Happy Saturday Everyone!
Today we’ve got some classic NXT for you, as we look at Takeover London from way back in 2015. NXT from this period was something I watched all of the time and really enjoyed, even though my interest in the main roster had all but eroded by this stage. It helped that NXT usually had great matches and characters you could actually care about.
I didn’t get to go to this one, for reasons I don’t even remember, although I did eventually get to see NXT live a few times back when I really enjoyed it.
Card for this show can be viewed below;
The event is emanating from London, England on the 16th of December 2015
Calling the action are Byron Saxton, Corey Graves and Rich Brennan
Uncle Paul does the in-ring promo to start us out in order to welcome us to the show.
We then get the opening video package set to Ace of Spades, so they clearly paid for the rights going forward on The Network/Peacock then.
Emma w/ Dana Brooke Vs Asuka
Emma and Dana had made the mistake of messing with Asuka upon her debut, leading her to go 100% Asuka on both of them, which went about as well as you’d expect for the Heel duo. The crowd thinks that Asuka is going to end Emma in this one, and they might be right. Asuka gets the babyface shine to start, with Emma doing a great job selling it all, as the crowd is into the idea of seeing the Heel get her comeuppance.
Eventually Brooke is able to distract Asuka long enough for Emma to be able to cut her off, which leads to some Heel heat. Asuka shows that she can be just as good on defence as she is on offence, as she sells everything well and the crowd gets behind her. Emma does a good job of being an unlikable Heel during the heat segment as well, with her offence looking crisp and her Heel mannerisms being on point.
Brooke does a good job outside the ring actually as well, being an annoying Heel presence who is there to cheer on her evil buddy. Asuka eventually manages to catch Emma with a dropkick off the second rope for the double down, which the fans sadly spoil somewhat by doing that stupid thing of counting one number ahead of the referee. The lameness of that is only amplified by the crowds clear self-belief that they’re doing something really cool.
Asuka makes the comeback following the double down, getting some nice kicks and back fists in particular, which leads us into the finishing stretch, where both wrestlers get some near falls. Emma gets a decent chunk of offence in the closing stages and almost wins it a couple of times, giving Asuka her biggest challenge so far in the process. The ref ends up taking a bump at one stage, which probably wasn’t needed, but it does give Emma chance to try and use an international object of some kind.
Asuka foils that plan, but the ref catches her with the weapon, which allows Emma to snatch a roll up for a good near fall. Asuka counters that into the Asuka-Lock, but Brooke distracts the ref and he misses the tap out as a result. They tease that this will leads to a distraction finish, but Asuka sees that coming and kicks Emma down for three.
I think it got a little bit convoluted in the closing section, but it was still a good match and a strong way to open the show. Emma actually gained something in defeat there because she made Asuka work really hard to keep her down. Asuka had been mostly slaughtering people up to this point, so Emma making her sweat a bit not only elevated Emma as a competitor but it also showed that Asuka had it in her to prevail when faced with adversity
Johnny Saint is sitting in the crowd to watch the show.
Earlier today, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe arrive for the show.
NXT Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Mechanics (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) Vs Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore w/ Carmella
Dash and Dawson were already well on their way to being one of the best tag teams in the world at this stage, whilst Cass and Enzo had an over act but not much in the ring to back it up. The backstory to this one is that The Mechanics tried to injure Enzo and Cass, but they survived their vicious attack and now they are here for revenge in London. It’s interesting to see Carmella back before she had all the work done. So long as she’s happy then that’s all that matters.
It’s funny seeing how over Enzo and Cass were with their opening promo, as it was bordering on New Age Outlaws in the Attitude Era territory on this show. Enzo and Cass aren’t especially good wrestlers, but The Mechanics carry them well here and it’s a decent match as a result, which is helped by the crowd being into the challengers and getting behind their quest to win the belts. The crowd is probably the best part of this one to be honest, as they up with quite a few fun chants.
Enzo and Cass get a pretty long babyface shine, where they have the Champs on the backfoot for quite a while until a blind tag allows Dash to fling Enzo to the floor for the cut off. Enzo has his arm worked over in classic Anderson Style following that, and he does a good job selling it, whilst Dash and Dawson are imperious as usual whilst working over their opponent. It’s wild how good a babyface team the Champs are when you see them heeling it up with such glee here.
