NXT Takeover: RIVAL Preview & Predictions

A few months after capturing the wrestling world by storm, WWE’s Developmental Brand looks to do it again

It is no secret that February is my favorite time of the year. It is my birth month, NBA All-Star Weekend lands right in the middle of Valentine’s weekend, and the Road to WrestleMania is kicking into high gear. Well, the latter exactly isn’t setting my world on fire but WWE is thankful to have NXT around to produce quality shows. Later tonight, NXT will have another live 2-hour special from Full Sail University headlined by a feud that’s lasted a decade in the Indies, a UK Junior stars showdown, and a Women’s 4-Way (no HLA). Without further ado, let’s rundown the preview for NXT Takeover: RIVAL.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

Singles Match for the NXT Championship: Sami Zayn © vs. Kevin Owens

In the main event of RIVAL, casual fans will be re-introduced to a feud between best friends turned enemies to friends and back again: Zayn vs. Owens. As a rivalry that started in the indies in IWS in Canada, moving west to PWG, and then Northeast in ROH, the then Steen vs. Generico feud produced some of the best matches in the independent circuit, further developing both men as in-ring characters whether they brutalized each other or slapped others around as a tag team.

It was inevitable that when Owens signed with WWE that the two would be paired together in some fashion. Right after debuting as a face on NXT Takeover: R Evolution, Owens immediately turned at the end of the event powerbombing the new NXT Champion Sami Zayn on the ring apron. Since then, he’s been increasingly antagonizing his former best friend and eventually goading him and William Regal into making his match with Zayn a title match. To those that don’t know, Kevin Owens/Steen is known for his mind games and pissing his opponents off. Causing Zayn to go into a blind rage was just enough for him to make it a title match without even earning his shot and thus, enough for him to come out the victor.

Sami Zayn works best when he is in the sympathetic underdog role. With him losing the title on the next live special after just winning it will only add fuel to the fire of their story and how Owens always had his number. We also know that Sami won’t be on NXT long enough, so they have to get this feud out of the way and let Owens cook throughout. It’s going to be an excellent match either way, but the story has already been written twice before and they’re still finding ways to make it look fresh.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

#1 Contender’s Final for the NXT Championship: Adrian Neville vs. Finn Balor

The co-Main Event will feature two men that were signed due to their 2012 Best of the Super Juniors match in New Japan. WWE was like, ‘Hey, we’re doing Steen vs. Generico, so let’s do this match as well’ and this is the best decision they could’ve done. Balor and Neville worked their way through a three week tournament to determine a new Number One Contender for the NXT Championship. Neville had to defeat Tyson Kidd and Baron Corbin while Finn Balor’s road was equally tough beating Curtis Axel and then Hideo Itami in a very good match to face his old rival.

Finn Balor is on the cusp of being a super mega star in the WWE and everything he picked up in New Japan amplified by his looks and teachings in WWE will propel him to greater heights. Neville is on his way to making the main roster so he will be passing the torch here to Balor as the UK heartthrob. If their match here is anything like their match 3 years ago, it might be an early MOTYC.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

Fatal-4-Way for the NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte © vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Becky Lynch

In the Women’s showcase, all of those that have been heavily featured on TV will be in a match together and Charlotte has defeated her challengers all in singles matches. Now they are all gunning for her and will be the ultimate test for the champion to prove her dominance. Much of the TV have all the women detesting one another, which is a usual trait for the Divas to cause some drama and vying to be the top queen in the brand. Sasha and Charlotte nearly stole the show at R Evolution and I’m hoping they tear it up again in this 4-Way with Bayley and Becky. I really don’t see Charlotte dropping the title just yet, but she has had it since May and Bayley is getting up in there in NEEDING to win the title to keep her character afloat. This could be the match in where Charlotte doesn’t have to be pinned and Bayley pulling out the victory.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

NXT Tag Team Championship: Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy © vs. The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara & Kalisto)

In one of the more unlikely matches of the show, the team of Blake & Murphy will get a chance to break through the pack as a really good tag team defending the titles against the former champs. The former defeated the Lucha Dragons two weeks ago in a suspected upset. Primarily a jobber team for a duration of their tenure, they proved to put teams over well with their performances and now they are having a run of their own. That’s what makes NXT really special in guys can lose forever, then start winning and the people automatically care. They still lack in mic work, but with a manager and heel turn along the way, they should prove to be a formidable commodity in the tag division.

It just sucked that their title win came so soon and Lucha Dragons have to drop the titles while not having a great reign to go along with it. Although the rumors on why they drop the titles was to have Kalisto be Rico version 2.0 are false (thankfully), the reasoning behind the title change never made sense. I guess they wanted to try something different and hopefully something good that comes out of it. I don’t see them getting any more than eight minutes, but I’m sure they’ll have a solid match in the meantime.

Photo Credit: WWE.com

No Disqualification Match: Baron Corbin vs. Bull Dempsey

The battle between the two monsters of NXT has come to a boiling point, as Bull Dempsey is looking to get a win over a man that’s bested him twice in Baron Corbin. For a long while, these two were seemingly undefeated in NXT and a collision course was in the making for the superstars. Since then, Corbin has defeated Dempsey rather quickly on two occasions, further agitating Bull into costing Corbin a chance at the NXT Championship and ending his winning streak. This looks like to be the blow-off of a feud that was one-sided the moment it started.

There’s not too much to write about this, as both workers aren’t that great in their roles for longer than two minutes. Corbin works like 1990s Undertaker: stiff as a board and very slow to protect his gimmick. Dempsey does alright with the brawler gimmick, but Kevin Owens is now on the roster and with Solomon Crowe set to make his debut, he’s in a world of trouble. It’s going to be bowling shoe ugly but kept short with Corbin getting his revenge and continuing his momentum for…. I don’t know.

NXT Takeover: RIVAL will air tonight from the WWE Network live at 8pm EST from Orlando, FL.

  • All Photos are credited from WWE.com unless otherwise noted.
  • Update: As expected, Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze is added to the card as a rematch. Both dudes need to be on the show for specific reasons, one is Breeze starting his program with Marcus Louis and Itami being Itami. They had a solid match a few weeks ago so I’m expecting more of the same here.
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