NXT returned with their latest TakeOver installment last night (June 7) with TakeOver: In Your House. You can find all the results at the live blog here.
A true TakeOver main event
You can’t technically steal the show from the main event. If you’re given that main event spot on the card, you’re expected to be the best. But the Women’s championship triple threat that main evented TakeOver: In Your House probably saved the show, not from being bad but from not feeling like a TakeOver.
The In Your House retro aspect helped with that some. It was different than what we see on TV every week and they played into it with Pettengill bits and an ICOPro advertisement that was quite amusing. But holding the show in the same building they hold all the TV, and using the same audience made this feel more like a themed Wednesday night than a TakeOver.
The matches would need to step up to a TakeOver quality and almost force the artificial crowd to feel like a real crowd. And while most of the matches were good (the worst not being filmed in front of this crowd), none of them went to that level that had me feeling, “Yeah, this is a TakeOver.” (Johnny Gargano vs. Keith Lee being the closest up to the main event.)
But the women in this title match brought it all and put on a fantastic match that made you feel like you were watching NXT’s staple event.
All three women brought their A game. The chemistry that Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley demonstrated at WrestleMania was not thrown off by the addition of Io Shirai. Instead. it was enhanced with one of the best workers out there.
It felt like the crowd was actually into this and not trying their best to sound like they were. They cheered for Io in a way that really made her feel like a fan favorite. I imagine a real crowd in Full Sail or any venue would have done the same thing. The performers gave the working audience a match they could get excited about it and because they were able to get excited about it, it felt bigger.
Io’s win really played as a “You Deserve It” moment. She really is one of the best wrestlers out there today and ever since her heel turn, it seems like NXT believed that too. Shirai has been extremely protected, I don’t believe ever being pinned or submitted as her current character. They finally paid that off here.
If you watch one match on this card, it’s definitely this one. It was a fantastic match where the right woman won. And it very likely saved this show from feeling less than a TakeOver.
Adam Cole defeated Velveteen Dream in the backlot brawl.
The atmosphere of this match was fun. In fact, it was probably the biggest plus of the match. The cars surrounding the outdoor ring shining their headlights into the ring gave the competitors a playground to fight on. It also gave us a pretty sweet Negan cosplay from Dream. And it allowed the inevitable Dexter Lumis moment to involve him closing Bobby Fish and Roddy Strong in the trunk of a car.
But my opinion of all this is also rooted in the fact that I wasn’t interested in seeing this match in the first place. This match has lost all of its steam even before they eventually had their actual in-ring match, and definitely didn’t have any after Dream lost that bout. So this gave the rematch a different feel and different atmosphere that I could enjoy while not really caring about the feud itself.
They also learned from their last cinematic by keeping the announcers. The Tommaso Ciampa/Johnny Gargano match didn’t have them and it lost something. But at the same time, that was a different themed match with its focus on being isolated while this one focused on the spotlight. Not that they still don’t have lessons to learn. They had too many camera cuts that made things feel too disjointed at points.
The fact this match was in the middle of the show pretty much telegraphed the finish. Though smart money was on Cole retaining anyway given the progression of this story. Running it in the middle of the show and coming back to the Performance Center also disjointed the show a bit.
In the end, I appreciated the different atmosphere for this rematch. But that’s because I didn’t really care about it coming in either way. I may have felt differently if this was a feud I was jazzed about.
Knocked Down Another Peg
Man, Tommaso Ciampa didn’t really seem to have a chance against Karrion Kross.
It wasn’t a straight squash. Ciampa had his flurries of offense. But the frightening Kross still choked Tommaso out under ten minutes.
That being said, this was probably the perfect way to go here. Tommaso Ciampa is going to be rattled for this loss no matter what. His string of losses since returning from his injury is going to be a prominent story. May as well drive that point home while presenting Kross as the killer his name once advertised.
Because that’s the biggest goal here - to portray Karrion Kross as an absolute force. They did that here.
Now I’m as interested in seeing what Kross does next as I am in seeing how Ciampa recovers from a rather one sided loss.
Johnny Gargano and Keith Lee had classic storytelling - the big man versus the little man who had to find his advantages.
In this case, the advantages were the injuries to Lee’s eye and hand that Johnny himself inflicted on the champion last Wednesday. It gave him an answer for Keith’s size and allowed him to be the heel he happens to be so great at.
Gargano used his skill to find ways to attack the eye or hand (or sometimes both) and keep Lee down. But no one can keep Lee down forever. His strength is too dominant. When Johnny was unsuccessfully taking the champ down with three lariats, Lee knocked him out of his boots with one.
And of course, there was the big pounce that sent Johnny through the plexiglass. Who doesn’t love a good pounce spot?
In the end, Keith remained Limitless. Candice tried to interfere, but Mia Yim was right behind her. (These two fought into the back during their earlier tag match.) Johnny used his car keys to Lee’s eye again as the referee was distracted by the women, but even that wasn’t enough. Neither were four superkicks to the head.
The match was really enjoyable, though I wonder about defeating both Johnny and Candice (though she wasn’t around when her match was ending) in their first TakeOver as a villainous unit. It also feels that Keith needs to get rid of the North American title and move to the NXT title scene, but at this point, I don’t know who can beat him.
Damian Priest had a lot riding on this match with Finn Bálor.
His success wasn’t dependent on him winning he match. That was likely never going to happen. But he needed to look like he belonged. And for the most part, he did.
This was a long match where Priest held his own against Finn much of the time. His size advantage surely helped with that, but it was more than that. It had to be. At the latter stages of the match, when things really kicked into high gear, he didn’t seem like he was overmatched. Instead, it looked like he was talented enough to keep pace with a top guy like Bálor.
That’s the benefit of Priest facing someone higher on the card than him. He can actually prove he’s good enough to be booked in matches like these.
Now I still think we need a little more character work to get him to click, but this match helped prove that he has what it takes to stand in the ring with the best NXT has to offer. Let’s see if he can capitalize on this performance alongside the Prince.
The good gals beat the bad gals in an opening 6-woman tag. It was fun enough, but there’s only so much they can do with a 6-woman tag. Normally we’d be talking about this as a match to warm up the crowd, but given the crowd is artificial, that’s not as necessary. It would have likely done the job if there were one present though. And even though a 6-woman is always going to feel a bit like a television match, it’s good to get all these talented women represented on an NXT TakeOver.
This was never going to feel like a true TakeOver. The raucous live crowd is too much of the TakeOver lifeblood. But this was still an enjoyable show with none of the matches taking place inside the PC being bad. The backlot brawl had its issues with presentation, specifically the cuts they used during the match, but that didn’t ruin a match that had very high anticipation.
The main event is must-see. The North American title match is worth some time. The rest was fun but rather inessential.
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