5/20 Zim’s NXT Takeover: Chicago live review – Bobby Roode vs. Hideo Itami for the NXT Title, Authors of Pain vs. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in a ladder match for the NXT Tag Titles, Asuka vs. Nikki Cross vs. Ruby Riot for the NXT Women’s Title

By Zack Zimmerman

NXT Takeover: Chicago
Aired live on WWE Network
Chicago, Illinois at Allstate Arena

The show opened with a video package that briefly ran through the lineup of matches and set the tone for each. It closed with Hideo Itami firmly stating that he will be the new NXT Champion… Inside the Allstate Arena, Tom Phillips, Percy Watson, and Nigel McGuinness checked in from the commentary booth and talked up the show briefly…

Sanity’s music hit and the lights cut out to kick off the show. Eric Young made his entrance flanked by Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe. the commentators noted that Nikki Cross was backstage preparing for the Women’s Championship match. Roderick Strong’s music hit and got  big pop from the crowd, but he didn’t appear.

Suddenly, the cameras cut to ringside where Roddy smashed both Dain and Wolfe into the ringpost before sliding into the ring and starting the match out hot.

1. Eric Young (w/ Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe) vs. Roderick Strong. Strong put a beating on Young all around ringside as the crowd chanted “let’s go Roddy!” He connected on a dropkick in the ring and continued to roll until Young cut him off and slowed things down following a back suplex.

Young hit a swinging neckbreaker for an early one-count. Strong picked up some momentum and teed off with a series of shots. Strong wiped out Wolfe with a dive through the ropes and was getting the better of Young when Killian Dain completely leveled Strong with a running crossbody. The referee apparently had his attention elsewhere.

Back in the ring, Young established control and began to set the pace. The crowd chanted for Roddy as Young settled into a weak looking chin hold. Strong showed some fight but Young put him right back down. At the eight-minute mark, Strong caught Young with a dropkick as he leapt off the ropes.

Roddy began to rally with some strikes and a big cradle backbreaker. He charged with a big knee lift in the corner and slammed Young to the mat with his big tossing facebuster for two. Things went to ringside where Young managed to hit his wheelbarrow neckbreaker out of nowhere and both guys were down.

Young managed to get Strong back in the ring, but Strong kicked out at two. Rowdy fired back with a hard chop and tried to stop Young from going to the top rope, but he was unsuccessful and Young flew off with a diving elbow drop for a near-fall. Young looked for another wheelbarrow neckbreaker, but Roddy escaped.

Roddy fended off both Dain and Wolfe once again, wiping them out at ringside. He lifted Young overhead, but Young raked the eyes to escape. The fight went back to the top turnbuckle where Strong landed a wicked knee strike and Young tumbled out to ringside onto Dain and Wolfe.

Back in the ring, Strong hit one more wicked knee lift before landing the End of Heartache (suplex into a double-knee backbreaker) for the first time in NXT and securing the pinfall.

Roderick Strong pinned Eric Young in about 13:42.

Replays aired and Strong celebrated his win on the way out of the arena, while Sanity was left angry in the ring… [C]

Zim Says: Solid match. When Roddy was on offense there were glimpses of it hitting that “Roddy gear” but it never really got there. Like I said, solid though, and the finish definitely hit a crescendo so thumbs up there. This was a good first step on the build to Roderick Strong as a viable title challenger and potential champion.

Ruby Riot, Asuka, and Nikki Cross were all shown preparing backstage individually…

A graphic revealed the next match: Tyler Bate defending the WWE UK Championship against Pete Dunne. The video package from this week’s episode and also the pre-show building up the match aired once again.

Back in the arena, WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross was introduced as a special guest commentator for the following match. He got a great ovation from the Chicago crowd. Tom Phillips and Percy Watson left the table and J.R. took the helm alongside McGuinness.

Pete Dunne made his entrance first, followed by UK Champion Tyler Bate. Both men had upgraded music and entrance walls from their prior appearances. The crowd chanted “Bruiserweight” before the bell, seemingly favoring Dunne.

2. Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate for the WWE UK Championship. The two grappled a bit in the opening couple of minutes and Dunne began to target the arm. The fight went to ringside where Bate connected with a nice diving uppercut, but Dunne came right back and dropped Bate hard onto the ring apron with a release suplex.

Dunne established control in the ring as he began to viciously pick away at the arm. Dunne disrespectfully booted Bate in the face, so Bate fired up and sent Dunne flying with a nice looking delayed exploder suplex.

Bate began to pick up momentum with some high-impact running uppercuts in the corner. Dunne connected with a kick, but Bate took him down and busted out a standing shooting star press which popped the crowd big.

Bate hit a great back suplex with a twisting bridge pin, but Dunne kicked out. Bate looked to follow up, but Dunne caught him in a triangle choke out of nowhere. Dunne began to fire off elbow strikes and Bate looked to be in trouble. Suddenly, Bate fired up and deadlifted Dunne into a powerbomb to break free. The crowd chanted “this is awesome.”

Bate hoisted Dunne up and performed perhaps the longest and fastest Airplane Spin on record. It was good for a near-fall, but both guys were dizzy and down. Things picked back up and Bate sprung off the middle turnbuckle, but he ate a hard forearm strike from Dunne. Dunno wasted no time and followed up with a wicked Orange Crush Powerbomb for a near-fall and the crowd leapt to their feet in a standing ovation.

The two stood mid-ring and slugged it out with a wicked exchange of strikes back and forth, culminating into a super unique rebound off the ropes into a sickening lariat from Bate for a near-fall. Once again, the crowd went nuts and chanted “UK” and “fight forever.”

Bate hooked for the Tyler Driver, but his bad arm allowed Dunne to escape. Dunne hooked for the pumphandle flatliner, but Bate turned it into a wild DDT. Dunne escaped to ringside, but Bate followed right up with a huge moonsault off the turnbuckles. Back in the ring, Bate connected with a Spiral Tap off the top rope for another great near-fall.

Once again, the crowd chanted “UK” as Bate set up for a dive to the outside. He came up empty, however, and ate a glancing elbow from Dunne on his way by. Dunne tossed Bate back into the ring and promptly planted him with the Bitter End pumphandle flatliner for the clean win.

Pete Dunne defeated Tyler Bate to win the WWE UK Championship in about 15:27.

Replays aired, and the camera panned Dunne standing mid-ring with the UK Championship hanging from his mouth. Referees tended to Bate at ringside and he sold the loss, while Dunn soaked in his win. Nigel McGuinness thanked J.R. for joining him at the booth and Ross said he loved every minute of it… [C]

Zim Says: Wow. Just wow. I had lofty expectations for that match knowing how good but guys are and how extensively they’ve worked together, but that was mind-blowingly good. Top-tier stuff, really. Has to be considered a MOTYC at this point. Dunne is one of the best heels going today and the star potential for Bate seems huge. The show may have peaked early.

Hideo Itami and NXT Champion Bobby Roode, respectively, were shown warming up backstage… A graphic and video package led into the women’s title match…

Back in the arena, Ruby Riot made her entrance to a good response from the crowd. Nikki Cross was out next without the other members of Sanity. Once in the ring, she and Ruby got right in each other’s face. NXT Women’s Champion Asuka was the third and final entrant. She had rose petals falling from the ceiling as she walked down the ramp. A segment of the crowd chanted “Ruby Riot” before the bell.

3. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross vs. Asuka in a Triple-Threat match for the NXT Women’s Championship. Things opened at a frantic pace with Cross throwing her jacket in Riot’s face and Asuka wiping her out with a running hip attack. Cross and Asuka briefly went at it before Cross was sent to ringside and Riot re-entered.

Riot and Asuka both no-sold each other’s shoulder tackle attempts before Riot appeared to get the better of Asuka. She was setting up a dive when she was cut off by Nikki Cross. Ember Moon was shown watching from a production box towards the top of the arena. In the ring, Cross worked over Riot and dropped her with a straight-jacket neckbreaker.

