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NXT Takeover: Chicago report

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After a few weeks of good NXT shows, we’re back for another Takeover, this time from Chicago as Hideo Itami looks to dethrone Bobby Roode, whilst Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne collide for the UK Championship.

That’s always going to be weird for me. A week ago, Bate and Dunne appeared for ATTACK! in Cheltenham, England… and here they are in Chicago in front of a crowd 100x what they were in seven days earlier.

We’ll have live coverage of this show, updating after every match, so stay tuned as Takeover kicks off at 8pm ET/5pm PT/1am BST!

If you sat through the insufferable Peter Rosenberg on the Takeover pre-show, get yourself a drink, and hope that they realise that the UK Champion is called Tyler Bate, not Taylor Bate, Bates, or any other variation!

Eric Young vs. Roderick Strong
It was just Wolfe and Dain out with EY here, with Nikki Cross explained away by “preparing for her NXT Women’s title match”. Fair enough…

Strong’s rather orchestral theme got a loud pop, but then it kept going as the purple light bathed the entranceway. Roderick came through the crowd and wiped out Dain and Wolfe into the crowd barriers, and then it was Strong going straight for Young in the ring, lighting up the SAnitY leader with chops before clotheslining him to the floor.

Returning to the ring, Strong connected with a dropkick to Young, who eventually hit back with a belly-to-back suplex as Dain and Wolfe at ringside eventually got back to their feet. A burst of speed saw Strong come back with a clothesline as the pair went toe-to-toe, before Young took a Flair-like bump into the corner and a knee on the apron… only for Killian Dain to wipe out Strong with a cross body as the referee apparently missed the giant Northern Irishman’s involvement.

Young lifts Strong up in the corner with a choke that took Roddy off his feet, before Alexander Wolfe throws in a pump kick to Strong… yes, the referee was “unsighted” again, as Strong remained firmly on the defensive as Young grabbed a chinlock. Finally, Strong gets an opening as he lands a dropkick to Young as EY flew off the top rope, and the comeback continues with some clotheslines before Roddy cycles through his backbreakers!

Those get cut-off with a wheelbarrow neckbreaker on the outside as both men were left laying by Young’s signature piece, who eventually followed up with a top rope elbow drop for a near-fall. Strong escapes another wheelbarrow suplex, then throws EY into Dain and Wolfe before he went up top for a superplex attempt. Instead, Roddy had to make do with a bicycle knee, sending Young flying into his SAnitY buddies on the outside…

But Young recovered quick as the pair traded leaping knees, only for Roddy to hit a release suplex into a double-knee backbreaker – and that’s enough for the out-of-nowhere win! That seems to continue the trend of WWE matches ending with a move out of nowhere rather than something on a crescendo, but this was a fairly big win as Strong’s getting built up for something down the line. A pretty good match too, which hit all the notes it needed to. ***¼

There’s a loud pop for Ruby Riot just sitting in a stairwell listening to music… Asuka’s warming up in her furry ring jacket… and Nikki Cross is just being weird in front of a mirror.

Jim Ross got a loud pop for his entrance, commentating this next match. Hopefully he’s improved massively live vs. on tape… it’s JR and Nigel McGuinness for this one.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate (c)
A rematch from January’s United Kingdom Championship tournament finals – Friday’s WWE UK special saw Tyler defend against Mark Andrews whilst Pete Dunne beat Trent Seven to earn their spots here. We’ll not confuse things by mentioning that these two are stablemates on the indy scene as part of British Strong Style. Oh, bugger.

Dunne got a nice pop for his entrance, as did Tyler Bate – complete with their reworked themes, and it’s the “Bruiserweight” who starts with a front facelock that Bate easily escaped and turned into a wristlock as the pair worked a strong ground game in the opening stages. Some wrist manipulation sees Dunne try to get ahead, but Bate flips up and dropkicks Peter to the floor, but Dunne tweaks the fingers some more, only to miss an attempted stomp on the ring steps.

Bate throws Dunne back into the ring to break the count, only for Peter to roll straight back out so he can dump Bate with a release suplex onto the apron, which keeps the challenger firmly in the driving seat. As does a series of stomps to the head as Bate’s arm was firmly held onto.

Out of nowhere, Bate hits a staggered Exploder as he followed up with an uppercut, only for Dunne to come back with another X-Plex… this time with bate landing on his feet en route to a delayed backdrop hold. Someone’s been watching his Nagata tapes! Bate rushed back in with a standing shooting star press, but he falls into a triangle from Dunne who threw in some elbows to try and exacerbate things, but Bate powered up and powerbombed free!

Bate calls for – and pulls off – an airplane spin, increasing speed as he went, before staggering into a cover as he got a near-fall from that. Imagine a match ending with an airplane spin in 2017!

Dunne flips out of a German suplex, before dropping Bate with a forearm out of the corner… another X-Plex is turned into a powerbomb for a near-fall as this crowd is BITING on every near-fall, giving both men a standing ovation for a two-count. We’re watching something special here folks… and Peter could only watch as Bate’s bop and bang knocked him down.

