Though it seems to have come around rather quick, it’s go-home show time for NXT. Saturday’s TakeOver: Chicago show is an interesting card on paper. It feels a little more risky than its predecessors, with the single title matches potentially underwhelming by NXT standards. On the other hand, there’s multiple possible show-stealers featured too, which creates a pretty fascinating five match card. As our build-up finishes this week, Pete Dunne takes on Kyle O’Reilly and Aleister Black is at Full Sail LIVE pal. Let’s rock and roll as we complete the road to Chi-Town.
DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.
We get things started with yet another showcase match for the War Raiders as they take on Justin Storm and Ricky Martinez. Hanson immediately flattened Storm before stringing together some strikes along with Rowe, who then dragged Storm to his own corner, and demanded that Martinez tag himself in. Martinez obliged and hit Rowe in the face twice but as has now been established, Rowe’s head is immune to punishment and he responded by immediately dropping Martinez with a discus forearm.
Some more signature strikes followed on both men and Fallout then secured The Raiders another victory. Post-match, they grabbed a microphone and simply said, “they call themselves The Mighty, we’ll show you Mighty.” They then hit a pop-up powerslam that almost resulted in a death but nonetheless, this team continues to be awesome and a match with The Mighty could be genuinely excellent.
Backstage now as The Undisputed Era were being absolute lads when the camera walked up on them. Cole halted this and was very angry, explaining that they are only allowed to film when says so.
Following this, we got a recap of the TakeOver: New Orleans classic between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. This match will always be very special to me as fortunately, I was in attendance and for that reason, I have to concede that I’m somewhat unsure as to how they can possibly top that immense effort. Either way, this video was great and provided a neat recap of Gargano’s recent unraveling after Ciampa’s vengeful attack.
Up next is a match that was set up last week, as EC3 takes on Kassius Ohno. After frustrating Ohno with a pre-match shove, EC3 was in trouble early as the knockout artist that’s hard to hit chased him around the ring with big strikes. Before long though, EC3 got his knees up to block Ohno’s senton and then went to work in the corner. Now in control, EC3 grabbed a hold before Ohno fought to his feet and stunned him with a handful of crisp strikes.
After Ohno had made his comeback though, EC3 cut him off by using the top rope and then hit his finish for the win. Short match that told an effective story even if it wasn't allowed to become much more. Well-worked but not positioned to be what it probably could be in a different format.
From the start here, Ohno was portraying an angrier version of himself. The announcers explained this by pointing out his recent slump in form and Ohno carried it out perfectly, with immediate aggression both in-ring and out. In seconds, they established that Ohno was the better grappler and the better striker but his over-aggression led to mistakes that in the end, costed him. His eventual comeback was tremendous nonetheless, featuring a salvo of massive strikes and a trifecta of running sentons, the last of which came on the outside.
Ohno continues to be great but it remains unclear where he fits into such a stacked NXT. Thankfully, there was a story element to his loss here so I’d imagine he’s at least figured in.
The EST of NXT is back in center ring and she’s taking on everyone’s favorite perennial contender: ALIYAH. We got things started here with Bianca punching Aliyah in the face. This led to EST chants from Full Sail and Belair then run Aliyah over before spearing her in the corner. Hang on a second, what does ‘The EST of NXT’ actually mean? I usually know but Percy hasn't explained it to me this week. Very scary.
After being briefly caught in a guillotine, Bianca suplexed her way out and hit a splash to the back. She then did that awesome dead-lift pick up gimmick into the military press and from there, launched Aliyah into the corner with snake eyes. After that, Belair closed the show, grabbing a torture rack and hitting a facebuster for the win.
Seems that Bianca was a babyface here…in fact, she may have always been a babyface for all I know. I assumed that she was a heel but that may just be due to the fact that I’m an ignorant old man. She was definitely the babyface this week though, with Aliyah playing a bizarrely arrogant heel. Speaking of such, I can’t really grade her here as she had almost zero offense. Unsure as to where she goes from here, she’s not untalented, it’s just been a struggle for her to find a presentation that works.
Belair continues to come across like a star either way.
Staying in the women’s division, we next got a video package promoting Saturday’s title match between Baszler and Cross. These things are always well-produced and I enjoy the dynamic between these two but there’s obviously not a huge amount of depth to this particular story.
