As we enter the month of festive joy and goodwill, NXT continues to be the place to find entertainment all year round. Not that there has been a great deal of love between the superstars and divas leading into next week’s highly-anticipated Takeover III: R Evolution. The main event for this packed show will be Adrian Neville defending his coveted NXT Championship against his friend Sami Zayn. But, with the importance of the title match in question, friendship will count for nothing if Zayn cannot prove all of his doubters wrong and finally win ‘the big one’. Tonight is their final confrontation before the match, and it will likely be an extremely passionate affair.
Another match scheduled for Takeover III is the culmination of a feud that has run since the last live special, as Hideo Itami and Finn Balor team up to battle the Ascension. The dominant former tag team champions have had their sights set on Itami since his debut, exploiting their number advantage over him to leave the International Sensation in a heap on the mat. However, with the introduction Balor, the odds have been evened up, and this bout could steal the show come next Thursday. As for tonight, Itami and Balor take on Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze in tag team action.
In other action, Charlotte gears up for her title defense against Sasha Banks against Mia Yim, The Vaudevillains battle Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy, and the brewing tension between Bull Dempsey and Baron Corbin continues.
- Charlotte defeats Mia Yim
- The Vaudevillains defeat Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy
- Bull Dempsey defeats Elias Sampson
- Baron Corbin defeats Steve Cutler
- Hideo Itami & Finn Balor defeat Tyson Kidd & Tyler Breeze
Charlotte vs. Mia Yim
The NXT Women’s Champion opens the show, as the Nature Girl Charlotte looks to gain momentum prior to her title defense opposite former BFF Sasha Banks at Takeover III. Last week she was absent, and thus could not rescue friend Bayley from an assault by Banks and her new buddy Becky Lynch that left the bubbly diva with an injured leg. Tonight, Charlotte prepares for this important match against Mia Yim, a prevalent name on the independent scene, who featured on the recent TNA Knockouts Knockdown 2 special.
However, this match doesn’t last nearly as long as her showing there. Charlotte after performing her father’s patented ‘Woo!’ of intimidation, quickly knocks Yim into a corner, smashing her head on the turnbuckle. Yim prevents this happening a second time, using her elbow to create some separation followed by a low kick to the gut of the champion. But, she is cut off by a hard knee to the midsection, which leads to the neckbreaker into Natural Selection and a simple victory for Charlotte
As Charlotte celebrates with her title, she is made aware of the presence of Sasha Banks on the stage. Banks tells Charlotte to simply hand her the title and save her the trouble of a beating next week. Charlotte challenges her to step in the ring and prove it tonight, but Banks refuses. Banks goes on to say that she has more ‘Flair’ than her opponent and her dad combined, insulting the legendary Ric Flair to incite the champion. This brings out Bayley on crutches, who tells Banks to shut her mouth once and for all, leading to her being kicked in the injured leg before running to the back. Charlotte checks on her friend’s condition, but stops to catch Banks when she attempts a cheap shot. She carries her challenger to the ring, demanding a referee, but a brief distraction from Becky Lynch sees Charlotte caught in the backstabber. Banks then celebrates with the belt, in a scene that could come to fruition at Takeover III.
The match was just a squash, which is somewhat of a pity because Yim is a highly skilled performer from what I have seen. Nevertheless, it made Charlotte look strong, and the focus was placed on the upcoming title match between her and Banks. Banks’s barbs on the mic were solid, and the attack on an injured Bayley was a nice touch. Charlotte dragging her back to the ring and demanding a referee made her look strong and imposing, whilst the presence of Lynch means that the champion might have to watch her back during her defense. Overall, this ticked all the right boxes.
Rating – 3/5
The Vaudevillains vs. Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy
The second championship match that will take place at Takeover III will be for the tag team titles, as champions the Lucha Dragons will defend against the Vaudevillains. The silent movie enthusiasts won their opportunity at the gold in a tag team battle royal over a month ago, and have recently been playing mind games with the champs by utilizing some masked dwarfs to demonstrate their dominance. Whilst I was initially hesitant about the loss of their catchy theme music, the new dastardly version fits their new despicable nature. Tonight, they warm up for that match against Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy, a team that has been impressing a number of people as of late with their explosive power and excellent athleticism.
