NXT continues to steam on towards Takeover 3: R Evolution, and whilst the spotlight has focused in on the NXT Championship match between Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn, tonight shines a light on the other feuds heading into the live special. On a day where America displays their gratitude to all they are thankful for, for me, getting to report on NXT every week has proven to be a reward in itself. In the main event, Finn Balor competes in his first singles match since debuting in NXT against Tyson Kidd. Kidd is looking to make the newcomer humble after he burst onto the scene, and after suffering defeat in a tag team match two weeks ago, will be desperate to avenge that loss.
The NXT Tag Team Champions are also in action, as the Lucha Dragons take on Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger to warm up for their title defense against the Vaudevillains in two weeks. Bayley looks to call out another competitor that will be in championship action at Takeover, Sasha Banks, for the way she and Becky Lynch have been singling her out for abuse.
On the remainder of the card, Tyler Breeze competes against Marcus Louis, and Carmella looks to continue her unbeaten start to her NXT career against “Blue Pants” Leva Bates.
- Tyler Breeze defeats Marcus Louis
- Carmella defeats Leva Bates
- The Lucha Dragons defeats Jason Jordan & Tye Dillinger
- Finn Balor defeats Tyson Kidd (DQ)
Tyler Breeze vs. Marcus Louis
The opening match of the night sees Tyler Breeze in action. Prince Pretty’s appearances have been fairly sporadic since he fell away from the championship picture, but it’s always a pleasure to see him compete. Yet, his opponent would be considered to have a look completely opposite from the glamorous Breeze. Marcus Louis, the former Legionnaire, has been keen to avoid showing his face in the last few months due to losing his hair as a result of the cowardice of former partner Sylvester Lefort. His head utterly devoid of hair, Louis’s look is the exact inverse of the model appearance that Breeze exudes.
Louis approaches the ring, a towel covering his bare scalp from the world watching. Breeze however wastes little time going for the jugular, grabbing the microphone and berating his “uggo” opponent. He looks almost on the verge of projectile vomiting when he compares Louis to Gollum from Lord of the Rings, much to the amusement of the crowd. Breeze then pulls the towel away, exposing Louis’s baldness to the entire audience, before berating his hideous appearance with little remorse or tact. After screaming at Louis that nobody will ever love a freak like him, Louis stares into the distance, only to be caught by the Beauty Shot, earning Breeze a win. As the model departs in celebration, Louis stomps up the ramp in frustration, screaming at the crowd in sheer fury.
Whilst this can in no way be considered a true “match”, there were a lot of good things about this segment. Pairing up a man who places such importance on looks in Breeze against the tarnished Louis is a great strategy, and no disrespect to the Frenchman, but Breeze should continue to be pushed. His promo was the correct mixture of humor and nefarious taunting of his opponent, and finishing him off when Louis was distracted and upset just adds to Breeze’s heel nature. So, the match may have been a bust, but as a spectacle it ticked quite a few boxes. It would be nice to see Breeze have some more extended matches though, as he has been having far too many of these squashes for my liking.
Rating – 2.5/5
Carmella vs. Leva Bates
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady appear on the ramp to soak in the adulation of the crowd, before introducing their friend and trainee, Carmella. The diva might be aligned with the popular Jersey duo, but her swagger and arrogance cut her out as a heel. No doubt that she can work a microphone like her buddies, as she cuts another solid promo during her entrance into the ring. In her last showing against Emma as well, she showed a lot of potential in the ring as well. Carmella looks to maintain form in a rematch with her first opponent in NXT Leva Bates, who is referred to lovingly on TV by Amore and the crowd as “Blue Pants”.
Unsurprisingly, despite the audience getting behind old Blue Pants, this match doesn’t last too long. After knocking Bates down with a shoulder tackle, Carmella follows up with a pair of dropkicks to keep her opponent floored. With Bates crawling on the mat, Carmella looks to finish in quickly with her yoga stretch headscissors, causing her to eventually tap out. Carmella gets another simple tick in the win column as she maintains a flawless start to her NXT career.
