On 19th August, NXT returned and once again took over Brooklyn as they returned to the Barclays Center for another TakeOver special. The main event would see Drew McIntyre take on Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship while the card was fleshed out with encounters between Asuka and Ember Moon, Aleister Black and Hideo Itami, the Authors of Pain and SaNItY & Johnny Gargano and Andrade 'Cien' Almas. The kick-off panel did something quite interesting in bringing back multiple NXT alumni like Big E, Sasha Banks, Carmella, Bayley and Shinsuke Nakamura to build up the history of NXT aswell as providing a particularly fine piece of flubbed speech from Sasha where she declared that Ember Moon 'is Groot...great'. Beyond discovering that someone we thought was a Human Woman is actually a Talking Tree, let's see what other surprises Brooklyn had in store for us.
- We opened on a slick, elliptical video package accompanied by a live performance from Code Orange. This was a superb start to proceedings as it was not only technically impressive but also built up the 'NXT's Wrestlemania' vibe but going one better because they put it during the intro instead of taking up space for more wrestling. Also frankly, if you'd take Flo Rida over Code Orange, leave this review right now.
Andrade Almas (w/Zelina Vega) def. Johnny Gargano
The crowd is already alive with 'Johnny wrestling' chants. They lockup, graps happen, both men escape, Almas gets Gargano in a wristlock and transitions to a grounded headlock, Gargano is unable to compete with how tranquilo Almas is right now, knee headlock escape by Gargano, gets Almas in a headlock, runs the rope and hits a shoulder block, begins picking up the pace with a hurricanrana and some arm drags into a front crucifix headlock, Almas tries to power out, but Gargs holds out, Almas with a back elbow, drives Gargano to the corner, hits a slap, drives Almas to the other corner, hits more chops, Irish whip revsersal by Gargano, rushes Almas in the corner who catches him in the ropes and hits a modified corner GTR, running head kick into a triangle, just to show quite how tranquilo he is, Almas begins to go full Naito with the raised fist, Gargano escaps, Almas seems to be going for a brainbuster but no dice, a double clothesline spot happens, they both fall down. As they get up a little boo-yay action comes our way, on the floor, Gargano hits a low roundhouse kick, standing again and Almas gets Gargano on the outside, runs the rops straight into a slingshot spear for a close 2 count, Gargano throws Almas into the ropes, Almas is tranquilo as SUPERKICK knocks him out of the ring and into a Gargano tope suicido, back into the ring, and a beautiful slingshot DDT by Gargs for another 2, goes for a lawn dart, Almas escapes, throws Gargano out again, Gargano goes for a second spear but Almas catches him in a ddt,Almas goes up top and hits the Naito-style tornado inverted DDT for a close fall, top rope Almas goes for a superplex, Johnny fights back with strikes, slaps and a headbutt, he goes for sunset flip but Almas flips to freedom, hits a back elbow, goes for the corner double knees, johnny escapes and hits a step up enziguri, Almas hits the Sombra Driver into the turnbuckles crumpling Johnny, misses the double knees again, Johnny runs the ropes into a tilt a whirl Garga-No Escape but Almas hits a buckle bomb into the Almas Ankneehilation (as Nige informs me it's named) for a very close 2, grappled to his feet, Johnny hits a superkick and another and gets the lawn dart when suddenly Zelina throws a #DIY t-shirt at Johnny, suddenly experiencing many months of flashbakcs in one go, Gargano doesn't see Almas coming as he catches him in his La Sombra DDT for a pin. I'm impressed ny how much these two were able to make out of a feud where they were essentially working with nothing but they still delivered big. Almas really needed a win here and even though he could do with wins eventually, Gargano is a bulletproof babyface at this point who will have the audience's attention regardless of wins and losses. Despite being as tranquilo as ever, it's great to see Almas (with the assistance of Vega) starting to hit his strive and seem more like the La Sombra of sold than the slightly dull guy in the silly hat who debuted on NXT round a year ago. Hopefully with a rise like this, singles gold won't be far away for either men. It's also worth commending the use of the #DIY tee to keep Gargano v Ciampa going even with Ciampa's injuries as well that they managed to take an opening heel win and not deflate the crowd. Smooth work from both men that if a re-match was announced, I wouldn't complain.
