Even though the highs of this show were incredible, this may be the worst TakeOver on the whole to date (though perhaps some of the earliest ones were weaker; I haven’t watched them in quite some time). Let’s go match-by-match.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong (c, Undisputed ERA, w/ Adam Cole) vs Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan Oh my goodness, what a huge reaction for Undisputed ERA. And, even if I say it in every NXT review, I just can’t overstate how much fun the ERA is. There’s just so much charisma running through that stable. For the match proper, it was excellent work with mostly fluid action, though the pacing was arguably a little too non-stop. The match didn’t have much space to breathe, and they were plainly trying to pack a lot into a limited amount of time. Some awesome spots towards the end! ****1/4
Ricochet vs Velveteen Dream (vegetarian!) Dream’s Hogan-style gear and Nigel’s on-the-nose Hulkamania references are either awful or amazing, and I sort of refuse to decide which is the case. This match wasn’t horrible, but it was clear at a variety of moments that Dream is not yet at Ricochet’s level from a technical perspective. One especially surprising thing was how dead the crowd was for a lot of this (though definitely not all of it), but it was pretty plainly a result of them choosing to wrestle a somewhat slower, more mat-based match than one might expect. Some of the slowness of the match, however, was from Dream wrestling sort of a Will-Ospreay-at-half-speed style in some moments, and that wasn’t ideal. There were some good spots in this, but overall it really wasn’t great in my eyes (despite Chicago’s periodic enthusiasm for the match). It reached some good heights, but it also honestly felt tedious here and there. ***1/4
NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (c) vs Nikki Cross Nikki’s theatrics, which I generally like, distracted a bit from the core of the match early on, and then the crowd was distracted by weirdness happening in the arena. All of this made it hard for the match to get off the ground, which is unfortunate because this is a good program between two women I like a lot. Things eventually got on track, though. I thought Baszler looked unreasonably weak for a lot of this match; I just don’t understand how Cross logically gained such an advantage over the champion, who is normally so dominant. This was just such a weird match and—while neither Cross nor Baszler did anything poorly—I just disliked the plot/booking/tone of the match so much that I really can’t say I’m a fan of it.
NXT Championship Match: Lars Sullivan vs Aleister Black (c) Totally solid action, but this program just hasn’t been all that compelling. Some cool spots and specific psychology as the match progressed, but yeah: this just didn’t have an interesting enough build for Sullivan to feel especially exciting as a challenger. It almost goes without saying that this match loses something for the super obvious Black Mass whiff. ***1/2
Street Fight: Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa I came into this match feeling like, in a lot of ways, this feud had run its course and wasn’t progressing in a satisfying manner. On the whole, I still believe that, and this honestly felt like the match they should have had in the first place: it was much more visceral in tone than their New Orleans match was, as far as I remember it. Either that, or they needed to have a normal (that is to say, “sanctioned”) match at first and then have built to this kind of a match more naturally. In the broader view, this feud just isn’t escalating quite right, even if this match in particular was incredible. There’s some extremely poetic stuff here (as well as some extremely dangerous-looking stuff, which I’m not happy about). *****
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