NXT TakeOver: Respect Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
History was made on Wednesday night as two of the most celebrated performers in all of WWE headlined NXT's TakeOver: Respect live special in a grueling 30-minute Iron Man match.
They were women.
Proving that two female performers could rise to the occasion and deliver a bout worthy of Match of the Year consideration, Bayley and Sasha Banks punished each other for one half-hour in the name of leaving Full Sail University with the NXT Women's Championship.
In the end, Bayley successfully retained the title, but both women were the recipients of much love and admiration by their peers, their bosses and the fans.
Elsewhere on the card, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was decided, Apollo Crews battled Tyler Breeze and Asuka made her in-ring debut.
What went down during the brand's latest live special, and how did each of the night's monumental clashes grade out?
Take a look for yourself.
Dusty Rhodes Classic: Finn Balor and Samoa Joe vs. Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson
NXT champion Finn Balor kicked off the evening's broadcast, arriving to the squared circle for the first match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic semifinal round. With Samoa Joe as his partner and the team of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson the opponents, all signs pointed to a victory for the babyfaces.
It would not be that easy.
Balor found himself isolated from his teammate, the victim of Wilder and Dawson's ground-and-pound style.
A hot tag to Joe turned things in their favor, but it was Balor who delivered the Coup de Grace for the pinfall victory, ensuring the heavy favorite to win the entire tournament advanced to the final round of competition.
Finn Balor and Samoa Joe defeated Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson.
This was a much more even match than expected. Wilder and Dawson may have lost, but NXT Creative did them a great favor by protecting them as much as they did. The Mechanics, as they are known to NXT faithful, delivered a strong performance while beating down the heavyweight champion Balor the way they did.
Joe and Balor looked impressive in their first win of the night and brought a great deal of energy to the top of the show.
Dusty Rhodes Classic: Jason Jordan and Chad Gable vs. Rhyno and Baron Corbin
The live crowd was incredibly hot for Jason Jordan and partner Chad Gable as they hit the ring for the second Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic match of the night. Their opponents, though, were the destructive duo of Baron Corbin and Rhyno, who could not have cared less about the reaction for their opponents.
They cared only about dominating, and they did just that.
Despite flashes of momentary offense from the energetic young duo, it was Corbin who finished Gable off with End of Days for the victory.
Rhyno and Baron Corbin defeated Chad Gable and Jason Jordan.
If there was ever a place for an upset in this tournament, this would have been it.
Jordan and Gable are improving and developing chemistry as a team. Their potential far outweighs that of Rhyno and Corbin, who will probably not team again now the tournament has concluded. A big win for the young duo would have given them some much-needed credibility and even earned them a shot at champions the Vaudevillains in the very near future.
At the same time, Triple H and company probably wanted the most star-studded finale, and they certainly got it.
Asuka vs. Dana Brooke
Asuka's in-ring debut in NXT was nearly spoiled by Emma, whose brief interference in the match helped Dana Brooke take control.
The former fitness model used her power to keep her opponent at bay for a bit, but Asuka fought back, knocked Emma from the ring apron as she attempted to interfere and trapped Dana in the chicken wing for the submission victory.
After the match, Asuka laid an extra kick into Dana, then approached a fearful Emma but did nothing.
Asuka defeated Dana Brooke.
Asuka's debut performance did a few things correctly.
Firstly, it presented her with the opportunity to showcase her skills in the United States for the first time on such a major stage. Secondly, it provided her with a victory to start off her NXT career. And finally, it pointed in the direction of her next feud.
A potential program between Asuka and Emma should have fans of women's wrestling salivating. What that bout would mean for the NXT Women's Championship hunt remains to be seen, but a quality wrestling match would be almost assured.
To her credit, Dana looked really good here, holding her own against her much more experienced opponent.
Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze continued his run as NXT's version of Dolph Ziggler: a wildly talented worker who loses more than he wins and always makes his opponents look better.
On Wednesday night at TakeOver, he squared off with Apollo Crews in singles competition.
Prince Pretty dominated the majority of the match, even breaking out a Sharpshooter in an attempt to force a submission from his opponent.
