By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Dot Net Members are listening to Jason Powell’s audio review of NXT Takeover: Chicago and will hear the Money in the Bank audio review with Powell and Jake Barnett later tonight. Join us on the ad-free version of our website and mobile website and unlock a decade of audio content via PWMembership.net.
NXT Takeover: Chicago Hits
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano in a Street Fight: While this match wasn’t as novel as the last encounter and the heel favoring crowd didn’t help (there were split “Psycho Killer” and Johnny Wrestling chants). This was a true sequel in the saga between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. They added more and different stuff. They called back to times in their feud, but what I liked is that they didn’t try to replicate spots in the last match where Gargano’s career was on the line. Both men tried to tell a story and actually told several different stories. The build called for Candice LeRae to get involved, but I’m glad they ultimately chose to stay clear from that because Candice’s injection to this feud has been a detractor. This was back to basics stemming from the stretcher job from NXT a few months ago. Ciampa winning makes sense and it sets up for a rubber match at NXT’s de facto biggest show of the year at Barclays Center. While I did say the heel-loving crowd did detract initially, they did end up getting behind Gargano by the end and even going back to the “F— You, Ciampa” to close the show. I wonder how these two can top this without getting repetitive. It’s tough in 2018 to pull off ECW-type hardcore matches given all of the constraints due to safety, but Gargano and Ciampa have pulled it off so far.
Aleister Black vs. Lars Sullivan for the NXT Championship: While this match did exceed expectations, the expectations were low to begin with given the mediocre build towards this match and Lars being a developmental prospect. Black led Sullivan through a solid match and Sullivan handled his end of the match very well. Sullivan is a solid big man with plenty of room for improvement. One reason this match might be forgotten in the end is the prior three matches were too memorable and standout. This was a solid main event and would have stood out on a TV episode.
Shayna Baszler vs. Nikki Cross: This match was built as a personality clash and both women translated that inside of the ring. This was a great dichotomy Baszler is a bully and her bullying gives her an advantage over her opponents. That bully tactic didn’t work because Cross is so unorthodox. Cross is so good in translating her craziness on television. While the crowd did favor heels throughout the night, they were 100% behind Cross and 100% against Baszler, which is a credit to both women. Credit to Baszler for drawing heat from such a crowd. Cross lost nothing in defeat. Either she gets called up to the main roster with Sanity, or they might want to have a hardcore match between Cross and Baszler in Brooklyn.
Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream: Another match that exceeded expectations, except the expectations for this match were off the charts. It was a smart build to have these two interact in prior matches on the television show only to have those matches get cut short. It was a preview to show you that these two can deliver, and that they did. One fun thing about Velveteen Dream matches is he always enters the match with a mission statement. In the Aleister Black match, it was “Say my name”. In the Kassius Ohno match, the mission was to land a knockout blow, which was told by Dream making it a boxing match. This one was “everything you can do, I can do better” and the commentators were great in pointing out how Velveteen Dream was copying Ricochet’s moves. Ricochet returning the favor with his own Purple Rainmaker and Death Valley Driver was well done. One thing people can get out of this match is the assurance that both of these guys can deliver on any given night. Velveteen Dream is good in the ring and Ricochet is a guy who can tell stories contrary to popular belief. Bonus points to Dream’s attire for finding some way to combine Hulk Hogan with Prince Puma in a stylish way.
Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch for the NXT Tag Titles: When the crowd was booing the hell out of Burch and Lorcan, I was afraid that this might have been a clustermess to follow because of the Undisputed Era being cool heels. You can’t blame the Era. Strong is a great wrestler and O’Reilly is as skilled in-ring as he is hilarious. This was a star making match for Oney Lorcan because he had the hot tag that can top all hot tags. He as on fire and managed to win over the heel friendly crowd. Burch was great in his selling too. I’m not selling him short. He just needs to pick up wins since he has been establish as an enhancement wrestler for most of this decade. Lorcan and Burch came out as stars and here’s hoping they continue to tell a story with these two. The way that they’ve been building them and the way they held the camera at the end of the match reminded me of the way they built up Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano when they were teaming. That isn’t a bad template to follow.
NXT Takeover: Chicago Misses
None: Well… Aleister Black did miss that kick. That’s a stretch and it didn’t ruin the match. This was another great Takeover. I keep bracing myself for disappointment every episode due to my belief in the law of diminishing returns. NXT mitigates that problem by offering variety. The reason most matches don’t overshadow each other is because they all tell different stories.
Check below for the Paul “Triple H” Levesque conference call with the pro wrestling media that followed the NXT Takeover: Chicago event.