Enzo catches Dash with a DDT off the second rope eventually though and manages to get the hot tag to Cass, who runs wild on Dawson with a sidewalk slam for two. Dawson clips Cass’ previously injured knee however and start working it over with the eye for a submission win. Cass holds on though and drags himself to the ropes, although he did have a distinct height advantage if we’re being fair about things.
Things break down following that, with Cass getting a school boy on Dash for two before bringing in Enzo for the Rocket Launcher for another two when Dawson breaks up the count. The Champs try going after Carmella, but she elbows her way out of that. However, Cass gets sent into the post outside when defending her honour and Shatter Machine on Enzo wins it back inside.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE MECHANICS
Dash and Dawson were really on a role during this period and they got a good match out of the far more limited Enzo and Cass
Earlier today, Bayley arrives and we get a video package for Nia Jax, who reminds us that she’s not like most girls. She looked a lot leaner here interestingly, so she probably took her foot of the gas regarding the fitness regimen when they moved her up to the main roster.
Jeremy Baron Corbin Vs Apollo Crews
Corbin was doing the whole “the WWE system is better than the indies” shtick in this feud, which should probably telegraph the finish. He even yells “you should have stayed in Ring of Honour” at Apollo during one part of the match, as they aren’t even being subtle about it. Crews has a decent following in the UK actually as he used to work the indie scene over here quite a bit before he made the jump to WWE.
This one is kind of a so-so match, but it isn’t actively bad or anything. It’s not really on par with the sort of stuff you’d expect to get on a Takeover from this era, as it’s kind of just two fellers having a match, although Crews does take an impressive bump out of the ring onto the ring steps at one stage. Crews sells well whilst on defence, but Corbin’s offence isn’t exactly thrilling and he was lacking in personality at this stage in his career.
I’m hardly a big fan of Corbin’s “Happy” gimmick, but at least he’s got an actual character these days, as opposed to being generic big dude who punches and does mid-00’s power moves. He was well on his way to being a modern version of a Luther Reigns or Heidenreich plodding mic-card brawler until he managed to actually find a gimmick that made him stand out somewhat. I’m still hardly a Corbin fan, but he definitely improved from this.
The crowd actively starts getting bored at one stage, so they smartly head into the comeback not too soon after, although they do botch something first before getting there. Things pick up a bit once Crews starts fighting back, with him getting a nice moonsault off the apron onto Corbin at one stage. Crews gets a very click counter out of the End of Days at one stage and follows with a nice standing moonsault for two, but Corbin manages to get it not too soon after and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: BARON CORBIN
Basically a TV match, which is fine if this were a regular episode of NXT and not a Takeover. As it was, it felt kind of out of place on a big show setting like this. Corbin was generic but competent and Crews didn’t really get a chance to show much outside of selling, which he was good at but it wasn’t that effective as a showcase for him. Overall nothing I’d really call bad but it wasn’t especially good either and it kind of curbed the shows momentum a bit
We get a Sami Zayn video to hype up his return next week on the NXT show.
We see a Nia Jax promo from earlier with interview dude Greg Hamilton. Asuka comes over and gets in her face before smiling and walking off.
NXT Women’s Title
Champ: Bayley Vs Nia Jax
Jax was the big monster Heel who had been crushing folks up to this point, with Bayley doing an excellent job of being the underdog babyface Champion. You watch the pre-match video package for this one and it’s utterly baffling that they botched Bayley as a babyface on the main roster, because she was fantastic at it and they just didn’t know how to book here outside of NXT. Granted she’s gone on to be a fantastic Heel, but the fact it reached the point where they had to do that turn in order to salvage her on the main roster is a testament to how badly they got it wrong at first.
Jax will be hoping her God made immune system will give her enough juice to overcome Bayley here. Bayley tries to stick and move early on, as the story here is one as old as time, and they work it well. Bayley will try and keep her distance whilst doing whatever damage she can, whilst Jax will try to grab hold of Bayley and dish out punishment. Considering Jax’s less than stellar in-ring abilities, they get as much out of this one as they possibly can and it ends up being a solid match.
