In my 13 months covering NXT, I’ve overcome many challenges. However, there’s one challenge that just refuses to go away. Yep, you guessed it: the post-TakeOver episode. In the past, I’ve turned to tiramisu talk, Wesley Blake love letters and most recently, I even timed a flight to avoid the whole thing. Nonetheless, I’m keen to approach this week’s edition with some enthusiasm. I’m very excited for poorly edited voiceover commentary and I’m even more pumped for lengthy recap videos of matches that I watched just days ago. Hopefully along the way I’ll even see some good wrestling. Fair to say that I am fired up friends!
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 start tonight’s show with a whole TakeOver recap before we get to see individual match recaps later. Great. On a more serious note, I was delighted to see a Big Van Vader tribute at the start of this episode. RIP champ.
Our in-ring action here begins with Dakota Kai who’s taking on Bianca Belair. This was set up last week and Kai fittingly fired up immediately, landing a dropkick and attempting a quick roll-up. Another kick maintained her momentum too but Belair soon turned things around and took control. Kai sold marvelously here as Bianca simply dominated with sheer physicality. As Belair looked to add insult to injury though, Kai made an escape and went for another roll-up before blocking Bianca’s big splash and landed a neat enzuiguri.
A massive onslaught of kicks came next as Kai made her comeback, flooring Belair for a false finish. Kai then headed up top but Bianca evaded. In response, Kai dodged the big hair whip but Belair nailed her in the face with a forearm and then hit her finish for the win. This was a fun match and for Kai specifically, another reiteration of what we already knew: she’s very good at being a babyface. One thing I would say though is that I was surprised that this Chicago crowd wasn't more into her. I’m sure that’ll come eventually, or I hope it does at least.
On the other hand, Chicago reacted to Bianca like she’s an absolute star. I understand why too, she stands out a mile both in-ring and out. She’s unmistakable in a way pretty rarely seen on NXT. Considering the very brief build to this match, I loved Belair’s attitude early too, just bullying Kai with pie-faces and all sorts. I loved the cut-off spot too, with Belair launching Dakota over her head and directly into the turnbuckle. That was simply perfect for her style, super explosive even though it was just the prelude to her heat segment.
On that topic, Bianca went straight to work, hitting a delayed slingshot suplex and a big splash to Kai’s back. An abdominal stretch came next and just as Dakota began to fight free, Belair floored her with an awesome backbreaker. She then went back to the delayed slingshot suplex, but this time bounced Kai off three of the top ropes before Dakota rolled out for a quick pin attempt. Kai’s comeback came next but before long Bianca closed the show to massive ‘oohs and ahhs.’
This crowd just loved Bianca, with big ‘EST’ chants that surprised me considering her opponent. I hope that Chicago knows what the ‘EST of NXT’ means by the way, if not Percy will happily explain it to them.
Following this, we got a recap of every TakeOver match with WWE.com interviews mixed in-between. All of these were short but if it makes you any happier, the recaps certainly were not short. Nope, definitely not short…not even close.
On the bright side, we did get an EC3 promo to cheer me up. He was at the Performance Centre and promised that he’d be on every TakeOver from this point forward. In fact, he’s headed to Regal right now in his quest for top competition.
A couple of weeks ago, the recently renamed The Mighty called out The War Raiders and they’ll now pay the price. After being jumped before the match had even begun, Rowe demanded that the referee “ring the bell,” and immediately floored Thorne with a big kick before launching Miller via suplex. Some tandem offense followed and the Raiders looked set to hit their finish when Miller cut Hanson off on the top rope.
Rowe was worked over for a brief portion from there and unsurprisingly maximized The Mighty’s offense nicely along the way. Eventually, Rowe evaded Thorne in the corner and brought in Hanson who run wild with some big power moves. The pop-up powerslam came next but Miller broke the fall. In response, he was quickly thrown to the floor and wiped out by a massive Hanson dive. Fallout followed and as you’d expect, War Raiders were the victors. Very enjoyable match that frankly, could’ve been quite sublime with some more time. The Raiders are magnificent in-ring.
As should always be the case when someone turns heel, The Mighty have changed their look up here and were rocking big leather jackets as well as some fancy long tights. This team has made a real effort to truly establish their heel personalities and that was no different here, with a pre-match attack that worked well with their prior verbal call-out. A consistent highlight of their heel work has been Thorne’s huge lariat/forearm thingy to the back of people’s heads. It’s just delightful and worked magnificently as the cut-off here.
I also enjoyed that Thorne once again looked for a roll-up with his feet on the ropes. As dumb as it may make me sound, I legitimately bit on that finish as it’s almost become their signature move as of late. Thorne’s frustrated knee to the brain ruled too. That’s not to take away from Nick Miller though of course, he may not be quite as captivating but his work here was refreshing, roughing Rowe up with some super aggressive ground and pound.
NXT’s tag team division is slightly lacking in depth on the heel side but The Mighty certainly help out in that sense.
I’m a revered rasslin report card critic so for that reason, I refuse to grade this show on a curve. Yes I knew what I was getting myself into but nonetheless, this was a 45 minute episode that featured about 15 minutes of fresh content. Luckily for the booking office though, I thoroughly enjoyed that 15 minutes and for that reason, I’ll let things slide on this occasion. Honestly, Helmsley and co should be thankful for that too, as whilst they are in the UK they are simply visitors in my yard. I’m Britain’s big dog and don’t you forget it.