The first NXT TakeOver: Where did everyone end up?
Posted On July 5, 2020
May 29, 2014.
No, it’s not the last time Adam Rose won a match. (Well, it might be, but probably not.)
Instead, for only the second time in their then-young history, NXT streamed a live special on the WWE Network. Following in the footsteps of a critically acclaimed NXT Arrival special three months earlier, the stars of developmental geared up one more time for something called NXT TakeOver.
Five years later, TakeOver has become the hottest regular special on the Network. Playing to sold out arenas in Brooklyn, London, Dallas, Toronto, San Antonio, Orlando, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Bridgeport, CT, this past Saturday, it has become an elite level event.
But, it had to start somewhere.
Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, had just passed the two-year anniversary of their relationship with WWE and believe it or not, once upon a time they not only had trouble filling that tiny little arena, they had trouble even getting people to stay for the entire television taping. Regularly, they would give out far more tickets than available since many free ticket holders didn’t even bother to show up. That would eventually cease to be an issue.
Now that 25 TakeOvers are in the book, what better time to go into the Wayback Machine and look at the very first TakeOver event and what eventually happened to the 12 men and women who graced the ring that night?
Adam Rose pinned Camacho in 5:08
(Dave Meltzer’s rating: *1/4)
Rose was the repackaged Leo Kruger, who had just debuted on the main roster in a gimmick that didn’t have much of a chance; a more talented version of No Way Jose with only slightly more credibility. He would eventually turn heel and form the Social Outcasts with fellow NXT failures Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Heath Slater before requesting his release in May 2016 following an arrest for domestic abuse. The charges were later dropped and Rose continued working independents for the next three years. He has since announced his retirement with his final match set for mid-June 14 against fellow NXT alum Bull James (Bull Dempsey).
This may not have been Rose’s last win, but it was the last televised match for Camacho who got fired that June. He spent a year in TNA before crossing the Pacific Ocean to join New Japan as Tanga Loa. He has since become a five-time IWGP tag team champion, a 3-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man tag team champion, and an ROH tag team champion. Needless to say, he is one of the successes, albeit inadvertent, coming out of this show.
With that said, the biggest stars in the match were not the people inside the ring, but a few of them outside the ring. As mentioned, Rose was the original No Way Jose and with it came his own band of weirdly dressed misfits who just happened to be a lot of developmental wrestlers and a few random locals. Mixed in with Justin Gabriel in a bunny suit and Simon Gotch, you also had Braun Strowman, Alexa Bliss, and one of only two people on the entire show to be in the main event of WrestleMania: Becky Lynch.
NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension defeated El Local & Kalisto in 6:17
(Dave Meltzer’s rating: *1/4)
Oh, The Ascension. They were tag team champions for an entire year, which sounds sort of impressive until you realize they literally were the only team in NXT for over six months. They had a weekly gimmick where they would issue an open challenge to any team in the world, which was usually just two random developmental guys teamed up. Long forgotten is that they also had a win over Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards and the hardest thing to believe, especially given how WWE is now, is that they didn’t offer contracts to either man, who eventually both went to TNA.
The Ascension got called up in December 2014 and it’s debatable whether or not they had the talent to go anywhere, but it can be argued that they were sabotaged from the start as the announcers were instructed to bury them from the word go. It didn’t help that they were scripted to mock the Legion of Doom which got the wrong kind of heat with a lot of people, especially those who should have known better. They would go on to be poster boys for NXT failures. Even more insane is since they teamed with Cody Rhodes to win a six-man tag on the 2015 Night of Champions pre-show, they have only won three matches as a team. At this point, neither has wrestled since the night after WrestleMania 35 where they lost a WWE Main Event match to Heavy Machinery.
El Local is a name that probably won’t ring any bells, but you know him better as Ricardo Rodriguez. After finishing up his run as the ring announcer for both Alberto Del Rio and Rob Van Dam, Ricardo donned a mask and tried to take over the NXT tag team division. That didn’t work out and he was released two months later.
Kalisto had a bit of success after forming a team with Sin Cara. They were NXT tag team champions as the Lucha Dragons and had a decent run on the main roster. Kalisto would go on to become a 2-time U.S. Champion (including defending the title at WrestleMania) and cruiserweight champion.
Tyler Breeze pinned Sami Zayn in 15:54
(Dave Meltzer’s rating: ***1/2)
In some ways, Breeze’s run on the main roster is an even bigger disappointment than The Ascension’s. In NXT, he was a top of the card heel, almost always in the NXT title picture, and was the one chosen to face Jushin Thunder Liger when Liger came to NXT for that one-off performance.
