by Victor Parenza (@ParenzaBooks)
It’s nearing the Royal Rumble so we all know what that means: reviewing NXT matches from the previous year! Oh that’s not what you had in mind? Well sorry I had a busy Christmas break. I also wanted to re-watch all these matches because you never know if they will hold up or not, plus there was a nice little tournament known as the Cruiserweight Classic that produced many candidates.
American Alpha vs. the Revival Takeover: Dallas
This match started Takeover: Dallas and it started it with a bang. Revival would ironically be elevated to another level after losing this match, leading to a fantastic year for them overall. Alpha was ready to grab the brass ring, and Dallas was ready for it too.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn Takeover: Dallas
Here’s what I wrote immediately after this match:
Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn. Holy crap my words could never do it justice. Just a war. Nakamura is now the biggest star in NXT. He even got chants during the WrestleMania main event, which I found to be hilarious. Again, big props to the crowd here. They were white-hot for this. Nakamura is the new stud, but Sami is still “our guy.” This was a great way for Mr. Zayn to leave NXT.
At this point there isn’t much I can add to that. This match is the darling of 2016 for most people. It is also better than all the matches in WWE this year as well. Which is a hell of a compliment because there was no shortage of great ones on the main roster this year.
Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe Takeover: Dallas
I think I like this match more than just about anyone. I didn’t see it getting praised by anyone. I suppose it’s due to the multiple blood stoppages. In a weird way I think it helped the match. You could feel the anticipation in the crowd (along with anger) every time the medic was wiping down Joe. Combined with the fact that blood literally happened in the first few seconds of the match, it made for wild ride. It amped Joe to a level that we had rarely seen this decade. The way he hip-tossed Balor over the guard rail with such reckless abandon, made him seem like a rabid animal. And again, you can’t underestimate how great this Dallas crowd was. How they kept that energy up for the entire show is beyond me. Balor got the clean win, which I know really surprised me and probably everyone else, to cap off a roller coaster of a match. Give this one another shot if you haven’t already.
The Revival vs. American Alpha Takeover: The End
The crowd was jacked for American Alpha on this night. Numerous chants broke out for them during the match, and they responded in kind. I love the Alpha’s Steiner Brother routine. What’s old, really is new again. I’m sure most people were like me thinking that Jordan and Gable were set for a long tag title reign, but the Revival got the surprise win here. You can see the shock on many of the crowd’s faces. Tough to argue the results though. This is somewhat of a forgotten gem of 2016.
The Revival vs. American Alpha July 6th
This was 2 out of 3 falls, and the final fall was decided by a Shatter Machine on the apron. I don’t think I need to say anymore.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano CWC Round One
Although they have really found their footing as a tag team, the team now known as #DIY had quite the bout against each other in the Cruiserweight Classic. I thought it was a tad strange they had this in the opening round instead of later in tournament, but it’s tough to argue the results. The final moments are hard-hitting and the crowd is in the palm of their hands. It teased a possible heel turn for Ciampa, but as of this writing hasn’t happened.
Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander CWC Round Two
This match was taped pretty far in advance and had the internet buzzing until it aired. I knew Ibushi could go, (as does everyone else) so it didn’t surprise me that much. I wasn’t familiar enough with Cedric to know if he could truly hang or not, but I was excited to check it out. And I wasn’t disappointed. This match had the best near-fall of any in the CWC, which is a pretty impressive feat. Cedric had quite the backing of the crowd (around 50% I would say) which only helped his cause. Kota was amazing as usual, and in the end had his hand raised. The post-match spot with Triple H was really cool, and it’s things like that that makes it hard to hate him these days; even when he wins a Royal Rumble.
#DIY vs. the Revival Takeover: Brooklyn
I thought that this was going to be a nice little match. After the much-acclaimed Revival vs. American Alpha feud, it would have big shoes to fill to be anywhere near that level of awesome. Well, I’m always willing to admit when I’m wrong, and this was better than any of those previous tag bouts. It’s pretty remarkable that Gargano and Ciampa blend so well together since they had never tagged before NXT. But chemistry is something you can’t explain and these guys have it. This match began like any other tag match, but as time wore on, the crowd became so invested into it. Every near-fall was received with a near-orgasmic reactions. They needed DIY to win this bout. It didn’t pan out that way, but not too many people were complaining after what they had just witnessed.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Samoa Joe Takeover: Brooklyn
Initially I was a bit disappointed with this match. I just had such high expectations for those two warriors. I even preferred their rematch at Toronto. Upon re-watch, I must say this is a really good match (and the Toronto one just missed the cut). It may have started a bit slow, but they really start to lay into each other and it’s entertaining as hell.
