The weekend of August 23-24, 2015 brought with it significant shifts in the World Wrestling Entertainment Universe. SummerSlam, the annual event that occurs every August, is now being treated by the company like a mini-WrestleMania, the second-biggest show of the year and one worthy of coverage from media outlets such as ESPN. SummerSlam 2015 featured what were, on paper, multiple main events, a title-for-title contest that showcased WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins taking on United States Champion John Cena, and Brock Lesnar facing off with The Undertaker in a rematch of their historic WrestleMania showdown.
There was just one slight problem with the 2015 SummerSlam card: There was little chance that it was going to match the awesomeness of the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn show that had occurred at the Barclays Center the night before SummerSlam. The Brooklyn edition of NXT Takeover was, to date, the best show the WWE has put on in 2015, one that electrified the jam-packed arena and one that was co-headlined by what may have been the top match the company has had this year. Add in that the majority of tickets to NXT Takeover cost under $40 and the event was a steal for those who made the trek to Brooklyn on that Saturday night.
Some WWE fans took to websites such as Twitter to complain about SummerSlam, particularly about the controversial finish of the main event on that show, once the event concluded. One reason it was so easy to hit out at SummerSlam after the screen faded to black around 11:00 pm ET on Sunday night was because NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was such a great show. NXT is now setting the bar for events put on by the WWE,and the only way that the main roster is going to keep up is members of NXT deservedly receiving call-ups to shows such as Raw and Smackdown sooner than later.
10 The NXT Crowd Was Amazing
Just how hyped was the crowd leading up to NXT Takeover: Brooklyn? Hundreds of people were lined up outside of the Barclays Center three hours before the doors opened for an event that was not general admission. Even before Triple H began NXT Takeover with a promo inside of the ring, the crowd inside of the Barclays Center was chanting for beloved wrestlers and ready to pop upon hearing the theme songs associated with their favorite acts. That NXT crowd remained energetic and loud past 11:00 pm local time and up through the conclusion of the show, and fans continued to sing the praises of the WWE performers as they exited the arena.
9 Jushin “Thunder” Liger
The Undertaker is unquestionably a legend of the WWE and the wrestling business, and it was thus no surprise that he was so well-received by fans when he emerged from behind the curtain for the SummerSlam main event. With that said, The Undertaker is not a new act. He appears at WWE shows every year. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, also a legend of the industry, made his WWE debut at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, and his match with Tyler Breeze was a sight to behold, even if Liger kept things relatively simple during that encounter. The hope moving forward is that the international sensation will not be a stranger to WWE rings.
8 Length of the Shows
Part of the attempt by the WWE to make SummerSlam a monumental show bigger than a standard “special event” was to extend the length of the show to four hours. That is just too long for any card that does not have the “WrestleMania” name attached. The combined running time of NXT Takeover: Brooklyn and the television taping that preceded Takeover was roughly three hours in length from the time that the taping officially kicked off to when Finn Balor defeated Kevin Owens. Fans in attendance were thus not already fatigued and even bored at the start of the Takeover main event, and those watching that show via the WWE Network only had to watch roughly two hours of programming.
7 No Gimmicks Needed
Nobody can blame the WWE for wanting mainstream media to cover SummerSlam. It is, to steal a phrase, “best for business.” Stephen Amell of television show “Arrow” was inoffensive while working with Stardust and King Barrett, and Jon Stewart became an instant hero of the Brooklyn crowd when he helped Seth Rollins defeat John Cena. NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was never meant to be an event covered by press outlets and thus the in-ring action and the talents had by the performers were all that was needed to make the show a hit of fans who watched in-person or via the WWE Network.
6 Finn Balor Entrance
The Undertaker entrance is iconic, an event all its own and one that has to be witnessed in-person at least once to be truly appreciated by even diehard WWE followers. There is, however, something unique and just different about the Finn Balor “demon” entrance that makes it stand out as the best in the WWE today. The NXT Takeover: Brooklyn show put a different spin on the Balor entrance, as multiple individuals dressed up as the wrestler and appeared from the smoke before the spotlight fell onto the man himself. Balor will one day have the coolest WrestleMania entrance in the history of the company.
5 No Screwjob Finishes
What were, as it pertains to WWE storylines, the two biggest matches of SummerSlam both featured controversial finishes that included one wrestler being “screwed.” That was not a problem at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. Every match of Takeover had a satisfying ending regardless of who fans wanted to win. There were no questionable finishes to any of the title matches at Takeover, as every contest had a definitive winner standing tall when the bell rung. The WWE thus allowed certain NXT wrestlers to gain momentum by having their hands raised at the end of matches. What a wild concept from a past era.
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was a fresh show that, in multiple ways, served as somewhat of a reset for the brand. The Vaudevillians won the NXT Tag Team Championships for the first time. Apollo Crews, formerly Uhaa Nation, made his debut in the company. Bayley completed her long journey by finally winning the NXT Women's Championship. Even the third version of Finn Balor versus Kevin Owens was unique in that it was the first time while working underneath the WWE umbrella that the two had battled in a ladder match. There was no point of the Takeover show when it felt as if NXT was going through the motions or reverting back to previous boring storylines, something that cannot be said about multiple parts of SummerSlam.
3 The Ladder Match
The title-for-title SummerSlam encounter that involved Seth Rollins versus John Cena was on the verge of being the best WWE match of the weekend, but the finish that saw Jon Stewart “turn heel” on Cena was yet another instance of Rollins needing outside help to get the job done. Yawn.
Kevin Owens and Finn Balor battling in a grueling ladder match was better than anything that occurred at SummerSlam and it is a testament to his toughness that Owens was able to physically work at SummerSlam considering the bumps and risks that he took at Takeover. As great at the ladder match was, it was not even the best moment at Takeover.
2 Bayley versus Sasha Banks
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter called the Bayley versus Sasha Banks NXT Women's Championship showdown the greatest women's match in WWE history while appearing on a podcast for the Figure Four Online/Wrestling Observer website. That is high praise from such a respected individual in the wrestling community and he may very well be spot-on with that assessment. Bayley and Sasha Banks put on the WWE match of the year at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, and both women sacrificed their bodies in an encounter that could have main-evented just about any show. Jokes were made after the event that the Barclays Center was louder when Bayley earned the pinfall than at any point of a Brooklyn Nets game. Those opinions might not be inaccurate.
1 Crowd Pleasing
NXT Takeover: Brooklyn granted every significant wish had by fans in attendance. People wanted to chant along with Enzo Amore during the Enzo and Big Cass entrance. WWE obliged during the television taping. The crowd chanted for Blue Pants before she was even mentioned. She joined the Vaudevillians for their title match. Fans were hoping that the Vaudevillians would win the gold. Done and done. Samoa Joe choked out Baron Corbin, and Bayley won the title. Even those who are fans of Kevin Owens had to be pleased with the storytelling and finish of the main event match. NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was as close to a perfect show for fans as the WWE will produce in 2015.