The final live special of the year for NXT is almost upon us, and will hopefully be the perfect culmination to a show that has entertained fans greatly in the last twelve months. 2014 has been a great year for the yellow brand based in Florida, as a number of superstars and divas have developed in leaps and bounds, and some of the hottest independent talents have made the move to the big time through NXT.
With Takeover III: R Evolution on the horizon, it has all the makings of being the biggest show in the brand’s history. With NXT arguably becoming the best wrestling show period over the course of 2014, the competitors set to perform tonight will likely become the backbone of WWE for years to come, especially when it comes to the main event bouts.
So, who will walk out of R Evolution with gold around their waist, who will be carried out with their heads hung low, and when one highly anticipated star walks into NXT, who will be safe from his desire to fight?
As things stand, there are only four matches officially announced for R Evolution. Of course, these matches should receive plenty of time to provide entertaining spectacles, and there are announcements by Corey Graves and the debut of Kevin Owens to consider. But, there should be other superstars that should be given a spot on the undercard, even if these are squash matches.
A number of significant absentees are currently missing from the line-up for the event. The biggest of these is undoubtedly Tyler Breeze. Prince Pretty has had a great 2014, and was in the main event of the last Takeover event, battling for the NXT Championship. Now, even though he doesn’t have a meaningful feud going on, his omission would be a sad sight. Hopefully he will end up match, even if it is a squash against a Mojo Rawley or Tye Dillinger, just to give him something to do. Other top stars currently watching on from backstage tonight include Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, two stars you can always rely on for a laugh and entertaining promo.
However, a likely scenario that will take place is a pair of squash matches for Bull Dempsey and Baron Corbin. This has become a running theme in the last few weeks, both powerhouses looking to outdo each other in the speed that they can dispatch of their respective opponents, with Corbin so far getting the upper-hand. Whilst it is too early to pit them against each other, a clearer confrontation could be a perfect way to leave off, possibly a staredown or shoulder bump up the ramp, just to make it certain that they will be turning their wrecking balls on each other soon.
NXT Tag Team Championship – The Lucha Dragons vs. The Vaudevillains
At the last Takeover event, the Lucha Dragons achieved the seemingly impossible when they bested the dominant champions the Ascension to claim the titles. Since then they have grown as a team, their immediately remarkable chemistry blossoming into a compelling tandem, and has resulted in some excellent matches. As I have been pointing out in recent months, the tag team division in NXT has developed into a really exciting area, with teams such as the Lucha Dragons, Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy, and Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady making it a great place to watch solid wrestling. Tag team action is huge on the independent scene right now, and it’s nice to see that translate into NXT.
Tonight though, the masked champions face a very different prospect when they defend against the cunning Vaudevillains. Ever since they debuted, they have devoted themselves to a gimmick that could have easily fallen flat, but Aiden English and Simon Gotch have run with it superbly. Their backstage vignettes are entertaining, but they also show a dastardly viciousness which means that despite their appearance, they are still a force to be reckoned with in the ring. They present themselves as the ideal of manliness, and whilst that is mainly a humorous prospect, their teamwork and mannerisms have produced a team that could really make an impact on the main roster.
However, tonight won’t be their night to bring the gold into the black and white. Sin Cara and Kalisto have only recently captured the titles, and whilst as a gimmick they fall somewhat short of the Vaudevillains, they still have time left in their reign. I wouldn’t be utterly shocked if the Vaudevillains were to walk out with the belts, as they certainly merit a reign. But, with some other championships likely to change hands during the show, it might be worth stretching this out a little longer before giving them their rightful run. So for now, the titles will stay with the Lucha Dragons after an entertaining, compact bout.
Winners – The Lucha Dragons
NXT Women’s Championship – Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks
It is really great to know that this match is finally going to happen, as these two women have a great deal of history heading into this title match. Charlotte soon after debuting last year was paired up with Sasha Banks and Summer Rae in the BFFs, and they ran roughshod over the rest of the women in the division. Then, the daughter of Ric Flair was certainly athletic and willing, but still a little green and working with two ladies with more experience at the time. Since then though, her progression has been such that she is arguably the most complete female wrestler in the whole of WWE. Tall, charismatic, with extremely powerful kicks and well-versed in submission, there is very little Charlotte can’t accomplish between the ropes.
Opposite her is the second best diva down in NXT, but the gap between them is unbelievably close. Sasha Banks has all the attributes a heel should embody and exude; a cocky self-assurance, a swagger in her step, a fantastic entrance theme and attire, and she can get it done in the ring. Banks constantly berates and mocks her opponents when on top, employing a variety of submission holds and dirty tactics to maintain her advantage and inflict as much damage to her rival as possible. Her Bank Statement finisher is brutal way to defeat an opponent, and with two women as adept to submission wrestling as these two, it should be a technical affair that isn’t normally witnessed in the divas division.