Akira Tozawa vs. Gran Metalik CWC Quarter-Finals
Although he was overshadowed by Kota Ibushi, Gran Metalik had a really spectacular CWC showing. This match started off good, but really went to the next level for the second half. It even received the “FIGHT FOREVER” chant. Which it is dangerously close to being whored out at this point, but it was still pretty novel at that point; especially coming from a Full Sail crowd who wouldn’t bastardize it as much as a less smarky crowd. Metalik kicked out of Tozawa’s German suplex, which had been built nicely as a dangerous weapon. Then Metalik used his own weapon, the Metalik Driver, and put Tozawa down. I am an unabashed Tozawa lover, so I was so bummed when he was eliminated. And seeing the disappointment on his face after the loss, how could not love him? The crowd agreed, and chanted “TO-ZAW-A!”
Kota Ibushi vs. Brian Kendrick CWC Quarter-Finals
Kendrick is a guy that I’ve always liked, but never loved. He has good matches, but never great; until now. Both gentlemen pulled out all the stops here, including a Burning Hammer (I wonder if that is the first use of it in WWE?). Some would even say this is the match of the tournament. If I had to give it a ranking, I would put it at two just behind Ibushi vs. Alexander. But it is very close. Kendrick’s “old man running out of time” angle really clicked and helped to intensify the drama of this match up. For Ibushi it was just another match, another chance for a match of the year contender. Ibushi is so damn good you couldn’t help to cheer for him. But at the same time, you felt for Kendrick and wanted him to succeed because his story strikes a chord with so many. Recommended viewing for all.
Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr. CWC Semi-Finals
Metalik went balls out literally from the opening sounds of the bell. He flew around with reckless abandon much to the awe of the crowd. Then Sabre took over and started to stretch him in ways the human body was never intended to bend. Then they just beat the snot out of each other. I love this match. It sort of gets lost with the other two Finals matches on this night, which is understandable, but don’t sleep on it. Metalik gets the upset win, and it’s not the only upset we’ll see on this night.
Kota Ibushi vs. T.J. Perkins CWC Semi-Finals
Perkins had been quietly winning the crowd over up until this point. Now however he was standing across the ring from the favorite to win it all, the Golden Star himself, Kota Ibushi. This match felt big, and both guys rose to the occasion. Each looked to have it won, only to be disappointed at the last second. When it was all said and done, Ibushi tapped, and Perkins looked like a made-man (sort of ironic considering his position now). Even if TJP didn’t eventually win it all, he knocked off the most famous, most decorated, overall favorite to win the crown. The crowd reacted as such, and we looked to have a new star.
Gran Metalik vs. T.J. Perkins CWC Finals
If someone told you this would be the CWC Finals, you would assume they were on drugs. You wouldn’t have guessed one, let alone both of these guys to advance this far. At this point though, it was known that neither Ibushi nor Sabre had signed with WWE, so you would assume that neither would win the tournament. I, at least, assumed that one of them would make the Finals though. I don’t follow lucha at all, so I had never heard of Gran Metalik, who was known as Mascara Dorada in CMLL. I was however, immediately impressed with him during his first round bout in this tournament. T.J. Perkins I had known from TNA and ROH, but didn’t expect him to make it past one of the “big four” of Ibushi, Sabre, Tozawa, or Gargano/Ciampa. But like I mentioned in the previous two matches, they both felt deserving of being here as the match was now upon us. Both men had won over Full Sail and they wanted to see who would be the best man. I mark out hard for hurricanranas to the floor, and there were two pretty spectacular ones in this match. But in the end, TJP countered an avalanche Metalik Driver into a Kneebar for the submission win, with an excellent finish to the CWC.
#DIY vs. the Revival Takeover: Toronto
Was their first match a fluke? No of course not, why else would it be on this list? NXT makes everything better, but the one thing that is above the rest is their tag division. I wish it would translate to the main roster, but until that stigma shifts, it is what it is. For the first fall the Revival hit the best Shatter Machine (Awesome name by the way, can you tell I love everything about that move?) ever on Gargano. He came down at a somewhat awkward angle, and it made it look so much more devastating. Everything just picked up from there in this 2 out of 3 fall match-up. DIY got the somewhat surprising victory, but a definite well-earned one.
The Revival- 5
American Alpha- 3
#DIY- 3 (counting their 1 on 1 match)
Gran Metalik- 3
Kota Ibushi- 3
Shinsuke Nakamura- 2
Samoa Joe- 2
Brian Kendrick- 1
Zack Sabre Jr.- 1
Akira Tozawa- 1
Sami Zayn- 1
Finn Balor- 1
Cedric Alexander- 1