I know there may be some people who are tired of reading articles gushing over NXT Takeover: R Evolution, but if that is how any of my readers feel, they are looking in the wrong place this week. I have watched the show twice now, and even considered a third viewing, because that was wrestling. I have always touted NXT’s success; said it was the best thing WWE has produced for over a year, but I am glad to see that the production continues to grow and work to outdo itself at every step. So many people on my social media feeds were legitimately marking out for this show, despite the odd name, but why was it the most talked about event in the world of wrestling this week?
Kevin Owens. Damn right Kevin Owens, even though the last NXT star with those initials did not fare as well in the long run, I think the fans will be very pleased with this fighting machine. This debut match was filled with a broken palm, blood, and balls. Both of those men had come to fight, and as those who watched know, Owens was not done yet. This match was followed by a decent outing featuring the champion Lucha Dragons and the charismatic Vaudevillians; both good teams that we have not seen the last of their feud.
Finn Bálor had to go and steal the entrance of the night, even showing up his own partner who was doing his best Scorpion impression. These two battled The Ascension in an energetic rollercoaster of a match that picked back up the pace and took the audience for a ride with a vicious fervor. Bálor shows some amazing athleticism in this bout, and Itami’s timing is almost impeccable; not to mention that the crowd went nuts when they thought he was preparing to do the GTS. The double foot stomp finish was pop-worthy. If this was the last match for The Ascension in NXT, it was a good sendoff, but I am not digging their new promo on Recap—I mean Smackdown.
Charlotte and Sasha went to war over the belt, showing off some nice fundamentals mixed with good old fashioned ruthlessness. Charlotte has improved so much over the past year, and I loved when she missed the top rope move, only to immediately recover with the flip attack. Sasha had some athletic maneuvers herself, but Banks’ selling was what drew me in on this one, and how she lost her shit when victory was so close.
The last match of the evening was nothing short of amazing. I wrote more notes for Zayn vs. Neville than any other match I have ever covered I think. I may actually be changing my match of the year candidate, as this title bout seemed to have everything: speed, energy, commentating that actually accented the match, and some great storytelling that was laid out all in the ring—Zayn’s heel tease had me glued to the screen. The crowd was hot as well, even more so than I am used to. The match played out like the best opera, and sang the whole time. The big mark out moment for me was at the end, where they showed the WWE logo where the PPV would traditionally conclude, but had more. It was a fake out. Owens had come out with the others to celebrate, and though he began the event as a face, his motivations were clear for the heel turn on Zayn at the end from his initial promo. That man wants to be a champion, and all of his friends were called up before him, so I am pretty sure he will run over everyone just to be noticed and to earn a shot at that title, and that started with the new champ.
I would recommend NXT Takeover: R Evolution to any wrestling fan, and told any who would listen how great it was, but that caused a sour taste in my mouth as we approached the TLC PPV. Knowing ‘typical’ WWE, I just could not fathom how TLC could even hold a candle to what I just watched, and re-watched, and re-watched. This is part of the problem though. I borrowed Triple H’s shovel and buried this PPV before it had a chance.
The New Day took on The Dust Brothers—as I shall now call them—in a decent pre-show match with some confusion about who the legal man was, but it was amusing. The Mizs defended their tag team titles against the Usos in a match that was interesting at times and did not suffer from its DQ ending, but had a couple of lulls in the action for the sake of comedy and positioning. I suppose they are saving the payoff with Naomi for later, which is fine as long as it is eventually used, and I was watching Mizdow closely, since he seemed to be developing a little bit past his current role as just the stunt double. I am anxiously awaiting that feud.
Billed as the first stairs match, Big Show beat Eric Rowan in a loud and brutal spectacle that seemed to fizzle in my mind. I can see how this idea looked good on paper, and it was one of the more hard hitting matches, but this did not click for me. I know that some fans had a problem with Big Show winning, but for me letting him build as a more dangerous opponent works, as long as it does not hurt Rowan too much, especially after also getting pinned on Raw. Now though, it seems the writers may be building Big Show for Roman Reigns to knock down instead of Big Red. I think this was an enjoyable match for some, but just not me.
Hyping up the middle of the show was John Cena and Seth Rollins in a whirlwind tables match. There was a lot going on in this part, almost touching the line of being overbooked, but managing to edge closer to exciting. I have to admit to not truly appreciating this match until I watched it a second time, but that made me appreciate Cena’s strength—we all saw the double AA through the table right—and just Seth “The Man” Rollins, because oh my god, this made him look amazing. I know Reigns came back and helped Cena, making him look a little less Superman. No, really, thinking Cena actually might need help is a good thing for his character, but I was not as stoked about the returning superstar of the year as I thought I should have been. I enjoyed the cage match on Raw from both competitors as well.
AJ Lee lost to hairspray, but that does not mean the match was bad. I am okay with the loss because there is money in the build towards AJ eventually reclaiming the title, perhaps in a Wrestlemania moment. The only notes I have for Kane vs. Ryback (who apparently botched a few times in the match) were about the “boring” chants from the crowd, and next to the Swagger and Rusev match I just wrote, “happened,” and I think that about says it all, right? Felt like wasted time.
“Ryback hurts people.” –Paul Heyman
It was nice to see Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt—two former NXT guys—get the main event spot, even if I argue whether it should have been there or not. Do not get me wrong; the match was very good. Like many of the other bouts on the TLC show, it took place outside of the ring a lot and made great use of the foreign objects provided—except for that last one. There were some wince-worthy high spots as these two men pushed WWE’s table budget. I wonder how much they spend on tables a year, now that I think about it. Ambrose looked damn good against Wyatt, until he forgot to check and see if the monitor was plugged in, which would have been fine if it just yanked him back and set the poor overzealous lunatic up for a clothesline, but the explosion was a little too much for me personally and felt like Russo booking. I did not like it as an ending for the match, and certainly not the best ending for the PPV. I know these two will fight again, and that is awesome, but that ending just did not do it for me.
There was one other match at TLC, and in my opinion it should have brought the show home on the awesome note that was Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper. Ziggler is perfect in a ladder match. His athleticism, speed, and the ability to sell the brutality brought this match to a fever pitch multiple times. A lot of this bout took place on the outside, but each move felt hot and ready to end the contest at any moment. Harper makes it seem like he has no care for this body and launches himself into pain, adding to the story and passion that both men brought. That super kick at the end was almost perfect, and the whole thing seemed to lift up the belt—especially in the absence of the heavy weight title—which even JBL pointed out. This was a great way to start the event, but imagine going out on that high.
“This is what an intercontinental championship is supposed to mean.” –JBL
TLC was not what I would call a horrible PPV, as it had many good moments. It just had one really bad spot in that television finish and a lot of wasted time. The show could have been four matches, giving each more time, and would have been much better. One reason why NXT feels so much better in my opinion is because of the two hour time length, where it feels like almost nothing is wasted. I would also like to see some more build up for these smaller matches that left so little of an impression, which makes me glad they have six weeks from TLC to prepare and build the Royal Rumble.
In closing: The set was generic as hell, like I have come to expect—it really is a bit of a letdown—but I was glad to see they are letting the boys curse a bit more, or was that just for TLC? As an added side note: I still hate Georgia Florida Line for their crimes against the wrestling community. Though it may not have been a bad show, I think it left a bad enough mark in some places to make a number of fans not want to tune into Raw, which had its lowest average audience of 2014. People were turned off by the PPV but Raw built a bit, and I want to see what they do with time and the available potential.
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