NXT had their first two-night TakeOver event and kicked things off with a pair of title matches for Night One on USA Network before the event shifts to the WWE’s new home on Peacock for Night Two.
Night One was a solid display of action as two new champions were crowned and we found out who Johnny Gargano would defend his NXT North American title against on Night Two.
Here’s how it all went down.
Pete Dunne def. Kushida
There was no reason for this match to happen but nobody needs to care about that. Wrestling is what NXT does really well and there aren’t too many more intriguing options than having Kushida and Dunne give us a wrestling clinic. In the early going, it was Pete Dunne who was out-Kushida-ing (yes, I made that up) Kushida by stringing together submissions and out grappling the former NJPW standout. It has to be said just how incredible Dunne has looked since the pandemic. He’s slimmed down considerably and looks every bit of the ring tactician that he’s made himself out to be. As for Kushida, he’s always been great but he feels sort of stuck in the middle of a very loaded roster.
Nevertheless, Kushida worked his way back into a match and sank in a beautiful hoverboard lock off the top rope that Dunne barely managed to escape from. But Dunne eventually broke Kushida down with his finger manipulation, stomped the hell out of Kushida’s hands, landed his Bitter End finish and got the pin. It wasn’t a classic but it was a fantastic opener to warm the crowd up.
Bronson Reed wins Gauntlet Eliminator for an NXT North American Championship opportunity
It’s hard to be invested in a match to see who will challenge Johnny Gargano when nobody outside of Dexter Lumis has had an angle. For whatever reason, they decided to go with Bronson Reed, who has no history with Gargano in NXT’s biggest show of the year.
The match itself was fine but never really gave us the all-out action that we’ve come to expect with NXT. And once Lumis was eliminated, it was a struggle for anyone to be invested in the winner.
Swerve Scott and Leon Ruff had some great exchanges early until Bronson Reed entered and used his size to bully his opponents. Reed showcased his strength but pulling off a German suplex simultaneously on Scott and Ruff. Cameron Grimes and his fantastic millionaire gimmick entered next. He attempted to pay off Scott to work together in an effort to eliminate Reed and Ruff. Ruff would end up being eliminated by Scott as Dexter Lumis entered next followed by LA Knight. Surprisingly, LA Knight and Grimes joined forces to eliminate Lumis. Reed then got rid of LA Knight. Reed, Grimes and Scott had a nice sequence until Scott eliminated Grimes. With Reed and Scott left, we had a decent sequence with an almost nauseating series of near falls until Reed hit the big splash off the top rope to finish the job.
Unfortunately, this match felt like filler for an unnecessary two-night show. Reed and Gargano could certainly deliver but it just doesn’t feel like a match built for the biggest TakeOver of the year.
WALTER def. Tommaso Ciampa to retain NXT United Kingdom Champion
This was a difficult match to get invested in considering that Ciampa gets a title shot with little momentum against one of the most dominant champions in WWE.
These two worked hard but Ciampa got in a significant amount of offense. Maybe too much.
The story here was WALTER injuring his right hand and being unable to use his debilitating chops to take out Ciampa. It led to a competitive match where WALTER was hampered by the injured hand. The work was solid but the finish was never in doubt. It was kind of inexplicable to see Ciampa no sell WALTER during spots in the match considering that the champion has been a dominant force for nearly two years. But if we are to think that we’re getting the Ciampa from a few years ago when he was the NXT champion, maybe it makes more sense.
Once WALTER kicked out of the Widow’s Bell the match hit another gear. Another near fall from an Air Raid off the second rope produced another near fall. Some brutal chops from Ciampa followed but WALTER used his left hand to chop his opponent. A pair of powerbombs from WALTER couldn’t seal the deal as Ciampa continued to kick out. It wasn’t until a sleeper suplex was followed by a chop that WALTER got the job done.
This one is tough to grade because nobody thought Ciampa had a chance to win. The work was solid but we just didn’t get an angle where we could think that the NXT UK championship would change hands. It would be great to see WALTER in there against one of the best talents in NXT and hopefully, that will happen sooner than later.
MSK def. Grizzled Young Veterans & Legado del Fantasma for the NXT Tag Team Championship
We knew that this match was going to be fun the moment it was booked. MSK, Legado del Fantasma and Grizzled Young Veterans are the perfect teams to reboot a division that has been a little stagnant over the past few months.
The action was fast and furious from the opening bell with everyone getting their time to shine. Trying to run down the action would do the match a disservice. Just know that the pacing was absurd with more than a few breathtaking moves.
After Legado del Fantasma was taken out, MSK and Grizzled Young Veterans battled it out in a revisit of their Dusty Rhodes Classic finale. MSK got the upper hand and landed their finisher to be crowned as the new NXT tag team champions. Go out of your way to watch this match.
Raquel González def. Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship
It’s the dawn of a new era in the NXT women’s division.
Raquel González took everything that Io Shirai had, including an absolutely bonkers dive from the top of the stage, to pick up the victory in what was easily the best match of Gonzalez’s career.
It’s also a testament to just how phenomenal Shirai has been. One has to wonder if she is now moved to Raw or SmackDown, which feels a bit crowded at the moment.
It was the athleticism of Shirai vs. the power of González and the two played off each other brilliantly. González isn’t nearly as experienced as Shirai but her power made everything seem believable as Shirai did her best to avoid her. It was an excellent display of violent ballet by Shirai as she found ways to outmaneuver her powerhouse opponent and gain the upper hand.
But this was all about the crowning of González and Shirai gave her everything she needed to start her journey as champion.
One particular sequence saw Shirai hit the moonsault to González on the outside and crush her with a running knee strike. Shirai then climbed to the top of the stage and dived onto González that drew an audible gasp from the crowd as the two hit the ground hard.
Shirai would hit her trademark moonsault back in the ring but González kicked out. It was the first time that any of Shirai’s opponents have kicked out of the moonsault.
González then nailed Shirai with the powerbomb on the outside, rolled her back in and crushed her with a lariat. Another one-armed powerbomb followed and González pinned Shirai to become the new NXT women’s champion.
Nobody is sure if González can hold this division down. But the same could be said for Shayna Baszler, who had a dominant reign and won people over with a similar style that relied heavily on violence. One thing to pay attention to is how Dakota Kai settles into González’s shadow.