Then men and women of NXT have an unenviable task this evening. They have to follow one of the most critically acclaimed events of the year in Takeover: Brooklyn. In August, there was no question that NXT stole the show Summer Slam weekend and won the heart of Brooklyn with one match in particular standing out: The NXT Women’s Championship Match between Sasha Banks and Bayley. Tonight, NXT is hoping to strike lightning twice by placing those two same warriors in the main event with a 30 minute Ironman Match stipulation.
NXT Takeover: Respect – Predictions and Analysis
The rest of the card is, inconsequential, and it pains me to say that. The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament should feel like a bigger deal than it actually does. Maybe it’s because some of the most popular tag teams like the duo of Enzo Amore & Big Cass or the NXT Tag Team Champions The Vaudevillians have been swept under the rug in favor of two up and coming teams (which I have less of an issue with) and two make shift teams (one I don’t mind, and the other, well, we’ll get to that)
What is left of the card feels like filler to me, but still has me looking forward to what should be a night of solid wrestling (and maybe even a little drama). NXT is heading into what is essentially a one match show, with a much smaller crowd than their previous WWE Network event, and less hype than usual. It may be their biggest challenge since the original NXT Arrival event. Of course, NXT has always preferred being the underdog.
Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze
This was a match announcement that upset many Tyler Breeze fans because most assume that Prince Pretty is just being served up on a silver platter for the new chosen one Apollo Crews to decimate. It is very hard to argue that point of view. Crews is finally moving on from enhancement talent and needs to move up to the next level. While some may scream that there are others that could eat this loss, Breeze is an excellent choice for a number of reasons as well. Nobody can accuse Crews of being your typical hoss, as he keeps pace with guys half his size in the ring. The King of Cuteville is one of the most solid hands in NXT and given a good amount of time, can really put on a show with Apollo.
All of that said, I do understand the trepidation from Breeze fans. Tyler has not had a big win on an NXT special for a very long time. In the world of professional wrestling, winning might not be everything, but fans do notice these things and it is hard to ignore Breeze’s losing streak when the pressure is on. That being said, I do believe Apollo is the guy to win here. While I hate sounding like a broken record, I would love to see Breeze and other perennial loser Tye Dillinger form a tag team and persue success in that division. In the meantime, let’s hope Tyler’s match tonight is at the very least, competitive.
Asuka vs. Dana Brooke
Asuka came to NXT with a ton of hype and high expectations. Her debut felt like someone letting the wind out of a balloon. When you talk about someone being a complete badass, it probably isn’t a good idea to have them meekly get bullied by two of your heels. I’m not saying Asuka had to destroy Emma and Dana Brooke when they confronted her, but our heroes should stand up for themselves and not leave with their head’s down.
Since they chose that path I believe that now Asuka needs to destroy Dana Brooke, Emma, and anyone else that happens to get in front of her tonight. Asuka needs to bring Ronda Rousey levels of destruction in order to remain credible, which sounds easy enough, until you factor in that the latest NXT signee is facing a woman being groomed as their next top heel. WWE may get cold feet tonight and make things too competitive with these two or even worse, have Brooke win through shenanigans. I believe that would be the wrong move, but I’m prepared for that possibility.
The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Semi-Finals/Finals
After weeks of whittling down the competition, only four teams remain, and I’m actually quite surprised with who has made it this far, save for the team of Samoa Joe & NXT Champion Finn Balor. This dream team (pardon the pun) has proven to be very effective at slowly building to either a glorious victory or a combustible defeat. I believe we will end up getting a mixture of both this evening. In the Semi-Finals, the Joe/Balor duo is facing my favorite tag team in NXT, Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson. These two have a real roughneck throwback feel to them that harkens back to the Andersons or even the Brainbusters. If it were up to me, this match would be the finals and Dash & Dawson would be leaving with the trophy. Sadly, I don’t think it is meant to be and the tag team of Balor and his would be challenger will advance to the finals.
On the other end of the tournament bracket is a bizarre match pitting two heel teams against one another. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable have loads of both athleticism and charisma, making them very entertaining, even if they hold villain status. Look for these two to get cheered when facing the team of Baron Corbin & Rhyno, a duo that I was initially surprised to see make it this far. With no previous experience teaming together, it doesn’t exactly make sense that these two would have found their way past the first round against the Ascension, one of the most dominant tag teams ever in NXT. Of course, if one looks at things from a storytelling point of view, their success makes a bit more sense.
If the team of Balor and Joe make it into the finals as I suspect, then the team of Rhyno and Corbin are the perfect foil to face them at the end. Baron and Joe have history, as does Finn and the Man Beast (let’s not forget that Rhyno gored Balor off the stage not long ago, which has since gone unanswered). Let’s add to the fact that these four are bigger stars than their respective semi-final opponents and I can easily see this being the trophy match. As for who will win, while NXT might want to give the fans a heart-felt moment with the good guys winning it all for their mentor Dusty, I just don’t see that happening. Both Baron and Rhyno could use the boost after taking some big losses in the last few months, and a loss here could be the spark needed to fuel a feud between partners Joe and Balor. Look for some miscommunication to lead to the Lone Wolf and the Man Beast accepting the trophy from Goldust and Cody Rhodes.
NXT Takeover: Respect Main Event
30-Minute WWE Iron Man Match for the NXT Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks
What an uphill battle these women have to climb tonight. In August they gave us what could be considered the best women’s match in both NXT and WWE history. Less than two months later they not only have to try and top it, but do so while also being given the ball as the first women’s match to close a NXT special. That being said, both Sasha Banks and Bayley have all the tools needed to pull it off.
With Banks making the transition to the WWE main roster, it might be easy to dismiss this as an obvious win for Bayley, but I am not so sure. This feud is still red hot with the NXT Universe and I have to consider the possibility that the office will want to keep it going in order to milk this story (and potentially great matches) for another Network Special.
Their match in Brooklyn went for 18 minutes, so logically you might not expect many falls within the 30 minute range. I expect very few, in fact, I expect none whatsoever. I will make a bold prediction and say that both ladies go the full 30 minutes without scoring a single fall, either leading to Bayley retaining and challenging Banks to round three, or having them go into sudden death overtime with Sasha doing something sneaky to win back her title, setting up a rubber match between the two, likely with a new stipulation attached that they can sell on the next Network Special.
There is no doubt that NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was a tough act to follow, but comparing the two cards side by side, this one has the potential to be the better show bell to bell, despite the considerably less amount of build-up. Ironically, this special feels much closer to NXT’s roots, and not just because this show is emanating from their home base of Full Sail University. It feels that way because once again, just as they have in the past, NXT is having to prove themselves and do better than their competition. The biggest difference this time around is that while in the past NXT might have competed with their big brother WWE, this time their competing against themselves, and you have to respect that.