Friday night the road to NXT Takeover: Respect made a stop in Largo, Fl. The standing room only crowd filled The Minnreg Hall to see another night of wrestling action as only NXT can deliver. In a night that would feature an NXT title defense and finish with a smashmouth main event, fans would not be disappointed.
The evening starts with tag action as Solomon Crowe makes his way to the ring atop the massive shoulders of his partner Tucker Knight. Their opponents for the evening are Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins. Crowe starts off bringing the fight but can't budge the much larger Fulton. Unwisely he attempts to bodyslam Fulton with little success. Fulton snatches up Crowe from the waist and spins him around about twenty times before tossing him over with a gutwrench suplex. Moments later Knight finds himself unable to mount any offense against Dawkins either until Crowe causes a distraction. Knight takes advantage and beats down Dawkins. He slows down the pace of the match, wearing Dawkins down with a chinlock before slamming him down to the mat for a big elbow. Moments later Knight charges the corner with Crowe on his back for a huge splash but Dawkins dodges and makes the hot tag. Fulton attacks Crowe with strikes, several headbutts and a double underhook suplex. Finally he levels Crowe with a clothesline from hell for the pin. This was a really fun start to the show. The explosive Crowe impresses as always and is vastly underrated at this point. Fulton and Dawkins are a good fit and work well in tandem. Both guys have struggled to find their place, but I think they are closer to finding it as a team at this point.
The drifter Elias Sampson is out next and serenades us with a derogatory song about Largo. His opponent for the evening is the "Bull-Fit" guru himself, Bull Dempsey. Sampson locks on a sidelock and hangs on tenaciously. Finally, Bull breaks the hold and shoulder tackles Sampson to the mat. He follows with an impressive rolling senton and follows with an elbow for good measure. Back on their feet Sampson takes a cheap shot at Bull and takes charge, grounding the big man with a clothesline and pummeling him with kicks. Dempsey tries to mount a comeback but Sampson sends him to the mat with a double mule kick out of the corner. Sampson grabs his guitar and sits down to play in the corner while waiting for Dempsey to make it back up. Sampson continues his attack until Bull begins to "Hulk up" against his strikes. Dempsey delivers a headbutt and several belly bumps. He squashes Sampson with a big splash and then runs him over, climbs the ropes and comes down with a huge seated senton for the win.
Levis Valenzuela Jr is out next for another in-ring interview with Dasha Fuentes. He tells us that NXT is the hottest thing going right now and that he is following his dream. Of course, it all breaks down to a fiesta time as he dances with Dasha. Valenzuela is charismatic and likeable, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in the ring.
Next up, is Tyler Breeze taking on Apollo Crews. The two grapple back and forth exchanging headlocks. After a successful series of moves Crews lounges across the top ropes mocking Breeze before the action continues. The pace quickens drastically as they run the ropes until Crews nearly dropkicks Breeze out of his furry boots, and then clotheslines him out of the ring. Breeze makes his way back in and manages to pull Crews into the ropes across his throat. Breeze pounces on Crews with a series of kicks before finally grounding Apollo with a chancery. Crews mounts a comeback with a splash and a big boot. Breeze counters with a jaw shattering superkick followed by a very close pin attempt. Breeze commences to attack but gets nailed with a running enziguri. Crews follows with a military press and his amazing standing moonsault for the win. This was a really good match, even better than their match the night before. Fans are going to be in for a treat when they clash at Takeover.
Women's tag action is next as Peyton Royce and Billie Kay take on the team of Emma and Dana Brooke. The over-confident Dana Brooke pushes Peyton to the mat, but the Aussie comes back with a roll-up and several pin attempts. She continues with a headscissors that sends Brooke tagging. Emma doesn't fare much better as Billie Kay delivers a headscissors of her own. Brooke causes a distraction that put the bad girls in control. Emma and Dana make frequent tags slowly punishing Billie. Dana contorts her into a grounded abdominal stretch before Billie makes it up and nails Brooke with a desperate big boot before making the hot tag. Royce comes in with a series of high spinning heel kicks and an emphatic dropkick. Her momentum is halted when Emma sends her knocking Billie off the apron. Dana trips up Peyton from under the ropes and Emma pounces, locking on the Emma Lock for the submission victory. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are really good and starting to find their groove in NXT. Of course, it's great having Emma back here and it's really benefiting Dana too.