A Dakota Kai interview followed as she discussed her recent title match. She said that she’s proud of her effort opposite Baszler but before long, Bianca Belair interrupted and took over the interview. THANKFULLY, she explained what the ‘EST of NXT’ means and then said that Kai “ain’t gonna do nothing but cry and fail.” Yep, she’s a heel pal. Kai responded to this by challenging Belair to a match next week and Bianca accepted, cool.
WWE United Kingdom Championship
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Pete Dunne
Look guys, we know the deal here. These two are both very good at the professional wrestling so with that in mind, let’s grade this one….TAKEOVER/205 MAIN EVENT STYLE!!!! Hmmm, maybe I need to work on that branding a little. To the ring now and the crowd is fired up here as these two feel it out with strikes early. Some grappling exchanges then quickly commenced as they both attempted submissions before Dunne eventually focused on Kyle’s hand, finger and arm.
Dunne then switched it up, dropping O’Reilly with a big lariat and chasing him to the floor to land X-Plex on the apron. He then took things back into the ring to continue his grounded assault. O’Reilly soon cut Pete off though, kicking his injured leg out and focusing on it with an onslaught of big strikes before grabbing a kneebar…or Achilles hold (sorry Mauro). Kyle’s focus on the leg continued but Dunne fought free, kicking Kyle off before flurrying with some punches and making a comeback.
As he hit a sit-out powerbomb though, O’Reilly caught a triangle choke but Dunne escaped and again kicked out Kyle’s arm. O’Reilly fired back regardless, kicking Dunne and hitting a beautiful brainbuster for 2. The crowd was rocking and rolling at this point and Dunne was now fired up, almost nonchalantly responding to Kyle’s strikes before flooring him with a big forearm. As he looked for Bitter End though, O’Reilly snatched a guillotine choke. In response, Dunne followed in his hero Bianca Belair’s footsteps, suplexing free before transitioning into an armbar.
Kyle immediately countered though, turning it into an ankle lock and forcing Dunne to headbutt for some reprieve, leaving both men floored. A big strike exchange followed and once again, resulted in both men looking up at the lights. O’Reilly was up first this time and whilst Dunne clutched onto his hand, Kyle unleashed some vicious strikes but as he looked for the knockout blow, Dunne snapped his fingers and hit Bitter End for the win. Incredible match fought in a style I very much enjoy. This was intense, hard-hitting and logical. Brilliant stuff.
Post-match, The Undisputed Era hit the ring and put the boots to Dunne until Burch and Lorcan made the big save. Dunne and Cole then removed each other, leaving Saturday’s tag title match participants to brawl. Burch and Lorcan quickly cleared the ring and this TakeOver match is sure to be insane.
As promised, Aleister Black is here now and he’s got a microphone. He admitted that it rattled him when Lars caught Black Mass but nonetheless, he promised that TakeOver, Lars will fade to black. This brought out Lars and after a staredown, a brawl commenced. After stunning Sullivan with some of his trademark strikes, Black was dropped by a big lariat and then left laying by not one, not two but three Freak Accidents. The key here was that Black saw Lars coming and still found himself flat on his back.
Lars then carried Black up to the announce table, laid him on top of it and stood over him with the title in his hands. Feel like he could’ve just done that in the ring but whatever, I’m not here to question Lars’ decision making. That’s definitely not in my job description as a wrestling review man. In all seriousness though, whilst I’m excited for this match, the build-up has been pretty weak even if not totally ineffective.
I just don’t think they found a way to pair these two within a more complex narrative and due to that, we’ve got a simple build that just feels a little lacking for the title match. That being said, I hope that Lars shines in such a big spot at TakeOver.
The strongest portion of this show was unsurprisingly Dunne vs. O’Reilly but outside of that, we got some fun in-ring action elsewhere as well as a couple neat TakeOver video packages. War Raiders and Bianca looked tremendous in their squashes and EC3 and Ohno had a solid short match too but from a physical point of view, Dunne and O’Reilly was tremendous to such a degree that it made this whole show better. Go-home shows have been historically tough for NXT and from a build-up point of view, this was no different.
The level of intrigue for TakeOver matches is rarely heightened by the go-home show but the only difference here was that this particular episode featured a Dunne/O’Reilly match. Overall, an enjoyable hour of NXT that featured an extraordinary UK Title match. That’s the easiest way to sum it up.