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NXT TakeOver: XXX preview - Sit Back and Enjoy

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NXT TakeOver: XXX waltzes into our lives tonight (Aug. 22) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. We’ve already made our predictions for the event, which you can check out here.

We’ll break down the matches and also ask what’s really at stake for each one (going beyond just the gold on the line in three of them). But first, I want to talk just a bit about this ratings war.

Sit back and enjoy

It feels like right now, at least in our wrestling internet bubble, we can’t talk about NXT without discussing how they’re faring against AEW. We can’t talk about AEW without discussing what NXT is doing that’s similar or different. And we can’t discuss either without those damn ratings coming up.

Some of that type of discourse could be fun, but more often than not it gets angry or defensive or nasty. And I think it may start to affect our actual enjoyment of both products. Surely not everyone, but more people probably watch a good or bad segment of one of the shows and think “This could win the quarter hour” or “This is better than anything the other is putting out” than should.

At this point, I think we care more about the ratings than either company actually does. Is that hyperbole? Yeah, there’s some in there. But it’s not as hyperbolic as it should be. We have no reason to think USA is getting ready to boot NXT because they can’t win that key demo. And even if they were wishing it’d do better, that shouldn’t affect us anyway.

Why do I even bring this up in a preview for a TakeOver?

Well part of the reason is what we just talked about. That nowadays, it’s tough to talk about one without the other. Another is that the Wednesday Night War moved to Saturday as TakeOver: XXX is going up against the preempted Dynamite from this Wednesday. But for a night, let’s not make it the discourse.

TakeOvers are always good. Some are better than others like with everything, but they’re normally a blast. They always deliver a stellar match or a hot angle somewhere on the card. Even though missing the true live crowd hurts a bit, the shows are still good.

And this show looks to be a good one. Karrion Kross vs. Keith Lee is a match between powerhouses that’s had a strong build. Pat McAfee has proven a natural at playing a pro wrestling heel and his story with Adam Cole has been quite entertaining. Their match should very interesting. There’s a big ladder match. Io Shirai/Dakota Kai is likely to be a great match. Same for Tim Thatcher/Finn Bálor. Top to bottom, it’s a strong card.

So whether or not you’re opting to watch live or catching it later, let’s all sit back and enjoy the show on its own merits instead of thinking about how it stacks up to the competition.

Now, let’s break down this show:

@WWENXT

Keith Lee (c) vs. Karrion Kross for the NXT championship

From the moment Keith Lee defeated Adam Cole, ending his historic 403 day reign, Karrion Kross was watching the new champion.

Kross’ harbinger Scarlett soon made his intent clear to the champion. After Lee defeated his friend Dominik Dijakovic, she walked to the ring and dropped remnants of an hourglass in front of the Limitless One, an hourglass Keith broke prior to winning the title.

Karrion continued to deliver his message during a match with Dijakovic, a man the champ credited for making him a better wrestler and capable of his title win. Kross ended up trapping Dom’s head between the ring and ring steps and kicking the stairs, demonstrating his cruelty.

Lee ran out to throw in the towel for his friend, but Dijakovic insisted he keep fighting. Keith respected that, giving Kross the opportunity to beat on Dominik in front of Lee before finishing him off.

This unleashed an angry side of the champion, who insisted on facing Kross at TakeOver. However William Regal wouldn’t have it. As the man in charge, he insisted he makes the matches. But after Kross started dropping bodies, and with Lee’s insistence, the match was made.

After Kross signed the contract, he and Scarlett somehow inserted a fireball into the paperwork. When Lee opened it, it burned his face. He’ll have to work against that tomorrow when these power houses collide.

What’s at stake?

A darker NXT

Keith Lee is all that stands between us and a Karrion Kross title reign. Kross is a special kind of villain, one that hasn’t been in NXT before. Sure there have been bad guys who have held the top belt before, but Karrion just feels more evil. More dangerous. And a promotion often takes the identity of the man on top.

If Kross wins the title, it could be a very long time until someone wrests it from him. Lee is all that stands in his way.


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Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee

After Adam Cole lost his title after holding it for over a year, they needed to find something worthy of his talents. They found that in a celebrity angle.

It started when Cole went on Pat McAfee’s radio show. It started off without issue, but when Pat started taking some pot shots about Adam’s height, the former champ snapped. He knocked over some microphones, dropped some f bombs, shoved a man, and left.

Adam later apologized and apparently buried the hatchet with the former punter, but McAfee proved just too obnoxious for the detente to last.

Pat was on commentary when Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish faced Imperium for tag titles. While calling the action, he wouldn’t stop making insulting comments regarding Cole, who was watching the match ringside, an ear shot away.

