The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover: Unstoppable Belated happy birthday / drunken bachelor party wishes to my compadre Zen, who is now on the wrong side of 40 like myself and soon to be married. Finally. Good on ya, and welcome to old age. Live from Orlando, FL Your hosts are Rich Brennan, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves #1 Contender: Tyler Breeze v. Finn Balor Sadly, Hideo Itami was attacked on the pre-show and suffered a shoulder injury, which the company obviously knew nothing about beforehand. Because why would they advertise this as a triple threat for weeks beforehand unless they were totally ignorant of the injury? That would just be silly. Kevin Owens is suspected due to making a sarcastic remark on the way out of the shot. It’s CSI: WWE. Finn Balor is portraying a dragon tonight and usual gets a monster reaction just by walking out. Like basically Balor is the closest thing the company has to a larger-than-life superhero right out of the comics at the moment. The crowd is so jacked for him that they chant “This is awesome” just for the entrance! They trade headlocks to start and Balor dumps him, but can’t get the dive in time. Back in, Breeze hits the springboard dropkick to put Balor on the floor and stomps away in the ring. Some jackass in the front row has a “We Want Riley” sign. Who is “we” in this situation? Doesn’t that require more than one person to hold an opinion? Breeze with a neckbreaker for two and he works a chinlock, but Balor fights out and puts him on the floor with a seated dropkick. Double stomp from the APRON follows. Ouch. Back in, Tyler rolls away from the finisher, but runs into a mule kick in the corner that gets two. Sadly the tweet scroll for NXT is just as idiotic as the main show version. “Did Kevin Owens attack Hideo?” YA THINK?! Balor walks into a Supermodel Kick and Breeze gets two off that, but he stops to loosen a turnbuckle and pounds away in the corner. Beauty Shot misses, but Breeze gets a rollup for two. Blind charge misses and Balor rolls him up for two, but Breeze sends him into the exposed turnbuckle and hits the Beauty Shot for two. This prompts a tantrum in fine heel fashion, because these guys actually CARE about wins and losses. Breeze bails to the floor to regroup, but Balor hits him with a forearm from below the ramp, and then dives off the ENTRANCE SET while the fans chant “Please don’t die”. I concur. Back in, corner dropkick, Coup de Grace, and it’s good night Irene at 11:00. Hard work, great near-falls, crazy finish, this was fantastic for an opener. **** Meanwhile, Kevin Owens is typically unimpressed by his new challenger. Dana Brooke & Emma v. Charlotte & Bayley Bayley is actually a really interesting character now, because they haven’t had anyone to appeal to young girls for a long time and that’s exactly the demo she’s hitting. Dana immediately gets double-teamed by the babyfaces and tags out to Emma, who gets greeted with an “Evil Emma” chant. She hides behind Brooke and gets wiped out by Bayley anyway, but Bayley goes up and gets hauled down for two. If there’s anyone born to play face-in-peril, it’s Bayley. To the heel corner for some double-team stomps as this crowd really hates Brooke. Emma Sandwich gets two. Emma stops to mock Charlotte, however, and Bayley gets the hot tag. Charlotte hits Brooke with a neckbreaker as Dana’s gear malfunctions a few times, and hits a double DDT on both heels. That gets two on Emma. Emma comes back with a flying bodypress, but Charlotte rolls into the figure-four and then bridges while holding it, which is the Figure Eight. Bayley gets rid of Brooke and Charlotte finishes Emma with the Natural Selection neckbreaker at 6:50. Fun little match and thankfully Brooke didn’t do much and let Emma carry the workload on live TV. **1/2 Rhyno v. Baron Corbin I love it, no bullshit, just ripping right through to the next match. Someone e-mailed me asking if the Sons of Anarchy theme would work for a wrestler, and while I don’t think Corbin is QUITE right for it, he could totally use “John The Revelator” from the end of season one. Rhyno tosses him and they brawl on the floor, but Rhyno goes up and Corbin sends him to the floor again. Back in, Corbin takes over and slugs him down, then pounds away in the corner. Sliding punch gets two. OK, this is already too long. They collide in the corner for the double KO and Rhyno comes back with elbows and a spinebuster for two. Belly to belly sets up the GOAR, but Corbin counters with a clothesline and finishes with the End of Days at 7:10. Baron is definitely still a work in progress. They need to go back to short matches again for him. Not particularly bad per se, but Corbin was totally lost out there. *1/2 Meanwhile, Greg the idiot interviewer interrupts Kevin Owens in the locker room, even though he’s really sorry to do so, and asks him how his week was. WHO WRITES THESE QUESTIONS?! Owens takes this moron in stride and points out how dominant and awesome he is, and promises that tonight is the last time we’ll see Sami Zayn. NXT tag titles: The Dubstep Cowboys v. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady I love the champions if only because they have their names on their tights so I can tell them apart. Enzo gets a quick bodypress on Blake for two, but Cass comes in and the champs back off. Cass slugs Murphy down for two, and Enzo comes in with a flying bodypress for two. He bails to the apron and Murphy clotheslines him to the floor so that Enzo can take his god-given place as face-in-peril. Blake with a backbreaker and he works a chinlock. Over to Murphy for his own chinlock, and they cut off an Enzo comeback with a Blake abdominal stretch. A cool powerbomb into a backstabber from the champs gets two. They fight to the top and Enzo comes back with a tornado DDT on Murphy and it’s hot tag Cass. Cass clears the ring and lays out Blake with a big boot and SAWFT elbow drop for two. Sideslam on Murphy and he puts Enzo on the top rope (while still half-unconscious) but Alexa Bliss heads down and attacks Carmella, then turns on Enzo to knock him off the top and allows Murphy to get the easy pin at 9:00 to retain. Well you knew the Jersey crew was coming up short here one way or another, and now we actually have a tangible direction for this feud again. **1/2 Match was nothing special, but served the purpose. Meanwhile, they cut to Eva Marie from Total Divas in the audience, and no one gives a shit. That was legitimately great. Like, what exactly is that girl’s role in the company? Wrestler? NXT Women’s title: Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch Becky is apparently steampunk tonight. Because, hey, why not? They trade rollups to start and go right into the pinfall reversal sequence, and Becky goes for the arm before Sasha bails to the ropes. Becky with a springboard kick to put Sasha on the apron, but Sasha yanks her to the floor. Like a boss. Back in, that gets two. Sasha works on the arm, but Becky cradles for two. Sasha wraps her up with a straightjacket hold into a backcracker, but Becky makes the ropes. So Sasha hits the double stomp in the corner for two. Sasha twists Becky’s arm in a way that nature did not intend, which gets two. Sasha with the SHORT ARM SCISSORS, and of course we get the power spot to break. Haven’t seen that one in a while, actually. Becky makes the comeback and goes up with a missile dropkick for two. Sasha hits her with a pair of running knees in the corner, which gets two. They slug it out and tumble to the floor, where Sasha meets the post, and Becky gets a hammerlock suplex and goes to work on the arm. Backdrop suplex gets two. Sasha tries a suplex, but trash-talks first and gets wrapped up in an armbar as a result. Only talk shit when you’re in control, Sasha! That’s basic heel strategy! Sasha thankfully makes the ropes as the crowd freaks out, and she tosses Becky to take a breath, but hits Becky with a dive and gets caught. Becky sends her arm into the stairs and they head back in, but Becky goes up and gets brought down in the Bank statement at 15:30 to keep the belt on the Boss. SHOW STOLEN. ****1/4 I am 100% Team Sasha at this point, although my wife thought that Becky’s shorts and hair were cuter. Thankfully the crowd gives Becky the standing ovation for a job well done afterwards, even though she came up short. This was pretty much everything great about wrestling that we love. And finally… NXT title: Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn Kevin Owens has a John Cena shirt tonight because he’s the best. As usual, he walks away to start, so Sami attacks on the floor and slugs away, then sends Owens into the stairs and into the crowd. Owens tries to escape and Sami chases, so Owens catches him in a powerbomb and Sami grabs the railing to block. That would have been scary. Back to ringside and finally in the ring, a Blue Thunder Bomb gets two. Tornado DDT is countered by Owens, as he drops Sami on his shoulder to take over. Sami keeps coming with a suplex into the corner, however, and Owens escapes the ring again. Sami chases again and suplexes him on the floor, but charges one time too many and gets powerbombed onto the apron. Owens pounds away on the floor while the refs try to pull him off, but Sami won’t quit. So Owens hauls him into the ring as dead weight while a gaggle of refs run interference, and finally William Regal himself gets involved and gets headbutted out of the ring. Owens grabs a chair…but SAMOA JOE debuts and shit is about to get real. Owens chooses to walk away from that one. I presume this was a no-content somewhere about the 8:00 mark. Hard to rate as a match, but it was tracking at about *** before the Zayn injury angle ended it. So now Samoa Joe on WWE TV is a thing that has happened. Poor Sami, though, getting destroyed again. The Pulse Can’t argue with a pair of **** matches, including another classic from Sasha Banks, and the WWE debut of Samoa Joe! Not the blowaway show that some of these have been, but I was entertained for two hours and that’s all I want out of these. Thumbs way up.