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Smark Hen-XT (10/7/15): Respect

This week, NXT once again took over our screens as TakeOver: Respect gave us the best two hours of straight up wrestling in recent weeks.

Living the Dream

Dusty Rhodes was such a big part of what made NXT the success it is today, from his time as an on-screen authority figure to backstage mentor, many of the guys and gals working in the company owe a lot to the Dream. And what a great way to honor his memory by delivering an excellent tournament in his name. The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic never failed to give us a boring match on TV. Everyone brought their A-game for Dusty, and the last 3 matches were no different.

The first semifinals match between the teams of NXT Champion Finn Balor and Samoa Joe and Dash and Dawson was good. The story of the match, of course, was Balor’s left knee, which was injured by the Mechanics.

It was pure and simple ring psychology. If there was any night you wouldn’t want to get injured, it’d be on the one you’ll need to fight two matches. Dash and Dawson were just relentless in their offense. They’re going to be a great heel team. Balor and Joe, though, were just on a different level. Balor played the face-in-peril, toughing out the beatdown focused on his knee. Joe, who’s looked revitalized since his stint at Florida started, was on point. His moves were crisp, and his acting was great. His hesitance to tag the injured Balor in during the end of the match was great to tease a turn that was never to come. All in all, this was a fun start to the show.

The other Semifinals match between the teams of Rhyno and Baron Corbin against Chad Gable and Jason Jordan was great, even better than the first one. Actually, it was arguably the best match of the whole tournament.

If Gable and Jordan needed a breakout match, it would be this. Gable’s insanely over because of his skill and charisma. Jordan’s finally putting his skills and strengths together in a meaningful way. Heels or faces, this is probably the team to watch out for and build your brand around. Rhyno is in the middle of one of his best runs in the WWE and Corbin is developing nicely as your next monster heel. The finish was hectic and a beautiful mess, ending with an impressive End of Days by Corbin on Gable. I question the decision to not put over the best team in the brand, but in hindsight, they needed a heel team that would put the crowd firmly behind the face team of Balor and Joe in the finals.

The Finals was a nice cap to things. The biggest takeaway from the match was the lack of an implosion between Joe and Balor. Almost everyone, including me, expected the turn. We expected a mishap that could jumpstart the next championship feud. It didn’t happen. What we got was a straight up tag team match, and it was a great match. Rhyno and Corbin were their physical and dominating selves, targeting any weakness they could see. Joe and Balor were resilient as ever, fighting out of their injuries and delivering a great finish to get the trophy.

It’s understandable that Balor and Joe won the tournament. In all honesty, they are the two of the biggest stars on NXT and giving them the win makes sense that it would elevate the tournament. I still think it should have been Jordan and Gable getting the honor—they needed the rub more—but what’s done is done and they still delivered the best showing out of all the teams. The awarding ceremony was poignant and Cody talking about his dad was a bittersweet moment. Manly tears were shed. None of the ramblings of a painted man from the fifth dimension, this was just a son honoring his dad. A great end to a brilliant tournament.

Queens of the ring

Almost 6 weeks ago, Bayley and Sasha Banks faced one another in an instant classic. The bar was set so high that it would be impossible for a rematch to top that. The main event didn’t, in all honesty. The Brooklyn match was better. But don’t let that fool you, this was still the best match on an incredible card.

Sasha Banks has to be one of the best heels in NXT history, second only to Kevin Owens. Her psychology was on point during this match. It was clear that while she respected Bayley, she was going to do everything in her power to get the NXT Women’s Championship back. That spot where she slams Bayley into the steel steps then into the tron on the stage was vicious. Taking Izzy’s headband afterwards and making Bayley’s number 1 fan cry was just pure brilliance. Her mean streak brought her a solid lead, but it wasn’t enough.

I’ve made the comparison before, but Bayley is the closest thing to a female John Cena analog we have right now. It’s not just the cross-demographic appeal she has, it’s also in the way she conducts herself in the ring. Gone is the wide-eyed fan, now we have the confident resolute champion who, through sheer force of will, fights back and gets the win.

Bayley’s not the most polished wrestler. She’s still very much susceptible to messing up a couple of spots here and there, but just by an overabundance of charisma, she’s made a brand out of herself and is now one of the brightest shining star in NXT. In this match, she fought hard for every fall she got, just like all throughout her career. She tapped into a rare aggressive side from within when she started targeting Banks’ arm and shoulder. Her submission move, an arm-trap sitting armbar, was great. She retains the Women's championship with a score of 3 falls to Sasha’s 2.

This wasn’t the emotional rollercoaster that was the Brooklyn title match, but it was close especially during the last stretch. Both girls deserved the chance they were denied the last TakeOver and closed the show. Much respect to everyone involved in the match.

The rest of the show:

Asuka def. Dana Brooke (w/ Emma)

  • This was a great debut for the joshi legend Asuka. She showed up ready to fight, mixing up technical wrestling and stiff striking. The way she just brought out her various holds, including that impressive rolling armbar, was smooth and awesome. Her finishing hold, the chickenwing crossface with body scissors called the Asuke Lock, probably made Bob Backlund smile.

  • Also, of note: Asuka looked more prepared for her debut than the other Japanese legend on NXT, Hideo Itami. While Itami had to figure out the right mix of stiff strong style striking and WWE entertaining, Asuka looked comfortable during the match, and it showed when she was really having fun.

  • Dana Brooke was no slouch, trying to match her opponent’s strikes with her own stiff ones. Unfortunately, she was way over her head.

Apollo Crews def. Tyler Breeze

  • This was Crews’ best match to date. Aside from being his insane cheat mode self, the guy showed more character in this match, fighting through an injured back. These are the kind of things we need to see more out of him. Once they start fleshing out more of his character, bright things are ahead for this young man.

  • His modified Blue Thunder Bomb is a great move, but it’s not as impressive as the Apollo Combination. He should keep it though as a signature spot/alternate finisher.

  • Breeze continues to slide down the totem pole after another loss on a big stage. If this continues, his role as main event gatekeeper is going to lose credibility. He needs wins against credible opponents for that to work. He’s not in that comfortable niche that, say Dolph Ziggler, where his wins and losses don’t matter as much because he’s over as fuck. He’s not and probably won’t be. It’s coming close to the point that his extended stay in developmental is going to hurt his stock rather than help him. Either push him or call him up already.
It’s weird that they would call this special Respect, given that they’ve had it for the longest time already. They’ve earned it every time they bring out their A-game, and once again, NXT delivers on stellar network special. All of the matches were great, and the second hour was stellar. The brand just delivers well-booked straight up wrestling that it’s refreshing, with none of the bullshit that plagues the main roster PPV’s. I give this show an A.

Thoughts about the show? Let us know and drop us a comment.

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Jocs Boncodin (@caboncodin) is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers tweets 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,'s weekly NXT review.

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