Retro Reviews: WWE NXT Takeover Rival (02/11/15)

This is a NXT Takeover review of a show simply called “NXT Takeover: Rival” at a time when the NXT brand was really gaining a lot of steam. This review did not exist on this site before today because it took place a few weeks before we launched this version of TJRWrestling later in February 2015. I’m going to leave the review untouched.

NXT Takeover: Rival
February 11, 2015
Full Sail University in Orlando

The opening video package highlighted all of the big matches on the show.

Hideo Itami made his entrance. The announce team is Rich Brennan, Corey Graves and Jason Albert. During the entrance of Tyler Breeze, a female fan tried to grab him. That’s a nice addition for him. Of course she was pretty. He also has a “selfie stick” to take pics of himself. He does a good job of making himself easy to hate.

Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze

Breeze hit a forearm shot, then Itami hit a corner clothesline, knee to the mid section and a hard kick to the face. Running dropkick by Itami. More hard kicks by Itami, who the crowd loves. Breeze managed to trip him up and attacked the legs of Itami. Breeze slammed the knee against the ring post. Breeze did the ring post figure four leglock against the post. Loved that move when Bret Hart was doing it in the 1990s and still do. Breeze applied an impressive single leg crab type move while bending Itami’s other leg. That was sweet. Itami put Breeze on his shoulder teasing the GTS, the crowd got excited and then Breeze got a rollup for two. Breeze hit the superkick for two as Itami was going for a punch. Breeze was throwing punches and Itami made the big comeback. He nailed some vicious kicks on Breeze’s chest. Hesitation dropkick by Itami in the corner followed by the running kick to the face for the win at 8:13.

Winner by pinfall: Hideo Itami

Analysis: *** That was a good choice for the opener because they had a decent story going in, Itami is very popular with the fans and Breeze has a lot of credibility. They could have went another five minutes and it would have been even better, but it was still good for the time given. I’m a big fan of Breeze because he’s more than just an over the top gimmick – he can really go in the ring. Itami is going to move up the rankings quickly in NXT or get moved to the main roster soon. He’s fitting in well.

They showed Kevin Owens talking to William Regal and the referee backstage, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying.

No Disqualification Match: Bull Dempsey vs. Baron Corbin

The crowd was into Corbin as he ran to the ring to start things off. Dempsey hit a suplex on the ramp and tossed Corbin into the ring post. Dempsey looked under the ring for something, but didn’t find anything. Back in the ring, Corbin hit an impressive spinebuster for a two count. Corbin did a clothesline over the top and Bull didn’t go over right away, but he still fell out after. That was messed up. Back in the ring, Bull hit a diving headbutt off the top for two. That was done in the Bam Bam Bigelow style where it’s a wide body guy falling off to deliver it rather than really jumping in the air like Benoit or Bryan. Dempsey tossed Corbin into the steel steps. Dempsey brought a chair into the ring, Corbin caught him and hit the End of Days for the win at 4:15.

Winner by pinfall: Baron Corbin

Post match, Corbin sat in the chair and looked at the fallen Dempsey.

Analysis: *1/2 It was a very tame No DQ match. Both guys are still learning and need to keep improving. Corbin has the look that WWE likes. Remember that NXT is developmental for the younger guys like them. Albert was saying on commentary that this showed that Corbin could take a beating and still get the job done. That was the point of it. Corbin took a mild beating and came back to get the win. He didn’t even get that much offense in.

The NXT Champion Sami Zayn was shown in the locker room talking to Regal and the referee.

They showed Becky Lynch and Bayley separate getting ready for the NXT Women’s Title match later.

NXT Tag Team Titles: Blake & Murphy vs. Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto)

This is the rematch for the tag titles. It seems like Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy have dropped their first names for now. Both teams are faces. There was a botched headscissors attempt by Sin Cara on Blake with Graves trying to give Blake credit for ring awareness. Sin Cara hit the headscissors on Blake. Kalisto slipped doing a dive over the top, but then hit it anyway. Victory roll off the top by Sin Cara for two. The Dragons worked over Murphy, but then Blake tagged in and they hit a double team neckbreaker on Sin Cara. The replay of that move was impressive. Kalisto hit a spinning crossbody and then a hurricanrana that spiked Murphy’s head into the ring. Murphy did a suplex that Kalisto countered into a headscissors into a rollup. They each got a couple of nearfalls in. Blake and Sin Cara tagged in. Blake did a suplex that Sin Cara countered with an inside cradle. More counters for nearfalls. Murphy tagged in, but he fell victim to a one arm powerbomb by Sin Cara. Blake made the blind tag, Murphy hit a suplex on Sin Cara (almost like a brainbuster) and Blake hit an impressive Frog Splash for the win at 8:10.

