NXT Takeover: San Antonio Review
The first Takeover of 2017 seems to have the highest and lowest of expectations attached to it by fans and professional wrestling critics alike. On one hand, NXT is coming off a roster downswing, with many of its stars heading to the main roster and leaving some glaring holes in the promotion. That said, there’s still an expectation for Takeover to hold a certain level of quality and put forward a show that is as good or better than the previous quarterly event.
How does Takeover: San Antonio hold up? Let’s dive into the matches and find out.
Opening Bout: Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young
Dillinger hits the arena to a huge pop while also wearing his knock-off Mr. Sinister collar, except this time it lights up a la Jericho’s jacket. Dillinger needs to be on the main roster, as he just knows how to whip a crowd up into a fever pitch. The male contingent of Sanity follows Eric Young to the ring, looking like they were all deleted assets from the final version of Tom Clancy’s The Division.
The jacket on Killian Dain (formerly Big Damo from ICW) has a celtic cross emblem on the back, which is a nice touch. The Sanity intro is especially cool with Tye’s jacket being the only thing lighting up the arena when the place goes dark.
The match kicks off with Eric Young offering Tye a Sanity jacket one more time, but Tye has a better fashion sense than that and chucks the jacket, punching Young and sending him scurrying.
The crowd is firmly behind Dillinger, as expected, though I am let down by the lack of response for Sanity. The early tease in this match is the numbers game from Sanity as Tye gets pummeled by Dain on the outside, the referee distracted.
Eric Young shows himself to excel at selling, with a dropkick from Dillinger that sent Eric into shock-like convulsions. Dillinger finally starts building momentum and a comeback after an impressive top-rope overhead belly-to-belly suplex but is once again cut off by Sanity rushing the ring. Dillinger clears the ring and lands the Tye Breaker, but Sanity once again saves Young from the pin, before Tye launches himself to the outside and onto Wolfe and Dain.
The numbers prove to be to much in the end, as Tye’s insistence on removing Sanity from plays costs him, getting hit with Young’s wheelbarrow neckbreaker and taking the loss.
The Finish: Sanity survives multiple Tye Breakers and Dillinger eventually falls to the numbers game, with Young landing his neckbreaker for the win.
The Good: Dillinger is a great opener and a sympathetic face in this situation; Sanity sells their gimmick at ringside well, effectively using their advantage to sell their danger. This was a solid opener, despite my disagreement with Dillinger losing yet again.
The Bad: If this was Dillinger’s last NXT appearance (which I doubt) then it’s a soft way to exit.
The Rating: *** out of *****
Samoa Joe is in the crowd, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else. You think Triple H bought him that ticket?
Match Two: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs. Roderick Strong
Almas comes out to fireworks and a pimp hat, which is a drastic improvement over the weird suspenders he rocked as a face. Strong gets a strong reaction coming out, and for good reason: This match by all accounts should be the show stealer of the night.
The heel look suits Almas much more than the weird, forced babyface that he was last year, as both guys work to feel each other out and Andrade taunts Strong by laying on the ropes.
Tom Phillips brings up Austin Ares versus Nakamura, which I totally forgot was a match that even happened. Huh. Almas continues the forcibly press Strong, barraging the former Ring of Honor Champion and slapping Roddy across the face for good measure. Almas new characterization is exactly what he needed.
Strong begins to unleash with an impressive series of strikes and lunging attacks, showing just why he’s so impressive. The tale of high-impact escalation in this match is working, as both guys are going all out despite suffering from such impactful attacks.
The striking continues to be the main story of the match, each guy trying to take the other’s head off. The turning point of the match occurs when Roddy catches Almas with a top-rope backbreaker onto the buckle, getting a strong reaction from the crowd.
Strong survives the running double-knee from Almas, countering into his reverse flapjack and following up with the running shotgun kick for the win.
The Finish: Roddy sends Andrade’s hat into the crowd with the Sick Kick for the win.
The Good: This match had a great pace, and I enjoyed the constant striking; Roddy might be one of the best brawlers and strikers in NXT; This was easily Almas’ best match in NXT to date.
The Bad: I find myself bored by the “both these guys want to be the best” storylines; Andrade still seems to be lacking something in his moveset and in-ring mannerisms.
The Rating: ***¾ out of *****
The crowd continues to be weirdly quiet through two matches, but that seems fair given that both bouts so far has lacked an extensive amount of development.
Match Three: #DIY vs. The Authors of Pain (NXT Tag Team Championship)
The Authors come out in a very SHIELD-like way, which makes sense since they look like what the SHIELD would if Roman Reigns was the only member.
DIY comes out to a big reaction, hopefully waking up the crowd in the process. I don’t like their chances of winning this match, as NXT Creative enjoys moving titles onto the hot, new thing.
I won’t lie: I wasn’t expecting much from AoP in this match, as they’ve yet to really show that they aren’t anything more than more big guys wearing tactical armor that WWE loves to push. That said, they paired well in this match with DIY, including a couple of great exchanges and striking segments where I felt the match could go either way.
