By John Moore
NXT Takeover: Chicago Hits
The Authors of Pain vs. DIY in a ladder match for the NXT Tag Titles: The non-traditional method of booking the tag team match did not come off as odd at all. The viewers have been conditioned to expect nothing short of spectacular in tag team matches involving either DIY and/or Revival. The Authors of Pains did a splendid job here as well, as they are improving every single time we see them. This match was a bit more violent than we usually see on WWE TV. This was up there in scary level with some of those ROH ladder wars (without the chairshots to the head, but we did get a ladder shot to the jaw that looked pretty nasty). There were levels of realism here too with the suplex that put an Author through a broken ladder or the double dive by DIY onto both Authors set up adjacent to them on the outside.
Tommaso Ciampa’s heel turn: A well done heel turn. Based on the way they held the camera on DIY, we should have expected it, but they’ve done this in the past where after their loses to Revival, Ciampa and Johnny Gargano would sell the same agony of defeat only to suck it up and fight harder next time. The beatdown was as violent as you can get in WWE these days with some strong throws on the table and off the stage. Ciampa looked like a real jerk for beating up his bro that took so many shots for him in matchups.
Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne for the WWE UK Championship: Pete Dunne came off as a star day one with WWE and Tyler Bate has had a hard time establishing an in ring identity. I think the first match where we saw Bate dig deep was the UK Title match against Jack Gallagher where Bate got to utilize his British strong style (pun intended) against the technical expert Jack. Dunne is a technical wrestler too, but a vicious one. Both wrestlers dug deep here and put together a main roster main event worthy match in the middle of the card. One aspect I liked throughout the show is we didn’t get our “Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles Formula” match where it’s just rapid kicking out of finishers in succession. I also liked the DDT out of the Bitter End when Dunne had the pumphandle. Bate got to pull out a few more cool tools like the helicopter and the Styles Spiral Tap.
Bobby Roode vs. Hideo Itami for the NXT Championship: The reason this match may be a bit forgotten was because so many of the other matches stood out so much. This match did suffer a bit from Roode being Triple H’s possible doppelganger in that the first act of the match was slow and plodding. Once it kicked into gear, it was really fun and every move executed at a point told a good story. Itami kicked out of Roode’s finisher, but it was due to a Roode arm injury. Roode got nailed by a surprise GTS, but he was positioned to roll to the outside. This was a smart match. Roode can really put together a good second and third act of a match. Itami was good too and I continue to praise him for the subtle tweaks he has made presentation-wise since his return. It also looks like NXT is about to turn him heel because WWE posted a YouTube where he destroys the locker room while having a bleeped out cursing battle with Adam Pearce. We usually don’t get the Jerry Springer bleeps on WWE these days so just like the scary ladder match, this did come off as fresh in a strange way.
Asuka vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross for the NXT Women’s Championship: This match had the unfortunate positioning of following up such a hot UK Championship match, but that didn’t bother the three women involved as the crowd quickly got into the big moves and were getting behind Ruby Riot once she initiated her babyface rally spots. A big plus to the NXT television viewers were the three interviews that NXT did for Riot, Cross, and Asuka and they got to exhibit their traits shown in the interviews. Riot showed her babyface swagger, Cross looked crazy, and Asuka exuded confidence. This may have been the best worked women’s match in a long time given how the NXT Women’s Division has been spinning its wheels since the main roster draft. Even the Ember Moon vs. Asuka match was more character development than a showcase match. The only real flaw was the finish in that it was both a bit too cute with how they got a double pin and in how the move that put them in was just a regular kick that Asuka would throw in the middle of her matches. They could have done a bit better with Asuka retaining via countout to get some progression on the Asuka snobby opportunist angle.
NXT Takeover: Chicago Misses
Eric Young vs. Roderick Strong: This wasn’t a full on miss as far as match quality was concerned as Roderick Strong got to showcase his really cool looking moveset. Rather, this was a missed opportunity to put some heat on Sanity after Sanity lost its feud against Tye Dillinger. Young came out of the cage match looking strong in the loss, but it put him back at a low level as far as in-ring credibility is concerned. I know that they were put in a tough position with this being the only feel good story of the night and Strong coming off as such a feel good person after the documentary, but if that was the case then they should have gone with something else. They could have had Drew McIntyre destroy Wesley Blake, which they have been building towards and had Sanity destroy Strong in a backstage beatdown or something. Instead, I’m not quite sure where Strong goes from here with NXT’s stacked main event picture that now includes a Ciampa and Gargano feud that could challenge for a top tier feud.