With the spectacular show of NXT R Evolution in December, it was going to take a mighty effort for the NXT roster to outdo itself for their new two-hour special, NXT Rival. While it’s open to debate about if Rival outdid R Evolution, it was certainly close as two new NXT champions were crowned. As always, NXT comes to us from Full Sail University.
Match 1 – Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze
Our three-man announce team consists of Corey Graves, Rich Brennan and Jason Albert. As Tyler makes his way to the ring a female fan jumps the guardrail and hugs Breeze. It takes a few seconds, but security stops her. Given Tyler’s reaction, it seemed like a plant.
Hideo starts of strong, kicking Tyler to death. Breeze weathers the storm and starts to attack Itami’s legs including a Figure Four using the ring pole to further the torque. Breeze locks Itami up in a modified sharpshooter but Itami is able to get to the ropes to beak up the hold.
We’re told that #NXTTakeoverRival is already trending worldwide. Itami goes for the GTS but Tyler counters it. Breeze hits the Supermodel Kick but Itami kicks out. The two trade shots and then Hideo starts unloading kicks including a running kick for the pinfall.
Winner by pinfall…Hideo Itami
Match 2 – NO DQ Bull Dempsey vs Baron Corbin
Baron doesn’t finish his traditional entrance because he makes a B-line straight to Bull. The men start fighting outside the ring. Bull starts off well, suplexing Corbin onto the entrance ramp and tosses him into the ring post. Bull decides to NOT get a table at the crowd’s request to draw some heat but he goes right back to pummeling Corbin.
The fight finally comes into the ring and it signals a turn of the tide as Corbin nails Bull with a Spinebuster. Bull goes for the diving headbutt, hits it, but Corbin kicks out. We’re told that’s the first time anyone has kicked out of that finisher. Bull throws Corbin into the ring steps and then tosses him back into the ring.
We finally get our first weapon as Bull grabs a chair. Or do we? Corbin ducks the chair and hits End of Days for the win. The crowd actually seems to be booing the end a little. Corbin picks up the chair and sits in it a la Itami against the Ascension during his debut.
Winner by pinfall…Baron Corbin
Backstage Sami Zayn is talking to a ref and William Regal. We’re reminded that the WWE Network is free this month. Becky Lynch and Bayley are in different backstage areas preparing for their match later tonight.
Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy retained the tag titles.
Match 3 – Tag Team Championship – Lucha Dragons vs. (c) Blake and Murphy
This was really a tough match to watch because everything seemed a little bit off as both Sin Cara and Kalisto botching aerial moves they’ve done numerous times before. The speed of this match wasn’t right as even the commentary group noticed that the Lucha Dragons made some mistakes by not being more aggressive when Blake and Murphy were on the receiving end of the beatdown. In the end, the champs retain after Blake hits a Frog Splash to pin Sin Cara.
Winner by pinfall…and STILL NXT Tag Team Champions Blake and Murphy
After the match we get another Solomon Crowe’s hack interrupting the celebration. The message says “The Takeover Isn’t Over,” and “Stay Tuned” for next week’s episode of NXT.
The unique look of Finn Balor.
Match 4 – Number 1 Contender’s Final – Adrian Neville vs. Finn Bálor
Neville comes to the ring first. Bálor’s entrance body paint is nearly identical to the one he had at R Evolution, but this time you can see a Venom-like tongue at the bottom of the design. Bálor takes a few “chomps” at the cameraman during his entrance for something a little different. Still a fun entrance even if the surprise factor is now gone.
If Bálor, Neville, Zayn, Itami and Owens continue to put out matches like this anytime these men face each other, the WWE’s future is definitely in good shape. Both Bálor and Neville show off their entire arsenal including mat wrestling, catch-as-catch-can and of course some high-flying moves as well.
Neither man get a huge advantage throughout the match. Things take a turn for the extreme when Neville tries to crawl out of the ring and Bálor dropkicks Adrian through one of the NXT guard rails for his effort. Both men get back in the ring and trade kicks, Bálor with the Pele kick and Neville with a Superkick, a great example of “fighting spirit” wrestling.
