NXT TakeOver Chicago II – REVIEW

NXT TakeOver Chicago II – REVIEW

Charly Caruso, Sam Roberts and Pat McAfee formed the pre-show panel. McAfee seemed very enthusiastic about pointing out that Baszler and Cross could both beat him and Sam Roberts up. EC3 joined them to talk about whether the match between Velveteen Dream and Ricochet dictates the next challenger for the title and if that means he’s not in the conversation. He said he’s automatically in the conversation just by being there. Watching Pat McAfee suck up to him was vaguely uncomfortable. Almost as uncomfortable as watching him bicker with Adam Cole when he popped in to reveal that the tag titles will open TakeOver.




Undisputed ERA def Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch

Ricochet def Velveteen Dream

Shayna Baszler def Nikki Cross

Aleister Black def Lars Sullivan

Tommaso Ciampa def Johnny Gargano





Vic Joseph, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson were the commentary team for the show as Mauro Ranallo had a scheduling conflict with Showtime Boxing. It’s not quite the same without him, but nothing is going to spoil this show.


Undisputed ERA (C) vs Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch – NXT Tag Team Championship match

It was the right decision to put this match first. It was always going to be a great match, but I think it’s fair to say it’s possibly the least exciting prospect of the evening. Adam Cole was, unsurprisingly, with Strong and O’Reilly.

They kept the pace up throughout to set the tone for the night, with just enough chaos to get the crowd engaged.

Undisputed ERA
Photo credits: wwe.com

The two teams are very well suited. Both favouring a mix of tough and technical. The first blood of the night spilt was from Danny Burch, a cut on his head as a result of one of the many strikes he took in a short period of time.

There wasn’t any downtime in this match, it was non-stop. At one point, Lorcan was fighting both Strong and O’Reilly, even throwing himself over the top rope to take both of them out.

Lorcan and Burch nearly pinned Strong with their double-team finisher, but O’Reilly broke it up. Moments later, as he went to the top to knock Roderick Strong off Danny Burch’s shoulders, Oney Lorcan took one hell of a fall from the top turnbuckle right to the floor, courtesy of a shove from Kyle O’Reilly, smashing his back on the apron on the way down and taking him out of the match.

On his own, Danny Burch battled on, even wriggling across the ring to the ropes to force O’Reilly to break an armbar. Somehow Lorcan got back to the apron and immediately launched himself back off to take O’Reilly and Strong out.

Adam Cole pulled Kyle O’Reilly from the ring to avoid him being pinned. The ref sent him to the back.

Roderick Strong dragged Burch out of the ring and threw him back first into the announce desk. Oney Lorcan still powered out of O’Reilly’s submission.

Lorcan and Burch got Strong and O’Reilly in submission holds, but Kyle O’Reilly managed to manoeuvre round and kick Lorcan in the face until he let Strong go.

Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch, Kyle O'Reilly, and Roderick Strong

It took Undisputed ERA double-teaming him to get him down long enough, but Roderick Strong pinned Oney Lorcan to retain the tag team championships.

Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch got a huge ovation from the crowd after Undisputed ERA left. Well deserved as well.


Velveteen Dream vs Ricochet

Velveteen Dream always does something special with his outfits for TakeOver. This time around it was Hulk Hogan inspired yellow, with just a touch of a tribute to Prince Puma. And he backed it up with Hogan style poses before Ricochet made his entrance.

Bit of a feeling out process to start, with Ricochet schooling Velveteen Dream on some technical stuff, Velveteen showing off his power, and then Ricochet showing off his athleticism. After the pace of the opener, the beginning of this one felt a little slow, intricate and interesting, but slow.

It turned into a bit of a chess match. The whole premise of the build was for Velveteen Dream to prove he can do anything Ricochet can, but better. He kept things slow and tried to keep Ricochet grounded, occasionally showing off with Ricochet style moves. He had the clear majority of the offence through most of the match.

Velveteen Dream suplexes Ricochet

Velveteen Dream’s Death Valley bomb off the second turnbuckle laid them both out but still only earned him a two count. It was closely followed by a superplex from the apron to the floor that fully deserved the ‘holy shit’ chant it received. After that one, they barely made it back to the ring to beat the count.

