NXT Takeover: R Evolution finally took place last night, and boy was it worth waiting for. For a show and roster that has come on leaps and bounds in the last twelve months and has rightly become the centerpiece of the WWE Network, this was a fitting culmination filled with thrills, spills and shocks galore. Nowhere was that more the case than in the main event, as Sami Zayn looked to finally prove all his doubters wrong by winning “the Big One” by defeating NXT Champion Adrian Neville. The Man Gravity Forgot has been top of the tree since February; will Zayn’s passion drive him towards the gold, or will his compassion cost him again?
That is top of a packed two-hour special, with some of the biggest stars down in NXT strutting their stuff in front of an insatiable and awesome audience down at Full Sail University. Hideo Itami and Finn Balor finally look to plot the downfall of the Ascension in their tag team match, Charlotte defends her NXT Women’s Championship against heated rival Sasha Banks, and the Lucha Dragons put their tag team titles on the line against the Vaudevillains. All that, plus the highly-anticipated debut of Kevin Owens, as he faces CJ Parker in his first match on NXT.
- Kevin Owens defeats CJ Parker
- NXT Tag Team Champions The Lucha Dragons defeat The Vaudevillains
- Baron Corbin defeats Tye Dillinger
- Hideo Itami & Finn Balor defeat The Ascension
- NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte defeats Sasha Banks
- Sami Zayn defeats NXT Champion Adrian Neville (New Champion)
Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker
This was one of those moments when you could feel something big had just happened, as the crowd’s reaction when Kevin Owens made his way to the ring said it all. It was a feeling of electricity and relief that he was finally here, and as soon as he stepped between the ropes he belonged. The crowd chanted “Fight Owens Fight” as soon as he appeared, as sign that they are on board with his new name and gimmick. R Evolution might have been the name of the event, but Owens might have kickstarted a revolution as soon as he entered NXT. His first opponent would be CJ Parker, who was previously fed to Baron Corbin in his official debut at the last Takeover event.
As soon as the bell sounds, Owens is all over Parker, with clotheslines in the corner followed by his cannonball splash, as the crowd get behind the newest roster addition. Owens destroys Parker’s sign stating that his fight means something, before showing his remarkable athleticism by soaring over the top rope onto the Eco Warrior. When the action returns to the ring, Parker responds with his flying kick to knock Owens to the canvas. Immediately he is pouncing on the debutante with stomps and kicks to keep him floored, until he misses with an attempted senton. Owens charges at his opponent in the corner, but is caught with a vicious open hand slap that actually gives him a significant nose bleed. Still, that color only seemed to wake Owens up, as when Parker charged at him with both knees in the corner, he responded immediately with a clothesline turning him inside out. Owens then connected with a pumphandle neckbreaker across his knee, before finishing off Parker with a pop-up powerbomb.
As far as debuts go, the next superstars coming into NXT would be hard-pressed to top that. I have to give credit to Parker, who helped make this into a compelling battle rather than just a basic squash and showed some good character in the process. But this was all about Owens, and the reaction that he received throughout the match showed that he belonged here. The music, the look, the maneuvers – Owens with this performance has firmly established himself as a major player in NXT, and will certainly be one of the show’s standard bearers throughout 2015.
Rating – 4/5
NXT Tag Team Champions The Lucha Dragons vs. The Vaudevillains
Next up is the first championship match of the evening, as the Lucha Dragons defend their NXT Tag Team titles against the Vaudevillains. After conquering the seemingly indomitable Ascension at the last Takeover, the champs have shown a great deal of flair and chemistry in their performances. Their high-flying offense and skillful combinations make them always entertaining to watch, as they bring something different to the usual down in NXT. As for the Vaudevillains, they are great heels, and undoubtedly the most established team in developmental outside of the Ascension. The silent movie stars have all the attributes to be great champions, but can they bring the gold into their black and white world tonight?
Sin Cara kicks off with Simon Gotch, and wastes little time bouncing on ropes onto his opponent, with crossbodys and moonsaults aplenty. Aiden English attempts to help is partner but is taken down alongside Gotch with a headscissors. Kalisto is brought in with a double kick to the chest, followed by the Dragons’ wheelbarrow senton bomb. Sin Cara returns with a dropkick and a slam to the mat, as the crowd start to get behind Gotch. English eventually gets the tag, but is immediately knocked off the apron, before pulling Sin Cara out with him onto the floor. The Vaudevillains get the work on slowing down the luchadore, with a ground-based offense mixed with some old-school assault. A pair of clotheslines and chops work over Sin Cara, and when it looks like he has an opening, Gotch takes him down with a back suplex. Their stylish and effervescent performance is continues to keep the Vaudevillains on top and keep the crowd excited.
