Takeover – Break’s Over

Did you miss me?

It’s been a whirlwind past few days in the House of J. Since returning home to New York on Wednesday afternoon just in time to watch NXT Takeover: London, I’ve basically been going non-stop. Lots of family and friends to see before I head back to the land of warmer temperatures and politics next weekend.

A few things have been on my mind over the last 72-ish hours, so forgive me if I jump around a bit. The first, of course, being that Takeover program. I was never worried that it was going to be bad show – none of the Takeover shows have ever been bad – but it was certainly anti-climactic in the wake of what TLC and Monday Night RAW brought to the table for WWE fans. Plus, I have my own personal biases that the NXT roster isn’t giving us what it once did in terms of storylines.

Bailey vs. Sasha Banks is going to be a feud that every other women’s feud (and men’s, for that matter) in NXT will be compared to. Now, as the leader of the division, she’s trying to bring the rest of her colleagues up to her level, but they’re not there yet. I commend her for the work she did in the ring with Nia Jax. I’m also very interested to see where Nia’s career goes, as she is so physically different from the rest of the roster. But I think the stand out match of the show was really Asuka vs. Emma. It was paced well, it told a good story, and Asuka is just the most compelling person to watch in the ring. She’s wonderfully weird in backstage promos, effectively overcoming the language barrier with her amazing facial expressions and bizarre gestures. In the ring, you cannot take your eyes off of her. That doesn’t mean Emma didn’t bring her own level of talent to that match – it might have been different with a lesser opponent (it certainly would not have been as exciting.) I could honestly watch Asuka wrestle anyone and everyone, week after week, and never get tired of her. She constantly changes things up and comes across as unpredictable. That’s just good TV.

I am always cheering for Enzo Amore and Big Cass, but there was no point at which (during their feud or during this match) that I thought they were going to win the Tag Team championships from Dash and Dawson. It’s not easy to stay invested in a title match when there doesn’t appear to be any real possibility of the challenger winning. I liked the false finish, but the camera being on Carmella was a dead giveaway that it wasn’t really over. Perhaps I’m just nitpicking, but as a big supporter of this team it is disheartening when a feud isn’t actually built to go anywhere. We all know  Gable & Jordan are next in line for a title shot, but I’m worried where Enzo & Big Cass are headed next.

A match I was really happy with was the Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews match. I have been a fan of Corbin since his return to the NXT ring in September of last year. I like his character, and I prefer him as the strong silent type (see also: stay off the microphone, kid.) Now that the feud between him and Crews is over, I look forward to his next opponent. I have hopes it’s someone who is as interesting to me as he is, because Apollo Crews does nothing for me. He seems like a nice guy and isn’t bad in the ring, but he’s kind of boring. No, he’s not “kind of” boring – he IS boring. And I don’t know what you do about boring. Give him more interesting storylines? I don’t know that there’s any way to repackage him to make him appear more interesting. He’s just sort of forgettable, and that’s like a death sentence to a wrestler. As someone who never followed his indie career, NXT has not given me a reason as new fan to Crews to tune in and watch him. I’m actually more interested in Tye Dillinger, whom Crews beat in his first televised match at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn than I am to watch more from Apollo Crews ever again.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the main event of NXT Takeover: London, because I really enjoyed the match and wasn’t entirely sure who would win in the end. I like both of these guys, and am actually finding lately that I prefer two very different styles of wrestlers together. It keeps the audience on their toes, and impresses us when one of the wrestlers reaches into a new bag of tricks to get on his opponent’s level. What I do want to talk about is the Finn Balor entrance.

I love the body paint. I once “accidentally” fell into a black hole of Prince Devitt’s entrances in a variety of different body paints and costumes. (If you have some time to kill, I recommend starting here.) So when we first saw The Demon entrance at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, I was impressed, but I knew it would evolve over time. It was not so perfect that there was no room for change (for example: PLEASE GET RID OF THE STUPID FAKE DREADS I HATE THEM.) I enjoyed watching Balor at each new Takeover special, knowing his body paint and costume would be different. So naturally, in London, the Demon had morphed yet again and was now Balor the Ripper, in his top hat and coat. Suddenly – the internet went wild.

“Is WWE really suggesting that Balor is a murderer of prostitutes?” “Does whoever put him in that getup even know the story of Jack the Ripper?” People? Get a grip. Please go back and watch Balor’s entrance for this show. He is in London, and the crowd goes completely insane. They don’t suddenly notice his garb and go “oh, now that’s just – that is inappropriate. No no, absolutely not. We can’t have this.” It’s their history, so if the Brits (who we’ve all made fun of for being stodgy, don’t lie) can enjoy the entrance without being offended, I think we can, too. I really like the idea that the Demon Balor and the Finn Balor we see on weekly TV are separate things. The Balor the Ripper entrance brings forth the idea that the Demon persona might be even more dangerous than we know. But I feel confident that no one at NXT was trying to subliminally tell the audience that Finn Balor is a murderer. Please stop reading too far into these things, you all give me such a headache.

Moving away from Balor in particular, I just wanted to point out that this was a low point for NXT in terms of the excitement factor. The card itself was not that thrilling – but it was still a good program. When the main roster low-balls their programming, they tank. It’s god-awful. But this, while not as good as something like NXT Takeover: R Evolution, is certainly still an entertaining and worthwhile show to watch. I would like to see less of the one-off indie wrestlers on TV and give more time to the people still currently toiling away at the performance center waiting for their spot. If they tank, they tank, but you don’t have to draw your audience in with names from other promotions who are only going to do a job and leave. WWE is already showing us faces of people we’ve never seen on NXT TV with their program Breaking Ground. Why not let their story play out that way and at the end bring them out on an episode of NXT? Seems like a plausible way to get someone over – or at least have a crowd know who they are when they walk to the ring. Regardless of how they do it, I’d like to see NXT get themselves out of this slump they’ve been in since so many of the women, Neville, and Owens were called up.

In other news, the Slammy Awards are happening in 48 hours on Monday Night RAW. I would like to know why WWE gets to decide when NXT exists and when it doesn’t. And if maybe we could all agree to redefine kayfabe as an object, like – say, a cast-iron frying pan. And then maybe I could smack someone over at headquarters around with it. NXT EXISTS. IN FACT, SOME OF THE PEOPLE ON THE MAIN ROSTER WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF STAYING THERE (that’s another post, J, calm down.) Why, for the love of all things wrestling, is NXT not on any of the ballots?

No, you know what, I know why. Because they would wipe the floor with the main roster. Match of the year would be Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, though the Ironwoman match is a close second,) feud of the year would be Zayn vs. Owens – the list goes on and on. But to try and find “best of” moments, when for most of the year the Best of WWE was happening in NXT is laughable. Maybe WWE thinks it’s a good idea to hold an award segment like this when all of the best thing they’ve done this year happened in the last week. At least that’s fresh in our minds.

The holidays are a nutty time of year for everyone, and I can’t promise I’ll be watching RAW on Monday instead of spending time with my family. I CAN tell you I will be back to it on the 28th with my newly converted fan friend who watched TLC with me. She’s very stoked, and I’m very stoked to have someone new to the product making me excited to watch. I hope to be able to post a few more times before my return to the DMV next weekend, but forgive me if they’re not daily. Also, leave me some snarky comments about the Balor entrance stuff, I want to know what y’all think. That really bothered the crap out of me.

I need to run out for more eggnog. See you kids on the flip side.

The Lady J Says

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