Date: April 1, 2016
Location: Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Dallas, Texas
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves
This was the start of a huge weekend for WWE and we might be kicking things off with the best show of 2016. Takeover quickly became one of the coolest shows in wrestling and this might be the best of them all. This one is going to be all about the wrestling and that means the matches and stories are going to be able to speak for themselves. Let’s get to it.
The opening video looks at the history of Texas wrestling, including the Freebirds, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin among many others. Naturally the last shot is of the Von Erichs, which is all it could have ended on. I love it when they put a theme to this show and talk about a major thing to make the show feel unique. It’s a nice touch and so much better than Backlash, No Mercy or Fastlane. This turns into a video on the major matches, which is rather odd when there are only five on the card.
One heck of an NXT chant gets us going.
Tag Team Titles: American Alpha vs. Revival
Revival is defending and this is one heck of a way to start off a show. Basically Revival feels like the flavor of the month (how wrong that wound up being) and Alpha basically looks like the most amazing team ever (pretty close, at least in NXT) so it’s time for a big old showdown. Gable and Dawson start things off and the fans chant for Gable in tune to Kurt Angle’s old music.
Scott takes him into the corner and slaps Gable in the face before hugging Dawson. Fans: “WHICH ONE’S DAWSON, WHICH ONE’S DASH???” I liked that one and to be fair I had to explain it to my wife at the show anyway. The fact that she doesn’t watch NXT has nothing to do with this whatsoever. Chad slaps Dawson and it’s a big standoff with the partners coming in as well. Things settle back down with Chad armdragging and headscissoring Dawson with ease. Jason comes in for that gorgeous dropkick of his and Gable gets two off a spinning middle rope crossbody.
Chad misses a dropkick but Jason is right there to save his partner from a double suplex. Stereo German suplexes send Dawson and Wilder to the floor as Alpha stands tall in the ring. Gable makes the mistake of going after him though and Wilder scores with one heck of a clothesline to really take over. It’s off to a Gory Special of all things but Gable uses some very impressive strength to counter into a sunset flip for two. A double DDT is enough to drop the champs, only to have Dash crawl underneath the ring to pull Jordan off.
Back in and a powerbomb/top rope clothesline combo is botched, making it into something more like a Dominator and drawing a BOTCHAMANIA chant. I rip on other crowds for stupid chants like that and NXT is no better: you hardly ever see a major botch in NXT so lay off of them. Dawson breaks up ANOTHER hot tag attempt but Gable crawls through his legs for the red hot tag so house can be cleaned. Jordan starts throwing suplexes and takes down the straps for the shoulders in the corner.
Dash saves Dawson from a belly to belly superplex and even holds Dawson’s leg on a near fall. Back up and Jordan gets kicked into an uppercut for the VERY hot false finish with Chad making the save. Jordan misses a shoulder in the corner but Chad tags himself in for two off a victory roll. Three more cradles get three more two counts on Dawson before Jordan makes his own blind tag. With Dash on the floor, Jordan runs around the ring to grab Dawson for Grand Amplitude, the pin and the titles at 15:11.
Rating: A. Just outstanding stuff here and it’s easy to see why this was a Match of the Year candidate. The Revival is just so incredibly smooth out there and new champs work like a well oiled machine as well. There’s a reason this was the hottest division in wrestling for a good while and these four guys just put on a classic to open this show.
Jim Ross and Michelle Beadle are here. This got a HUGE pop live.
Kota Ibushi is here too and the fans chant his name.
Asuka worked on her striking while Bayley hugged a fan.
We recap Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries. Corbin was in the hunt to become #1 contender but tapped out to a double submission. That got rid of him entirely so he attacked Aries, NXT’s latest signing.
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin
It’s almost weird to see Aries come to the ring in NXT as he didn’t wrestle down there very long. The fans are split as Aries hammers away and takes out Corbin’s knee. A discus forearm puts Corbin on the floor for a top rope dive as we hear about Aries ending Samoa Joe’s (not named of course) ROH World Title reign. Back in and it’s Aries going shoulder first into the post as the slower pace starts to creep out.
We hit the nerve hold as Corbin makes sure to get in some good old fashioned trash talk. Aries makes his comeback with some chops and hard forearms to the jaw. A neckbreaker over the ropes sets up a missile dropkick to send Corbin outside. That doesn’t work either though as Aries scores with a suicide dive, only to get caught in the Deep Six on the floor. Austin just barely beats the count at nine and tells Corbin to bring it. Corbin loads up End of Days but Aries reverses into a rollup for the pin at 10:33.
Rating: B-. If that’s the worst match of the night, this is going to be one of the best shows in a very long time. Aries just kept coming at the much bigger Corbin and eventually caught him in a rollup for the pin like a smart wrestler should do. There’s something about Aries where he fights like someone a foot taller and 100lbs heavier, which makes him a very dangerous man. This would seem to set up a rematch but it wasn’t to be as Corbin made his main roster debut two days later.
