By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
NXT Takeover 36 Hits
Walter vs. Ilja Dragunov for the NXT UK Championship: Another instant classic from the NXT UK standouts. The live crowd’s reaction to Kay Lee Ray after the previous match was a good sign that the fans in attendance were familiar with the NXT UK product, which was my only real concern about this match. It was a non-issue, as the fans were hot from start to finish and the wrestlers gave them plenty to be excited about. The match was physical, dramatic, and even though I assumed that Dragunov would eventually be the man to dethrone Walter, it still felt shocking when it happened, especially via submission.
Karrion Kross vs. Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship: A solid championship match with Joe selling early and eventually going over clean in the end. This was far from a classic Takeover main event and I was actually surprised to see it placed in the main event slot. Of course, this would have packed more of a punch if the main roster creative forces hadn’t decided to damage Kross by calling him up and subjecting him to their bad parity booking. Can those who made the decision to call him up when they did actually keep a straight face while saying that what they did with him couldn’t have waited until after Takeover?
Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly in a best of three falls match: They had the tough assignment of following up the latest Walter and Dragunov gem and they handled it really well. Normally, I groan over having a quick fall in a best of three falls match involving wrestlers who typically have lengthy one-fall battles together. But it was a logical call to avoid having a slow building first fall coming out of the previous match. There was even a little mystery regarding the second fall if only because it felt like there was a long shot chance that they would have O’Reilly pull off the sweep if Cole is leaving. The third fall was solid and I like that O’Reilly won despite being handcuffed. The outcome seemed inevitable regardless of what Cole does next, as everything pointed to this being the end of his time in NXT. Even so, they delivered a good closing chapter to their long feud.
Raquel Gonzalez vs. Dakota Kai for the NXT Women’s Title: It wasn’t always pretty, as Gonzalez had some bull in a china shop moments early on. But Kai rolled with the punches and Gonzalez seemed to settle in as the match went on. I was curious to see how they would handle the babyface having such a big size advantage. They did a terrific job of having Kai use her speed to avoid some bigger Gonzalez spots early, and then it really just stopped being an issue as the match on, at least for this viewer. Gonzalez going over was logical and it will be interesting to see if Kai’s recent WWE Main Event matches were a prelude to her moving up to Raw or Smackdown. Kai is one of the best performers in NXT, so she is more than ready for the promotion. Kay Lee Ray coming out after to establish herself as the next threat to Gonzalez was a pleasant surprise, but I guess that means we’ll continue to wait for Gonzalez vs. Franky Monet.
LA Knight vs. Cameron Grimes for the Million Dollar Championship: This was the best of the Knight vs. Grimes matches and not just because it had the most satisfying outcome. The Ted DiBiase interference was actually welcome rather than a turnoff because it gave his character a measure of revenge for Knight punching him out and repeatedly disrespecting him. As always, I hope that this will be the point where NXT flips the switch on Grimes by scaling back on the comedy in favor of making him a more serious act.
NXT Takeover 36 Misses
None: I’m in the B to B- range for this event. The show suffered a bit from predictability aside from the shocker of Walter tapping out to Dragunov. The Kross situation was out of NXT’s control, as was the case with the main roster creative forces deciding to have Dakota Kai lose to Aliyah on the WWE Main Event television show. It was time for Grimes to get his revenge, so that had to happen, and Cole needed to lose his last match with NXT. In other words, the predictability was inevitable, but it was still a factor. I wonder if they stuck with Kross vs. Joe as the main event because they hoped that people would end the night thinking more about the NXT Championship rather than what Cole’s next move will be. I don’t think it mattered, but I would understand the logic. Meanwhile, Ridge Holland vs. Trey Baxter wasn’t really a Hit or a Miss. It was the squash match that you had to assume it would be. It you missed the pre-show, you didn’t miss anything.