NXT Takeover Chicago 2: Review

Well… what a shocker… NXT produces another great Takeover show… In other news the Pope is a Catholic and Pizza is great…

This was a fun filled, sub 3 hour show from the best all round brand in wrestling right now. 5 matches which all had a unique story to them, and 5 matches which in their own way delivered what was expected. The crowd all evening at the Allstate Arena in Chicago was on fire and really made a good show that bit better, and unlike what we may see tomorrow night at Money in the Bank they did not tire at any point in the show =, from the opening contest to the gruelling and heartbreaking conclusion to the awe-inspiring main event. SOOOOOOOOO with that said lets get into reviewing Takeover: Chicago 2!!!…

We opened the show with the entrance of the most over stable in WWE for some time, as the NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong made their way to the ring alongside their Undisputed Era leader, the NXT North American Champion Adam Cole. These guys are heels by the way, but from the Chicago crowd they got a huge ovation upon their entrance, opposed to their babyface opponents who got a subdued and almost a full heel reaction from the crowd. For a match that there was a chance got could lost amongst the high calibre of the card tonight, the crowd showed from the beginning they were going to give it all their attention, which was only the beginning from them (did I mention enough already that this Chicago crowd were AWESOME…).

NXT Tag Team Champions; Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong with Adam Cole) beat Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch to retain

As expected this was a great, solid wrestling match. Some really creative in-ring stuff from 4 ultra talented ring generals. It was clear from the beginning here that the crowd favoured the heels strongly but that did not phase Lorcan and Burch in their first Takeover match, as was shown when both Burch and Lorcan had their opponents in simultaneous submission holds in the middle of the ring in attempt to claim an unlikely victory, although their opponents would be able to escape their grasps. Another great little moment was when Adam Cole kept his teammates from losing their titles when placing a foot on the ropes to stop the ref counting the 3 after Burch and Lorcan had hit a Doomsday device to O’Reilly, to which as a result he was banished from the ringside area (the crowd did not like this one but, Adam Cole was one of the most over guys on the show and wasn’t even in a match. And that’s not to say the others weren’t over, just that ADAM COLE BAY BAY really, really is). Eventually the champions would hit a cool-looking double team move (I believe it is called the ‘High Low’) to keep their titles in what was a really fun opening bout to kick off the show. The crowd did though pay their respects to the beaten challengers with a standing ovation for both once the victors had made their way to the back, which was awesome to see.

****

Ricochet beat Velveteen Dream

Another shocker on this show, this match was absolutely fabulous. The pre-match video hype package and the entrances both these stars received made it feel like a huge deal, which considering this was the only match on the show with no title or no gimmick stipulation to go with it was some achievement. Dream came to the ring with a HULK HOGAN (remember him???) inspired gear, down to the bandanna and a t shirt with “DREAM STILL OVER” written across it, he also ripped it off ala Hogan and would later do all the Hogan “pump-up” poses, you know the ones… it was crazy to see Hogan be so clearly referenced in WWE TV after all this time, it’s surely when not if Hogan will be welcomed back now surely? Anyway Dream was really over with the crowd as was his high-flying wizard of an opponent. He was sporting a cape with his attire to really get the point across of his superman like abilities in the ring. These 2 even did the spot from the Wrestlemania 18 match between Hogan and The Rock (whom had openly praised Ricochet on twitter recently, so this was incredibly clever) where they would stand nose to nose almost and glance to each side of the crowd as they soaked in the audible anticipation for this epic encounter. Highlights from this one amongst the brilliance on display were Dream early on trying to prove he can outdo Ricochet (good luck with that), a gruelling-looking vertical suplex from the ring to the outside floor that had both on the losing end and Ricochet just making it back in the ring at the count of 9, Dream telling former indie star Ricochet “YOU BELONG IN A BINGO HALL”, Ricochet heading to the top rope, doing Dream’s Death Valley Driver, hip dance and then his signature top rope elbow drop (he hit it better than Dream himself maybe even does). It was funny that the crowd actually booed Ricochet for this. Ricochet went for his 630 splash finisher but Dream got out the way, Ricochet later went for a shooting star press but Dream put his knees up, Dream then went for a coast-to-coast elbow drop as Ricochet was in the opposite corner of the ring, and credit to him he got maybe 80% of the way there but missed in what was an awesome spot. With Velveteen Dream down Ricochet would finally hitting his signature insane top rope finisher for the win. Ricochet is great, the Velveteen Dream likewise, this match delivered. Great. One thing I felt immediately afterwards was as good as this was, I wanted to see them do it again and again. But what the immediate future holds for both is unclear, it’ll be big though whatever it is.