Not that this will simply be a catch-as-catch-can wrestling match, as these two have demonstrated some real bad blood in the last few weeks, especially through Banks’ bullying of Bayley. Both women know each others’ styles very well, and hopefully that should blend into a solid match if they are given enough time. They are capable in the ring and have a firm grasp on in-ring psychology, and with the likes of Becky Lynch and Bayley likely lurking around ringside, do not be surprised if the finish has an underhanded element. With that said, I would probably plump for Sasha Banks to capture the title for the first time. She is a more than worthy champion, and with Charlotte having held the strap for as long as she has, it seems appropriate to make a change. Charlotte should graduate onto the main roster sometime in the next six months also, so it would be better to give Banks the rub now and allow her to rule over the division until she is inevitably called up herself.
Winner – Sasha Banks
Hideo Itami & Finn Balor vs. The Ascension
This is probably the easiest match to predict the outcome of, but that shouldn’t take away from the quality of the performances themselves. Hideo Itami and Finn Balor have been predominantly successful since joining NXT. There is little doubting they can get it done in the ring, even if Itami is still adapting to a mixture of his strong style and the WWE style. The International Sensation entered the company with a lot of hype, and whilst it has taken him some time, he now looks set to produce his best work in the coming months. As for Finn Balor, he is another that has all the technique and maneuvers down. But, I’m still not entirely sold on his entrance, as though it is theatrical, it drags on a bit and hasn’t developed much of a reaction. If as many have assumed he will unleash his unique body paint tonight, that should solve any issues.
On the opposing side, a team that will be soon stepping out of NXT and make their highly-anticipated move to the main roster early in 2015. Promos have already begun hyping the debut of the Ascension in WWE, as the most dominant tag team in NXT’s short history will be cutting their way through a new group of teams in short order. Konnor and Viktor have destroyed virtually every team they have come into contact with in NXT, their title reign of 344 days unlikely to ever be eclipsed. They will certainly be multiple time tag team champions when they arrive in WWE, their powerful tandem offense good at protecting any inefficiencies they have in singles competition.
But, with their spot on the main roster secure and the team of Itami and Balor still in the early stages of getting over, it would be highly unlikely that the Ascension walks away with the victory tonight. They have been a dominant pairing, and their gimmick has gotten over remarkably well down in NXT in spite of competing in endless squash matches and little storyline progression. However, the Ascension have done all they have needed to do down in Florida to get noticed, and so it makes little sense to send them out by defeating two guys that could do with the rub of a big win over the former champions.
Winners: Hideo Itami & Finn Balor
Kevin Owens Debut
This outside of the NXT Championship match is unmistakably the biggest reason for tuning in. Kevin Owens, formerly known on the independent scene as Kevin Steen, was probably the biggest star outside of WWE and TNA before signing for NXT a few months ago. His aggression, his remarkable agility for a man his size and his promo skills have endeared him to fans of the wrestling circuit for close to a decade. Out of everyone that has signed with NXT since it’s inception, and that includes the members of the Shield, Rusev, Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville, nobody screams future World Champion than Kevin Owens. This moment is going to be a big deal.
The only question is how is he going to make his debut, as he could have a match with a jobber or be given the Hideo Itami kind of introduction by William Regal. Well, to learn more about that, it might be appropriate to discuss it in conjunction with the other big draw of the night – the NXT Championship match.
NXT Championship – Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn
The main event has been months in the making on NXT, but has been a pursuit of Sami Zayn’s for years. The popular redhead has been viewed as the perennial underdog, a man with a great deal of heart and spirit after travelling the world in his love for wrestling. But, his positive attitude and niceness have led a number of rivals to question whether he is capable of winning the big one, including his upcoming opponent Adrian Neville. This has unleashed a different side of Sami Zayn, a side that wants to prove to others and himself above all that he is capable of being the man. That he is a worthy and deserving champion, and that he can do whatever it takes to hold that gold.
He faces one of the biggest challenges in his career in the form of Adrian Neville, and that prospect should not be taken lightly. Neville has held his championship since NXT Arrival back in February, and has arguably been the most successful holder of that belt in its history. He has fought back all challengers with his unbelievable athleticism and high-flying expertise. Of course he will enter this match as the apropos heel, but that is solely due to the crowd’s genuine love of Zayn and his underdog journey to the top. Neville will still give it his all in looking to spoil the party, and the performances of both athletes will likely be on top of their games.
This will be match of the night, and if it goes on beyond 20 minutes then it could be Match of the Year. These two are that good in the ring, and the story leading into the event has been full of emotion and intensity. This is Zayn’s battle for redemption and self-assurance, and Neville’s proof that he can be a champion in any environment. The question remains whether Kevin Owens will have a say in this bout. As Sami Zayn’s former tag team partner and greatest rival before Zayn left for NXT, he would certainly not be out of place interfering in the result. Personally, I feel that Owens won’t get involved why the match is still taking place. These two superstars deserve a definitive ending, and I can only see Zayn finally getting that feel-good moment of winning the NXT Championship at the end of the year. He and Neville will embrace, the Brit leaving Zayn to celebrate, and then he will walk into a familiar face and be sent crashing to the mat, as Owens makes his title intentions clear.
Winner – Sami Zayn