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NXT TakeOver Chicago II: The Good, The Bad & The Weird

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Another Takeover has come and gone. Once again, the yellow brand put on a stellar show. There was barely a dull moment throughout the two and a half hour runtime (or there about.) All five matches delivered with the main event truly reaching five-star territory. Well, without further delay, let’s breakdown the highs, lows and oddities of this event. Since there were only five matches on the card, this will be a bit more analytical than most Good, Bad and Weird lists.

The Good

No Frills, All Thrills

Anyone who thought Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan weren’t ready for a PPV title match had those doubts squashed last night. Burch and Lorcan have been two of the most underrated performers on the brand and it is quite easy to see how they could be overlooked. They are just two hard-hitting performers with no strings attached or fancy outfits. None of that would matter however as they gave the Undisputed Era one hell of a fight.

As far as opening matches go, this certainly ticked all the boxes. It was a simple heel team vs face team story crammed with high tension near falls and some excellent spots. Lorcan and Burch have finally started to find their footing as a team, executing double team moves aplenty. They hit a double team DDT and an elevated Corkscrew Uppercut. It looked as if they were set to win but Adam Cole interfered putting his teammate’s foot on the ropes.

Undisputed Era also played their role perfectly. They utilised plenty of heel tactics, cutting the ring in half, sneak attacks and delivered plenty of brutal offensive moves of their own. After narrowly escaping defeat thanks to Cole, they started to take back the match. The finish saw Strong and O Reilly hit Lorcan with an axe, smash and jumping knee combo into a leg sweep and clothesline combo for the victory. The heels pick up the win and the crowd gets behind Lorcan and Burch, giving them a standing ovation as they leave the ring. It’s nice to finally see them get some of the recognition they deserve.

Dream Over

At this point, do I really need to say how good Velveteen Dream is? The man oozes charisma and revels in getting the crowd’s and his opponent’s attention. Last night was no exception. He came out to the ring in a Hogan inspired outfit and kept pulling the Hulkamaniac’s signature taunts throughout the match. He seemed determined to get the mental upper hand over Ricochet before the match had even begun.

Ricochet was having none of it though as both men refused to back down and after some technical back and forth, really started to lay into each other. Both men looked set to destroy each other in a constant battle for one-upmanship. Dream had the power advantage but Ricochet had speed on his side often utilising it to take advantage. He would counter plenty of Dream’s offense and even superplexed him to the floor at one point.

However, this was also a battle of egos. A feud set around who should be number one contender and who was best. Dream would always be mocking or trash talking, even to his own detriment. In fact one of these verbal beatdowns would almost cost him the match and let Ricochet back into the match. Ricochet even tried to finish off Dream with his own finisher, hitting the Dream with the Purple Rainmaker for a two count. Dream did not repay the favour as few people can pull off a 630. Ricochet would hit this move soon after and win the match. Once again Dream proves why he is one of NXT’s best up and comers and Ricochet furthers shows he is more than just a flip guy.

Crossing Shayna

Shayna Baszler finally had another worthy challenger. Since Ember Moon left for the main roster, the new NXT champion has been slightly lacking in competition. Nikki Cross came along and gave Shayna a fight. Her chaotic nature made her the perfect foil to Baszler’s intimidation tactics. She would eat most offense Shayna gave her with a smile and a laugh. It was constantly difficult to predict what she would do next.

She also got her licks in, hitting Shayna with a top rope neckbreaker and her apron trap forearms. However no amount of offense would save her from the Kirifuda Clutch. Shayna managed to reverse a pin attempt into the deadly submission and locked it in until Cross, after grinning like a madwoman the whole time, passed out. Cross gave a valiant effort but was eventually bested by the technical prowess of Baszler. She did however seem to put some fear in Baszler as she constantly ate brutal knee strikes and other offense without batting an eye. She refused to be intimidated by Baszler and that could mean others will also start to rise up against her.

Lars Finally Fades to Black

For the past two weeks, Lars Sullivan has been destroying Aleister Black. He has beaten him at striking and flattened him with Freak Accident after Freak Accident. He seemed unbeatable for the much smaller Black. This changed last night. Black fought back and fought back hard. He had the Freak accident scouted and seemed prepared for a lot of Sullivan’s offense. Both men instantly went for their finishers and both were reversed.

Lars got another proper showing last night. The big man got to prove his worth as a singles competitor. He hit Black with plenty of power moves and even got off a diving headbutt, though he had tried earlier in the match and got a knee to the face as a thank you. He would even hit a powerslam on the ring apron.

