NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
The NXT Championship now rests around the waist of Shinsuke Nakamura after the King of Strong Style defeated Samoa Joe Saturday night in the main event of another superb TakeOver special.
Brooklyn's Barclays Center was the site for the massive card, headlined by Joe and Nakamura, but it was the NXT Tag Team Championship bout that left the wrestling world buzzing.
In that Match of the Year candidate, Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano challenged The Revival's Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson. The contest, a battle between upstart challengers and throwback champions, captivated the sold-out crowd and left fans reminiscing about the glory days of 1980s tag team action.
Lightning would not strike twice in Brooklyn for Bayley, who failed to unseat Asuka in the night's most emotional match. Despite retaining her title, it was not Asuka who grabbed the attention of the fans but her opponent, who appeared to wave goodbye to the brand who gained her prominence in the wrestling world.
With an undercard that saw Bobby Roode make his in-ring debut, Austin Aries looked to end No Way Jose's fiesta and the first appearance of newcomer Ember Moon, and the NXT brand once again proved why it is the hottest in all of wrestling.
Find out how each match graded out and what the outcomes mean for Nakamura and Company now with this look back at TakeOver: Brooklyn II.
No Way Jose vs. Austin Aries
No Way Jose drew a huge pop and chants of his name as he entered the sold-out Barclays Center for the biggest match of his young career. Austin Aries, with an entrance less flashy than that of his opponent, drew a similar reaction as longtime fans voiced their appreciation for his many accomplishments across the world.
Once the action started, Jose proved Saturday's match would not be the gigantic fiesta fans are used to seeing out of him. Still, Aries was able to cut him off and wrestle control of the match away from Jose, working his head and neck with a rear chinlock.
Jose fought his way back into the match, dumping Aries with a back body drop and a series of chops. Aries countered his opponent's attack with The Last Chancery and appeared to have the match won until Jose was able to grab the bottom rope.
Chants of "Austin Aries" filled the arena as the fans' favorite became apparent.
Jose came back with a TKO and looked like he would score the win, but Aries was able to fight out at two. He later followed with a modified Falcon Arrow, which netted another two count.
Aries caught Jose with a sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope, trapped him in The Last Chancery and scored the victory via submission.
After the bell, Aries reapplied The Last Chancery until Hideo Itami appeared, drawing a huge pop and infuriating The Greatest Man That Ever Lived.
Itami withstood an early attack and blasted Aries with Go To Sleep!
Austin Aries defeated No Way Jose
Austin Aries was clearly the best wrestler in the ring for the night's opening match, but the match was more newsworthy for Jose's performance. There was considerable concern the fun-loving newcomer would not be able to hang with the former Ring of Honor champion.
Not only did he hang, but he proved a large portion of doubters wrong. Jose was energetic, never looked overwhelmed or underprepared. He proved he belonged.
The post-match events set up a Hideo Itami-Austin Aries feud that should provide NXT with a suitable companion to the championship feud between Nakamura and Samoa Joe.
Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay
Billie Kay entered to new theme music, but newcomer Ember Moon one-upped her with a grand entrance befitting a star.
Moon frustrated Kay early, countering everything that was thrown at her, but the Australian competitor responded by using her power advantage to wrest control from her opponent.
Kay trapped Moon in the Gory Special, working the back and neck of her smaller opponent. The newcomer fought out of a fireman's carry and delivered a flipping clothesline in the corner. A flying, twisting stunner, unnamed by the commentary team, earned Moon the draw-dropping victory.
Ember Moon defeated Billie Kay
Ember Moon's finisher is amazing. The athleticism necessary to hit that maneuver precisely and without injuring her opponent is breathtaking.
The match itself was a great showcase for the newcomer, who impressed. Kay was her solid self but was never really allowed to overshadow her opponent. It was a one-dimensional match that did its job and was capped with one of the most unexpectedly phenomenal maneuvers in wrestling today.
Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode made his in-ring debut Saturday night, gloriously and obnoxiously entering the arena in grand fashion. The fans erupted, showing their support for the former TNA world heavyweight champion. Andrade "Cien" Almas was not greeted with the same enthusiasm, as the fans' boos for him reflected the less-than stellar impression he has left on them to this point.
