It’s NXT’s biggest TakeOver ever and both nights are truly TakeOver-worthy cards. The match of WrestleMania weekend will probably be one of the NXT TakeOver matches. I know which my money is on, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
I took the time to watch the Global Press Conference and I’m really glad I did because it was fascinating. Adam Cole used most of his answer time to say nice things about Kyle O’Reilly. There were a few backhanded compliments in there, but it was mostly letting people know just how good O’Reilly is. They seemed to give them quite a lot of the half-hour, but that’s going to happen if you give Adam Cole a microphone. I can’t help thinking that if Kyle O’Reilly had half the natural showmanship of Cole, this would be a different story in a lot of ways. Cole said he’s got nothing left to prove to anyone and O’Reilly still has a lot to prove. They’re going to hurt each other. O’Reilly got to talk about using MMA in his matches and gave a considered and interesting answer, noting ‘What’s old is new again’. The style he favours is nothing new but he expects it to become more prevalent as it becomes more mainstream and wrestling fans become more educated.
Io Shirai said she’ll beat Gonzalez because she’s smarter and quicker She also got to talk about some of the challenges of relocating to Florida from Japan. Gonzalez said she’s going to show everyone who she is. Jordan Devlin made Tommaso Ciampa laugh when he was asked if he’d enjoyed any of Santos Escobar’s Cruiserweight run and he said no. Ciampa spoke fondly of the UK crowds and the potential for matches in NXT UK is he takes the title from WALTER. Karrion Kross said Finn Balor is the best NXT Champion of all time and the opponent who will bring out the best in him. Santos Escobar talked passionately about the Lucha Libre style and his place within it.
The pre-show was the usual mix of video packages, interviews, and opinions, with everyone saying what you’d expect. No one walks into TakeOver predicting they’ll lose, do they.
Samoa Joe had a series of sit-down interviews during the Pre-shows. The first was Tommaso Ciampa. He said this is the most excited and anxious he’s been for TakeOver since the Gargano match in New Orleans. Joe said most people aren’t excited about facing someone like WALTER. Ciampa said he’s been through it all, wrestling and life, and now he’s in the best shape and the best mental place of his life. He knows it will be physical and he like that, but it’s a special match. He feels like he’s got a lot to prove after everything he’s been through, 35, post-neck surgery, new father, but he’s more determined, dangerous and focused. If WALTER doesn’t think so, he’s in for the night of his life. Ciampa really talked up the UK title, and he’s always very complimentary about the UK scene it came from.
While Sam Roberts and Jimmy Smith were discussing the match, we were shown Ciampa taking off the meaningful necklace WALTER ripped off him, and gave it to Timothy Thatcher for safe-keeping.
WALTER was Joe’s next interviewee. said he’s still playing catch up after the six months of quarantine. He wants to put on the best match every time because he owes it to everyone and the sport itself. He doesn’t think wrestling is Ciampa’s number one priority anymore, which WALTER doesn’t think is acceptable. He’s not the wrestler he used to be, but he’s still WALTER’s next biggest challenge. When asked what he’d do if he lost, he said at some point everyone needs to take the next step, but he doesn’t know when that will be.
Samoa Joe also had sit-down interviews with Raquel Gonzalez and Io Shirai, which was quite interesting. Gonzalez talked about the last year of her career, and wanting to make a statement going forward. She feels honoured and validated by Io Shirai choosing her, and confident going into the match. It’s her opportunity to show she can hang with the best and isn’t just a sidekick. She’s a little concerned by Shirai’s confidence in choosing her, given what Shirai is capable of, but she’s confident in her own abilities. Main-eventing is special to her, as it should be. Io Shirai is a mountain no one has been able to climb, and she’ll be proud and happy and in the best place in her career when she beats her. It was a lovely, very babyface, interview.
Shirai said she was a champion in Japan for over three years before she came to NXT. She’s been the best of the best there, and she wants to be the best in the world which is why she’s in WWE. She’s still planning on reaching the top, which indicates she doesn’t feel like NXT is it. She challenged Raquel Gonzalez because she’s beaten the best like Rhea Ripley and Charlotte Flair. Gonzales is a big up-and-coming wrestler and because Shirai likes Rey Mysterio who is known for taking down big guys as a small guy. She thought it would be interesting for her career to do the same. She’s representing the women’s division as well as the title and she’ll do her best for that.
