ll see them on the main roster before too long.  With my worries that New Day are starting to lose their luster, any potential feud with Enzo and Cass needs to happen ASAP.

Enzo and Cass vs. Dash and Dawson

I am missing the stage for these entrances.  They don’t seem as ‘big time’ as they should.

It’s good that Shawn Michaels dug into his closet and let Enzo borrow one of his 90’s Heartbreak Kid jackets.

I neither enjoy nor do I really get this weird Carmella dance.

There’s nothing like a good cheap pop for me, so Enzo pulling a pound out of his pocket. . . Even if he struggled to do so. . . Made me chuckle.

I’m glad Big Cass doesn’t stutter anymore doing the SAWFT thing.

I absolutely love the jackets that Dash and Dawson are wearing.  They are such a breath of fresh air for me.

Um. . . Why is Enzo Amore wearing overalls?  Is he auditioning to be a member of The Godwinns?  Ahhh, OK, he just wanted another cheap pop showing off the Union Jack.  Got it.

Based on what I’ve seen from Enzo and Cass lately, the WWE Performance Center must have had a recent class on crazy eyes.

This just in from the #NAI150 Corey Graves is getting a lot of love on multiple parts of the survey for his announcing work, and his line about Enzo not knowing where England was until they got there was very Heenan-ish.  Good for him.

Huh. . .This entire time I thought Dash was Dawson and Dawson was Dash.  Go figure.

I like that Enzo and Cass spent some time working over the arm of. . . Damn, now I forgot which one was which again. . . The one with the hair.

The crowd is now chanting random things, or at least things I can’t understand.  I’m being taken out of the match.  I hate that.

Air Enzo - The outside the ring one - Requires a whole lot of trust on the part of Amore.  There’s been some good wrestling from these two, which is rare for me to say.

A Tye Dillinger “Ten” chant just broke out.  I like the crowd again.

Ok, we need to stop the running diary portion of this column so I can gush about how much I love Dash and Dawson.  Heavens, they are something else.  Hammerlock Northern Lights Suplexes, Reverse Figure Four Leglocks, an assisted Gourdbuster - Moves I’ve ever never seen or haven’t seen in ages.  PLUS, one of my favorite moves of all time. . .The slingshot suplex.

THE SLINGSHOT SUPLEX

Talk about your moves from the past that need to be brought back. . .This just in from the #NAI150. . . I leapt out of my chair for that.  A true Mark Out Moment

We now return you to your regularly scheduled running diary…

These first two matches have been excellent.  Great storytelling, great ring work and true false finishes (oxymoron much?).  I seriously thought Enzo and Cass had the titles won, until. . .

MOM - A top rope. . . Whatever you call Dash and Dawson’s finisher?  Holy Toledo, that was cool.

Dash and Dawson retain.  These were the only belts I figured could possibly change hands, so this means everyone keeps their belts, I’m guessing.

#PreDCtion - Enzo and Cass make their WWE debut at some point before the Royal Rumble.  If the rumors are true that Smackdown is going to become a RAW / NXT hybrid, this would be an ideal place to do it.

Interstitial

We see a social media barrage of the week in the UK.  Only thing that matters to me is the picture of Bayley and Asuka together.  This is a sign of things to come, I think - We’re going to see these two take on Nia Jax and Eva Marie in the very near future.

Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews

Once again, the lack of stage hurts the entrances. . .But it’s Corbin’s, so I don’t care as much.

Speaking of Baron Corbin, is this a new look for him?  His outfit seemed more hobo patchwork than usual.  He also looks a little leaner as well, though #TheCrease is still there.  This might all be because I never watch him on the weekly NXT shows, so maybe he’s looked like this for months.

Fun Fact - Apollo Crews is listed from the same place as Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

My problem with Crews is that he’s so. . . Vanilla.  A supremely talented athlete, but he just comes across as bland.  I can’t bring myself to care.

Hmm, should #BaldingCorbin be a thing?

Full Disclosure: I stopped paying a lot of attention during this match.  It’s Corbin. . . I just can’t.  It had its moments, sure (Crews going over the ropes and hitting the stairs was pretty brutal), but otherwise, my mind wandered. . . To what, you ask?

What I thought about during the Crews and Corbin match

I wonder how many people have done #NAI150 since I checked last?  I wonder if Dash and Dawson or Emma will get some more votes based on today’s performance.

I really don’t want to watch Nia Jax beat up Bayley for 10 minutes.

Aren’t there 6 matches on this show?  I should list them to see which one I can’t think of. . . (This happened for 3-4 minutes.)

Man, Dash and Dawson were good.

Why is this crowd not making any sense?  A “Whoomp there it is” chant?  Really?

Apollo hits the standing moonsault and as he tries to pin Corbin, I blurted out, “Please be over.”  Not good.

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OK, let’s talk about the best part of this match. . . In fact, it’s the best thing Baron Corbin has ever done in his life.  After Crews hits the stairs, Corbin climbs the ropes to taunt him, shouting down. . .

”You should have stayed in Ring of Honor!”

I.   Laughed.   SO.   Hard.   What a random and ridiculous thing to say!  Especially since, after some quick research, I’m fairly certain the once named Uhaa Nation never wrestled for ROH.  Ever.  I’m not sure if Triple H will care about Corbin name-dropping like that, but that was a highlight of the night for me.

