NXT TakeOver: San Antonio: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights
The NXT brand of WWE invaded San Antonio for its latest TakeOver special Saturday night, a show headlined by the titanic battle for supremacy between NXT champion Shinsuke Nakamura and No. 1 contender Bobby Roode.
Would the Era of Strong Style continue, or would it be a glorious night for Roode in what was slated to be his first shot at championship glory under the WWE umbrella?
How would The Empress of Tomorrow, Asuka, fair as she defended her title against the unstable Nikki Cross and the devious duo of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce in a Fatal 4-Way match?
After capturing tag team gold in Toronto this past November, could DIY's Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa successfully retain against the overwhelming forces of nature that are The Authors of Pain?
Those three championship bouts headlined another entertaining night of action on the WWE Network.
Find out how each match graded out and how each may affect the brand going forward with this exclusive recap of the Jan. 28 show.
Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young
For Tye Dillinger, Saturday's TakeOver would net him the same outcome his previous appearances at the event have: a loss.
This time, it came at the hands of Eric Young, who benefited exponentially from the presences of fellow Sanity members Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain at ringside.
Dillinger fought back into the match late and was forced to fend off the heels' interference. He took out both Dain and Wolfe with a dive over the top rope, but that was not enough to keep them from influencing the outcome.
Dillinger delivered the Tye Breaker and appeared on his way to victory, but Wolfe draped Young's foot over the bottom rope.
Young recovered and delivered his neckbreaker finisher for the win.
Eric Young defeated Tye Dillinger.
This was an effective way to kick off the show.
Dillinger is a red-hot babyface—a beloved star who fans adore. He will always be over, regardless of how many matches he wins or loses. Protecting him in the manner management did, making sure to point out to the audience that Sanity needed all the interference for Young to win, only ensures he will remain a vital part of the NXT roster.
Conversely, using a star as popular as he is to intensify the heat on Sanity is a smart booking move at a time when NXT is in need of stronger heel acts.
Roderick Strong vs. Andrade "Cien" Almas
The former Mr. Ring of Honor made his NXT TakeOver debut Saturday as Roderick Strong battled Andrade "Cien" Almas one-on-one in the night's second match.
The Superstars traded offense throughout the match, with neither man gaining complete control of the bout for an extended period.
The fight went to the ropes, with Strong cutting off Almas' moonsault and pounding away at him. He delivered a backbreaker across the top turnbuckle, which Percy Watson put over as extremely painful, thanks to the bolt between the pad and the post.
Strong overcame two attempts at the hammerlock DDT and put Almas away with the Sick Kick for the pinfall victory.
Roderick Strong defeated Andrade "Cien" Almas.
This was a solid match here, and it is clear the NXT faithful love Strong.
It is that adoration for the longtime Ring of Honor star that made this match somewhat disappointing. Imagine how hot the fans would have been had they had something to invest in emotionally, rather than cheering Strong simply because of his reputation.
Strong will move on to bigger and better things in NXT, but one must wonder where that leaves Almas, who has been a major disappointment for the brand despite strong in-ring work.
Seth Rollins Calls Out Triple H
The festivities came to a screeching halt Saturday night when Raw's Seth Rollins appeared in the ring, calling out Triple H.
Knowing that The Game was in the building, overseeing NXT's premier event, Rollins refused to leave until he answered the challenge.
Triple H appeared in full business attire and summoned security.
Rollins laid waste to those three unfortunate jobbers but was confronted by more security officials, who grabbed hold of The Architect and removed him from the building, much to the dismay of Rollins and the fans.
This made so much sense that it is almost a surprise it unfolded on WWE TV.
Rollins knows NXT is Triple H's baby. He knows the COO of WWE would be watching backstage and took this opportunity to call him out. It was a bold move, interrupting the proceedings to get that face-to-face confrontation with The Game that Rollins has waited for since August.
The ordeal put heat on the impending match between teacher and protege and was the perfect use of a star of Rollins' caliber on a show such as this.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: DIY vs. The Authors of Pain
Akam and Rezar of The Authors of Pain scored their biggest victory to date at TakeOver: Toronto when they defeated TM61 to win the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. They looked to improve upon that win by dethroning tag team champions Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano Saturday night.
