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NXT TakeOver In Your House recap & reactions: Paid Tha Cost to Be Da Boss

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NXT returned last night (June 13) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida for Takeover: In Your House. You can find the results at the live blog here.

Karrion Kross — a straight gangster mack

After a wildly out of control edition of NXT a couple of weeks ago where Adam Cole made his big return, Karrion Kross bellowed “give me everyone” at Takeover. No matter how much William Regal has tried to assert his authority as General Manager, Kross has made it abundantly clear that as the man holding the NXT Championship he will call whatever shots he wants. Last night he got exactly what he was asking for — a fatal five-way with Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Pete Dunne and Johnny Gargano putting his title on the line.

Some of the men couldn’t even wait to get in the ring before taking a shot at each other.

The crowd chanted “this is awesome” for the action and rightly so, even if at times it devolved into a five car pile up, with the challengers only getting the upper hand when they worked together against Kross — such as Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly briefly reuniting to plant Kross on the announce table.

Don’t expect The Undisputed Era to reform though. Cole was more than happy to throw O’Reilly out to steal a near fall on Dunne given the chance. That was the nature of the five-way in general. Without Kross to focus on they took turns stabbing each other in the back. Once Kross rose from the dead, Dunne dared him to “prove me wrong” back in the ring, nailing him with the Bitter End and going for a triangle choke when he kicked out.

The rest of the pack couldn’t help but stop Dunne from getting the submission, even if he’d have been a better option to face one-on-one later on down the road. This led to the finish where Kross put O’Reilly in the Kross Jacket even as O’Reilly was trying to submit Adam Cole with a leg lock. Kross weakened O’Reilly enough for Cole to escape seconds before he would have tapped out and made “Cool Kyle” the new champion.

As the show was going off the air, a despondent William Regal declared that after seven years of being the General Manager, he had never seen as much carnage and bedlam as he had witnessed tonight. He left us with a cliffhanger by bowing it was “time for a change.” I can’t agree with him less though. He’s my favorite authority figure in pro wrestling, we had a stellar night of action, and I can’t honestly picture anyone better than him taking over.

Ultimately the focus has to be on the champion overcoming the odds to retain at the end, and he certainly went through hell and back to do it. As the great Calvin Broadus once said Karrion Kross “Paid The Cost to Be Da Boss,” but it was the rest of the fatal five-way wrestlers who looked like they’d been Pimp Slapp’d. For me this validates dethroning Finn Bálor in a big way, because having Kross be a short term champion would have made his title reign as pointless as The Miz beating Drew McIntyre. Now that we’ve made Kross this strong they need to give him the ball and let him run with it.

“Winner take all, loser must fall”

The main event was not our only high stakes match of the evening. After Bronson Reed humiliated Santos Escobar on Tuesday, the leader of Legado del Fantasma demanded a “winner takes all” match where Reed would put up the North American title and MSK would put up the tag team titles against his crew. The confident champions accepted his proposal and the match was made official. Did Escobar lure them into a trap or would Reed & MSK successfully defend all of the titles at once in a six-man match?

Just as the fatal five-way ended Takeover, the six-man match started the show, setting a high stakes tone for the entire broadcast in front of what was repeatedly touted as “the largest crowd ever” at the Capitol Wrestling Center. Escobar played cowardly heel until his flunkies took out Bronson Reed’s knee, at which point he quickly tagged in for a Michinoku driver but was unable to capitalize when MSK made the save. Escobar went out to get the North American title to use it as a weapon only to have Bronson Reed send him not just into but THROUGH a barricade. Reed went to the top rope for a Tsunami on Mendoza and the champions successfully retained all of the gold. A very fun opening match, and the kind of victory to pop that record setting crowd. Who doesn’t like seeing a big man repeatedly squish a group of cocky little heels? He even got in one of his trademark suicide dives.

The only downside of this match (if you can even call it that) is that all of these men are good enough to move on to Raw or SmackDown, and with the size and agility of Reed in particular, it will be very hard to resist the temptation to pull him away from the NXT roster.

Climbing the ladder of success

“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase has made it clear he’s looking for a worthy successor — a protege not just in wealth and prestige but in his in-ring acumen. The two men he believes are the closest to the top are both “new money” in storyline. L.A. Knight built up a substantial portfolio over the years, but Cameron Grimes went “to the moon” thanks to a quick buck made through dogecoin and AMC stock. They both believed they’d earned the right to wear his Million Dollar Title, but to prove it DiBiase made them climb to the top in a very literal sense, putting that jewel encrusted belt high above the ring in a ladder match!

