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Smark Hen-XT (4/1/16): Everything’s Bigger in Texas


On this special edition of Smark Hen-XT, we look at the majesty that was TakeOver: Dallas.

'Murrica!



American Alpha and The Revival are two of the best tag teams in the WWE right now; and they proved their worth by getting the crowd pumped up with a highly octane curtain opener.

Both teams started by vying for control, with the challengers using their unique mix of athleticism and technical prowess and the champs using their wits and fists to isolate Chad Gable. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder showcased great ring psychology in targeting the smaller man and making sure he didn't tag in his partner. The hectic last third of the match kicked off with Jason Jordan getting tagged in and throwing everyone around. After a series of pin attempts, Jordan finally hit his running shoulder tackle in the corner. That led to Grand Amplitude and the pinfall for American Alpha for their first title win.

It wasn’t the most polished of matches. Both teams made some errors—including a scarily botched powerbomb-diving clothesline combo by the Wilder and Dawson that had Gable landing neck-first—but they more than made up for it by being so goddamn entertaining. The crowd was into it and that energy carried over to the rest of the show.

Not So Great



Austin Aries debuted against Baron Corbin, and I have to admit, it wasn’t the best first impression. He spent most of the time fighting from his back, as the Lone Wolf dominated most of the match. Aries did sell the shit out of Corbin’s offense, and that made his opponent looked strong. We didn’t see anything new from A-Double, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. I just wished we could have had a less fluky finish. Yes, he won the match, but Corbin looked better. Not the way you want to introduce yourself to the world.

Match of the Year



This was the best match of the show—and probably the year: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sami Zayn. In of the few times I could say that I’m happy that I was wrong, the King of Strong Style came in and delivered what could be the best debut anyone has ever had on NXT. The Likeable One was also on point as he worked his heart out in what could be his swansong for the yellow brand. With two highly motivated and talented workers, this was the perfect mix of in-ring wizardry and emotional storytelling.

The match was pretty even, with both men delivering strikes and counters against one another. Nakamura charged up the crowd early with his usual antics, including his rope-break taunt and his “Come at me” taunt (which Zayn returned after a short flurry, to the shock of Nakamura).

Swagsuke would take control of this match delivering stiff forearms and well-placed knees. Zayn’s resilience was on full display as he gave back as hard as he got. The defining moment of this match was seeing both guys exchange forearms in the middle of the ring, leaving Nakamura bloodied and Zayn barely able to stand.

Nakamura picked up the win in his debut match with the Kinshasa—the running knee strike formerly called Boma Ye. The new name is still vaguely related to the Rumble in the Jungle (the “Ali Boma Ye” chant started here and it happened in Kinshasa, Congo). Yes, it’s a mouthful, but it’ll grow on you. Anyway, they hugged it out after the match, and applause rained down on Zayn as he waved goodbye to the NXT faithful.


Without a doubt, this will be one of the most talked about matches in NXT history. This match lived up to the hype. From the beginning, the crowd was into it—they were already chanting “This is awesome!” and the match hadn’t even started yet—and the energy didn’t wane until the end. It was an emotional rollercoaster; both guys were so great at what they do and the crowd was in awe at the brilliance unfurling in front of them. This was a fitting goodbye to the man who helped make NXT what it is today, and an equally fitting debut for the one who can elevate it to a new level.

Your New Empress



Bayley and Asuka had the unenviable task of going out after Nakamura-Zayn, but both women went to work. The affable champion faced her toughest opponent yet in the unbeaten Japanese superstar; and while she put up a great fight, the Empress of Tomorrow would not be denied in Dallas.

This was a back and forth affair, with each women trading strikes and submissions to take advantage. Neither Bayley nor Asuka could take full control, but both women worked hard to deal as much damage as possible. It wasn’t until Asuka locked in the Asuka Lock that the Hugster couldn’t find an answer. After minutes of struggling, Bayley passed out and the match was declared a win via submission.

