Wednesday night saw the beginning of the build to NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable. In the past, most of the TakeOver cards wouldn't have been known until a week or two before the event. However, this week's NXT tried something different, revealing quite possibly the entire card in advance.
The TakeOver events have become can't-miss moments on the WWE calendar, so it's no surprise that as time has progressed, the builds have become bigger. The first, Arrival, only had about half of the matches decided before the event, and many of the matches for the first few specials weren't even decided until the week before – and more often than not, they were the result of tournaments, whether for championships or Number One contender spots. The history of TakeOver is what made this week of NXT – a week that truly pointed towards Unstoppable – so interesting.
On NXT, three matches were made official for TakeOver, while three others were made quite obvious to the fans. The first signed-and-sealed match will be for Kevin Owens' NXT title, as he will once again battle Sami Zayn. This, of course, is a rematch from Rival, and should come as a surprise to nobody, especially given the way their last encounter ended.
What was surprising was GM William Regal's announcement of a Number One contender match at Unstoppable, a triple-threat between Hideo Itami, Finn Bálor and Tyler Breeze. This is a fairly logical match, but it was interesting that it was announced this early – and without much build between Bálor and Breeze (besides the one promo Breeze cut last week). Add that to Becky Lynch already being named the Number One contender to Sasha Banks' Women's Championship, and that's three matches readymade for TakeOver.
In addition to those, three others seem to be set in stone: The feud between Blake and Murphy (The Dubstep Cowboys) and Enzo and Cass (The Realest Guys in the Room) continued, and it seems inevitable that they will meet at TakeOver for the titles. Also, both Baron Corbin and Rhyno cut promos that made it clear the Lone Wolf will face the Man Beast at TakeOver. Finally, it seems like Bayley and Emma will be actually facing each other after Emma took her passive-aggressive needling of Bayley to the next level.
Six matches already known three weeks out? Part of this is likely due to the length of time between Rival and Unstoppable. You can only go so long when most of the matches are so obvious. However, it also is a look at the continued evolution of NXT, and the TakeOver shows. As I said before, so many of those matches at the early specials were not built on feuds, but rather tournaments, or were based on competition instead of pure animosity. This has changed over the past few specials: The women's title match between Banks and Lynch is the only one that isn't based on purely personal issues (while the triple-threat isn't a pure feud either, Itami and Breeze have had a several-month storyline), and even that has backstory to it. So with the logical storylines, there's no reason to wait on the matches.
TakeOver, and NXT as a whole, continues to get bigger. With that comes more build and more hype for every show.
- I enjoyed the opening segment between Zayn and Owens. Zayn throwing Owens' lines that he used three months ago back in his face was a great nod to the past. While there are many people who I'm sure will disagree with his lines of Owens living in Zayn's shadow (particularly since only one of them won the ROH title, and it wasn't Zayn), any sort of reference to their past is going to get over huge with the longtime fans of both superstars. As for the match between Zayn and Alex Riley, it was fine for what it was, though nothing special. Writing off Riley (due to a cheap attack by Owens, who then powerbombed him into the apron) for at least a few weeks makes sense, just to figure out what to do with him now that he's done losing to Owens. And K.O. leaving destruction in his wake is always a good image to remind fans just why they're supposed to hate him.
- While most of the builds were logical, having a non-title match between the Dubstep Cowboys and the Realest Guys in the Room was a rather baffling move. The commentators, correctly or not, had already named Enzo and Cass as Number One contenders, so why would the teams have a non-title match at this point? This could have been really simply built with two singles matches, so the non-title match was rather nonsensical from any standpoint. The other thing that was confusing? Blake and Murphy trying to console Alexa Bliss after her confrontation with Carmella, and Bliss seeming to like their attention. Isn't Bliss a face?
- Emma finally seemed to push Bayley a little too far, stealing her headbands before her match with Dana Brooke. Emma then came out to Bayley's music, imitating her, which distracted Bayley and caused her to lose. The Hugster looked – dare I say it? – angry backstage after the match, searching for Emma, wanting to get a piece of her former friend. On a side note, Dana Brooke looked much better in this match that she did in her debut. She has a lot of potential, but she still looks slightly uncomfortable when she's not getting physical, as her walk to the ring and her poses seem very forced.
- Becky Lynch looked good once again in a match against a Divas jobber (indie wrester Crazy Mary Dobson). I really enjoy when she pulls out that armbar, because she knows how make it look believable. Her promo was decent, and clearly established her as the babyface in the match with Sasha Banks.
- Hideo Itami beat Adam Rose in a quick match. Slowly but surely, Itami seems to be getting a bigger reaction with his strikes, which is going to be a must going forward. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he wins the Number One contender match, just because Bálor won the shot at the last TakeOver, and Tyler Breeze and Owens would make for a real awkward feud.