NXT, WWE's Developmental flagship-turned-stand alone brand, will be putting on their latest live special tomorrow (Sat, June 16, 2018). This time, it’s a return to the Windy City, as TakeOver: Chicago goes down on the eve of Money in the Bank - for the second year running.
The card comes our way from Allstate Arena at 8PM Eastern, exclusively on WWE Network. It will feature three of the brand’s titles on the line, the NXT, Women’s and Tag Team Championships, as well as two highly anticipated men’s single matches.
If you're new or someone who only checks out NXT for the live specials, we've got a full preview of the matches coming up for you between now and belltime. Right now, we've assembled a motley crew of Cagesiders who watch & love NXT to give us their thoughts & predictions on each.
Let's get to it.
WWE NXT TakeOver: Chicago PREDICTIONS
Aleister Black (c) vs. Lars Sullivan
Sean Rueter: This is as much a test for Black as it is for The Loquacious Leviathan, and fortunately they don’t have the burden of carrying the show while the champ starts to define his reign and Lars tries to take the next step in his development. Look for this to be booked like Bayley or Asuka vs. Nia Jax used to be on this brand. Pick: Aleister Black
Kyle Decker: Lars definitely feels like a good obstacle before Aleister faces his first real challenge. Not that Sullivan isn’t an imposing challenge physically, but he isn’t in the way that anyone expects him to win this. Pick: Aleister Black
Rev. Claire Elizabeth: Lars is the monster of the month, Aleister Black is Jerry “the King” Lawler with kicks instead of punches, and NXT is the modern-day Memphis. It’s not an analogy that holds up in the long term, but it’s one that feels accurate for the weekend. Pick: Aleister Black
Erin Cline (the more enigmatic half of Not Your Demographic): Man, I don’t care about Lars at all. It will be interesting to see what Black can pull out of him though. Black elevated Dream to superstardom - maybe he can bring magic out of Lars, too. He’s still definitely going to win though. Pick: Aleister Black
Brigade17: So here’s the thing; I love Lars Sullivan. I like him better than any big guy in the WWE at the moment and that includes the Braun Strowman. But looking at the landscape of NXT, I just cannot see how he picks up a victory against Black. Considering where we are in WWE’s calendar and with names like Gargano, Ciampa, Dream, Cole, and Ricochet all vying for main event status, it feels like Sullivan’s time will have to wait a bit longer. Pick: Aleister Black
Nikki Cross vs. Shayna Baszler (c)
Sean Rueter: Sometimes, you just have to pick with your heart, regardless of what your brain tells you. Or at least I do. But no one’s ever confused me with someone who is good at handicapping scripted fights. Pick: Nikki Cross
Kyle Decker: Consider me super pumped for this. Shayna has settled into extremely arrogant heel very well and Cross... well she’s just amazing. She’s the perfect foil for Shayna because there’s no getting into the head of the person who was the craziest member of SAnitY. I can make the argument that maybe they want to move Shayna along quickly or at least take the title off her so they can get going on a Horsewomen vs Horsewomen feud. But it’s not a strong enough argument that I’m going to pick against her losing at her first TakeOver as champ. Pick: Shayna Baszler
Rev. Claire Elizabeth: Nikki’s great and I’d be stoked to see her pick the title up on a certain level, but I’m with the Queen of Spades the whole way. Plus, really, this feels like a speedbump on Dakota Kai’s road to the title more than anything, the beginning of a TakeOver or three of sidetracks while Dakota digs deep and tries to find that killer instinct that’ll take her to the title. Pick: Shayna Baszler
Stella Cheeks: The build for this feud has been “chef kiss.” In her short time on the roster Shayna has established herself as a BAMF not to be messed with. She took the title from Ember and has since been terrorizing the women’s locker room – except Nikki. Nikki – tiny agent of chaos – is the only competitor not afraid of Shayna. In fact, she DELIGHTS in Shayna’s ferocity. This makes her the perfect foil for Shayna – she literally doesn’t know how to deal with someone like Nikki Cross and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I don’t think this will be an amazing technical match – Shayna is still very green – but the psychology of this match will be fascinating to watch. Ultimately, Shayna will succumb to the Chaos. Pick: Nikki Cross
