Despite taking place on April 1, NXT Takeover Dallas was no April Fool’s joke. Taking place at the Kay Hutchinson Bailey Arena (apparently this country has gone from selling arena naming rights to corporations to selling naming rights to politicians dead or alive), this was one terrific show from start to finish. In fact, I believe Takeover Dallas may have been the best of the Takeover specials to date. Considering that all but one has been terrific, that is indeed saying something.
That’s not to say there weren’t a few issues. After all, no major wrestling card is perfect. Lead announcer Tom Phillips made several blunders over the course of the opening match, resulting in audibly annoyed color commentator Corey Graves having to correct him on-air. There was also the insipid stoppage of the main event multiple times, which you’ll read more about in Part 2 of this recap. It also would have been nice to be told that one match would not take place on the live broadcast. However, compared to the various faults of Wrestlemania two nights later, Takeover Dallas’ issues were more like hiccups.
A. Apollo Crews Vs. Elias Samson: This match was pulled last minute from the live broadcast, but was taped for airing on the April 6 episode of NXT. Reports from those attending live said the match was really bad, but having watched the broadcast version, I disagree with that consensus. It was not a great match, as Samson’s in-ring ability is mediocre at best. Not to mention this match was far too long for someone as marginal as Samson. Crews did as good a job as possible carrying a total zero like Samson and the match was definitely watchable. Crews scored the pin with a spinning power bomb. **1/2
Strangely, the live broadcast didn’t open with HHH making his customary welcoming remarks. The Wrestling Observer reports that this was a call by Vince McMahon, who was backstage since this was Wrestlemania weekend. Apparently, Vince was terrified of Roman Reigns being booed out of the building Sunday while HHH would be heavily cheered, as has been happening in arenas nationwide for the last three months whenever the two faced off. So he felt that by preemptively striking HHH off Takeover, the Dallas fans would rabidly cheer Reigns. Well, mission not accomplished as Reigns was definitely booed Sunday while HHH had far more cheers.
Another interesting note is that Takeover Dallas is the first NXT Takeover special to feature a corporate sponsor: DiGiorno. If this isn’t a sign that NXT is now a major player in the professional wrestling scene here in North America, nothing is.
1. NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival (Dash & Dawson) Vs. American Alpha (Chad Gable & Jason Jordan): The show got off to a hot start as the crowd was amped up for this contest. It didn’t hurt to have two of the best tag teams in NXT facing off. This was a throwback to the great tag team battles of the 1980s, when tag teams like the British Bulldogs, Hart Foundation, Road Warriors, Demolition and the Brain Busters ruled supreme. Two solid tag teams fighting for the ultimate prize: the tag team titles. What a novel concept! It was also great to see the classic psychology of the traditional tag team match revived: specifically when the heel team isolates one member and prevents him from making the tag, prolonging the agony until the hot tag is finally made. When Gable finally made the hot tag to Jordan, the place exploded. This kind of psychology is largely absent from modern day tag team matches in main roster WWE, so it’s nice to see it used here. The Revival did screw up one spot, in which Gable was to be lifted up for a combination clothesline and power bomb. Alas, they didn’t get Gable up high enough and the move looked a tad sloppy. While some would dock the match a star or two for that miscue, I don’t believe it harmed the match to an irredeemable degree to justify that drastic action. Besides, both teams just dusted themselves off and kept going. There was one clever spot where Dash and Dawson switched places prior to a pin attempt. The live crowd took it as another screw up, but this was a throwback to the days when the heels would try and convince the ref that a tag had indeed been made. The last five minutes were thrilling, with one near fall after another. Finally, Gable and Jordan finished off Dawson with a dropkick that bridged into a suplex pin for the win and the titles. ******
Legendary wrestling announcer Jim Ross was shown in the audience, as was- most tellingly- New Japan Pro Wrestling star Kota Ibushi. I have a feeling that Ibushi is HHH’s next big signing from Japan and just in time for the eagerly anticipated Global Cruiserweight tournament that’s set for airing on the WWE Network in July.
2. Austin Aries Vs. Baron Corbin: The live crowd reaction to Aries was deafening, serving as a fitting rebuke to those TNA officials who foolishly let Aries walk away last year. It was quite a shock to realize just show short Aries is, especially when facing a man who is one foot and three inches taller. Despite the size difference, Aries and Corbin had a strong match. Corbin has shown great improvement since the days when his matches were limited to 30 second squashes. He plays the role of aggressive heel to perfection. Corbin still has some rough edges that need to be polished and sanded further, but the potential for greatness is there. Corbin dominated at first, tossing Aries around in brutal fashion. Aries made a comeback, only to be leveled by one of the most devastating spinning side slams in wrestling history. Eventually Corbin went for the End of Days, but Aries broke free and rolled up Corbin for the pin. Strong match with a clever finish, showing that size doesn’t always triumph over brains in the ring. ****
Scott Hall and Sean Waltman were shown in the audience. Hall looked fantastic, having successfully remained clean and sober for almost two years now. He looked happy to be there as the live crowd cheered around him. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been as kind to Waltman, who looked considerably older than his 42 years.