The massive No. 1 contenders isolated Gargano, beating him down for the better part of four minutes and overwhelming him. A hot tag to Ciampa, though, reinvigorated the champions and popped the crowd. The Psycho Killer delivered German suplexes to both opponents.
The finish saw Rezar fight out of Ciampa's submission hold and then slam him on Gargano. Powerbombs to the champions followed, and the rookie tandem finished the reign of DIY off with the Last Chapter for the win and the titles.
The Authors of Pain defeated DIY to win the NXT Tag Team Championships.
There will be some who take exception to the relatively short title reign enjoyed by Gargano and Ciampa, but they are exactly the type of babyfaces that work best when they are chasing the titles. Add to that The Authors of Pain's status as the unstoppable force in NXT, and you have the perfect recipe for new champions.
Ciampa and Gargano got the best match out of the big men that any other Superstars have to this point, working an old-school formula right out of 1980s Jim Crockett Promotions. They meshed well with a team that is admittedly difficult to work with due to its sheer size and inexperience.
There will be more matches between these two teams, and based on this one, fans should expect each to improve upon the other.
Fatal 4-Way for the NXT Women's Championship
Asuka has dominated women's wrestling in NXT for the last year, dispatching any and all competitors unlucky enough to confront her. In order to leave San Antonio with her women's title in tow, she would have to beat three of the top female competitors in a single match.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce were determined to work together and win the title as a duo, seeking the perfect opportunity early to attack. Unfortunately for them, Asuka and Nikki Cross were too busy punishing each other with hard-hitting offense to succumb to their assaults, frustrating the Aussies.
The numbers disadvantage decreased by one later in the match, as Kay and Royce finally saw their efforts pay off when they suplexed Cross through a table near the stage. The move eliminated the Scot from championship contention and forced Asuka into a two-on-one disadvantage that threatened her title reign.
Royce and Kay beat down the Japanese competitor until she fired back with a series of hard kicks, including one that put Royce down for the count.
Asuka defeated Peyton Royce, Billie Kay and Nikki Cross to retain the NXT Women's Championship.
This was a brilliantly structured match that told a story and concluded in the most effective way imaginable.
Kay and Royce were the stars of the show—the prissy heels who wanted the gold but who would not forego their friendship to attain it. They grew frustrated with their lack of success early and eliminated the most unpredictable element of the match in Cross before turning their attention to the champion.
They were brilliant late—their arrogance on full display as they found themselves close to victory.
Asuka, the resilient champion still fuming over the humiliation she suffered at their hands a few weeks back, fired off ferocious kicks to score the win and retain her title.
All of the moving parts were brought together in a way that made sense and played to the characters of the women involved. More importantly, it featured just enough interaction between Cross and Asuka to whet fans' appetites until they clash in a more traditional setting.
NXT Championship Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode
"The biggest money match in NXT history" headlined the evening's broadcast as Shinsuke Nakamura defended the NXT Championship against Bobby Roode.
Throughout the match, Roode's arrogance got the best of him. On several occasions, he thought he had Nakamura beat, only for The King of Strong Style to kick out at two.
Late in the match, Nakamura seized control and executed a flying knee from the second rope to Roode, who was on the ring apron. On the way down, though, he smacked his left knee on the apron, hurting himself. Moments later, he fought through the pain and delivered a Kinshasa.
The intensity with which he hit the maneuver, though, did him in. Nakamura was hurt, and Roode, like a shark smelling blood, seized the opportunity. He delivered one impaler DDT but could only hold The King of Strong Style down for a two-count.
He applied a half-crab, which caused Nakamura to scream in pain as he neared the bottom rope. With nothing left to give, he fell prey to another jumping DDT. Roode covered and scored the victory.
Bobby Roode defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to win the NXT Championship.
The storytelling here was phenomenal.
Roode easily could have let the frustration get to him. He could have continued to cheat, had it fail to win him the title and then fallen prey to a maneuver that spelled the end of his title hunt. Instead, he proved methodical and cerebral in his approach, waiting for that one opportunity to present itself and then capitalizing on it.
That he won the title cleanly in the center of the ring and without controversy beyond the unfortunate knee injury Nakamura suffered is a good omen for Roode and management's faith in him to be the brand's champion for the foreseeable future.
Where this leaves Nakamura remains to be seen, but for now, Roode's victory firmly entrenches him at the top of NXT—its lead villain and credible champion.