Zoey Stark def. Toni Storm – Pre-show match
Pete Dunne def. Kushida
Bronson Reed won the Gauntlet Eliminator
WALTER def. Tommaso Ciampa
MSK def. Grizzled Young Veterans and Legado del Fantasma
Raquel Gonzalez def. Io Shirai
It’s a bigger crowd for TakeOver than there has been for regular NXT episodes. The walls of screens were still there, but now have a chainlink fence motif I’ve not noticed before. The amount of real crowd noise made it sound like an indie show in places. I kind of like it. The ramp is level with the ring again, the big skull on the stage looked great, and I thought the set was really well done. Quite understated, because WrestleMania gets all the bells and whistles. NXT doesn’t need them.
Toni Storm vs Zoey Stark – Pre-show match
This was an interesting addition to pad out the pre-show. Mickie James joined Vic Joseph on commentary, and later joined the panel to discuss Io Shirai versus Raquel Gonzalez. Excellent bonus match, and nice that it put an extra women’s division match on the card.
Storm and Stark are very well-matched and it was all back and forth. Entertaining and very competitive, a good fun watch, but there’s nothing much else to say about it. Except this. I didn’t know much about Zoey Stark when she arrived. I’ve slacked off on indie wrestling for a couple of years. But I looked at her Cagematch and this was her 40th match to Storm’s 453rd. To say it was a competitive and even match, and that Stark easily hung with Storm, does give a clue as to why NXT are so high on her.
Zoey Stark got the pin with an inside cradle when Toni Storm was going for Storm Zero. That her first win in NXT since her debut against Valentina Feroz.
Nita Strauss opened the show proper with the Star-Spangled Banner.
Pete Dunne vs Kushida
William Regal demanded a technical masterpiece when he set this match. I think he got one. I have to admit, I love matches like this, where it’s counter and reversal and intricate hold with periodic outbreaks of violence. It was one of those matches you daren’t look away from, from the first bell to the final Bitter End that got Dunne the win.
Io Shirai and Zoey Stark arrived at the Capitol Wrestling Center together. Raquel Gonzalez arrived with Dakota Kai. Gonzalez is all smiles all of a sudden.
Six-man Gauntlet Eliminator for an NXT North American Championship Match
- Leon Ruff and Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott start the match.
- Every three minutes another superstar enters. The order of entry is Bronson Reed, Cameron Grimes, Dexter Lumis, then LA Knight.
- Elimination is by pinfall or submission.
- Last man standing faces Johnny Gargano for the North American Championship tomorrow.
Ruff and Swerve got things started backstage. Swerve threw Ruff out to make his entrance. We got about five minutes of them beating the hell out of each other on their own, by the time they got into the ring and officially started the match. And they really did use that time to beat the hell out of each other, with additional flying around. It was almost a shame when Bronson Reed arrived.
Ruff launched himself from the top to the outside, but Reed caught him effortlessly, put him on his shoulders and threw him at Swerve. Swerve ducked and got a bit of one on one time before Ruff’s dive back into the match brought him down from Reed’s vertical suplex. Reed’s way of dealing with Ruff was less technical. He sat on him a lot. He also sent Ruff and Swerve across the ring by suplexing Swerve while Swerve had hold of Ruff.
Surprisingly, all three men were still in the match by the time Cameron Grimes made his entrance and tried to pay Swerve to work with him. Swerve took his money and they worked Ruff over together while Reed was down on the outside. They worked together to keep Reed out as well.
Leon Ruff was eliminated during Dexter Lumis’ entrance by Swerve after Swerve threw Grimes off the pin. Lumis put Bronson Reed to sleep on the ramp, which is only a temporary fix and he hadn’t eliminated anyone else by the time Reed came back. He managed to get Reed up on his shoulders, which is impressive in itself, but didn’t get to do anything with him.
Cameron Grimes and Lumis crashed over the ropes to the floor just as LA Knight arrived. Happily, Bronson Reed got fed up with Knight’s extended monologue and threw him into the ring. Lumis was the next out, pinned by Knight while trying to put Grimes to sleep. LA Knight was pinned by Bronson Reed. Cameron Grimes was pinned by Swerve with a handful of tights.
Bronson Reed kicked out of Swerve’s 450 and three House Calls, but Swerve couldn’t kick out of the tsunami splash.
Johnny Gargano came to the stage to talk trash after the match.
Tommaso Ciampa vs WALTER – NXT UK Championship match
Ciampa gives up five inches and ninety-six pounds in this match and he arrived ready for war. He had a promising couple of minutes until WALTER cut him down with a single blow, and then war is exactly what we got. WALTER chopped the announce desk and broke the cover, which might have been how he hurt his hand, although he grabbed at his wrist before that. I’m guessing it didn’t help. The kicks to the hand from Ciampa definitely didn’t.