Winners by pinfall: Blake & Murphy

Analysis: ** It was a solid tag match aside from a few spots that were messed up. They are trying to build up Blake and Murphy as an impressive new tag team. I like that they wear matching tights and have a similar look. The announcers sounded like they were trying too hard to put them over.

There was a video interruption that said: “The takeover isn’t over. It’s only just begun. Stay tuned next week.” It’s for Solomon Crowe.

A video package showed the road to Neville vs. Balor, which is the final of the #1 Contender’s tournament for a shot at the NXT Title. The video featured comments from both guys.

Neville entered first to a good ovation. He’s the former NXT Champion that is ready for the main roster any time now. Balor’s entrance was spectacular with the lights going out, red lights flashing and he had red/black/white body paint along with a wig with dreadlocks. He did it two months ago too. He’s only going to do it during NXT specials it looks like, so that’s cool. It’s very impressive even in a small building like this one. Imagine it on a grander stage? It will be amazing.

Number One Contender to NXT Title: Adrian Neville vs. Finn Balor

It was an even beginning with some takedowns and a Neville shoulder block. Balor hit a dropkick, Neville went outside the ring, Neville back in the ring and Balor hit another dropkick causing Neville to go outside the ring. Neville with a springboard dropkick for two. A forearm shot to the head by Neville earned another nearfall. Neville kept Balor grounded with a headlock. Balor tried a springboard attack, but Neville hit a dropkick to knock him down on the apron and then Neville hit a suplex for two. Boot to the face by Neville, then he went to the middle rope and Balor nailed an enziguiri kick to the head. Balor hit a flip dive over the top to take out Neville as the crowd started up some “NXT” chants. Neville tried to get away outside the ring, Balor stalked him and hit a running dropkick against the guard rail, which led to a “holy shit” chant. Back in the ring, Balor nailed a double foot stomp to the back of the head for a two count. Awesome nearfall as the crowd chanted “this is awesome” for them. Neville came back with a forearm, kicks and then Balor hit a Pele Kick, but then Neville got a superkick. Both guys were down. So good.

Neville hit a release German Suplex that looked fierce and then Neville hit a bridging German for a two count. Neville hit a Red Arrow-like splash off the middle rope for just two. Another outstanding nearfall. Forearm smash by Neville, but then Balor hit the Sling Blade neckbreaker. Graves on commentary needs to stop with the “he has to cover” and “he has to capitalize” comments after nearly every move. Huge clothesline by Balor that Neville sold by doing a huge flip. Balor hit the lifting inverted DDT for another awesome two count that the crowd thought was the end. Balor went up top, Neville cut him off and nailed a kick to the head. Slam by Neville. To the top, Balor chased after him and Neville went up again. Neville went for the Red Arrow, but Balor got his knees up, did an inside cradle and Neville kicked out. Wow. This is amazing. What a nearfall. Balor with a running dropkick, Balor to the top and he hit the Coup de Grâce double foot stomp off the top rope for the win at 13:25.

Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor

The crowd gave cheered loudly for Balor. He is very popular right now as he should be. Fans chanted “hug it out” after the match as the two men shook hands.

Analysis: ****1/4 What an incredible match. Wow. They made the most of the time given and made me want to see more. I liked the pacing of the match because there was a slow start to it, but once they picked it up it went into another gear. Balor’s such an impressive in-ring performer. I’ve seen a fair amount of his stuff pre-WWE, but it’s just so cool to see him on this stage. He’s got the perfect mix of speed, power and agility as well as a character that will stand out. It’s the second straight NXT Takeover PPV where Neville has put over another babyface wrestler to make that guy look like a star. That’s how you book a former champion. That guy was the man, so he’s there to make others look like that. Neville should be on the main roster within a couple of months. There’s nothing more for him to do in NXT although if he keeps having great matches like this then it’s not like something we should complain about. I look forward to more matches between them.

Sasha Banks and Charlotte were shown separately getting ready for the NXT Women’s Title match.

The video package aired to set up the Women’s Title match. I like all four, but especially Sasha and Charlotte.