Can’t really be expected to gauge anything from this performance, other than Carmella should continue to work on her dropkicks. It was a squash in every respect, and has only really helped Bates who gets another match on television and was the clear fan favorite throughout the contest. Carmella should look to embrace her persona as a heel, as that will be more likely to get her over, but bouts like this aren’t going to help convince anyone that she has what it takes between the ropes.
Rating – 1/5
The Lucha Dragons vs. Jason Jordan & Tye Dillinger
The NXT tag team division is consistently providing some of the highlights of every episode at the moment, and atop their ranks is the Lucha Dragons. The fast-paced luchadore pairing of Kalisto and Sin Cara have created a great deal of excitement during their time as a partnership, showing remarkable chemistry despite only been teamed for around three months. Their bout with the Vaudevillains at Takeover III should have the potential to be a classic encounter, mixing the speed of the champions against the craftiness of the challengers. As for tonight, the Lucha Dragons have to contend with Jason Jordan & Tye Dillinger, looking to maintain momentum heading into the live special.
Sin Cara begins the match with Dillinger, some solid chain wrestling handing the masked athlete the advantage. He takes control of the arm, tagging in Kalisto for a double kick to the chest, followed by a wheelbarrow bodyscissors into a senton. Sin Cara is brought back in to continue the pressure on Dillinger’s arm, but he is forced back into the opposition corner. Sin Cara fights back, but is whipped back into Jordan with lifted feet, after he tagged his way into the match. Jordan mocks the Dragons’ hand gestures used to excite the crowd, before taking a shot at Kalisto on the apron. Jordan slams down Sin Cara, bringing in Dillinger with a stomp to the face. Again they try to whip Sin Cara into the raised boots of Jordan, but a reversal sends Dillinger into that predicament.
As Jordan attempts to take out Kalisto again, the smaller man ducks, allowing Sin Cara to roll over and make the hot tag. Kalisto springs in with a crossbody, followed by a corkscrew version on Jordan. Kalisto then focuses on Dillinger, grabbing his arm and bouncing off the top rope into an armdrag, sending him to the floor. Sin Cara follows up with a suicide dive, the crowd cheering for the champions’ athleticism. Jordan misses a punch and gets caught in Solita del Sol, giving the champions a welcome victory heading into their upcoming title defense.
Although there was nothing wrong with the match per-say, it still left me a little cold. Maybe it was because I expected more after seeing the Lucha Dragons’ match against Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy a couple of weeks back, which was a thrilling affair. This had all the necessary components, but with little time to perform, they kind of played it safe. The taunting employed by Jordan and Dillinger was good to see, but in terms of character and skill they appear to be the weakest ‘team’ on the roster at this point. However, with the talent in the tag team division at the moment, it’s difficult for everybody to make an impression.
Rating – 2.5/5
Bayley calls out Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch
Last week, Bayley suffered defeat at the hands of former friend Becky Lynch, thanks in no small part to interference on behalf of No.1 Contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, Sasha Banks. But it was the post-match mocking and taunting that really angered the usually bubbly diva, as the pair berated the downed diva, until champion Charlotte came to chase the pair away. Charlotte then informed Bayley that she would not be at the show next week, and so she should look to avoid confronting Banks without any backup. However, Bayley decided tonight to throw caution to the wind by standing up to the bullies, like she has done her whole life. She states that her mom taught her that bullies were nothing but cowards, and so she is not afraid of them anymore.
This brings out Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to the ring, and as they enter Banks wastes little time in shoving and badmouthing Bayley. Bayley responds with a forearm, but is caught by a dropkick to the knee by Lynch. Banks and Lynch then repeatedly stomp on the injured leg of Bayley, Banks ripping the bow out of Bayley’s hair in the process as they continue the physical and verbal assault. Referees enter the fray to stop the 2-on-1 attack, but can’t stop the tongue-lashing that the nefarious divas hand out to Bayley as she is helped from the ring.
