Monday, August 24, 2015

TakeOver blows away SummerSlam in an amazing weekend of wrestling!

There is no doubt about it: with two straight nights of network specials, WWE outdid itself at the Barclays Center this weekend. But what hurts the main brand in comparison is how much stronger the NXT matches were.

Don't get me wrong, the six matches on NXT's weekend shot had the advantage of not being marred by shady finishes like the two big matches at SummerSlam were, but even a comparison of the the twin main events from both shows makes it clear that NXT is a stronger brand overall in wresting terms.

Cesaro and Kevin Owens put on a great battle before the SummerSlam
main event. Image credits this page:

Here are my thoughts on the matches from both shows in descending order.

  1. Ryback beat The Big Show and The Miz: I like Ryback. I like The Miz. I even enjoy Big Show on occasion. But this thing was a disaster in the making. While the three men gave a better performance than I expected, this isn't the caliber of opponents Ryback needs to get over as Intercontinental champion. Stronger in-ring workers will make him look far stronger and hopefully spare us from anything else as lackluster as this.
  2. Sheamus beat Randy Orton: Neither men gave a horrible performance at SummerSlam, but the pairing is just so tired. Both men need a real feud to light some fire under them. Isn't it about time for Randy Orton versus Bray Wyatt?
  3. Dolph Ziggler and Rusev wrestled to a double countout: This feud is terrible booking on WWE's part to begin with. Both Ziggler and Rusev should be working their way up to main event status, or even challenging Seth Rollins for the WWE Heavyweight title. Instead, they are locked in a feud that does neither man any favors. The catfights of Lana and Summer Rae must please someone, but they just distract from the two amazing wrestlers being left out to rot by this feud.
  4. PCB beat Team B.A.D. and Team Bella: This was easily the biggest disappointment of the SummerSlam weekend. The nine women could have blown the roof off the building with even a fraction of the offense Sasha and Bayley gave the night before. Instead, Sasha Banks received less than a minute of ring time in a plodding fifteen minute battle that only served to sell Becky Lynch's finisher and nothing else. The booking of this match was way off and if WWE truly wants a Diva Revolution, the backstage powers are going to have to let the women show exactly how great they can be on Raw, Smackdown and PPVs.
  5. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose beat Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper: What could have been a marquee match on the card was just another tag match. While both teams looked great here, this felt like treading water for all four men. Whether Sting and Erick Rowan (or Adam Rose) could have fixed that is anyone's guess, but this wasn't what fans need to see in a battle with multiple future main eventers.
  6. Apollo Crews beat Tye Dillinger: Dillinger got in much more offense than I expected here which is good news for the future of his Perfect 10 gimmick. But this match was really about showcasing Crews and making it clear he's a new force to be reckoned with in NXT. I doubt we will see him make a run for the main event yet, but I expect some strong matches from him in the next few months.
  7. The Vaudevillains beat Blake & Murphy to become NXT Tag Team champions: Blake and Murphy probably were the weakest tag champions in the history of NXT. Buoyed only by Alexa Bliss's star making performance as a manipulative heel, they held the tag titles far longer than they should have. Aiden English and Simon Gotch are two of WWE's greatest up-and-comers though, and they showed it here. Leva Bates got to appear in front of her biggest crowd ever as Blue Pants and help give the Vaudevillains the win in what I suspect will be a very solid reign for the new champions.
  8. The New Day beat the Prime Time Players, Los Matadores and the Lucha Dragons to win the WWE Tag Team titles: This was a typical four team tag team train wreck with bodies strewn everywhere by match's end. But the performance of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Austin Woods sold the match incredibly well. Their stolen win from the Prime Time Players allows them to get the title back without burying Darren Young and Titus O'Neil either. 
  9. Stephen Amell and Neville beat Stardust and "Cosmic" King Barrett: The comic fan in me absolutely loved the insanity of Stardust who constantly screamed at "Ollie" during the match. Amell sold well when he was the victim of a prolonged beatdown and did equally well showing off a few offensive moves. Sure, he put together just a pretty basic match but for as little in-ring time as he had leading up to this, he looked great. Barrett and Stardust proved that they could sell their roles as villains well here, really showing their charisma. Hopefully this shot will lead to bigger things for both men.
  10. Jushin Thunder Liger beat Tyler Breeze: NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn opened with the debut of the Japanese legend against one of the best all around players in WWE today: Tyler Breeze. And while both men could have put on a much more physical match, Liger's comedic antics worked supremely well against Tyler's fashion model gimmick. I was a bit surprised that Liger got the clean win here, but we will see if this leads to a rematch in October. 
