Since my other professional obligations require me to be in the office on Thursday night, I can now provide my observations on NXT specials, starting with NXT Takeover: R Evolution.
For starters, let me say that this event will probably be the best offering from the WWE all month, even better than Tables, Ladders and Chairs Sunday night.
From beginning to end, R Evolution was a fantastic show with great matches, stories that made sense and a satisfying ending in more ways than one.
I can't say enough as to how good this show is. It was better than many of the offerings we receive from WWE's main product on a regular basis, which is sad.
The show was only two hours and it left me wanting more, unlike most episodes of Raw where I couldn't change the channel fast enough after the three hours are up.
NXT's simplicity and focus on the actual wrestlers is refreshing as well. We don't see authority figures trotting down to the ring and running down the top babyface. The entire show was centered around the wrestlers and what they wanted to accomplish.
It's a shame when the developmental territory can seem more innovative and in tune with the current audience than the big leagues. TLC(S) this Sunday has a lo to follow now that R Evolution knocked it out of the park.
Before I break down this show piece by piece, let's go through the full match results from Full Sail University in Orlando, Fla.:
- Kevin Owens def. CJ Parker
- NXT Tag Team Championship – Lucha Dragons def. The Vaudevillains
- Baron Corbin def. Ty Dillinger
- Finn Balor & Hideo Itami def. The Ascension
- NXT Women's Championship – Charlotte def. Sasha Banks
- NXT Championship – Sami Zayn def. Adrian Neville
With that out of the way, let's run through my highlights and observations from NXT Takeover: R Evolution:
Sami Zayn wins NXT Championship
What a satisfying ending to a satisfying story.
From the moment Sami Zayn came up just short at the last NXT special, I knew right then and there that he was going to win the NXT Championship at some point. The entire story centered on the fact that he couldn't win the big one, which meant that he was eventually going to do it.
Zayn and Neville tore the house down with a well-paced match that told a great story. Although the match had two referee bumps, they added to the story instead of taking the fans out of the moment, which they typically do.
Those moments gave Neville a chance to win the match and for Zayn to debate hitting Neville with the title belt, which he opted against.
And then to top it all off, Zayn finally won the big one to prove all of the doubters wrong and managed dropped a bunch of F-bombs in the process.
You see how simple, yet effective that was? Focus the story around the wrestlers, not the agendas of an authority figure, and give the fans a satisfying ending.
Zayn winning that title was a true emotional moment for those who have followed his career going back to the days he was (allegedly) El Generico. Zayn conveyed that emotion with his post-match celebration.
I have nothing bad to say about the story leading into the match, the match itself and everything that happened after the match. It was just good, quality storytelling.
Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn feud on the horizon
Speaking of El Generico, it looks like we're going to get a return of the most intense feud of the character's run.
That's because amidst all of the post-match celebrating, Zayn shared a special moment with his real-life friend Kevin Owens (Kevin Steen).
After the two embraced multiple times, Owens, on his first night on television, turned on Zayn and power bombed him onto the ring apron to cap off a very hot angle to end the show and spark a new feud for NXT.
How do you make the ending of one story even better? By igniting another story only moments later. That's wrestling booking 101, but it's something you rarely see on WWE's main product. When executed properly, it works the majority of the time.
If Zayn's feud with Owens is anything like their epic encounters on the independents, NXT will be destination programming for many months to come.
I'm not sure how long it last, however, since Zayn is destined to be on the main roster at some point in the near future, but I would imagine Owens being mostly responsible for Zayn's departure from NXT.
Regardless of how it eventually plays out, it is sure to be very, very good television.
Charlotte, Sasha Banks had a great women's match
Sigh, if only the WWE put the kind of emphasis on women's wrestling that NXT does. Because then the Divas division wouldn't mostly consist of matches that send fans to the concession stands.
Charlotte and Sasha Banks proved that there is great women's wrestling in the WWE. The only problem was that it was on NXT and not the main roster.
Regardless, the match between these was great. They were given a great deal of time, more than the women's matches on Raw and Smackdown combined.
The WWE can use their talents on the main roster right now instead of giving television matches to the likes of Eva Marie and Rosa Mendes, two women who cannot work to save their lives.
At least Marie is new, but Mendes has been around for years, there's no excuse for her.
Finn Balor's body paint, entrance was epic
How cool was Finn Balor's entrance at R Evolution? I mean, it was fantastic, as was the body paint.
The match was good and all, but the story from this entire segment was Balor and his fantastic presentation. Balor has done the body paint for years in New Japan Pro Wrestling, but this was the first time he's done it on NXT and it left quite an impression.
If the WWE can't find a way to merchandise Balor and the body paint, something is seriously wrong. It should be a license to print money.
It's unique and it changes almost every time he has a big match. Not to mention, it adds depth to his character, as it is essentially the Hyde to his unpainted Jekyll.
Kevin Owens had a great debut match
Before Kevin Owens turned on Sami Zayn, he made his in-ring debut on NXT and what a debut it was.