Sam Roberts, Wade Barrett, and Brandon Walker (a podcaster, apparently) hosted the Pre-show. McKenzie Mitchell gave the rundown of both Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classics ahead of the finals. She said she’d spoken to Ember Moon off-camera and she was all about making history, while Dakota Kai is more focused on the win being a step on the way to the tag titles.
Eli Drake is in NXT, except his name is now LA Knight. He showed up on the Pre-show ‘uninvited’ and talked about himself and how much of a threat he’s going to be for a minute or two, then buggered off again.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def. Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart
Johnny Gargano def. Kushida
MSK def. Grizzled Young Veterans
Io Shirai def. Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm
Finn Balor def. Pete Dunne
Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix, and Wade Barrett were the commentary team for the night.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final
TakeOver got underway with the making of history.
Moon and Blackheart had Dakota Kai isolated, but nearly let her get to Gonzalez while they were arguing with the ref because he didn’t see one of their tags. Moon knocked Gonzalez off the apron just in time, but when Gonzalez eventually got in, she made her pay. She also dragged Blackheart into the ring and suplexed her for the fun of it.
Gonzalez swung Blackheart into the chainlink and plexiglass over the barricade so hard it left Blackheart in a crumpled heap on the floor when Ember Moon could really have used her help. Moon managed to move out of the way twice to get Gonzalez and Kai to take each other out, and would have had Gonzalez pinned with an Eclipse if Kai hadn’t managed to keep the ref’s attention off them. It was too late by the time he turned around. She had another couple of attempts after a helpful dropkick from Blackheart, but it still wasn’t enough.
There were a few crazy dangerous-looking manoeuvres – Moon’s dive from the top turnbuckle to the outside to take Kai off Blackheart’s shoulders spring to mind – and slightly too many near falls, but it was pretty great regardless. The TakeOver setup is different, the ramp is at the same height as the ring, but with no give in it, and it because an extension of the ring at the end. Raquel Gonzalez took Moon out of the match by throwing her over the ropes onto it then shoving her off it, sending her flying over to the barricade.
Blackheart had one more go at Gonzalez, smashing her face into the mat when she got back into the ring then tipping Kai onto her when she rolled out. Gonzalez pushed her off the turnbuckle, then threw Kai onto her, and finally powerslammed her into the canvas. She and Dakota Kai took no chances pinning Shotzi Blackheart. They both laid on her, just to make sure.
William Regal joined them for the confetti shower and pyro with the cup.
Johnny Gargano (C) vs Kushida – NXT North American Championship match
Dexter Lumis chloroformed and kidnapped Austin Theory as The Way made their way through backstage. Johnny Gargano only noticed he wasn’t there when he went to do the high five, then he freaked out and sent Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell to look for him. Happily, that meant we got an uninterrupted one on one match, which is what we want to see at TakeOver.
Gargano told Kushida to bring his A-Game to TakeOver, and Kushida did just that. With the lack of interference, it was easily one of the most enjoyable Johnny Gargano matches of recent times. He picked up an injury to his left arm quite early on and Kushida used it to his advantage. It definitely came in handy for getting out of the Gargano Escape.
Kushida almost got Gargano with the hoverboard lock. He spent a ridiculous amount of time in it before getting out of the ring with the hold mostly intact. It took running Kushida into the barricades to make him release it. Gargano crawled up the ramp as if he was trying to leave, but Kushida came barrelling down the ramp and kicked him in the arm. The next submission should have done it, but it wasn’t to be. Gargano bounced Kushida’s neck off the ropes and delivered One Final Beat on the ramp when he rolled outside. He pushed Kushida back into the ring for a second One Final Beat to retain.
Grizzled Young Veteran vs MSK – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final
It’s tough to beat tag team wrestling done well. MSK are newly arrived and this was the match where they got to show NXT hadn’t seen nearly all they’ve got to give. Zack Gibson told MSK they weren’t going to enjoy a second of fighting Grizzled Young Veterans. If they didn’t, they were the only ones because it was great.
I’m honestly not even sure what to say about it because it had a little bit of everything. High flying, hard-hitting, strategic and chaotic. And with another ton of near falls. MSK are so quick. Grizzled Young Veterans are just efficient. Wes Lee possibly tweaked his back in the match, he was holding it a lot on landings, but it didn’t stop him flying around.
Gibson and Drake took every opportunity for an unfair advantage, like double-teaming Nash Carter while the ref was ushing Lee out of the ring. Lee was only in the ring because he’d followed Gibson who’d just pulled him off the apron. Carter was kept away from him for a long time, so he came into the match like he was ready to take on ten men instead of two. His back hurt him when he landed on his feet after leaping over the corner onto them.
Nash Carter lost the plot and started pounding on Gibson, but couldn’t make the pin off the cutter stick. One of Wes Lee’s acrobatic moves was countered by a hard knee in the face and nearly got him pinned with a Helter Skelter and 450 combo, but somehow he kicked out.
Grizzled Young Veterans thought they had Wes Lee completely isolated, with Carter down on the outside after a kick from Zack Gibson. Even two on one they weren’t able to keep Lee down. Carter returned and they came within a half-second of pinning James Drake with a double team.
