I’ve been begging for NXT to come to Massachusetts for over a year and it all came to fruition last night in Lowell, MA at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Yes, that is the same site of the infamous Thursday RAW Thursday from 1997 where HBK lost his smile and Triple H lost the IC title to young Rocky Maivia. Let’s get to the recap:
The beauty of this event location is I could have walked from my house, but that’s a 35 minute walk and I had to work until around 6:50 and the show started promptly at 7:30. I was parked and in Dudley’s bar by 7, but unfortunately they had a “Tap Takeover” by a craft brewer whom I don’t much enjoy because the usual selection is excellent. But it’s a bar and it’s a 5 minute walk from the venue so it will do.
The Auditorium itself is a pretty intimate place, seating roughly 3,000. It’s a very old facility, having been built before the Great Depression and is in need of some fixes but the place isn’t falling apart or anything. There are three seating areas: Ringside, Parquet (which is behind ringside), and Balcony, which hangs over the Parquet sections so the front of the balcony is insanely close to the ring. I will try to go back for the Ring of Honor/New Japan show in October.
To the show proper:
Mojo Rawley vs Riddick Moss: Rawley is a good friend of Patriots TE superman Rob Gronkowski, but I did not see him though maybe he’ll be at the Rhode Island show tonight. Moss got a lot of “who are you” chants, and he might have an identity crisis since he’s apparently had several names now. One of them was Digg Rawlis which to me sounds too much like Rawley. Moss also was looking like a weird hybrid of 1996 Triple H and 2014 Adam Rose. As expected this was not a technical masterpiece but it didn’t take much to get this crowd going as Mojo picked up the win.
Bayley and Carmella vs Peyton Royce and Dana Brooke: Hadn’t seen Brooke in-ring on TV in many months so nice to see her back. Royce is okay but I get the sense that the Shimmer factory will turn out more women who are a bit better and more compelling than her. When Carmella did her “Princess of Staten Island” bit, one person yelled “WOO-STAH!” at her, since she is actually from Worcester, Massachusetts. This was a bit of a comedy match at times and not just because of the Biz Markie song chant when Bayley was briefly in trouble. Bayley got the pin on Royce, and it is patently obvious that Bayley is very smart in everything she does. The former women’s champion operates like a 10-15 year vet out there whereas some of the others remind you that this is a developmental territory.
Chris Girard vs Tommaso Ciampa: Girard is from Boston and was very well-known on the indy circuit as Biff Busick. The guy sitting next to me went to high school with Ciampa and didn’t know he would be on the card. This battle of Boston guys looked like an original Ring of Honor match with the handshake, and the crowd was very into it. One guy yelled “fight forever” one time at the start, but thankfully he shut up and didn’t ruin the organic moment from Takeover: Dallas. Girard won this one in a bit of a mild upset, since I don’t think he’s won a match on TV to this point.
Manny Andrade vs Austin Aries: Crowd liked Aries but was way more into the former La Sombra. I don’t “get” Austin Aries; he seems like a dime a dozen guy but probably good enough to keep around. To be fair, I don’t watch TNA which makes me like 99.9999% of all people. Manny turned the crowd less than two minutes into the match with his offense and counters. I was informed that he was signed with an eye toward the Global Cruiserweight tourney but I was so impressed that I want him on TV immediately. Can’t wait until he gets built up and gets to connect on moves like the springboard moonsault which was very tight. Later he missed a moonsault but landed on his feet and did a flip into a splash. Aries ended up winning by submission, but Andrade got all the shine after the match.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Elias Samson: With his guitar, Samson attempts to sing a la Nikolai Volkoff before the match but is booed vociferously. It’s a credit to him that 100% of the audience hates him, but he’s not too compelling in ring since he doesn’t seem to cheat or do anything that stands out. After watching him work epics in Japan and at Takeover, it’s very strange to see Shinsuke in a normal 10 minute match. That entrance though, wow. Kinshasa gets him the win.
Intermission time and the bathroom at the place is at the bottom of a spiral staircase which seems like a very quirky way to design things. But the building is on a very small footprint so everything has to be designed up and down.
American Alpha vs Revival: I don’t care that I was openly kind of a dick rooting for the Revival, even if it was in vain. Three thousand people there and I’m probably the biggest Scott Dawson mark. Excellent match, though Revival didn’t get to do as much cheating as at Takeover. Gable and Jordan are undeniably impressive. They did not hit their finisher, but Gable got the pin on Dawson and from my vantage point he had a handful of trunk and his feet on the ropes. But then again I am very biased.
Asuka vs Alexa Bliss: I found this match to be rather interesting because Alexa is clearly a tier or two down from Asuka’s level. She did alright, and I was proud of one crowd moment in this one. One guy chanting about Alexa’s butt was met with a quick and resounding “Don’t be a creeper!” reply. At least in this case, Asuka comes off better on TV because she looked to be a lot more deliberate here. Alexa controlled by working the left arm, which was the limb of choice to be worked in all matches. Asuka did get the win by submission. I do worry about a lack of challengers for her once they do the Nia Jax match, because a lot of the newer women haven’t been built up at all.
Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor for the NXT Championship: You go to a house show and expect to see a fun match, but ultimately nothing happens. Hoooo boy was I wrong. One wag in the crowd asks who wears short shorts, and others yell “Joe wears short shorts!” It may have been done before, but I was amused. Nothing about this match seemed off; yes, cameras were ringside but I figure they film everything for something like the website. Very good match, with Joe having majority control. This was the only match of the night that had action outside of the ring, near to what ended up as the finish. Joe is by the railing in a corner and Finn comes in with a dropkick. It was towards me and I was close to floor level so I didn’t see how he landed but Joe got up first. The referee made the “X” symbol to the back, widely known as the REAL INJURY sign. I thought okay, he’ll likely fight through this. Not long after, Joe hits the Muscle Buster and wins the title.
I was there when Mankind won his first world title from The Rock and the shock value of this one is in the same ballpark. People around me started to surmise that this means you could see Finn Balor on RAW this Monday. Joe threw the title over his shoulder and left, while Finn took his final bows. The weekend will see tag matches involving these two, so this is not a case where the title will change back.
The Takeover shows raise the bar each and every time, and this show left me wanting to throw my money at them to come back. But how could they possibly top this? Well, they could have put the tag titles back on the Revival, but let’s not be greedy here.