The latest installment of WWE’s new tradition of horribly upstaging their main shows has arrived!
Emanating from Orlando, Florida
ANNOUNCERS: Tom Philips, Nigel McGuiness, “Showtime” Percy Watson
SANITY vs. TYE DILLINGER, RUBY RIOT, RODERICK STRONG, AND KASSIUS OHNO
ANDRADE ‘CIEN’ ALMAS vs. ALEISTER BLACK
NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP- THE AUTHORS OF PAIN (c) vs. DIY vs. THE REVIVAL
NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP- ASUKA (c) vs. EMBER MOON
NXT CHAMPIONSHIP- BOBBY ROODE (c) vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
WARNING: MATCH SPOILERS AHEAD
Y’know, folks and yolks, I sometimes wonder why I even bother writing reviews for these TakeOver shows anymore. Not because they’re not worth talking about or undeserving; It’s more just that I’m really starting to sound like a broken record and this point raving about these shows all the time. If it’s this exhausting for me, I can only imagine how exhausting it is for all you guys reading: every time one of these goes up, you must roll your eyes, and say “Oh boy, Sam’s talking about a TakeOver show, bet he loved it, the NXT mark fanboy”- I know that’s how I think of me. Yes, the whole thing’s getting pretty tired.
So here’s another one of exactly that kind of review. Uh, late April Fool’s? I guess? Does this even qualify as an April Fool’s joke? I truly do not know.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about why these TakeOver shows are always such a delight, and I think it really comes down to one fairly simple recurring factor: simplicity. What the main shows often lack, NXT does to perfection. Its angles and storylines are rarely complicated, its stars rarely over-exposed or saddled with ridiculous gimmicks or angles, and it never overstays its welcome: these are NXT’s keys to success, and its jaunt in Orlando proved they can still unlock the door to wrestling nirvana.
TakeOver: Orlando pretty much went from strength to strength, with each match delivering in its own way. The big 8-man tag proved to be a wonderfully fast-paced and chaotic, and an incredibly fun way to open the show. If I were to lay any criticism at its feet, it was the lack of proper ring-time given to newcomer Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross. While they did plenty of brawling in and around the ring once the match broke down, their actual legal time in the match was shockingly short when compared to their male counterparts. Aleister Black’s debut proved to be a pretty exciting moment, and I really can’t wait to see what Black can do in NXT- if nothing else, his mere existence alone has already made him the most metal-as-fuck wrestler in NXT. And that’s not even mentioning what he showed off during the match itself, which points to an incredibly promising future for him as a legit star on NXT. Black and Andrade Almas put on an overall solid match, though it was admittedly one that was overwhelmed by the pace and energy of the matches around it due it its much slower and methodical nature- that, and some obnoxious fans who decided to try and ruin the finish of the match with “CM Punk” chants, but they were literally told to shut the fuck up by the rest of the fans, so I guess it all balanced out in a way. Almas’ performance here was also another reminder of just how well he works as a heel- it might be time to actually give him more of a proper push.
The Tag Team Title match on any given TakeOver card is often guaranteed to be the show-stealer, especially when the Revival and DIY are involved, and this clash continued that trend with gusto. What really stood out to me in this match was the truly excellent psychology of the match and the strong story telling involved. Not only was it amazing to see DIY and the Revival work together, but having AOP overcome both teams so decisively did a lot to put Paul Ellering’s man-beasts over as a very legit tag-team, even if the amount of punishment they were surviving started getting a bit absurd at points. With that said, things are in something of an uncertain place going forward with NXT’s tag team division after this bout, since these three tag team basically are the division.
One of the more recent delights of NXT has been watching the evolution of Asuka as a performer and character, going from a noble fierce warrior to brutal dominant champion to arrogant and smug empress atop the mountain. That transformation really came full circle in her bout with Ember Moon. While not quite as crisp or as evenly wrestled as the other matches on the card, Ember and Asuka still pulled out a great bout. The excellent story-telling from the Tag Title match carried over into this match’s finish, with Asuka’s timely use of the referee to trip up Ember Moon cementing her slow-burning heel turn while reinforcing Ember as a threat to Auska even in defeat. Great though the finish was, it did feel a little let down by the action preceding it: if the story was that Asuka couldn’t overcome Ember without resorting to cheating, shouldn’t Ember have been much more dominant during the match than she was?
That of course brings me to the night’s main event, the epic rematch between Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura for NXT’s richest prize. Of course, when you have two elite performers of the “Roode and Nakamura” variety in the ring together, the result is always gonna be, at the very least, really, really good. In this case, it was a pretty big cut above that benchmark, and easily topped their bout at the last TakeOver special. That said, I was really distracted, oddly enough, by some of the psychology involved in the match, namely Nakamura basically repeating every mistake he made in the last match that ultimately cost him his title. Maybe I’m harping too much on story-telling in this review, but it would be nice to see wrestlers wrestle rematches for matches they lost like they, you know, actually paid attention to what caused them to lose last time- it would, at the very least, add greater intrigue to the proceedings. Still, the end result was of such a high quality regardless that I can’t complain too much, and if is indeed Nakamura’s final NXT show, this was a pretty damn good note to go out on.
So, there you go, another raving positive NXT TakeOver review in the books. Call me a fanboy if you must, but as far as I’m concerned, these shows just don’t seem capable of doing wrong, and TakeOver: Orlando just continues to prove that point with great wrestling, story-telling, and the kind of raw excitement and energy that so many main roster shows just struggle to conjure up these days. Definitely worth a watch.