By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Dot Net reader Mat LaVore attended the NXT Takeover: Chicago event on Saturday at Allstate Arena and sent the following report.
The merch table had a good line and had items for all the major stars: Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream, Pete Dunne, Johnny Gargano, Undisputed Era, etc.
We printed out 500 Johnny Wrestling logo signs to hand out at the show in line on the way in. While walking the line everyone started grabbing our signs and a loser security guard came over and repeatedly started yelling, “Do you have permission to hand those out?” and made us stop. So we took them into the arena and passed them around. Everyone was really happy to take one and hold it up, and along with another guy handing out signs we together created the large Johnny Wrestling section you saw on TV.
Undisputed Era vs. Oney Lorgan and Danny Burch for the NXT Tag Titles: The most NXT merch in the crowd was probably for Undisputed Era, so it was no surprise they got cheered over Lorcan and Burch. This was my girlfriend’s favorite match of the night. Even though Undisputed Era were the fan favorites in Chicago, Burch and Lorcan won the crowd over with their hard work during the match and received standing applause in appreciation when the match was over.
Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream: The crowd was split between cheering both guys. Lots of Velveteen Dream merch in the audience. Everyone around me was into the entire story of the match. Huge pop from everyone for the suplex to the outside of the ring. Definitely the high spot of the night. About halfway in the overhead screen went out and the crowd started chanting “Fix the screen!” I saw a tech guy at ringside looking up at the screen and talking on a walkie talkie. They got it back up after about a minute.
Shayna Baszler vs. Nikki Cross for the NXT Women’s Title: Nikki Cross was really over as face in Chicago. Fans really wanted to see her win. She got a great response for her entrance. Baszler got great heat as well. Everyone seemed surprised and disappointed at the finish as it seemed to just come out of nowhere for the live audience as we couldn’t see the story of the facial expressions. About halfway in, a beachball got going in the crowd. Half the people cheered it and half the people booed it. After about 30 seconds it made its way to the floor where two guys wrestled for it with the winner ripping it apart to cheers and chants of “Beachballs suck!”
Aleister Black vs. Lars Sullivan for the NXT Championship: Next to Undisputed Era, the most merch for anyone in the audience was definitely for Black. Big response for him when he came out. The Chicago audience definitely sees him as a star. The crowd really turned hard with heavy booing and “You f—ed up!” chants at the missed Black Mass spot. Black and Sullivan seemed to win them back pretty quickly though with some stuff hard-hitting spots after though. Big response for Black at the end.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tomasa Ciampa in a Street Fight: More “Fix the screen!” chants during the match early on as the overhead screen went out again as soon as both guys started brawling to the outside. The crowd was divided about 75 percent for Gargano and 25 percent for Ciampa. The heat Ciampa gets is incredible. Gargano is a star in every way. This is what wrestling is about: a storyline with characters everyone is invested in, and matches that deliver big. One of the best matches I’ve ever seen live. They told a great story in the ring everyone was engaged in, and they worked their asses off with hard hitting action. Gargano is giving AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and Daniel Bryan a run for their money right now for best in the business. I loved this match.
Chicago is always a great place to see a wrestling show, and this was no different. The audience was really passionate about the NXT brand which made it a lot of fun. I’ve seen NXT shows before, but never in a large arena, so it was cool to see how the product played in a larger venue. On the flip side, while the NXT audience’s enthusiasm makes these shows fun, it’s also a pretty annoying and obnoxious audience at the same time. A six-year old kid next to me literally yelled out “Five star rating!” during the Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream match. And a teenager behind me loudly ran commentary the entire show reciting every bit of backstage gossip and rumor he’s ever read online. I’ve been to a couple NXT shows and the audience is just always a bit obnoxious, even though in the end I’ll take it since they bring a real enthusiasm for the show.
A really fun night of wrestling in Chicago definitely worth the ticket price. Everyone on the show worked hard, and aside from the one lady in front of us with the Snapchat addiction, the audience was into every match and every character on the show. It’s everything you want out of a wrestling show.