Roode was the picture of confidence early, mocking his opponent to the delight of the fans. Almas responded, doing a bit of his own showboating before landing a low dropkick and baseball slide. Roode, proving he could dish it out but not take it, responded to Almas' mocking of him with a vicious assault that showed off his mean side.
A delayed vertical suplex put Almas down, but not for long. He delivered a second-rope dropkick that sent Roode to ringside. A springboard corkscrew plancha left Roode stunned enough for Almas to score a two count.
Roode used a stiff clothesline to put Almas down as the chants of his name resumed. Roode tried for a German suplex off the top rope but Almas landed on his feet in a stunning moment.
Roode countered a standing moonsault with knees to the gut and tried for a fisherman suplex, but Almas countered with a small package rollup that scored a count of two. The babyface delivered the running knees and tried for the hammerlock DDT, but Roode countered with an uppercut.
A spinebuster followed and the Glorious Bomb (pumphandle slam) scored the win for Roode.
Bobby Roode defeated Andrade "Cien" Almas
Whereas Ember Moon's finisher was an exclamation point on her first performance, Roode's felt like a blemish on what was an otherwise strong match.
Almas looked as impressive as he has to this point. He looked focused and worked hard to make sure fans remembered his contribution to the match as much as they remembered Roode.
From the entrance to his in-ring performance and the manner in which Corey Graves and Tom Phillips put him over on commentary, Roode was treated like a gigantic star. In fact, it could be said Roode was presented as a bigger deal in one match with NXT than he was in his final three years with TNA.
With so many main roster callu-ps of late, Roode figures to be a huge part of NXT's growth going forward. Saturday night was a step toward a glorious future for the brand.
NXT Tag Team Title Match: Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano vs. The Revival
The NXT Tag Team Championships were up for grabs as Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano battled The Revival's Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder in one of the weekend's most anticipated bouts.
Dawson attempted to assert dominance early with a hard chop to Ciampa, but the challengers gained control with some double-team maneuvers and a huge clothesline. Gargano worked the left arms of both Dawson and Dash as the top contenders looked to set the pace of the bout.
Gargano launched himself through the ropes with a suicide dive, wiping Dash out while Ciampa delivered a flying knee to the face of Dawson.
The champions slowed things down, though, isolating Ciampa and working him over in their corner. An inverted suplex led to a two count just moments after Dawson had pulled Gargano off of the apron and caught him with a hard right to the face.
After minutes of punishment endured by Ciampa, he finally made the hot tag, only for the referee to be distracted by Dash and miss it. Moments later, it was Dash who missed into the ropes and allowed Ciampa to make the tag.
Gargano exploded into the match, taking Dawson out with a kick to the head for a near-fall. Ciampa was tagged back in and applied the arm bar as Gargano held Dash at ringside. A last-gasp effort by the champion to break up the submission worked, as Dawson received the reprieve he desperately needed.
Ciampa and Dawson threw fists, and the Sicilian Psychopath momentarily gained the upper hand with a series of knee strikes. The challengers survived Shatter Machine and delivered their knee-kick combination for a three count. That is, until the referee discovered Dash's foot on the bottom rope.
The celebration was cut short, Dawson sent Ciampa into the steel post and the heels gained control off of a chop block of Gargano's knee.
Dawson applied the reverse Figure Four, and Johnny Wrestling had no choice but to tapout as the champions retained.
The Revival defeated Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa
Fans of the On Demand section of the WWE Network will notice the similarities between this match and the all-time great tag matches that unfolded in 1980s Jim Crockett Promotions. In those matches, The Rock & Roll Express, Midnight Express, Horsemen, Lex Luger, Barry Windham and The Fantastics captivated audiences by molding breathtaking action with in-ring psychology.
The Revival is as close to an old-school wrestling tandem as there is, their penchant for punishment through fists and feet as opposed to flips and flash their greatest tool. Whether they isolated their opponents, used chicanery to manipulate the referee or showed impeccable timing by breaking up near-falls, Dash and Dawson confirmed their place among the best teams in wrestling.
Gargano and Ciampa had the fans on their feet and, thanks to the work of The Revival, had a sympathy about them that made fans want to see them succeed. The pop that greeted the false finish and what fans thought was a title change demonstrated just how popular they have become with NXT fans over the last six months.
This was a legitimate Match of the Year candidate and a standard bearer for the rest of the weekend.