NXT Women’s Title: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Becky Lynch

Charlotte did a double clothesline on Banks and Lynch, so Bayley did a rollup for a nearfall. Outside the ring, Lynch tossed Charlotte into the LED board outside the ring. Banks and Lynch, who are allies, tossed Bayley into the turnbuckle. They each tried to pin, so they argued and Lynch hit a release overhead suplex on Banks, which was very impressive. Lynch worked on the injured left knee of Bayley, then Banks told Lynch she made her and they battled it out. Banks missed a double knee drop, so Lynch went up top with a missile dropkick. Charlotte neckbreaker on Lynch and she nailed one on Banks too. Another neckbreaker by Charlotte on Lynch, this time out of the corner. Charlotte traded forearm shots with Banks, then Banks avoided an attack and Charlotte hit a spear on Lynch. Bayley hit a Codebreaker while Banks was being held by Charlotte. Banks put Charlotte and Lynch on the ropes, then did the double knee drop on both. That was unique. Banks got a few nearfalls and was mad about it as Bayley got back in there with an overhead suplex. Bayley hit four back elbows on Charlotte and then a hurricanrana off the top, which earned a huge ovation from the crowd. Bayley to belly suplex for two as Lynch made the save. Dropkick by Bayley to Lynch. Banks hit a dive between the top/middle ropes to take out Bayley and Lynch. Fans were chanting “this is wrestling” for it. Charlotte looked at the wreckage and hit a slingshot dive over the top to take out all three girls.

Back in the ring, Lynch hit Charlotte with a knee followed by an overhead suplex for two. Bayley tripped up Sasha, then hit a German Suplex on Lynch. Bayley hit a Bayley to Belly suplex for a two count after Banks broke it up and Banks got a two count on Charlotte. Plenty of great nearfalls. Banks applied a crossface on Charlotte, then kicked Lynch to send her out of the ring. Back to the crossface by Banks, Charlotte fought it off and Banks turned it into a creative pinfall while hooking her arms for the one, two and three. New NXT Women’s Champion at 12:28.

Winner by pinfall and New NXT Women’s Champion: Sasha Banks

Analysis: ***3/4 That was fantastic. They were given a good amount of time, they made every second count and had a lot of great nearfall spots as well. Lynch really impressed me as did Bayley, who showed a lot of fire and the fans really wanted her to win. They have done a good job of making her look credible instead of like some dumb babyface. Banks is my favorite of the foursome because she’s improved so much in the last year, has a unique persona and is stilled in the ring. Plus, she’s purely a heel. There’s nothing wrong with Charlotte losing because she’s had a great run as the champs since last summer and this will allow her to move on to the main roster in the near future. I really liked how they had Banks pin Charlotte. If they would’ve had her beat somebody else it would have been fine, but the right decision was beating Charlotte. Add this to the awesome list of great NXT women’s matches in the last year or so along with Charlotte/Natalya and Charlotte/Banks. I think Charlotte/Natalya was the best of them, but all of them are really excellent.

Post match, Charlotte wanted a handshake. Banks didn’t shake her hand, but Charlotte gave her a hug. Then Banks gave her a hard shove and held the title in her face. Banks sauntered out with the gold, which is a new piece of swag to add to her collection.

Analysis: That was cool. I like when heels act like pure heels. She shouldn’t be shaking hands. Be somebody we can boo. We know Banks is a great performer, but let her act like a heel. I look forward to their next singles match.

There was a commercial for WrestleMania in 46 days (as of the show airing). I’m not going to this one. I went to three of the last four. Maybe next year.

The outstanding video package aired for the Zayn/Owens match. They are former best friends that have a problem because Owens turned on Owens at Takeover R Evolution. Basically, the reason Owens turned heel is because he wasn’t going to wait to get a title shot. He was going to take it because he waited for the spotlight for 14 years. Owens was jealous because Zayn got to WWE first, so Owens is there to provide for his family. Then during the contract signing, he made sure it was changed to the NXT World Title match, Zayn agreed and it’s on. That video summed things up very well.

Owens entered first wearing his KO shirt. His entrance is basic with a generic song. I’m a huge fan of Zayn’s song. It’s perfect for a babyface. As a Canadian wrestling fan that grew up loving this business, it’s so cool seeing two Canadian guys living their dream by being in a WWE ring together like this. Happy for both.

NXT Heavyweight Title: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

The fans were doing the “ole ole ole” chants for Zayn as the two men had a long staredown and Owens bailed to the floor to stall for the start of the match. With the ref telling Owens to get in the ring, Zayn did a dive over the top to take him out. He makes it look so easy. In the ring, Zayn was aggressive with punches, then he dropped Zayn face first on the turnbuckle and hit a massive clothesline. Owens hit a massive clothesline that Zayn sold in a big way by exaggerating his fall. Hard whip into the corner by Owens sent Zayn flying while the crowd did dueling chants. They had a forearm shot battle that Owens won and he hit a body slam for a two count. Owens controlled the action with a headlock. He tossed Zayn across the top rope in a suplex style spot, which Zayn sold by landing on his stomach. Back suplex by Owens that drove Zayn into the mat for a two count. Owens dumped Zayn outside the ring. Big chops by Owens, then a forearm and a clothesline to knock Zayn down. Back in the ring, two count for Owens.

