Linus Report: NXT Takeover: Rival

Linus Report: NXT Takeover: Rival

Hey, it’s NXT Takeover: Rival! It’s a sort of pay-per-view that you don’t have to pay per view!

I was so stoked for this show that I not only got back up out of my bed at 12.30 to watch the pre-show on the WWE Network, I also listened to HHH’s conference call with the wrestling press from the day before. It’s fair to say that I loves me some NXT.

And that’s because they never disappoint. I made a terrible mistake the other week by watching Raw live, but never for a minute did I think I’d regret getting up for this in the middle of the night. That’s a quality seal right there.

Anyway, the show started with Hideo Itami making his entrance for his match with Tyler Breeze, which had been set up by an angle on WWE.com after NXT went off the air last week.

Itami knocked Breeze out of the number one contenders’ tournament at the quarter-final stage, and Breeze had said that he was watching the rest of the tournament with interest. When Itami was defeated in the semi-finals by Finn Balor, that made Breeze angry, and he attacked Itami. And so it’s on.

Breeze came to the ring with a furry selfie-stick, enabling him to get a really good look at himself on his ‘phone. A crazed “fan” jumped the guardrail to shower him in kisses before being dragged off by security. Gold.

So, they had a match. And, lo, it was a good match. For all the plaudits the ex-indy stars like Zayn, Owens, Neville & Balor receive, Breeze can keep pace with them, but often gets lost in the shuffle.

Itami kicked Breeze a lot, and Breeze worked on Itami’s knee to counter those kicks. Such a basic story, and basic worked here. Itami teased the GTS again but got the win with his running kick and continued to look good.

Backstage, they showed William Regal sternly standing over a seated Kevin Owens as the referee for the title match was talking to Owens. Owens was just looking at his ‘phone.

Hey, it’s Bull Dempsey! He’s a bit doughy! He’s fighting Baron Corbin, in a No DQ Match because reasons. I think most people would rather their feud have ended two weeks ago, when Corbin dispatched Dempsey in the quarter-finals of the tournament, but we can’t always get what we want.

Corbin came to the ring wearing his new t-shirt. I mean, the new one that you & I can buy, rather than one he just bought himself. This meant he was not wearing his swank denim cut-off. Booooooooooo!

There were two funny moments in this match, one deliberate and one accidental. The accidental one came when Bull clotheslined Corbin over the top rope and was meant to have the inertia of the move carry him over, too, but it didn’t and instead he just kind of blobbed his way over, landing way after Corbin. The deliberate one was when the crowd were chanting for tables and Bull looked under the ring, didn’t find any, and shrugged. Heh.

Corbin got the win when Dempsey grabbed a chair but fell victim to the End of Days. Hopefully that’s it for these guys because as surprisingly un-bad as this match was, I think Dempsey needs a new start. Corbin marches on!

Backstage, Regal and the referee are talking to Sami Zayn, who is attentive and happy. Night and day. So good.

The Lucha Dragons came to the ring for their NXT Tag Title re-match with Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy, who will be forever known in my house as the Dubstep Cowboys.

The Cowboys had scored an upset win over the Dragons two weeks ago, and – as fighting champions – agreed to a re-match tonight.

You know the best thing about Blake & Murphy, other than their dubstep intro? It’s that you could drop them into any era of wrestling, from the 1970s to today, and they’d fit right in. That’s my kind of tag team.

This was sloppy early on, and then I never got to see it recover because my network buffered. I could go back and watch it again, and I might do one day, but I live for the moment and so let’s say that Blake & Murphy won with something. I saw them celebrating, so I’m sure of that.

[Professional integrity requires me to tell you that Murphy got the pin with a top rope frog splash after Blake hit a running suplex on Sin Cara]

The feed was hacked at this point by whoever is coming next week. Clue: it’s Solomon Crowe.

They did sit-down interviews with Adrian Neville and Finn Balor, to hype their clash in the final of the number one contenders’ tournament. This was good.

Hey, it’s Adrian Neville! He’s first in the ring for the final match-up, and receives quite the welcome from the NXT faithful. But nothing compared to Finn Balor, for whom the crowd LOSE THEIR SHIT. Balor is wearing a modified version of the bodypaint he wore at the last Takeover show, and you can already buy the t-shirt at WWE.com.

So then they had a really bad match. Haha, fuck off, as if you’d believe that! They were excellent – Neville as good as I’ve seen him against anyone other than Sami Zayn, and Balor looked the best he has since coming to NXT.

They did a ton of stuff, and it was 99% crisp and cool, particularly the spot where Adrian Neville, looking for some respite on the outside, got dropkicked off a chair through the guardrail.

Balor got nearfalls with a double foot stomp and a powerslam DDT, and Neville almost got the pin himself with a corkscrew moonsault from the second rope.

The finish came when Neville went up for the Red Arrow and Balor got his knees up. After a cradle for a nearfall, Balor dropkicked Neville into the turnbuckles and hit the double foot stomp for the 1-2-3.

After the match, Balor offered his hand and Neville shook it. HONOUR!

