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NXT TakeOver: R Evolution in Review: Stepping Up, Taking Over and Creating a Classic

Ladies, Gentlemen, it’s time for one of my absolute favorite recaps I get to write pretty much ever. Last night, we saw NXT present its fourth live special, which continue to leave us questioning how on Earth they can one-up the last one… and then they always do it.

Diva wise, we’ve got a match that has a ton of backstory built up over the past year as Charlotte defends the Womens Title against Sasha Banks. There’s A LOT riding on this for both women.

First of all, Charlotte put on what is regarded by many as the best womens wrestling match this year… but can she top herself?

Sasha Banks is FINALLY getting the chance to have a crack at these live specials after months upon months of being painfully overlooked… but will she deliver with a star making performance?

Add in the fact there has never been a female match on one of these considered to be anything less than good to great… needless to say that’s a ton of pressure riding on their shoulders. I’ll cut the stalling out for now, let’s delve into the action!

First up, we begin at the pre-show where Renee Young informs us that Alex Riley had a chance to catch up with Sasha Banks earlier in the night. From there, we delve into a backstage segment where Riley stands alongside Sasha and says a lot of people are dubbing her an underdog. She asks who these people are?! But suddenly, she gets interrupted by Bayley! Bayley feels there’s no chance at all Charlotte is losing. Sasha says the best part of this is that Charlotte’s father is here to watch Sasha win, but if she were Bayley, she’d be watching her own back.

POW!

From there, Becky Lynch ambushes Bayley from behind and the two head off to take care of “better things” later on.

Note: I can’t find video of the following segment so…. $9.99?

We head backstage to see Charlotte getting some makeup applied as she prepares for her impending battle against Sasha Banks, when suddenly… Ric appears! He hugs her and tries to pump her up for the match, as we then head into a match graphic and a kickass video package! Needless to say, I may be adding “Generically Basic” to my vocab. And yes, it’s to describe myself.

From there, we head to the arena where Sasha Banks enters rocking some new gear, a new red coat, matching Bo$$ glasses, and a custom made adaptation of Charlotte’s t-shirt! Pull up lookin’ picture perfect baby.

Sasha struts into the ring, as she’s then interrupted by Charlotte’s theme and out walks our coveted Women’s Champion. Charlotte executes her stunning ringside front flip, before sliding inside and having to be restrained from going after Sasha! Our ring announcer (forever being wasted in this role when she should be competing), JoJo, then introduces both competitors to an equally mixed reception. The crowd then proceeds to break out in about a 60/40% dueling chants in favor of Sasha. From there, the bell dings and we get underway as these two exchange verbal blows and Charlotte goes right for Sasha. A fist to the face, as the champ then takes Banks down with a Lou Thesz.

Charlotte bashes Sasha into the corner, but Sasha counters and executes the same attack. Chop to the chest follows up, as Charlotte blocks a second attempt and then nails one of her own… err — make that two of her own. Sasha hilariously tries to cower away from a third, but Charlotte can’t be stopped. Banks then rolls outside and Charlotte goes right after her, but Banks gets the upper hand and tosses Charlotte right into the steel steps! Sasha isn’t letting any ratchet chants affect her tonight, methodically stepping back inside and covering for just a two count.

Banks goes back on the attack, nailing a few sharp and nasty kicks to the side of the head. Charlotte with an elbow! Following it up with a chop, but Sasha goes right back to having the momentum in her favor. She places Charlotte in between the ropes and hits a sick set of knees to the crowd’s delight. A “Sasha” chant now starts up! Unfortunately for her though, Charlotte kicks out of a pin attempt. Dueling chants begin again, with Sasha snapmaring Charlotte over and running off the ropes. She then executes a cocky, wonderful strut up to the champ, but Charlotte ducks the slap attempt and quickly rolls her up! Just a two count.

Charlotte with a jawbreaker, then a bodyslam attempt, but Banks escapes out and charges off the ropes with a headscissors into a cross arm backstabber… into a choke! Charlotte tries and tries, eventually using her strength advantage to hoist Sasha up and into the corner to break it up. She tries to run off, as Banks drops her like a sack of potatoes by the hair for a two count. Sasha now transitions into Charlotte’s own figure four neck lock, also mimicking the champ by flipping over and slamming her head repeatedly into the canvas. To further add insult to injury, she adds a “Woo!” and the crowd continues to be split about 60/40 in Sasha’s favor.

