ArRiVAL was awesome. Takeover was amazing. What does the third NXT live special on WWE Network have that can continue that legacy?
That's what we're here to cover for you, fake fight fans. We'll break down each of the five announced matches on the card to get you ready for tonight's 8PM Eastern showtime on WWE Network (for a rundown of all the events leading up to the show and how to watch them, click here).
And this doesn't even get into the WWE broadcast debut of one of the most exciting performers in the world, Kenta!
Enjoy this preview, watch the show along with us tonight in the live blog and stick around afterwards for our reactions - each comes with a complementary side of the best pro wrestling discussion around in our comment sections. When it comes to NXT, we here at Cageside Seats don't get hyped. We stay hyped. Speaking of which...
Mojo Rawley vs. Bull Dempsey
The Hype Man has gone from a big push circa ArRIVAL to being laid out with one kick by Rusev at Takeover. An entrance that's infectious babyface fun gets some in the crowd going, but it leaves him with little to do in the ring but hit his three ass-based moves. His opponent tonight seems to have a little more going for him in the ring, but we haven't been treated to too much more. Dempsey also has an entrance that the live crowd has latched onto (a rocking theme and chantable first name will do that), but the gimmick is already being worked better by at least two independent guys.
They're matched up a few weeks after a random interview segment paired them up for the tournament to determine the #1 contender to the tag titles. They squashed a pair of nobodies to warm up for the tourney, but a loss to eventual finalists The Vaudevillians (Aiden English & Simon Gotch) caused Bull to snap and attack his partner. An enhancement bout for each guy and some posturing...here we are.
Rawley probably has a lot more on the line than Dempsey. The latter man is early on his push; Mojo's been a staple of NXT for a while without showing any noticeable improvement. The loss that many are predicting for him here will probably lead back to the lab, or to future endeavors.
Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester Lefort - Hair vs. Hair
The New Jersey sparkplug is a fan favorite for his motor mouth mic skills - good enough that they included him in a storyline with his partner Colin "Big Cass" Cassady while he was out with a broken leg - but hasn't had a chance to show what he can do in the ring. Similarly, the Frenchman was mostly known for managing (he briefly handled Rusev before Lana was introduced) and jobbing before embarking on his own pairs career with Marcus Louis as Les Legionnaires.
Louis & Lefort debuted as a team in a feud with Cassady while Amore was rehabbing. The seven-footer from Queens held his own despite being outnumbered, and the bitter Europeans cost Enzo & Cass a match against Simon Gotch & Aiden English. That wasn't enough, though, as the clipper-wielding duo snuck up on the Realest Guys in the Room after another match a few weeks ago and took a few whiskers off of the trash-talker skywalker's chin. The 'loser gets his head shaved challenge' was thrown down and accepted. A hilarious if failed attempt by the NY/NJ team to douse Lefort with Nair later, and we're ready to go.
Both men's immediate future is probably in the tag division. But, per the boss' conference call yesterday, one of them will be heading into that future with a squeaky clean noggin.
Bayley vs. Charlotte (c) - NXT Women's Championship match
These ladies go way back, and they're going to need to tap into that history to keep up the tradition of killer women's title matches on NXT live events - including the classic at the last one where Charlotte won the belt by defeating Natalya.
Super-fan Bayley was quick to take Ric Flair's little girl on as a friend and partner when the Nature Girl arrived in NXT last year. But it wasn't too long before Charlotte turned on B, siding with Summer Rae & Sasha Banks in their Beautiful Fierce Females (BFFs) clique and tormenting the Huganomics major.
When inaugural Women's champ Paige was stripped of the title after winning the WWE Divas championship, Charlotte crushed her way to the finals of the tournament to crown her replacement, eventually meeting up with and defeating fellow second generation wrestler Natty at the first Takeover. Bayley used her surprising early loss in the tourney to motivate her, and has built a strong résumé as #1 contender with a pinfall over the champ in tag action and two wins over former BFF Sasha.
On the microphone, the champ has dismissed the Hug Life practioner at every turn, but Bayley has slowy been shedding her totally adorable underdog self and revealing a more confident woman underneath (who is still totally into cats and head bands).
Many feel that Charlotte is being fast-tracked to Raw, and that tonight will see a passing of the torch - and maybe even a face turn where she finally gives B the respect for which she's been asking. Regardless of who gets the booking nod, it should be a great showcase of women's grappling, as the champ has proven to be a talented mat-based heel worker who can elevate her performance for the right opponent. And, as one of the best workers on NXT, Bayley is pretty much that right opponent for anyone.