Even one-handed WALTER took everything Ciampa threw at him and kept coming back. Ciampa ran the ropes landing clotheslines for a solid minute, but WALTER delivered one and it put Ciampa on his back. Ciampa got close. He landed finishers and got near falls, he even had a credible go at submitting WALTER, but it was to no avail. Any questions about whether Ciampa still had the killer instinct have been answered in the affirmative, and he’s not lacking in resilience either, but WALTER kicked out of everything and got the win with a suplex and a chop. Slightly pedestrian finish, but they’d thrown pretty much everything at each other during the match.
That was a lot of fun. It might have been my favourite WALTER match ever. The rest of Imperium met him on the ramp to pose, but that’s the most messed up I’ve seen the NXT UK Champion at the end of a match.
Franky Monet (Taya Valkyrie) debuts on Tuesday.
Bronson Reed’s backstage interview was interrupted by Johnny Gargano. Reed was saying he’s going to beat Gargano, Gargano wanted to tell him he wasn’t.
MSK vs Legado del Fantasma vs Grizzled Young Veterans – NXT Tag Team Championship match
Wes Lee confirmed during the Pre-show that he’s medically cleared after the hand injury. Things were looking a little dodgy for the NXT tag division for a while, after they got royally robbed by the main roster. I think it’s safe to say it’s in much better shape now.
This was great. I could have watched it for the whole show without complaints. It’s really hard to beat tag team wrestling done properly, and all three teams are great at it. Legado del Fantasma haven’t been a team as long as the others, but they’re perfectly in sync. They gave Nash Carter a hell of a time while Grizzled Young Veterans were temporarily out of it, but the return of James Drake spoiled their fun and led to Wes Lee coming in to clean house.
Once again, Gibson and Drake injured Lee’s hand. Gibson almost succeeded in submitting Lee with the Shankly Gates, but Carter battled in with Drake on his back to hold his hand off the mat until Mendoza and Wilde returned to the fray and broke things up. Lee took a double team from Legado del Fantasma and kicked out.
Wilde was taken out with a double team on the outside from GYV, and MSK took out Mendoza on the opposite side of ringside. Down to MSK and GYV for the finish and it was MSK’s double team finished that worked out after Carter countered a Ticket to mayhem.
MSK are the new NXT Tag Team Champions.
Sarray appeared in the crowd with Stephanie McMahon.
Io Shirai (C) vs Raquel Gonzalez – NXT Women’s Championship match
Io Shirai chose Gonzalez as her challenger. She explained her reasons on the pre-show, but Gonzalez started the match like she was determined to make Shirai regret that choice.
Dakota Kai accompanied Gonzalez to the ring and got involved early on, attacking Shirai to stop her moonsaulting to the outside onto Gonzalez. Happily, the ref caught her and sent her to the back, where she should have been from the outset. Gonzalez has to do this on her own merit.
Great match, which completely deserved the main event slot. Io Shirai has an answer for every move and the most incredible inventiveness and resilience. Gonzalez answers everything with power, and it’s quite a compelling answer most of the time.
If anyone was going to jump off the big skull on the stage it was going to be Io Shirai, and she did. It looked really high and the metal grating on the stage didn’t look like a fun landing. Raquel Gonzalez had only just stood up after taking the moonsault and double knees that shoved her up the ramp, when she had to catch a flying Shirai. Io Shirai got her back into the ring and landed the moonsault, but couldn’t get the pin.
A boot to the face and a powerbomb at ringside put Gonzalez back in control. She took a long time to get Shirai back in the ring and took a little extra time for trash-talking. For once, it didn’t backfire. A lariat flipped Shirai and put her down. The one-armed powerbomb Gonzalez pinned her with nearly put her through the ring.
Raquel Gonzalez is the NXT Women’s Champion.
There is speculation as to whether Shirai’s time in NXT might be drawing to a close, but I hope she doesn’t go to the main roster brands. Even without the title, which you would assume she’ll want to get back, Shirai’s best potential matches are still in NXT.
Great first night with some interesting results. Raquel Gonzalez is the new women’s champion, and it will be fascinating to see what kind of champion she’s going to be. It will also be fascinating to see how Dakota Kai takes the fact the friend she hired to protect her and help her become champion, has become champion instead. MSK are the new tag champs after being here for the blink of an eye. WALTER came closer to losing his title that he has in a long time. And tomorrow there are four more titles on the line.