Gibson put Lee on his shoulders at ringside. Drake took him down with a suicide dive. Carter looked like he was done, but he dug deep and somehow kicked out after yet another double team. Wes Lee, still on jelly legs arrived back just in time to save Carter from the Ticket to Mayhem. MSK put Gibson and Drake down with superkicks. Gibson rolled out of the ring and Drake took the finisher and pin.
William Regal joined MSK for the confetti cannons and pyro as well.
Io Shirai (C) vs Toni Storm vs Mercedes Martinez – NXT Women’s Championship Triple-threat
Mercedes Martinez didn’t wait for the bell, she attacked Shirai during the ring announcements.
Shirai missed with a moonsault to the outside early on and was thrown over the barricade by Mercedes Martinez. We got Martinez trying to submit Shirai while Shirai tried to submit Storm, which happily came to nothing. Toni Storm landed high from a German suplex off the turnbuckle by Martinez, but Martinez left herself hung up and took a double stomp from Shirai.
Toni Storm managed to trash the announce desk while clearing it, Wade Barrett blamed MSK hitting it earlier. Io Shirai climbed the tower nearest the announce desk to a little below steel cage height and threw herself onto her opponents. She landed across their heads and shoulders, with Storm taking the worst of it, which looked like a rough landing for all three. She took a trip into the steps after that, courtesy of Martinez, which gave her the opportunity to try to finish Toni Storm off. That didn’t work and she ended up in trouble herself. Storm delivered Storm Zero but Martinez kicked out.
Io Shirai arrived back in the match in the nick of time, with a moonsault off the top turnbuckle onto Storm to break up her pin on Martinez. Storm rolled away and Io Shirai pinned Mercedes Martinez. Io Shirai is still NXT Women’s Champion.
We got to see LA Knight signing his contract earlier and a replay of his Pre-show promo. I’m interested to see what he’s going to do on NXT.
Finn Balor (C) vs Pete Dunne – NXT Championship match
Pete Dunne left Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan backstage, so once again we got a proper one on one match.
It was an almost cautious start to this one, with lots of testing each other and looking for an in. Pete Dunne had ready-made targets in Balor’s recently injured shoulder and jaw and he exploited them at every opportunity.
The strategic and precision-targeted start made the opening ten minutes feel a little plodding and I was beginning to wonder if the match order had sabotaged them to some degree when Finn Balor switched up a gear. It was still largely submission-based, but Balor was working to soften Dunne up a little in between attempts.
Dunne picked up a knee injury and gave Balor a target as well. It didn’t stop him countering the Coup de Grace though. He kept the triangle on long enough that Balor lost consciousness, but just as he did, he got his foot on the bottom rope. The ref made Dunne break the hold and Balor came around enough to continue.
Somehow, Dunne couldn’t capitalise on that. The ref backed him off once, but Balor countered the Bitter End. When Balor had Dunne in his next submission he left his hand floating around where Dunne could get to it and got his fingers snapped. Pete Dunne must have thought it was over with the Bitter End, because he looked like he might cry when Balor kicked out. Instead, he stomped on Balor’s hands twice and kicked him in the head. Balor responded with a DDT.
Another countered Bitter End led into another failed pin, but Dunne wouldn’t let go of Balor’s hand. Balor ripped Dunne’s mouthguard out before he dropkicked him in the face, and this time Dunne didn’t protect himself from the Coup de Grace. Wanting to be completely sure, because he had nothing left, Balor followed that with 1916 and finally got the win.
It is a measure of Balor’s respect for Dunne that he looked absolutely broken when it was over, refusing to take his title from the ref because his hands hurt so much and asking him to strap it on him. Raising his arms in celebration and climbing the turnbuckle looked agonising. For his part, Pete Dunne was still on the mat until Balor was out of the ring.
Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch attacked Balor on the ramp and threw him back into the ring. Dunne dragged himself up to participate in the beatdown, while still selling his injuries. Undisputed ERA ran to the ring to save the champion.
Balor lined up with Undisputed ERA for a pose, then Adam Cole kicked Balor in the face. Kyle O’Reilly went nuts, so Cole kicked him in the face as well. With Balor and O’Reilly laid out, Cole walked out. Roderick Strong was left standing at the ropes looking from O’Reilly to Cole and wondering where his loyalties should be.
I want someone to count the near falls on tonight’s show because it seemed like there were hundreds.
The Dusty Cup matches were both great tag matches and probably the highlights. MSK could not have had a more impressive debut run and Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez have a very real chance of bringing the tag titles to NXT. I’m hesitant to call the women’s title triple-threat the lowest point, because it was by no means a low point at all, but it suffered by following the MSK versus GYV match. The end of the show sets out a whole range of possibilities. It will end up in Balor versus Cole, I suppose, but I’d love to see more of Balor and O’Reilly teaming up because their chemistry is incredible. I assume we’ll find out on Wednesday where Roderick Strong’s loyalties lie, and there’s still Bobby Fish to return at some point.
All in all, another excellent TakeOver.