This is one of those clip shows NXT does after live specials or around the holidays, so most of what we saw is available by pulling up TakeOver: Dallas on the Network - which, you should do... it was awesome - or watching the YouTube fallout videos.
Also featured were two performers WWE is apparently high on in Apollo Crews and Cathy Kelley. This will not be as involved as our usual reactions, since we already reacted to it, but there's still stuff worth discussing. So...
After a montage of TakeOver: Dallas highlights, Tom Phillips and Corey Graves welcome us to the show from their desk at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center. They talk up NXT's presence at WrestleMania week, and turn things over to Kelley, who's on a soundstage in Stamford, Connecticut.
After quickly recapping Apollo Crews debut on Raw this past Monday, Cathy introduces a video package of the show-opening tag team title match from Dallas. Highlights of American Alpha's big win over the Revival are set to music, then we see their emotional backstage interview where Chad Gable talks up his partnership with Jason Jordan, who is brought to tears by their accomplishment.
Asuka's win over Bayley gets the same treatment, although theirs is set to the Halestorm tune that went with their preview video. The Hugster talks afterwards of feeling let she let everyone down, but promises to get right back up again.
After a rundown of the Elias Samson attack on Johnny Gargano which began his issues with Crews, the Austin Aries/Baron Corbin match is promoted. A-Double's victory promo follows, and then Kelly discusses the Lone Wolf's big Mania win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
- If, like me, you always wonder why NXT has these episodes which seem to be encouraging you to watch something you can pull up any time since it also comes with the $9.99 we pay WWE each month, I'm told there are still international markets where this airs on television. These keep those viewers up-to-date and encourage them to join us in forking over our hard-earned cash to the McMahons every four weeks.
- Beyond that... these video packages are cool, I guess? I appreciate the effort they put into them as opposed to just showing a few seconds from the middle of each match.
- Sign me up for Team Cathy Kelley. She's not Renee Young (who is?), but she's got a great presence and enthusiastically talks about the product without it coming across insincere or forced. Assuming she gets better from here, we'll be just fine while Young is off trying to convince Natalya it's okay to tell TJ she's not okay with his obsession with Cesaro fanfic... or whatever they do over on Total Divas.
The NXT title showdown is spotlighted, set to Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes. Finn Bálor later says he merely survived with his championship still around his waist. Samoa Joe does not want to talk about anything.
Replaying the Drifter's song for Apollo from last Wednesday night - and the No Way Jose teaser, and a commercial for the Download Festival dates in May - takes us in to the one full match on the show.
With Greg Hamilton holding the microphone for him, Samson tries to debut a new song he wrote for TakeOver (this is the dark match from before the live broadcast). The crowd won't let him getting past his first three lines, and then Crews' music hits. Elias takes us to chinlock city, stratgically cutting off attempts to pick up the pace by his opponent.
After a break, Samson remains in control until Apollo blocks some right hands and hits a corner splash and a moonsault of the apron. His combination finisher is thwarted when the Drifter gets his knees up for the standing moonsault after the gorilla press, but he kicks out at two after a high knee. Crews returns the favor by countering Samson's neckbreaker, and hits the toss powerbomb for a win after roughly twelve minutes.
- Seem to have gotten a good deal of flak over in the preview thread for suggesting Samoa Joe will receive a third shot at Finn's title. While I understand folks not liking that booking decision, I fail to see how you can watch the presentation of their feud here and not think that's exactly what we're getting.
- Oh, and it better freaking lead to Joe winning.
- Although it's almost certainly my favorite Samson match I've seen, I'm still not sold. For one thing, while he'd generating a considerable amount of heat, it doesn't seem he knows what to do with it. "Guy who gets petulant when people aren't impressed with him" isn't a bad character, but in pro graps, you need to dial it up a lot more than the Drifter's shown to this point.
- Pacing-wise, his bouts always seem slow, or at least extremely methodical. Again, that could be by design, but without a better connection to the audience, it leads to bored crowds, not angry ones.
- Apollo, on the other hand, did well. I've said it before, but I find him a lot more interesting when he combines the smiles with an attitude. A man with his physique who can do the things he does in the ring should have a high opinion of himself, and not be afraid to share it. There's a cool 'reality' era babyface gimmick there on which they've only started to scratch the surface.
- My other critique of Crews, which was still evident here, is that his signature spots are very, well, spot-y. Without the right opponent, things like the moonsaults break up the flow of the match while someone gets in position and he checks to make sure they're there. Since it isn't noticable when working with someone like Tyler Breeze or Bálor, I imagine it won't be a problem working with more experienced performers at the next level. But it's not something I notice nearly as often in a Neville match, even though he relies a lot on the same kind of maneuvers.
The electric debut of Shinsuke Nakamura is repackaged for us, including his entrance, the classic win over Sami Zayn and their respective interviews afterwards.
Kelley informs us the King of Strong Style will be in action on next week's return-to-normal episode, and thanks us for watching.
- Think my boss pretty well summed this up here.
- Should be an interesting next few weeks, as we're officially in a transition period thanks to NXT fulfilling the "talent pipeline" portion of its mission with the call-ups of Crews, Corbin and the tag teams of Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady and the Vaudevillains - with perhaps a few more to come.
- That's all part of the fun of following this show, though. And, while I'm with Graves in not really being able to believe it, we'll have SWAGSUKE to help us through.
Look, I can't. The new match is okay but not worth seeking out, but unless you're really into evaluating announcers, just go watch TakeOver again.
See you next week, Cagesiders.