This TakeOver has a real big event feel to it. The, hour-long, pre-show included interviews and special guests, and hyped the show as a much bigger deal than previous TakeOvers. Triple H said in an interview that Brooklyn is like NXT’s WrestleMania, and I can see what he means.
I don’t normally bother with a pre-show section, but they aren’t usually this big or star-studded. In addition to the usual hype videos and group discussions, the following happened.
Kurt Angle was interviewed, acting very shifty, possible signifying some talent poaching. Big E was on talking about his own NXT journey. Neville made an appearance, in a foul mood, talked through some of the matches, and gave Corey Graves a bit of a hard time. They had an all-female segment, where Sasha Banks and Carmella joined Charly Caruso and Lita, to converse about their time in NXT, and discuss Asuka vs Ember Moon. Bayley and Becky Lynch got a backstage interview, making predictions for Asuka vs Ember Moon, and talking about Bayley’s injury. Baron Corbin joined the panel to discuss the NXT Championship match, with the crowd chanting ‘where’s your briefcase’ in the background, and talk about his NXT experience.
Big opener for what promises to be a big show for NXT.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas def Johnny Gargano
SAnitY def Authors of Pain
Aleister Black def Hideo Itami
Asuka def Ember Moon
Drew McIntyre def Bobby Roode
I’m just going to take a moment to comment on how perfectly Mauro Ranallo fits into NXT. Having him call TakeOver for the first time really adds something to the proceedings. The crowd were loud throughout the pre-show, hopefully they’ll work with the show, not against it.
The show opened with a performance by Code Orange, then we were straight into the first match.
Johnny Gargano vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Is there anyone more over on any roster anywhere than Johnny Gargano? He came out to a rapturous welcome. Almas was accompanied to the ring by, business manager, Zelina Vega.
Vega coached from the sidelines to keep Almas focused, and it certainly seemed to be working early on. Gargano may have been out there alone, but he didn’t need a coach to keep his mind on the job, and he had the support of the entire crowd.
Great match to start things off, fast-paced and fun. While the NXT universe hasn’t taken to him, Almas is extremely talented, as is Gargano, and the matched each other practically blow for blow for most of the match. They’re both extremely easy to watch, technically skilled and with smooth, flowing, styles.
They built the tension beautifully. Many of the near falls were heart in mouth moments, especially when Almas looked like he might tap out to the Gargano escape. By the time the match was drawing to a close we were left with two questions; how is one of them going to finally finish the other one off, and how is anyone going to top this match. I really can’t say enough good things about it.
In the end, Zelina Vega made the difference. She threw Johnny Gargano a #DIY shirt and, while he was distracted, Almas dropkicked him in the head and hit the hammerlock DDT for the win.
Authors of Pain (C) vs SAnitY – NXT Tag Team Championship match
Corey Graves joined commentary to call this one. It was nice to have him back, albeit briefly. Not sure why they put this one second, I would have thought both the non-title matches would go on before the championship matches began, but that’s how they did it.
Paul Ellering’s promos lend themselves so well to the hype videos, and NXT hype videos are already damned good.
We got the full version of SAnitY for this one, Nikki Cross and Eric Young accompanying Wolfe and Dain to the ring. Authors of Pain, with Paul Ellering, came out wearing the strangest masks, they looked like combat ready lizards. Combat ready was accurate anyway, they rushed the ring instead of waiting for the bell, attacked Wolfe and Dain, and a brawl ensued which quickly spilled to the outside.
Eventually the match started. Wolfe started the match for SAnitY, and was quickly in need of a tag, it was then SAnitY pulled a switch. We’d assumed it would be Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain representing SAnitY, but Wolfe tagged in Eric Young instead, and Dain stayed on the outside. It seemed like a slightly odd choice considering Dain has the size advantage, but Eric Young is the leader of SAnitY so I guess what he says goes. And Young had the advantage of not being involved in the initial brawl.
Young and Akam ended up in the crowd for a while, but they made their way back to the ring, where Eric Young took a huge amount of punishment. Authors of Pain have become a very efficient tag team.
Alexander Wolfe kicked out of an AoP double team manoeuvre, which appeared to shock the champs. He pulled out a frankensteiner, and on Rezar while Akam was distracted by Young, and managed to get to his corner to make the tag. Young got caught on the top turnbuckle, and crotched fairly badly. He managed to resist the suplex attempt by Rezar, and when Akam came to help Nikki Cross held Eric Young’s legs down so Akam ended up powerbombing his partner.
Nikki Cross got involved again a little later. She had a standoff with Paul Ellering and the ref, then launched herself at Akam from the top turnbuckle. He caught her, and Killian Dain splashed them both through a table (Eric Young had left it there during the pre-match brawl).
With Akam out of the picture, Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe hit Rezar with a double team, and SAnitY are the new NXT Tag Team Champions.
After the match Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly appeared, attacked SAnitY and through Rezar out of the ring – Akam and Nikki Cross appeared to still be on the floor from the table spot. I guess the question of whether O’Reilly and Fish are going to team up on NX T has been answered.