Erin Cline: In my heart of hearts, I wish Nikki would take this. Shayna has really improved in the last three months in particular, but honestly she doesn’t really NEED a belt, though I suppose Nikki doesn’t either and could very easily move to main roster after this TakeOver. If nothing else this feud has built and solidified the characters of both of these women AND Dakota Kai so it has already done what it needed to regardless of the outcome. Ugh, I want it to be Nikki but... I think Shayna retains. Pick: Shayna Baszler
Brigade17: Nikki Cross was the best part of SAnitY, in my opinion. She breathed personality and passion into that group. Considering the fact she was left behind while her stablemates moved into wrestling limbo, I’d love to see her brand of madness stifle Shayna Baszler. And you know what? I think they go with the surprise here. There has to be a title change somewhere, right? Why not Nikki Cross? Pick: Nikki Cross
Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet
Sean Rueter: My last pick is wrong, so we’re not going to get any title changes on this card. But surprises have to come from somewhere. There will be some storyline cover for it, but I’m feeling that surpise will happen here in the form of a pretty major upset. Dream moving on to a final showdown with Black in Brooklyn before one or both gets the nod to head to the main roster just makes too much sense. Pick: Velveteen Dream
Kyle Decker: Damn, I’m excited for this match. I don’t care who wins or loses. I just am ready to take in the magic this is going to be. Pick: All of us
Rev. Claire Elizabeth: This is another low point that the Dream will have no memory of, soon enough. Pick: Ricochet
Stella Cheeks: MMMMMMM I am so excited for this one!! NXGay and I am here for it. Ricochet is still new in NXT and has been coasting a lot on “the fans already know who I am.” While the little he has done in NXT has been impressive, he could really use a big match win to solidify his place in WWE. That being said, boy do I hope The Dream wins. Talk about a competitor who deserves all the wins. He has met every challenge head on and has succeeded past my wildest dreams. His character work is next level good and frankly he’s a talent that deserves to get the spotlight. Honestly, I would give it to him based on what I can only imagine his outfit is going to be. Will Ricochet’s face be on his butt ala Rick Rude WrestleMania V? I sure hope so. Pick: Velveteen Dream
Erin Cline: IS THIS THE BEST FEUD IN THE HISTORY OF NXT I SUBMIT THAT IT MIGHT BE. They could literally just make out in the ring for several minutes and I would feel satisfied. This is going to blow my mind and I hope they open with it. Ultimately, just like the Black/Dream match, Dream can absolutely take a loss and it won’t hurt him at all. Also, if the Dream has no memory of a loss, did it really happen? Pick: Ricochet
Brigade17: Is there any better spot on the card for an NXT show than squaring off against the Velveteen Dream? Despite his losing streak at TakeOvers, the Dream feels like the special attraction of the brand. I could see either guy winning, honestly. NXT is at a spot where a whole lot of things could believably happen. When in doubt though, pick the new babyface who’s clearly going up the card. Pick: Ricochet
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
Sean Rueter: We either get the equalizer, or Johnny Wrestling completely loses himself even though he wins. I’m okay with either outcome (and think the feud continues either way), but if we count the Cruiserweight Classic, Gargano is already up 2 - 0 in the rivalry. So it’s Blackheart’s time to win a battle (in a traditional sense) before he loses the war. Pick: Tommaso Ciampa
Kyle Decker: I am still enjoying this feud, but this is starting to feel like a bit of an afterthought on this card. At first I thought Gargano would pick up the win but continue losing control. It’d kind of be like what Impact is doing with Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan, but it wouldn’t work that well with Gargano because he’s just such a good babyface. Then Sean’s latest NXT preview reminded me that Johnny Wrestling interrupted EC3’s match to announce he accepted this street fight. That could set up EC3 as a big next feud for Johnny. And involving himself in this match, after Johnny looks to have won, would be the best spot for it. Then Ciampa can win, challenge Black for the title, win it, and we can finally have Johnny vs. Tommaso for the NXT title. Pick: Tommaso Ciampa
