Matt Riddle def. Roderick Strong
I was surprised that the tag team ladder match was not chosen as the opener as it is usually the tag team matches that are chosen to open up Takeover PPV’s. Anyways, this was a breath of fresh air, because Strong hasn’t gotten a chance to showcase his singles abilities in Takeover since he first came here. That is why I thought this match was important to re-highlight his individual prowess and show why the Undisputed Era is a force to be reckoned with.
This was a very hot opener with lots of great stuff to absorb here. The most significant factor here was Riddle selling Strong’s offense and making sure he sold that back. That prevented him from hitting most of his signature moves or lessening their impact. I loved Riddle’s match with Dream because it was a clash of characters, but here, it was more about the wrestling and how the two can feed off of each other’s physical attributes. I loved it.
Strong was terrific all around, showing big energy and hitting a series of high impact moves. Riddle not only sold, but was able to match his physicality, which carried things along as well. It’s a simple, basic story, but an extremely well worked opener. Had tons of fun here. I think I like Riddle’s match with Dream marginally more, but it’s hardly a significant difference. Terrific stuff here. ****1/4
Talk about making a first impression. What I loved about this ladder match was just the sheer creativity of it. There were spots being done in this match that I have literally never seen before. It was amazing to see some of the unique ways a ladder can be used against an opponent. I also couldn’t help but notice how brutal looking it was at time. If you needed any more indications of how devastating this match was, just take a look at Kyle O’Reilly’s back. That’s the whole story there.
A good ladder match is predicated on not only physicality, but what the best way to use ladders are, and all four teams were absolutely sensational in showcasing their strengths here. O’Reilly and Fish were more focused on utilizing their striking ability. The Forgotten Sons relied on outside interference by Ryker and taking advantage of situations where the other teams were heavily fatigued. The Street Profits utilized their athleticism to make the most out of sticky situations. Seriously, did you see that top rope blockbuster? Or that dive to the outside? Lorcan and Burch also had some great tag team ladder moves as well.
I predicted the Street Profits would be the ones to win just because they look like a tag team that the NXT brand can get behind for the future, and sure enough they won. Deservedly so. My biggest fear is that if they get called up to the main roster, they will be mistaken for JTG and Shad by Vince McMahon.
I put this ladder match up right there with the NXT North American Ladder match in New Orleans in terms of quality. This match is THAT good. Also, extra points for Mauro having, like, 10 seizures in this match. ****1/2
The biggest difference with NXT and WWE can be seen by how Tyler Breeze is received in front of an NXT crowd and how he is received in front of a RAW/SD crowd. He is appreciated for his character far more in NXT because we have a reason to give a damn about him here. At RAW/SD, he is barely shown, and whenever he is, it’s to make others look better in a span of two or so minutes. Now, let’s talk about the match.
It certainly wasn’t bad. We had some great character work and Dream manipulating Breeeze’s phone which was a nice touch. We also had some pretty great near-falls as well, and both superstars got a chance to showcase their athletic abilities. Certainly a lot of good to take in here. That roll from the top rope into the Death Valley Driver by Dream was pretty damn dope, too.
That being said, I don’t think I was digging the flow of the match all that much. It took a while for it to get going, and once it did, it never really seemed like it got out of second gear. Dream certainly has had way better matches in him, and Breeze was one of the standouts back in his original run back in 2014-2015. Dream winning should have been obvious as he is the future, and a relic of the past in Breeze was just there to put him over.
Overall, I’d say it was a well-worked, serviceable match that kind of left me wanting more. The ending was kind of flat as well, and unorthodox for an NXT match. This just goes to show how high the bar of NXT matches has become. ***1/2
Shayna Baszler (C) def. Io Shirai – NXT Women’s Championship
Man, Baszler is never losing that title is she? It certainly is looking like it. Then again, considering what she may be booked like once on the main roster, the longer she stays in NXT, the better.
Anyways, it pains me to say it, but this match was pretty dull for me. It hurts to say it because I’ve had to defend Baszler more times than I’d like to count. I like her ring style, and while her character is as basic a heel can be in terms of being a bully, I think she has the tools for being successful. But she’s starting to prove some of her detractors right. There was really little to invest in this match here.
First, it never felt like Shayna was in any real danger. Shirai never got on a roll till they very end, and even when she did, it still felt like Baszler was in the bag. The sense of impending danger and close calls are what NXT excels at. Unfortunately we had none of that here. The interference also came rather early in the match.
Baszler’s matches are starting to become formulaic, as Duke and Shaifr always seem to come down the ramp at the same time. The thing is, even with the drama between them and Candice LeRae on the outside, the interference didn’t even play into the finish. It was just a series of reversals and who can get theirs quickest, and it proved to be Baszler.
There was some good in the form of joint manipulation by Baszler and Shirai’s moonsaults, but beyond that, this is a pretty dull match. The problem with Baszler is that it feels like she’s fighting the same opponents and it doesn’t feel like there is anyone on the women’s roster of NXT that can challenge her while overcoming interference in the process. She’s literally beaten everybody. What else is there for her to do in NXT? Not a lot. I don’t know what the plan is going forward, but they have to change it up.
Unfortunately, this match gets the lowest rating for an NXT match I’ve given in quite some time. **1/2
Adam Cole def. Johnny Gargano (C) – NXT Championship
So, I thought Cole and Gargano at New York was about as perfect a wrestling match could be. The story was there, the crowd was hot and the in-ring work was phenomenal. I didn’t think this match could top it, but boy was I excited to see them try.