WWE NXT TakeOver: The End Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
For Samoa Joe and Finn Balor, Wednesday's NXT TakeOver: The End was just that—the concluding chapter of a feud that has stretched three high-profile bouts and a major championship change that shook the wrestling world.
Competing inside a steel cage with the brand's top prize at stake, they waged war in a barbaric battle tinged with personal animosity. With no match stoppages due to blood and no excuses for whichever Superstar was unlucky enough to emerge the loser, the contest was befitting its "grudge match" status.
Speaking of old grudges, The Revival attempted to regain the tag team championships it lost to Chad Gable and Jason Jordan in a rematch from Dallas. Would Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson regain the titles that slipped through their grasp in the Lone Star State, or would Gable and Jordan prove themselves the division's elite?
Asuka defended her women's title against Nia Jax, Austin Aries had the opportunity to prove himself against Shinsuke Nakamura and Andrade Almas made his much-anticipated debut against Tye Dillinger to round out another extraordinary night of NXT action.
Who won, how did each match grade out and how did the events of Wednesday's show shape NXT going forward?
Take a look for yourself.
Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Tye Dillinger
After weeks of pre-taped vignettes, WWE Network fans got their first taste of Andrade "Cien" Almas as he battled one of the cornerstones of the brand—the wildly underrated "Perfect 10" Tye Dillinger.
Almas evaded Dillinger throughout, using his speed and flashy athleticism to keep The Perfect 10 at bay. One impressive spot saw him attempt a moonsault, only for Dillinger to roll out of the way. He landed on his feet, gathered himself and delivered a standing moonsault to the crowd's delight.
A running double knee in the corner secured the victory for the newcomer.
Andrade "Cien" Almas defeated Tye Dillinger.
This was little more than an exhibition for Almas. He looked great, his athleticism on display for a whole new audience of wrestling fans to appreciate. With that said, Dillinger is an extraordinary talent whose in-ring work is wildly underrated by the company he works for.
After a recent televised victory, a win here would have elevated him tremendously and helped make up for some of the talent that has recently migrated to the main roster.
As it is, Almas debuted with a quality win and fans got a taste of what they can expect from the former La Sombra going forward.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: American Alpha vs. The Revival
The first major upset of the evening took place as The Revival defeated American Alpha to regain the NXT Tag Team Championship. More importantly, for the sake of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson's credibility, they did so cleanly.
The heels isolated Gable for the majority of the match, cutting him off from partner Jason Jordan and repeatedly keeping him from making the hot tag. When he finally did, it appeared as though the champions would explode back into the match and successfully retain their gold.
That did not happen. Dash and Dawson executed the Shatter Machine on Jordan and regained the titles they lost just two months ago in Dallas.
After the match, two unnamed Superstars made their presence felt, attacking American Alpha. Legendary manager Paul Ellering accompanied them, suggesting he will serve as their mouthpiece.
The Revival defeated American Alpha to win the NXT Tag Team Championships.
The newcomers, The Authors of Pain, have spent months competing at NXT live events under masks and have an impressive look. As the massive and intimidating heels opposing American Alpha, they could thrive. With Ellering as their mouthpiece, they have the chance to get over with audiences quicker than most new acts, if only because he is a master crowd manipulator—his resume with The Road Warriors sparkling.
The title change was unexpected, if only because so much energy and effort had been put into building to Gable and Jordan's win.
With heel champions in The Revival, there are really only two directions to go in. The first would be a third, deciding match in the feud with American Alpha, perhaps a Best Two-Out-of-Three-Falls match. The other would be a program with Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano, who hold a recent upset win over the new champions.
The match was superb—the in-ring psychology as strong as any on the entire show.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries
Determined to prove there is no star shining brighter than his in NXT, Austin Aries battled Shinsuke Nakamura in one of the night's most anticipated bouts.
Aries entered the match seemingly less than 100 percent, with his ribs taped up.
The match centered around Aries' work over Nakamura's knee, to which the Japanese star responded by completely no-selling the injury and firing away with a series of kicks. From there, A-Double worked over his opponent in hopes of trapping him in the Last Chancery. After several attempts, he succeeded.
