NXT Takeover: RIVAL Recap
Finn Balor donned his Licker-esque body paint for NXT Takeover: RIVAL

Once more, NXT has blown the main roster's Pay Per Views out of the water. A largely mediocre Royal Rumble (normally one of the best shows of the year) looked like a cluster of a show in some backyard wrestling company with more wrestlers than sense when compared to Takeover: Rival (except for the name, which is just so bad). Just one quick note before we begin: Corey Graves is an outstanding commentator. The best they've had since JR. Yes that includes William Regal. Get Graves on the main show and ship Cole off into the night.

Tyler Breeze continues to amaze

A fan girl rushed Tyler Breeze during his entrance, and he has added a selfie stick to his get-up. Wait that needs more emphasis: TYLER BREEZE HAS A FURRY SELFIE STICK NOW. It's AMAZING, and the only time a selfie stick is acceptable. Seriously, look at that header image and try and say Tyler Breeze isn't amazing right now. If you manage it, you're either lying, or you're a member of the "WWE Universe" because that gimmick is going to crash and burn on Raw as soon as it debuts and Lawler tears it to shreds.

If Breeze has to lose, more of this please

Breeze wrestles Hideo Itami in the opening match, a rematch after the two faced off in the opening match of the No. 1 Contenders tournament. It ends the same way, with Breeze eating it, but the match itself is as good a match as can fit in the eight or so minutes it got. #SubmissionSpecialist Tyler Breeze made an appearance early on as he would lock on a Figure Four Leg Lock around the ring post, before trapping Itami in a lovely modified Figure Four/Boston Crab hybrid.

Itami's fighting spirit was on display as he fought through the leg damage to land a number of brutal kicks before once again teasing the GTS, but Breeze countered into a rollup before hitting the Supermodel Kick to get a two count. Itami would finally hit the leaping dropkick in the corner, before putting Breeze down for good with a running kick to the face. It was a great way to open the show, and if Breeze isn't going to be good enough to beat top guys then at least let him fill the Kane role of jobbing to main eventers. He's exciting and puts on great matches and it's a great use of his talents.

More like LOL Dempsey

OK, so Bull Dempsey is wrestling Baron Corbin again. So far he's lost both other matches against Corbin in around a minute or two. This time it's No Disqualification, so Bull thinks this will work in his favor. In a way, he's right. He lasts just over four minutes this time before getting obliterated by Hell's Werewolf (he's a biker and a werewolf, maybe an actual literal one) Baron Corbin. Corbin starts off beating him up at ringside, before Dempsey hits a suplex on the steel ramp. After a bit of back and forth between the two, including Dempsey hitting his diving head-butt for a two count, Dempsey goes to hit Corbin with a chair, Corbin ducks underneath and picks Dempsey up to hit the End of Days for the win.

The only complaint for this match is that logically since Corbin destroyed Dempsey in a minute last time, now that it's No-DQ he should just come out with a chair or bat or whatever and beat him in about half the time. It may be time for Bull to move on to different things, as he can't win here. Baron Corbin is a straight up monster, Bull just wishes he were a monster and thinks he is because he beat a couple guys like Tye Dillinger in thirty seconds. BAYLEY could probably beat Tye Dillinger in thirty seconds. Hell, she could probably do it in fifteen.

The Tag division is NXT's weak spot

The Lucha Dragons challenged Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy for the NXT Tag Team titles. It was the worst match on the show. That assessment sounds harsher than is maybe the case, as every other match on the show was awesome, and on any other show this would be a perfectly competent tag team match. The trouble is that in a show full of spectacular matches with big moments, this match was forgettable. The process for recapping these shows is, for this author at least, to watch the show live and then write it up in the morning, and this is the only match of the show that needed re-watching. The only thing that stuck out from the first match was that the champions retained. As stated, it's not a bad match by main roster standards, it's just not amazing and sadly NXT specials have set a precedent for incredibly high quality and this doesn't measure up. The Brain buster/Frog Splash combo at the end of the match is pretty baller though.

CRCK-ZZZZZZ SOLOMON CROWE TEASER CRCK-CKKK-ZZZZ

Hmm, weird. Anyway, moving on:

(PS Solomon Crowe debuts next week and it's going to be great!)

Prince Devitt - PAC on the WWE Network

This match. Watch it now, we'll wait. OK so it's amazing, and the match of the year candidates are rolling in already. First Lesnar vs. Rollins vs. Cena at the Rumble, now Bálor vs. Neville. In just under fifteen minutes of in-ring action plus maybe five of entrances and the pre-match handshake, we got the true Prince Devitt experience for the first time in NXT. From the entrance which took his R-Evolution entrance and made it ten times creepier with slithering around, biting at cameras and sudden, jolty movements; to the incredible finishing sequence that saw Bálor get the knees up to stop a Red Arrow before hitting Coup de Grace, it was a truly special match. It wasn't even the best match of either man's career (see: PAC vs. Ricochet in DragonGate for Neville's best, Bálor has too many contenders to pick just one) but it was the best match in NXT so far in 2015, and possibly the best men’s match that didn't involve Sami Zayn and Cesaro in NXT ever.

Recapping the match cannot do it justice, so seriously everyone should go watch it. Or at least the highlights, which should be on WWE's YouTube page. Moments to look out for include Bálor hunting Neville on the outside to deliver a running dropkick through the barricade, Neville shaking off a Pelé kick to hit a superkick, a diving double foot stomp to the back of the head of a bent over Neville, the Sling Blade/Bloody Sunday one-two punch, and the finishing sequence that saw Bálor avoid one Red Arrow, get kicked in the head to set up a second, counter it by getting the knees up, and hit the Coup de Grace for the win. Finn Bálor is the new No. 1 Contender to the NXT Championship, and the champ should be very scared.