Aiden English starts off against Wesley Blake, but is immediately under pressure when he is caught in an attempted leapfrog into a slam. But, he blocks a suplex and turns it into an innovative snapmere against the ropes, damaging the leg of Blake. A second of these is followed by a tag to Simon Gotch, who continues the assault on Blake’s left leg. Gotch ties up the legs of Blake, showing his strongman capabilities with some squats whilst maintaining the hold, before falling back in a submission hold. English tags in and assaults the leg of his opponent with elbows and knees, as the Vaudevillains continue to make frequent tags with their methodical attack on the injured limb of Blake. Blake manages to apply a small package, but before he can tag his partner he is stopped by a low dropkick by Gotch. English makes his way back in, but is shoved away by Blake. He tries to take down Buddy Murphy on the apron, but misses and is caught in a back body drop.
Murphy explodes into the match off the hot tag with clotheslines and elbows on English. A flying heel kick catches the Artist, as Murphy nips up, followed by double knees to take the seated English. Gotch breaks the resulting pin attempt, before dispatching of the hobbling Blake over the top rope. He then makes a blind tag on English, who is caught with a kick to the gut by Murphy. He is then caught from behind with an uppercut to the back of the head from Gotch, into the swinging neckbreaker by English to earn a hard-fought victory.
It’s easy to see the positives in both these teams, and beside the blind tag from Gotch looking like it missed, this was a solid match. Blake and Murphy are quickly growing into a fantastic pairing, with a number of strong performances under their belts in a competitive division. But, at the moment it is the Vaudevillains’ time, as they have the stronger gimmick and more experience in NXT. They should put on another great encounter next week with the Lucha Dragons, but don’t count out Blake and Murphy making a splash in the near future.
Rating – 3/5
Bull Dempsey vs. Elias Sampson/Baron Corbin vs. Steve Cutler
Bull Dempsey has demolished every superstar that has stood opposite him since debuting on the NXT roster a few months ago. His immense power, ferocious punches and relentless aggression have made him an intimidating prospect for any opponent. This proved the case for Elias Sampson tonight, as Dempsey attacked with a purpose. As the crowd count the seconds, Dempsey takes shots at the back of Sampson, before running him over with a standing splash. His victim on the mat, Dempsey climbed the ropes and flew off with a headbutt to result in an easy victory. As Dempsey heads up the ramp in victory, but a scowl still on his face.
Then, the lights go black as Baron Corbin makes his way down to the ring, passing the enraged Dempsey. Corbin pays the big man no mind as his focus is solely on his upcoming victim Steve Cutler. This intention is turned into what has become a typical demolition job, with simply a kick to the gut and the End of Days in a counted-out 13 seconds. As Corbin smirks in another victory, Dempsey stares in anger at the man standing in the ring before departing.
These squash matches have been useful in making both Dempsey and Corbin over with the audience, but it is now time to bite the bullet and put these two in a match. Both need to be tested in an extended battle before they can realistically be considered for the main roster. It would be interesting to see whether Corbin could use his emphatic finisher on someone of Dempsey’s size, but it should be a compelling fight between two powerful stars.
Rating – 2.5/5
Hideo Itami & Finn Balor vs. Tyson Kidd & Tyler Breeze
The emergence of Finn Balor has been a fantastic success in NXT, his mixture of high-flying aptitude, impressive kicks and technique has made him an instant hit in this environment. Hideo Itami has been a little bit more of a slow-burn as he learns to balance the style that made him a household name in Japan with the WWE system. But, both as a tandem have been the source of a number of superb matches, and with Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze opposite them this evening, it should be no different. Itami and Balor will be desperate to enter their match with the Ascension in strong form, so expect an exciting encounter.
