Wrestling Review: NXT Takeover – Chicago

Last weekend was the latest NXT Takeover event, NXT Takeover: Chicago, and I have a few thoughts on the event. As with my review of the Orlando event, I’ll be giving the Highs and Lows of each match.

Roderick Strong defeated Eric Young (w/ Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain)

Backstory: Coming into the event, Strong was attacked by SAnitY, and demanded a match at Takeover from William Regal. He got it.

High Points: Strong had a good showing coming into this, both in terms of how he took on Young directly, and how he managed the two other opponents on the outside. The move that finished off the match (which was described as a “Double Knee Release Suplex Back Breaker”) was incredibly impressive.

Low Points: SAnitY is 1-1 for the Takeover events that I’ve watched, and they haven’t really had any lasting feuds, aside from the Tye Dillinger feud that basically wrapped up on the NXT after the last Takeover. This was a conclusive ending to a feud that was barely a week long. Also, having SAnitY lose in what was basically a 3-on-1 match didn’t help.

Rating: 4/5

WWE United Kingdom Championship Match: Tyler Bates vs. Pete Dunne

Backstory: This is a rematch from the final of the WWE UK Championship tournament.

High Points: Very strong technical wrestling in this match. Nice subtitle heel work by Dunne with some of the finger and joint work. Similarly, Dunne had some excellent suplexes and slams in this match. Also, it was really great to hear JR back at the announce table again. This match got our first “Fight Forever”, and “Holy S***” chant of the night.

Low Points: With the level of the match here, this should have been higher on the card. Also, Dunne’s holding-the-belt-in-your-teeth thing looks stupid.

Rating: 5/5. The Tag match later in the night was great, but this was just a fantastic match.

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Asuka (c) defeated Nikki Cross & Ruby Riot

Backstory: During a Women’s Battle Royale to determine the #1 Contender for the NXT Women’s Championship, Asuka assaulted the last 3 women standing – Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, and Ruby Riot, injuring Moon and taking her out of competition. In reaction to this, NXT General Manager William Regal made the Women’s Championship match at Takeover a Triple Threat match. Outside of that, Ruby Riot has been feuding with SAnitY, and Nikki Cross in particular. Coming into this match, Asuka has held the NXT title for just about as long as Trish Stratus did for her longest reign. If the title is not defended on TV before the next Takeover, she will be the longest reigning woman’s champion in WWE history outside of The Fabulous Moolah.

High Points: Ruby Riot really shows that she takes her opponents very seriously – slamming the breaks on her audience hype the moment that Nikki Cross’s music hits, and she never takes her eyes off her, and only take her attention off of Cross once Asuka’s music hits. Riot comes out of this match looking strong. Nikki Cross shows a lot of shades of Dean Ambrose here, in a good way.

Low Points: Had Ember Moon not been involved, or had she been involved and been able to take part in the match, I could see Cross or Riot taking the title to add the weight of the belt to their feud. As it stands, my suspicion going in was that Asuka was going to retain, with the Asuka vs. Moon rematch happening at the next Takeover, and Cross and Riot continuing their feud outside of the title hunt. Having Asuka pin Riot and Cross simultaneously doesn’t help either one.

Rating: 4/5.

NXT Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) defeats Hideo Itami

Backstory: Itami debuted 2 years ago and has been seeking the NXT championship belt, but has been wracked by injuries keeping him from competing for the belt, including missing Shinsuke Nakamura’s run in NXT – finally, after becoming sick of champion Bobby Roode’s arrogance, he made Roode his first target after returning to the ring.

High Points: Itami definitely has latched on to the WWE style,  with a great spot where he straight up does a taunt-theft on Roode. Also, great narrative storytelling, with Itami working Roode’s shoulder to prevent him from hitting the Glorious DDT (and when he does land it he can’t land it properly), and then Itami missing a move (kayfabe) hurting his leg making it harder to hit the GTS (and when he does land it, it’s not a clean hit so Roode rolls outside the ring, requiring Itami to bring him back in the ring, meaning he can’t pin him right away).

Low Points: Considering how long Itami was out of action, it’s kinda bummer that he didn’t win. I’m hoping this isn’t the end of his title hunt, and we get a rematch at an upcoming Takeover. The finish isn’t great either – with Roode landing two straight Glorious DDTs in spite of his hurt shoulder. It would have been nice if Roode had to bust out an one of his older finishers to take down Itami.

Rating: 4/5

Ladder Match for NXT Tag Team Championship: The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar w/ Paul Ellering) (c) defeated #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa)

The Backstory: This is a rematch for #DIY from the last NXT Takeover, with the team wanting a one-on-one shot against the Authors of Pain, and General Manager William Regal made this the first Tag Team Ladder Match in NXT.

High Point: I appreciate the match having both “regular” ladders and what I’ve come to refer to as the “Jeff Hardy Ladder” – a ladder of sufficient height that when erected outside the ring, it stands at the same height as a regular ladder inside the ring. Also, we have some really nice spots – such as Ciampa threading the needle on the Jeff Hardy ladder for a through the ropes dive.

Also, a great job setting up that the lighter and more spry Gargano and Ciampa are more familiar with ladder matches and the high-risk moves that come with them, while the Authors of Pain, with their larger weight, are at something of a disadvantage when it comes to climbing the ladder. However, the Authors of Pain are quite capable to dish out punishment with ladders.

Oh, and then there’s the “DIY putting the Authors of Pain through ladders” Spot that gets a “Please Don’t Die” chant, followed by our second “Holy s***” chant of the night – followed by the second “Fight Forever” chant. Also, I also like when you have a face and heel alternating punches and the fans chanting “Yay” and “Boo” based on who throws the punch.

Props to the Authors of Pain checking on Ellering after he gets super-kicked – you don’t see that level of concern by wrestlers for their managers that often – and in turn the AoP getting more vengeful in response. Same with Gargano sacrificing himself to save Ciampa.

Low Points: “Co-ladder-al damage”? Really, Nigel? Really? You go sit in the corner and you think about what you’ve done.

AoP’s recovery after getting put through several ladders (and getting a ladder-augmented Man-in-the-Middle) allowing them to hit a Super Collider and the win seemed rather sudden.

Rating: 5/5

After the match, #DIY is applauded in the middle of the ring, and then at the Titantron, Ciampa assaults Gargano, beating the crap out of him before putting him through some tables. This is shades of Michaels super-kicking Marty Janetty through the window of the Barber Shop set, except there hasn’t been anything to foreshadow this – no arguments or anything like that prior to the assault, no miscommunications during the match, and Gargano sacrificing himself to save Ciampa.

This certainly sets up Ciampa as a major heel, but it feels more like a Russo-esque shocking swerve than anything else. To the credit of the fans, Ciampa gets “F*** You, Ciampa” and “Asshole” chants in response.