NXT Tag Team Championship: SaNItY (Young/Wolfe) def. Authors of Pain (c)(w/Paul Ellering)
Corey Graves is back behind the NXT booth for this behemoth encounter, tonight it's Dain and Wolfe going for the tag titles, for some reason Paul Ellering is guarded by a team of Teenage Mutant Mercenary Turtles, before the bell, the turtles slide in and begin attacking SaNItY, having beaten down both men, they pull their masks off and reveal the turtles were Akam and Rezar all along! Fighting around the ring, Young gets a table, Cross is doing crazy things, Akam and Rezar separate the two men and roll a vulnerable Wolfe back into the ring to officially start the match, a big hip toss (big is the only adjective I'll need for this one) by Akam and in tags Rezar who begins beating Wolfe into the corner, Wolfe manages to side step an attack giving him an opportunity to tag in Dain but Young jumps up on the apron and has himself tagged in, it's a confusing moment sure but the crowd pop and cement SaNItY as the de-facto faces of this fight, tossing Rezar out of the ring and hitting a baseball dropkick, Young proceeds to fight Rezar on the outside who throws him into the crowd, Wolfe tries to fight back but he can't take both of them, Dain sure has been out for a while, more crowd and around the ring fighting, this referee is very lenient with the count-outs here, just a warning, somewhere along along the way I will lose track of who is who because it's tag wrestling, this happens, anyway Young is hit with an insane body drop into an x-factor, Akam or Rezar start using crossface strikes to wear down Young, just as he's starting to power back and fight off both of the big murder babies, he's caught in an assisted elevated curb stomp, including Rezar hitting a powerslam into a triangle choke, the choke goes to standing, Young gets in another hope spot but is thrown over the turnbuckle, lands, goes for a through the rope tackle but is caught into a high choke-inverted razor's edge, thing, it looks real painful, it's a big move OK? Rezar misses an elbow drop and a corner splash which gives Young the opening to get a hot tag to Alexander Wolfe, a person I never thought I would be saying pulled off a dope hot tag, Wolfe rushes hitting a helluva kick to Akam in the corner, smashes into Rezar, a big bicycle boot strike, an exploder suplex goes for a German, Rezar escapes but one more boot later, hits the release German suplex, up top and he hits a big flying uppercut for a pin but Akam breaks it up and knocks Young off the apron and they hit something like a sitoutpowerbomb-magic killer combination, Rezar tags out and passes Wolfe to Akam who's gone to the top rope, sets him up for a big powerbomb but Young causes a distraction long enough for Wolfe to hit a frankensteiner, tag in Young, Akam, Rezar, whichever one wasn't tagged in is thrown out of the ring and Young hits a massive leaping neckbreaker, goes for the elbow drop but is dropped nut first to the turnbuckle, tussling on the top rope happens, the two AoP members try to do a dungeon of doom spot on Young but Cross grabs his legs for leverage leading to Akam being powerbombed, Young hits his elbow drop for a good 2 count, out of the ring and Young hits a very slow tope suicido but Wolfe hits a big plancha, Cross gets in the ring to add to the lunacy much to the delight of the crowd but the ref and Ellering are not having intergender spots, despite them, Cross goes for a crossbody but is caught by Akam only for Dain to running crossbody them both through the table Young got out earlier, WAS THIS PART OF YOUR PLAN, ERIC? Back in the ring, tag to Wolfe and a Belly-to-Back Suplex-Neckbreaker combo puts away Rezar for the win. NEW CHAMPIONS! Of the three titles up for grabs, this was the one I least expected to change hands but they made it work with Young coming across as having outsmarted Ellering or at least his team just outlasting them. For the most part, even if the action came thick and fast, this stuck slightly too much to tag structures to feel like there was much more than some very good in-ring action. In an evening of star-making performances, credit must also be doled out to Alexander Wolfe who really made himself important in the match. It's easy to forget that Wolfe is not just the guy there to take the pin in tag matches but is a former wXw champion and most importantly, just very good at wrestling. What will be interesting going forward will be seeing if SaNItY are actually faces now or if this was a one match deal. Especially consider what happened next...
- After the match, as Young and Wolfe in come reDRagon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) who hit murder on everything. They throw everyone about, chop down the Axeman Wolfe with kicks before making a statement by hitting Chasing the Dragon on Dain, taking out the Authors of Pain and choking out Young then pose with the titles and leave through the crowd. This was all just a bit good.
- Neville, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kalisto are in the crowd, the guy behind them gives no shits about this.