SASHA F'N BANKS

On the main roster, Divas matches last all of two minutes and end with a distraction roll-up 90% of the time. On NXT, Divas matches are often the match of the night. This was no different. While it may not edge out Bálor vs. Neville, it was certainly an outstanding match, and is far better than the NXT Championship match. The match really showcased the three challengers here, as the champion Charlotte was something of an afterthought for the majority of the match. Also, how odd is it in this NXT world of world-travelled veterans, that THIRTEEN YEAR VETERAN Becky Lynch has been given zero character development while Charlotte won the title about a year after wrestling her first ever match?

The stars of this match were, undoubtedly, Bayley and Sasha. Bayley's new-found aggression let her look strong throughout, and even set up the end of the match with a HugPlex to Charlotte off the second rope, before Sasha showed her cunning, coming in and pulling Bayley out of the cover and tossing her to the outside before locking a brutal Crossface on the champ. In a refreshing sight, Sasha showed actual intelligence and logical thinking, pointing the Crossface at the side of the ring where Bayley and Becky were down so that when Becky got up to try and get in the ring and break it up, Sasha could release the hold, dropkick Becky off the apron into Bayley, and re-apply the hold. Charlotte refused to tap for what seemed like an aeon, before Sasha surprised her by turning the Crossface into a Crucifix pin to get a three count and win the title.

A side-note: Sasha should always wrestle girls like Charlotte and Alexa Bliss who have gymnastics backgrounds as their flexible-ness means they can bend so far in the middle and make the Crossface look absolutely brutal. Imagine Cameron's un-coordinated a$$ trying to take the Crossface like that, she'd snap in half. That might not be the worst thing in the world. Anyhow, as you'll know if you've read any of VAVEL's recent NXT reports, we're all big fans of Sasha here, so it's about time she won the title. That new shirt is ugly as sin though, so if WWEShop could get a newer, better one that'd be nice.

Kevin Owens is no Brock Lesnar

Kevin Owens brutalized Sami Zayn to the point that the match had to be stopped, giving Owens the distinction of being the first person to ever win a title in NXT by TKO. It had shades of Cena - Lesnar from SummerSlam, but as the header says, Owens is no Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is a genetic freak, an inhuman machine who is built like a brick wall, is made of muscles and anger, but can dart around like a greyhound and hit a shooting star press. He fought off Diverticulitis, a life-threatening intestinal disease, TWICE. He had twelve inches of his colon removed in the middle of his UFC career and CAME BACK. When Brock Lesnar speaks, children cry. If he says he's going to leave John Cena in a pile of blood and urine and vomit, he damn well is.

Brock Lesnar is the single most terrifying man in professional wrestling, because he just screams about ripping peoples heads off and crapping down their neck hole and you just BELIEVE HIM. Everything he says is believable, and there's evidence to back him up, both in and out of kayfabe. On the flip side, Kevin Owens is a tubby gent who has had one match in WWE, where he destroyed CJ Parker, but even there he got his nose broken by the one offensive move Parker landed. And hell, Bull Dempsey could destroy CJ Parker, and look what happened when Bull took on a real wrestler.

The Ascension destroyed nobodies every week, then they lost to the Lucha Dragons and Finn Bálor & Hideo Itami. Yes, Kevin Steen has a history of fantastic matches around the world, but Kevin Owens is new and he just doesn't look like he could brutalize someone to the extent he did Sami Zayn. Especially not Sami Zayn, the guy with the most heart in the company. This match would've been great if Owens had destroyed a few more guys first. Or even if he'd just come out and destroyed a big NXT guy. He sent Neville out on a stretcher, but Neville was back the next week wrestling like nothing happened. If Adrian Neville can shake off a beating from Owens, Zayn should be able to. 

THAT BEING SAID... 

Wow. We've said several times in various recaps that the worst thing that pro wrestling can be is predictable. Roman Reigns winning the Rumble was a mistake in part, yes, because of how it happened, but mostly because we all knew it was happening. Think back to last year when everyone wanted Bryan to win and he wasn't in it, everyone was right behind Reigns because he was the cool young guy with a shotgun fist and cool SHIELD friends and was a gorgeous prince with luxurious hair who punched and speared anyone in the vicinity, and nobody expected the dominant Rumble performance he had. It wasn't "well Reigns winning would set up the match with Orton at Mania, then Bryan vs. Triple H and Batista can wrestle... someone maybe" and loads of analysis for what it meant going forward, it was "F*** YEAH ROMAN REIGNS!" That's what this match was.

It shouldn't be good, it doesn't leave much open going forward, and it means Bálor probably won't win the title now because Owens vs. Zayn will be a thing for a while. And yet, it was unexpected. It was shocking. It WAS Lesnar vs. Cena, but at the same time it was different. Zayn is no Cena, he's Daniel Bryan. He fought back. He had the big highlight spot (a dive over the REFEREE to the outside), but he got obliterated. Just: Sami Zayn has heart! Power bomb. Fighting Spirit! Power bomb. He can come back! Power bomb. He CAN win the big one! Power bomb. It's for the damn title! Power bomb. Roll him up Sami?! Power bomb. DO SOMETHING!!!! Power bomb. And then, TKO. That's it, he wasn't even pinned or submitted.

The ref had to step in and stop it to end the onslaught, and it was what Owens wanted. He could say it wasn't personal, and it was about the title, blah blah blah. In the end, he was just standing there, letting Sami get up, and dropping him with a Power bomb, again and again. And in kayfabe, Sami is going to be MAAAAAAD. The story here will be great, and they should give Bálor the title because he deserves it, and Owens vs. Zayn doesn't need it because it's oh so personal.

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