SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
RIDGE HOLLAND vs. TREY BAXTER – PRESHOW
All of the feuds lined up for the beast, Ridge Holland and this is the match we got? No Ciampa or Thatcher? What gives? A squash match for Holland belongs on NXT TV, not on a pre-show meant to sell more Peacock subscriptions and get people to watch Takeover proper. Baxter looked good in the short, sub-2:00 match, making Holland look like a monster. I look forward to Holland’s trajectory, but I was hoping for a bit more out of this pre-show match.
LA KNIGHT vs. CAMERON GRIMES – MILLION DOLLAR CHAMPIONSHIP
This feud has been going for months now with this being Cameron Grimes’ time to shine. Grimes has gotten the dirt end of the stick throughout the feud, losing most of his matches as well as his pride when he needed to become Knight’s butler. With Ted DiBiase in his corner, it still took a little bit of work but he was able to overcome Knight and capture the Million Dollar Title. Great storytelling in this match, showcasing the heart of Grimes and a Never Give Up (Trademark: John Cena) attitude. False finishes galore, a bit of hard-way blood on Grimes and great chemistry between the two men made for a great opening match to set the tone of the rest of the show.
DAKOTA KAI vs. RAQUEL GONZALEZ – NXT WOMENS CHAMPIONSHIP
Friends turned foes, Gonzalez & Kai have had quite the history over the last year. Dusty Cup winners, NXT Women’s Tag Champions, and now they stood opposite one another. Kai’s betrayal may have not come as a surprise for me, but I jumped out of my seat when it happened. Going into the match, I wasn’t quite sure who would go over. I could make the case for keeping Gonzalez strong as well as a case for finally pulling the trigger on Dakota Kai.
Kai worked the arm of Gonzalez early on, taking some of the power and strength away from the champ. Kai looked like she may be able to dethrone her former partner. She looked like the ring veteran as well with Gonzalez still showing that she’s a work in progress. Gonzalez has come a long way from where she was a year ago, but not quite there yet.
Gonzalez put Kai away after a middle rope one armed powerbomb retaining her title after a heated contest. While I would have liked to see the belt around Kai, Gonzalez has been booked to be dominant despite her shortcomings. Keeping her dominant over her former partner does make sense. While the outcome I wanted may not have happened, this was still a fantastic match for both women.
WALTER vs. ILJA DRAGUNOV – NXT UK CHAMPIONSHIP
This wasn’t a wrestling match, this was a masterpiece.
Walter, entering the match as the reigning, 870-day NXT UK Champion against the one person to pin Walter in his WWE tenure, Ilja Dragunov. Their match 10 months ago on NXT UK TV for the championship was an absolute classic, one of my favorites in recent memory.
Dragunov is at least 100lbs lighter and roughly a foot shorter than Walter, making him an extreme underdog against the big man. As we saw 10 months ago, however, Dragunov doesn’t know the meaning of quit. Fueled by the NXT UK Championship, Dragunov showed that same resiliency tonight, kicking out of umteen pin attempts by the champion, even a big splash from the top rope couldn’t kill the dreams of Dragunov.
An absolute brutal match, both men laid in their offense very stiff. You could see welts forming all over their chests and back as the match went on. Dragunov pulled out all the stops, including a Torpedo Moscow a flurry of top rope dives and a massive superplex to Walter, yet Walter could not be kept down either. Not until Dragunov locked in a sleeper hold on Walter. One that he would not let go of. And when it was broken, he went back and locked it in again. This time, causing Walter to tap ending the historic 870-day reign of the big man from Imperium.
Verdict: Beyond HIT.
KYLE O’REILLY vs. ADAM COLE – 2/3 FALLS
The blood feud between Cole and O’Reilly culminated at Takeover 36 in a 2/3 falls match. The first fall, a straight up singles match. The second, a street fight. The third, a steel cage.
The first fall came rather quickly after KOR out wrestled Adam Cole and pinned him in a relatively lackluster spot where he reversed the Panama Sunrise. The silence in the CWC when KOR won was deafening, nobody was expecting a pinfall in that moment. Surprise is great in pro-wrestling, but this wasn’t a great surprise. I expected KOR to get the first pin fall after telling Cole he’d out wrestle him. But the way he won was so unexpected that it left everyone wondering “Wait. Was that supposed to happen?”
It took a little momentum away from the match for me, but they didn’t miss a beat entering the street fight. Kendo sticks, trash cans, folding chairs, oh my. KOR was dumped out of the ring shortly after the street fight began, injuring his ribs when he hit the floor. Cole capitalized on this, repeatedly attacking KOR’s midsection. KOR sold this incredibly well, unable to even throw a punch or hit the ropes without collapsing in pain. Adam Cole was able to secure the 2nd pinfall after hitting throwing KOR off of the top rope and on to two folding chairs, spine first. And not the seats, no no. The hard, tops of the chairs.
As the Cage was being assembled, the announce team was questioning if the match would continue. KOR was being attended to by officials. Before the cage could be lowered, Cole attacked KOR and powerbombed him on the announce table. Officials were tending to KOR once again when Cole grabbed KOR and tossed him back into the ring, getting the 3rd fall underway. What a beautiful way to build heat on Cole and garner sympathy for Cool Guy Kyle.
KOR managed to rally and fight back once the cage was properly lowered, but was no match for the wit of Adam Cole who handcuffed KOR to the ropes. It looked like Cole may just escape, but his ego got the best of him. He superkicked KOR and KOR caught the kick, locked in a submission and scored the final victory.
Adam Cole is most likely main roster bound, so doing the favors to the man who will be staying in the brand makes sense. However, everyone wanted to see Cole get the win. Myself included. Cole is so much more charismatic than KOR, just on a higher level altogether. No disrespect to Kyle, as he’s a great performer in and of himself. Chants of “Bullshit!” and a chorus of boo’s for the babyface victory was certainly not the outcome the performers nor Triple H were looking for. Outcome aside, they entertained the hell out of me throughout the entire match and, again as long as Cole is on his way out of NXT either to the Main Roster or outside of the WWE, putting KOR over made sense. Even if I don’t necessarily like it.
SAMOA JOE vs. KARRION KROSS – NXT CHAMPIONSHIP
I was lucky enough to be there for Joe’s first NXT title win at a house show in Lowell MA. A match that I absolutely expected Finn Balor to win and retain his title. The shock in that building when the ref hit the three count was unbelievable. We all were expecting someone to reverse the decision, but nope. The show ended.
After Joe’s call up to the main roster, I never expected to witness another Samoa Joe NXT match, let alone a championship match. Let alone get to cover and talk about it.
Last week, I was a bit worried when Joe seemed a bit gassed just walking to the ring. He did seem a little gassed throughout the match, but it didn’t affect his performance from what I could tell. He was able to give Karrion Kross one of his better matches in NXT.
With Kross going to the main roster, I had a feeling we were going to see Joe crowned the first ever three time NXT Champion. Crazy considering just a few months ago, he was future endeavored before Papa H stepped in and brought him back. And to win with the Muscle Buster, a move we’ve rarely seen since the unfortunate injury to Tyson Kidd, was a wonderful touch.