English places Sin Cara on the top rope, but the masked athlete fights back, flipping over the thespian into a hot tag to Kalisto. He flies in with a springboard crossbody, straight into a kick to Gotch on the apron, and then a corkscrew splash on English. A handspring high kick takes him down again, with Sin Cara diving in to take down a charging Gotch. A roll-through kick sends Gotch to ringside, with English joining his partner after being hoisted over the top rope. The champions in stereo fly through the ropes, but English saves his partner by pushing him out of harm’s way and taking all of the force of the splash. Gotch almost has tears in his eyes in gratitude, as the first ever “chivalry” chant in a wrestling arena rings around the arena. Gotch brings Kalisto back into the fray, but is caught in Solita del Sol to give the champions the victory.
The crowd were really into this match, as the tag team division continues to produce quality matches down at NXT. The Vaudevillains are naturally popular due to their unique gimmick and flashy style, whilst the Lucha Dragons do possess skills that few others can match in the ring. Their chemistry was solid and produced an effective match, that might not have proven as extraordinary as some of the other bouts in the evening, did in no way disappoint the crowd. The uncommon chants they receive as well shows the inventiveness of the NXT crowd and really adds to the show in general.
Rating – 3.5/5
Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger
In what has become a typical part of every NXT show, it is time for the customary squash match featuring Baron Corbin. In a way, you have to feel sorry for upcoming victim Tye Dillinger, but Corbin’s short matches have really gotten him over with the audience. This proves to be longer than his usual affairs, which results in the crowd eventually halting their usual counting down of the length of the match. But, it is still a dominating showing by Corbin, a snake eyes followed by a big boot flooring Dillinger. He then notices in the crowd the presence of Bull Dempsey, the man that has had a few confrontations with Corbin over which is the more dominant force in NXT. Corbin stares daggers into the onlooker as he connects with the impressive End of Days, and Bull Dempsey applauds the result. The two have a staredown as Corbin skulks up the ramp, with the promise of a future feud seeming the inevitable course.
Nothing too different about this match, despite it being a longer exposition of some of Corbin’s moves. The real story is of course the potential rivalry between Corbin and Dempsey. The chance to see these dominant forces battle it out would be an exciting prospect, but it is still an unknown whether they have the stamina or storytelling ability to carry a good extended match. For now I will live in hope, and if it works out it is certainly the best course of action for both stars.
Rating – 2.5/5
Hideo Itami & Finn Balor vs. The Ascension
Time for one of the most anticipated matches on the card, as the Ascension make their entrance. The former tag team champions have had their focus on Hideo Itami since his debut at the last Takeover. The International Sensation has not shown any fear in the face of the dominant tandem, despite the fact that for months he was the victim of a number of two-on-one beatdowns. But, with the acquisition of Finn Balor in NXT, he has found a friend to combat Konnor and Viktor. The Irishman is another highly-touted star of the independent scene and in Japan, and their combination has proven thus far on a level-pegging with the strength of the Ascension.
The entrances set the tone for the bout, with Balor’s in particular a site to be seen. His Carnage inspired face paint made his entrance arguably the most epic in WWE history. The crowd went absolutely crazy, and it just sets the mind in motion thinking of other fantastic designs he might one day adorn. It was like performance art, and was one of the most awesome sights in the whole of WWE this year. They waste little time at getting into the fight, with Itami and Balor getting the early advantage with their double hesitation dropkicks. The bell finally rings and Itami starts out with a flying kick to Viktor. A tag to Balor sees the Irishman jump into a stomp, followed by a running chop into the corner. Viktor is finally able to break away and tag in the larger Konnor, but he is soon caught out by Balor’s dropkick. Itami enters back into the action with a combination of chops, slaps and kicks, but his momentum is cut down by a hefty flapjack.
Now the Ascension kick on with their aggressive beating of Itami, singling him out for their assault. Hard uppercuts by Viktor floor him to the canvas, as they maintain a methodical attack on the Japanese star. A double shoulder tackle brings about a two count, and Itami tries to escape with a spinning kick to the gut and reach his partner. Viktor tags in and immediately knocks Balor off of the apron and repeatedly stomping on Itami. Konnor returns with a flurry of kicks to Itami in the corner, with the crowd chanting ‘Ja’ with every boot landed. Itami refuses to quit, even with Viktor unleashing a variety of illegal holds, tearing at the face of the International Sensation. Konnor splashes him in the corner, but Itami will not give in. The crowd boo a few rowdies in the audience chanting “We Want Kenta”, not allowing them to ruin this quality match. Itami jumps for his partner, but is caught by Viktor and slammed into the turnbuckles. But, a missed charge sees him go shoulder first into the ring post.