Wowzers! Charlotte manages to lift Sasha up with the hold still locked on, hoisting her up and dropping her with an electric chair! The crowd applauds such a maneuver, as both women are down for the count. Sasha finally gets to her feet at a count of eight and breaks it, but Charlotte connects with some shots to the face. She drops Banks with a huge suplex into a spinning neckbreaker! Go Charlotte!

She covers, but only gets a two count. Charlotte then charges, as Sasha dodges out of the way and sends her outside. From there, Sasha gets a gleam in her eye, runs off the ropes, and hits a suicide dive! SASHA. I can’t deal with this. The crowd chants “NXT!’ for the dive, as our Boss rolls Charlotte back in and covers for another near fall. Banks then begins to get pissed, as they trade blows until it’s Sasha who gains control with a set of knees. She runs off the ropes, but Charlotte then charges from behind and DRILLS her with a spear that damn near decapitates this poor woman into a vertical flip!

The crowd is in absolute awe, as Charlotte orders Banks to get up. She walks towards her, but Sasha gets boots to the face and drop toe holds her in the corner. Our fans get behind Sasha again, as Banks goes for The Bank Statement! Charlotte holds onto the ropes though, and from there signals for the Figure Four. Sasha with a small package roll up! One… Two… NO! Charlotte kicks out. Sasha with a kick, and the cross arm neckbreaker! Again just a two count. Sasha goes for three pin attempts off the move, screaming in absolute agony because she wants this victory so bad. A “This is Awesome” chant! Charlotte with a huge exploder suplex! She then begins to go up top, as a “This is Wrestling” chant erupts and my ears have never been happier. Charlotte looks for the moonsault, but Sasha rolls out of the way… and Charlotte lands on her feet, before transitioning quickly into a flipping senton! I’m starting to run out of shocking/amazing words to use here, and I love it.

Charlotte gets just a two count, as the Boss gets her foot on the ropes. She grabs Sasha by the hair and looks to go for a… Gory Bomb?! Sasha escapes out the back and shoves Charlotte into the corner. Charlotte dodges as Sasha runs forward, leaps off the bottom rope, and gets her feet around the neck of the champ. She then uses her boots to throw Sasha face first into the bottom turnbuckle! Banks places Charlotte on the top rope and heads up top, looking for a superplex! Charlotte hangs on though, and front suplexes Sasha off! Sasha then ascends to a vertical base, as Charlotte hooks her in position and lands the Natural Selection off the top rope! One… Two… Three! Charlotte retains in a freaking phenomenal match.

Later on, Charlotte spoke to Renee Young about retaining the title:

Thoughts: I mean. What can I say? These two just completely took any assumption that they wouldn’t be able to live up to the past womens matches of these live specials and shattered them to smithereens. If I’m being 100% honest, this surpassed Natalya and Charlotte in my opinion. It might not get the accolades or be as memorable to fans in the long run because of the backstory Charlotte/Natalya had in their family lineage, or because this match is happening so close to the end of the year when the other has had so much time to be rightfully praised, but I just am blown away by what Charlotte and what Sasha Banks were able to do last night.

We vent so often about how much two-three minute matches suck on the main roster. And let me preface this by saying NXT is no saint to escaping them on their weekly programming either, but these live shows are worth sometimes only getting those few minutes on a weekly episode. Here, they are ALWAYS given the second to last spot on the card, showing fans that they are not a “bathroom break” or something to be missed. Casual fans look forward to seeing these women go at it on the NXT live specials because NXT presents them like stars who demand your respect and attention whether you want to give it to them or not.

Charlotte and Sasha deserve more than praise. They didn’t put on a great women’s wrestling match, they put on an outstanding match period. I was a little worried heading in because Sasha is so much tinier than Charlotte, and in a match where she’s the heel, I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. Part of why this worked so well is that they did not restrict her to a simple moveset or treat this as David vs. Goliath. They let Sasha bust shit out we haven’t gotten the chance to see her do — moves that would typically only be used by someone portraying a babyface — because they knew, ultimately, it would make for the best possible match. And that it did.