NXT Women's Championship Match: Bayley vs. Asuka
In Dallas, Asuka overwhelmed Bayley en route to her first NXT Women's Championship. Saturday night in Brooklyn, home of Bayley's greatest triumph, the women met for the second time.
The respect for both women was evident from the bell as fans greeted the competitors with dueling chants.
Asuka caught Bayley with a knee to the face and set out to systematically destroy her opponent. The champion drew boos as she visibly toyed with the challenger, dissecting Bayley to the dismay of the NXT faithful. "Could be looking at a rout tonight, Tom," commentator Corey Graves said, sensing Asuka's dominance.
The challenger fought back, delivering a pair of knee drops for two. A running back elbow continued Bayley's flurry. Asuka answered with a Shining Wizard for another near-fall.
With the champion tied in The Tree of Woe, Bayley delivered a big elbow that nearly earned her a second championship reign. Asuka trapped Bayley in the ankle lock but the lovable challenger fended her tenacious opponent off for the time being.
Bayley invited punches to the face and Asuka obliged, only for the No. 1 contender to catch her in a backslide for a two count.
Asuka survived a Dominator by Bayley and locked her in the Asuka Lock, which was the move that put the challenger away just 48 hours before WrestleMania this past April. Bayley fought out and delivered the Bayley-to-Belly...but only kept the champion down for two.
Asuka followed up the heart-stopping near-fall with her second attempt at the Asuka Lock, only for Bayley to counter into a pinfall. It was a short-lived reprieve as Asuka delivered three straight kicks to the head to successfully retain her title.
After the match, Asuka showed her opponent a sign of respect, and fans rained down on their heroine with a chant of "thank you, Bayley."
Asuka defeated Bayley
"Not every story has a happy ending," Graves said, perfectly describing the superb wrestling match that just unfolded before him.
Numerous times throughout the match, Bayley appeared to be on her way to regaining the title, only to be cut off by the champion. Much like Dallas, Asuka was simply the superior wrestler, a story that is not told nearly enough in today's wrestling landscape.
Bayley received the hero's exit, leaving the arena in what felt like her final NXT appearance.
For everything that Finn Balor, Neville, Sami Zayn, Bo Dallas and others did for the brand, there is no Superstar that better embodies what NXT is about than Bayley. If this was her swan song, she left a legacy no man or woman may ever equal.
NXT Championship Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Samoa Joe
Violinist Lee England, Jr. played Shinsuke Nakamura to the ring in one of the most goosebumps-inducing moments in wrestling. Joe, minus the grandeur, stalked toward the squared circle with the purpose and determination of a champion. The action nearly erupted before the introductions, a sign of the intense dislike between the two.
Joe earned control of the match first, working over the back and neck of his opponent. He applied the STF and withstood an attack directly to the bridge of his nose, proving himself capable of taking as well as he gives.
A left-handed lariat turned Nakamura inside out, but the champion answered moments later with an armbar attempt. Unfortunately for the challenger, Joe was able to interlock his fingers and prevent the Japanese competitor from fully applying the hold.
Joe, continuing to target the back, applied the Cloverleaf, only for Nakamura to make it to the bottom rope and force the break. The champion followed with the Coquina Clutch, but Nakamura again used the ropes for salvation.
Nakamura delivered a huge German suplex that stunned Joe, only for the Samoan competitor to answer with a snap powerslam for two. The Muscle Buster followed by Joe was left in disbelief as Nakamura kicked out at two.
Turnabout was fair play, though, as the challenger exploded with the Kinshasa and still only scored a two count. A knee to the back of the head followed and the Kinshasa ended Joe's championship reign as Nakamura earned the victory.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe
The match was slow at points but from the moment Nakamura entered the arena to the second Kinshasa, it felt every bit as epic as promised.
The action was high-impact brutality at its finest while presenting a story fans could appreciate and understand. Was the quality up to the standard of the tag title bout or the women's championship match? No, but the finish alone elevated it.
The two Kinshasas, one of which appeared to legitimately break Joe's jaw, were a perfect way to put over how much of a war the match was while simultaneously lending credibility to the now-former champion's toughness.
Nakamura was already the biggest star in the brand. The championship win does nothing to elevate him in any way whatsoever. What it does is etch his name in the history books and provide a babyface performer an entire touring brand can be built around.