As I was doing this quick research, Corbin hit End of Days and pinned Apollo.  I’ll be honest, I was SHOCKED.  If Enzo and Cass aren’t getting the next call-up, it’s probably going to be Corbin.   Hey, at least he’ll provide another snack / bathroom break during RAW!

Sami Zayn vignette

I’ve missed Mr. Ska, and NXT dropped the ball, I think, not having him be a bigger part of TakeOver.  Saving his return for the following TV show makes little sense to me.

Nia Jax promo

I haven’t seen the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie yet but I’m fairly sure Nia has Shredder’s shoulderpads.  Did she borrow them from Super Shredder himself, Kevin Nash?

AHHHH!! MOM!!!  Nia Jax and Asuka face-off.  This tag match is TOTALLY going to happen!

Bayley and Nia Jax vignette

Alright, I’m going into #HeelDC mode for a bit here. . . Bear with me. . .

I’m really tired of hearing all about Bayley’s lifelong love of pro wrestling.  I get it. . . You wrote an essay when you were a kid about wanting to be a wrestler.  It’s great, but it’s also tired.  You’ve read it to us too many times, and now it’s time to move on.  At least until you get up to WWE and we do this whole underdog story all over again. . .

Thanks for that.

The one thing I did realize during this segment was that Bayley definitely has her own Rogue’s Gallery.  For those who don’t have as much nerd cred as I do, in the DC Comics Universe, the major heroes each have a long list of villains trying to take them out, aka a Rogue’s Gallery.  That’s what’s happening with Bayley right now, and since I had the time and the inclination (I couldn’t get into this match either), I decided to flush this idea out a bit.

Nia Jax is Bane - Supremely powerful, supremely confident, and usually the muscle alongside another villain.

Alexa Bliss is Poison Ivy - Sorry, Peyton Royce, but it’s not your time yet.  Bliss is seductive enough to have two guys under her thrall and dangerous enough to rock. . .Whatever that stupid thing on her hand is. . .

Eva Marie is The Penguin - Seems silly, I’m sure, but hear me out.  Of all the Batman villains, Oswald Cobblepot is the one that usually has the most corporate and government support.  That’s Eva Marie - the Corporate picked “champion”.  Plus, Penguin usually has lackeys - Eva has Nia Jax.  It works, just go with it.

Sasha Banks is The Joker - Batman’s biggest and most natural enemy.  Who better than The Boss for Bayley?

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Bayley’s music makes me happy, though the lack of the stage hurt her entrance.  This is a problem.

The crowd is singing love songs to Bayley.  Very cute.

Oh man, I’m so bored right now.  I got up and walked around the room, I went out to visit with Mrs. Matthews, and each time I came back, Nia was beating up Bayley.  I get it already!

I wonder if someone could pull off a Rolling Samoan Drop, where they never let go of the person until they’ve done all three.  That’d be a cool move for Roman Reigns.

Hey, Nia did the spinning move they show people practicing during Breaking Ground.

So a lot of people compare Bayley to John Cena because of the Make A Wish possibilities but here’s another similarity we should all get used to - Bayley is going to kick out at 2. . . Every time.

Nia did a nice job taunting the fans.

That submission hold Bayley used only really looked effective once Nia was in a sitting position.  Otherwise it just looked like Nia was carrying Bayley around.

Has anyone ever begged, “Please, for the love of God, tap out!”  Would have been appropriate here.

Solid ending to a very predictable match.  The first 30-40 minutes of TakeOver was amazing - The second hunk. . . Not so much.

Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor

I wonder if Samoa Joe stresses out about making sure the spaces between his sideburns and his goatee are JUST RIGHT.

I like that Joe doesn’t wear special outfits for TakeOvers.  He is who he is.  Deal with it.

MOM - FINALLY, a variation to Demon Balor.  That’s all I wanted, just something new.  The hat and the coat was really cool, and the back paint of the Tower of London was a nice touch.

I like the big fight lights during title match introductions.

Throughout this entire show, the commentary team faded to the background for me.  I barely noticed they were there.  Maybe that’s the idea.  One of them talking about Balor bringing along his “dark passenger” was the first time I had paid them any attention in close to an hour.

I am fading fast - Those 2 middle matches were hard to get through.  How do NXT fans handle 4 tapings in a row?  Seems exhausting.

Hey, I don’t know if you know this, but that Samoa Joe guy is pretty good.

I’m just going to leave this idea here. . . Samoa Joe vs. Bray Wyatt.

This just in from the #NAI150 - I get why Finn Balor’s corner enziguiri has some votes for ‘highest impact move’.  That looked like it hurt.

The problem with guys being so ridiculously good, like Balor and Joe, is that all of their matches are graded on a sliding scale.  This match is good but compared to other ones I’ve seen. . .

The benefit of guys being so ridiculously good is that when Finn misses a Pele, both he and Joe can recover easily.

I still haven’t figured out the crowd yet, but I’ll give them this - They cheer when people fall into perfect positions for finishing moves.

The tease of a “Super Musclebuster” is my last MMOM of the night as soon after, Balor retained his title.

Conclusions

Two excellent matches to start the show, two very difficult matches in the middle and one just fine match to end our night.  Not the best TakeOver I have ever seen, but not a bad way to spend an evening, especially when I had you fine NAIbors to write for.

Hope you enjoyed the running diary.  Be sure to share your thoughts and comments - I need the interaction.

Oh, and go vote in the #NAI150. . .   #Shameless

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