NXT TakeOver: London confirmed one thing. You can change the faces, you can change the location, you can even change the time – but you can’t change the brand.
Over the past year, plenty has changed in NXT. Stars have moved up to the main roster, crowds have gotten larger, expectations have gone through the roof. This is no longer a developmental…not even close. Rather, it has become a promotion capable of standing on its own, creating stars, touring the country and selling nearly 16,000 tickets for an event in Brooklyn. In short, NXT’s evolution has been a near constant. But what happens when NXT made its biggest leap to date, crossing the pond for TakeOver: London?
You get a great show.
Sure, some of the mainstays were there. Bayley is still the Women’s champ. The Realest Guys in the Room were in an emotional match for the tag titles. But if you go back just to May’s NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, less than half the competitors on that card were in matches that aired live on Wednesday afternoon. The main event, Finn Bálor versus Samoa Joe, featured two guys who only started making their mark on NXT in the past year, even though many have been watching them forever. Yet, their battle was exactly the type of match that we’ve come to expect from TakeOver.
A full recap probably won’t do it justice, but sufficed to say their match was an indie dream. From Bálor coming out as Jack the Ripper (in Demon form) to the stiff work and constant counters back and forth that set up the finish, it certainly reached the hopes of fans. The action really made it feel like anyone could win, particularly when Joe locked in a Coquina Clutch or went for a Muscle Buster. While Bálor won to retain his title, it felt like a match that firmly established the two at the top of the ladder in NXT, not that many questioned the positioning going into the night.
The fans in London helped make it feel like a match that could have played out across the indies (especially overseas). The British fans chanted all night, adding NXT stars’ names to songs from the Beatles and White Stripes, amongst others. With the success of this show, despite the time difference, you have to wonder if this is just the first step in making NXT truly international. It’s unlikely that WWE would ever run a pay-per-view outside of North America, but NXT? Anything is in play if the crowds react like they did in London, or in Tokyo for Beast in the East this summer. NXT doesn’t need to be attached to a location. That was a concern earlier this year, but it’s no longer there.
In short, you can take the superstars from NXT, you can take the promotion overseas and away from its home in Full Sail. But you can’t take away what fans love about the promotion. And TakeOver: London proved it.
The Best of the Rest of TakeOver:
** After the caliber of previous NXT Women’s title matches on TakeOver, it would be fair to call the bout between Bayley and Nia Jax a disappointment. However, it still told a fantastic story, and Bayley was put in a great position to be an underdog. The ending, where she was simultaneously played the role of underdog and cagey champ, was fantastic, and showed her progression in the ring. Looking back at Bayley’s moveset from a year ago to today is fascinating. The aggressive guillotine she hooked in at London was so different from anything her character would have attempted while she was rising through the ranks, but it works so well now. Happy-go-lucky Bayley is still here, but now, she knows what she has to do to win, and she wrestles like a veteran champ. That’s the type of thing that may go overlooked, but it’s been so critical in her character development
** Is Baron Corbin the next guy to challenge for the title? His journey through 2015 might be the most fascinating in NXT. At the beginning of the year, many of the Internet fans felt that he was being pushed down their throats because of his look and NFL background. He even tweaked his gimmick to reflect that attitude. Since then though, he’s earned a lot of respect for his series of matches over the past few TakeOvers. While the fans were firmly in Apollo Crews’ corner today, you could tell from the crowd reaction that the Lone Wolf had earned won them over with his work. If there’s a wild card in the landscape of NXT right now, it’s him.
** The saga of the Realest Guys in the Room continues, as they once again came up short in their quest for the NXT Tag Team titles. NXT has proven time and time again that they know how to build characters, and though they didn’t get the job done against Dash and Dawson (who continue to wow) today, one has to think their time is coming – and soon. Maybe at NXT TakeOver in Dallas, during WrestleMania weekend? If not, it may be time to move them up to the main roster, because there are plenty of talented tag teams currently jockeying for position in the NXT ranks. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. On a side note, the “Oh, Enzo Amore” chant to the tune of “Seven Nation Army:” Wrestling chant of the year?
** If we’re talking about the future of the NXT Women’s division, the opening match of the night might have displayed it. And I’m not just talking about Asuka. While the Japanese striker is phenomenal, I don’t think Evil Emma has received the attention she deserves. If you tell me that in six months these two are feuding over the NXT Women’s title, it would draw, and draw big. And the teased match between Asuka and Nia Jax? That’s not going to be bad either.