Neville starts to get control after hitting some impressive suplexes. he goes for the Red Arrow, Bálor counters but can’t put away Neville. Bálor then dropkicks Neville into the ropes and hits his coup de grâce, double foot stomp, for the duke.
Winner by pinfall…and Number One Contender Finn Bálor
Sasha Banks with the NXT Divas title.
Match 5 – NXT Women’s Championship – Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. (c) Charlotte
It looks like Sasha and Becky at least start on the same page as the two double-team Charlotte, toss her outside the ring and then into the LED lights on the ring, breaking some of them. Now they decide to gang up on Bayley. The alliance quickly ends when both the Boss and Becky go for the simultaneous cover on Bayley. Sasha yells at Becky but is given a pumphandle suplex by Lynch, thus ending the fragile teamwork.
All the women get their chance to shine during this match. Sasha mocks ‘Naitch and sets up both Charlotte and Becky for a double knee off the turnbuckle but can’t pin either women. Bayley then gets in some moves including readjusting her ponytail, hitting Charlotte with a sunset flip and a Bayley to Belly suplex which Lych breaks up the pinfall.
Sasha hits Bayley and Becky with a diving crossbody outside the ring. Charlotte not one to be outdone, hits all three ladies with the same move. Now all four women are outside the ring. Becky gets Charlotte inside the ring, hits a suplex but can’t put away the champ. Bayley gets back into the ring, hits a German suplex on Becky and then a top rope Baley to Belly suplex.
Now it’s Boss Time and Sasha locks in a very painful looking Crossface. Charlotte doesn’t submit but Sasha wore her down enough to get a crucifix pin for the win.
Winner by pinfall…and NEW NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks
Charlotte and Sasha briefly hug each other following the match but both shove each other out of the way. It seems like a playful kind of shove and it looks like Charlotte is proud/glad (or at least not that upset) that Sasha is the new champ.
Sami Zayn is chopped by Kevin Owens outside the ring.
Main Event – NXT Championship – Kevin Owens vs. (c) Sami Zayn
Owens starts off the match by refusing to fight, getting out of the ring. While the ref talks to Owens, trying to get him back inside the ring, Sami decides to jump over the ref onto Owens with a senton. Zayn gets Owens into the ring and this turns out to be a big mistake.
Anyone who saw the manhandling that Brock Lesnar put on John Cena during their SummerSlam match last year should have an idea of what Owens does to Zayn for the majority of the rest of the match. The assault includes a gutbuster, senton, a plethora of suplexes and one of the nastiest chops I’ve heard in a while.
Each time Owens goes for a pin, it’s very lackadaisical, allowing Sami to kick out which just means more punishment Kevin inflicts on Zayn. Sami fights back with a lariat and a clothesline. Sami hits a Ble Thunder Bomb for a two count. Owens scouted the Helluva Kick and counters it with an HBK-esque Superkick. That leads to a cannonball splash but Sami again kicks out.
Kevin Owens starts to get mad and starts unloading suplexes, a pop-up powerbomb and goes for a Senton Bomb from the top rope, but Sami avoids it. Each time Owens gets several power moves in, Sami gets a quick set of offense in but the damage has been done.
Owens goes for the powerbomb on the apron but Zayn avoids it and goes for a springboard move but Sami took the worst of that move. Zayn goes for another Helluva Kick but Owens turns it into another pop-up powerbomb for a long two count. Now Owens seems determined just to hurt his former best friend as he unloads punches on the champ.
Sami is hit with two powerbombs and goes for a absolute laziest cover I’ve ever seen. Sami rolls away and we get a great shot of two female fans in the audience showing absolute fear over the health of Sami. The medical staff checks on the champ but Owens isn’t done as he picks up Zayn and connects with another two powerbombs. Owens prepares for his third consecutive powerbomb but the ref steps in and calls the match.
Winner by referee’s decision…and NEW NXT Champion Kevin Owens
Owens doesn’t even look at the fallen carcass of Sami Zayn as he celebrates his victory. So exactly two months to the day that Owens made his debut, he’s now the NXT Champion as we go off the air. Wow.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist currently living in Atlanta. He wants to know which of the main event NXT starts will be first called up and which will have the best WWE career. Feel free to email Matthew your thoughts or suggestions and follow him on Twitter @santavato.