|Orlando - Amway Center - 4.1.17|
Once again NXT set the bar high for WrestleMania weekend with a fine TakeOver showing. While certainly not on the level of last year's sublime Dallas show, TakeOver: Orlando supplied nary a bad match and some pretty damn good wrestling action. Also in contrast to most main roster PPVs, this show flew by with a lean 155-minute running time. To kick off "the next chapter" of NXT, Commissioner William Regal presented brand new Title belts, all of which are an improvement over their predecessors. The new designs are more elaborate and convey greater splendor, making the Titles all seem less like mere developmental props.
Kicking things off was a wild eight-person mixed tag match, with SAnitY facing the makeshift babyface combo of Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Ruby Riot, and subbing for a kayfabe injured No Way Jose, the returning Kassius Ohno (God I hate that ring name). This chaotic brawl got the live crowd primed, with fast-paced action that culminated with Killian Dain stealing Kenny Omega's One-Winged Angel finisher to put Dillinger away. Once Ohno was added to the match I figured the babyfaces would get the duke, but it made more sense for the heels to win here. It would also be a running theme on this show. Nice little opening match that served its purpose well.
Next up was the much-anticipated debut of the former Tommy End, now called Aleister Black. Black's entrance called to mind The Undertaker's histrionics, with a nice Nosferatu reference as he was raised on a platform, horizontal to vertical. Black and his opponent Andrade Almas had fairly good chemistry, although the match felt a little longer than it needed to be; by the end it seemed like they were filling time a bit. Black got a decisive win with Black Mass, a roundhouse head kick. Not the most exciting finisher but it looked effective. This was the weakest match of the night, which means NXT put on a fine show.
The show's highlight was third, the Elimination Triple Threat Tag Title match pitting The Authors of Pain against DIY and The Revival. This was a fantastically energetic bout, with DIY and Dash & Dawson repeatedly teaming up to try and take down the monster champs. Recounting all the action would be basically impossible, but there were tandem moves galore, including each DIY member pairing with a Revival member to do the teams' respective finishers on Akam and Rezar. Eventually though AoP took DIY out with The Last Chapter, leaving The Revival as big underdogs. After only three more minutes Dash and Dawson then fell to The Super Collider (Great move with a great name), allowing The Authors to retain. I was pretty low on AoP when they debuted, but they earned a stripe or two in this match, showing significant improvement in the stamina department and taking some very stiff shots. Definite Match of the Night.
For me the runner-up was the Women's Title match, with Asuka facing her psychological equal, Ember Moon. These two had a splended little 12-minute back-and-forth match, with Ember pushing Asuka to her limits, to the point that when it came time for The Eclipse, Asuka had to shove the referee into the ropes to stop Ember. This was the first instance of Asuka needing to cheat in a Title defense, and a full heel turn seems inevitable. I'm really enjoying this multi-match Asuka arc, where she becomes more and more desperate with each defense. Asuka retained after a kick to the head, extending her year-long Title run (now the longest of any NXT championship) and 18-month undefeated streak. I look forward to these two topping themselves in a rematch.
The NXT Title main event, while still a bit underwhelming for me, was unquestionably an improvement over the first Bobby Roode-Nakamura meeting in January. Both guys seemed a little more comfortable with each other this time and the intensity ratcheted up as the bout wore on. I still find Roode's offense a little too plodding and nondescript, but this was a perfectly good main event (easily better than that of WrestleMania) that ended with Roode hitting a Glorious DDT after bouncing from the middle rope to the mat for the pin. Nakamura of course would make his main roster debut three days later on Smackdown, leaving Roode the unquestionable new NXT centerpiece.
So to recap, the heels won every match on this card except for match #2. That's a bit of a downer, ain't it? But seriously, TakeOver: Orlando was a fine card with no bad matches. I wouldn't really call anything ****+, but this was an enjoyable show from start to finish, probably somewhere between last June's The End show and the Brooklyn II show.
Best Match: AoP vs. DIY vs. The Revival
Worst Match: Black vs. Almas by default
What I'd Change: I would've liked to see Asuka vs. Ember get more time
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the main event, but it was fine
Most Pleasant Surprise: Asuka retaining
Overall Rating: 8.5/10