  11. The Undertaker beat Brock Lesnar: NXT is honoring Dusty Rhodes with a tag team invitational. WWE is honoring him by ending SummerSlam with a convoluted finish right out of Dusty's playbook. I understand the silly argument between the timekeeper and the referee was designed to allow a rubber match after Undertaker's shot at redemption. But wouldn't interference work just as well? Kane wasn't even on the card. He could easily have helped his brother and set up a third and final bout inside Hell in the Cell. Instead, the goofy finish left SummerSlam to end with anything but great feelings from fans. Paul Heyman valiantly tried to save it, but he could only do so much as the show ended on a rather disappointing note for a show that's been billed for weeks to be almost as big as Wrestlemania.
  12. Finn Balor beat Kevin Owens in a ladder match: Don't get me wrong when I say this was not the match it should have been. Both men put on a great bout, and they very much deserve to be in the top half of the matches from both nights. But despite a bout where both men used the ladder in brutal ways not seen often in a WWE ring, Balor and Owens did not carry the emotional weight of the first main event and the curtain call that followed it. For the first time in WWE history, the main event suffered because of the women's match before it. This win cemented Balor at the top of NXT and probably plays the swansong for Owens on the secondary roster. It left Balor looking dominant, but without many strong contenders to face in the weeks ahead.
  13. Samoa Joe submitted Baron Corbin: It is a bit sad to think that after almost ten years in TNA, Samoa Joe wrestled in front of probably his biggest American crowd ever on an NXT show. In my preview last Friday, I predicted this was the sleeper match of the night. While they only went just over ten minutes, Joe gave Corbin his best match ever. Corbin showed he could sell incredibly well and got to pull out a lot of new moves. And while the finish was a foregone conclusion, this only serves to make Corbin stronger as he can move into battles with other more seasoned stars.
  14. Kevin Owens beat Cesaro: Owens and Cesaro went on right before the main event and set up high standards for the match to follow. Both men are workhorses in a company that doesn't always reward workhorses, but their connection with fans is now undeniable. The Cesaro Section grows week after week, while the "Fight Owens Fight" chants are always loud and clear. They got a solid fourteen minutes at SummerSlam and set out to show exactly how good a match can be put on by two great wrestlers hungry for the main event.
  15. Seth Rollins beat John Cena after interference by John Stewart: Those last five words aren't something I ever expected to write on a wrestling review, but even with the goofy finale featuring a heel turn from the former Daily Show host, this match delivered. John Cena's super-indie inspired offense of 2015 continues to help him deliver the best matches of his career while Seth Rollins fed off the negative reactions to Cena and actually played the face a few times in this bout. The fight allowed Rollins to look far more credible as a champion than he has in the past four months, although a clean win or two might do even more. With Night of Champions ahead, Rollins will (I assume) wrestle twice, which should make for more interesting storytelling choices for his character.
  16. Bayley beat Sasha Banks to become the NXT Women's Champion: I said on Friday this should be the main event of TakeOver and while it didn't go on last, it was still the main event. Eighteen minutes is one of the longest women's matches WWE has given the world in twenty years, but not for a moment did this battle drag. Both women went into their bout with a story to tell and they told it with every ounce of fire and drive they had. Trust me when I say you need to see this match. It truly is a match of the year contender, folks. Hopefully WWE realizes its importance too and with the rumors of Kana (or Kanna now apparently) signing, the women's division of NXT will still have a strong future even as Bayley is left to steer the ship on her own. 
The Four Horsewomen finally stood together for one last curtain call as a
new era of women's wrestling begins under Bayley.
Overall, WWE has put on some solid cards in 2015, but SummerSlam weekend topped them all, even with the disappointing ending of the big show. Whether or not WWE capitalizes on any of this great momentum remains to be seen though as they move into Night of Champions. Rollins has strong positioning to wrestle two matches that night, while Brie Bella will finally have to defend her title as part of the Divas Revolution. Hopefully, Ryback will finally get a stronger foe as well. In the perfect world, WWE would bring up the three NXT champions for the show as well, but I won't hold my breath for that. Despite the crossover between both rosters becoming stronger, WWE seems wary of too much blending. 

Here's hoping that Raw can start WWE on the right track in the post-SummerSlam world. 

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