|Brooklyn - Barclays Center - 8.22.15|
The night before SummerSlam, NXT put on their own summer spectacular, selling out a major sports venue for the first time (nearly 16,000 people!) and creating a milestone event. The brand had evolved into a remarkable alternative to WWE's main roster product, and TakeOver: Brooklyn would be a perfect snapshot of everything NXT was doing right.
Kicking things off, Japanese legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger made his WWE debut thirty years into his career, in a really fun opener against Tyler Breeze. Tyler got in enough offense to look strong, while Liger did most of his signature moves on the way to a match-winning Liger Bomb. Very appropriate match for its spot on the card.
Blake & Murphy vs. The Vaudvillains was also a lot of fun, as Alexa Bliss's interference on behalf of Blake & Murphy was neutralized by the surprise appearance of indie sensation Blue Pants in the corner of The Vaudvillains. I was a little underwhelmed by Blake & Murphy overall so I was glad to see The Vaudvillains take the straps here.
Apollo Crews, formerly Uhaa Nation in Ring of Honor, made his televised NXT debut here in a short showcase match against perennial punching bag Tye Dillinger. Dillinger's offense seemed a little tentative but Crews made a big impression with his crazy acrobatics, finishing the bout with his amazing standing moonsault.
Next up was Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin. A battle of the bulls, this match allowed both guys to get in their stuff. Corbin looked maybe slightly out of his depth against a veteran like Joe, but still came off as a pretty dominant foil. Joe eventually countered End of Days into the Coquina Clutch for the win by ref stoppage.
Flair vs. Steamboat. Angle vs. Benoit. Rock vs. Austin. Tanahashi vs. Okada. Sometimes two wrestlers come together and become perfect natural adversaries. Everything they do in the ring just clicks and seems effortless. They tell a gripping story using incredible combinations of maneuvers, culminating in an astonishing marriage of action and drama. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley is one of those feuds. At TakeOver: Brooklyn these two put on probably the greatest women's match I've ever seen. Sasha was the classic overconfident heel and Bayley was the consummate underdog babyface, and the ensuing battle was utterly magical. After 17 miraculous minutes Bayley hit a reverse top rope hurricanrana and followed it up with her Bayley-to-belly suplex to capture the NXT Women's Title. This was arguably the best or second-best WWE match of 2015, and I could watch these two wrestle all day long.
|I can't say enough good things about this match|
The main event for the NXT Title would have a hard time following the women's classic, but Finn Balor and Kevin Owens did about as well as can be imagined. These two put together a worthy main event Ladder Match that felt totally different from the previous bout, working a safe-but-brutal-looking style, and bringing the Brooklyn crowd to its feet. The match finished in spectacular fashion, with Owens falling off a ladder to a bridged ladder below, and Balor hitting the double stomp there before climbing up and grabbing the belt. A damn fine main event that managed to not be totally overshadowed by the transcendent Women's match.
TakeOver: Brooklyn was a watershed moment for NXT, eclipsing SummerSlam's attendance figure, and delivering two massive main events. From this moment on WWE's main roster would be routinely outclassed by the upstart "developmental" promotion (It can be argued this was already happening, but Brooklyn sealed it). NXT had morphed into a full-fledged second brand, and the Women's Title was now just as prestigious as the men's. This was one of WWE's best shows of the year.
Best Match: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
Worst Match: Apollo Crews vs. Tye Dillinger, by default
What I'd Change: I can't think of anything
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really
Most Pleasant Surprise: That someone finally figured out how to make American women's wrestling a viable brand
Overall Rating: 9/10