But NXT: Takeover had a lot riding on it as well, with Johnny Gargano (the biggest underdog in NXT at the mo) going up against Andrade “Cien” Almas. He’s had quite the hype train as of late in NXT.
This year, I decided to try and cover more NXT shows (where possible), as I gave them little to no mentions last year. So when I do a review for a big WWE Pay-Per-View event, I’ll try and do an NXT show as well. This will be done a little bit differently to my film reviews, as I’m mostly just gonna be doing an overview of what I liked and didn’t like rather than a full breakdown of each match.
Anyhoo – lets get into what I thought of each event!
NXT shows have a habit of being able to do more in two hours than WWE can do in four hours with their Pay-Per-Views, and this one was no exception. Sure, it might not be as good as previous Takeover’s, but each match was enjoyable to watch – and the last two were just amazing!
Conspicuous by his absence was Nigel McGuinness – who sadly was suffering from the flu – so we weren’t treated to his excellent commentary this time round. But even without him, the show was pretty cool. Starting off with Authors of Pain versus The Undisputed Era, it looked like it would be a squash until The Era managed to steal one, due to a knee injury on Akam. Velveteen Dream (who was riding high after his rivalry on Aleister Black) also managed to score a significant victory on Kassius Ohno. Ember Moon battled Shayna Baszler in a pretty brutal match that saw her injure her left arm. It ended with her fighting against an arm bar and just about getting a lucky pin, but Baszler got her own back afterwards. I quite like Baszler – she has an intense attitude that could do down well if she gets pushed right.
Now earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to see the much-hyped Chris Jericho versus Kenny Omega match. And whilst I didn’t do a review of that (and I have NO idea why), I do remember thinking that there was no point watching WWE after that – as there was no way WWE could match anything close to that. Well, turns out I was wrong – as NXT Takeover provided us with not one but TWO contenders for match of the year!
The first one was Aleister Black versus Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules match. This is the type of brutality I’ve not seen since the Attitude Era. It had everything – chairs, tables, ladders, blood, and some savage spots; one such example is when Black did a Death Valley Driver to Cole onto chairs. And I’m not talking about the seats – I’m talking the back rests! I actually grabbed my own back after seeing it as it seemed so painful! Then there was the double foot stomp through the announcer table near the end. By the time it was over, both competitors were bloodied and bruised. It was a damn fine match!
And then we had the main event of Gargano and Almas. As you might know, Gargano had a string of bad luck with some big losses – but got lucky when he got a number one contenders spot against current champion Almas. NXT have done a great job of building him up as an underdog, as it meant there was some real drama going into this match. With both of them hitting each other with everything they had and STILL kicking out even after it looked like game over, it had real intensity the stakes were so high. And the crowd were pumped! Admittedly, I would have preferred Johnny to win, but Almas proved how awesome a competitor he was and (mostly) won it clean. It also teased another rematch between Ciampa and Gargano when (trying to recreate the infamous DIY spilt) Ciampa returned and clocked a dazed Johnny from behind. All in all these two matches were some of the best I’ve ever seen and it’s gonna be hard to top them.
Or is it?
We kicked off with AJ Styles versus Kevin Owens and Zami Zayn in a handicap match for the championship, with “Kami” (as AJ called them) having a chance to be the first co-winners of the title. It ended in somewhat controversial fashion when Zami failed to tag in Kevin Owens, but AJ pinned him anyway to keep the title. Screwy ending aside, these three were always entertaining and it was a great way to get started. The tag team match between the Usos against Gable and Benjamin was also pretty decent, with it being two out of three falls. I did kind feel that the match ended a little prematurely, with the Usos getting their falls back to back, but it wasn’t a bad match at all.
In what is the first (and maybe only) time in Royal Rumble history, the men’s Royal Rumble match went first. Last years Royal Rumble match was kinda lacklustre in my opinion – but this one was anything but! There wasn’t a dull moment from start to finish; and with surprise entrances from The Hurricane (from the Invasion era) and Rey Mysterio (which made EVERYONE lose their collective ****) it was a real treat – especially when Mysterio did a double 619.
Funniest moment of the night was when Heath Slater got knocked out on his way to the ring by Baron Corbin, and kept getting beaten up when he tried to get in the ring. In a surprise twist though, when he DID get in, he eliminated Sheamus! Then he got eliminated himself! Still it was highly entertaining – this is why we keep him around!
It is a shame that the WWE went the obvious route and had Roman Reigns win – you think they would have learned their lessons from last time.
That’s what I WOULD have said if Reigns had ACTUALLY won! But no, in a surprise twist that made everyone happy, especially my brother, Shinsuke Nakamura beat Reigns to become the winner of Royal Rumble! But what REALLY made people excited is when he was asked which championship he would go for. He answered – “A. J. Styles.”
I think I just creamed myself! :D
There isn’t really much point mentioning the next two matches as they both sucked. The tag match no one really cared for (if you’re interested, The Bar won due to Jason Jordan being an idiot) and the triple treat match between Lesnar, Strowman and Kane was just dull as hell. I guess there isn’t any point getting mad over the result as I knew Lesnar is gonna keep the title till Wrestlemania, but still… at least Strowman didn’t get pinned, so that’s something.
Right onto the main event, the Women’s Royal Rumble. I was so happy they made this the main event as you don’t often get women headlining Pay-Per-Views. I won’t deny I was a little bit worried going into this, considering the last time they did a battle royal type match with women wrestlers, a man in drag won it. Luckily, it does look like WWE learned from their mistakes – as this match amazing and all the girls brought their A-Game. With a relatively small number of female wrestlers, it meant that they could have more stars from the past return. With names like Lita, Trish Stratus, Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix to name a few, the fans were treated to real nostalgia. It’s a shame that Paige and Alicia Fox couldn’t have competed due to injury, they were both greatly missed. Hopefully, they can recover and the WWE will attempt this again next year.
Admittedly, this didn’t have quite the same intensity as the men’s Rumble match, and it got confusing as people kept sliding out to the floor, making it hard to keep up with who had been eliminated. And I must admit, Asuka winning was a bit predicable. But, WWE then threw in a final big twist. Whilst Asuka decided who she should fight at Wrestlemania, who should come down but – Ronda Rousey! And if the fans had any **** left to lose, it was all lost here! Ronda looked at Asuka, pointed to the Wrestlemania sign, and then left. Nothing was said between competitors, but we all knew what they were asking.
Both events were just incredible! Takeover had two of the best matches I’ve ever seen and Royal Rumble had the best result it ever had. Even if two of the matches sucked, the event as a whole was outstanding. The women’s Royal Rumble match was a raging success and I honestly hope that WWE consider this again in the future. And as for Ronda Rousey appearing – well, what can I say? She might just be the only women ready for Asuka!
In short, WWE have outdone themselves with these events and we can only hope they run with this momentum and don’t **** it up! This is a great start to the year, one can only hope it continues. Both NXT Takeover and Royal Rumble were both absolute classics. I give both these events my highest possible recommendations!
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