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Smark Hen-XT (04/29/2015): Getting Ready to Takeover


Welcome to Smark Hen-XT, your weekly NXT review on SmarkHenry.ph. This week, a new set of tapings begin and the road to NXT Takeover 5 finally gets going as Sami Zayn lays down a challenge to NXT champ Kevin Owens, and the team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass cements their number 1 contendership for the NXT Tag championship by beating champions Blake and Murphy. Let’s get down to it!

Taking Over

Let’s first talk about the beauty that is the Takeover specials. The wonderful thing about NXT's Takeover special schedules is that, by being two to three months apart, it enables NXT’s creative to work entire angles beautifully. We're seeing a tag team work their way up through the rankings, all the while being fueled by the taunting champions. We have a woman breaking out of the pack to challenge her former partner for the belt and no longer play second fiddle. We have a valiant former champion returning to the scene to regain his title from the clutches of his evil traitorous best friend.

You can't weave those angles around in 3 weeks’ time, as in the main roster. Yes they're going to have their occasional side feud, like Owens-Riley, but at the same time, we all know the endgame, and they're given enough time to build it up to make it feel special. Matches of the same level as Reigns-Big Show on the main roster has barely any chance at getting on Takeover, they're relegated on regular NXTs.

With that said, this episode formally starts the road to Takeover 5: The Empire Strikes Back or something. We have 5 matches set-up, three of which are official. Zayn-Owens II for the NXT belt, Breeze-Balor-Itami for the number one contendership for the NXT belt and Lynch-Banks for the Women's belt. Add the Realest Guys in the Room-Dubstep Cowboys for the tag belts, and Rhyno-Corbin for the right to squash people. That's a stacked card, and something to be excited for. I couldn't say the same for Extreme Rules and Payback.

Zayn-Owens II


Photo by WWE.com

I love feuds that scream real animosity. I know they’re probably real good friends, but when Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens step inside the same ring together, you just feel the hatred between the two characters. Take the opening promo, for example. The stuff Zayn says to goad the champ to put the title on the line feels real. Most of the professional lives of both men have orbited around each other. It resonates to audiences because we know the history, even if you just got the abridged version presented by WWE.

Sami Zayn has grown as a talker. He’s not at that brilliant level yet, unlike his dance partner Owens, but he is more than capable of connecting to the audience. He's just so damn likeable, but he doesn't come off as a generic babyface. Add the edge he developed during the redemption arc and we’ve got the perfect foil for our psychopath champ. Seeing Owens just lose his cool after getting his arguments thrown back at him shows the nuances that makes him a great performer. You cannot help but be excited for this feud.

The end of the show though, when Owens drops all pretense of trying to be a charming guest commentator to brutalize Zayn and Riley shows us how fucking insane it is to piss off the champ. Riley wants to talk about “rage”? That’s nothing compared to the sight of Owens laughing at the violence he just inflicted. That, my friends, is rage.

The rest of the show:

  • We have a short backstage segment centered on Carmella that just confuses me. Is she supposed to be a face or a heel? What the fuck is going on with the storyline? And why did she have to slap Alexa Bliss?

  • Angry Riley doesn't come out as sympathetic but more annoying and grating, just like his commentary. He's acceptable, bloody brilliant sometimes, but something’s just not right.

Photo by WWE.com
  • Let's not lie here. The Realest Guys in the Room aren't all that talented in the ring. They're over as fuck, and damn are they good on the mic, but they aren't painting masterpieces on the canvas. Enzo can sell pretty well and Cass is improving quite well, though.

  • The Becky Lynch interview does nothing for me. And what the fuck is N-Bex-T? Trust me, I know terrible puns, my column title is a terrible pun.

  • I've seen the Baron Corbin vignette before. I still think the fake rain is stupid.

Photo by WWE.com
  • I love Bayley. I really do. I think she's adorbz. But she's basically a female Sami Zayn that doesn't work quite as well. She's being overshadowed by Dark Emma in their feud.

  • FullSail shows no love for Dana Brooke, and it's understandable.

Photo by WWE.com
  • Yet another series of squash matches. Itami beats Rose (and not by GTS, so we don't have to talk about the match), and Lynch beats someone.

  • That Rhyno can actually do a promo without screaming "GORE! GORE!! GORE!!!" is refreshing. But the whole "I am the past, the present and the future" line didn't work for me.


  • The episode’s main event, Riley versus Zayn, was ok. It was not brilliant, but nothing special. And it wasn’t meant to be. It was a set-up for the attack of Owens. Nothing much to write about, actually.

Overall, it was a show that had a good start and a mediocre rest of the show. That the best part of the night was the opening promo might not sound like a good thing for a show known for good matches, let’s be fair and say you really could not possibly top that good an opening promo.

*****

Jocs Boncodin is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers emails by day and watches wrestling by night. An aspiring writer, Jocs spends most of his idle time fantasy booking angles and overthinking wrestling storylines. A big fan of the WWE, his introduction to the local online wrestling community Smark Gilas-Pilipinas has opened his eyes to the wonders of puroresu and lucha libre. He currently handles Smark Hen-XT, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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