They establish early on that Bayley is the better actual wrestler of the two by having Jax be in the most trouble whenever Bayley is able to lock on a hold of some kind such as a sleeper or triangle choke. They get across the idea that Bayley has better technical skills but Jax is big enough and strong enough that she can mostly offset it, so it’s all about Bayley getting it cinched in just right in a part of the ring where Jax can’t just brute force her way out, whilst Jax is just trying to wear Bayley down with her big power moves.
Jax eventually manages to catch Bayley with a Samoan Drop, which gets two only but a sizable amount of damage was done in the process and Bayley is now on the defensive. Jax adds a couple more Samoan Drops and then drops a leg for good measure, but Jax then follows up with a cocky cover and Bayley is able to kick out, which is a good way to protect Jax’s big moves as the implication was that she could have won if she’d covered Bayley properly.
Jax continues to clobber Bayley with big power moves, with Bayley’s selling being impeccable, but Bayley manages to survive and then catches Jax with a guillotine choke OUTTA NOWHERE. Jax manages to fight out of the hold multiple times, but on each occasion the exertion required to get out of the hold tires her out more and more because she’s using pure brute strength whilst Bayley is using skill, and eventually that pays dividends for Bayley as she locks it in one more time and Jax is too tired to fight her way out, giving Bayley the win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: BAYLEY
That might have been Nia Jax’s greatest match ever, as they worked a believable Davina Vs Goliatha story that played to Jax’s strengths whilst Bayley played the underdog role fantastically. Outside of some annoying chants, the crowd have been very good tonight and they played their part here by giving the match a great atmosphere
Samoa Joe is warming up backstage.
We get a video package for the Main Event.
Champ: Finn Balor Vs Samoa Joe
The story here was that Balor and Joe had teamed up to win the inaugural Dusty Cup, but then Joe had turned on Balor because he wanted a Title shot. This would lead to the two men trading the belt with one another. Balor is dressed as Jack The Ripper for the entrance here, and I can’t decide whether that’s in poor taste or not. I like Shadowman I guess and Jack The Ripper is a boss battle in that game so I can’t really have a go at Balor too much for it.
Balor is all Demon-like in the early going and takes it to Joe, but when they brawl on the outside Joe is able to clobber Balor and then takes over back inside, working Balor over with his usual snug offence. Balor sells all of that really well and Joe’s offence looks good. Joe actually has his fair share of supporters in the crowd, thus giving this match another good atmosphere in a series of them tonight. Outside of some of their more annoying traits, the crowd have really enhanced this show.
Joe even busts out the ELBOW SUICIDA at one stage, but Balor is able to kick out back inside. Joe teases heading up top for something, and that predictably leads to Balor fighting back to send him to the floor before following with a TOPE CON HILO to the floor and a double stomp back inside for two. That was a lovely sequence. Balor tries to muscle Joe up into the Saving Grace following that but Joe fights him off, so Balor gets the Sling Blade instead.
Joe blocks the follow-up dropkick though and goes for the Muscle Buster, but Balor counters that to a roll up for two in another slick sequence. The finishing stretch is done really well, with both men getting well-executed near falls. We even get a Japanese inspired bit where Joe takes numerous dropkicks but refuses to go down until he finally topples. Joe STILL pops up from that to try and get the Muscle Buster again, but Balor fights him off and gets the Coupe de Grace for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: FINN BALOR
These two had really good chemistry together, much better than Joe would go on to have with Shinsuke Nakamura in fact, which is not something I would have predicted. This was a suitably epic Main Event, with both men hitting the big moves and getting the tight near falls whilst the crowd was engaged throughout. They would go on to have more matches together over the course of a great feud
Balor celebrates following that but it’s clear he was in one heck of a battle, thus setting the stage for some rematches.
At just over two hours, this was a breezy watch, with four of the five matches delivering the sort of quality you’d want from a Takeover and the Women’s Title match exceeding all expectations. This one is an easy thumbs up if you’ve never seen it.