Ladder matches should be physically punishing by design and this one was no exception. Grimes and Knight took turns assaulting each other with ladders of varying heights, while our savvy readers noted that we were watching a former Impact world champion and a former X-Division champion go toe to toe. I’ve seen Ultimate X matches that were less punishing than the hell these men put each other through!

Right as it seemed as though Grimes was about to get the upper hand and climb the gold plated ladder “to the moon” it was tipped over by Knight. Grimes took a bump over the ropes through a ladder left outside and there’s no way that the landing felt good. If he took a month off after last night, I wouldn’t blame him. Either way the right man won here. Hold on — hear me out. If WWE’s intention is to have Grimes become a sympathetic babyface, and the crowd was cheering for him like he was one, he shouldn’t immediately win a big prize and be instantly rewarded after making only the smallest of changes. The true reinvention of Cameron Grimes needs to be achieved by overcoming adversity, learning money can’t buy him happiness, and earning another chance at the title along with true redemption. Meanwhile if you want LA Knight to be an even bigger prick, there’s no better way to do it than having him rub being Ted DiBiase’s hand picked protege in our faces.

Ember Moon got eclipsed by Tian Sha

Let’s compare Raquel González and Ember Moon to Jake Paul and Ben Askren. González is like Paul — she’s young, she’s cocky, some people don’t like her attitude, but her fans far outnumber her haters. Ember Moon is a little bit older and more seasoned, but she was the underdog going in with the oddsmakers. We already saw that she could hit González with her Eclipse once, but could she do it again and claim the NXT Women’s Championship when it mattered most?

Speaking of Blackheart, she came to the rescue when Dakota Kai broke up a pinfall by putting Gonzalez’ boot on the ropes after Moon hit the Eclipse. Both seconds brawled their way backstage and out of sight. The momentum turned around at that point and Gonzalez hit the one armed powerbomb all by her lonesome, proving she actually didn’t need Kai to save her title reign. It felt a little anti-climactic but it wasn’t the fault of any of the women involved. They had to follow a brutal ladder match and no matter how good the women’s title war was, it wasn’t going to compare to the carnage that preceded it.

Xia Li vs. Mercedes Martinez

Sometimes the simplest stories can be the best. There were no titles on the line in this contest, just pride and bragging rights. Xia Li wanted revenge on Mercedes Martinez for spoiling her opportunity to win the Mae Young Classic. Martinez was insulted that Li “marked her” for elimination and wanted to prove not only that she was the better woman (again) but that neither Li nor the Tian Sha faction could stand in the way of her dreams.

Although this was a fun scrap while it lasted, the post-show theatrics ended up overshadowing the match itself, which was exactly what WWE intended. Li knocked Martinez out with a kick and pinned her (one of our Cageside Commentary Crew said she took the move “like a bullet to the head”) and Boa fed her a steel chair to finish the job.

Martinez recovered and laid them both out with the weapon until Mei Ying finally rose from her throne for the first time to get involved. Martinez showed no fear: “You want to go bitch? Let’s go!” Ying put her in a choke hold, Martinez broke free with a chair shot to the body, but Ying got it on again and threw Martinez off the entrance ramp into the barricade for a sick thud! On an emotional level I wanted Martinez to win as I’ve been touting her credentials since long before she came to WWE, but if you want to repackage Karen Q and/or have the Tian Sha faction mean something it’s like making an omelette — you have to break some eggs first. In other words I respect the decision to go in this direction, even though I would have chosen someone other than Martinez to be their victim.

Grade: A

If there was a half step between A and A-, I’d give it that. The booking made sense. The matches were well executed. Even the length of the show was just right. It was slightly longer than a typical episode of NXT, but not so long that you’d wind up exhausted from watching it. If you wanted more babyface wins then you might be frustrated with the booking, but for a Takeover that had less than a month’s build, I’d say it was the right call to go in this direction. If you want to give everyone those emotional feel good moments for the women’s title, men’s title, or even the Million Dollar title, build up to a bigger Takeover the weekend of SummerSlam or Survivor Series. For that same reason I’m not bothered by the fact KUSHIDA didn’t defend the cruiserweight title last night. We’ve got all the time in the world to build up new challengers to face him on weekly television and big cards. That’s what tonight’s show was — they are building for the future.

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See you again in just two days!