Itami opens the bout with Kidd, entering some quick chain wrestling before being knocked down with a shoulder tackle. Breeze tags in, as he and Itami trade wrenching on each other’s arms, the Japanese star getting the upper hand. He drags Breeze over to make the tag to Balor, who jumps in with a stomp onto the supermodel wannabe. Breeze ducks an attempted clothesline into a blind tag from Kidd, allowing the Canadian to attack Balor from behind. The action returns from break with Breeze in control of Balor with a hard kick to the chest, before repeatedly raining down boots in the corner. Breeze then connects with a suplex, before holding the Irishman in place for a wicked kick to the ribs from Kidd. Kidd stomps repeatedly on the chest of Balor, then landing a neckbreaker with an expert float-over into a near fall. Balor eventually fights out of a double arm-stretch with forearms, but Kidd then avoids a dropkick by clinging to the ropes.
A tag is made to Breeze who sends Balor crashing to the mat with a neckbreaker of his own, before getting frustrated over the Irishman kicking out of the resulting cover. Kidd enters back in to choke away at Balor against the ropes, before coming down with his guillotine legdrop. After Balor fights out of another pin attempt, Kidd whipped him into the turnbuckle, but he fights away with his Pele kick. He crawls over to Itami for the tag, and the International Sensation unleashes a flurry of hard kicks into the chest of Breeze, ending with a flying boot to the face. Another kick in the corner is then followed by a hesitation dropkick after taking down Kidd with a knee to the gut. Itami and Kidd take their fight to the outside, with Balor jumping in with a double foot stomp. Itami returns with a Buzzsaw Kick to Breeze to earn a hard-fought victory.
With the caliber of these superstars in the ring, as a fan your bar is set immensely high, but the competitors continue to reach and surpass all expectations. Itami looked his best in this match, his kicks looking very solid and aggressive, although I would like to see him employ some more of his extensive move-set. Balor is excellent as always, and Kidd and Breeze are continuing to be two of the most consistently impressive members of the roster. One part of the match that confused me a bit was a segment towards the end, where the camera panned away and the crowd seemed to become overly excited by something, but they might have been a production error, and should not be held against the performers that produced another great encounter.
Rating – 3.5/5
Adrian Neville & Sami Zayn Face Off
NXT Champion Adrian Neville makes his way down to the ring in a suit, a week away from one of his biggest defenses against long-time friend Sami Zayn. After his last two defenses against the popular redhead have ended in controversial fashion, with Neville taking advantage of some kindness of his friend to retain his belt. The Geordie mentions that early in his time on the microphone, saying that he didn’t want either match to end in such a fashion. But, he reiterates that he is willing to win and keep his title at all costs, and that he doesn’t feel ashamed for his recent actions in maintaining his grasp on the gold. He concludes by saying that Zayn lacks that killer instinct, that winning mentality, and that is why he will never become champion, because he is too nice.
This brings out Sami Zayn, who walks to the ring with more purpose and assertiveness than his normal skipping routine. Neville says that he will not feel responsible for any post-match antics by Zayn, who stated last week that he may walk out if he can’t win the title. Zayn then responds, saying that all that Neville is suggesting about the way he behaves is really getting on his last nerve. He doesn’t take too kindly to being treated like his baby sister, telling him how he should behave to be successful, because he has already done pretty well for himself. He reiterates that whatever happens after the match will be down to Zayn alone, and not to do with Neville. Neville does in turn states that he does respect Zayn as a competitor, and extends his hand wishing luck to his opponent for next week. Zayn says in return that he is tired of doing the right thing and being the good guy, slapping Neville across the face and promising to take his title at Takeover III, as the crowd cheer in anticipation for this explosive situation to reach its conclusion.
What a great way to sell your main event, building up a situation where both stars can be liked and disliked for their actions. In a way, I feel kind of sorry for Neville, who hasn’t done a great deal to merit the crowd turning on him as they have. Zayn is immensely popular as a sympathetic babyface, and has worked very hard to make his way to the top, and everybody is waiting for him to become champion. Neville is simply a roadblock, and whilst he has been a great champion, everybody wants Zayn to have his moment in the sun. This just adds a fire to this match and tension between the two that will likely make it their greatest match ever, and helps to elevate the NXT Championship to new heights.
Rating – 4.5/5