With just a two month turnover between live specials, the latest NXT Takeover: Rivals, has had roughly eight hours of Network time to promote itself into a strong show. To put that into perspective, the main roster do six hours a week with Raw, Smackdown and Main Event. Therefore, it is a bit of a disgrace that this again feels like one of the best built WWE shows in recent times.
Of course, the main event was set into motion in the closing seconds of the last Takeover event, with Kevin Owens turning on Sami Zayn. Those with their fingers on the pulse of the indies, will know this is not a new feud, but rather one that bears similarities to their conflicts over the year. Despite it being a bit of a quicker turnaround in WWE (they went from best friends to enemies in one night) this already feels big. Partly due to WWE’s fantastic video team, check out the package they put together at the end of the last episode of NXT, and partly due to the perfectly conflicting characters of the two men. Zayn is the plucky babyface, putting his body on the line in order to gain the love of the fans. Owens is the evil heel, willing to turn his back on his oldest friend for money and fame. Throw in a life long friendship and it’s booking 101 and yet sometimes booking 101 is exactly what we need. It feels far too soon to take the belt off of Zayn, so I expect him to come out with it, but something tells me he probably won’t walk out with it.
Where the big difference from the main roster comes, is that it is not only the main event which feels like a well constructed feud. The whole card makes sense. The fatal-four way for the NXT Divas title, has been built up brilliantly. The four women involved, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Bailey, have been on a collision course for a long time. Even better, they can all go in the ring and I have no doubt that NXT will continue to prove that women’s wrestling needn’t be the toilet break, that WWE have booked it as for years. It’s hard to call who will go over here, Charlotte has been champion for a while and there have been hints she is moving towards the main roster. However, I think it is perfectly possible for nearly any of them to win it, although I would put Becky as the least likely, as she stills needs the most work.
Elsewhere, Adrian Neville and Finn Balor will compete in a number one contender match. This one lacks the story, but obviously has the motivation. Everyone loves a wrestling tournament (how often do people call for the return of King of the Ring?) and we have the added benefit that these two are bloody fantastic wrestlers. I would put money on them going out there and stealing the show. We also have a tag title match, as The Lucha Dragons look to regain their title from Wesley and Blake, who pulled off a surprise victory on NXT last week. Wesley and Blake have long deserved the chance to be more than the jobbers of the division and presuming this is going to see a good push for them, it might suggest that the tag division can begin to catch up with the rest of the roster.
Finally, we have the one match that maybe is a bit of a strange one. Bull Dempsey vs Baron Corbin, which was booked after Dempsey’s interference cost Corbin a match with Adrian Neville, who before that had been bumping like a champ for the big man. Both of these guys are limited in the ring, at least compared to the rest of the card, but that is not what makes this strange. After a long build up to this feud, Corbin has actually already beaten Dempsey twice in recent weeks, both with relative ease. Therefore, this should be the final nail in the coffin of this feud and Corbin can be allowed to move on to something else, as he definitely has a cool factor that could take him far.
All in all, this is yet another great card for NXT and it has honestly become the only piece of WWE programming that I actually make the effort to watch every week. From top to bottom it all makes sense and when you throw in the approaching debut of Solomon Crowe, who you’ve got to assume will pop up, and the chance for another couple of matches to be added on the day, Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami seem to be being set up against each other, then you can’t help but feel Triple H’s boys are about to show up the main roster yet again.