****1/2

NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler beat Nikki Cross to retain

Cross as the challenger got a big reaction from the crowd on her entrance and was over throughout, Shayna got the heel reaction to match. Cross dominated the early going with the idea being she’s absolutely crazy and unfazed by the tough champion, Shayna would get the win by locking in her submission, and AS I CORRECTLY PREDICTED (see my preview and predictions blog) Cross would not tap out to break the hold, but instead the ref would stop the match deeming Nikki had passed out. Cross was seen openly laughing and smiling during and after the finish to continue her psychotic, Mankind-like gimmick of almost liking receiving pain as much as she dishes it out. Fine match for what and where on the card it was, right result and finish. Yeah… this was perfectly fine.

***1/2

We then saw shots of EC3 and former indie wrestling star KEITH LEE who was reported to have signed with WWE recently. Crowd loved this, and I’ve no doubt the NXT fans will love him once he makes his mark on the brand. Exciting times!

NXT Champion Aleister Black beat Lars Sullivan to retain

Again for what this was it did exactly what it needed to be and do. I do feel for the champion who having won the title in the semi-main of the previous Takeover once again had to play second fiddle to the story of the main event (we will get on to that later don’t you worry). Black came out to a huge pop in what promised to be a pretty hard-hitting affair. Match begun at a frantic pace, with Lars repeatedly catching and putting a hold to any offence Black attempted. He then caught the champion off a moonsault and sent him crashing into the barricade, Lars made his way to the top for his big flying headbutt but Black got his knee up to Sullivan’s jaw, Black though did surprise us all with a huge botch (his fault or Sullivan’s I’m unsure) as he went for a Black Mass and clearly missed the contact of Lars’ face, but Sullivan sold it as if he hit it anyway and Black got the nearfall. The Champion was undeterred by this (as much as the crowd tried to make him aware of it, not cool Chicago) and would later hit the Black Mass kick to its fullest, but the monstrous Sullivan would get back to his feet (bloody mouth and all). Finally another Black Mass was enough to put Lars away. After the match the champion would be shown clearly hobbling on his way to the back, as the challenger Sullivan was quickly out of sight (which may have been just to give the champion his spotlight, but when a beaten opponent in NXT quickly make their exit after a match it has been before a prelude to a main roster appearance. I may be completely wrong, but I would not be against now Lars making his way to Raw or Smackdown in the not so distant future.

