Or as it is otherwise known: “Somehow less Fake than News”
Emanating from San Antonio, TX
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, ‘Showtime’ Percy Watson
TYE DILLINGER VS. ERIC YOUNG
RODERICK STRONG VS. ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: #DIY (c) vs. THE AUTHORS OF PAIN
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: ASUKA (c) vs. BILLIE KAY vs. PEYTON ROYCE vs. NIKKI CROSS
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP: SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (c) vs. BOBBY ROODE
SPOILER WARNING: MATCH RESULTS AHEAD, Y’ALL BEEN WARNED
Well, its been about a year since NXT last found itself in Texas for a live special. That show was, of course, TakeOver: Dallas, an incredible spectacle that saw the arrival of Shinsuke Nakamura in a Match of the Year candidate with Sami Zayn, the beginning of Asuka’s reign atop the women’s division of NXT, and another notch in the belt of Finn Balor as NXT’s most prolific NXT Champion.
One year on, and the landscape of NXT has shifted dramatically: Nakamura is the reigning NXT Champion, and Asuka has had a year-long reign of dominance as Women’s Champion with virtually no genuine competition. Of course the most notable difference is that many of the big names at TakeOver Dallas; Zayn, Balor, American Alpha, Bayley; have all moved on to the “greener” pastures of the main roster, and while Samoa Joe is still technically part of the brand, he’ll likely be moving on very soon too. And in that time, there seems to be some concern that NXT is beginning to lose its incredible momentum the more that top talent from the brand gets poached for the main roster.
There’s no doubt that the past year has been a time of transition for NXT, and for my money, they’ve done pretty damn well, poaching and all. In that time, Bobby Roode blessed us with his glorious presence, DIY became an electric sensation of a tag team, Tye Dillinger became disgustingly over, and Joe and Nakamura had a brilliant and hard-hitting (if not slightly overlong) war over the NXT Championship. Sure, the women’s division is still in a state of recovery, and there is (if I’m being honest) something of a lack of truly compelling talent outside the existing top acts, but even in spite of these issues, NXT is still going strong.
With that said, TakeOver: San Antonio was a strangely hollow experience for me. Little of that had to do with the matches and the crowd themselves, both of who were incredibly hot throughout the entire night. Dillinger and Young had the task of opening the show, and they did not disappoint: Dillinger’s momentum and popularity right now is truly insane, and given how strong his performances have been of late, entirely earned. This is to say nothing of Eric Young, who also proved himself a real workhorse in this match to boot. The momentum of this opening contest sailed through easily into the next match between Roderick Strong and Andrade Almas, who had a thrilling, and incredibly hard-hitting bout. While I feel he’s a little short on flair and style, Strong is an undeniably fantastic worker, smooth and incredibly crisp with every piece of offense he throws out. Almas is also getting better and better, and he seems to be finally finding his footing as a heel after his months-long meandering baby face run.
As for the big three title matches, they were about what you would expect from NXT championship matches, which is to say, excellent. The Tag Team Title match was fast-paced, and hard-hitting affair, if a little short. Both teams played perfectly to each other’s strengths, and there wasn’t a dull moment or botched move to be had throughout. The Women’s Championship match was a similarly chaotic and fun bout characterized by some excellent psychology: keeping Asuka and Cross away from each other for most of the match was a smart hype-building move for their inevitable one-on-one clash, and it was actually refreshing that Kay and Royce’s alliance didn’t break down during the match like alliances of their nature so often do in these types of matches, proving to be one of those cases where the biggest surprise was no surprise. And speaking of excellent psychology, there was plenty of that in the NXT Championship match. A stellar bout through and through, Nakamura and Roode certainly lived up to the “biggest money match in NXT history” tagline with their excellent match, characterized by the aforementioned fantastic and clever moments of ring psychology and some incredibly strong elements of story-telling that made the match’s ending that much more satisfying from a narrative standpoint.
So yeah, the matches were obviously more than fine, but perhaps it was the nature of the booking that resulted in San Antonio falling a little flat for me. I dunno, maybe this is a credit to the strength of NXT’s booking, but the heels winning out in so many matches on this card ended up kind of bumming me out. In may ways, I was satisfied from a story-telling perspective, since a lot of these finishes made sense: AOP have been groomed for the Tag Titles since the moment they stepped into the company, Eric Young and SaniTY needed a strong showing in their debut live special, and the sublime psychology and story-telling of the NXT Championship match made Bobby Roode’s big win the ideal crescendo to the feud’s narrative up to this point.
But all that doesn’t really change the fact that Tye Dillinger suffered yet another damaging big loss, and that two perennial fan favorite acts had their title reigns cut frustratingly short. I suppose this is all in due service of the greater story-telling good, but it doesn’t make it that much less irritating, especially when it comes to Shinsuke Nakamura, whose beginning to look like a bit of a paper champion having now had two reigns that have ended with either no successful or only one successful defense at a couple of months apiece: at least DIY got a few defenses in before dropping their belts to the Authors of Pain.
Something else that stood out to me was that, by the standards of most cards, this TakeOver was a little scant on matches, which wasn’t really that big a deal given their quality, but it does say something slightly worrying about the current talent pool in NXT. This is doubly true for what was arguably the night’s biggest surprise: Seth Rollins gate-crashing the show to call out Triple H. Fun moment though it was, its hardly a reasonable stand-in for another match, and there was something slightly off about using NXT’s live special to further a main roster feud. Call it a taste thing I guess, but it was a moment that felt a little out of place to me.
Of course, those gripes may not be ones I share with the community at large, and I will admit could just be personal taste more than objective faults. As an overall show, TakeOver: San Antonio was still tremendous, packed with great action, great wrestling, and great story-telling.