NXT returned with the 25th installment of their TakeOver series, aptly named TakeOver: XXV, which emanated from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. You can find the results of the show at the live blog here.
Twenty five TakeOvers.
They’ve come a long way since running that first TakeOver on a Wednesday night at Full Sail. Since then, the brand and fanbase has grown considerably.
I had wondered what kind of crowd they’d pull in without the luxury of running their show on the same weekend main roster WWE was running a big one. Would they be able to bring in the typical hot crowd? Do they have enough fans all over to run it in city not known as a “wrestling town”?
They did. And that must feel great for them.
Like all the TakeOvers now, the crowd was hot throughout the show. They were into everything and never cooled down. It was the same energy we’d see at a TakeOver attached to a Big Four WWE show.
The show itself delivered. It wasn’t perfect. There was a dud in there and another match that had an odd finish. But even then, it was still damned entertaining. That’s what we’ve come to expect from TakeOver. Even if it’s not perfect, we’re going to be entertained.
That’s some legacy to have after 25 installments. To be so good at what you do that fans aren’t going to regret tuning in. And that’s difficult to do with an ever changing roster is even more impressive.
Here’s to another 25.
Now let’s take a closer look at the card.
Adam Cole def. Johnny Gargano to win the NXT championship
These men can sure pro wrestle.
Going about 40 minutes, they put on a match that was part indie move fest and part limb psychology and did it in a way that meshed them perfectly. Yes, there were superkicks galore (one could call it a superkick celebration if you will), but throughout all the crazy feats, Johnny Gargano sold his knee while Adam Cole sold his arm.
And while some moves, like the superkick and DDTs, were used often, there were others that were built to. The biggest example of that was Panama Sunrise. Cole tried over and over to successfully deliver it but, as the match rolled on, he only hit it on the floor, not giving him the opportunity to immediate capitalize. When he finally was able to connect with Panama Sunrise in the ring, it set up the Last Shot for the win (As we learned in New York, he couldn’t win with the Last Shot alone).
They bucked expectations when it came to the use of the rest of the Undisputed ERA, who did not involve themselves in this match. Instead, Cole pretended he was calling them to come help, but that was only to distract the champ and take the upper hand.
That was surprising to see, which may have made it better than going the predictable route of using Undisputed interference to pick up the win.
It’ll be interesting to see how they use this going forward. Just a month ago, it looked like the Undisputed ERA were going to break up. But despite Cole being the only member that won this night, they seemed united in the ring afterwards. Will he use the fact that he was the sole winner, and did it alone, to try to control the ERA more? Or are they completely back on the same page now?
As for Johnny, he is now the only one and done champion in NXT (Sami Zayn and Drew McIntyre both lost at the TakeOver following their win but successfully defended it on TV prior). This has got to be it for him, right? Sure they can tell a story using him, but what would that be? While I’d hate to see him get moved up to the main roster because I don’t love his chances up there, I don’t know what’s left for him on the black and yellow.
Velveteen Dream def. Tyler Breeze to retain the North American championship
The story set up coming into this bout was that Tyler needed to prove to himself that he still has it while Dream believed he’s lightyears ahead of Breeze. Did NXT outgrow Prince Pretty or does he still have a place here?
That tale was continued in the match. Tyler was on the defensive more than the offensive and Dream was his normal cocky self. Both of those things keep telling the story. When Velveteen kept bashing Tyler’s head into the announce desk and then took a selfie with the hurting challenger, that summed it all up perfectly. The new blood was legit beating the hell out of the old guard and then mocking him for it.
The end of the match meant to show a frustrated Tyler who needed to win the title get distracted due to those emotions, which allowed Dream to take advantage and win. Unfortunately, how they got there made Tyler look a bit too dumb for it to work like they wanted.
Tyler Breeze hit the Beauty Shot spinning kick but Dream rolled out of the ring. Worried he wasn’t going to get Dream back into the ring to get that pin or submission to claim the gold, he slid into the ring and pleaded with the referee not to keep counting. This was instead of rolling into the ring and just rolling right out to break the count like has been done countless times.
