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WWE NXT TakeOver: Rival results, recap, reactions (Feb. 11, 2015): Horrible Bosses

Unlike your standard NXT live event (which I guess we now just call a TakeOvers?), this show was nothing but wrestling matches.  While it's definitely not fair to say that angles weren't advanced, everything that went on went on in the ring and without benefit of a microphone.

The long awaited debut of Solomon Crowe was put off until next week, and even that announcement didn't involving talking, it came via a longer version of the video hacks that we've gotten over the last few weeks.  Backstage shots were silent, just showing the men and women who would do battle in the ring preparing for combat.

As such, and because picking your favorite TakeOver is kind of like ranking the best desserts or sexual positions  (and, honestly,  because I'm a little close to a deadline), I thought we'd mix things and present a subjective ranking of the six bouts that Rival served up to us.  This is not strictly based on workrate or storytelling, but is an analysis of the two with a little good old fashion marking out thrown in.

6. Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy retain the tag titles over Lucha Dragons

Not sure exactly what is going in that picture, and that pretty much sums up this match for me.

The botching curse of Sin Cara has finally caught up with Hunico, as each time he works a match in the gimmick, he appears sloppier than the previous one.  It even rubbed off on Kalisto a bit here, who followed up a weird missed Hurricanrana spot from his partner with a bad slip on the ropes when attempting a springboard.

They righted the ship from there, but only in the sense that it didn't get worse, not that it got better.

Blake & Murphy are game, but they're not there yet.  And like their current challengers, and the champs before them, they aren't helped by the fact that all of the storytelling wizardry that NXT deploys in their singles' divisions is AWOL when it comes to pairs.  Seasons have passed since Kalisto's debut, and I still don't know anything about him other than that he likes to chant LU-CHA...something the crowd initially dug but has since grown bored.

Coming into tonight, I was hoping that this would be a forgettable piece of business.  Instead, I'll remember it as one of the worst matches in the history of NXT live specials (but don't worry Too Cool vs. The Ascension from ArRIVAL, your spot is safe), and a reminder that NXT isnt perfect.

5. Baron Corbin takes out Bull Dempsey...again

But this time, he was a holding a chair when he hit his finisher, End of Days.

The Lone Wolf can make a sudden power move, like said finisher, or the slick Spinebuster he showed earlier in the match, work.  That and his presence are enough to see why he's getting the push he's getting.

But I don't know that he's ready for anything beyond this program.  And the best we can say about Dempsey is that this will hopefully send him back to the lab, where they can find a better gimmick (and more flattering attire) to go with the promise he shows on the stick.

Why book a feud where one man routinely dismantles another?  Why give a match a no DQ stip if you're not going to feature one spot with a foreign object?

This was the kind of match where you spend more time pondering those questions than paying attention to what's happening between the ropes.

4. Hideo Itami kicks the Zebra White Tiger off of Tyler Breeze

Give these guys a little more on camera build and about ten more minutes, and I fully believe they could be the match of the night, even on this card.

Major props to both men.  Itami for perserving and, in a relatively short amount of time, processing the myriad of differences between working for WWE and every other wrestling company he's been with to become something close to what we all unreasonably expected him to be right out of the gate.  And Breeze for staying over and continuing to evolve with the last minute matches and thirty second promo spots he keeps getting.

Best compliment we can give this is that it was absolutely the right choice for an opener,.  Had the next two matches not been quite as rough, or the tournament final more evenly paced, this would have set the perfect tone for the night.  As it is, it was another example that these two men have phenomenal chemistry, and both should remain in the title picture for a long time to come.

3. Finn Bálor defeats Adrian Neville to become the #1 contender to the NXT Championship

Here's where I get controversial.  It equals cash, my Uncle Eric always said.

Your mileage may vary, and for many it almost certainly does, but I didn't love this one.  I'm not saying it was bad, and the space between it and Corbin vs. Dempsey is a chasm.  Chalk it up to high expectations or just not resonating with this reviewer on this night, but this match failed to move me the way something billed as a 'dream' or 'classic' should.

It started with Finn's entrance.  Seeing the same paint and costume felt like a letdown.  The surprise was gone, and while it's still a striking bit of performance, it's not as awe inspiring the second time around.  My favorite part was watching Neville's mildly perturbed reception of it, and wondering what will happen when he faces someone like Kevin Owens or Brock Lesnar who will just smash him while he's conducting the crowd.

From there, the plodding pace of the first half to two-thirds of the match didn't help me connect with it.  There's a valid premise for structuring a match this way, but once in a blue moon clash of babyface workrate machines ain't one it.  Perhaps commentary bears some of the blame for this - too often tonight, it seemed like Jason Albert, Corey Graves and Rich Brennan were repeating the same things, like criticizing wrestlers for not going for pins, or worrying about who's "made it" in the eyes of the WWE.

