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WWE NXT TakeOver: Orlando results, recap, reactions (April 1, 2017): Fight and you were right

Back when your humble NXT beat writer lived in the great state of Texas, there was a sports columnist for the Dallas Morning News named Blackie Sherrod. Ole Blackie was a Lone Star state legend, but by the time I got there, he was in the twilight of his career, and mostly wrote a Sunday column that he’d open each week by telling readers he was “Scattershooting, while wondering whatever happened to...” This was your cue you were about to get a random assortment of musings on a variety of topics. Mostly, but not exclusively, sports-related.

What does any of this have to do with NXT TakeOver: Orlando, the live special which wrapped up on WWE Network around 10:30PM Eastern on April 1, the night before WrestleMania 33? Good question.

As much as I try to not make posts about myself instead of what I’m supposed to be writing about, ‘Mania weekend has left me feeling like “scattershooting” is the best I can do. For instance, I watched the show in question here on my television with Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor XI streaming on my laptop, and that combo was my third wrestling show of the day (after SHIMMER 91 in the early afternoon). I’m not even trying to keep up with all the stuff my man ReverendKain is covering, and my mind is kind of wrestling mush.

It’s not just me, I don’t think. The crowd at Amway Center for TakeOver seemed uncharacteristically subdued, at least until the tag team title match came along and ripped all of our faces off for us. It’s not like the opening two matches were significantly different from typical early bouts on NXT live shows, I didn’t think, so I found myself wondering if some of the crowd was wiped out from other shows, saving their energy for the bigger main roster cards to come, or maybe a bit of both.

Of course, it’s possible there’s just less enthusiasm for this brand these days, the return of the Triple H “We Are NXT” show opening promo not withstanding.

Let’s try to sift through it together. Come scattershooting (while wondering whatever happened to Oliver Grey) with me!

Bobby Roode def. Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall following a middle rope Glorious DDT to retain the NXT championship

As someone who’s long been a fan of the NXT champ, and who doesn’t mind an old school-style match that starts slow and builds to a more breakneck pace at its conclusion, I dug this match. But I’m not blind to its issues.

It’s kind of fitting that what’s helped Roode reach new heights of popularity is an entrance theme. Bobby’s always been a guy I’ve admired for everything about his performance, except maybe his wrestling. He’s not bad in the ring, and can really shine in the kind of story-heavy bouts he’s had with Nakamura. But it’s personality over athleticism, and the second best thing about “Glorious Domination” - which got its best presentation yet in Orlando with a little Reby Hardy-influenced piano intro - is how it allows Roode to ham it up on his way to a match.

Once he’s there, it’s not hard to guess what you’re gonna get. He’s similar to Haitch in that the more important the bout, the more likely it is to be long. And it’s not just because “longer = epic”, but because longer gives them more of a chance to do the little things at which they excel. But watching this match at the same time the Hardys and Bucks were falling off of increasingly higher objects over on my second screen, I had a new appreciation for why some folks find the Trips/Roode marathons so taxing (neither is inherently good or bad, but the differences can be jarring, and folks have their preferences).

NXT’s singles main events can also be very repetitive. With this feud, and Shinsuke’s feud with Samoa Joe, and Joe’s feud with Finn Bálor, I appreciate that the performers and agents are telling a longer story across a series of matches, but unlike the tag title picture, that too often ends up being more of the same instead of building on what’s come before. Orlando’s tale of how Roode was willing to take advantage of injury and Nakamura was too proud to stop or change his game didn’t feel like advancement of the story told in San Antonio, but rather a Hollywood sequel done because the first made enough money to warrant one, as opposed to their being a creative reason to continue.

Then there’s the King of Strong Style. At this point, it seems safe to say this is the version of Swagsuke we’re getting. Hopefully, the call-up this loss appears to presage will inspire him. And Nakamura at 75 - 80% is still a really good performer. But the old “inconsistent selling” bug has bitten in almost all his big NXT matches... to the point where I question why they continue to make injuries a focal point of them.

Sounds like I’m down on this match more than I was... it was entertaining, and the ending had me on the edge of my seat (plus, the outcome of the opener surprised me to the point where I wasn’t confident in any of my predictions for the rest of the card). But I’m ready for something different from the NXT main event scene. Character-wise, I think Roode is more than capable of delivering a change, but especially in a brand which more and more fans watch just for shows like this one that are all video packages and wrestling, he’s going to need some help from his opponents and the team backstage to take it to the next level... to make it GLORIOUS.

Authors of Pain def. The Revival via pinfall following Super Collider, after earlier eliminating #DIY with Last Chapter, to retain their NXT Tag Team titles

Holy $#1+! Not sure what else to say. This is the reason we shouldn’t chant “This is Awesome” during things like people’s entrances, because wrestling fairly regularly gives us stuff which does actually inspire awe.

And everything about the Revival & #DIY team-up here was awesome. It involved spots, sure - I jumped off the couch and scared my cats when Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson came to assist Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa with putting Rezar through that table, and sat in slack-jawed silence after Dawson superplexed Ciampa onto the pile of guys on the floor, but my favorite was probably the Gargano & Dawson tandem submissions, broken up by Rezar coming back from the wreckage of the table to bulldoze Dash & Tommaso into Akam.