Crews fought back, though he found it difficult to execute his press slam-standing moonsault combination. Not deterred by Breeze continually countering his finisher, Crews caught his charging opponent with a boot to the face and finished him off with a powerbomb.
Apollo Crews pinned Tyler Breeze.
This was a really strong match that forced Crews out of his comfort zone and made him find a new way to beat his opponent. That is a hell of a story development and one that will help the ultra-athletic newcomer get even more over with the fans.
Breeze was his typically great self, but NXT must walk a very thin line in relation to their supermodel Superstar.
The crowd was conspicuous by its silence for Prince Pretty's near-falls, suggesting it did not buy he would actually win the match.
Since becoming the main event guy who never wins, Breeze's credibility has taken a hit. It will be imperative for Triple H to help with his rebuilding or the promising star will fall in to irrelevance as the brand continues to recruit fresh talent.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final
The dark cloud that was Finn Balor's injured knee hung over the final of the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, as the NXT champion and Samoa Joe battled Baron Corbin and Rhyno as the Rhodes family sat at ringside.
Both of his opponents targeted the injured limb, but Balor showed great resiliency in fighting back and making the tag to Joe.
A Gore late in the match to the Samoan Submission Machine nearly won the bout for the heels, but a well-timed breakup of the count by Balor saved the match.
A Muscle Buster to the Man Beast and the Coup de Grace from the NXT champion secured the victory for the babyfaces.
After the match, the Rhodes family presented the winners with the trophy, but not before Cody gave a heartfelt speech about his late father.
"Thank you, Dusty," the NXT Universe chanted in a truly emotional moment.
Finn Balor and Samoa Joe defeated Rhyno and Baron Corbin
Balor's inconsistent selling of the knee injury that was made such a big deal of knocked at least half a grade off of this one. While it is important for each star to hit their signature offense, how is anyone supposed to buy into the injured knee when the champion is leaping over the ropes and landing on both feet perfectly fine after a tag from his partner?
Add to that the fact the Coup de Grace never should have been effective with the amount of damage supposedly done to Balor and you have a major continuity problem.
With that said, the action was strong and the booking protected Corbin from eating the pinfall, so the overall effect was positive.
Cody Rhodes' speech after the match once again proves WWE is missing the boat big time with him. A performer as talented at talking as he is wrestling, the second-generation Superstar perhaps deserves more than playing an even more bizarre ripoff of his brother's greatest gimmick.
Iron Man Match for the Women's Title: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks
For the first time in WWE history, two women headlined a major live spectacular as Bayley defended the NXT Women's Championship against Sasha Banks in a 30-minute Iron Man match.
Banks drew first blood, going up 1-0 after roughly nine minutes of action following a poke to the eyes and a small package.
Just two minutes later, Bayley flattened her rival with the Bayley-to-Belly suplex for the pinfall, knotting the score at one fall apiece.
Next, the cerebral Banks sent Bayley face-first into the stage and hightailed it back to the ring, picking up a cheap fall by count-out and taking a 2-1 lead. Another resourceful counter by Bayley soon knotted the score at two.
With young female fans watching as two role models waged war for the top prize in women's wrestling, the women continued to put it all on the line for the right to call themselves champion.
Bayley caught a diving Banks with a Bayley-to-Belly on the arena floor and followed up with the same move off the middle rope for two.
In the end, it was Banks' inability to grab hold of Bayley tightly in the Banks Statement that doomed her. Bayley fought out of the hold and applied an armbar of her own, kicking Banks in the head and drawing the deciding fall by submission to successfully retain her title.
Triple H and William Regal presented the women with flowers following the contest while the NXT roster applauded their efforts from a distance.
Bayley defeated Sasha Banks, 3-2.
The storytelling, the intensity, the high spots...this match had every element of professional wrestling a fan could possibly ask for. It was a match every bit as good as any of the main-roster competitors could hope to deliver and a contest many of Bayley and Banks' male counterparts could only dream of producing.
The falls were smartly booked, the crowd was molten hot and the decision to have Triple H and Regal greet and congratulate them on making history really hammered home the magnitude of what the talented women had just accomplished.
A brilliant conclusion to another strong presentation by NXT.