NXT returns with their first TakeOver since last February tomorrow (June 7) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. We’ve already made our predictions for the event, which you can check out here.
We’ll break down the match and also ask what’s really at stake for each one (going beyond just the gold on the line), but first, we’ll look at how the first pandemic TakeOver will appear.
The Fanless TakeOver
For the first time, TakeOver will not be in front of their rabid group of fans. Their last show was in Portland in February and TakeOver: Tampa was scrapped for occasional matches on NXT TV.
Yes, there will be people in the crowd. NXT has followed the lead of Raw and SmackDown and has used Performance Center talent to fill in for the fans. But they’re not the same as fans. This is not to say that pro wrestlers aren’t fans, but they can’t replicate a real crowd.
These are talents who hope to make it in the wrestling business some day. They’re likely looking at this as much as an audition as they are trying to emulate a crowd. They’re standing on their feet the entire time and rumor has it there are sometimes directions from an intercom. They are going to do what they’re told because it’s their job to be there. They’ll try their hardest. They probably love the product. But this will not even be close to a TakeOver in front of their normal crowd.
The usual TakeOver audience wants to be there. They pay to be there because they love the product. And they don’t have to worry about their standing in the company so they’re going to passionately cheer what they like, boo what they hate, and not make noise for things they just don’t care about. They’re going to be more honest than the group of PC wrestlers who are thinking “How do we emulate a crowd?” and they’re going to reach a higher level of excitement.
It’s that reaction that makes TakeOver a special show, and that will not be there tomorrow night.
It won’t change the work in the ring. We’ll surely get the same style of match that we normally would. But while performers will give it their all, they’re not going to have real energy to feed off to take it to that next level.
That’s why they opted to hold the NXT title match elsewhere. May as well try to do something different when the crowd won’t be there to prop it up.
Will this show be enjoyable? Surely. It’s a TakeOver, and they rarely fail to deliver. But it will feel different. Because the fans in the crowd are the lifeblood of these shows and that crowd will not be there. So while it will still likely be fun, it’ll also be different.
OK, now onto the card:
Adam Cole (c) vs. Velveteen Dream for the NXT championship
This match was supposed to main event TakeOver: Tampa. Prior to the Pandemic Era of wrestling, Velveteen Dream returned from a long injury to target Adam Cole and the Undisputed ERA who put him on the shelf for months. It was a fun angle and very well could have been leading to Cole finally losing the title.
However, the pandemic happened and TakeOver: Tampa didn’t. The time it took to finally come around to this match took all the steam out of the program. Allegations against Velveteen Dream serious enough that he took to Twitter to deny them also hung over their eventual bout. (There’s been no more news on this and WWE is going forward with this match so they must have felt there wasn’t enough to derail their plans with him.)
Their title match ended with a referee bump, some Undisputed cheating, and an Adam Cole win. Weeks later, Velveteen returned to assist Dexter Lumis, who has been obsessing over the Undisputed ERA, in fending off an ERA beatdown.
That leads us to tomorrow, one final chance. If Velveteen loses, he can never again challenge Adam Cole for that title. This match will be out of the Performance Center in a place that William Regal promises will properly give the spot light to both men - a Backlot Brawl.
What’s at stake?
Velveteen Dream’s NXT career
This is not Velveteen Dream’s first NXT title shot. He failed over a year ago against Tommaso Ciampa. Losing a second feud, and losing both title matches to Adam Cole, would be very difficult to recover from. It would either mean moving on to another show or giving the character a rework to address his failures.
Obviously a win would put him on the top of the mountain and Adam Cole would be the one who needs to find out what’s next, but Cole is in a great position no matter what. A loss isn’t going to hurt him. But it would hurt Dream.
Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s championship
Charlotte Flair won the Royal Rumble and challenged Rhea Ripley for the NXT Women’s championship at WrestleMania. And she beat her.
Ripley had successfully defended her title against Bianca Belair, but that was her first real big challenge. And she failed.
After that, Ripley went away for awhile to regroup after the biggest setback of her young career. While she was gone, Charlotte took her place as the very top of the women’s division. During that time, Io Shirai won a ladder match to become the #1 contender.
Shirai got her title match, but proved to be a bit too much for Charlotte, who got herself disqualified by using a kendo stick. The Queen tried to attack her challenger further, but Rhea Ripley returned to help fend off Charlotte.
Shirai didn’t want the aid and these two ended up fighting, but Charlotte interfered in their match and set up this triple threat.
What’s at stake?
The structure of the women’s division
As long as Charlotte is on top of the division, she will always be clearly above everyone else. That’s usually the case with the champion compared to the rest of the division, but with Charlotte, that gap seems a bit larger because she’s Charlotte Flair.