The opening moments saw DIY going nuts all over the ring, striking the Authors left and right, knee strikes connecting every which way. Ciampa showed just exactly what he’s made of tonight, carrying a majority of the match with some great storytelling spots. I especially enjoyed him slapping one of the Authors in the face over and again, smiling every time he was slapped in the face. The intensity of Ciampa is something to behold.
But, as I suspected the titles weren’t long for Team DIY and the Authors become yet another new team to grab the gold in short order.
The Finish: The Authors survived dueling submissions to land the Super Collider and The Last Chapter for the win and the titles.
The Good: Easily the fastest and most intense match of the night thus far, with the Authors showing that they can hold their own against a team as good as DIY; Ciampa is a monster and deserves a solo run.
The Bad: I hate that DIY’s title reign was so short, and despite singing their praises tonight I still find myself bored by AoP.
The Rating: **** out of *****
The next match is interrupted by the appearance of a wild SETH FREAKING ROLLINS, calling out Daddy Paul from backstage. Rollins must follow Triple H on Twitter. Of course, Trips sends security in the form of performance center dudes out to capture Rollins and keeping the show going.
Rollins was great here, showing the first real bit of believable emotion and rage for the first time in this standstill of a feud.
Match Four: Asuka vs. Nikki Cross vs. Billie Kaye vs. Payton Royce (NXT Women’s Championship)
Royce and Kaye have grown on me in the last few days, and I was completely expecting their role in this match to be that of distraction. As it stands, they held a much more vital role in this contest, providing equal parts comedic distraction and real threat.
Cross and Asuka went at each other hard in the beginning, with Nikki busting out a variation of Eric Young’s straitjacket neckbreaker, then hitting Asuka with a Cross Rhodes on the outside of the ring.
From that point, the match broke down, with Kaye and Royce dragging Cross to the announcer area and dropping her through a table with a vertical suplex off the announce desk.
Cross is a non-factor for the rest of the match, as Kay and Royce focus on Asuka and give off the appearance of actually being able to topple the champion. Billie lands an impressive Widow’s Peak neckbreaker -- the finisher of former WWF Women’s champion Victoria -- but Asuka makes a recovery, kicks off some heads, and survives the fatal four way.
The Finish: Asuka survives the thunder from down under with furious kicks and retains the title.
The Good: Everyone worked well together, and Kay and Royce showed far more than they have in any other appearance to date; Cross is a beast.
The Bad: Not sure if she was hurt, or that was the planned finish, but Cross not factoring into the ending was a weird choice; also quite short.
The Rating: *** out of *****
I feel like WWE should give me a dollar every time they’ve called Roode/Nakamura “the biggest money match in NXT history.” What does that even mean? I seriously have no idea.
Final Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode (NXT Championship match)
Roode comes out to a Ric Flair-esque entrance, complete with a cadre of ladies and a flowing robe. The crowd loves Roode, but it still doesn’t compare to Nakamura’s walk down the aisle. The crowd sings Shinsuke’s them at the start, sending a look of annoyance across Bobby’s face.
The story told in this match was always going to be Nakamura’s intensity and striking versus Roode’s intelligence and capitalization on mistakes, which definitely plays into the appropriate ending to the contest. Nakamura has, in the past, turned in performances where he appears to be coasting by, but he brings his best material here. Nakamura sells like a madman throughout the entire match and turns the dial up to 11 once the injury spot happens.
Triple H is a fan of a title changing hands due to the champion suffering an injury they cannot overcome, and Roode is the most appropriate foil for such a title change. Bobby sells his character’s cunning willingness to win at all costs, putting out some great facial expressions while Nakamura screams in pain.
I’m not sure if the plan from here is to have Nakamura chase the champion until Takeover: WrestleMania, but credit goes to NXT Creative for throwing a curveball and changing the title when everyone (including myself) expected a cut and dry title defense for Shinsuke.
The Finish: Nakamura has no leg to stand on and hurts himself after landing the Kinshasa, allowing Roode to punish the champion and land the Impaler DDT for the win and the title.
The Good: Roode and Nakamura are two of the best at selling a story with physical acting, selling, and expressions. Their work here took a good match and made it a great affair.
The Bad: Nothing stands out about Roode’s in-ring work, and despite having a great outing with Nakamura that issue still stands; I’m not sure where they go from here, short of Shinsuke moving on up and out of NXT.
The Rating: **** out of *****
The show closes with Roode soaking in the crowd and Glorious ringing out all over San Antonio.
Takeover: San Antonio does a lot with seemingly very little, turning in another excellent event with what I think is the most shallow roster they’ve had in years. None of the matches were even close to being bad, and the crowd stayed into it throughout the night.
While I don’t think there’s anything memorable here, short of Nakamura handing over the title, tonight showed a lot of progress on talents such as the Authors, Roode, Kaye, and Royce, all of whom I was ready to write off as performers with a low ceiling of improvement.
This is one of the better, most consistent Takeover events and I recommend this one as a great entry point to get back into NXT if you’re a lapsed viewer.
The Rating: **** out of *****