This weekend saw Dallas host the ‘biggest weekend in sports entertainment’ as pro wrestling’s marquee event WWE Wrestlemania took place on Sunday. WWE also showcased a Pay Per View event for NXT, its developmental division, on Friday. This would surely make for a fantastic weekend overall.
However, over the last few years oldschool and hardcore wrestling fans have observed that NXT has been outshining WWE’s main roster and so most were expecting NXT Dallas Takeover to overshadow the bigger names and the bigger crowd at Wrestlemania. Did that transpire? Well having watched both, let’s see who impressed the most…..
The main roster has had injury problems with the likes of Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and John Cena out for a long period. These three alone would have definitely played apart in proceedings on the mid and upper cards. This meant WWE owner Vince McMahon was scrapping around for high profile matches, in the end bringing back his own son Shane to face The Undertaker in the Hell in a Cell match. If Shane won he would takeover Monday Night Raw, if Undertaker lost he would never wrestle again (though this was ambiguously explained). The story line could have played itself out better on Raw and Smackdown but it didn’t.
The title was to be contested by current WWE Champion Triple H and the disliked – fans feel he is being given the spot – contender Roman Reigns. Again the story hasn’t been built well and the lines of heel and face are blurred, Triple H is supposed to be heel but the fans boo Reigns. The much anticipated Divas three-way match between Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch would create the first ever WWE Woman’s champion (not true) with a brand new spanking belt. Inexplicably the men’s tag team belts were not even on the line as The New Day took on The League of Nations in a six-man tag match. The Intercontinental belt was put on the line in a multi-man ladder match…. just because…. and then there was the Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose street fight… for no real reason at all. And who can forget the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal with just about everyone else from the roster that could fit in the ring and wasn’t already in another match.
NXT’s card was of course smaller but much better fleshed out. It included matches that made sense and story lines that had brewed for months, consistently built up week in week out. The demon Finn Balor had to defend his NXT title against obsessed badass Samoa Joe, who had worked hard to defeat Sammy Zayn and Baron Corbin in a three-way number one contender match which had more than a few complications. Still, it gave the feeling that Joe had fought through hell to reach Balor on this grand occasion.
The female division in wrestling is at its best in both brands and another highly anticipated match was to see Bayley defend her NXT belt against the mysteriously alluring Asuka. The Revival, Dash and Dawson, were to defend their belts against Jordan and Gable of American Alpha. It’s important to note that all of NXT’s belts were on the line. Perhaps the match that had the biggest buzz of the night was the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura, up against Sammy Zayn just because general manager William Regal ordered it. Baron Corbin was forced to meet the retribution of another new signing, ‘the greatest man who ever lived’, Austin Aries, after he sabotaged his NXT reveal and introduction weeks before.
The Match Quality
Undeniably the match of the weekend was ‘king of strong style’ Shinsuke Nakamura vs Sammy Zayn. If the debutant’s entrance was not enough, his ring presence and charisma definitely was. Clearly a match to put Nakamura over as Zayn was heading over to the main roster anyway, the two wrestlers gave everything. The speed was electric, the moves and skill sets were varied, the fight displayed great passion and story, and the fighting was tough – Nakamura receiving a bloody nose for his troubles.
The match of the night for Wrestlemania was the Diva’s three-way match between Banks, Flair and Lynch although the match ended in annoying fashion when Ric Flair predictably interfered to help his daughter win the new WWE Woman’s belt. The NXT Women’s title fight between Asuka and Bayley was also a great example that the woman’s division is becoming the hottest ticket and, as all are products of NXT, the developmental division is working.
NXT Takeover Dallas also had a meaningful tag team match in which the titles were not only on the line but eventually changed hands whereas as Wrestlemania had a throwaway match involving The League of Nations that not many cared about. The ladder match for the Intercontinental title was surprisingly good however but half the people in match shouldn’t have been there. Stardust, Zack Ryder, Sin Cara, The Mizz…. why? Should have just been Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Sammy Zayn.
As for their respective main title matches, you’d have to say NXT edged it with Samoa Joe and Finn Balor putting on an A-class match with Joe shedding a lot of blood in the process. Stephanie McMahon (looked very hot) introduced her husband Triple H extremely well and the match was decent but the main focus was the crowd’s displeasure with Reigns. The truth is the speed and technicality of NXT betters that of the cumbersome slower pace of the main card.