Next up is Ty Dillinger taking on Finn Balor. Dillinger takes the mic and tells Balor that he has all the respect for him in the world, but he has something that he has wanted for a long time. He tells him this is the right place, right time to put the title on the line. Finn relents and we have a title match. An aggressive Dillinger attacks Finn before the bell rings and beats him down in the corner. He rocks the champ with a series of strikes and chops. Ty continues the onslaught until the champ hits him with a pele kick. Balor continues mounting momentum rolling through a sunset flip and answering with a dropkick. Moments later though he walks into a massive superkick from Dillinger. Balor comes back with a slingblade and goes for a hesitation dropkick but Dillinger dodges it and locks Balor into a cloverleaf but the champ makes the ropes. Back to their feet Balor comes back yet again clotheslining Dillinger out of the ring and then nailing Ty with a running kick from the ring apron. He tosses Dillinger back in the ring and sends him into the corner with a huge dropkick and climbs the ropes to execute a Coup De Grace for a hard fought victory. This was an excellent main event quality match and it was only intermission time.
From one champ to another the evening continues with NXT women's champion Bayley taking on Gionna Daddio. The match begins with a hug and then the fast paced action starts with each women looking to get the advantage with back and forth grappling. The two exchange speedy offense until Gionna sends Bayley to the mat with a shoulder tackle followed by an arm drag and and arm lock. The two make it back up and Bayley sends Gionna down with a drop toe hold and follows with her trademark Slip-N-Slide. Later Gionna begins to mount a comeback with a series of dropkicks but Bayley shuts her down with a signature back elbow into the corner. Bayley continues with an exploder suplex followed by a Belly-To-Bayley for the win. Afterwards, Bayley grabs a mic and puts over Gionna and the entire locker room. This was a short but entertaining match with Bayley looking as great as we've come to expect. The speedy and agile newcomer Gionna Daddio shows a great deal of promise. With very limited experience she is already as good as several of the girls in the locker room with much more ring time i.e. Dana, Carmella, etc. I don't mean that as an insult to anyone, but rather a testament to the hard work of Gionna and head coach Sarah Del Ray.
Tag action is next with Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder taking on the Hype Bros. The match starts with the usual Mojo Rawley banter and the Hype Bros staying one step ahead of their opponents. Dawson could not catch a break in the opening moments and finally Mojo slams his head into the turnbuckles until Dawson collapses. Ryder comes in for a Broski Boot, but Dash runs in for the save and gets a dropkick for his troubles. A few moments later Dash laid out in the corner eats a Broski Boot. Ryder runs at Dawson but he ducks sending Ryder to the floor. Dawson and Wilder begin wildy attacking Ryder followed by some great tandem offense. Dawson and Wilder slow the pace and employ frequent tags while taking apart Ryder. Eventually Ryder nails a facebuster out of nowhere to Dawson and makes a hot tag. Mojo clears house and tags Ryder to set up their finishing combo but Dash makes the save. Dash gets tossed out, but then Dawson tosses out Mojo. Dawson tags in Dash and they nail Ryder with a Shatter Machine for the pin. This was yet another entertaining tag match and I was very happy with the outcome. I understand that the Hype Bros are fairly over at the moment, but I've been saying for a long time that Dawson and Wilder are hands down the best team in NXT or WWE. I'm glad to see the two roughnecks building some well-deserved momentum.
The main event of the evening is a hard hitting contest between Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe. The two lock up and Corbin tosses Joe off. Corbin takes a cheap shot but it only angers Joe who comes back with a swift kick to the head followed by a fast flurry of trademark jabs and punches leveling Corbin. Baron leaves the ring but Joe follows and the two continue to brawl. Corbin clotheslines Joe and tosses him back inside. The momentum sways back and forth with each man taking their best shots at each other. They end up on the outside once again and Corbin sends Joe into the ring steps. Corbin beats down Joe on the outside until Joe sends Corbin into the opposite ring steps. The two barely make the count back in the ring and Joe levels Corbin with a big boot followed by a senton. The battle continues and Corbin charges Joe but gets a huge sidewalk slam instead. Moments later though Corbin returns the favor with a huge swinging side slam. A frustrated Corbin leaves the ring to grab a chair. Before he can use the chair the referee stops him, and he nails Joe with a superkick, but Joe answers with a pele. Samoa Joe then locks the Coquina Clutch that puts the big man to sleep. This was a great main event that brought the crowd to their feet at several moments. High profile matches with athletes like Samoa Joe have helped Corbin so much, but despite that, the Corbin heat has gotten so much more intense at house shows. That's okay, the more heat he gets, the better he gets. At least, that's how it seems.
The matches were hot and the crowd was lively. Altogether, the best NXT house show I've been to in a long while.