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Smark Hen-XT (6/8/16): The End of an Era


The opening package for TakeOver: The End of the Beginning focused on one thing: history. With footage highlighting the history of the NXT Championship and the Women’s Championship, it drilled the idea of what NXT was and how much it has changed. And with thoughts of the upcoming brand extension happening on the main roster, the live special was proof that NXT isn’t just developmental anymore, it’s a brand of its own.

Andrade "Cien" Almas def. Tye Dillinger


In the special’s opening match, we’re treated to the debut of Andrade “Cien” Almas (wow, that’s a mouthful) as he faced off with “The Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger. On paper, it was a solid match for the young Mexican, but in reality, it was not a good start for the former masked luchador.


I’m not saying that Cien had a bad showing. He was great in his debut. The man formerly known as “La Sombra” was solid in the ring, showcasing his agility and skill. He even brought some of his Los Ingobernables schtick to WWE, especially with his dive feint that had him resting on the ropes. That was tranquilo. Aside from his finisher, which primarily looked bad because of the camera angle, he gave us a preview of what he could do and I’m excited. He’ll probably end up dropping the first name, but that’s not an issue. If he faced off with someone else, it would have been great and we would have been heaping praises on Almas. The problem is that he debuted against one of the most over guys in the roster.

I’ve not been shy in my support of Tye Dillinger. He has that right mix of pro-wrestler and sports entertainer that endears him to a wide array of fans. He just hasn’t had the chance to put it all together and engage fans beyond the “10” chants. At TakeOver, he clearly had the crowd behind him, and Dillinger came out swinging. He might have lost the match, but he won the crowd over with his gutsy effort.


Against a more hated heel, like Elias Samson, or a lesser known opponent, such as Buddy Murphy, Almas could have gotten a warmer welcome than what he got here. I can’t help but think that it might have hurt Cien, but with what he teased during this bout, I’m sure he’ll win over the crowd soon enough.

The Revival def. American Alpha (c) for the NXT Tag Team Championship


The Tag Team Championship match is one of the best matches of the night, if not the best. All four men in the ring are the best right now at tag team wrestling in the whole company, and they proved it again at TakeOver.


The Revival, simply put, are one of the purest tag teams on the brand. Their throwback style and psychology meshed well with their opponents’ athletic and technical styles. No flips, just fists. They were effective at being menacing and violent, and they took advantage at every opportunity. With them back on top of the division, expect a lot of the solid wrestling that has been the mark of the renewed NXT Tag Team division.

American Alpha were their usual entertaining selves, mixing up technical wrestling, athletic prowess, and passionate storytelling. Seeing them move so in-sync with one another will make you think they’re reading each other’s minds. They showed us why they’re two of the best grapplers in the company right now with smooth chain wrestling and great counters. They told a great story with their expressions, selling beatdowns well while passionately celebrating big moves. While I would have wanted them to retain their titles, it was a real toss-up during the match and it could have gone either way.


Another big story was the debut of Sunny Dhinsa and Gzim Selmani, the Authors of Pain. The imposing duo laid waste to the former champs, and introduced their manager, WWE Hall of Famer Paul Ellering. That reveal was brilliant. Ellering has a great history with managing bruising tag teams, and the new duo just might be his most eye-catching team. It also tells us a lot about the trust NXT is putting into Dhinsa and Selmani by giving them a manager of this caliber. Expect a lot of good things from these guys.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Austin Aries


The match between Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura had “indy supercard” written all over it. Put two of your biggest talents in the ring and watch awesomeness take place. This was a hard-hitting match between Aries and Nakamura—no surprise there—that saw A-Double using his agility and grappling skills to gain advantage, but he ultimately fell short against the incredible striking of the King of Strong Style. Aries executed a near perfect gameplan to prove himself the better man, but hubris was his flaw when a missed dive gave Swagsuke the opening to take advantage with a couple of Kinshasa Knee Strikes and pick up the win.