Aleister Black def. Hideo Itami
Jim Ross comes out for guest commentary too and I suddenly become aware of Percy Watson's presence, has he been here this entire time? Itami comes out first, he gives no shits, not one, not even one. Courtesy of Code Orange and a shit-ton of candles, Black gets the special entrance, rising out of a crypt in the middle of the band performance area, he walks to the ring with complete control of the crowd to the sounds of his theme and one hundred think pieces of if he's 'the new Undertaker?' The two start squaring off and have to be separated by the referee so the bell can be rung, they want to get the kicks started Ok? The bell rings, the kicks started, we start with two double kick spots, they then start trading kicks, then dodging kicks, they go tete-a-tete before Black levels Itami with a kick to the chest sending Itami out of the ring, Black does his 'look like he's about to flip out of the ring then backflip into a seated position' taunt. Itami comes back in, they run at each other delivering some devastating chops to the neck, Black gets the best of this encounter with a knee to the head getting an early 2 count. Black kicks Itami into the corner, Itami fights back, picks up Black and drapes him in the middle of the top rope, delivers a running boot to the face and goes up top to hit a guillotine knee drop, 'show me respect' Itami shouts, maybe you should, Al, an Irish whip and a corner back elbow get a 1 count for Itami. Kicks to the back of the head into a headlock and Black is already bleeding, we might see a man die tonight, Black starts to escape the headlock, Itami whips him into the ropes and knees him in the gut on the rebound, spinal tap back kick, further kicks, headlock weardown, an elbow to the back of the neck, snapmare takedown, two standing knee drops, goes for a third but does the fakeout heel kick into Black's seated taunt, picks up Black into an arm-wrench DDT for a 2 count. Back to a headlock but Black begins to power back, Itami puts pressure on the wrist but Black escapes, dodges a clothesline, yet more kicks this time to Itami, a back elbow, kicking combination and a whip into a legsweep, drops the knee on Itami, whips Itami to the corner, runs to the ropes and hits the dazed Itami with a springboard moonsault knee drop, let's call it that and not an almost miss, elbow into the corner, Black runs at the corner but Itami deflects him with a boot, and again before delivering a tornado rope necksnap and a clotheslines for a 2 count. Fishermans suplex for another 2. Itami beats Black back into the corner, goes for a hesitation dropkick but Black escapes with a sunset flip and a roundhouse kick to send Itami to the mat, Black goes up top, Itami recovers, beats down Black, sets him up on the top rope, Black punches Itami off the top but Itami immediately gets back up hitting a super falcon arrow for yet another 2 count. Hesitation dropkick crumples Black, Itami sets up for the GTS, Black elbows his way off the shoulders, knees by Itami stop him building momentum, another Falcon takes him down, 'show me respect' Itami continues to shout, I really think you should, Itami runs at Black for a clothesline, Black ducks under and hits a Black Mass (actually out of nowhere, Randy) for a surprise pin. The crowd pop. Hard. This was everything I wanted it to be, it can't be coincidence that not long after the end of the G1 Climax that both this and Gargano-Almas had that G1 sprint feel where the story between the two guys almost begins and ends with the match. It's clear from the special entrance that the company see a lot in Black and he is delivering on that but Itami seems revitalised in his new heel role, even if I can't see him staying heel for that long as he's almost too good to boo. Also, he needs a win soon or he may struggle to be seen as a credible force, also a legend he may be but Jim Ross didn't really add much in his guest appearance here beyond to continue the 'new Undertaker' comparison and saying the word 'slobberknocker'. Still, for now, let's just be happy that this match did indeed provide the requisite number of kicks for a Takeover. And if you didn't think there were enough here...