You can make the argument that he wasn’t thinking because he was so obsessed in winning, but it’s such a simple thing that forgetting it makes him look worse. It’s something the announcers needed us to give us an explanation for since it was the crux of the finish.
It certainly didn’t ruin the match. It just sticks out because it’s the end. The match itself was great and reminded us that this Tyler Breeze fella sure can wrestle.
It’ll be very interesting to see what they do with Breeze now that he’s taken a clean loss after trying to prove himself. Heel turn? Or a journey to finally prove he’s still got it? NXT is good at storytelling so I look forward to finding out.
Shayna Baszler (c) def. Io Shirai to retain the Women’s title
This followed the above theme of questionable booking at the end, but to a much stronger degree.
The match itself was fine, the standard match we’re used to with Baszler consisting of working the arm and Horsewomen interference. After Candice LeRae kept her promise to Io and took care of Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir with a kendo stick when they attempted to get involved, the match refocused into the ring.
That’s when Io tried a bridging cover that straight up choreographed the Kirifuda Clutch that ended up beating her. It wasn’t a clever transition. It was so blatant it elicited a “What were you thinking??” response. I know this is scripted fighting, but even trying that move made her look like she didn’t scout at all.
After the match, Io unloaded on Shayna with a kendo stick and then a moonsault with a chair. Mauro tried to sell it as Io finally losing it and giving Baszler what she deserved. But I’m more Team Nigel that it played more like Shirai was a sore loser.
If Shayna cheated to win, this would have felt totally warranted. But the champ retained clean in the middle of the ring after hooking a submission that Io set up for her.
This is likely going to lead to some no holds barred match or maybe a triple threat with Candice, but the babyface sure didn’t come out of this looking any better than she did coming in. In fact, she looks worse.
The Street Profits win the fatal 4-way ladder match to win the tag team championships
You probably could have predicted that this was going to be a wild ride with crazy spots and brutal efforts. And you’d have been right.
This match had its share of gif-able moments. Kyle O’Reilly in particularly died for our entertainment and then kept going. His back is evidence of what these athletes do for us.
But I may have been more impressed with the fact a match that could easily be an enjoyable clustermuck ended up being a smart match in the process.
They used Jaxson Ryker perfectly. He inserted himself when it looked like O’Reilly was going to win the belts. And despite Kyle and the ERA technically being heels, TakeOver crowds love them and after the punishment he took, no crowd was going to boo him. Using Ryker to spoil Kool Kyle’s moment got the desired reaction.
After Ryker laid out everyone, all the teams (outside the Sons of course) worked together to lay him out. It was smart booking. Of course these men wanted to get this behemoth out of the match. He beat the hell out of everyone, but that was after they had all been through hell in this match. It makes them look smart and Ryker look like a beast. Mission accomplished.
The Profits won in a way that showcased who they are. The bigger man Angelo Dawkins speared Steve Cutler while Montez Ford did what he does best. He springboarded from the ropes to almost the top of the ladder and knocked down Wesley Blake to grab the titles.
Just a fantastic match.
Matt Riddle def. Roderick Strong
NXT eschewed their normal tag team opening match for the first time in a long time. But they couldn’t open with a ladder match. It would be way too hard for the other four matches to follow. So it was up to these two very good professional wrestlers to tell the locker room “Follow that!”
And they did.
They took their time starting off, focusing on the Bro’s back as the story of the match. Then when it hit that fever pitch, it was incredible. Roddy may not be a guy who has the charisma to go it alone, but he can damn sure wrestle with the best of them. Meanwhile, Bro can wrestle and is brimming with charisma. He’s a guy who I’ll watch fight anyone because I know it’ll be entertaining.
It was a strong bout and a good opener to set the stage.
TakeOver started out super hot with their first two matches. Dream vs. Breeze was very good, though the way the went about the ending detracted some. The Women’s title match was unfortunately the dud of the card, though still had its moments. They brought it home with a great main event and the big title change.
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