IHAO on ... NXT Takeover: R Evolution

Watching NXT PPVs is my favorite wrestling experience since I got the WWE Network.  They are working hard, they have higher production value than needed, it is a Vince-less product and shows how good of a hand the WWE will be in with HHH in complete charge, and just gets me excited.  This one in particular feels BIG because of the matches.  Every match feels big and important and that's awesome.

I also really want to talk about Corey Graves.  He is a man who impressed myself and really everyone when we started watching.  And an errant concussion ended his career, legimiately.  He can never wrestle again.  It broke my heart, because you can see it in his face, in his eyes, all the emotion as he had to take his DREAM and shelf it.  Thank goodness that the WWE has done everything they can for the guy and kept him in the company, and now he is a permanent fixture of the commentary team for NXT.  Watch HHH commend the guy for his work and offer him a huge amount of job security and hope for the future RIGHT HERE.

All right, all that said, let's kick it into gear!

Kevin Owens beats CJ Parker to death

This match is Kevin Owens' (Kevin Steen's new name) debut.  And he absolutely brutally destroys CJ Parker, who in turn also brutally destroys Kevin Owens' face with a palm strike.  I'm not sure if it was purposeful or a mistake or what, but it was a shocking nose break, and Owens never stopped bleeding or fighting, which made him even more hardcore!!  This was the best debut I've seen in NXT.  I'm rewatching this as I write this review, and I had to stop writing because Owens is amazing to watch and drew all my attention.  I am EXCITED to see more of him.

NXT Tag Team Titles: Lucha Dragons (c) retain against the Vaudvillains

The Vaudvillains have a problem.  Their name is that of a bad guy, so they play heel.  But they are both more naturally faces, and their gimmick is more naturally face as they are kind of silly.  And they get over with the crowd really well.  But they still play heel.  I'm not sure where they will go, but there was a nice moment in the end of this match where one saves the other from a massive over the top rope attack from the Lucha Dragons. The match itself is a pretty good one.  It isn't amazing, but it is really fun and told a pretty good story.  And really, being a "pretty good match" is never bad, so I'm not actually complaining.

Baron Corbin destroys Ty Dillinger and looks at Bull Dempsey

Baron Corbin is on a roll and doing something special.  He has a mystique and a power that is exciting as hell.  And he is running on Bull Dempsey, who is awful.  Bull Dempsey is basically an awful version of Kevin Owens.  I'm glad Kevin Owens is here now, so Bull Dempsey can go away.  Kevin Owens is also a better version of Mojo Rawley.  So he can go away, too.

Hideo Itami and Finn Balor finally beat the Ascension

This is a great grudge match between great guys doing great things.  This has a HUGE feeling to it, because they've been building up to it with all of these guys.  On top of that, we have this amazing spectacle that Finn Balor (formerly Prince Devitt) is known for, and it is amazing.  Utterly amazing.  Just mindgames Boogeyman craziness with a little Jeff Hardy.  It is crazy.

And on top of that, it is a GREAT match!  Everyone fights hard and fast and they do awesomely.  There is great story and logic and work.  It is awesome.  The Ascension is about to debut on the main roster with a slightly amped up version of their gimmick, so this is the big payoff to all of there feud with Hideo and Finn, and they are about to move on to something new for each of them, which is awesome.  I don't know what, but I'm excited as hell.  Once again as I write this I find myself just watching the match and loving it, completely engaged.

Roman Reigns gets shoved down our throats for a little bit, but he doesn't matter because ...

NXT Women's Championship: Charlotte (c) retains against Sasha Banks

I love women wrestlers.  I love that they are hot, and athletic, and skilled, and some of them are great.  And I hate that no matter how hard they work, some won't give them any chance.  Between this match and Charolette v. Natalya a few shows ago for NXT, I implore everyone to watch these Divas.  They have real matches, with real skill, and are just great.  Their storylines are great, their ringwork is great, and that's awesome.  Let me just quote the crowd: "This is wrestling!" *clap clap clapclapclap*

Charolette is really good.  Like, really really good.  She does amazingly well here, and does not hold punches.  She beats the hell out of Sasha, and Sasha beats the hell out of Charolette.  But there is something extra special about Sasha Banks for me.  She has improved so much since I first saw her, and I've fallen in love with her.  She tries so hard to improve, and she does constantly.  On top of that, she is vocal and present with her fans, go follow her on tumblr, that's super cool.  Tell her how great she did, because she was a star tonight, even in loss.  Very, very few wrestlers can do that.

NXT Heavyweight Championship: Sami Zayn finally wins "the big one" versus Adrien Neville (c) and reaches the end of his "road of redemption"

I love long-term storytelling.  Goldberg's streak (up until they ruined it).  Mikey Whipwreck throwing his first punch.  Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth's relationship.  And Sami Zayn's rise to the top of NXT, like the fans have always treated him.  This match is a great match because of the emotion, the work these two incredible guys do, and the storytelling within it.  It has been a joy to watch this happen for months as Zayn worked so hard and fought so long.  He is a huge star, a larger star now than if he had won earlier.  That is good storytelling.  That is making a star.

I will admit, I am a mark for Adrien Neville.  He has sparked my interest and my fandom since I first saw him.  I don't mark out much any longer, just because of being so immersed in wrestling as a fan, and making sure that I, just like with my film critiques, work hard to keep objective and subjective to two sides.  Even then, I have been accused by my roommates that my judgment is clouded about Adrien Neville's heel-ness ever since the last NXT special.  This is my position: Adrien Neville is absolutely a heel ... to Sami Zayn in this feud, but he has never fully turned heel.  He has certainly been playing the heel to Zayn in matches and a little in promos, but he's never stopped being the fighting face champion he is.  The ending of this incredible, incredible match, with everyone cheering on Zayn and him finally getting the win he deserves, him finally making it, and Adrien, defeated for the first time since he won the ladder match versus Bo Dallas back in March ... Adrien hugs his friend.  That is powerful storytelling, heel or face, doesn't matter.  This match isn't the best NXT match I've seen this year, but it is so INCREDIBLY good that it easily sits in the top ten best of the year.  Maybe top five.

Sami Zayn finally won, without ever doing what his friend Adrien did.  He never pulled the ref, never did a schoolboy, never used a weapon, never resorted to cheap tactics, even though he was tempted.  Adrien, heel or face, mark or not, has been doing dubious things to win, and Sami Zayn quite literally redeemed himself by never once doing any of those tricks.  He won, fair and square, pinned him in the middle of the ring.  And Adrien hugged him after and lifted Sami's hand in victory.  Is Adrien redeemed?  Is all this acting heel-ish over for him?  What's next for Adrien?  It is very exciting!

And then ... and then Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn's real life best friend, comes down, nose all stitched up, turns heel and destroys Sami to end the night.  This is wrestling 101, except the WWE forgot how to do it.  I am fired up to watch more!  Really, I'm fired up about everything in his PPV?  What's next for the Lucha Dragons?  Where do Hideo and Finn go?  How will Sami deal with his new place on the top and Kevin Owens?  What will Adrien do now that he isn't on the top any longer?  What will Sasha do now?

Entire WWE PPVs go by without any "big match feelings" no matter how many times JBL says it on commentary.  This two-hour broadcast had FOUR sequences with that feeling.  Lucha Underground, which I'm also watching, has that feeling quite often.  WWE is competing with themselves.  And NXT is the absolutely the best wrestling that can be watched currently.

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