Asuka came off the top rope with a missile dropkick onto Cross, landing on Riot in the process. Asuka used a Codebreaker on Cross and then planted Riot with a powerbomb. Asuka had an ankle lock on Riot, but Cross broke it up. After some back-and-forth, Riot was selling her knee (unclear whether legit or worked).

She seemed to be okay however, as she picked up momentum and got the better of both opponents. She took Asuka down with a diving ‘rana and then drove Cross face-first into the turnbuckles with her knees. Asuka took out Cross at ringside with a vicious knee strike before Riot wiped her out with a dive through the ropes.

Riot tossed Cross back into the ring and came off the top rope with a diving back senton. She made the cover, but Asuka broke it up and tossed Riot overhead with a German suplex. She looked for another on Cross, but Cross fought out and hit a Regal Cutter for a two-count.

Riot superkicked Cross into a German suplex from Asuka, and then gave Asuka a superkick for good measure. Riot went back to the top rope and looked for the diving senton on Asuka, but Asuka slipped behind and sank in the Asuka Lock. Riot was in trouble, but Cross ran in to save the match.

On the ring apron, Cross dropped Riot with a reverse DDT. Cross trapped Asuka between the ring and the ring skirt, before teeing off on her with a stiff and rapid series of shots. Cross legit dragged Asuka back into the ring and hit a brutal looking whiplash neckbreaker with Asuka’s feet on the top rope. Cross made the cover, but Riot broke it up.

Cross and Riot charged at each other, but both looked for a crossbody and they got hung up on each other. Everyone was down. Asuka made it to her feet first, but Cross and Riot briefly joined forces to knock the champ to ringside. Cross and Riot went back and forth with rollup attempts to no avail.

Riot hit an arm-wringer Pele kick and made the cover, but Asuka flew in with a sliding kick. Asuka covered both opponents and the ref counted the three.

Asuka retained the NXT Women’s Championship in about 12:30.

Asuka confidently (or over-confidently) celebrated her win before a replay of the finish aired. The segment closed with Asuka continuing her celebration…

Zim Says: Fun, action-packed match with a bit of a lackluster finish. I got the sense Asuka would be retaining to set up the Ember Moon match, but they could’ve done a little bit better of a job making me question that in the final moments. Riot has been impressive so far and this was Cross’s best showing so far as well. There is a strong top contingent of ladies in this era of the NXT women’s division for sure.

A Velveteen Dream vignette aired… A graphic revealed that the NXT Championship match would not be closing out the show, as it’s up next. The video package from the pre-show aired…

Back in the arena, Hideo Itami made his entrance. He got a fine but unspectacular response. The commentators talked about all of the people who have surpassed Itami during his time in NXT and out due to injury.

A piano stretched across the LED stage and began to play a lovely prelude to NXT Champion Bobby Roode’s music. He stood on the revolving platform and the whole arena sang along with his music. Roode took his sweet time making his entrance. Once he was finished, there were formal in-ring championship introductions for both guys.

4. Hideo Itami vs. Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship. Roode backed Itami into the ropes and belittled him, so Itami looked for a Go To Sleep right away. Roode slipped out and scrambled to ringside to take a breather. Back in the ring, the two went back and forth with standard early stuff.

Itami chopped away at Roode and then took him down with a hard knee to the guy and several low strikes. Itami dropped a series of knees and then faked one as he washed the face of Roode with his boot. Itami mocked Roode and continued to work him over.

Itami set up for a tornado DDT, but Roode sent him flying and then followed up with a blockbuster from the middle turnbuckle. Roode went to work from there. He stayed in control at Bobby Roode pace, until Itami caught him with the stiffest of slaps. Roode fired back, but Itami hit the ropes and leveled Roode with a high-impact single-leg dropkick.