Adam told Pat to cool it, but the radio host wouldn’t. So the Panama City Playboy tossed some water at him. This led to scuffle, one that distracted O’Reilly and Fish, costing them the match.

As multiple people pulled apart Cole and McAfee, Pat took another jab at the former champ’s height. When Adam tried to climb over the announce table to get to him, with many people holding the wrestler back, the former punter delivered a stiff kick to the prone Cole, knocking him out.

Triple H was incensed and eventually set up this match.

What’s at stake?

The future of the Undisputed ERA

While the celebrity angle has been entertaining, the writing on the wall hints at a bigger issue with Cole and Undisputed ERA. It was the antics with McAfee that cost O’Reilly & Fish a chance at the tag titles. That can’t sit well with those guys.

On the grander scale, before Kyle O’Reilly returned a few weeks back, Undisputed was struggling. They all lost their titles and were taking a bunch of L’s. His return breathed life into them. And perhaps signaled a shift in power within the faction?

If I had to guess, the finish of this match reveals the future of Undisputed. Do they support him at ringside? Do they help Cole win the match? Do they turn on him? No matter what, it’s going to give us an idea of what’s next for this dominant stable.


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Io Shirai (c) vs. Dakota Kai for the NXT Women’s title

This all started with a stiff kick to the face.

After Io Shirai successfully retained her title against Tegan Nox, Dakota Kai blindsided her with a kick to the face.

At that time, Dakota was rolling. She had Raquel González at her side and she was picking up wins. But then Raquel disappeared and Kai suddenly didn’t have her ace in the hole. She had to resort to luck when she defeated Rhea Ripley to become #1 contender for the title. It was Mercedes Martinez attacking Ripley, business independent of Dakota.

Luckily for Kai, González returned at the right time, returning on the go home show to help Dakota forcefully lay out the champion. Shirai is going to have to have eyes in the back of her head for this match.

What’s at stake?

Dakota’s future

NXT has been hit or miss with Dakota Kai’s heel run.

She’s lost way too much in stretches where they have had to build her back up. And when it looked like they had it figured out, then they lost it again when Raquel González disappeared. The reasons Raquel was off TV is unknown, but it meant weeks of Kai suddenly looking much weaker.

Dakota isn’t going to win. But hopefully they book the match in a way where she’s still strong walking out of the bout.


@WWENXT

Damian Priest vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Bronson Reed vs. Velveteen Dream in a ladder match for the vacant North American Title

When Keith Lee opted to relinquish the North American title to allow NXT’s up and comers to have something to compete for, William Regal booked a ladder match for the vacant title.

A series of triple threat matches were set up to fill up the five slots. That’s how Damian Priest, Bronson Reed, and Cameron Grimes earned their spot. Dexter Lumis earned a spot too but an injury knocked him out of the match.

A returning Velveteen Dream and Johnny Gargano won their spots in second chance matches, being men who were not pinned in the triple threats they did not win.

What’s at stake?

The top of the midcard

This ladder match was an effort to build up a midcard that was kind of floundering prior. And they already did so. Bronson Reed has been elevated in this build. As has Cameron Grimes. Damian Priest was already there after his loss to Finn Bálor. The winner of this match will be charged with continuing to elevate these men through his various feuds and matches.


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Finn Bálor vs. Timothy Thatcher

Both Finn Bálor and Timothy Thatcher were part of a triple threat qualifying match. It was a match Dexter Lumis won when he put Thatcher to sleep via submission.

Bálor really wanted to win the North American title because its gold he hasn’t held before. With Thatcher costing him that opportunity, the Prince attacked him post match. So of course Thatcher was going to get his revenge and did so last Wednesday during Bálor’s second chance match against Velveteen Dream.

Chaos broke out when all the participants of the ladder match ran to the ring and beat each other up. During that confusion, Thatcher walked down to the ring and dropped Bálor on the floor, once again costing him a chance at that North American title.

What’s at stake?

Finn Bálor’s standing

Finn Bálor has been quite protected since returning to NXT. He’s lost a couple triple threat matches (taking the pin in one of them), and he lost a match to Adam Cole due to distraction. But losing here after failing twice to qualify for the ladder match could be considered a slump.

Is his role more putting other guys over? Or is there a future run at the top for him?


@WWENXT

El Legado Del Fantasma vs. Breezango vs. Oney Lorcan & Danny Birch in a #1 contenders triple threat match (Kickoff)

This is a match to crown a #1 contender for Imperium’s tag titles. That’s pretty much it.

What’s at stake?

See above.


TakeOver: XXX airs tomorrow night at 7 PM ET on the WWE Network. What will you be looking for when TakeOver rolls your way?