Aleister Black vs Hideo Itami
JR was guest commentator for this one. I like the guest commentary spots, it keeps things interesting. This was my tip for match of the night, and it didn’t let me down. It’s difficult for a one on one match to follow the chaos of the last match, and it took the crowd a bit of time to warm to it, but they got there.
Aleister Black got a live music entrance, fairly unusual for a mid-card match, but just further proof there are huge things in his future, and he deserves all of them.
As expected, this one was about trying to kick the other person’s head off, and Aleister Black was soon bleeding from the nose. From the way it swelled over the course of the match, it’s probably broken.
I’m not sure what to say about this one, other than they beat the stuffing out of each other – repeatedly – and it was great. There were some subtle moments, Itami mimicking Black’s trademark cross-legged sitting position for example. And Itami tried to keep things mat based for a while. But his style is kick and stroke based too, so he soon reverted to the, and the strike for strike continued.
It could have gone either way, There were plenty of moments where it would have been perfectly acceptable for either of them to stay down for a three count, or a ten count for that matter.
Aleister Black finally won with the Black Mass to preserve his undefeated record.
Asuka (C) vs Ember Moon – NXT Women’s Championship match
Ember Moon had some very striking green contacts, as a change from her usual red ones. Asuka’s mask and headdress were gold, presumably a nod to her dominance as champion, and the number of records she has now broken.
There were a lot of close calls and near falls in this match. Asuka kicked out of the Eclipse. She nearly pinned Moon with a handful of trunks, but the ref noticed. Without a doubt, this is the closest match Asuka has had in a very long time, possibly the closest since she became NXT women’s champion. Ember Moon was every bit the worthy challenger Asuka has been searching for.
For many people on social media, this was their match of the night pick. It’s hard to argue with them. For me, it rivalled Sasha and Bayley’s famous TakeOver match in quality, if not in emotional impact.
Ember Moon looked to have an opportunity to cover Asuka following a superkick. Instead she bent to drag the champion to her feet, and was caught in the Asuka lock. Try as she might, she couldn’t get Asuka to release her grip and, after an epic contest, Moon tapped out.
Bobby Roode (C) vs Drew McIntyre – NXT Championship match
The entrances for this took almost ten minutes. Drew McIntyre got bagpipers and drummers, and Bobby Roode got a giant floor piano. Bobby Roode actually looked more animated than I’ve seen him for a while in the opening section of the match.
It felt like a long match, and it struggled to match the excitement of the preceding ones. That’s more a reflection of the quality of the matches that went before than a criticism of this one. There was all the hard-hitting stuff you could want, plenty of technical bits, and even some big spots. At one point Drew McIntyre dived over the top rope and landed so hard I swear he must have left a dent in the floor.
Bobby Roode hot McIntyre with everything he could think of to save his championship. They fought in and out of the ring, and tried everything to wear each other down. I can’t fault anything about the effort put into the match. For me, it just lacked something in comparison to the rest of the show, not quality, just that intangible something (ok, maybe I just really don’t enjoy Bobby Roode and there is nothing I can do about it, I’m trying to be fair here).
They kicked out of everything the other had, each getting increasingly frustrated with every passing attempt. McIntyre kicked out after a massive powerbomb, Roode kicked out after a Claymore kick, McIntyre even kicked out following the Glorious DDT. He hit a second Glorious DDT, but instead of covering McIntyre, he went for a third. That was his undoing. Drew McIntyre got free and hit with a headbutt and another Claymore kick. That was, finally, enough to get the three count. It is no longer Bobby Roode’s NXT, we have a new champion.
He barely had time to celebrate. Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly appeared again in one of the corners, and while McIntyre was distracted by them Adam Cole snuck up behind him, knocked Drew McIntyre down and pounded on him a bit, while O’Reilly and Fish got in the odd kick. Cole then superkicked McIntyre and crouched next to him with the belt.
The show faded out with Cole stood, between Fish and O’Reilly, in the centre of the ring with the brand-new NXT champion laid out in front of them. That’s one way of announcing your presence in NXT.
What an incredible night. Two title changes, four great matches and one good one, and I got four out of five predictions right. Top that off with Adam Cole declaring his presence in NXT and it’s certainly been an eventful show. If you wanted to argue the case for it being the strongest NXT TakeOver so far, it would be difficult to dispute.
The influx of indie stars recently has left NXT with a huge roster, arguably much too big for a show which only runs one hour per week. The presence of both RAW and SmackDown general managers, or at least the fact their presence was highlighted on the broadcast, suggests that there may be some personnel changes in the works. It’s the nature of NXT that people must move through and on, it’ll be interesting to see who goes.
But all that is for another night. Tonight we should revel in the sheer quality of what NXT has put out. I’d expected my match of the night to be Aleister Black versus Hideo Itami, and it was a fabulous match. I think it suffered a little by following the tag match, a straight striking contest was a bit of an energy comedown after all that chaos. The tag match was superb, and the women’s match was an epic battle. But my match of the night ended up being Johnny Gargano vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
As ever, there will be fallout from this event. It will be interesting to see how the NXT landscape changes in the next few weeks.