Unlike the main event, however, they made those moments more than just spots because they grew from what we already knew from prior encounters between these players. #DIY lost to AoP, and the Top Guys have been forced to resort to guerrilla tactics just to wound them, so if there was ever going to be a challenge where they had to team up, this was it. And Gargano & Ciampa nailed being reluctant to do so, just as The Revival couldn’t help being sneaky little shits and trying to screw over the Supermen to their Lex Luthors almost every chance they got.

As most expected would happen if the Authors weren’t the first team eliminated, things got a little weird after #DIY was taken out, but I don’t think they got worse. The fact much of the live and home audience hated that Paul Ellering’s boys were victorious is kind of the point. NXT has sent us some mixed signals about Dash & Dawson, including the “hope spots” which made up the final stretch of this match, but heels are meant to be reviled - especially monster ones like Akam & Rezar. Are those guys great yet? No, but they’re putting things together, and Rezar especially strikes me as someone who could be a really special talent in a couple years.

One thing is for sure. I CAN NOT WAIT to see where these teams and the creative team take NXT’s tag division next. I’m not overstating things when I say this scene, and the four guys who make up The Revival and #DIY in particular, have been this brand’s saving grace for the past year. There’s only one area where I’d still make the joke I don’t want to see talent “sent down” to the main roster (and, of course, I want Wilder, Dawson, Gargano & Ciampa to get paid more and reach more fans if possible, that’s why it’s a joke), and that’s the tag teams. If it’s time for the Top Guys to be out, so be it. But I selfishly hope they stick around to try and wow me again at the next TakeOver, because I absolutely know they can.

Asuka def. Ember Moon via pinfall following a head kick to retain her NXT Women’s championship

Wasn’t sure these ladies were going to be able to follow the tag match, but (1) the unpopular decision about the winner of the team belts maybe helped, and (2) they didn’t really need much help.

If I have a real criticism here, it’s that this didn’t feel as huge as it could or should have, largely because there weren’t any other big names for Moon to take down on her way to Asuka. But they made up for that in completely convincing us they were equals once they stepped through the ropes - mostly by beating the crap out of each other.

There were a couple spots in the first half of the match where I was concerned Ember was trying too hard, which resulted in some sloppiness on the verge of dangerousness (one to the outside where I think Asuka may have saved her from serious injury). She settled down, though, and all of her work erased kayfabe doubts maybe she couldn’t hang with the Empress.

Especially given the ending, where she forced Asuka to cheat to keep her title, this accomplished this match’s most important goal - establish Moon as the next big thing. Looking back, I guess I was wrong to want this one to feel huge, because it was about making the next one feel that way.

Not sure what else there is to say about the undefeated champ. Over her last couple of big outings, she’s proven she’s capable of doing more than just stiffing people. And her character work since San Antonio has been nothing short of phenomenal. The best thing coming out of Orlando very well be that we’ll get more of chilling-by-the-pool-in-mirrored-shades Asuka, or whatever she has planned next for her egomaniacal supervillain gimmick.
SAnitY def. Tye Dillinger, Ruby Riot, Roderick Strong & Kassius Ohno via pinfall following Ulster Plantation from Killian Dain to Dillinger
Aleister Black def. Andrade “Cien” Almas via pinfall following a Black Mass kick

Full disclosure, I was pretty deflated by the opener. In one sense, because I am a full blown Dillinger mark (and not alone - my observation about a muted opening response not withstanding, did you hear that pop for his entrance?), they worked me by witholding a TakeOver win from the Perfect Ten yet again. Also because the standard mixed tag rules being applied pissed me off. They worked around that stipulation, and it didn’t hurt the match too much... and I’m not even saying I want intergender wrestling in WWE (although I do), but just book Ruby & Nikki in a separate match... and please hurry! And, one more whiney fan complaint, I wanted it to be Hideo Itami who replaced No Way Jose... God, I’m such a mark. Anyway...

Other than that, this was a really solid opener. Kassius got to wear a more flattering color, it felt like the NXT Universe finally “got” Roddy, and the ladies were stars. Their win here, combined with the post-show announcement Dain will follow-up the pin by working the WrestleMania Kickoff, really makes you wonder how big the plans are for SAnitY. I’m quite enjoying their work and have no qualms about the push, although I do wish it wasn’t at the expense of Tye. Was really hoping he might use a win here to become Roode’s next challenger, but that doesn’t look likely.

Almas/Black wasn’t the match of the night candidate I hoped it would be. Rather, it was what can now pretty much be classified as the standard TakeOver debut match. Fortunately for Aleister, he comes in with a fully formed character NXT seems to understand and stand behind, and he got to work with a guy who’s become one of the brand’s best hands in Andrade.

It has to be extremely frustrating for a talented guy like Cien to accept the gatekeeper role he’s been given, but hopefully things will change soon for El Idolo. He really hasn’t been on our screens for that long, and that he continues to be featured despite not moving up the card is a sign they know he’s got real value. Seeing this match develop into an actual feud would be an interesting way to start, as they showed flashes of chemistry in this relatively brief encounter, and their characters have natural reasons to clash.

Wrestling overload led me to process Orlando a little differently than the 14 NXT live specials which preceded it, and I thought the fact I only LOVED one match would negatively impact my thoughts on the whole show. But while it wasn’t one of my favorites to bear this name, it was a fun two-and-a-half hours which carried on the tradition Trips wanted to sell us on in his open. And it contains a match I’m really not expecting to be topped by anything on tomorrow night’s show, so, my streak of giving TakeOvers ‘A’ grades continues.

Grade: A-

Shoot your shot, Cagesiders.

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