In terms of an actual attack, Banks and Lynch didn’t do much beyond the kicks to the leg of Bayley. But the manner in which Bayley talked about how she had been contending with bullies and the manner in which these two women outnumbered her drew a real visceral feeling of anger towards them. Obviously, most die-hard fans recognize the scripted nature of the product, but sometimes you can get lost in what is being represented on screen, which happened to me here and is a credit to all the performers. Banks is coming off as a fantastic heel, as Lynch is gradually approaching, whilst Bayley is a great sympathetic babyface that will blow the roof off when she become champion.
Rating – 3/5
Finn Balor vs. Tyson Kidd
The main event of the evening features a superstar experiencing his biggest run on WWE programming, and a new star that is looking to make an impact as quickly as possible. Finn Balor has made an excellent start to his time on NXT, especially considering the high expectations placed on him. A fortnight ago, he competed alongside his buddy Hideo Itami to take on Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel in tag team action, earning the victory for his team with a double foot-stomp onto Gabriel. Kidd, bitter about all the new stars looking to take up his rightful spotlight, made the challenge to Balor last week, to show him who the real man is in WWE. With the technique and talent in this match, it should be the perfect way to close off this episode.
The match starts off with some back-and-forth chain wrestling, Balor gaining the early advantage as Kidd claws to the ropes for a break. They both then trade a focused assault on the arm of their opponent, with counters and reversals being applied with flawless precision. Kidd provides a knee to the gut of Balor before rolling him into a headlock. Balor whips him away against the ropes, but Kidd responds with a kick to the gut and goes right back to the headlock. The next time Balor attempts this, he connects with a nice dropkick, sending Kidd to the floor. When Balor looks set to fly out to meet him, Kidd quickly pulls Natalya out in the way, blocking the flight course for the Irishman.
When action returns from the break, Kidd has assumed control, wrapping Balor up on a tree of woe, and peppering him with kicks. He then shouts at Natalya, telling her that he wanted her to choke Balor when he had the referee distracted. Kidd then takes Balor down with a dropkick in the corner, earning a two count. Kidd hits a snapmere takedown, followed by a hard kick to Balor as he sat on the mat. Balor eventually fights back to a vertical base after escaping a headlock, countering a suplex attempt and replying with a huge chop to the chest of Kidd. Another couple connect in the corners, and he ducks Kidd’s clothesline, hits the Pele kick into a brainbuster that Kidd barely kicks out of. Kidd kicks Balor away from the corner, but as he climbs the middle rope he is kicked down himself. Kidd avoids the double foot-stomp, dropping Balor across the bottom rope, followed by a guillotine legdrop. An attempt at his springboard elbow drop is countered by Balor’s knees, and Kidd is then rocked by a massive punt to the face.
But, before Balor can fly down to finish this match, the Ascension charge down the ring to assault the Irishman, causing the disqualification. Clearly still bitter about the events of Balor’s debut three weeks ago, the former tag team champions continue the assault, until Hideo Itami makes his way down to even the odds. The two teams fight it out in separate corners tooth and nail, before referees, officials and other wrestlers enter to break them up. This rivalry is far from over as the show ends.
As expected, Balor and Kidd provided a great match to close the show. Balor’s entrance has already become one of my favorites in the whole of WWE, as its theatrics really add an atmosphere to his character. The chemistry between he and Kidd was great from the outset, both clearly trusting each other’s technical ability to pull off some fantastic mat wrestling and some huge kicks and chops. Kidd’s renaissance continues, and he is helping to make Balor a star quickly. However, the feud he and Itami against the Ascension is the correct course for Takeover, as their varied styles will hopefully mesh together well to provide a thrilling tag team match.
Rating – 4/5