Breeze would have one great match after another with just about everyone on the roster from Zayn to Neville to Finn Balor to Hideo Itami. After being called up to the main roster, he had a brief fling with Summer Rae and proceeded to go nowhere for over three years. The only whiff of success he had was when he formed a team with Fandango and was part of a seven-month long storyline in 2017 that paid off by being squashed by the Bludgeon Brothers. Can he reclaim what he had with his return to NXT?
Zayn was NXT’s Daniel Bryan: an incredibly talented, incredibly well liked, main event loser. He lost far more often than he won, but his failures and the story of him overcoming those losses made him even more beloved and sent the NXT crowd into a tizzy when he finally won the NXT Championship. He has had a decent amount of success on the main roster, but seems to lose his momentum with multiple injuries. However, he has wrestled on the main card of two WrestleManias, including in a top match at 34 when he was part of the aforementioned Bryan’s return match.
Before the next match, Lana came out and introduced Rusev to the world. He had just joined the main roster and began his year-long undefeated streak. As Lana put Vladimir Putin over, they were interrupted by beloved babyface Mojo Rawley. Mojo challenged Rusev to a fight, ran to the ring…and Rusev laid him out quite easily. Mojo couldn’t have been a bigger loser and even his biggest win on the main roster (the 2017 Andre The Giant Battle Royal) only happened so they could get on ESPN following Rob Gronkowski’s inclusion.
In the finals of the NXT Women’s Title Tournament, Charlotte (w/Ric Flair) pinned Natalya (w/Bret Hart) in 16:54
(Dave Meltzer’s rating: ****)
This is not to be confused with the 2016 embarrassment when they had the same match on the main roster and made Bret Hart stand at ringside as they re-enacted the Montreal Screwjob in front of him. Without exaggeration, this match, more than any other, is what led to the women becoming main event stars. Yes, Paige and Emma already had their match, but that was a better-than-average match in a world where WWE women’s matches were unimportant three minute affairs. Even when they would have a great match (see AJ vs Kaitlyn at Payback 2013), it led to nothing. This match led to change. Every great NXT woman’s match you saw since is a direct result of this match. On this night, it was the perfect match in front of the perfect crowd. You had Bret and Ric down there to add star power and while Ric was insane, he didn’t steal the spotlight from the girls.
Charlotte would go on to become one of the best women’s wrestlers on the main roster, having a two-year long PPV winning streak and winning nine women’s titles before main eventing WrestleMania against Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey. Natalya has had an 11-year (and counting) career on the main roster and while it can be argued that she should be used better, she has been a Divas Champion and SmackDown Women’s Champion.
There was a long forgotten plot hole with this match. Paige had been WWE Women’s Champion, but had been stripped of the title by GM JBL because no one could handle the schedule of being on the main roster and NXT at the same time. The problem is the ensuing tournament featured four women from the main roster…and Natalya had reached the finals. Using prior logic, if Nattie had won, she then would have been stripped of the title to set up a new tournament.
NXT Champion Adrian Neville pinned Tyson Kidd in 20:55
(Dave Meltzer’s rating: ***1/2)
With his career floundering on the main roster, Kidd moved to NXT for six months to refresh himself. In that time, he turned heel and became a top- evel star. He would return to Raw and SmackDown that fall, forming a team with Cesaro. However, just as Kidd started getting his biggest main roster push, tragedy struck as he was badly injured in a dark match with Samoa Joe. Kidd would be forced to retire, but continues to work with WWE behind the scenes.
Neville would go on to have a bizarre run on the main roster. He debuted by losing his first name while gaining a cape. He would go back and forth on either coming close to superstardom or being a forgotten member of the undercard. Despite his push (or lack thereof), he was always one of the more popular wrestlers. Even during his run in cruiserweight purgatory, he is the only champion to consistently get main roster crowds to react to his actual matches. However, cruiserweight purgatory is still cruiserweight purgatory and he joined the list of people to leave WWE instead of being the king of 205 Live. Of course, we know the story these days and he has since gone back to being PAC and is the current Dragon Gate Champion.
The last 90 minutes of the show were especially well received as you can imagine, and it is one of only a handful of shows to receive a 100% thumbs up reaction in the subsequent Wrestling Observer Poll. Out of the 12 people to wrestle on the show, six of them went on to have bigger and better careers in wrestling, whether on the WWE main roster or worldwide
24 TakeOvers and 121 matches later, we have seen dozens of legendary matches and memorable moments which continues today and into the future. Where will the stars of this past weekend be in five years? It’s impossible to tell, but if history is any indication, it will still be just interesting to see what paths they take.