The AT & T held around 100,000 whereas the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center held only 9,000. The atmosphere at the larger Wrestlemania event was electric, especially when the old timers turned up to reminding people how good the main card used to be during the Attitude Era.
Saying that, the atmosphere at NXT was extremely hyped as the fans were served no nonsense top notch wrestling. There was no need for filler and the crowd responded like they were grateful for what they were served.
Wrestlemania is the king of the surprise and this year was no different. After the nonsense tag team match in which The league of Nations defeated The New Day, we saw Cactus Jack, Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold appear to dismantle The League of Nations and later The New Day. The Rock later also made his (now tedious) appearance but that was thankfully interrupted by The Wyatt Family only for them to get buried (again) when John Cena turned up to back up Rock.
Shaquille O’neil turned up in the Battle Royal which proved pointless, however, the bigger surprise of Tatanka being shuffled in there was barely noticed or introduced. It was great to see Baron Corbin win it – a sign that Vince McMahon likes him for sure. Zack Ryder winning the Intercontinental Championship was a surprise also, well done to him it clearly meant a lot to him (will probably lose it within a week).
NXT’s surprises were in the results. Nobody could believe that Bayley dropped her title to Asuka on her first attempt after what was a great women’s match. The crowd were visibly silenced after the result. American Alpha triumphed over The Revival and that was a welcome semi-surprise but other than that this PPV focused mainly on top quality wrestling rather than cheap cliched over-done gimmicks of nostalgia driven entertainment that plagued Wrestlemania.
Despite having a smaller capacity it appeared that the NXT crowd was way more hyped and in awe of what they saw. Looking on screen it appeared the fans at Wrestlemania were not enthused throughout whereas there seemed to be more of an intense interest in the matches that were happening at NXT Takeover. Some of the chanting was inspired especially when doctors were hovering around Samoa Joe when he cut his head against Finn Balor. “F**k PG” and “Let Joe bleed” could be heard.
The Wrestlemania crowd did get hyped at the obvious spots ie. The ladder match spots, the legend cameos, The Rock, John Cena and Shame McMahon jumping off the top of the cage but the matches and in-ring work didn’t wow as much. They were audibly trying to make a statement against Roman Reigns in the title match. “Roman Sucks” chants could he heard reverberating around the stadium. Every time Reigns was beaten they cheered, every time he fought back against The Game they booed.
The Anouncement Teams
Michael Cole and JBL weren’t so bad this time but can someone explain what Byron Saxton is supposed to be there for? He barely gets a word in edge ways and he makes those two look acceptable when they’re not. The best bit about that Wrestlemania commentating team is that they had to work over an hour without a table after Shane McMahon decimated it jumping of the Hell in the Cell*. NXT’s team of Corey Graves and Tom Phillips were great. Corey Graves is the man and surely the future of commentating in the WWE.
NXT win hands down, they gave a 9.5 and Wrestlemania gave a 6. The matches were better, the storylines were better thought out and more realistic, and the fans were treated to wrestling of the highest quality from start to finish. The main WWE roster is currently insulting the intelligence of the fans and not even using the biggest stage to showcase some of its belts. For instance where was the United States Championship and how come the holder didn’t appear at all? Why were the Tag Team belts not on the line, it was clear that was done so The League of Nations could get a win. Why is the crowd more invested in NXT, even chanting it during Wrestlemania matches.
I get it’s Wrestlemania so the legends have to appear but it stinks of cliche and a creative team that have run out of ideas. Having to wheel out the oldies to put the show over proves that the current roster or WWE creative is struggling at entertaining the fans. The Rock defeated Eric Rowan in a record six seconds? Zzzzz. Why bury the Wyatt family? The Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose match was stupid, as Ambrose got buried again and the street fight didn’t take place on the street, nor was it extreme and Lesnar’s multiple suplexes are becoming annoying. Everyone knew Reigns would walk away with the belt. Why does Ric Flair have to play apart in the Divas match? To prove that a woman needs help to win? So many plot holes.
NXT Takeover Dallas triumphs because even though it was a smaller show all the amount of concentrated action meant it gave the audience more than it could have hoped for with a script that played out fairly in-ring. Well done NXT Takeover Dallas.
*Special shoutout to Shane McMahon for jumping off the cell, that was mad and looked great!