Liam Hoofe reviews NXT Takeover: Chicago…
Shocking heel turns, titles changing hands, and a match of the year candidate – NXT Takeover: Chicago really delivered last night. From top to bottom, the card featured some awesome matches, and was further proof that right now, NXT is delivering a much better in-ring product than the WWE main roster.
Taking place one night before Backlash, the show – which didn’t even feature several of the brand’s marquee names – was one of the best events of the year so far, delivering consistent match-ups and incredible story-telling.
Here is my match by match review of NXT Takeover: Chicago
Roderick Strong Defeated Eric Young
A great way to open the show, Strong and Young put on a stiff and hard-hitting match-up that got the crowd primed for what was to come later in the night.
Strong’s rise in popularity in NXT has been great to watch over the last few months, and the focus on his life outside the ring has allowed the fans to connect with him in a more personal way. It’s been an organic growth that will likely culminate in a main event push on the brand.
Likewise, Sanity has become one of my favourite gimmicks on the roster, and could easily make an impact when they get called up to the WWE, providing they aren’t given The Wyatt family treatment.
The action was fast-paced from the off, with Strong going straight for Young before the opening bell. The first five minutes or so saw him carry that momentum and beat off threats from the group until Dain literally ran him over outside the ring. The former WCPW champion can really move for a big guy.
Young continued to dominate for long portions after that before a Roderick comeback saw him pick up the win.
Strong will certainly be in contention for a title match in the coming months, though he will have strong competition from McIntyre and Black, who were notable in their absence from the card.
Match Rating: ***
Pete Dunne defeated Tyler Bate
Wow. What a match this was. Performing in front of what is likely one of the biggest crowds of their careers Dunne and Bate, at the ages of 23 and 20 respectively, showed the world what an incredible pair of talents they really are.
The match, like most, started fairly methodical but it didn’t take long for the two to up it a gear. Dunne really got things going when he hit a release suplex onto the ring apron and what followed this was 20 minutes of what can only be described as a wrestling masterclass.
The in-ring work from both men was nothing short of exceptional, and the near falls all worked as believable finishes that drew the crowd in and encouraged chants of ‘fight forever’ throughout the encounter.
Both men, at such a young age, have an exceptional knack for in-ring psychology and character work – Dunne, especially is a future star and is easily one of the best heels working in the WWE today. The display of reversals on show was also breathtaking – Dunne catching Bate in a triangle choke hold from a running shooting star press was just incredible, such fluidity, while the big spots of the match – like Bate’s moonsault on the outside – were perfectly executed.
The two also deserve credit for telling a great story here; sure the match featured some great spots, but it wasn’t just a spot fest, like some highly praised matches – it told a story and was a great piece of wrestling.
The finish to the match saw Dunne take home the clean victory after hitting the Bitter End, which also added to the match. A cheap finish here would have only damaged what was an incredible product. Good luck topping this match this weekend guys, in fact, good luck topping it this year.
Rating: **** 1/2
Asuka Defeated Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross
Following on from a match of the year contender is never an easy task, but credit where it is due – the three women involved here delivered a solid match-up that, despite having a predictable outcome and having a distinct lack of Ember Moon was still an enjoyable triple threat.
A big plus from this match up was that all three women got time to shine and that Asuka wasn’t the main focus of the match. Her reign of dominance has been a joy to watch, and one of the reasons it is working so well is because other stars are allowed to be competitive against her.
Asuka picked up the win by pinning both women, which sounds almost contradictory to what I just said, but it was a well-executed finish to a solid match-up.
Match Rating: ***
Bobby Roode Defeated Hideo Itami
Hideo Itami’s time in WWE has been unfortunate, to say the least. Ever since arriving in 2014 Itami has suffered setback after setback due to injury, watching all of his co-workers rise up the card and then find a place on the main roster. Last night was his big chance to show what he can do and for the most part, he delivered.
Before we talk about the match, though, let’s talk about what a talent Bobby Roode is. The former TNA man is, for my money, the best champion in WWE today. Everything about him reeks of confidence and he has got his persona down to a tee, coming across as some sort of Triple H/Ric Flair hybrid. Plus, he has the best entrance in the company right now.
Like most Roode matches, the whole thing started off quite grounded, before Itami got in some harder hitting spots. The psychology of the match was key here – Itami sold his knee injury really well, while Roode was sporting a shoulder knock, preventing both of them from hitting certain moves at different times in the encounter.
The Chicago crowd were obviously psyched to see Itami hit the GTS, and Roode rolling out of the ring after he hit it was a great bit of storytelling- it reminded me of Triple H in the mid-2000’s, outsmarting his opponents at every turn- great character work.
The finish came when Roode hit two consecutive Glorious DDT’s, the second of which looked absolutely brutal. Good stuff all around.
Match Rating: *** 1/2
The Authors of Pain Defeated DIY
Putting the tag team title match as the main event was certainly a bold move on the part of the WWE, but it paid off in abundance as the four men put on an exceptional match and closed the show with a massive twist.
The Authors of Pain have come a long way since they debuted last June. I was very cautious about them when they first arrived, but wow have they proved me wrong. They have quickly grown into one of the best tag teams in NXT right now, if not, of all time.
The match itself had everything you’d expect from it and was chocked full of awesome spots. DIY hitting the big splashes through the ladders was a particular stand out.
DIY’s underdog story has been one of the best things about NXT. Their heart and partnership have been nothing but believable – one moment in the match where Gargano saved Ciampi from a ladder shot to the head by sacrificing himself was the perfect example of this.
That is why the show’s closing moments were so brilliant. Not only did they wait until the last minute to execute Ciampi’s heel turn, lulling the crowd into a false sense of security, but fans have been so invested in the partnership that seeing Ciampi destroy Gargano as the show went off the air was heartbreaking to watch.
Match Rating: **** 1/4
What did you think of NXT Takeover: Chicago? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter here- @liamhoofe