Monday, June 6, 2016

The History of NXT TakeOver: Respect

Respect - Full Sail - 10.7.15

Aside from the Iron Man main event, the centerpiece of the show was the semis and finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (Kinda strange to pay tribute to Dusty with a tag tournament given his greatest fame was as a singles, but okay).  The opening match was a semifinal between Finn Balor & Samoa Joe and Dash & Dawson (now known as The Revival).  This was a good fast-paced affair with Dash & Dawson showing off their throwback tag team skills.  It's very refreshing in 2015 to see two guys dedicated to the craft of tag team wrestling, given how much effort WWE has seemingly exerted to throw away that art form.  Balor and Joe teased some tension at the finish when Balor demanded a tag-in just before Joe delivered the Muscle Buster.  Balor then hit the Coup de Grace but tweaked his already worked-over knee.

The second semi-final arguably eclipsed the first, as Rhyno & Baron Corbin faced Jason Jordan & Chad Gable (now known as American Alpha).  Jordan and Gable looked fantastic here, showing many of the same skills and mannerisms of Team Angle (Jordan especially carries himself like Kurt).  The match built to a pretty great series of near-falls, reversals and finishers before Corbin countered Gable off the ropes with End of Days.  Fine matchup.

Next the vaunted Japanese women's star Asuka made her NXT debut against Dana Brooke, in one of the more entertaining glorified squashes I've seen.  Asuka just commands attention when she's onscreen.  Everything she does looks real and her facial expressions are some of the best in the business.  She takes the acting component of pro wrestling to the next level.  Brooke got in very little offense, as the match was all about showcasing Asuka's strikes and submissions.  A helluva debut for an extraordinary performer.


The show was nearly stolen by the fourth match as Tyler Breeze faced Apollo Crews.  I wasn't expecting this to be as competitive as it was, but Breeze actually got to dominate much of the bout, working Crews' back and using some very clever tactics to outmaneuver his larger opponent.  Crews made a late-match comeback and went for the standing moonsault, which was blocked, before debuting a new finisher - a spin-out powerbomb.  Pretty fantastic little match, and it's a shame the main roster doesn't know what to do with an excellent hand like Tyler Breeze.

I heard that....

The tournament final was a pretty basic tag match actually.  Balor sold being injured to give the match some drama, and the heels worked him over pretty strongly before Balor and Joe made their comeback.  The closing minutes picked up, and after several near-falls Joe and Balor hit the Muscle Buster-Coup de Grace combo on Rhyno for the win and the cup.  Post-match Cody Rhodes gave a little speech about Dusty, which was a nice little moment.  As for the match I think one of the permanent teams probably should've made the finals, as this was the weakest of the three tourney bouts.

Alright, now that the undercard's outta the way, let's get to the real stuff.  This show was built on the backs of two of the best women's wrestlers to ever grace a squared circle.  Bayley vs. Sasha Banks in a 30-minute Iron Man match was one of those examples of a wrestling match as a work of pure drama.  The moves, the timing, the athleticism was all spot-on, but it was the storytelling and emotion that set this match apart.  I said before that their Brooklyn match was the best women's match I've ever seen, and while that's probably still true from a technical standpoint, this match took the storytelling to another level.  If Brooklyn's match was #1, this was #1A.  Bayley and Sasha wrestled the first act of this match as two women with mutual respect, just finding out who was the best.  But as Sasha became more frustrated she fell back into Heel Mode, gaining the first fall after an eye poke (which she hid from the ref by simply blocking his line of sight - genius).  Then Sasha spent the entire second act deliberately trying to injure Bayley, much to the heartbreakingly teary-eyed dismay of Bayley's superfan Izzy (the young girl who's ringside for seemingly all NXT tapings).  From that point the emotional weight was piled on until, jaded 30-year-fan that I am, I couldn't help rooting for Bayley to kick Sasha's ass.  By the end both of them could hardly stand, and Bayley clinched the win in the closing seconds with a brutal Rings of Saturn-type submission (while kicking the back of Sasha's head).  This match was breathtaking, as was the emotional aftermath when Sasha was presented with flowers and collapsed in tears.  As I said, this bout wasn't mechanically quite as good as Brooklyn, but the story and the emotion put it right in the same class, and in a way made it even more memorable.  This match by the way won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's 2015 Match of the Year.  Its first runner-up?  The Brooklyn match.  What a stupendous moment for women's wrestling.

There aren't enough adjectives to convey the awesomeness of this

TakeOver: Respect had nary an ounce of fat.  Every match on this show had a purpose and was entertaining at worst.  The main event was a transcendent piece of pro wrestling art that furthered the cause for North American women's wrestling in a way Vince's "Divas Revolution," with its convoluted "frenemy" angles and corporate buzzwords, could never dream.

Best Match: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
Worst Match: Literally nothing on this show was bad, so I can't even call anything "the worst," but by default I'd go with the Dusty Classic finals
What I'd Change: The Dusty Classic, while a nice tribute, needed some kind of long-term ramification.  A Tag Title shot maybe.  If they do this again it'd be nice to see some indie teams imported for the occasion.
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the tourney final, which was good but nothing more.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze
Overall Rating: 8.5/10


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