Welcome one and all to a modified edition of the NXT Spotlight here at TJRWrestling. I had the real privledge of attending both NXT Takeover & the Royal Rumble this weekend as it was only a short 4 hour drive from my home to San Antonio. Attending a Royal Rumble was one of those items on my “wrestling bucket list” so it was a real thrill to get to be there with 50,000+ fans. I figured I’d share some of my thoughts being there live and things you may have missed. Before NXT Takeover was filmed, they taped this week’s NXT Episode. So instead of doing a normal recap of the show, I’ll include some notes of the matches below and what I thought of them live.

NXT Takeover: San Antonio

– Freeman Coliseum was a great venue for this show. The seats were a little snug, but the venue was perfect for wrestling and the crowd was hot. Freeman Coliseum used to host TV tapings back in the Attitude Era, it was actually the venue where Dude Love debuted and won the WWF Tag Team Titles with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

– For those of you like me that collect autographs and memorabilia, they were selling autographed 11×14 prints of both Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura for only $10. That’s a steal in my book. I got the Roode one. They also had for $100, an 11×14 event poster signed by everyone on the card. A pretty cool collector’s item for sure.

– The show started with Wolfgang vs. Aaron Solow in a dark match. As someone who didn’t watch the UK Tournament, I had no knowledge of Wolfgang, but I was definitely in the minority. He got a great reaction. This match barely lasted a minute if that.

– Ember Moon started the actual TV Tapings defeating Aliyah. Another showcase match for Ember. The crowd was solidly behind her. She got a great reaction and it was more than just the “first known person to show up” pop. The real cool thing about seeing her live, the Total Eclipse finisher literally got everyone off their feet when she started to go to the top rope. She is in line to be a mega star if she ends up being who dethrones Asuka.

– UK Champion Tyler Bate defeated Oney Lorcan in the next matchup. As I stated previously, I didn’t watch the UK Tournament so besides knowning he won it all, I know nothing about Bate. He got a nice reaction, but I actually felt like Wolfgang got a bigger one. This was a real solid match, typical for Lorney as of late. Very physical.

– The main event was No Way Jose defeating Elias Samson. Samson had the most heat out of anyone all night and it wasn’t even close. It’s X-Pac heat as they say. Jose was strongly supported. Nothing of note in this match, Jose won cleanly with his pop-up punch.

– Dillinger opening the show was absolutely the right call because the roof nearly came off the building when he came out. Fans were solidly behind him and there was definitely some air let out when Eric Young won. Good match though. Seeing Dillinger’s weekend live was definitely one of the top highlights for me.

– Roddy & Almas suffered for a bit because of the result of the previous match. The fans really wanted that breakout moment for Dillinger. It took a bit for the crowd to warm up to them but by the end, they appreciated the efforts of both. Can’t say enough good things about Almas since turning heel. This work was snug and you could feel every impact from your seat.

– DIY & Authors of Pain was a pleasant surprise and I didn’t hear too much complaining about DIY losing, probably because people were surprised that AOP was able to hang with them and have such a good match. I was definitely nervous that this would be a cluster and DIY would run circles around them, but that wasn’t the case. Fans actually thought it was over after the neckbreaker/sitout powerbomb spot late in the match. I was surprised by the result, but I definitely understand it. I expect DIY’s chase back to be a lot of fun to watch.

– The crowd went NUTS for Rollins and HHH. That got everyone on their feet. Rollins did the 40 yard dash in about 2.5 seconds as he SPRINTED through the crowd into the ring. Considering he had his hood on at first, I thought a fan had made a break for it at first. Great moment though with HHH coming out. Wish there had been a little more to this, especially in hindsight with nothing taking place at the Rumble, but it was a great segment nonetheless.

– The women’s match was really interesting for me from an Asuka perspective. When I saw her in Dallas the night she defeated Bayley for the title, I think fans were still getting to know her and her tendencies. They weren’t fully sure of her, plus Bayley was their girl. This night however, she was a rockstar. From the moment she came out, the crowd was into everything she did. Kudos to the other three ladies who made this a very fun match. If it had a few extra minutes added to it, maybe do the table spot later in the match, this could’ve easily been a show stealing match.