NXT Women's Championship: Asuka (c) def. Ember Moon
Tonight Ember is in Green and Silver possibly in reference to the internet hoax that every 420 years, the moon turns green, darn stoners. Asuka has added a fucking amazing head-dress to her assortment, it's official, she is unstoppable. Ember Moon goes straight off the bell with a dropkick, leg sweep and a basement dropkick for a 1 count. Asuka tries to go for a kick, Moon catches it and hits a suplex, Asuka slides out of the ring Moon goes for another basement dropkick this time out of the ring, Asuka dodges, throws Moon back into the ring who spins around with a kick, climbs back up to second for a cannonball onto the champ, Asuka crashes Moon into the steps, Asuka repeatedly kicks and strikes before hitting a headlock suplex on the ramp, Asuka throws Moon back into the ring and proceeds stomping her on the floor, she goes on to attack the injured arm of Moon working over the arm itself before focusing in on the wrist, Moon tries to fight back but Auska rolls through maintaining the hold, hip attack escape, Asuka hits an STO to ground Ember, curb stomps and kicks to the head, as Moon tries to stand up, Asuka twists around her into an octopus hold, when she's forced to the ground she transitions to a shoulder pressured armbar, Asuka looks insane, I love her, then Moon powers through and hits a deadlift teardrop suplex by Moon, I love her too. The two competitors power to their feet but, Moon hits some strike and a step-up enziguri for a 2 count. Asuka regains control hitting a corner German suplex and attempts to apply the first Asuka Lock of the match but Moon reverses into a crossface chickenwing of her own, Asuka transitions into Asuka Lock II, Moon escapes with a modified gory bomb, Asuka tries for a desperate roll-up but Moon kicks out and hits a very pretty lariat. Asuka throws a clothesline, Moon ducks throws a clothesline of her own, Asuka ducks, Asuka hits the stiffest butt bump you've ever seen, goes for a second one but Ember blocks, heads to the second rope, hits a tornado suplex for a 2 counts. They trade strikes, some brutal knees to the gut floor Asuka, more strikes traded, Asuka goes straight for the head, Moon hits a desperation slam to escape, goes for a pin, still 2. Moon goes up top, Asuka is straight up and tries to hit a move of her own, Moon slips out and goes for a liger bomb, Asuka holds on for dear life, Moon kicks out her legs and hits a tree of woe double stomp, back up top, she sets her up for the Eclipse, she hits it perfect, hooks the leg, for a 2. Ember can't believe it, this was meant to be the godkiller, back up top, goes for the eclipse again but Asuka hides behind the referee, Ember leaps the ref with a crossbody, Ember rolls through grabbing a handful of tights but the ref sees and breaks up the pin. Ember hits a superkick for another 2 count. She freaks out, Asuka gets Ember in an armbar, Ember tries to leverage into a pin but Asuka traps her in the Asuka lock, she holds on for a good long time but is forced to tap. This is how you make stars, Asuka delivered her best match since joining NXT and Ember looks so much more convincing as a future leader of the division than she could've done considering she took the loss. Her offence and selling was some of the finest seen on this or any brand and her sheer desperation was palpable which really added to the pain felt when she was forced to tap. The real question is where do both of them go from here? After that, I can see that for them, as Yazz said 'the only way is up'.
- Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe are also in the crowd but because this is NXT, anyone returning gets cheered. Then again, most people get cheered. Boo the damn heels, NXT crowds.
NXT Championship: Drew McIntyre def. Bobby Roode (c)
Alright let's get through this. Drew gets a fine entrance with an actual drum and pipe band and not just the wheezing MIDI shite they normally use, oh no the standard theme is back, shame we got the NYPD band for this huh, at least the the drmmers look really happy to be here. Roode's getting his 'how to play' entrance theme piano video as well as it seems having been given the entire pyro budget for smoke machines, Roode is standing upon some form of robotic remote control room vacuum (I won't mention the brand till they pay me) with a beautiful new red and gold robe, there is no doubting that Roode might be a heel but he's Brooklyn's hero right now, except for the 'BOBBY POO' sign guy, it can't be a coincidence that with ICW alum the 'one fall, one fall' chant is extra loud. Now it may have not come to your attention but Drew is a big man and he's quite strong too, he uses this to power Roode to the corner but Bobby escapes, Bobby clearly terrified that Drew's hair has reached full grease hits a slap in the corner, McIntyre is not amused by this and throws him back to the corner but Bobby escapes and gets Drew in a headlock. Running the ropes, Drew escapes and levels Bobby with a shoulder block who rolls outside the ring because Drew is just too much. Bobby keeps ducking, weaving and hitting slaps in the corners, he goes for an early Glorious DDT but it's too early Bob, too damn early. Bobby does his 'GLORIOUS' pose and the crowd are clearly in love with him, but Drew isn't who responds to Roode's slaps with a big slap of his own, boots him out of the ring and outside does a gorilla press slam onto the crowd barricade. Back on the ring