Again Konnor is there to take out Balor before Itami can reach him, as the Ascension maintain their tight control. Itami eventually battles back with kicks and forearms, and crawls his way over to Balor. He takes down Viktor before using him as a springboard into Konnor, and then a hangman slam into Viktor once more. He gets caught with an elbow, but when Viktor ascends the turnbuckle he is kicked to the floor. With both Ascension members out there, Balor dives over the top rope onto them and the crowd goes wild. He sets up for his double foot stomp off the top rope, but Viktor evades it but runs into a lifting inverted DDT, which Konnor has to break the pin for. Itami sends Konnor to ringside, and Balor misses a kick and is caught with an STO. Itami returns and lifts Viktor up for the GTS, but is knocked away, leaving Balor alone in line for the Fall of Man. Itami pulls Konnor away, and Viktor is caught with the Pele kick. Itami follows up with his running knee, and he and Balor both fly off the top rope with foot stomps to seal an impressive victory.
A great match for all involved, the crowd still getting excited despite the much action already presented. Balor’s face paint was a real treat, showing WWE is not just purchasing talent but gimmicks as well. He has already shown to be a great competitor, with a form of performance previously unseen in WWE. Itami is gradually getting over as well, and the fans are really trying to get behind him with their chants. The Ascension showed their uncanny ability to control the flow of the match, and the manner in which they prevented Itami tagging in shows they understand the tag match psychology better than most. They will be great components of the main roster, as will Itami and Balor when they make their way up. This night keeps getting better.
Rating – 4/5
NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks
The next match is for the NXT Women’s Championship, as Charlotte defends her title against Sasha Banks. The former BFF partners have been at each other’s throats for the past few months, as Banks has her sights set on the belt and has bemoaned every person that got a shot ahead of her. Former number one contender Bayley felt that wrath when she was given the opportunity, as Banks corrupted Becky Lynch and proceeded to use her as an example for what she is going to do to the champ. With these two the most technically gifted women on the roster, perhaps in all of WWE, this could be a match that changes the entire landscape of women’s wrestling if it reaches its full potential.
The pair get in each other’s faces immediately, Banks shoving Charlotte in the face before being taken down herself with a Lou Thesz Press. The champion rains down fists before smashing her head into the top turnbuckle, until Banks responds in kind. Banks gives her version of the famous Flair chop, wooing in the face of Charlotte, but is then opened up with a flurry of chops from the Nature Girl. Banks escapes to ringside, and is able to knock down Charlotte when she is thrown back to the ring, before throwing her into the steel steps. This gives Banks control, as she thrusts her foot into the throat, and though Charlotte responds with a chop, this only angers the Boss to land some shoulder thrusts. She drops the knees across the waist of the champion as the crowd is split between both competitors. Banks mocks her father’s famous strut, but ends up caught in a roll-up attempt. Charlotte fights back with a jawbreaker, but is caught in a headscissors transitioned into a backstabber, pulling both her rival’s arms against her throat in a vicious submission.
Somehow after an excruciating time, Charlotte is able to find the strength to power out, but is immediately pulled back down to the mat by her hair. Banks continues the mocking of the champ by locking a figure-four headlock, slamming Charlotte’s face against the canvas like her opponent usually does. But, once again Charlotte’s strength wins out, lifting her rival into an electric chair and slamming her down hard. Charlotte fights back with chops, before transitioning a suplex into a neckbreaker. However, once again she is thrown out of the ring by Banks, with the Boss flying through the middle rope onto Charlotte, pulling out every trick in her quest to capture the belt. The pair trade forearms, chops and knees in the center of the ring, until Banks is turned inside out by a spear. This continues to go back and forth as a drop toe hold sends Charlotte into the turnbuckle, but her attempted Bank Statement is blocked. Charlotte goes for the Figure-Four Leglock, but is then caught in a small package for a near fall, then connecting with her own neckbreaker. The crowd show their appreciation as Charlotte throws Banks across the ring. She ascends the top rope for a moonsault, and though Banks avoids it she lands on her feet, and follows up immediately with a senton. Charlotte looks to throw Banks against the corner, but she escapes and catches Charlotte’s head and pulls it by her feet into the middle turnbuckle. Banks sets up for a superplex, but is caught out and thrown down hard, when Charlotte flies off with Natural Selection from a height to retain the championship.
Wow. Just wow. What a match. How can you deprive fans of these two amazing athletes competing on RAW or SmackDown every week when they just produced arguably the greatest women’s wrestling match of the past year. Really, to my mind on the Havok/Gail Kim matches come anywhere close to the technique and performance that these two divas put on. Charlotte and Sasha Banks I tip my cap to you, and if they can perform anywhere near this level against other stars like AJ Lee, Paige and Natalya, then this could be the dawning of a new divas division, and it is about damn time. Terrific match.
