Another Summerslam weekend has come and gone, and with it, NXT’s annual summer Takeover show. I had a fun time watching this one! It was (mostly) well paced, without a bad match on the card. It had lots of cool wrestling moves, an acceptable amount of cosplay, cheerleaders, surprise Matt Riddle, secret Matt Riddle, multiple modified triangle chokes, and even a steel cage! And Kyle O’Reilly! That’s so many things! Io Shirai had silver glitter on the inside corners of her eyes and I want to start doing that too! Let’s get into it.
NXT Tag Team Championship: Street Profits defeat Undisputed Era
I said this opener would be a great time and I was right. All four men are brimming with charisma and in-ring ability. Fish and O’Reilly have all but completely perfected the art of opening a Takeover show. Meanwhile, Dawkins and Ford are well on their way to becoming two of the company’s most engaging babyfaces. Reviewing wrestling is a Goldilocks experience a lot of the time, and it’s such a joy when something is truly just right. The length was right. The pace was athletic and exciting, while still giving the spots room to breathe. It had a lot of what I wanted to see, but not everything I wanted to see, leaving me satisfied, but not so satisfied I don’t want to see more matches between these two teams.
However, I have to point out that Kyle O’Reilly has still not been designated prime minister of Canada. I’m not sure what the thinking is behind this booking, but Canada is not going to find a better option than O’Reilly, who I am convinced is one of the most well-rounded performers in all of professional wrestling. Actually, now that I think about it, Sami Zayn would be pretty good as PM. Shit. I need to rethink this whole bit.
Io Shirai defeats Candice LeRae
My most anticipated match of the night did in fact end up being my favorite match of the night. (And of Summerslam weekend.) As much as I love seeing performers with different experience levels working together, there’s something so refreshing about two women jumping on each other with the comfort and ease that comes from almost 30 years of combined in-ring experience.
Io Shirai’s previous matches in NXT have been good, but this was the first time she’s been able to reach the magnetism of the Shirai I first fell in love with. She is completely captivating in a way that rivals WWE’s top stars. I want to watch everything she does. Her new sneering, disdainful, vicious heel gimmick is magical to watch, especially against a babyface as sweet and tenacious as Candice LeRae. Their chemistry together made this the most exciting I have found either of them in their time in NXT.
My only complaint was the way it was filmed. Candice LeRae got almost no closeups— most of the match was shot normally, but the lack of tight shots on LeRae made her feel almost like a very, very impressive jobber. Intentional or unintentional, it did a real disservice to what is probably one of my favorite matches in NXT all year.
Mama mia! That’s a very talkative man
Mauro Ranallo on commentary is getting to be unlistenable. His enthusiasm is admirable, but the dense concentration of references, wordplay, and bizarre conjecture needs to be pared down. Like, why would Candice LeRae do an octopus hold on Io Shirai as an Inokiist mindgame attack on Shirai’s bushido fighting spirit? I don’t want to waste my finite patience on 100 pre-prepared alliterative phrases like “joshi judas” or this dork showing off that he knows rap lyrics. I want to waste my finite patience on goofy wrestling nonsense.
NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream defeats Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong
A year and some change since being introduced, the NXT North American Championship is really starting to feel like it has a distinct identity. Velveteen Dream’s title defenses have established it as not just a valuable championship, but an exciting one. Where the NXT Championship is often built upon long, sometimes tedious storylines, the North American Championship is built purely on charisma, chemistry and good wrestling. I don’t think we give enough credit to short term narrative, and Velveteen Dream has really come into his own in his ability to breathe life into a one match storyline.
Though a little bit sloppy in places, this was a smart, exciting match. Roderick Strong still has some growing to do on his character work in the middle of matches, but him starting it out by demanding that Velveteen Dream and Pete Dunne pay attention to him? Fantastic stuff. A triple threat where one person is being driven by his bitterness and jealousy that his opponents have better chemistry with each other than they do with him absolutely rules. That said, especially after Dream’s sneaky win, I need to see more of him and Pete Dunne together.
NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler defeats Mia Yim
It kills me to say it, but Shayna Baszler’s defense against Mia Yim, someone who I have enjoyed watching for years, kind of disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good match. I have no complaints about structure or the spots or the wrestling itself. Baszler and Yim are very, very good at this! But the energy somehow felt like a TV match. There was a spark missing. It didn’t feel as big or as special as it needed to. The crowd didn’t seem super engaged, even though it seemed like they wanted to be engaged? Like I said, it was still good, but I’ve seen better from both of them.
Baszler and Shirai both won via modified triangle choke holds, which is a pretty clear narrative cue that both women’s matches were part of the larger Shayna Baszler vs Io Shirai storyline. I mean, I’m a sucker for parallel structure as much as the next guy, plus I’m looking forward to evil Io finally being the one to take down the Queen of Spades. It would be cool though for this Mia Yim/Shayna Baszler angle to have been a little more fleshed out.
NXT Championship (2-out-of-3 Falls): Adam Cole defeats Johnny Gargano
I want to clarify something: I never didn’t like Johnny Gargano. I think he has been overexposed to the detriment of NXT’s quality overall, which is different. That’s on Triple H, not Gargano. He’s clearly kind of a nerd and that’s fun to make fun of, but also, let’s be real here: I write wrestling reviews on a website about video games. He is a very talented guy and I feel a little bad for how much I dunked on him during this match for dressing up like Wolverine.
That said, what looks like might be Johnny Takeover’s final Takeover match was very hard for me to get invested in. I mean, its 46 minutes didn’t feel quite as long as, say, a recent 31 minute long AEW main event, but it was still too long. I just don’t find this storyline or Cole and Gargano’s chemistry together compelling enough for these lengthy, repeated encounters.
It certainly had its moments. Gargano intentionally losing the first fall via disqualification so he could start beating Adam Cole up with a chair was a bright spot. Adam Cole climbing up the third fall stipulation cage to hide like a little cowardly mouse was cute. I loved Johnny Gargano cutting a length of barbed wire to use on Cole like a menacing dad demanding you smell a fresh sprig of rosemary from his garden. But for everything I liked, there were three more things that were boring or paint-by-numbers or just corny as hell. (The sledgehammer thing? Oy.)
Cole won the final fall when the two fell off the cage together and he landed on top of Gargano. It is undeniably fun that Adam Cole, the little shit that he is, won a two out of three falls match via his opponent’s intentional disqualification and an accident. But that’s more fun as a fact to know and say than it was to actually experience.
If this really is it for Johnny Gargano in NXT, I have high hopes for him on the main roster. (Or 205 Live? Maybe?) I think some fresh match-ups in front of new and different audiences could do him a lot of good. If Survivor Series season rolls around though and it turns out I have to sit through another one of these things? I… can’t actually think of a cool threat. I’ll probably just be really whiny about it.