Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
Well, I suppose that it technically wouldn’t be a Takeover event if it didn’t have five matches on the card. I’m surprised this squash wasn’t put in the middle of the card to cool down the crowd in between the four matches, but this didn’t bother me.
The newcomer got his moment, NXT’s version of Dolph Ziggler, Kassius Ohno, put over the new talent and it didn’t overstay its moment. This was all fine. No rating, obviously.
Shayna Baszler (C) def. Kairi Sane – NXT Women’s Championship (2 out of 3 Falls)
This was the fifth encounter between these two, so its safe to say Shayna and Kairi know each other like the back of their hands at this point. The interference bit made itself known pretty much at the beginning of the match, so I immediately got the sense that the match wouldn’t be about wrestling so much as it would be about perpetuating the story.
I did like Dakota and Io’s interference to even the odds for Kairi as well. That moonsault by Io especially was pretty damn beautiful to watch as well. As for the actual match, I thought it was pretty damn rock solid. If anything, I was kind of disappointed that this didn’t get more time. It’s basically a four match card if you don’t count that opening squash. It’s a 2 out of 3 falls match and it lasted a bit over 10 minutes.
Despite that, Kairi and Shayna know each other so well that they can put on a watchable match in their sleep. The ending was specifically very clever, as one would think Kairi would have the advantage on an even playing field, just for Shayna to slither and escape with the title. While I believe their Brooklyn match was their best encounter, this match was still very good for the time given. I just wish there was about 5-10 more minutes given to it. ***3/4
Aliester Black def. Johnny Gargano
The story coming into this match is that Johnny believes he’s the hero in a story he’s written, but is also having an internal identity crisis. Aliester Black, in storyline terms, was taken out by Johnny just so that he can have Tomasso Ciampa for himself. So that seemed to set the stage for an intense match, and intense it was.
What people should understand about Johnny is that he’s at his best when someone forces him to work at a level of physicality he has to overcome. That’s why people like Tomasso Ciampa and Aliester Black are perfect opponents for Gargano. I was watching this match with some of my friends, and they seemed to take issue with the fact that there was little selling in the match and that it was just a hard hitting match.
For me, I think in some situations, the story tells itself and doesn’t necessarily need a targeted body part in order to tell that story. When Gargano locked in his Gargano Escape, he was screaming “I’M THE HERO!” Then, you had other interesting interactions, such as Aliester daring Johnny to give him his best shot now that he wasn’t blindsided. Then, Johnny told Aliester to finish him off when he realized he took all of his best moves, and more self-doubt started to creep in.
This was a very clever, well done, and awesome match. I was left struck by how well timed some of those hard hitting strikes were. I especially loved those spots where Johnny and Aliester pretended to be vulnerable, just for them to outwit the other. Pretty doggone impressive. Maybe I’m overrating the match, but I think it earned it. ****3/4
Tomasso Ciampa (C) def. The Velveteen Dream – NXT Championship
I really wish Dusty was still here to see the kind of performer Velveteen Dream has transformed into. The guy’s charisma, storytelling and professional work is unprecedented for someone his age. He works at a level a lot of veterans have never gone to. But if you want an idea of just how over Velveteen is, I want you to replay the moment where everyone thought Dream would win the NXT Title.
He just hit a Death Valley Driver on the exposed surface on the outside, and hits his finishing elbow. Had that been a three count, Staples Center would have needed a new roof. I also loved all of the vintage propane Velveteen brought to this match. From the Hollywood Hogan cosplay to the Ric Flair/Bret Hart Figure Four leglocks, he utilized everything in his arsenal the moves of legends that came before him.
And how about the dastardliness of Ciampa? Throwing materials at Mauro like that? He was the perfect asshole to go up against Velveteen. Everything about this match was simply perfect. It started with each men taunting each other, hopefully to get the psychological advantage and then it just transitioned to who could withstand more. Seeing Ciampa’s reaction to each one of Dream’s kickouts was amazing. The same thing goes for Ciampa kicking out of shit like the DDT to the title belt.
What I probably loved most more than anything was that Ciampa didn’t win the match so much so as he escaped. He took advantage of Dream’s overzealous nature. Can you imagine if Dream hit an elbow with Ciampa’s upper body laying on the apron? Another clever finish. I don’t give out five stars to matches willy-nilly, but fuck it. I can’t think of a good reason to not give it to them. Full monty. *****
Ricochet, Pete Dunne and The War Raiders def. The Undisputed Era – War Games Match
There’s about 47 minutes worth of content to digest here, so let’s just get right down to it, and I suppose I’ll begin by stating my biggest issue with the match. It went on for too long. I understand the propensity for War Games to be this long, drawn out brawl, but long matches in a confined space can be a chore to get through.
The beginning of the match was well worked. You had the Undisputed Era getting the numbers advantage and cleverly locking in Dunne for an extended period of time. He got out anyway, but it’s the thought that counts. There was high paced action and there was high spots everywhere.
My biggest issue was with the middle portion, where I felt as though they were just doing things for the sake of doing things and burning time. Things such as Kyle O’Reilly and Dunne playing around with a chain to lock in submissions and the repeated chair shots felt tired after a while.