Aries was forced to abandon his 450 Splash attempt late as Nakamura evaded it, but came back with a Death Valley Driver on the ring apron. That should have been enough to end the match, even if it was via an unsatisfactory count-out.
In his desperation to prove he is the greatest wrestler in NXT, Aries exploded through the ropes with a suicide dive. Instead of hitting his desired target in Nakamura, he crashed into the barricade.
The former New Japan standout capitalized, coming off the middle rope with the Kinshasa for the pinfall victory.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Austin Aries.
A second consecutive match with a grade of "A," this one was not quite as strong psychologically as the tag match but benefited from a hot crowd and Aries' defining performance.
Sure, Nakamura was his typically great self, but his failure to sell the knee injury really diminished the quality of the match early on.
What picked it up was the determination Aries expressed. Even though the audience knows what they are watching is scripted entertainment, the former Ring of Honor and TNA world heavyweight champion looked like an athlete legitimately trying to win a match.
The result was a hard-fought battle that kept the audience invested.
Even in defeat, Aries looked like the superior wrestler, and that is an incredibly difficult story to tell. The Superstars pulled it off to perfection Wednesday night. Now it should be interesting to see how Aries rebounds and whether he opts to blame the defeat on his ribs or if the story drags a bit, leading to a higher-profile bout between the two.
Perhaps as soon as Brooklyn in August.
NXT Women's Championship Match: Asuka vs. Nia Jax
After feeling Nia Jax's wrath a week ago, Asuka put her title on the line against the unstoppable force.
Jax dominated the action, overwhelming the NXT women's champion early in the bout with her size and strength advantage. She tossed the titleholder around the ring with reckless abandon, delivering a nasty headbutt, an impressive suplex and a powerbomb into the turnbuckles.
Asuka showed the resiliency that got her to the championship level, dodging her opponent's trademark leg drop and mounting a fiery comeback with a dropkick and hip attack.
Jax powered out of her opponent's late armbar but found herself on the receiving end of a series of head kicks. A defiant primal scream was met with a running knee from the champion for the win.
Asuka defeated Nia Jax.
This was another example of a Superstar looking strong in defeat as this was really the story of Nia Jax pummeling Asuka, only for her opponent's tenacity to do her in late. The challenger showed more aggression than ever before—a nice addition to what is already an impressive power-based skill set.
Asuka, a seasoned pro, held the match together. Her bumping for Jax made the challenger look like the unstoppable force she should be. The result was some excellent storytelling, even if the match itself failed to meet the lofty expectations Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch set over the last year-and-a-half.
Steel Cage Match for the NXT Championship: Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
Their championship rivalry stretching for nearly six months, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe settled their differences inside a steel cage Wednesday night, with the top prize in NXT up for grabs.
Just as he did in Lowell, Massachusetts, a month ago, Joe put an end to The Demon's championship dreams with the Muscle Buster.
The Superstars used the cage as one would expect, each enduring tremendous pain and punishment as the steel dug into their skin.
Balor delivered a big Sling Blade from the top rope, drawing a strong reaction late in the bout. Joe came back, delivering his Muscle Buster finisher but netting only a two-count. His second delivery of the maneuver later in the match, from the middle rope nonetheless, was enough to secure Joe the win.
As the show went off the air, Joe cradled his title, having survived another physical battle with his rival, while Balor struggled in the center of the ring.
Samoa Joe defeated Finn Balor.
This one was lacking a grander finish—one that fans could look back on as the definitive moment the feud came to a close.
As it is, the match was above-average, as the NXT Universe has come to expect from the competitors involved. The Superstars' in-ring physicality and intensity always make for a compelling match, while the addition of the cage provided a fresh take on the same pairing.
Balor's clean defeat seems to suggest he is on to bigger and better things on the main roster sooner than later, though one would have thought the same after he originally dropped the title.
For Joe, it was a defining match in his reign, one that essentially cements him as the new face of NXT and the top dog on a roster constantly changing and evolving. With Nakamura, Aries, Almas, Ciampa, Gargano and the returning Hideo Itami, not to mention wild cards like Bobby Roode and Eric Young lurking, Joe has an intriguing lineup of opponents waiting for him.