Pro Wrestling

10 Reasons Why NXT TakeOver Was Better Than WrestleMania Source:

It’s almost hard to believe that the same company that put on WrestleMania, a show as full of boneheaded decisions as it was great wrestling, could have, not two days earlier, put on one of the greatest wrestling shows we’ve ever seen. NXT TakeOver: Dallas was the latest in a series of WWE Network events designed to showcase WWE’s developmental system in a PPV-like environment, as another way of preparing the next crop of wrestlers for the bigger stage of the main roster. In 2015, NXT’s TakeOver specials were among the highlights of the year, topped by the incredible Brooklyn event on SummerSlam weekend, which featured what may have been the best Women’s match in wrestling history up to that point. Well, we’re here to tell you that, with their very first TakeOver of 2016, NXT has topped even the lofty, seemingly insurmountable heights of that Brooklyn show, with a special that was incredible, from start to finish, and by our estimation, miles ahead of the show put on by the main roster just two days later. Don’t believe us? Well, we’ve got some examples here, but more importantly, you need to watch NXT TakeOver: Dallas on the WWE Network and see it for yourself.

10. Finn Balor

It feels ridiculous that we’ve ranked the NXT Champion so low on this list, and we don’t want to turn this into one of those “Finn Balor isn’t actually that good” discussions we’ve seen cropping up lately. Finn Balor really is that good, and the only reason he comes in relatively low is because on a show like NXT TakeOver: Dallas, being the NXT Champion and a guy who dresses up in demon bodypaint, who also brought a freaking chainsaw with him for his entrance, just wasn’t good enough to get any higher on this list. The fact that we’re telling you this should give you an idea of just how high a bar we’re setting for your expectations, and we want to assure you right now that this show will absolutely clear that bar. Finn was his usual solid self at TakeOver, wrestling a good, physical brawl with Samoa Joe, escaping with his title due to superior tactics, and, of course, might have some associates coming around to watch his back in the very near future. All in all, a good night for the Demon. Source:

9. Baron Corbin

Corbin has become NXT’s best-kept secret, and is threatening to become one of the developmental program’s biggest homegrown successes. His recent character shift into someone who is insanely jealous of all the smaller “indie darling” wrestlers that keep coming in and overshadowing him was just the perfect wrinkle that turned him from a decent big man into someone who could legitimately fit onto the WWE main roster. And given that he won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania, it looks like he might actually get that chance sooner than we’d anticipated. Corbin did not win his match with Austin Aries, because the part of the point behind his character is that in reality, he is young and inexperienced and totally overmatched when going against the hardened indie veterans that have managed to make it to NXT, but he’s still got his size and his arrogance, and that’s what keeps him as an engaging character who can absorb a loss and just use it to fuel his fires of hatred. Plus, wrestling against some of the best in the world can’t help but make Corbin a far better wrestler in the long run. SourcE:

8. Bayley

Realistically, this was inevitable. At some point, the wild ride of Bayley’s championship run was going to come to an end, and no matter when it happened, it was going to be heartbreaking. There were reports that 8-year-old Izzy, Bayley’s biggest fan, had to be taken out of the arena in tears when it happened, and to be fair, a lot of the much older audience was probably right there with her. Not that is’s a good thing to make children cry, but it’s a symbol of how passionate Bayley’s supporters really are. Bayley’s character is lovable in a way that should seem ridiculously cheesy, but isn’t. She genuinely comes across as someone who likes everyone, and the fans responded by liking her right back. When she became NXT Women’s Champion, she evolved from an underdog into a confident champion, a standard bearer for women’s wrestling that the fans could unite behind, and she became tougher as a result. That’s why it’s okay that she lost at TakeOver, because she never gave up, the spirit and dedication that had made her so strong and so lovable never quit, her body just couldn’t keep going when put up against someone who just happened to be the better wrestler on that night. Whether Bayley’s future holds a rematch for the title or a promotion to the main roster (or both), nobody should be truly disappointed about the fact that she lost that match. Source:

7. Asuka

Speaking of the woman who dethroned Bayley, Asuka is now a force of nature unto herself. She is to the NXT Women’s Division what Brock Lesnar is to the WWE main roster. She’s so good, so talented, and so brutal in her dominance that it’s hard to imagine anyone who could beat her. That’s another reason why it’s okay that she was the one to defeat Bayley, because it was a contest of equals where Asuka managed to be just a bit better, as opposed to some contrived loss to a clearly lesser opponent like Eva Marie or Nia Jax, where heel heat would poorly cover up the fact that neither of them could be an adequate replacement for the standard that Bayley and her departed Horsewomen brethern established. If this is the end for Bayley in NXT, whether immediately or in the next few months, Asuka is a more than appropriate replacement as the cornerstone of the evolved NXT Women’s Division. We may never see something like the Four Horsewomen again, but the tradition of excellent women’s wrestling that they created should be in good hands with the Empress of Tomorrow. Source:

6. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn is one of the most likeable people in the world, and he’s also a massive underdog who fights against bigger and stronger people because he needs to prove to himself that he can overcome the odds. As a result, Sami takes a lot of beatings. But in the match he had at TakeOver, Sami was forced to do more than just take a beating. In order to survive, he was going to have to take the fight to his opponent, and he did it in a way that made him seem just as tough as his opponent without crossing a line and acting heelish in any way. He was Sami Zayn with an edge, but he was still the same guy. His match also served as a fitting tribute and farewell to the man who helped build NXT into what it is today, as he moved to the WWE roster Full-time (and somehow had to compete in a 7-man ladder match less than 48 hours later), almost passing the torch to one of the men who might be his successor. But we’ll get to that guy. Source:

5. American Alpha

We’ve run out of superlatives with which to describe the incredible wrestling abilities of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan. Gable wrestles like he’s five steps ahead of his opponent, and Jordan is a ball of power and energy that makes him the hottest hot tag in the business. But what we’re really going to focus on is the emotional attachment this team created in such a short time. Thanks to WWE’s Breaking Ground program on the Network, we learned that before managing to form a team with Gable, Jordan was legitimately worried that he would be fired from NXT, after spending years in the system without really catching on. So, when the bell rang at TakeOver and Jordan was handed an NXT tag team title belt, a well of emotions flooded out of him, as he celebrated with tears in his eyes in front of jubilant audience. For Jason Jordan, the titles were a validation of his decision to become a pro wrestler, a sign that he’d made the right decision, and a truly meaningful accomplishment in his life. And it was made even better by the fact that Gable clearly knew how much this meant to Jordan, and was right there support him. Just watch this Fallout video and try not to tear up just a little, we dare you. American Alpha is a tag team composed of two people who actually care about each other, and isn’t that what tag teams are really supposed to be? Source:

4. Samoa Joe

For a while, it was hard to explain to people why Joe was at one point considered the best wrestler in the world, because the Joe that initially arrived in NXT was not that man. Perhaps he’d been beaten down by a career in TNA, perhaps it was just age creeping up on him, but Joe just wasn’t himself for a long time. But we’re happy (and quite a bit frightened) to report that those days are over. The Joe that patrolled the ring at TakeOver is, once again, one of the scariest wrestlers on the planet, not because he’s gigantic, or because he’s got a weird supernatural gimmick, but because Samoa Joe looks like he could kick your ass without breaking a sweat, and more importantly, he would do it without showing any emotion. The Samoa Joe who fought Finn Balor at TakeOver busted himself open with a headbutt and swatted aside everyone who tried to treat him because he was too busy trying to hurt his opponent (let’s just take a minute to say that even though we didn’t like how the repeated attempts to fix Joe’s cut hurt the flow of the match, it was a very necessary thing that had to be done). Now, when the crowds chant “Joe’s Gonna Kill You”, we can see what they mean. Samoa Joe is back, and the rest of WWE needs to be worried. Source:

3. The Announce Team

We’d say we hate to harp on how bad the announcing is on Raw every week, but we don’t, because it’s awful and it needs to change. Much like a lot of things on the main roster, NXT completely outshines their counterparts at the announce table. Tom Phillips, freshly demoted from his position on the main roster, has created an engaging chemistry with Corey Graves, who channels some of the best heel color commentators of history and absolutely makes it work. Combined, they have a very natural banter that feels so much more relaxed than our weekly dose of JBL berating Cole while shilling the Network and referencing obscure characters from pop culture that nobody under 70 has ever heard of. During TakeOver, Phillips and Graves made sure to keep the focus where it belonged, on the action in the ring. During slower periods of the match, they made sure to keep viewers informed, with useful notes about the story behind the match, and each competitor’s history in wrestling. Nakamura’s extensive career in New Japan was referenced, as were the amateur careers of American Alpha, and the independent exploits of Sami Zayn’s mentor, El Generico (they can’t be the same person, Sami doesn’t even own a mask). And at one point, you got the sense that Phillips and Graves had gotten so caught up in a match that they just stopped talking and let the action speak for itself. When done correctly, an announce team can significantly enhance the experience of a wrestling show, and NXT succeeded in every sense of the word. Source:

2. Everyone Won, And Everyone Lost

Listen, we know that screwy finishes happen. Done well and sparingly, an inconclusive or screwjob ending can enhance an ongoing feud or become the impetus for a great story. However, WWE has become over-reliant on distractions, interference, and general shenanigans in the majority of their matches, under some misguided belief that tainted losses “protect” the losing wrestler. While that may occasionally be true, when AJ Styles is getting repeatedly pinned because he gets distracted by someone’s entrance music, how long before the audience sees him as an easily duped moron? Even WrestleMania was not immune to the curse, as several matches involved gratuitous interference from outside forces, clearly designed to either prolong feuds or allow the losing wrestlers to save face. Meanwhile, at TakeOver, every single match ended in a clean victory. Every. Single. Match. Somebody emerged victorious due to their superior abilities, and someone else ended up just not being good enough. Did it damage Sami Zayn’s character that he lost cleanly to Shinsuke Nakamura after a hard-fought match? Did it hurt Joe? Or Bayley? No, it didn’t, because NXT’s matches were treated like they were competitive bouts between wrestlers of nearly equivalent skill, and in the end, someone won, and someone did not. The person who won got the glory of defeating someone with their own hands, and the loser, well, they’ll come back next week and try harder. That’s why clean finishes are important, and it’s something WWE seems to have forgotten. Source:

1. Shinsuke Nakamura

We’re not quite sure how to describe the incredible experience that was watching Shinsuke Nakamura make his NXT debut. Forget about saying “if he’s not a star in the next year”, because Nakamura is already a star. He was one of the biggest stars in Japan, and he was a huge star two seconds after his incredible music hit to signal his arrival at TakeOver. Watching Nakamura make his entrance was as if someone had forcibly grabbed us and said “You need to watch this”, because his pure charisma is so great that it almost takes physical form. And then he got in the ring and fought Sami Zayn, and it was the most unique and incredible thing we’ve ever seen in a wrestling match. Nakamura’s “Strong Style” is something that needs to be seen to be believed, and the sheer brutality of his strikes and maneuvers took that match to another level, one we don’t believe we’ve ever seen in WWE before. If there was one match that you watched this weekend, it needed to be this one, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely must. Over many years of being a wrestling fan, we’ve had multiple people ask us “how can you like pro wrestling?” But when you see something like Zayn-Nakamura, when you see pro wrestling at it’s very best, all we can say to those people is: How could we not? Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.