On Saturday evening, "Papa Hunter" Triple H loaded the minivan full of his NXT kids and embarked on a short twenty minute ride from Full Sail University to the Amway Center in order to present his latest NXT special; TakeOver: Orlando.
As fans await to tune in and drop out on the WrestleMania trip, TakeOver helps provided that entirely necessary pre-buzz; just enough to hold off the die-hards until Sunday's long-awaited presentation of casual delight.
So, what went down at TakeOver: Orlando? Which Superstars awed and which teetered on the brink of awful? Did Bobby Roode retain the NXT Championship or did Shinsuke Nakamura become the first three-time holder of the gold?
The following are 10 huge takeaways from Saturday night:
10. Sanity Are What The Wyatt Family Should Have Been
The Eric Young-led stable have everything the Freak community loves: strange looks, odd behavior, a semi-crazed woman. They Wyatt Family were always good, very good in fact but only bordered on great. While it was recently revealed that Sister Abigail is deceased, the eerie presence of this mysterious woman would have worked best as living, breathing, on-screen character. Nikki Cross fits perfectly into SAnitY. It's too bad WWE failed to capitalize on the idea of Sister Abigail in this manner.
9. Aleister Black: The CM Punk WWE Always Wanted
Aleister Black arrived at TakeOver: Orlando to kick the head off of Andrade "Cien" Almas. The big, tattooed, quasi-spiritual Superstar impressed the NXT crowd with Moonsaults and a quick offensive attack en route to a debut victory. At one point, Black would even take a crosslegged seat in the middle of the ring; a scene reminiscent of one CM Punk. It now proves difficult to overlook the Black/Punk comparison. If only Punk were as big as Black and a little more subdued. WWE would have had the ideal New Age Superstar.
8. The Authors Of Pain Need To Be Carried
When you're green you're green; and The Authors of Pain are green. Obviously, there is room to improve and the future could prove prosperous for The Authors of Pain but at the moment, they remain bland. At TakeOver: Orlando, The Authors of Pain retained the NXT Tag Team Championship in what was a solid match. However, the entire bout was held and carried by #DIY and The Revival. While it appears as though The Machine stands behind this tag team, they have a-ways to go in NXT.
7. #DIY Are Main Roster Ready
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have been the best tag team in NXT for quite some time. Two men who are fantastic wrestlers individually have formed an outstanding combination. One can argue that Gargano and Ciampa could go their separate ways but they would definitely drown in WWE Waters. Gargano and Ciampa or #DIY, are certainly ready for the main stage but in order to swim they need to remain together as a unit. SmackDown Lives feels right for Gargano and Ciampa.
6. Ember Moon Could Be A Huge Star
Ember Moon may have fallen to Auska in the NXT Women's Championship match at TakeOver: Orlando but one thing has become obvious as it pertains to Moon: this woman is a unique talent. Moon has the look and the ability to eventually become a massive star on the main roster. More of a Boss than Sasha Banks and more of a Queen than Charlotte Flair (Personal Note: I believe Charlotte is the best Women's wrestler on the current WWE roster). Look out, ladies.
5. Auska As A Heel?
In order to defeat Ember Moon to retain the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: Orlando, Auska would resort to classic heel tactics by pushing the referee into the ropes and causing Ember Moon to crash crotch-first onto the top turnbuckle. So, has Auska turned heel? The undefeated Women's Champion managed to maintain the streak while not harming the push of Moon. However, the payoff here needs to involve Moon avenging this loss and handing Auska her first defeat en route to her main roster debut.
4. Bobby Roode Is NXT
We find ourselves at a time where we have to ask: who's left in NXT? While there are many stars on the rise (which is the entire purpose of the brand), every big name has made or will soon make their way to the main roster. This leaves Bobby Roode - the NXT Champion - standing alone as the face of the promotion. It has taken Roode (who will turn 40 next month) a while to make his way into this world but the champion is making the most of this opportunity. Main roster before the age of 41? Let's hope.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura Is Done With NXT
In what was Shinsuke Nakamura's final showing as a member of the NXT locker room, the Japanese sensation would help put over Bobby Roode as the new face of the brand. Throughout his time in NXT, Nakamura has provided a number of goosebumb-worthy moments and now looks ahead to the main roster and the larger stage of WWE with the possibility of becoming a star in WWE. Here's hoping that the main roster proves kind to a man who deserves the impending spot.
2. What Comes Next For Nakamura?
It has become blatantly obvious that Shinsuke Nakamura is on his way to the main roster; but for which brand? Well, with "WrestleMania Monday" on the horizon, it would be great to hear that familiar violin screech on Raw, however, the Red Brand provides little for Nakamura in the way of character progression. Best bet? Expect Nakamura to make his WWE debut this Tuesday on SmackDown Live. Over on the Blue Brand, Nakamura will find his footing and fit in well with the current crop of Superstars.
1. NXT: On The Rise Or Decline?
Was TakeOver: Orlando as good as the first TakeOver: Brooklyn? No. Was Orlando the worst installment of the series? No again. So, what exactly did the event in Florida represent? Well, that's up to you to decide. Is NXT back on the rise or have they peaked? The likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, and The Four Horsewomen have raised the NXT bar to an entirely new level; a level all current NXT Superstars hope to reach by clawing their way towards the top. However, has the bar been set too high?
The Ghosts of NXT Greatness Haunt the Halls of Full Sail University.