Can we even possibly list the high spots with how many of them there were?

In no order:

Sasha’s suicide dive

Charlotte’s captivating moonsault into a standing senton

Sasha’s Backstabber Submission

The suplex attempt into a swinging neckbreaker

That spear which caused Sasha to flip her entire body… Jesus.

The top rope Natural Selection

Even smaller moments like Sasha slamming Charlotte down in the corner or her boots-to-neck bash in the face in the corner (I’m bad with names), just had so much impact behind them it made them stand out even more than usual. I probably forgot even more but you guys know them already haha.

I can’t even think of everything that went down. A part of me is always going to be sad this wasn’t the night Sasha took the title, just because of how perfect it would have been for her career to have it be in a match so amazing as this, and on a night where the crowd would have shown her such respect. I’m not going to lie, I loved that the crowd was able to get behind her. She’s the heel they usually never budge on when it comes to being on her side, but you could just tell that they saw how badly Sasha worked to get here. They know, even just through NXT or in the indies as well, how far she’s come, and how much she’s worked to get better at this and be the best she can be. To see so many people on her side as she was giving everything she had was just a great feeling, and one that, even if she had to lose, I’m thankful we got to see.

A lot of people potentially had their eyes opened tonight to what Sasha is truly capable of as a performer. She has always been very consistent, but just never received that time and that effort put into her to allow her the chance in truly shining like she did tonight. Even in defeat, as a monster fan of hers, the fact she finally got to have that breakout performance I’ve been pleading with that whole damn campus to give her all year is so worth it. Everything happens for a reason. Her day as champion will surely come, and you can bank on the fact I will be an emotional wreck when it does.

Charlotte continues to prove what a star she is, and that she can truly step up whenever the moment comes. I know I mentioned it in my prediction, but the evolution this girl has made in such a short time is almost unreal. If anyone thought this time last year that within the next 365 days, Charlotte would put on three match of the year candidates of ANY promotion, they’d be lying, crazy, or That’s So Raven. That is not to discredit her at all, but you could tell the potential she had inside just wasn’t quite reached until she joined the BFF’s and truly took on the evolution that became complete the night she won her belt. It’s incredible to see someone who didn’t come from the independents, but who is able to garner such a level of respect from even casual fans because of the performances she’s able to put on at these live specials. The last woman who I can think to gain such a respect with no prior training would be Michelle McCool, but even she had a backlash due to her personal life. I’m sure one can attribute the Flair name as a reason Charlotte is able to get that respect, but I don’t buy it. You can be the daughter or the son of a legend all you want, but if you’re not talented in your own right, people just aren’t going to get behind you. Something snapped in Charlotte that night she won the title. You can just tell she has gained so much confidence ever since then and never looked back a day in her career. It’s amazing.

This match had everything. Maybe I’m excited and speaking too highly of it, but in my opinion, that’s not possible. I hope this isn’t a night that gets forgotten about anytime soon. They didn’t have the lineage or the specialness of seeing a main roster Diva face an NXT one like Charlotte/Nattie. They didn’t have the “arrival”-esque excitement built in like Paige/Emma. They didn’t have the feel good underdog story like Bayley/Charlotte. But they tore the entire house down, and proved that they could create something so special and so badass on their own merits and their own talent.

As far as where we go from here, I think the only rightful thing to do next is that triple threat feud. Bayley came SO close, but didn’t get it done. Sasha came SO close, but didn’t get it done. Let’s put these three women together at the next live special and really show what they can do. If it’s like last year, it will be right around WrestleMania time, and what better way to spotlight the three women who have made the greatest impact in the Divas Division down here over the past year than to give them that final, insanely special showing against each other? Nobody would be able to guess a winner with how evenly matched they feel, and if that’s not where we’re heading with this then I’m not sure what’s going to be done because it’s just too perfect, in my opinion at least.

In conclusion, Sasha and Charlotte tore the house down, blew the roof off, and stole at least a portion of the show (I can’t go against a Sami Zayn title win, don’t hate me). Now please NXT, I beg of you… I just freaking want that Charlotte vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks feud already. You’ve given us these masterpiece singles matches… you’ve got the talent… it’s time for the grand finale.

Bobby
News Reporter - Read Profile