Oh yes… this just happened. Despite clerical errors, some filing problems, and just plain and simple issues with our predictions system, NXT Takeover: Chicago did actually just happen. And yet again, a five match, two and a half hour show is going to grossly overshadow the main card.
Let’s get to the tricep meat and potato pancakes shall we?
Match 1: The Undisputed Era (c) [Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong] w/ Adam Cole d. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships
Okay, this is one of those times, that I admit that I don’t watch NXT. I want to say it’s by design, but it’s not. It’s sheer laziness. The network is one of those things that I pay Vince McMahon my money for in order to have access to the PPV’s, occasional insight, and a vast database of wrestling I used to care about.
Which isn’t fair to NXT. It never will be fair to NXT. NXT is the best show I’m not watching. (Despite the fact that I’m just NOW getting caught up with Lucha Underground to the point that I’m finally about to watch Ultima Lucha Tres, but that’s another article.)
It’s aggravating to know that NXT is this good with people I both have come to know and love, and people that are just damned good despite being bland as bleached asshole. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch are two of these guys.
God they’re good in that ring. They are NXT’s second coming of the Revival, except based on tonight, I don’t see the personality. I see the in ring talent that would give Michael Benningfield a rager, but I don’t see the charisma that would make me care about them.
Then again, I’m not watching week to week.
Cole, O’Reilly and Strong. I know these guys. They’re gold. both in ring and on the mic. Maybe not Roddy, but Roddy is the second coming of Dean Malenko, and truly, you don’t need a microphone to be Dean Malenko.
This match was really good. While I expected it to be a bit bland, both teams put on one hell of a showing, and it was an actual technical marvel while giving NXT every ounce of that indy fed flavor that WWE wants you to buy into. They give it all to you, and truthfully it was a textbook example of pro wrestling at its finest.
In the end, The Undisputed Era picked up the victory and the title retention, over a believably hard fighting team of Birch & Lorcan
Match 2: Ricochet d. The Velveteen Dream
God I don’t want to like The Velveteen Dream. I just don’t. He’s Orlando Jordan meets D’Angelo Dinero in the worst possible way.
I can’t help but find myself hating this guy to the point of understanding that I hate him because he’s just so…damned… good. He’s an athlete beyond measure, he’s a talented in ring performer and the fact that I hate him so much makes me reminded that you don’t have to be as loud as Ernest “The Cat” Miller to be flashy and annoying.
Likewise, by comparison, Ricochet is just a livewire. He doesn’t say much. Doesn’t have to. He just goes out there and knows how to kick the ever loving hell out of you in the body of arguably the most exhilarating high flyer since… I don’t even know.
One of the reasons I fell in love with Lucha Underground was the flashy Lucha style. Hard impact, high flying, batshit feats of gravity defying insanity. When Angelico took off from the top of Dario Cueto’s office in season one… I still remember that.
It was one of the craziest things I’ve seen in a wrestling ring (even if it wasn’t really all that over the top when you genuinely look at some of the things done in a wrestling ring. Ricochet (aka Prince Puma for those who just haven’t made that link yet) is one of the most impressive to come from that line.
He is beyond incredible in a wrestling ring, and it has little or nothing to do with his mic skills. Pairing him with The Velveteen Dream was a hell of an idea. The battle between the two was a thing of beauty. I loved that Dream came down in a pseudo nod to Hulk Hogan, even called attention to by Nigel McGuinness. I want that shirt WWE… get on it. Don’t make me bootleg the shit out of it, cause I will.
That said, for me, in a night that every match could have been match of the night, this was the dark horse. It was flawless, and it came out with Ricochet hitting the 630 for the victory. I know I don’t seem to be breaking down what happened in these matches, but that’s by design… truly my words can’t match the beauty of these things. When I can, it really isn’t a good thing.
Match 3: Shayna Bazler d. Nikki Cross
If I’m being honest, there was a lot to Nikki Cross vs. Shayna Bazler I missed. Nikki’s mind games and truly challenging Shayna’s sadism fit so well. I can’t say much more on this match beyond that I can’t wait to see the next stage of it.
Match 4: Aleister Black (c) d. Lars Sullivan to defend the NXT Championship
This is the new big man. Aleister Black (6’0, 215) vs. Lars Sullivan (6’3, 303) These are the powerhouse pairing of NXT. The beasts. This was a battle of the bulls, and the clash was just epic.
Lars Sullivan has been undefeated thus far in singles competition. Aleister Black has been destroying most of the NXT Roster. Truly something was going to have to give. Sullivan played the great foil to Black who was clearly the smaller and less powerful, yet was still presented as a powerhouse.
Sullivan to me struck me as somewhere between Gene Snitsky and Luke Gallows when he was Festus. I don’t know that it’s particularly a bad thing, but it showed by the time it was all said and done, but Black pulled out the victory with about a half dozen uses of Black Mass.
Match 5: Tommasso Ciampa d. Johnny Gargano
To be honest, there was no better story told on the night. Perhaps, there may have been better technical wrestling. Better high spots. There may have been better athletics. But this match right here was something that reminded me what it is about pro wrestling that I love. Booking is important, so is laying out your show.
So when I thought the show was over after Aleister Black defended the NXT Title, I kind of had to rush back when I remembered that Gargano and Ciampa hadn’t done their thing yet.
Having had some insight into booking, there are only maybe two things that ever should trump your main title. One is a specialty event, such as the Royal Rumble, or Money in the Bank, or something that lends itself to being bigger than the title on this night. The other is a blood feud.
Not just any ol’ battle between two people that hate each other, but a true and genuine, take no prisoners, I don’t just want to beat you, I don’t just want to hurt you, I want to fucking kill you, bring you back to life, piss on your face, fuck your wife in front of you while you watch, spit on your children, murder them all and then kill you again slowly so that you have to be forced to endure all of that kind of boiling hatred that can only come in a few perfect instances in storytelling.
When something like that occurs, you can put your title on the back burner. Because what translates on the screen or to the fan, is something so powerfully poetic. So dirt simple yet mind numbingly complex that it can’t be fully comprehended. It has to be felt. It has to be connected to in such a way that the human mind can’t help but understand the deep seated level of turmoil, pain, suffering and anger that comes from it.
Such was the story so beautifully told almost a year in the making between Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano.
I will not spoil this match by attempting to describe it. It’s a virtual impossiblity. You can’t gain what you need listening to someone else tell you what happened. So instead, I tell you that you need to see it. To understand why it is, after the fact, that you should have tuned in.
In the case of Gargano vs. Ciampa, the reason you should pay your $9.99 to Vince and actually watch this is because it has such a depth of… everything… that you can’t not feel somewhat hollow afterwards.
Overall this pay per view was immaculate. One that is worth checking out. Needing to watch it again to fully appreciate the complexity but knowing that from top to bottom, every story told continues to show me that the WWE can make a compelling product, if they just cared to do so.