The pair traded kicks back and forth until Bate rebounded off the top rope head-first into a clothesline for yet another standing ovation – and yet another near-fall! Throughout the Chicago crowd are chanting “UK”, and it continued as Dunne escaped a Tyler Driver, only for his Bitter End to get countered into a DDT as the crowd popped once more! That’s something that’s been a staple of Dunne’s indy matches, but because it’s new to this crowd (who still “ten”’d count outs), they ate. Everything. Up.

A Golden Triangle-ish moonsault to the outside kept Bate on top, and he throws Dunne back in for a Spiral Tap for another near-fall! Bate tried to fly out with a tope, and narrowly missed as he face-planted the outside… that just left him easy prey as Pete Dunne took the bait, landing the Bitter End to Tyler, and we have a new WWE UK Champion, Pete. Dunne. My God. That’s going to take some shifting as the best match in WWE this year. *****

NXT Women’s Championship: Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross vs. Asuka (c)
Cross starts by launching herself at Asuka, who replies with some hip attacks as her choice to pose for the crowd just opened herself up for a crossbody from Cross… who then got thrown outside by Riot.

Cross returns to cut-off a dive attempt by Riot, who gets whipped towards the ring steps and manages to switch it into a leaping forearm on Asuka as the camera shows Ember Moon in a sling watching from the rafters. A dropkick from Asuka takes down Cross and almost gives a cover on Riot – who promptly rolls to the outside as Cross lands a neckbreaker for a near-fall, but Asuka returns with a Codebreaker before Riot’s kicks get caught and turned into a powerbomb.

Asuka followed that up with an ankle lock that a simple back rake from Cross looked to break up. A ‘rana from Ruby takes Asuka to the outside as things looked a little fraught for a while, with a lot of rapid-fire two-in, one-out style exchanges, before Ruby went flying again, taking out Asuka with a low-pe!

Riot flies off the top with a back senton for a near-fall, as Asuka broke it up with a bridging German suplex for a near-fall. Cross elbows out of another one, and we end up with Riot superkicking Cross into a German suplex as Ruby went wild… only to miss a top rope back senton to fall into an Asuka lock. Cross’ big splash off the top breaks THAT up, as the Scotswoman followed up with a reverse DDT on the apron before trapping Asuka in the ring apron.

Hey, shades of Finlay!

Back inside, a spinning rope-hung neckbreaker gets Cross a near-fall as Riot breaks up the cover, before the two challengers decide to clothesline Asuka to the outside as they go in for some pinning attempts between them. Riot escapes a swinging Fisherman’s suplex and lands a head kick to Cross… but Asuka dives in with a low dropkick to Riot, and then scores the pin on both women at the same time. That was good, and different to the norm as Asuka’s reign of terror continues. Bloody good with someone different in the role, but we’re quickly running into “she’s beaten everyone, it’s going to need someone new to be a real threat” territory. ****

Another sodding advert for Rocket League. A game that’s TWO YEARS OLD. Then a promo for the Velveteen Dream, who apparently debuted on the episode of NXT that was taped before Takeover.

The NXT tag title match is main eventing! But first, the promo package with footage of Hideo Itami in that WrestleMania 31 battle royal. I’d forgotten he was in that, but that’s what two years of injuries does, I guess.

NXT Championship: Hideo Itami vs. Bobby Roode (c)
Going in, there was an absurd amount of pressure supposedly on Itami, as his injury-riddled run in NXT was apparently culminating in this: perform, or be shipped out. At least, that’s how some read Triple H’s comments ahead of the show.

Bobby Roode’s entrance was preceded this time by a “learn to play” keyboard on the entrance ramp. Let’s be fair, the overness here is about 90% for his entrance song, rather than anything from the character.

Roode did his Glorious pose early and nearly got caught with a Go 2 Sleep by Itami in the opening minute, forcing the champion to scurry away, before a back elbow from Itami sent some gum flying… and got him a one-count. The pair trade chops, with Itami coming out ahead, before a PK sent Roode to the mat for… indifference from the Chicago crowd.

Itami leapt over Roode and did the backheel to the head… and missed badly. Yeah, that’s not going to help. Roode rebounds with a Blockbuster off the top for a near-fall as the champion regained some momentum, but either these guys are not connecting with the crowd or they’re just burned out early. Roode grounds Itami with a chinlock, and it seems the only thing this crowd wants to do is sing “Glorious” again.

Eventually Itami snaps back into it, slapping Roode before scoring with a big boot. A diving clothesline – with Itami’s left arm suspiciously rigidly close to his body – got a near-fall as he teases another Go 2 Sleep, before Roode’s charge sees him hit the ringpost shoulder-first. Roode tries for a schoolboy, only to get caught in a brief armbar.

Roode escapes and tried for a Blockbuster – and missed – before Itami’s Falcon arrow only gets him a near-fall. They keep coming: a spinebuster gets Roode a two-count, but Roode can’t go for the Glorious DDT as Itami countered into another G2S attempt. After sending Roode into the ring steps, Itami tried for a shotgun dropkick… but Roode moved as Itami crashed and burned.