Time after time Velveteen Dream perfectly landed match finishing moves on Ricochet, but Ricochet wouldn’t stay down. Velveteen Dream got frustrated and slapped Ricochet while screaming at him that he’s a wrestling god and Ricochet belongs in bingo halls. Ricochet scooped him up and delivered a Death Valley Bomb in response, then followed it up with Velveteen Dream’s Purple Rainmaker elbow.

Velveteen Dream got his knees up on the shooting star presses from the top, and still couldn’t keep Ricochet down. He went for a Purple Rainmaker from almost the width of the ring away, and Ricochet moved. While Velveteen Dream was on the mat holding his shoulder, Ricochet hit the 630 and got the pin. Incredible match, stunning action and great storytelling.


Shayna Baszler (c) vs Nikki Cross – NXT Women’s Championship match

Baszler started the match in her fighting stance while Nikki Cross just stood looking at her then encouraged her to hit her. Baszler knocked her down, and Cross bounced up and down on her knees then chased Baszler across the ring on all fours.

She turned her back on Baszler then spun around and roared at her before jumping on her back and putting on a sleeper hold. Baszler clearly didn’t quite know how to handle Cross and went to the outside for a breather after Cross broke her attempt at the Kirifuda Clutch.

Cross followed her and managed to plant her on the apron then tangle her up in the ring skirt.  She got Baszler back in the sleeper hold outside the ring, Baszler broke it by dropping to her back, slamming Cross to the ramp.

Nikki Cross flies at Shayna Baszler

Baszler got her back in the ring and failed to pin her. When Cross started to fight back Baszler responded by covering her mouth and trying to suffocate her.

Shayna Baszler kept kicking Cross down, and Cross kept smiling. A flurry of offence topped off with a cross body from the top turnbuckle and reverse DDT on the apron gave Nikki Cross a solid two-count and her best chance of the match.

She had one more near fall, from a swinging neckbreaker, but Baszler got her foot on the rope.

Baszler got the Kirifuda Clutch locked in tight, but Nikki Cross refused to tap. She struggled in the hold for much longer than anyone else has, then began to smile. Unfortunately, the smile was followed by unconsciousness. Shayna Baszler is still NXT women’s champion.


Keith Lee sighting in the crowd. Always interesting to see whose arrival is fairly imminent.


Aleister Black (C) vs Lars Sullivan – NXT Championship match

Black was his usual calm collected self as the match began, even standing quietly while Lars Sullivan trash-talked him. He waited for Sullivan to make a move towards striking and acted so fast he’d landed a couple of strikes before Sullivan could react.

This is the first time we’ve seen Sullivan in a singles match lasting longer than a few minutes. It was also his best match to date by some considerable way.

Black seemed to be working on the idea that whatever Sullivan caught him with was going to be dangerous, so he didn’t stay still long enough to get caught by much.

Sullivan caught Aleister Black’s moonsault to the outside and dropped him face first into the apron then threw him into the barricade. That slowed Black down for a while and gave Sullivan his period of dominance. He tried to submit Black and to pin him multiple times, both to no avail.

Aleister Black got one knee up as Sullivan launched himself off the second rope, but the impact hurt him as much as Sullivan and created a weakness for NXT’s resident monster to exploit. That exploitation included a submission attempt involving Black’s knee being wrapped around Sullivan’s head.

Lars Sullivan lands on Aleister Black

Sullivan was holding his jaw, presumably from any one of dozens of kicks to the face he took.

We all already knew how incredibly talented Aleister Black is. Tonight we got to see how tough and resilient he is. Sullivan didn’t let up and Black just kept kicking out and finding a little more in the tank.

Yes, there was a botch, a missed kick from Black that Sullivan sold anyway. These things happen, didn’t ruin anything, let’s move on.

Sullivan blocked the next attempt at Black Mass and levelled Black with a clothesline. Another knee to the face from Black and the blood was flowing from Sullivan’s mouth.

Aleister Black hit Black Mass on the next attempt but Lars Sullivan still wasn’t out. The next one did the job and Black retained the NXT Championship.


Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa – Street Fight

Before the match, Johnny Gargano was shown walking through the backstage area. Candice LeRae ran up to him, handed him a crutch and told him to ‘kick his ass’. This is one of those matches where you find yourself hoping no-one gets seriously hurt more than hoping the match will be good.