– I had said all along that the entrances for Nakamura and Roode would be worth price of admission on their own, and I was not wrong. Seeing Roode’s entrance was like being placed back in 1989 with Ric Flair in his prime, headed to a major title defense. If Asuka was received like a rockstar, then Nakamura was received like a Rock God. The singing along of both themes, the dueling chants, I had goosebumps to start the match. It was such a technical masterpiece. Nakamura’s selling of the knee was terrific and Roode’s aggression towards it was even better. The crowd couldn’t believe the near fall from the first Glorious DDT. Singing Roode’s theme for a solid 5 minutes after he won was so much fun, I didn’t have a voice for a few hours afterwards.

Royal Rumble

– I wish I could give everyone an idea of how legit the 52K number is for the attendance, but it was the first time I’d ever been in the Alamodome. Basically 3 sides of the upper deck was tarped off. The hard camera side looked to have 5 or so rows open and then the side I was on was full. Everything else below us looked sold out or close to it.

– I felt really bad for the Smackdown women coming out first. There was MAYBE 20% of the crowd in their seats when that started. They should’ve flipped the pre show women matches, without a doubt, considering this six-woman match shouldn’t even have been on the pre-show to begin with and the other was more of an angle than a match.

– It felt appropriate that as I proudly wore my TJRWrestling shirt in attendance, the Raw Tag Titles were changed on account of a ROLLUP OF DEATH!! Big pop for the title change and it’s about time for Gallows and Anderson.

– Bayley got a massive pop for her entrance, but the crowd did not seem overly into the match as a whole. I don’t think anyone really felt Bayley had a legit chance.

– I loved the Reigns vs. Owens match live. Both men really went all out. It was interesting, this morning I listened to Chris Jericho’s podcast that had a live Kevin Owens interview from Survivor Series weekend. In the interview, Owens talks about how he’s been thinking about that Pyramid of Chairs spot. So that was something he had been thinking about for at least two months prior. This was Reigns’ best match since his match against AJ Styles. I just wish they hadn’t wasted the effort with his Rumble Match debacle.

– Obviously Neville and Rich Swann were in an unenviable position. This is where I think the Smackdown women’s match would’ve helped the show a little bit. Crowd was flat for most of the match, minus some moves here or there. Glad to see Neville get the title though. Hopefully he can revitalize that division now.

– I have been to 4 WrestleMania’s in my lifetime, including 32 this past year that broke the attendance record, and I have never experienced anything like I did for Styles vs. Cena. HBK/Taker 1 from WM25 would come close, but for pure atmosphere and experience, this match was better. (Although, to be clear, I think Taker/HBK is the better match) That crowd was a sight to see and was incredible to hear. That match was soooo good and the crowd was eating out of their palms. When Cena won, the roar from the crowd blew the roof off. It wasn’t cheers or boos, it was just an ovation. I can’t describe it, but it was great to be a part of, and that’s coming from someone who is hard on Cena.

– I enjoyed the Rumble match and thought it was great, but I think the crowd as a whole was let down by the lack of true surprises. Enzo at 27 was put in a bad spot. Dillinger at 10 got an incredible ovation when he came out. I couldn’t even hear his music. The Taker/Goldberg staredown and following spots had the entire crowd on their feet. One of the biggest pops of the match was Corbin eliminating Strowman. No one saw that coming. Nothing mattered though once Roman came out at 30. I’ll have more on this on my podcast this coming Monday, but I just can’t for the life of me understand that decision. Even if they’re deciding to finally go heel with him, it still doesn’t make sense.  The reaction he got was pure hate. I was around fans that were screaming their head off in support for him earlier in the night, who basically were saying, “you have to be ——- kidding me?!” when he came out. I saw swarms of fans leave the building aas he walked down the ramp, just assuming he was going to win and they didn’t want to stay to see it. On a personal note, I’ve stated multiple times that Orton is my second favorite wrestler of all time behind Sting, so getting to see him win it live, especially my first one, was a real cool moment and a great way to end the weekend.

That wraps up all my thoughts and I thought it was a banner weekend for WWE and NXT. Next week, we’ll be back to normal with the next set of tapings for NXT as they go on their own Road to WrestleMania. Until then, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. If you do though, name it after me.