NXT Does It Again
Although the WWE’s monthly pay-per-views are usually worth the $9.99 per month, NXT alone makes the cost of the Network worth every penny. The weekly episodes are much vastly superior than anything produced by the main roster on a weekly basis partially due to the talent and primarily due to the format of the show itself. As entertaining as the weekly episodes of NXT are, it should come as no surprise that the NXT specials are even better. Since their first special, NXT Arrival, they have continued to raise the bar with each special event, and NXT TakeOver: Rival was no different.
The event began with Hideo Itami versus Tyler Breeze. Although the match was not previously advertised it was nice to see both of these individuals included in the special. After losing to Finn Bálor in the semifinals of the number one contender’s tournament, Itami was viciously attacked by Tyler Breeze resulting in this match. It’s worth noting that Breeze made his entrance at this event with a matching furry selfie stick for his phone which was (in my opinion) a very nice and appropriate touch. The match itself was good but I really would have liked to have seen them both have a little more time to tell their story. Ultimately Hideo Itami got the pinfall victory after hitting Tyer Breeze with a running kick.
Next Baron Corbin squared off against Bull Dempsey in No Disqualification Match. After Corbin kicked out Bull’s headbutt off the top rope, it looked like the no disqualification stipulation might actually play a part in the match as Bull went to grab a steel chair from ringside. Unfortunately as he entered the ring with the weapon, Corbin immediately grabbed him and hit the End Of Days for the pinfall before the chair could even come into play. From now on I will simply use any Corbin match to go to the bathroom or grab a beer as they are short and tend to bore me (personally). Maybe once they allow him to have a match more than a couple minutes I may change my mind but I doubt it. After the match, Corbin set up and sat in the steel chair inside the ring with a smug look on his face and kicked Bull away. With that being said, I personally never expected much from this match to begin with so I wasn’t disappointed. Either way Bull Dempsey is full of untapped potential and someone I personally find to be extremely underrated.
Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy then defended their Tag Team Championships against the former champions The Lucha Dragons. However, it was painfully obvious that Blake and Murphy would retain their titles. For most of their NXT careers, they’ve been viewed as just a stepping stone for other teams, so the fact that they just won the titles it would’ve been pointless to have them lose the belts so quickly. Moreover, the match was sloppy and rushed. I’m sure Maffew will have a blast utilizing clips from this match for one of his Botchamania videos. In the end, Blake and Murphy retained the belts (surprise surprise) after scoring the pinfall following a frog splash from the top rope.
After the match there was an interruption on the screen urging viewers to tune in next week. The promo was clearly hyping the television debut of Solomon Crowe (previously known as Sami Callihan). It’s good to see he’ll be finally making his return to NXT.
The fourth match of the night saw Adrian Neville battle Finn Bálor in the finals of the Number 1 Contender’s Tournament for the NXT Championship. Bálor made his entrance utilizing the body paint. This will clearly be used only for special events but I hope over time they’ll allow him to change up the design from time to time. The match itself had some great moments including a spot where Bálor hit a big dropkick on Neville outside the ring that sent him through the barrier to the crowd’s delight. Later in the match, Adrian Neville hit a beautiful phoenix splash (the move Seth Rollins did on Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble) from the middle rope but Bálor kicked out after 2. Probably the biggest spot of the match occurred when Neville attempted to land the Red Arrow and Bálor got his knees up and immediately went for a rollup on Neville. After Neville kicked out, Bálor was ultimately able to win the match with a double stomp off the top rope, successfully becoming the number 1 contender.
It’s always nice to see the women get their chance to shine, and the main roster could definitely learn a lot from the women of NXT. If the previous match was not the match of the night, then it was most certainly this one. In this Fatal 4-way match, Charlotte defended her NXT Women’s Championship against Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch. I naturally assumed Charlotte would end up losing the title as her call up to the main roster is imminent. The entire match was back and fourth, showcase a plethora of false finishes, and some excellent high spots. Eventually, Sasha Banks was able to pin Charlotte with a backslide and become the New NXT Women’s Champion.
Sami Zayn defended his NXT Championship against Kevin Owens in the main event of NXT TakeOver: Rival. The bout was highly anticipated and ultimately resulted in a match very similar to the one between Brock Lesnar and John Cena at SummerSlam 2014. Owens completely dominated Zayn during the match. Except unlike the SummerSlam match between Lesnar and Cena, Owens didn’t pin Zayn. After countless repeated powerbombs, the referee forced Owens to stop, opting to end the match and award the NXT Championship to Kevin Owens.
Was NXT TakeOver: Rival the best of all the NXT specials? That is definitely arguable and subjective. Personally I thought the event was spectacular. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the Tag Team match or the No Disqualification match, overall I found the the rest of the card to be excellent. The match between Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze was a very welcomed surprise, and the number one contender’s match between Bálor and Neville was fantastic. My only complaint about the number one contender’s match is the same I had of the opening match, I would have preferred to see them have more time. With that being said, I’m sure those matches will happen again at some time or another so that’s not a big deal to me. The fatal 4-way match was arguably the best match of the night, and the main event only furthered the story between Owens and Zayn. Although I normally like a pinfall or submission to indicate the end of a match, in this context I’m okay with the outcome. Sami Zayn is the consummate underdog and he’s amazing in that position. Maybe tonight he was unable to defeat Kevin Owens but their feud is far from over.