We recap Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn. Basically it was clear that Zayn was about to head to the main roster full time and he needed a major opponent for his farewell match. That would be Nakamura, who was one of the biggest signings in company history. This is the match designed to steal the show and pretty much everyone knows it’s going to be amazing.
Scott Hall and X-Pac are here.
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
The roof nearly comes off for Sami’s entrance but Nakamura’s blows the roof all the way to Japan. Nakamura gets a LONG entrance too and you can just feel this is something special. The dueling chants begin immediately and the fans sound entirely split on this one. They stare each other down and it’s off to a YES chant. Nakamura ducks a lockup attempt and there’s no contact for the first minute.
Sami gets taken down but dodges some of the very hard looking kicks and it’s a BOTH THESE GUYS chant. They trade wristlocks until Sami gets in his three armdrags and tells Nakamura to bring it. It’s time for the kicks and knees though, meaning Sami is already checking his teeth. Nakamura loads up the boot in the corner but Sami grabs the foot and moves him away. I guess you could say he’s picking up Good Vibrations.
An enziguri staggers Sami but he’s still able to forearm Nakamura to the floor. Nakamura knees him in the head though and now Good Vibrations connects. Sami flips out of the reverse exploder though and low bridges Nakamura to the floor, setting up the big flip dive. A high crossbody gets a very hot near fall but Nakamura just knees the heck out of Sami.
That earns him a Michinoku Driver though, with Nakamura nearly landing square on his head. Both guys are slow to get up and we get the dramatic forearm exchange with the fans getting more and more into it every time. The pace picks up until neither can throw for a bit, only to have them pick up the pace all over again. They’re still going over a minute later (that’s nuts) and it’s a round of applause from the crowd while they’re still hammering each other in the head.
Nakamura finally gets the better of it and knocks Zayn into the ropes where it’s a bunch of knees and kicks to the head. The fans start a KING OF STRONG STYLE chant as the referee cleans up Nakamura’s bloody nose. Sami gets back up though and takes Nakamura’s head off with a clothesline as you can see the fire in his eyes. Nakamura can’t get a cross armbreaker but he can get a triangle choke until Sami KICKS HIM IN THE HEAD over and over for the break.
Now it’s Nakamura taking cover in the ropes while Sami just unloads on him. Sami gets the Koji Clutch on in the middle of the ring but Nakamura escapes again and scores with a big kick. That puts both guys down and it’s a FIGHT FOREVER chant. The Helluva Kick misses but Sami reverses Kinshasa into the Blue Thunder Bomb for one of the hottest near falls you’ll ever see. When that move finally wins a match, the building is going to explode.
Nakamura rolls outside but he’s still able to block the diving DDT with a huge kick to the head. Sami is in BIG trouble so of course he’s back up and trying the exploder into the corner. Even more hard, hard strikes to the head break it up though and a running knee to the head knocks Sami silly. Kinshasa connects to give Nakamura the pin and the match of the year at 20:08.
Rating: A+. I’ve seen this match a handful of times now and I think I cringe a bit more every single time. These guys were beating the heck out of each other for twenty minutes and Sami just couldn’t hang with the King at his own game. It’s very much a passing of the torch moment as Sami had long since been the heart and soul of NXT but it was time for him to move up to the next level. Nakamura looks like a monster out there and it’s easy to see why he was NXT Champion just a few months later. Outstanding stuff here and still easily the most amazing match I’ve ever seen in person.
Post match Nakamura helps Sami to his feet for an embrace. Sami holds up Nakamura’s hand and Shinsuke leaves him alone for the big farewell. That was an incredible moment and Sami had earned every single bit of it.
We recap Bayley vs. Asuka. Bayley has been the face of the women’s division for so long now and is the last of the Four Horsewomen left standing in NXT. Then comes Asuka, who much like Nakamura is just on a whole other level and has run through the entire division. One of my favorite lines on Asuka here is from Dana Brooke: “Look what I tried to do to her.” Clip of Dana slapping Asuka in the face and getting her head kicked in. Dana: “Didn’t work.” There are definite Vader/Great Muta vs. Sting vibes here and it’s a story that is always going to work.
Stephanie McMahon is here and of course she’s booed out of the building.
Women’s Title: Bayley vs. Asuka
Asuka is challenging and walks through a shower of cherry blossoms (which you could see being poured from boxes by two people in the rafters) on her way to the ring. On the other hand, Bayley gets one heck of a superstar pop. I’ve said this many times before but I continue to be in awe of her level of overness down in NXT. We get our first Big Match Intros of the night and it’s time to go.
The fans start that rather annoying Will You Be My Girl song as Bayley has to avoid the first kick. It’s off to dueling ASUKA’S GONNA KILL YOU/BAYLEY’S GONNA HUG YOU chants as Bayley grabs an armbar. They both miss their sliding strikes and it’s an early standoff with Asuka looking a bit shaken for the first time. The first hip attack sends Bayley to the apron but Asuka misses a second and gets elbowed in the jaw.