But without even a fraction of the build that went into the two matches that followed it, it would have worked better for me if they came out guns blazing and really wowed us before slowing things down in the middle while the announcers explained that they were being cautious because the title shot was so meaningful.  Having mentions of that interspersed across ten minutes of a ground-based, alternately one-sided affair left me cold.

The big moments were glorious.  My favorite was Bálor drop kicking Neville through the ringside barricade after stalking him around the corner of the ring, but you can't go wrong with any of the reversals and counters of the last three or four minutes.

I'm just so accustomed to the Jumpin' Geordie being a part of something epic on these live shows, from his feud with Bo Dallas at ArRIVAL to the match of the year candidate against Sami Zayn at R Evolution.  I'd also really like it for Finn's character to be fleshed out.  They continue to tease the darkness that inspires his war paint, but that needs to be brought to the fore if his chase of the NXT title is going to live up to the work done by Neville, Zayn and now Kevin Owens in that area.

If this is goodbye to the long-reigning NXT champ, as Full Sail Live's post-match chant hinted at, I wish him well.  But he's had and will have better matches.  And with the right story, one of those will again come against Finn Bálor.

2. Kevin Owens Powerbombs Sami Zayn until his arms get tired to become the new NXT Champion

Though it was at times structured quite similarly to Bálor vs. Neville, I have no qualms with it here.  The established story for these two men dictated a slower pace punctuated by "Holy $#!+" moments of brutality, and that story clearly doesn't end here.

Much like the reveal last week that Owens had plotted to have his second TakeOver match be where he took Sami Zayn's NXT title, more was shown about the sadistic lunatic Kevin Owens throughout the course of the main event.  His issues with his old friend might not be personal, but that doesn't mean that KO doesn't relish in dishing out pain and violence en route to claiming the prize he says is all about caring for his family.

His every action tonight betrayed that as being his primary purpose, as he had claimed.  It doesn't matter how much he tells us about his selfless motives from here on out, we'll forever have the image of him ignoring the trainer's pleas and smiling while he slammed Zayn to the mat.  Again.  And again.

We'll fear for Finn's well-being as he faces the new champ.  Most of us will pine for Sami's return, to reclaim what is his and stop the rampage of the monster we saw for the first time tonight.  Wrestling's worst nightmare has become NXT's top heel.  It may not have been a five star match, but it sets up the next year's worth of stories for the brand, and at least three or four really good matches as part of that.

Not every show will end a stellar program like Zayn and Neville did at R Evolution.  But the end of Rival assured that one in the not too distant future will.

1. Sasha Banks pins Charlotte clean to become NXT Women's Champion

I was wrong.

In the build to the latest NXT special, I discounted the ability of the ladies to steal the show.  For all my proud feminism and championing of women's wrestling, I thought there were too many factors working against Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte to really stand out in between Finn and Adrian, Sami and Kevin.

Those factors - a smaller window of time, more wrestlers to spotlight and a peaking narrative - all ended up working in their favor.  And each of them delivered great athletic and theatrical performances within a match scripting to take advantage of the situation.

Charlotte got to look like a titan, only removed from action by a devastating blow and only defeated by skill AND guile.  Lynch offered the most complete performance of her WWE career, doing away with her more annoying character tics (and her trying-too-hard rocker garb) to tell the tale of a changed woman willing to stand up to anyone who doesn't think her best is still in front of her.  Bayley continued the evolution of her character from adorable to adorable with a side of "don't #(%& with me".

And The Boss wowed us with every move and gesture, both confronting her rivals while still being a little bit cowardly, and in the end backing up her confidence with skill and smarts.  Her coronation as the third ever NXT Women's champ could only have been more emphatic if she made the Queen tap.  But I almost like it better this way - that she almost did, but when she finally got tired of her old B.F.F.'s stubborn refusal, she got the best of her anyway.

That doesn't even cover the high level of skill and really cool spots of which these ten minutes were chock full.  Becky's pumphandle suplex.  Charlotte's neckbreakers for everyone.  The second rope Belly-to-Bayley.  Team B.A.E.'s wheelbarrow lungblower. The Boss' drop knees through the champ and her partner!

Action that never stopped that payed off months' worth of stories and set up several months' more.  I loved every second of it and I look forward to what comes next.

I'll never doubt you again, Women of NXT.


R Evolution was the perfect storm of Zayn's road to redemption ending as Kevin Owens highway to hell began (plus the debut of painted Finn).  That was a special, special show, and one that may not be topped for a while.  This one didn't have highes quite as high, and its lows were more noticeable.

And it's still the best WWE show of the year so far by a comfortable margin.

Grade: A-

How did you rate the show as a whole?  What was your favorite match?

Enough from me, let's here from you!

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