Itami began to rally with a series of kicks and a suplex. He used his tornado hangman out of the corner and then came off the top rope with a diving clothesline for two. Itami avoided a charging Roode, who went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Itami began to target that shoulder with kicks and then looked for a Fujiwara armbar but couldn’t sink it in.

Itami managed to avoid another blockbuster and planted Roode with a Falcon Arrow for two. Itami charged at Roode in the corner, but Roode met him mid-ring and planted him with a spinebuster for a near-fall of his own. Roode looked for the DDT, but his bad arm didn’t allow him to connect with it. Roode avoided another GTS attempt and took the fight to ringside.

Itami sent Roode crashing shoulder-first into the ring steps, but Roode avoided a hesitation dropkick and Itami kicked the steps hard. Referees came out to check on both Itami’s leg and Roode’s shoulder. Both guys managed to slip back into the ring before the referee counted them out.

Back in the ring, Itami teed off with a series of strikes and a spinning backfist. He connected with the hesitation dropkick in the corner, selling the leg in the process. He shook it off and looked for the GTS again, but the knee gave out and Roode connected on the implant DDT. Roode made the cover, but Itami kicked out just shy of the three-count.

Roode was selling frustration and his bad arm, which allowed Itami to pop up and deliver a surprise GTS, but Roode took the move and tumbled out to ringside. Itami went out after him and managed to get him back into the ring, but by the time he made the cover Roode recovered enough to kick out before the three-count.

Itami teed off with the stiffest bunch of slaps you’ll ever see on WWE programming and lifted Roode up for the GTS, but Roode managed to slip out and hit two implant DDTs, selling the arm in the process, but making the cover to retain his title.

Bobby Roode beat Hideo Itami in about 17:43 to retain the NXT Championship.

Replays aired and Roode celebrated his win as the crowd sang along with his music again…

Zim Says: That was a very good match. It was about what I expected it to be, maybe a little better. I have no idea what could be next for Itami after this, but it was definitely his best showing in a WWE ring. Roode can verge on boring at times, but I didn’t think tonight was one of those times. He certainly has star presence too. I enjoyed this.

Kevin Owens, Milwaukee Brewer Eric Thames, Sami Zayn, Pat Patterson, and Kassius Ohno were shown in the crowd watching on…

A video package built to the ladder match between the Authors of Pain and #DIY for the NXT tag titles. Back in the arena, the NXT Tag Team Champions Authors of Pain made their entrance, led by Paul Ellering. Former champions #DIY were out next to a good reaction from the crowd.

5. #DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa) vs. The Authors of Pain (Akem and Rezar w/ Paul Ellering) in a ladder match for the NXT Tag Team Championships. AOP got the better of #DIY early, but #DIY made a comeback and cleared the Authors from the ring. Ladders entered the ring at the minute-mark, however they were not used right away as the fight stayed at ringside.

Gargano and Ciampa got the better of the Authors with some high-speed, high-impact offense and good timing. They went to the stage and retrieved the biggest ladder available. The Authors tried to stop them, but Gargano flew out of the ring, through the ladder, and crashed into the Authors.

#DIY continued to roll until one of the Authors caught Gargano out of the air and spiked him down across Ciampa’s back. The Authors looked for the Super Collider, but #DIY slipped onto the ladder and scrambled up. In a scary moment, they were sent toppling over and Ciampa looked like he might’ve seriously hurt his knee. Gargano looked like he might’ve been hit in the face with one of the ropes as well.

The Authors leveled Gargano and Ciampa with a ladder shot, and then retrieved a bigger ladder from under the ring. The savages in the crowd chanted “we want tables,” but instead the Authors looked to powerbomb #DIY onto ladders bribed between the ring and barricade.

#DIY managed to escape and they broke the Authors down with superkicks until they were each down on the ladder bridges, which were set up on opposite sides of the huge ladder from the stage earlier. Gargano and Ciampa each climbed up the giant ladder and leapt off. Both guys overshot their opponents to the point where they took scary front-rolling bumps, but they managed to connect enough to damage the ladders underneath.