Black persevered however and would keep kicking out and keep getting up. He would eventually mount a comeback and after failing to connect with a first Black Mass (which could have potentially been a botch) would soon hit another to knock Lars to his knees. Lars would defiantly kneel there; lip bleeding and trash talk, before eating another Black Mass to the head to stay down. Lars is the first opponent to take more than one Black Mass to fall, giving him something to brag about in the future. Not to mention Black finally overcomes one of his biggest and toughest foes yet.

Johnny Finally Snaps — The Next Chapter

This could be another potential five stars or higher match for WWE. This feud has been something special and the second match between the two only cemented its status. They went further than before, more vicious than before and certainly much more psychologically than before. This was a storytelling masterclass. Gargano was sick of being brutalised by Ciampa and Ciampa wanted revenge for his first loss. This is all happening in the city where this all begun, Chicago, where Ciampa turned on Gargano last year.

This was a street fight in every sense of the title. There were weapons galore and a complete disregard for either man’s safety. Both men came out in casual clothes too just to further add to the street fight feel. There were crutches, trash cans, stop signs, chairs and even the steps made an appearance. The turning point however was when Ciampa had Gargano down and out but decided to take it even further. He would recreate his actions from the previous year, throwing Gargano into the LED board; knee him against another board and set up for the neckbreaker through the tables. He would pause however, to rip off Gargano’s wedding ring, spit on it and throw it away. Gargano snapped and in true dramatic fashion, hit Ciampa with his own move through the tables.

The Roles had reversed. Gargano was standing tall and Ciampa was out for the count. Screaming in pain and requiring a stretcher out. This is where we enter the true magic moments of this match, Gargano had finally had enough and he went on the attack. He dragged Ciampa to the ring, handcuffed him and had a personal superkick party with his face. He would lock in a modified Gargano Escape before being dragged off by ringside officials.

It should be stated that he had knocked out the referee in a fit of rage as Gargano shoved the stretchered Ciampa to the ring. After being escorted out of the ring, Gargano still wanted more. He would attempt to circle round and get back into the ring, but Ciampa was ready and set up a draping DDT onto an exposed section of the ring. He would use Gargano’s own bloodlust against him and steal the victory.

Words cannot do this match justice. It needs to be seen to truly be experienced. Every spot had meaning. It was an emotional roller coaster that saw one of NXT’s top faces snap and show a dark side many didn’t know he had. The best thing though is that there will be more. They are currently at 1:1 meaning a rubber match is necessary. This feud is the closet WWE have come to having long story filled matches. In a week overshadowed by Dominion’s seven star main event, it is easy to forget that WWE and NXT have talented writers and superstars too.

Commentary Steps Up

The world seemed to collectively sigh when they learnt that Mauro Ranallo would not be calling the event. He has become the voice of NXT and his enthusiastic, insightful and entertaining commentary could raise the stakes of any match. Takeover gave the rest of the commentary team a chance to show their stuff further. The team of Percy Watson, Nigel McGuiness and the stand-in Vic Joseph did an excellent job at calling the event. Vic Joseph is an excellent replacement as he has the same air of enthusiasm and worked well with McGuiness and Watson. Commentary did not suffer for Mauro’s absence like many were worried it would.

The Bad

No Surprises

Except for Gargano snapping, there were no real surprises at this Takeover. It was unfortunately very predictable. The matches themselves did a good job at fooling audiences at times but ultimately most people will have predicted this event correctly. This is a weak bad, I know, but you need some unpredictability in an event. Nobody saw any of the belts changing hands and Ricochet would not lose his first singles PPV match. NXT also took the logical route by carrying on the Ciampa/Gargano feud so Ciampa needed to win. They did this in exceptional fashion but did this none the less.

The Weird

No North American Title on the Show

This was a toss-up between weird and bad but I’ve gone with weird as there are nearly always only five matches on a Takeover card. It is slightly unusual that Adam Cole wasn’t given a title defence on the show. He was relegated to interfering in his stablemates tag match and that was it. They could have easily crafted a match for him. EC3 was present doing nothing, throw them together for a match. It just feels a bit weird to see a mid-tier belt undefended at a PPV.

In Conclusion

So the numbers show that this was definitely a good event. Okay that was an understatement, it was an exceptional event that carried on showing why NXT is the strongest brand WWE owns. It carried on the tradition of NXT having top level PPV’s. No match lacked in quality and the event gave the five matches plenty of time to breathe. It is certainly worth watching and the more I talk about it the more I want to watch it again. Hopefully MITB can achieve the same level of positivity tonight. We shall soon see.

John is a UK based wrestling obsessive who still wants to believe the Bullet Club is fine. He is always tearing the business apart and first realised wrestling was for him when he saw Mankind fall from the top of the cell at King of the Ring 1998.

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