Rating – 5/5
NXT Champion Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn
The main event is upon us after a brilliant night of action, as Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn’s date with destiny arrives. This is arguably the biggest match in both competitors’ careers; it certainly is for Zayn, who has been desperate to show the world that he can win the big one. Neville may enter this bout as the bad guy looking to spoil the party for Zayn’s many fans, but he has been a phenomenal champion, and certainly won’t give his coveted belt up without a fight. But Zayn feels assured that this is his time to shine, and with his career in NXT potentially on the line if he can’t get it done, this should prove to be a show-stealer by anybody’s estimation.
The pair open up with a masterclass in chain wrestling. In this key area of technique, Neville is arguably in class of his own due to his remarkable flexibility and core strength. This allows him to take control of the opening exchanges, and even when Zayn responds with an arm drag, Neville flips through and lands on his feet. They start up again with Zayn whipping the champ into the corner, but Neville flips away into the other side of the ring, jumping over the top rope onto the apron. But he charges into a tilt-the-world backbreaker, sending Neville to the floor where he is met with a moonsaulting Zayn. Neville takes his time getting into the ring, staring daggers at Zayn as he re-enters on a nine count. The taller Zayn assumes control, banging his opponent’s head into the turnbuckle, until Neville turns it around with a dropkick to the back of the head. A running uppercut into the corner knocks Zayn to the mat for a two count, as Neville shows some sign of frustration. He keeps Zayn grounded with a headlock, and starts to play around with him by thrusting his boot in the beard of the Canadian.
Zayn does not respond too favorably to this treatment, fighting back with a vicious clothesline. He connects with a flying dropkick, knocking Neville to the floor, but the champ gets back in before Zayn can dive he returns with a headscissors. Neville then sets up to fly but is thrown over instead, allowing Zayn to land his soaring plancha onto the Brit. A flying crossbody follows for a near fall, and then a number of reversals leaves Neville on Zayn’s shoulders, where he falls victim to the Blue Thunder Bomb. Neville returns with a running uppercut and kick to the face, followed by a bounce-back German suplex for another close call. Zayn attempts his running armdrag from off the ropes, but is ducked by Neville and caught in a sit-out powerbomb. Neville fires in forearms, until Zayn squares up with foreheads touching, before they trade blows with little hesitation, with Neville’s flurry of kicks eventually halted by a clothesline. Zayn’s Helluva Kick attempt is blocked, with Neville climbing the top rope. But, his Red Arrow is blocked with knees, as he is caught in the Koji Clutch. Neville eventually escapes to the ropes, and then reverses an exploder suplex with a roll-up, only for Zayn’s kick out to send him flying into the referee.
Zayn’s compassion once again gets the better of him as he checks the referee’s condition. But, this allows him to be caught by a superkick by Neville, followed by a reverse Frankensteiner which almost earns the champion the victory. They continue to slug it out like two weary warriors, before Neville misses a kick which allows Zayn to hit two German suplexes, and then an exploder suplex for good measure. He lines up the Helluva Kick when Neville bails out of the ring again. However, that doesn’t save him from punishment for long as Zayn dives through the turnbuckle bottom rope into the tornado DDT. Again the kick is on the cards, but Neville grabs the referee so they both share the punishment. Neville grabs the title, showing he will do anything to keep hold of it beyond this match, but Zayn kicks him down once more. He grabs the title, but refuses to use it, as Neville rolls him up for a very near-fall. Zayn throws Neville into the corner, before finally being able to connect with the Helluva Kick and capture the NXT Championship.
The celebrations burst out of Zayn and the crowd, as they scream in pure euphoria at the outcome. The locker room pours out to give their congratulations to the popular redhead, led by his best friend Kevin Owens in a warm embrace. He is hoisted on their shoulders as he carries the much-sought after title. Eventually, the sound quiets down as Zayn comes face to face one last time with Neville, and the friends respectfully embrace, and Neville raises the new champion’s hand in victory. As he and Owens walk away after the final celebrations, Owens shocks the world by slamming Zayn’s head against the steel ramp, and then powerbombing him against the ring apron. Clearly, friendships are over now Zayn has the coveted title, and Owens has placed himself as a front-runner to becoming his first challenger with those actions.
An awesome way to end a fantastic show. Neville has been a phenomenal champion, and his athleticism, talent and speed will make him a main event star for years to come. He has it in spades, and whilst nobody wanted him to win tonight, he certainly will keep the respect of the WWE Universe forever more. This was all about Zayn though. The time for him to put his unbelievable work ethic and relationship with the fans, the many years and venues he had traveled and give him his worthy reward. He is now champion of a roster of unbelievably gifted athletes, and few people deserve it more than he does. Owens’s heel turn was not unexpected but was carried out to perfection to actually leave the audience shocked. If their upcoming feud is anything like their battles at Ring of Honor, then this match was merely a taste of what is to come.
Rating – 5/5