***3/4

Tomasso Ciampa beat Johnny Gargano in a Chicago Street Fight

How do you follow up an all-time classic? Well… with ANOTHER! I did not know how they would top the insanity of their amazing match at the Takeover just gone, but somehow they did. The storytelling and the brutality of some of the stuff they did in this match was on a level I have not seen in a WWE ring for some time. So many moments to pick up here: Gargano wearing bottoms and not shorts as well as his character t-shirt was minor detail for some but it’s this sort of attention to detail that really sets NXT apart, they very quickly in were brawling in the crowd, Gargano hit Ciampa with a stop sign, a stage dive to Ciampa from Johnny into the crowd, Ciampa trying to handcuff Gargano, Ciampa using boltcutters to reveal the wood flooring under the ring, Gargano taking his belt from his trousers a repeatedly lashing his former friend across the back, Gargano placing a trashcan over the head of Ciampa before superkicking the can to double the effect, Gargano then hitting Ciampa with the kid of said Trashcan, Ciampa hitting a huge knee to the face of Gargano with the same knee that kept Ciampa legit OOA for many months last year and has been protected by a brace ever since. Ciampa would then attempt to take the brutality up a notch by ripping back the protective mat of the ring to reveal the hard wood flooring, only to not be able to immediately capitalise on this as Gargano would use a steel chair to target the previously injured knee with multiple chair shots, although Gargano would then himself be launched head first into a trash can set in the corner of the ring, and then one of the most in-genius and brutal looking spots of the match where Tomasso Ciampa put Johnny Gargano in his own Gargano escape submission hold, before transitioning into a STF supported with a crutch (Ciampa made his entrance with a crutch of his that has been used repeatedly in the past to attack Gargano as the crutch was previously a support when Ciampa was hurt… another thing I forgot to say was before Johnny Gargano made his way out for the match his wife Candice LeRae gave Gargano a crutch of is own to use as a weapon and told her husband to ‘kick his ass’, a change in stance after Candice had previously been against the street fight fearing more carnage… she was not wrong). Anyway… after the crutch supported STF Ciampa then absolutely batters Gargano’s own knee before hitting him with a stiff crutch shot to the neck, this was enough for a 2 count nearfall.

Ciampa eventually dragged Johnny to the top of the rampway screaming “it’s not enough” before throwing him into the display screen in a throwback to the spot last year where Ciampa originally turned on Gargano, And then Ciampa had the idea to drag Johnny upon a structure, and then proceeded to REMOVE HIS WEDDING RING, SPAT ON IT AND THEN THREW IT AWAY!!! COULD YOU GET ANY MORE PERSONAL? AWESOME! Gargano though then got the advantage and then hit a Celtic Cross (Samoan Drop type move) sending himself and Ciampa crashing through 2 tables and some crates below, this looked absolutely brutal! Emergency personnel and officials then tended to Ciampa as Gargano looked on, and as they were taking Ciampa to the back Johnny then absolutely snapped (looking at where his wedding ring once was), he chased after the stretcher, beat away all the officials and dragged a distraught Ciampa back towards the ring area. Gargano would then get his Gargano Escape submission in on Ciampa, and he was tapping repeatedly but for some unexplained reason the ref was nowhere to be seen so his taps for mercy went unanswered. The officials then returned to try and remove Gargano from the hold, to which Gargano again fended them off, he then proceeded to handcuff Ciampa and then superkicked him at least 6 times one after another, he locked on another Gargano escape but again the ref was nowhere to be seen to answer the taps from Ciampa, there was more of Gargano fending off officials trying to stop the mayhem, but a distracted Gargano then was hit with a DDT by Ciampa onto the earlier exposed wooden layer of the ring floor, and TOMASSO CIAMPA PICKED UP THE WIN! Crowd were absolutely fuming (proper heel heat for Ciampa though so it was all fine). This was some of the best storytelling across a match in WWE for some time. SOOOOOO many crazy spots, a great moment too when Gargano sent Ciampa crashing through the structures below and the crowd chanted “MAMMA MIA” in homage to NXT Commentator Mauro Ranallo. Mauro sadly missed the event as he was calling Boxing for Showtime in the US, although his replacement for the night, 205 Live lead announcer Vic Joseph did a fine job in his place. As did ring announcer Kayla Braxton who was in place of usual Takeover ring announcer Mike Rome, who was absent for reasons idk tbh. As the main event had concluded Ciampa made his way to the top of the entrance rampway and officials and his wife Candice tended to the fallen hero Gargano, Ciampa poetically waved goodbye to Gargano to close the show.

*****

This was another great NXT show. Good luck MITB topping this!!!

Josh.

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