Ciampa somehow made it back to the middle of the ring where he slowly set up a ladder as the crowd chanted “Psycho Killer” for him. One of the Authors met him on the other side of the ladder and they both began to climb; exhausted. Gargano climbed up a perpendicular ladder and the other Author climbed the other side.

It ended up with Ciampa dropping down and pushing over Gargano’s ladder so the Author bumped and Gargano landed on Ciampa’s former ladder. He yanked the other Author off the ladder and Gargano appeared to have the match won. Gargano reached for the titles, but Paul Ellering ran in and grabbed his foot. Gargano dropped down and took Ellering out, but the distraction was enough for the Authors to get involved again.

The Authors set up a battering ram spot on a defenseless Ciampa, but Gargano ran in to shove Ciampa out of the way and took the move himself. The Authors set up a ladder and climbed, but Ciampa caught fire and sent one flying off the ladder, crashing through one set up in the corner with a super German suplex. The crowd exploded.

Gargano and Ciampa set up the surviving Author mid-ring with a ladder around his head, and they hit their superkick/knee strike combo to wipe him out. Both Authors were out, and #DIY slowly set up a ladder. They climbed and reached the titles, but as they did the Authors pulled the ladder out from underneath. The Authors yanked both guys down into powerbomb positions extinguished the last bit of hope with the Super Collider.

The Authors ascended the ladder and captured the belts to win the match and retain their titles.

The Authors of Pain retained the NXT Tag Team Championships over #DIY in about 20:00.

A lengthy series of replays aired, and The Authors of Pain stood at the top of the ramp with the titles and Paul Ellering who was still selling Gargano’s attack. #DIY were left sitting mid-ring together. They looked disappointed and were selling the effects of the match, but the crowd chanted for them and gave them a standing ovation as they made it to their feet together. They left the ring side by side.

Replays of the finishing sequence aired one more time. #DIY stood together at the top of the ramp, but as the closing graphic appeared in the corner, Ciampa turned and rammed Gargano into the LED entrance wall. Ciampa leveled a kneeling Gargano with a knee strike to the head.

Ciampa appeared to be heading backstage, but then lowered his knee pad and charged in with another knee to the head. Not finished, Ciampa cleared off the announce table on the platform at the side of the stage. He hoisted Gargano up for an Air Raid Crash, but instead of crashing through the table, he leapt backwards off the table and platform entirely, driving Gargano through some other tables set up below.

Ciampa took a seat atop the announce table and looked down at his dirty work as referees and medical officials tended to Gargano, and the show went off air.

Zim Says: Hell of a ladder match and hell of a show-closing angle. The match was wild and played to both team’s strengths. The Authors have proven they can be good as long as they have opponents who can work, and boy can #DIY work. There were a few scary spots and a few that popped me big, which is kind of the expected norm for ladder matches I suppose. This one exceeded my expectations, as I was pretty unsure what to expect going in.

As for the turn, it was something they hinted at so heavily early on so I think it caught some people by surprise here. It makes sense though, as there’s not much left for them as a team unless they go to the main roster and I think they have a lot to offer individually. The feud should be great and I’m really looking forward to following each guy going forward.

Overall, this show delivered really strong in terms of in-ring quality, but it certainly wasn’t very fan friendly as far as finishes go. Everything on the show met or exceeded expectations so in that regard it gets a thumbs up. That said and with hindsight, this show feels like more of a stepping-stone live special then it does a real conclusive live special. I think that will cause some people to have mixed feelings on it, but like the direction it set and there are a lot of moving pieces in NXT right now that I’m really enjoying and want to track the progress of closely.

Fortunately I’m in a great position to do just that, so be sure to read along with me every week as the show airs live on the WWE Network. Before that however, head on over to the members side for what’s sure to be a top-tier discussion and recap between myself and Jason Powell. Thanks for reading along tonight.

Comments? Questions? Criticisms? Corrections? Reach me on Twitter @DotNetZim.


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