Owens with a gutbuster followed by a running senton back splash for a two count. Zayn came back with three clotheslines with the third one sending Owens over the top to the floor. Outside the ring, Zayn sent Owens into the steel steps. When it looked like Owen had regained control, Zayn came back with a clothesline. Back in the ring, Blue Thunder Bomb by Zayn for two. Good nearfall right there and an impressive move on a big guy like Owens. Zayn charged, Owens hit a huge superkick, Zayn looked dazed and Owens hit the cannonball for a two count. Owens with a cradle that led to Zayn’s head/neck going into Owens’ knee that looked nasty for just two. Zayn came back with a dropkick and an overhead one armed suplex for two. Amazing sequence. Owens yanked Zayn’s head down across the top rope. With Owens on the top, he went for Swanton and Zayn got the knees up to block it. Exploder suplex by Zayn in the corner. Owens escaped to the floor to get away from the Heluva Kick. Zayn hit an impressive springboard moonsault on Owens outside the ring and then Zayn grabbed the back of the head.

When they went back into the ring, Zayn was stumbling. He couldn’t run because he was dazed. Owens caught him with a Popup Powerbomb. Zayn was getting checked on by the ref. Owens pounded on Zayn with punches as well as forearm shots to knock him down. The announcers were talking about how Zayn was looking dazed while camera shots showed that he looked out of it. The trainer checked on him at ringside. Owens hit a Powerbomb. Owens picked up Zayn and hit another Powerbomb. He covered, but Zayn got his shoulder up. There were some shocked fans at ringside. Two trainers checked on Zayn. Owens grabbed Zayn again and hit another Powerbomb. Owens picked him up one more time for another Powerbomb. The trainers told the ref to stop Owens, so he grabbed him. The ref raised Owens’ hand and handed him the NXT Title. The match went 23:27.

Winner by knockout and New NXT Heavyweight Champion: Kevin Owens

Analysis: **** It’s no surprise that they had an outstanding match. Owens was my pick, but I didn’t expect it to be like that. What an ass kicking. Zayn is one of the best wrestlers alive at taking a beating, so they had Owens destroy him as a way to really put over Owens as the new champ. There wasn’t that much offense by Zayn, but when he did make his comebacks the crowd was really behind him. The turning point was when Zayn hit that moonsault outside the ring, banged his head on the ramp and was dazed. It was a total of five Powerbombs by Owens counting the popup version, so it was a vicious destruction of the champion. As for Owens, he became NXT Champion two months after his debut. That says that WWE is really high on him already and that he probably won’t be NXT for long. Hopefully he’s on the main roster by the summer because he’s clearly ready as is Zayn and some others. Zayn’s title reign only lasted two months. That’s okay. He’s great as a challenger, plus the main roster option is there. The KO finish for KO isn’t something WWE does all the time, but I don’t mind it. It makes sense that the match would stop right there. It made Owens look like a legit badass for knocking out a guy that was his best friend.

Post match, Owens celebrated with the NXT Title while doctors, as well as the referee, checked on Zayn.

The show ended with Owens standing over Zayn with the NXT Title in his hand.

Analysis: I liked the celebration by Owens. He treated the championship like a big deal, which is how new champs should react to title victories.

Final Thoughts

I rate the show a 9 out of 10. The first 40 minutes were a little bit too slow for my liking with the tag title and No DQ matches disappointing a bit, but everything else was excellent.

Picking a match of the night or three stars is so tough because the last three matches were exceptional and all were different kind of stories. Based on my star ratings above, Balor/Neville had the best match although if somebody picked any of the last three matches I wouldn’t argue with them. They were all outstanding.

I’m happy that the women of NXT continue to get the chance to have longer matches. Sometimes four way matches can be repetitive, but they managed to keep it fresh with all four women getting a chance to show what they can do. Banks is a star on the rise while Charlotte is ready to go to the next level.

The three guys that debuted in NXT in the last few months (Owens, Balor and Itami) all had significant roles on the show while the mainstays like Zayn and Neville continued to produce quality matches. All five guys are destined to be huge stars on the main roster although it may be tough for all of them to break through. For now, let’s keep enjoying them in NXT.

This was another NXT two hour special where these amazing performers were given time to have some great matches and once again they delivered. It’s so refreshing to watch these matches where these athletes get a chance to show what they can really do in the WWE ring. Why can’t Raw and Smackdown have consistently good shows like this? It’s a different audience that they are catering to since NXT is more for the online smart fans, but the format of Raw & SD needs to change. Focus on the wrestling more, the promos less and listen to your fans.

NXT remains the best product under the WWE banner right now. It’s a brand that represents pro wrestling at its best. Thank you Triple H as well as the others responsible for it because it really reminds us of why we became fans in the first place.

Thanks for reading.

John Canton –


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