By Anthony Zevoteck
If you watched NXT TakeOver: Dallas over Wrestlemania weekend, then you saw one of wrestling’s all-time greatest matches.
Shinsuke Nakamura’s NXT debut against Sami Zayn quickly became regarded as Match of the Year four months in. These two laid everything on the line and gave the fans a spectacle of epic proportions.
“The King of Strong Style” made his pro wrestling debut in August 2002 and everyone knew that someday the world as we knew it would change. Nakamura made his start with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and continued to work for them for the majority of his career.
On his way to gaining multiple championships, he took time off from wrestling to improve his in-ring skills and gained the knowledge he’d need to become one of the world’s biggest stars and even trained with Brock Lesnar to increase his muscle mass.
At age 36, Nakamura made a bold move and left his home country that provided him with global fame to sign with WWE.
To the End
– After almost two months of an unclear #1 contender to NXT Champion Finn Balor’s Title, this was the decisive bout between Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe, as they’d battle it out in a best-two-out-of-three-falls match. There was no going back from this and that fact was expressed in the opening video.
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
July 4, 2015 is a day that will go down in the history books in terms of the uniqueness of WWE Network live specials.
How unique was it?
American wrestling fans braved a 5 a.m. alarm to stay up for a live broadcast from Japan at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Sumida in Tokyo, Japan – a well-renowned arena for Sumo matches and sporting events – to see it.
It was essentially a glorified house show, but one match particularly made this worthwhile, besides for the namesake instance of seeing Brock Lesnar’s in-ring return after WrestleMania 31.
Finn Balor – a guy who arguably made his name and honed his craft in Japan as Prince Devitt, was the man to do the unthinkable.
We’ll get more into that below.
– Very emotional opening with the onstage tribute to Dusty Rhodes, who had a very significant role in shaping the NXT talent as it is today. Triple H led the full charge here and it was rightfully so. This set of tapings was probably delivered with heavy hearts.
Solomon Eats Crowe
– WWE’s utterly slick video production made TakeOver: Unstoppable look like even more of a spectacle than it was; showcasing the athleticism, excitement and unpredictability. Loved the slow-motion capture here.
Over The Shoulder
– The opening video did a good job of making Sami Zayn’s main roster debut come across as a big, breakthrough moment for the former NXT World Heavyweight Champion in his hometown, taking John Cena to the limit in the United States Championship Open Challenge. Smartly emphasized here was his will to fight through the sudden shoulder injury and made his health status a hook for the episode.
Stamp Of Approval
– Good to see Emma trolling the crowd this time around, donning Bayley’s t-shirt and headband. The match between her and Charlotte was good for what it was. A lot of attention was focused on Emma’s newer aggressive style – more rough and gritty. Of course, that was all kind of done away as Charlotte finished her off with a Natural Selection, albeit on one leg. Bayley coming out to turn a hug for Emma into a Bayley-To-Belly was a nice change of pace, though it came off a bit heelish, but the crowd was fully behind her, so it was good.
Kevin Owens Is Not Impressed
– The opening video looked back at last week’s Kevin Owens-Alex Riley rematch, as Owens owned Riley yet again, doing everything except the Apron Powerbomb as Sami Zayn saved Riley, as the two rivals brawled, going back to interview sound bites from the two guys. This made Zayn-Owens feel like the big deal it is.
Still Just A Rat In A Cage
– The Finn Balor-Tye Dillinger match was pretty much a squash in favor of Balor. Nothing groundbreaking. Had us wondering what was next for Balor. That’s where Tyler Breeze came in. His promo actually had some purpose and was bold, even for him. This is a good match just waiting to happen. Next week?
Mr. Itami Goes To WrestleMania
– We wouldn’t necessarily label this episode a “throwaway” show by any means – it was very cool to see WWE finally acknowledge the accomplishments of Hideo Itami during WrestleMania Axxess weekend, chronicling his rise to getting to compete in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale and the matches he fought through to get there. The ending video package was appropriate and emotional – showing his two younger sons backstage and his interactions with Triple H, The Big Show, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan and more, as they all spoke quite highly of him. This made Itami look like the international superstar that he is, and this was excellent because it had seemed his accomplishments had slipped under the radar and swept under the rug by a Show KO punch. Only complaint about this was the timing of the show. Being that the great majority of us already seen WrestleMania and knew Itami would win the tournament, it took the unpredictability out of the matches. This show would’ve been most effective say, three days after Mania.
– The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifying Tournament Semifinal match between Hideo Itami and Adrian Neville was a good lengthy match with offense galore from both guys – from the ground up to the air. Crowd was favorable for Itami and Neville took the reaction and used it to his advantage, playing the crowd at times. This was telling, with Neville in likely his last legitimate NXT appearance, groomed for the main roster, looking as sharp as possible in the ring, not missing a step, providing the perfect foil for the uprising Itami. The ending sequence was incredibly good, with Neville close to winning, only for Itami to pull out his finisher almost out of desperation, which came off very well.
– The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifying Tournament Semifinals match between Finn Balor and Tyler Breeze was the clash you’d expect – not just of personalities but also in-ring styles, one almost complimenting the other. Balor was a good choice to advance, given his popularity rise and would increase fan interest in the tournament finals. One minor complaint might be that the match was sort of short, but it’s not completely unheard of for Balor to decisively beat Breeze at this point.
– Dana Brooke continues to come off as the confident muscular blonde bombshell. Her debut next week is something to look forward to.
– Cool to see the video package that highlighted the house show at the San Jose University Arena filled with a crowd of 5,000 crowd. It shows the magnitude of NXT and how “over” it is, with a crowd that size. Would’ve also been cooler if they legit didn’t use TNA’s old “Adrenaline Rush, Adrenaline Rush” theme music, but we’re slightly nitpicking here.
– The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifying Tournament Finals match between Itami and Balor was great – would you expect any less from these two? Itami had his shining moments here, coming closer than ever to his goal, eventually getting there, moving past the fight of a relentless Balor. The finish did feel a little “empty” and it would’ve been appropriate for Itami to advance using his GTS, but that’s not how it went down. However, they did highlight his first GTS in the ending video package and the effect it had on social media, getting Itami to trend on Twitter during Mania weekend. He finally got his moment and that’s what this episode was all about.
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifying Tournament Semifinals – Hideo Itami def. Adrian Neville via pinfall to advance
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifying Tournament Semifinals – Finn Balor def. Tyler Breeze via pinfall to advance
– Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifying Tournament Finals – Hideo Itami def. Finn Balor via pinfall