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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: NXT TakeOver: Chicago


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: count on NXT to give us a good TakeOver. Whatever your qualms were about the short turnaround between Dallas and Chicago or how its biggest name just left for SmackDown Live, the yellow brand will do its damndest to put on an entertaining show . That said, TakeOver: Chicago just blew every other TakeOver out of the water. It wasn’t just good; it was excellent.

Roderick Strong def. Eric Young (w/ SAnitY)


This was a strong start for the show, pun intended. What Strong might be lacking in character development, he more than makes up for with polished wrestling skill. Even with a barebones gimmick of being an indy-bred wrestler with a chip on his shoulder (and a new father to boot), he told a simple but effective story out of this match. Bringing the fight to SAnitY by trying to take out their numbers advantage made him look crafty, and when Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe were able to interfere in the match, it showcased his resilience. He played the role of underdog well, even if it didn’t quite fit what we know of him so far. With Strong looking good in this match, it’s easy to see that the Creative team has something big in store for the Messiah of the Backbreaker.


It leaves SAnitY in an odd position, though. They’ve taken two major losses in their last two feuds, so building up them up again as monsters will be a tough path. It’d be best for them to refocus their attention away from the midcard scene. With the tag team division being shallow right now, it’d be a good opportunity for any two of the members to make a play for the tag titles.

Pete Dunne def. Tyler Bate (c) to win the WWE United Kingdom Championship


Holy fuck, this is a match of the year candidate if I ever saw one. In front of what could be the biggest crowd they’d worked in front of, both Dunne and Bate put on one hell of a match. To think both guys are under 24 years old right now is insane. If ever you needed proof that the UK division was worth creating, this match was proof of the promise it holds.


Everything about this match was perfect. Dunne was every bit the vicious bad ass he claimed to be. Every move he did looked more painful and malicious than his previous one. Bate, ever the prodigy, pulled off not just great technical wrestling, but wowed with highlight reel spots. He showcased his creativity with every move he used, including pulling off a Spiral Tap. Both guys worked a well-paced match that kept on escalating until the end. You had to agree with Chicago—you wanted this fight to go on forever.

Asuka (c) def. Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross to retain the NXT Women’s Championship


I’d be nitpicking if I said this was the match that let me down the most, seeing as this was still a really entertaining match. Asuka, Riot, and Cross thrived in the chaos of the Triple Threat stipulation. The action was nonstop, there were great spots, and everyone was solid in the ring. It felt a bit rushed—I wish they slowed down a bit to let each spot breathe—but all in all, it was a solidly worked match.


The thing that disappoints me is that they went overboard with the finish. Asuka retaining clean over both girls didn’t look as impressive as Creative probably thought it’d be. It felt unnecessary and vanilla. I think they should have played up the “win at all cost” mentality that Asuka had with her match with Ember Moon. Having her go over clean and pinning both girls was an excessive spot that made it look like she was burying the division. The whole über-dominant champion is getting a bit stale for me. With Moon probably next in line for a title shot, Creative will have to pull the trigger soon before Asuka jumps the shark.

Bobby Roode (c) def. Hideo Itami to retain the NXT Championship


This was both guys’ best match. Roode might not be the best wrestler on the roster, but he’s the best storyteller they have. Everything he does in the ring tells a story. From him jawing at his opponent to the way he sold Itami’s offense, he told a complete story of an arrogant champion once again biting off more than he can chew. On the other hand, Itami’s in-ring work has been the best it’s ever been. It helped that Roode sold everything so damn well, but you can see how Itami’s Strong Style offense looks fluid and natural now. He’s not just waiting for each spot to come; he’s stringing together his moves in a much smoother way.


This match would have main evented any other TakeOver, and there would have been no complaints. Both guys looked strong after the match, with Itami proving to be as talented as he was touted to be three years ago, and Roode looking even more resilient after slaying his toughest challenge yet. I’d love to see a rematch soon.

The Authors of Pain (w/ Paul Ellering (c) def. #DIY to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship


Everyone will be talking about what happened after the match, as well they should, but don’t sell the match itself short. It earned every minute it had as the main event. Both teams used the match’s stipulation well, with multiple ladder spots that were both creative and violent. Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano did a lot of the heavy lifting in term of the high-risk spots, including stereo dives to the champs who were laying prone on top of ladders. Akam and Rezar looked like beasts, especially when the nailed Gargano with a vicious ladder strike to the head. By the end of the match, it really felt like AoP deserved to retain the titles.


Ciampa’s turn was incredibly well-executed. It felt incredibly effective, especially when they haven’t really telegraphed it in a long time. It came out of nowhere, and Gargano’s face was really heartbreaking. Seeing Ciampa’s stoic face as he stared at his fallen partner was just excellent. The heel turn also came at the right time; there was nothing left for #DIY to prove as a team, but as individuals, they had a lot more untapped promise. I can’t wait for this feud to finally get started.


******

To say that TakeOver: Chicago lived up to its promise of being a damn good show is an understatement. With the right talent, proper booking, and a great crowd, everything fell into place for NXT’s latest live special. With one of the best matches of the year in Dunne/Bate, and one of the best heel turns since the Shield break-up, it’s safe to say we witnessed what was arguably WWE’s best show this year so far. It gets an A+.

Thoughts on TakeOver: Chicago? Let us know by dropping a comment below!

Photos from WWE.com
*****

Jocs Boncodin (@caboncodin) is a Managing Editor of Smark Henry. He answers tweets by day and watches wrestling by night. An aspiring writer, Jocs spends most of his idle time fantasy booking angles and overthinking wrestling storylines. A big fan of the WWE, his introduction to the local online wrestling community Smark Gilas-Pilipinas has opened his eyes to the wonders of puroresu and lucha libre. He currently handles Smark Hen-XT, smarkhenry.ph's weekly NXT review.

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