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Smark Hen-XT (1/28/17): Glorious Surprise


They say the key to a happier life is lower expectations. Coming into TakeOver: San Antonio, I really didn’t think it’d be great. On paper, it was a card that lacked the star power and great build up that the previous TakeOvers had. Most of the programs felt rushed or lacked build-up, so I watched the show with tempered expectations. I came out of it gloriously surprised.

Eric Young (w/ SAnitY) def. Tye Dillinger; Roderick Strong def. Andrade “Cien” Almas


Let’s clump the first two matches together since they’re binary opposites of one another. One had a simple yet effective story and decent ring action while the other was a fucking insane match that barely had any story.


The opening match told a great story: Dillinger, in a bid to turn a new leaf and get some wins, found himself facing ¾ of NXT’s newest force of chaos in Young and SAnitY. This match had great psychology, pitting the Perfect 10’s resourcefulness and resilience against the numbers and intensity of the Fallout cosplayers SAnitY. Having the group go over was the right decision, as they needed to look strong if NXT needs them to get some traction. Dillinger can take the loss since he still looked solid while facing off against uneven odds. It wasn’t the most exciting match, and I was hoping for more interference from Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe to really push the numbers angle, but it furthers both parties’ stories, so I’m fine with this.


The night’s second match, though, was better than it had any right to be. This match needed both Cien and Almas to be in top form for it to work, and they went above and beyond that. This is probably the closest analog to a puroresu/strong style match that we’re getting from a WWE product. Everything just looked bloody painful, especially the backbreaker spot on the top turnbuckle. This might have needed a bit more story to frame the whole thing, but in a vacuum, this was a great match. I’m not sure what the decision to put Roddy over means in the scheme of things (again, why the fuck were they even trying to kill each other?), but if we’re getting this out of no storylines, think of what we might get if this match had a proper build-up.

The Author of Pain (w/ Paul Ellering) def. #DIY to win the NXT Tag Title Championship



This was a pleasant surprise for me. I don’t mean the finish—I’m pretty sure everyone saw that a mile away—but how we got there. I shouldn’t have doubted Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano’s ability to bring out the best of Akam and Rezar. This wasn’t the masterpiece that was either #DIY/Revival title match, but it was easily AoP’s best match yet. They looked every bit like the dominant monsters they claim to be. #DIY will probably stick around NXT in the meantime while we don't have another tag team waiting in the wings, but if that means we're getting more solid matches from both teams, I'm not complaining.

Asuka def. Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, and Nikki Cross to retain the NXT Women's Championship


This did not turn out the way I thought it'd go. This was the match I expected to be great, but it turned out maybe the weakest one of the night. First, they failed to deliver on the Cross/Asuka matchup it teased so much. Both ladies had barely interacted with each other, and the little time they got to work together wasn’t the explosive confrontation I was expecting. It didn't help that they took out Cross in the middle of the match.


The middle part of the match when the Aussies dominated both Cross and Asuka was a mess. One, they could’ve just pinned each other if they really wanted to win. There were moments which were nice, like Peyton’s Widow Maker and Asuka’s bridge out. But the longer it went, it became more apparent that the ring of NXT Breakout Stars of 2016 still has a long way to go as compared to their character work.


Finally, the finish felt rushed and anticlimactic. It just looked like Asuka hulked up and destroyed her opponents—fuck exhaustion and pain. It also became a visual metaphor of what the Empress of Tomorrow did to the whole division. What could've been a great way to breathe new life to the division ended up burying it. Am I supposed to believe Ember Moon could beat Asuka after how she won this match? You might as well have Asuka rule forever as champion.

Bobby Roode def. Shinsuke Nakamura to win the NXT Championship


Oh man, this match. Both guys showed up to play the game, and they proved why they’re at the top of the pyramid. The entrances alone were must-watch, with Roode channeling his inner Nature Boy being surrounded with women while Nakamura rode a seizure-inducing mobile down the ramp. Whatever lacked in the buildup of the match was more than compensated with those entrances alone.


The slow start to the match was expected—this is their first dance together—but when the match started to get going during the second act, holy hell. Nakamura looked every bit the dangerous madman that he was: delivering stiff strikes while playing mind games. Roode, on the other hand, was the calculating heel who took advantage of every opening he got. The last half that featured Nakamura taking a risk and paying for it with an injured knee was brilliant. Nakamura looked desperate in selling the injury, while Roode was great at targeting it. A couple of Glorious DDTs in the middle of the ring later, and we have a new NXT Champion.


The decision to give the win to Roode is a bit of a head-scratcher at first, but the more I think about it, the more interesting it is for me. We’ll probably get another match, but seeing Roode just lord over everyone as champion before that comes should be fun. Nakamura still looked incredible even in the loss. I’m not sure if he should get a third title win, but even without the title, the man still is the biggest commodity in NXT. Dropping the title this soon might mean that they’re considering a call-up, so it’d be best if they can make the most of what little time they have left to play with him.

*****

All in all, this was a refreshing change of pace for NXT. The brand still offers some of the best wrestling in the company, but in terms of storytelling and consistency, it’s been largely disappointing. Delivering on another incredible TakeOver might turn people back to the brand. If they can use the momentum and goodwill out of this special to improve upon the coming episodes, it’ll definitely benefit the company. It’ll be like its champion: GLORIOUS!

Thoughts on TakeOver: San Antonio? 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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