Kalisto & Sin Cara vs. The Ascension (c) - NXT Tag Team Championship match
Konnor (hoss) & Viktor (more hair) have run roughshod over the tag division for almost a year. Through a couple of gimmick tweaks - they're now metal bad asses with a penchant for Egyptian iconography after spending time as...space vampires, maybe? - they have only occasionally been challenged for their belts.
One of those challenges came at the last live event, where Kalisto & El Local (the since released Ricardo Rodriguez) actually lasted more than a couple of moves against The Ascension. The undersized high flier found a new masked partner, entered the #1 contender tournament and fought past Sami Zayn & Adam Rose and The Vaudevillains for the right to try and end their reign.
Having just debuted on the main roster with a win against Los Matadores on Main Event the other night, conventional wisdom has Konnor & Viktor moving up full-time shortly. Whether Kalisto & Sin Cara or any NXT team has been built up enough to believably conquer them on their way out the door is a valid question, though. Not to mention whether or not the rocky stick work we've gotten from the pair to date gives them much of a chance at succeeding on the bigger stage of WWE.
Win or lose, the lucha libre practioners probably have more at stake at Takeover - especially for Sin Cara. As a steady hand, Hunico was the only person the company tapped to don the mask they've put a lot into marketing since the failed Mistico experiment started. Now, with the need for new Latino stars greater than ever, both of the Team Lucha members could have a bright future ahead of them if their work here can get and keep them over with the crowd.
Adrian Neville (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Tyler Breeze - Fatal 4Way for the NXT Championship
The main event, and the match type that finally gave the second Takeover a subtitle (R.I.P. The Quickening, there's always next quarter). All four men got a chance to show what they can do on this past Monday night's Raw, and impressed in the few minutes they were given.
That appearance, and perhaps tonight's match as well, were clearly designed as showcases for Neville. The Man that Gravity Forgot won the NXT title at the first live program ever aired on WWE Network, and has been a fighting champion in the six-plus months since, defeating all comers. Despite that and the flat out amazing things he can do in a wrestling ring, he's never had the best match on an NXT live special. Tonight may be his last shot, as the accolades being thrown his way by Michael Cole and JBL sure sounded like they were designed to get audiences used to seeing him on national TV.
At least a couple of Adrian's successful defenses have come against Tyson Kidd. The former WWE Tag champ has reinvented himself as a veteran heel on Thursday nights, but his claim to a title shot is dubious given those losses - even with devious victories over the other two men in tonight's bout. Natalya's husband (or "wife", as the Full Sail Live crowd loves to taunt him) will definitely raise the level of in-ring performance, though, so he's a welcome addition to the match, even if new General Manager William Regal's rationale for placing him there is suspect. FACT.
MTV Euro-award winning director/producer/gorgeous person Tyler Breeze defeated Zayn to become #1 contender at the last live show. He also has technically never had his shot at that belt, first delayed by a vicious hand modeling injury and then by inteference by Kidd (he was seconds away from taking Neville's corkscrew shooting star press finisher - the Red Arrow, but who's counting?). The short shrift given him on Raw wouldn't indicate that it's Prince Pretty's time to rule over NXT just yet, but he has impressed at every turn thus far in his career, and crowning him tonight would be a handsome decision.
Fan favorite Zayn has been this close to winning the NXT title for most of the time that he's been in WWE's employ. Since earning Cesaro's respect in their epic feud, it's also been his sole focus. The frustration of not being able to capture the belt has really shown on the usually unflappable Superstar's face. And in a tag match on NXT a few weeks back where the contestants were paired up the same way they were on Raw, a seemingly stray Helluva Kick knocked the champ cold. That allowed Kidd to pick up a pin on Neville, and lead to a heel-ish post-match attack by Sami. A conflicted but unremorseful Likeable One then ended the show clutching the championship he's been kept from over the past year.
Given that all four men are fantastic performers who have had good matches with each other in the past, AND that any outcome would make storyline sense, AND that the match type allows Neville to lose in a way that protects him for a call-up...the only concern with Takeover's Fatal 4Way is that the stipulation will cut into the action.
That's our rundown of what should be a great night of pro wrestling, Cagesiders!
What matches are you most excited for? Who are you picking to win? Should we all just shut up and talk about Kenta?
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