WrestleMania weekend continues and following an entertaining Hall of Fame ceremony the night before, the NXT superstars took to the ring with one goal: stealing the spotlight from the main roster. As ever, this looks to be a firm possibility, as though Mania is known for pulling out all the stops to become the best pay-per-view of the year, the performances in these five matches certainly give them a run for their money.
WARNING! There will be spoilers beyond this point.
The first match on the card saw SAnitY (Eric Young, Alexander Wolf, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross) take on the motley crew teaming of Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, the debuting Ruby Riot, and Kassius Ohno (who replaces an injured No Way Jose). Now if I’m being truly honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from this match, having had similar boughts on two prior NXT shows. That said the addition of Ruby and Nikki, as well as Kassius replacing Jose made it feel a lot more fresher, and exciting. Letting all the various talent have their moments to shine, this match was a real back and forth tangle, with the somewhat messy looking performance leaving you guessing the end result. At the end of the day, however, it was SAnitY that picked up the win, with Killian Dain pinning Dillinger following the Ulster Plantation.
(7.5 / 10)
The next match on the card saw the debut of Aleister Black (better known from the independents as Tommy End) as he took on the ever brash and cocky, Andrade “Cien” Almas. This was probably the second best bought of the night, in my opinion, with there being a lot of energy and excitement throughout. Between the fresh and unique style of Black and the reminder of Almas‘ full potential, this 10 minute match gave us a lot to be in awe at. It was, however, Black that picked up the win following a Black Mass.
(9 / 10)
The first of our three title matches (which saw new belt designs unveiled) had The Authors of Pain (Akam and Razar)(w/Paul Ellering) taking on #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) and The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) in a triple threat tag team elimination match for their NXT Tag Team titles. Now before I go any further, I have to say that this was simply phenomenal, being one of the best tag team boughts I have ever seen, and a clear Match of the Year candidate (and we’re only in April). As expected, we saw the unlikely alliance of #DIY and The Revival as they attempted to take down AOP, with the two sharing their signature double team maneuvers with opposing teammates, and even going as far as to put Razar through a table. Ultimately this alliance couldn’t stand the entire match, and when the quartet showed one sign of weakness, AOP capitalised, first eliminating #DIY following The Last Chapter to Ciampa, and a Super Collider to The Revival.
(10 / 10)
The penultimate match on the card saw Ember Moon challenge Asuka for her NXT Women’s title in a match that I for one was eagerly anticipating. Showcasing, what in my opinion, is the two best female wrestlers on NXT (if not two of the best in the whole of WWE), this bought didn’t disappoint, being a spectacle from start to finish. Not only did we see some magnificent reversals, with both ladies having the upper hand at one point or another, but we also finally saw some doubt in Asuka‘s dominance. When all was said and done, it was the longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion that picked up the win, countering Moon‘s Eclipse by pushing the referee into the ropes, and following this with a sharp kick to the head. The only major negative point I had about this match, is that it didn’t last long enough.
(8 / 10)
The main event saw a return bought from NXT TakeOver: San Antonio as Bobby Roode put his NXT Championship on the line against former champion, Shinsuke Nakamura. Taking nothing away from their previous encounter (which was sadly tarnished slightly by the controversial injury), but this match blew that one out of the water. Having some amazing in-ring storytelling and posturing from both champion and challenger, as well as some intense back and forth action, this is easily one of the best NXT title boughts I’ve seen since last year’s NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II. Not only did it look as if both men would win at one point or another, but the desperation, and quick turnarounds made it hard not to be glued to the action. It was, however, ultimately Bobby Roode who retained, pinning Nakamura following a tornado Glorious DDT.
(8.5 / 10)
NXT TakeOver: Orlando was easily one of the best the promotion have produced in a while, with there once again not being one match that flat out disappointed. Whether it was the unveiling of new title designs, a magnificent main event or the Match of the Year quality Tag Team title match, one thing is for certain: WrestleMania has a big task to top this.