While it was a great match, I think two things held this back. First was the ghost of Nakamura-Zayn from Dallas. Admit it, you can’t help but compare the two matches, and ring work speaking, both were comparably good. The thing is, the Aries-Nakamura match didn’t have the gravitas as the Dallas match. The second issue had a hand in this: it wasn’t really for anything. The Dallas match was Nakamura’s debut and Zayn’s swansong, while this one was pretty much just a giant dick-measuring contest playing out on live TV.

The biggest question coming in was who was the bigger star, and that didn't really matter, as they’re both really big stars that’ll do great things in the company. Now, if they made it a number one contender’s match, it would have made more sense, but they didn’t. They were essentially killing themselves for nothing, and while that was fun, it didn’t feel like it should matter as much as the other matches.

After the show, Triple H did hint that Nakamura might be next in line for a title shot during his Facebook Live interview, but that remains to be seen. All in all, it was a great match in a vacuum, but in the great schemes of things, it wasn’t quite impactful.

Asuka (c) def. Nia Jax for the NXT Women’s Championship


The Women’s Championship match between Nia Jax and Asuka was better than it looked on paper. This was a great match with awesome storytelling from both women. Finally, we can breathe and not worry about the NXT Women’s division. The Four Horsewomen might be gone, but the division is in good hands.


The biggest surprise with this match had to be Nia Jax. I’ve been gushing about her improvement the past few weeks, but I was understandably worried about her consistency. We just weren’t sure which side of Jax is going to come out. Luckily, she brought her A-game, and while she’s not the most polished talent, she certainly knows now how to use her size. She really threw herself into the match and didn’t hold back, which was primarily her problem before. The story she told throughout the match was brilliant. She came in as arrogant as ever and didn’t back down from the frightening Asuka, and even in the final moments, showed defiance against the Empress with a scream to her opponent’s face. She might have lost the match, but this was clearly her coming out party.

Asuka, on the other hand, found herself in unfamiliar territory by fighting from the bottom. She was on the defensive for majority of the match, which might not look good since she’s been presented as such a force of nature before. But because of that though, her resilience and fighting spirit were highlighted, especially during the closing moments of the match. She’s conquered her biggest challenge to date, so the question now becomes, who can stop the Empress of Tomorrow?

Samoa Joe (c) def. Finn Bálor for the NXT Championship in a Steel Cage match


The main event match between NXT Champion Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor in a Steel Cage was a fine match. It wasn’t unique, as we’ve seen this matchup before. A lot of times, in fact. But this was a good match to end the feud.


Again, a lot of this match was not new, but Joe and Bálor were great talents and had excellent chemistry, so it was still a fun affair. My biggest problem was the stipulation. Cage matches were fine feud-enders in the storyline sense because you’re essentially locking two guys up to get a definitive ending, and hope that violence ensues. What we had though was a pretty standard affair that didn’t make the most of the stipulations. Yes, you had guys throwing each other in the cage, but I felt they could have booked the match better. Bálor was supposed to be obsessed with the title, so why not have him focus on winning at all costs? Make him take more risks and try to escape so he could have his beloved title back. Samoa Joe was a monster, so why not let him punish the Demon more by preventing him from escaping and truly being dominant? They had a great opportunity to make something unforgettable here, but they ended up with a pretty unmemorable match.

At the end of the day, the match did what it was meant to do. The feud is done, so hopefully we won’t see Bálor-Joe LXXVI, or whatever, soon. Both guys can move on to other feuds and that will certainly brighten up the main event scene that’s been stagnant since January. Bálor is now free to run with a certain club, while Joe reigns the jungle that is NXT.

*****

TakeOver: The End of the Beginning isn’t the best NXT live special, but it’s anything but bad. It was a pretty solid show without any really bad matches. We had a great debut, an awesome tag team match, a dream match, and two solid title matches. While it won’t be as well-remembered as Brooklyn or Dallas, it continued the trend of great live specials from the yellow brand. This might be the end of an era, but no doubt they’re continuing what makes NXT truly special. This show gets an A-.

Thoughts on TakeOver: The End of the Beginning? Drop us a comment below!

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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