They showed a video emphasising Charlotte’s dominance as NXT Women’s Champion. Sasha Banks said she knew how to beat Charlotte. Becky Lynch said she would do what it took to wear the gold. And Bayley said she had to be out for herself because everyone else was. Another great video.

Hey, it’s the NXT Women’s Championship Fatal Four-Way! It’s Charlotte versus Sasha Banks versus Becky Lynch versus Bayley!

Bayley came out first, with her wacky inflatable wavey arm men. The little girl that is always at NXT shows was in the front row, wearing Bayley’s new “I’m A Hugger” shirt. Seeing that girl makes me excited for when I can take my little girl to the wrestling shows.

Becky and Sasha came out next, leaving the champ to come in last. They stood in the four corners of the ring, a Mexican stand-off (plus one).

Well, this was awesome. These four had a tag match a few weeks ago and it was not good. But they’ve been working this match around the house shows for a few weeks and it showed, because this was almost perfect. Such a contrast to the “Divas” on the main roster.

And you know why that is? Because NXT books its women as women, not as an advert for a reality show on E! Fuck Total Divas.

They worked a great four-way style, with multiple woman spots interchanged with times when two women were out on the floor, leaving a straight-forward tussle in the ring. They key to that working – and to any match which goes out of the ring – is that people can only watch one thing at a time. Learn that lesson, independent wrestlers! Sermon over.

Bayley almost got the win with a Bayley-to-Belly from the top rope on Becky Lynch, but Sasha Banks broke it up. Banks then locked on the Bank(s) Statement, and wore down Charlotte, who was reaching for the ropes. Sensing the champion was weakening, Banks rolled into a crucifix for the win and is your new NXT Women’s Champion!

After the match, Charlotte offered a handshake to Banks, who reticently accepted. Charlotte then pulled her in for an awkward hug, which Banks initially accepted but then pulled out of. This had all the hallmarks of a farewell to Charlotte, who must be off to the main roster soon: she’s going out on top and leaves a healthy women’s division behind.

Hey, it’s main event time! They showed the video package from last week’s show again and it’s even better the second time around because you notice little details about the photos they showed of these two friends in their younger years.

Kevin Owens came to the ring to cheers that Roman Reigns would be envious of. He’s a heel, but he’s an awesome heel, and he’s heeling it up for the right reasons – to feed his wife and kids.

Sami Zayn came out much more reserved than usual. No dancing for Sami tonight. Sami was wearing his new t-shirt, which is swank but would look better in black. While Sami was making his entrance, Owens stayed in his corner, staring straight ahead. All business.

They started out slow, with Owens stalling on the outside. Zayn got angry and brought him back in, risking a DQ with punches on the ropes. Owens came back with some HUGE clotheslines and a whip into the turnbuckles that sent Zayn ten feet up in the air on impact.

From this point on, Owens was just picking Zayn apart. Bodyslams, gutbusters, sentons, and a nice line in chinlocks, all designed to wear the champion down.

Zayn came back with a couple of clotheslines and sent him to the outside with a third. Back in the ring, Zayn got a nearfall with a Blue Thunder Bomb but then ran into a superkick and got cannonballed in the corner for a nearfall for Owens.

Owens hit a shoulder-breaker and then went for the pop-up powerbomb, but Zayn hit back with a dropkick and a suplex for a two-count. They trade moves and Owens hit a 450 splash from the top rope but Zayn got his knees up. It looked to do more damage to Zayn’s knees than to Owens’s considerable bulk.

Zayn can barely walk but hit an Exploder Suplex. He looked to follow up with the Helluva Kick but Owens had gone outside. He tried to powerbomb Zayn on the apron but Zayn grabbed the ropes and hit an Arabian moonsault onto the ramp, hitting his head on landing.

Back in the ring, he sold the effects of that headshot, as the announcers speculated – without actually saying the word – that he might have a concussion. Zayn started a Helluva Kick run but got disoriented. He tried again and ran into a pop-up powerbomb for a nearfall.

Owens then hit Zayn in the head a lot. A trainer came out to check on Zayn but Owens hit a pop-up powerbomb. And then another. Zayn kicked out of a loose cover and the trainers came into the ring to check on Zayn. Owens hit two more powerbombs and the referee jumped in to stop a fifth, and called for the bell. Your winner, by referee stoppage, and NEW NXT CHAMPION… Kevin Owens!

Man, this ruled. I have some slight reservations about the finish, notably the involvement of the trainers, but I realise that’s how it’s done in MMA and I can let it slide. And maybe this might have been the time for Owens to use the package piledriver? But those are minor, minor complaints stacked up against an INCREDIBLE battle between two men at the top of their game.

This was a Very Good show. Once again, NXT knocked it out of the park when it came to a big show, and if Charlotte (and maybe Sami Zayn) do disappear up to the main roster, there’s tons of talent left behind to ensure that continues for a long, long time.

In that conference call that I listened to because I’m a huge geek, HHH said that he dreamed of NXT becoming like WCW used to be, a genuine competitor to the main roster, and for talent to switch between the two. He may just do it, the crazy bastard.