Tommaso Ciampa brought a crutch with him too. He’d decorated it to match his outfit.

If I went through everything that happened we’d be here all week. I’m not sure highlights and high spots is the correct terminology for what follows, it’s more scary things and ‘damn that looked like it hurt’ moments.

The first blow of the match had the crutches meet and fly out of their hands, and that was the last we saw of those until much later.

Nigel McGuinness got knocked out when Ciampa flew over the announce desk and kicked him in the head. He was back to commentary pretty quickly, so I’m guessing there was no damage done.

The fight headed into crowd and Ciampa let himself get distracted trying to destroy a Johnny Gargano sign. Gargano took it off him and beat him with it, it turned out to be concealing a stop sign.

Gargano flew off some staging and knocked Ciampa down and they made their way back to the ring. When they got there Gargano started to get the toys out. A bin, bin lid and chair joined the crutches in the ring.

Johnny Gargano flies at Tommaso Ciampa

Ciampa sent Gargano into the stairs with an opened chair hung over his neck. He tried to gag him with his top, and even brought out handcuffs but couldn’t manage to get them onto Gargano – more on those later.

Gargano took off his belt and whipped Ciampa with it, a lot. Then he put a bin on his head and superkicked it.

Tommaso Ciampa reached under the ring and pulled out bolt cutters. He used them to snip the cords holding the mat down and peeled the canvas and padding beneath it away to expose the bare boards. He softened Gargano up with a chair shot and lifted him onto the top turnbuckle, then bit him… just because. Even after all that Gargano still struggled free before Ciampa could slam him to the bare boards and dragged Ciampa’s head down to superkick him.

There was a near fall when Gargano fell on top of an out of it Ciampa, but it was just two, and after Ciampa swatted Gargano out of the air as he flew over the rope at him Ciampa kneed the stairs with the still braced knee. Gargano worked on that with a chair for a while. A shot to the back of Gargano’s neck with the crutch LeRae gave him resulted in another near fall.

Ciampa dragged Gargano to the stage, telling him how it was all his fault and threw him into the backboards just like he did to break up DIY. He climbed onto some stacked packing cases dragging Johnny Gargano with him, took off Gargano’s wedding ring, spat on it, and threw it away. That got Gargano going enough to heft Ciampa onto his back and jump off the crates driving them both through tables.

Johnny Gargano watches as medics attend to Tommaso Ciampa

They put Tommaso Ciampa in a neck brace while Gargano sat on the cases and watched, like Ciampa watched him one year ago. He looked utterly destroyed as medics lifted a screaming Ciampa onto a stretcher. As they wheeled him away Gargano examined his now bare ring finger. He jumped down, threw the medic and ref out of the way, and wheeled Ciampa back to the ring before unstrapping him and throwing him in.

He got the neck brace off Ciampa and locked in the Gargano Escape. Ciampa tapped but the ref was still out. Gargano cuffed Ciampa’s hands and kicked him in the face. More suited officials arrived to drag Gargano away and he fought them off.

As he came round the side of the ring to get back in, Ciampa DDT’d him on the exposed boards and pinned him.

Johnny Gargano was tended by officials, and Candice LeRae in the ring while Tommaso Ciampa pushed the stretcher back up the ramp to help support himself. Ciampa waving to Gargano from the stage, still with his hands cuffed, closed out the show.

Tommaso Ciampa waves goodbye



Final word

Another Spectacular NXT TakeOver. There wasn’t a single match on the card that didn’t deliver.

Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch moved themselves up a few notches in the NXT universe’s esteem. Velveteen Dream and Ricochet was full of subtlety and storytelling rather than the spot-fest of one-upmanship it could so easily have been. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been great too, but this was better. Shayna Baszler got her dominant victory, but Nikki Cross ended up looking stronger in defeat. Both Baszler and Lars Sullivan had their best matches to date.

Gargano and Ciampa… I’m honestly not sure what to say. Now their match tally stands at one apiece, it is likely we’ll get round three. They have to find some way of wrapping this up but the only way I can think of at the moment is to ship one or both of them off to another brand. There is no coming back or coexisting after fights (not matches) like they’ve had.


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