At first, I thought it was a weird finish; it was anticlimactic. When it sunk in, I realized it was the best finish to give the belt to Asuka and protect Bayley in the loss. It furthered the idea that Bayley was as resilient as she was adaptable. She matched her opponent punch for punch and never gave up, even to the point of passing out. Asuka also looked like the dominant beast that she is. A rematch should be in the books, but outside of that, I’m not seeing anyone taking the belt from our new Empress any time soon.

Bloody Business



The main event was a mess, both literally and figuratively. Where should I begin? How about the insane entrance from the champion? I understand the tribute to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but bringing a chainsaw (that didn’t even work, because the sound was mostly from sound effects) was too over-the-top. And then there was the initial hook-up that saw Finn Bálor accidentally headbutting Samoa Joe and causing him to bleed for the rest of the match.

The match, when there was action, was pretty good. It’s what you’d expect from two great competitors going at it with something to prove. But there was too much downtime in the beginning because the ref and the medical team kept on trying to stop the bleeding. That bogged down the match that when it came to the last third I couldn’t muster the strength to buy into it.

The finish was the worst though. After getting hit with the Muscle Buster and kicking out, the Demon hulked out, unleashing a roar and delivered his usual closing sequence. As he prepared to nail Joe with the 1916, the challenger broke out and locked in the Coquina Clutch. Bálor then flipped both himself and Joe over and got the pin.

The finish felt disconnected from the rest of the match. It didn’t jive with the aggressive Demon character. Hell, you had him hulk out but not let him end the match strong. It was reminiscent of the finish to the Bret Hart-Roddy Piper WrestleMania 8 match, but in this context, it felt like a shallow ending to a blood feud. Maybe they didn’t let Bálor hit his lifting DDT to protect Joe from further injury, but this victory did not help the champ.

Seeing Stars


I’d be remiss if I failed to point out two of the biggest members of the audience: Kota Ibushi and Bobby Roode. The first one is one of the best all-around wrestlers from Japan in recent years, and the other is a recent big name free agent in North America. WWE might as well have giant billboards announcing to the world that they want those two guys in a WWE ring.


Ibushi could be a participant in WWE’s Global Cruiserweight Series. He certainly fits the bill as he’s a freelancer with a good degree of name recognition among the smark crowd and he can fucking entertain—just check out his recent work in NJPW and DDT. It doesn’t hurt that he has the K-Pop/J-Pop pretty boy looks. If he does indeed join, then the tournament adds another quality guy.


Bobby Roode, on the other hand, is an experienced guy with top dog credentials and can make an instant impact (pun intended) on the NXT roster. He’s good in the ring, has a great physique, and can play heel or face. With recent signees Aries and Nakamura, he can ideally help hold down the fort while the younger talents develop, as well as fill in the gaps caused by injuries. You can even have him go to the main roster as soon as necessary because he’s already used to sports entertaining.

Here’s a fun note: the last free agent shown watching in the crowd is now your NXT Women’s Champion. Imagine Ibushi winning the GCS, or Roode holding the NXT title before the year’s over. It’s an exciting time to be a WWE network subscriber.

*****

This is easily the best TakeOver NXT has produced. It had great matches from top to bottom and had excellent moments, too. Even the Corbin-Aries match, which wasn’t all that amazing, was still fun for novelty’s sake. With new champions crowned and new talents presented, NXT can only get better after this. This is the kind of show we’ll be talking about for a long time, so TakeOver: Dallas deserves an A+. Good luck topping that, WrestleMania.

Thoughts on TakeOver: Dallas? Drop us a comment below!

Speaking of WrestleMania, see you on Monday, April 4, at Skinny Mike’s Sports Bar for our WrestleMania Star Live Viewing Party! The Kickoff starts as early as 5 AM, so it’s really up to you if you want to wake up before the sun even peeks out. But we’ll all be there, and we can’t wait to see you there with us! For more info, click here.

Photos from WWE.com


*****

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, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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