|Dallas - Hutchison Convention Center - 4.1.16|
Holy shit. NXT outdid themselves (and WrestleMania 32) with this show. The 'Mania weekend TakeOver special was about as close to a perfect card as WWE is going to get in 2016. The five matches were all good-to-great, everyone came off like a big deal (one guy in particular), the live crowd was absolutely nuclear, and the two-plus hours flew right by. This show more than any other TakeOver special reminded me of the original Clash of the Champions, where it felt like a major deal without being a bloated "supercard" like WrestleMania. Every match had a purpose and the characters and issues were all clearly drawn. This was one of the best shows I've ever seen.
The show opened with a blistering Tag Title bout, as Champions The Revival defended against American Alpha. I love both these teams - Dash & Dawson are a great old-school heel team that harkens back to the Andersons by using smash-mouth offense and heelish tactics, while Jordan & Gable are incredibly athletic and exciting, perfectly employing their amateur mat skills. This was as good as any WWE tag team bout in recent memory and aside from one botched move looked great from start to finish. American Alpha is crazy over with the NXT crowd. After fifteen fast-paced minutes Jordan & Gable hit their finisher to capture the straps. What an opener!
|Great set of champs|
Next up was the weakest match on the show but there was nothing wrong with it either. When your worst match is still highly entertaining you've done something right. Baron Corbin faced Austin Aries in a solid eleven-minute undercard match. Aries kept Corbin off-balance early on until Corbin lowered the boom, using his size and power to control the tempo. Corbin's shortcomings are still on display when he's on offense (he really needs to add more signature moves), but once Aries began his comeback the match crescendoed to a satisfying rollup finish, as Aries stole the win.
Match 3 was for many people (including me) the true main event of the evening, as one of the best wrestlers in the entire world made his NXT debut. From the first five seconds of his entrance Shinsuke Nakamura had that crowd on the edge of their seats, wielding his unparalleled charisma like a broadsword. Seeing this New Japan veteran in a WWE ring was absolutely surreal. Nak and his opponent Sami Zayn gelled perfectly, delivering a twenty-minute tour de force that easily outclassed every other WWE match to date in 2016. By the end both men were exhausted, and Nak finally hit his Kinshasa knee strike for the win. Post-match a bloodied Nakamura shook Zayn's hand and left Sami to enjoy his NXT farewell moment. This match was all kinds of awesome.
|These two could wrestle circles around most of the main roster|
The Women's Title match was given the unfortunate task of following an instant classic, but Bayley and Asuka were more than up to the challenge. These two cut an incredible pace, trading grapples, strikes and submissions for over fifteen minutes. There was no good vs. evil story here, just two completely different babyfaces earning mutual respect. The finish came when Asuka snared her crossface chickenwing, and Bayley struggled for over a full minute before passing out. The dominant Asuka was now the NXT Women's Champion. While not on the level of Zayn-Nakamura, this was one helluva good match and wasn't at all hurt by its spot on the card.
|Wait, a super charismatic Japanese wrestler against a super likable babyface?|
Didn't we just see that above?
The main event saw Samoa Joe once again challenging Finn Balor for the top belt, and they tore into each other from the opening bell. A Balor elbow opened a nasty cut near Joe's eye, and blood gushed everywhere. Joe swatted away the first several attempts by the referee to stop the bleeding, and the first three minutes of this match were simply blazing. Sadly the repeated ref stoppages hurt the match a little, but Joe and Balor fought through these momentum shifts to deliver an excellent main event on par with their classic in London. The match ended when Joe caught Balor in the Coquina Clutch, which Balor reversed by kicking off the top turnbuckle and falling back on top for the victory. Great main event to cap off an incredible show.
|This was the best Joe's looked in years|
TakeOver: Dallas was easily the greatest NXT show thus far, with one staggeringly good match, three excellent matches, and even the weak point of the night still a fine contest. There was nothing not to like about this show, and it was a perfect illustration of how far ahead NXT is from the main roster. TakeOver was an A+ show while WrestleMania 32 only reached B- territory. Not much else I can say about it. This show was a revelation.
Best Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn
Worst Match: Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin
What I'd Change: Aside from the repeated ref stoppages in the main event, nothing.
Most Disappointing Match: Huh?
Most Pleasant Surprise: I expected greatness and I got it. No surprise there.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10