If she wins, it will always feel that way. Don’t get me wrong, this feud has made Io Shirai feel closer to her level than she had before. But the more she wins, the more it will feel like there’s Charlotte, and then there’s everyone else.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Karrion Kross
While Tommaso Ciampa was feuding with long time friend & foe Johnny Gargano, Karrion Kross was watching and waiting. He and Scarlett were even outside in the car during Ciampa & Gargano’s final match, just monitoring the situation.
A week after Ciampa lost to Gargano, Kross finally attacked.
As part of the stipulation to their match, Ciampa had to admit that Johnny Gargano was the better man, so he found a dark, lonely room, and set up his phone. There he admitted that Gargano was the better man that night, and he was ready to move on.
That’s when Kross struck, suplexing the man out of his boots.
After this, Kross finally debuted with a baller entrance and eventually the two came face to face, with Ciampa showing no fear of the intimidating Karrion. Now it will be the former psychopath against the current one.
What’s at stake?
Since coming back as a babyface, turning aside from his dark ways, Tommaso Ciampa has been a loser.
He lost to Adam Cole, failing to win back Goldie. He lost to the newly villainous Johnny Gargano. Now he’s probably going to lose to the newest big bad killer on the scene. Eventually, he’s going to start to think about how he was winning when he was terrible and he’s losing when he’s good. Will his confidence in himself start to crack?
Keith Lee (c) vs. Johnny Gargano
When Candice LeRae aided Gargano against Tommaso Ciampa in their final match, it cemented her own heel turn. Mr. and Mrs. Gargano started airing these dinnertime promos where they put themselves over and ran down others.
Two people that were run down were Mia Yim and Keith Lee.
That obviously caught the ire of those two, and their back and forth eventually led us to this title match tomorrow. Johnny will try to regain the midcard title he held the last time he was kind of a heel.
What’s at stake?
Keith Lee’s placement
As long as Keith Lee holds the secondary title of NXT, he’s a bit stuck in the upper midcard. Sure he can challenge for the NXT title while holding the North American championship, but he probably won’t.
If he loses tonight, he’ll be free to advance. In fact, he would probably do better for himself if he lost tonight, freeing himself to challenge for NXT’s top title or even move to Raw or SmackDown. Meanwhile, that would give newly minted heel Johnny Gargano a prize to lord over others.
Finn Bálor vs. Damian Priest
Many weeks back, Finn Bálor was set to face Velveteen Dream in a highly anticipated match. Unfortunately, the Prince was attacked backstage early in the day and he left the building.
Weeks later, it was revealed that it was the Archer of Infamy Damian Priest who attacked Finn. Priest attacked Bálor again while letting him know this.
Why did he attack him? Simple. To make a name for himself. And he’s going to try to do that in the biggest way tomorrow by beating one of NXT’s greatest champions.
What’s at stake?
Damian Priest’s standing
I’ve been pretty vocal about being disappointed in the reveal that Priest attacked Bálor. I know he has his fans, and he’s by no means bad, but he’s never clicked with me. It still feels like he’s missing that certain something to really take off.
Unfortunately, they didn’t give him many opportunities after attacking Finn to showcase that something so that will need to be done here. Whether he wins or loses, he needs to show that he’s deserving of this match and this feud. He needs more people to be interested in Damian Priest coming out of the match than there were coming in.
Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, & Shotzi Blackheart vs. Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, & Raquel González
This match represents the messy (in a good way) situation in the women’s division.
Mia Yim obvious has her issues with Candice LeRae stemming off the trash that was talked during the Gargano dinner party. Candice has issues with Tegan Nox’s involvement in Keith Lee and Mia’s owner dinner party video mocking Johnny and Candice. So Candice confronted Tegan while Nox was ringside in support of Shotzi Blackheart who was facing Nox’s arch nemesis Dakota Kai. Kai picked up the win due to that distraction from LeRae. Meanwhile, Kai and Blackheart already had issues given Dakota picked up a dirty win over Shotzi in a gauntlet match.
As you can see, there’s a lot of intertwined issues with all these women. So they start dealing with it in this tag match.
What’s at stake?
The strength of the heels
If you ask me, the villains here have more to lose. Candice recently turned heel and a loss too soon can undercut that. Dakota and Raquel are a unit and should be able to function together better than three women who aren’t a unit.
That being said, given it’s a 6-woman match, it doesn’t matter who beats whom too much as it’s likely going to break off into singles matches in the future.
TakeOver: In Your House airs tomorrow night at 7 PM ET on the WWE Network. What will you be looking for when TakeOver rolls your way?