apron and Bobby kicks McIntyre square in the face and goes for a splash but McIntyre catches him, Bobby escapes but walks into two back elbows and a tilt-a-whirl slam onto the apron, Bobby gets back up, slams McIntyre off the apron and hits a blockbuster-ish before sending him into the barricade. Back in the ring and Roode is keeping McIntyre grounded with some nasty strikes, McIntyre begins to fight back, Irish whip but Roode reverses and hits a standard sized missile dropkick for a 2 count. Straight into a headlock. McIntyre breaks the hold and slams Roode into the turnbuckle before hitting a belly-to-belly, a running elbow strike, goes up top, a flying clothesline into a kip-up, hits some kicks till Roode comes back with an atomic drop, runs at McIntyre who catches him in the Celtic Cross air-raid crash, Roode gets out, hits McIntyre's neck off the rope to buy himself some time, heads up top, McIntyre remembers he's taller than the turnbuckle so hits Roode, Roode fights him off but McIntyre's right back up into the top buckle nut shot, now in the tree of woe position Roode begins taunting him but McIntyre hits the spider head suplex, set up for the Claymore but Roode plays possum, Drew picks him for the Futureshock DDT but Roode hits a backstabber for a 2 count. Back to the corner slaps, corner clothesline, Roode goes for a neckbreaker but Drew hits a backslide for a 2 count. Back to their feet and McIntyre gets the Futureshock DDT but it is Bobby that shocks the future by kicking out. Drew takes him up to for an avalanche Celtic Cross but Bobby wriggles out and hits a Liger bomb for a 2. The two exhausted puddles of men trade strikes on the floor up to standing, Drew slaps, Bobby goes for a kick, Drew catches the leg, Bobby hits an enziguri, Drew hits a desperation Claymore but Bobby is close enough to the ropes to get his foot up. Roode rolls out of the ring but McIntyre follows him out with a lovely big lad tope con hiro to an assortment of 'Holy Shit' chants. Gets Roode back in the ring, sets him up for a Claymore but runs right into a spinebuster that garnered to my count the first 'realign the spine and jack the back' call of Mauro's return to WWE, Bobby picks up Drew for the Glorious DDT but Drew uses his big lad weight to sit on him for a 2 count. Bobby hits the Glorious DDT for a 2 count. Out of that Bobby hits a second Glorious DDT but instead of going for the cover, he goes for a third, headbutt by Drew stuns the glorious one, in the corner, McIntyre rushes and hits a Claymore for the pin 1,2,3 NEW CHAMPION! This was good, it wasn't as good as it should have been, especially considering it was 22 minutes and it didn't need at least 8 or 9 of those, but it was good. Drew showed flashes of getting back to the motivated hellraiser he has been at his peak but it had a certain lethargy and lacked the big fight feel of either of the other two title matches. I was surprised and quite pleased that they didn't try to force Roderick Strong into the match as it makes him appear to be a man of his word by not getting involved regardless. This wasn't necessarily the match's fault itself as had it been in the middle of the show and a bit shorter, I might have looked on it a lot more favourably but in the main event position, it has a certain demand to be the peak, to be the best match on the show. This isn't the era where the world title is for the superstars and the undercard is for the pure wrestlers, we live in an age where we expect everyone to be everything and that is probably an unrealistic demand to place on them but I got a feeling that this was the kind of match that could have been so much better had they just tried a bit harder. Where it goes from here, well, who knows?
- After the match, they pulled the old 'fakeout logo card' switcheroo as a celebrating Drew noticed a pair of ReDragons leaning in the corner of the ring only for Adam Cole (Bay bay) to attack him from behind, all three men kicked the new NXT Champion while he was down before O'Reilly and Fish would pick him up for Cole to deliver a superkick right to the noggin. He would then pose with the NXT title before the actual end of the show fade out happened.
ATPW Scale Rating: 7.8/10
For the first 4/5 of the show, I could have been ready to scream 'best TakeOver ever' with both of the non-title matches delivering for me in big ways, the tag team match managing to make a heel v heel encounter work and providing a ludicrous but wonderful carnage and what is probably Asuka's best match in NXT yet. Then the Main Event happened. It wasn't terrible but it was just fine which is something I've sadly thought a lot about both Roode's and McIntyre's recent in-ring tenures with both men struggling to make their 22 minutes count and feel important. The problem with the main event being by far the weakest match is it can deflate proceedings a little, luckily up turned the ReDragon & Cole domination might well be the jolt of electricity that the Main event scene needed but then again, I can also see how some people might be annoyed that this invasion is taking place in the middle of other stories and hopefully doesn't push some like (Ring of Honor's...) Roderick Strong out of the main event picture. Drew McIntyre has the attention of Cole, Roode, Strong and lets not count out some of the other singles stars like Aleister Black & Andrade Almas. NXT say 'The Future Is Now' and right now, the future's looking very interesting indeed.