As many of you will know I've been rather busy in the past few months. My work placement at a local museum meant that I couldn't find the time to watch as much wrestling and MMA as I usually did. But as I have the next couple of weeks off I've decided to catch up on a few recent shows.
And what better place is there to start than with something that has impressed the hell out of me in the past and WWE's feeder group, NXT, as we take a look at their most recent offering, Takeover: R-Evolution.
The show began with singles action the debuting Kevin Owens took on C.J. Parker.
To say that the former Mr. Steen put in an impressive showing in his first WWE outing would not be underestimating things. It was the perfect way to introduce the former ROH star to the WWE crowd, a short, high-intensity battle designed to show Steen...I mean Owens at his best.
Parker managed to get in a few blows, but at the end of the day there was only ever going to be one result here. There may not have been a package piledriver, but Owens took the win with a pop-up powerbomb. Nice stuff.
The first title match of the evening saw the Vaudevillains team of Aiden English and Simon Gotch challenging Sin Cara and Kalisto, the Lucha Dragons, for the NXT Tag Team Championship.
This wasn't too bad for what it was. You couldn't really call it a back and forth encounter. Cara began the match for his team, and it wasn't long before English and Gotch were giving him the punching bag treatment as they put together a nice sequence of moves.
The masked man eventually somersaulted his way out of his opponent's corner for the hot tag to the other masked man, and that's when the bodies began to fly as the luchadores put together a string of high flying moves, and after they flew over the top rope to take English out of the picture Kalisto took Gotch down with the SDS for the title retaining pin.
It was back to singles action for the next match as Tye Dillinger faced Baron Corbin.
The blink of you'll miss it affair of the evening saw Corbin, who has apparently been finishing off his opponents in double quick time, dominate the match as he took Dillinger down with snake eyes, a big boot, and his end of days finisher for the win. That's about it really.
More tag team action followed as Konnor and Viktor of the Ascension went up against Finn Balor and Hideo Itami.
Those of you who haven't seen Mr. Balor's body paint before may have been a little blown away by his appearance here. This, allied with his tremendous wrestling skill, is just why the powers that be are so high on the Irishman at the moment.
From start to finish this was a great piece of storytelling. All four men put in great performances. The Ascension boys looked great throughout as they gave Itami a does of their particular brand of medicine. They're a true powerhouse team whose team work and ethic could carry them far on the main stage.
But for me the best thing about this match were Itami and Balor. Itami has always impressed the hell out of me, and although I haven't seen much out of Balor I knew of his reputation, and it was a reputation that was thoroughly deserved.
So after a ton of great action it was the Irish/Japanese team who took the honours after they took Vik and Kon out with double stomps from the top rope, with Balor taking the win for his team.
The penultimate match saw Sasha Banks challenging Charlotte for the NXT Women's title.
Now I've probably said this before, but you won't find women's action like this on WWE's main stage. Once again the NXT Divas put on a hell of a match as they proved they can be a hell of a lot more than filler material before the main event.
It was one of those matches you couldn't take your eyes off, comprising of two tremendous performances and filled with great back and forth action. Once again Charlotte showed that the apple really didn't fall far from the tree as far as her skills were concerned, while Banks proved to be more than a match for the Nature Boy's little girl.
The fans in attendance lapped up everything they were given, and to them it probably didn't matter who took the win because they got what they wanted, a great match.
But in the end there had to be a winner as Charlotte took her woman down with her natural selection finisher from the top rope to get the title retaining pin.
The main event saw Sami Zayn challenging Adrian Neville for the NXT title.
Now this is what a main event should be all about, and like the previous encounter it's the kind of match you probably won't see anywhere near Raw or Smackdown.
For over twenty minutes these two went at it tooth and nail in another one of those matches you daren't take your eyes off in case you missed something. It had it all, sound technical wrestling, tremendous high flying, tons of false finishes, and a great storyline throughout.
The performances of both men were perfect. Zayn had every person in the audience firmly behind him, and while you couldn't exactly call him an underdog he certainly had a lot riding on this match, especially when you consider he'd put his career on the line as well.
As for Neville, my fellow Englishman continues to impress. He was the perfect foil for the former masked man. He wasn't overtly heelish, but just enough to make you want to root for Zayn even more.
All of this made this match what it was, and after a load of near falls it was the challenger who emerged victorious as he took the champion down with an exlpoder suplex into the corner and followed up with a yakuza kick to gain the title winning three count, and the scenes afterwards gave us the perfect ending, and that includes Kevin Owens' unexpected attack on the new champion.
In conclusion: I don't want to sound like I'm repeating myself, but once again NXT have kind of blown their big brothers out of the water. From start to finish this was a quality show, and I can see just why there were reports that the main roster where a little worried before their big show a few days later.
Every match delivered, big time, and then some, beginning with Owens' great debut and leading into the two main title matches, with the Divas showing yet again that they can be far more than filler material, and the main event eclipsing every thing that had gone before.
As for the swerve at the end, well, those of us who saw the El Generico/Kevin Steen feud in Ring of Honor know what these two are capable of, and the prospect of seeing those two go at it on an even bigger stage, well, it's why I'm a wrestling fan.
As for my prestigous match of the night no-prize that's a no-brainer, and I knew halfway through the Neville/Zayn match that they were going to get the award.
So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing left to do, and that's to give NXT another big thumbs up.