Now it’s a series of elbows to rock Asuka until she catches Bayley in a Fujiwara armbar. That’s fine with Bayley who takes her into the corner for another elbow and a near fall. A top rope hurricanrana gives Bayley the same and it’s off to the guillotine choke that she used on Nia Jax. Notice that Bayley is trying everything that’s worked in the past, which makes perfect sense. She’s overcome the odds before so why not do the same thing?
Asuka reverses into an ankle lock though and now it’s Bayley’s turn to scream. That goes nowhere so Asuka starts unloading on her and you can see Bayley’s legs starting to shake a bit (literally and figuratively). Bayley gets in a suplex but a shot to the head puts her down again. They slug it out and Bayley looks to be in over her head until she reverses a big kick into a kneebar. The knee is sent into the mat and Bayley starts in on the OTHER knee which is a fairly unique strategy.
Asuka quickly reverses into a cross armbreaker but Bayley is too close to the ropes. The champ comes back and cranks on Asuka’s arm ala the final fall against Sasha Banks in the Iron Man match. The Bayley to Belly doesn’t work and Asuka snaps her over with a suplex into another armbar. That’s switched over to the Asuka Lock with a bodyscissors and Bayley is in real trouble. Somehow Bayley gets to her feet for a bit but Asuka pulls her back down and Bayley passes out to give Asuka the title at 15:22.
Rating: B+. This one was more about telling a story, which you don’t get enough of in wrestling. The idea here was Bayley doing every old move she had used before but not being able to get by the buzzsaw that was Asuka. It was a good way of showing that as good as Bayley is, Asuka is just that much better because she’s the new generation and the future of the division. It’s another passing of the torch moment and Asuka would hold the title for a very long time to come.
Asuka poses with the title as Bayley can barely move. There’s no helping hand this time though and Asuka just leaves.
We recap Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe. These two had a war in London with Balor barely surviving and having one heck of a headache as a result. Joe won a series of matches to earn another title shot here in Dallas for a first ever rematch in a Takeover rematch. On top of that, Joe has turned into a psycho who is obsessed with winning the title.
Bobby Roode is here, drawing one heck of a gasp from the audience.
NXT Title: Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor
Balor is defending……and he’s got a chainsaw. I really don’t think that requires much more of an explanation, do you? We’re already on the dueling chants as they slug it out with Balor headbutting Joe next to the eye, busting Joe WIDE open. As in the side of his face is covered in blood less than a minute in.
Balor hits a flip dive but gets sent over the barricade as the referee tries to wipe the blood off. In a great shot, Finn raises his head over the barricade and dives onto Joe again, only to have the referee pull things off for some toweling. Joe will have none of that (big pop for that) and kicks Balor in the head, setting up a big suicide elbow. And now let’s pause again for the sake of the trainers checking on Joe. Fans: “LET THEM FIGHT!” It’s kind of a shame that they’re having to stop such a hot match but that is one heck of a cut.
Joe throws him back in but we pause again to look at the eye. It’s not like it’s a just a trickle of blood or something so this is pretty necessary. Joe cuts off the PG SUCKS chant by planting Balor with a Rock Bottom out of the corner and the fans are right back into things. Another enziguri gets two and let’s stop things AGAIN to look at the cut.
The fans have a far more adult anti-PG chant until it’s back to the action. Joe can’t get the MuscleBuster so he kicks Balor in the chest and drops a very big knee for two. Balor scores with a dropkick and let’s get that towel in there again! Fans: “LET JOE BLEED!” A bunch of chops and kicks knock Joe outside but he blocks the Sling Blade. Fans: “WE WANT TOWEL!”
Joe’s backsplash gets two and it’s the powerbomb into the Boston crab into the Crossface but Balor rolls free and scores with a double stomp. Now the MuscleBuster gets two so Balor Peles him down for a breather. Balor goes Demon though and Joe looks scared for the first time. The running dropkick sets up a Coup de Grace but 1916 is countered into the Koquina Clutch. Balor channels his inner Bret Hart though and climbs the corner into a rollup to retain at 16:22.
Rating: A. Sweet goodness this was a heck of a fight. This was all about two guys beating the heck out of each other until one of them couldn’t get up. Since neither of them had enough to truly knock the other one out (though Balor didn’t cover after the Coup de Grace), it was a counter to win as Balor completely switched directions in the end. Great match, cut issues aside. Joe would actually win the title three weeks later in a surprise at a house show before moving on to a feud with Nakamura.
Posing and highlights take us out.
Overall Rating: A+. Oh like this was getting anything else. This is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and it ran away with Show of the Year as it should have. The worst match on the card is the totally watchable Aries vs. Corbin match, which is certainly better than your run of the mill TV match. If you somehow haven’t seen this match yet, go out of your way to check it out because it’s arguably the peak of NXT.
American Alpha vs. Revival
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
Bayley vs. Asuka
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor
It says a lot when I gave a show an A and still feel like that’s criminally underrating the thing.
Here’s the original review if you’re interested:
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