They both end up inside for more back-and-forth strikes, with a backfist sending Roode into the corner for a shotgun dropkick, but Itami seemed to tweak his knee or ankle… meaning his G2S attempt again failed, allowing Roode to hit a Glorious DDT for yet another near-fall! At the umpteenth attempt, Itami hit the G2S to a rather muted reaction, not helped by Roode rolling to the floor immediately, before Itami got him back inside for a near-fall.

Another G2S is attempted, but is countered as Itami comes back with overhanded slaps to knock Roode down, only for yet another GTS to get countered into a pair of rolling Glorious DDTs as Roode retained. That would have definitely gotten a backlash had this been in the main event, but this was fine as a match – however, I’d have eased up on the “will Itami hit his move?” story, especially when the pay-off was so weak in hindsight. ***½

There’s ringside appearances from Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Kassius Ohno and Pat Patterson. Eric Thames from the Milwaukee Brewers was there, which makes no sense as an outsider since they were, you know, in CHICAGO.

Ladder Match for NXT Tag Team Championship: Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) (c) vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa)
HUGE POP for #DIY here, as you’d probably expect, and we start with the Authors taking the match to their challengers, before they were quickly clotheslined to the outside.

#DIY go for the ladders early, but for some reason Gargano has a hard time picking a ladder as the Authors return fire, throwing their challengers into the security walls. The tables turn as Ciampa drop toe-holds Rezar into the ring steps, before he takes a cannonball off the apron from Gargano, as the champions wander up the stage for that monster ladder.

Gargano dives through the ladder as it was on the floor to take out the Authors, before Akam got a ladder thrown into his face. A leaping knee from Ciampa was effective on Rezar, but he switched things up by dumping Gargano into him with a uranage as the Authors tried to climb a ladder that inexplicably bounced around. Somehow, Ciampa nearly won the titles as he climbed up a ladder that was being held up, but he ended up eating a ladder as we went into some back and forth attempts to grab those belts.

A powerbomb off the ladder looked to tweak Ciampa’s knee, before Gargano got dropped face-first onto a ladder on the mat as we almost has a Joey Mercury moment. Fortunately, it didn’t look too serious, but the Authors quickly flattened their challengers with a running ladder attack, before an attempt to powerbomb them through ladders was blocked.

What did happen though, were the AOP getting superkicked onto ladders they’d placed between the ring and the guard railings, as the challengers looked to climb the huge ladder… with Gargano landing his big splash off the top, but he just bounced off as the ladder didn’t give way, meaning he took a nasty spill on landing. Holy crap that was dangerous!

We’re back to the punching atop the ladders as both teams slugged it out, before Ciampa somehow managed to shove Gargano off the ladder and onto another… but Paul Ellering came in to pull down Gargano as he had the belts in his hand! Ellering takes a superkick, but Akam boots Gargano to hell and back as the Authors looked for payback, focusing solely on Ciampa.

Gargano shoves Ciampa away as the Authors swung a ladder towards his face – but Gargano took the bullet anyway as they really wanted to break his jaw it seemed. Ciampa rebounds to stop the Authors getting the gold, putting the brakes on as he gave Rezar a German suplex through a ladder that implodes!

Akam kicks down Gargano as he went to do the Terry Funk ladder spot, only to get caught in a superkick sandwich as all four men were left laying! Eventually another ladder’s pulled up, and #DIY head up to grab the titles… but the Authors kick away the ladders and powerbomb their challengers, then follow up with a Super Collider, clearing the way for them to just stride up the ladder and grab their belts. A bit of a deflating finish to a spectacular and crazy ladder match, and just like with Asuka, we’re back in the boat of “okay, they’ve beaten everyone… who’s going to challenge them?” ***¾

After the Authors had exited, #DIY received their customary loud chant, before Ciampa and Gargano consoled each other on their way out of the ring, as we got more replays… a tease for a long-rumoured heel turn? Ciampa and Gargano survey the scene from the stage… and before we fade to black, Ciampa throws Gargano into the stage, and THERE’S OUR TURN! Johnny Gargano stares in disbelief as a knee trembler from Ciampa leaves him laying, before Ciampa leaps off of the announce table and through a platform with an Air Raid Crash to Gargano as we faded to black with the former “Psycho Killer” surveying the damage with the crowd howling their disapproval.

There is no way you can paint this Takeover as anything other than a great show. After a string of NXTs where there was little buzz going in, Takeover has shown yet again that it can be counted on to produce a great show – and in tonight’s case, create two new stars for the American market. I certainly wasn’t expecting booming chants of “UK” from this show… and if you didn’t see this, then Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne’s match is one you absolutely HAVE to go back and watch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Hamilton has been a wrestling fan since 1992, and when he’s not watching far too much wrestling for anybody’s own good, he’s usually suffering through Sunderland AFC and the New York Jets. He’s got a couple of books out on Amazon – “Wrestling’s Sinking Ship” and “Gone Too Soon”, and can be reached via his website, BackBodyDrop.com, or on Twitter @theianhamilton

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