Rev. Claire Elizabeth: Johnny is headed down a dark road. He’s been here before, obsession drives him more than I suspect he’d like to admit. Like when, in the middle of his record-setting 873-day reign with the Open the Freedom Gate Championship he abandoned all his principles in favor of retaining that title and remaining the ace of Dragon Gate USA at all costs. A year of strangling dudes with the tag rope later and Ricochet divested him of that title, snapping Gargano back on the straight and narrow to walk a road to redemption that leads to the Johnny Wrestling we all know and love. But that darkness is still inside him, waiting to come out. Pick: Johnny Gargano
Stella Cheeks: TBH I don’t know how to write about this feud any more. My emotions are so RAW! I was there in person when Ciampa turned on Gargano and I’ll be there for this too. It’s all too much. Honestly, however this plays out I think Ciampa is the winner. Even if Gargano wins, Ciampa has managed through manipulation to turn Johnny Wrestling into a man his own wife can’t even recognize. He’s out of control! I do think Gargano will win, but what will he be like after this feud ends? Will it ever end? Pick: Johnny Gargano
Erin Cline: This is such a perfect circle to be back in Chicago where #DIY fell apart and short of actually committing to a Candace / Tommaso showdown this feud has reached the point of needing a resolution. Much like Sami & Kevin, even though I love the work they work together I want to see them released into the general pool. A win puts Johnny over as the perfect babyface and seems the most appropriate. Pick: Johnny Gargano
Brigade17: Oh you didn’t think Gargano would get away with his revenge so easily, did you? Pick: Tommaso Ciampa
Undisputed ERA (c) vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch
Sean Rueter: They could hot shot the belts here and have the rematch on Tuesday in London, which feels like a very Triple H thing to do. So that will probably happen since I’m going on record as saying it won’t. We’ve already established I’m bad at this. Pick: Undisputed ERA
Kyle Decker: Going with a title change here for no reason except I don’t have any other title changes on the card. I’d like to see Dunne help #1 and #2 win and then feud with Cole for the North American title. (I have a feeling he may lose the UK title so he can get even more involved in NXT). Pick: Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch
Rev. Claire Elizabeth: Do I go with my head and pick That Damned Numbers Game or with my heart and pray for one of the (if not the) best, most underutilized guy in NXT to finally get the featured spot of tag team champion alongside his freshly-signed English brawling buddy? Ah, something about War Raiders looming on the horizon makes me think they’re the actual next champions once the polish The Mighty off, and that means Undisputed ERA will reign a while longer. Pick: Undisputed ERA
Stella Cheeks: It’s almost too hard to write these predictions because I want to say “this one is going to be match of the night” for every single match. I love love love Burch and Lorcan together as a team. They mesh really well, have different, but compatible styles and bring a fresh “brawlers attitude” to the tag division. But they are totes gonna lose. Undisputed ERA having three belts is a good look for a heel faction. Burch and Lorcan will put up a good fight, have a great match with O’Reilly and Strong, but in the end there will be shenanigans, Undisputed ERA will win and Kyle will bless us with a sick shred on his title. Pick: Undisputed ERA
Erin Cline: This will be fun but honestly it’s the match on the card I’m the least invested in. Pick: Lol Undisputed obviously
Brigade17: The safe pick here is the Undisputed ERA. I wouldn’t be surprised if these two teams rematch and face each other in London, though - and if that happens, I think the match is more compelling if Lorcan and Burch are fighting to become champions. Pick: Undisputed ERA
That's who we've got. Who are you taking, Cagesiders?