Hideo Itami hopes to put his injury nightmares behind him, as he faces Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship in Chicago. Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate fight over the WWE United Kingdom Championship for the second time, with Dunne hoping to avenge his loss in January 2017 and win a championship he believes is rightfully his. The NXT Women’s Championship and NXT Tag Team Championship are also on the line…
Eric Young (with “Sanity”)
(Winner via pinfall: Roderick Strong)
Tyler Bate (C)
WWE United Kingdom Championship
(Winner via pinfall, and NEW Champion: Pete Dunne)
NXT Women’s Championship
(Winner via pinfall: Asuka)
Bobby Roode (C)
(Winner via pinfall: Bobby Roode)
The Authers of Pain (C) (Akam & Rezar, with Paul Allering)
DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa)
NXT Tag Team Championship
(Winners: The Authors of Pain)
The opening match got things going in the right way, with babyface Roderick Strong attacking Eric Young’s Sanity teammates at ringside, after sneaking in through the crowd during his entrance. After that, it was a competitive match that went back and forth, and I loved the little bits of interference from the Sanity guys throughout, as it was done so slyly, and in a manner that didn’t just telegraph the end of the match coming. There were some strong strikes throughout, particularly in the closing stages, giving it a good indie wrestling feel. Strong grabbed the deserved win, much to the surprise of many, and will presumably go onto greater things in the company now, particularly since he appears to be over with crowds following the exceptional video packages NXT produced about him the past few weeks.
Although he provided taped commentary for the WWE United Kingdom Championship Special in the lead up to this event, you can only imagine how emotional Jim Ross must have felt coming out to the introduction and crowd pop that he did, ahead of the WWE United Kingdom Championship match. He was finally home, and it felt great. Even better, it turned out he was returning to run commentary on a match that will likely go down in the history books as one of the best ever in WWE.
It’s hard to put into words how brilliant the WWE United Kingdom Championship match was. Even as I write this, I’ve still not had a single word leave my mouth since it concluded. Only one other match has ever done that to me before, and that was Kazuchika Okada versus Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Yes, we’re talking that level of quality.
What Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne did here will change the landscape of British wrestling. They had a Chicago crowd on their feet applauding the damn match when it wasn’t even finished! Chants of “UK,” “This is awesome,” and “Fight forever,” were deafening. The UK division has had good exposure on WWE television already in 2016, but this was the game changer.
For me, Bate is a superstar, and he looked incredible in this match. I was disappointed he lost the championship, but it’s been on the cards ever since Dunne lost that first match to him in January, so I can’t complain. Along the way, he’s successfully defended it against Trent Seven, Jack Gallagher, Joseph Conners, and twice against Mark Andrews, so there’s a fair argument to be that that he’d already beaten everyone there was for him to beat. Despite that, I would’ve loved for the switch to happen at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, but I’m sure we’ll get a rematch there at least. And he never hit his finisher, the Tyler Driver 97, which he’s beaten every opponent with so far, so we may see that come into play in the build towards their next match. This match was booked to perfection, and every fan of wrestling should watch it. Hell, even non-fans should watch it.
Whatever match had to follow that was always going to be up against it, but fair play to the competitors in the NXT Women’s Championship match, who went out and put on a strong match. Credit to the crowd who didn’t let themselves become exhausted from the match they’d just seen prior. Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross are future headliners of this division, but it would seem Asuka is only dropping that title to one person, and that person happened to be injured for this match. Ember Moon, I’m looking at you. I would’ve liked a stronger finish, but the fact it involved all three women in its final sequence is a credit to it, as is the fact that the three women were involved right throughout rather than one of them taking it in turns to sit out.
Bobby Roode is currently wrestling in a true heavyweight style, and it’s making for some interesting matches that feel very different to everything else on the brand. Some might argue that it means his matches are starting too slow, but not everything needs to move at 100mph, and there’s no question that Roode’s matches really work to earn their more energetic closing sequences.
I almost went for a 3.5 in Roode versus Hideo Itami, but gave it a 4.0 after what was a very exciting final few minutes. For me, I’d hoped for a little more from Itami, but to be fair to him, he’s still not long returned from injury and it’s going to take him a while to get back to the level that everyone knows he can reach. I’ve enjoyed him trying to reclaim the move he created, the Go To Sleep (GTS), and hearing a Chicago crowd boo other fans who were chanting for CM Punk was incredible. Honestly, for that to happen in Punk’s hometown, following a GTS… wow.
Hopefully, Roode will defend against a new opponent at the next Takeover event. Whilst this Itami feud should certainly get another match on weekly TV, NXT has suffered somewhat from dragging its main title feud out too long, and not giving its champion a lengthy list of opponents they have been victorious over. If Roode can move on from this into a new feud, that will be Shinsuke Nakamura and Hideo Itami in the bag, and his title run will just look that much more legitimate whenever he does eventually drop the strap.
There was some genuine surprise on social media when it was revealed that the NXT Championship match would follow the Women’s Championship, meaning that the Ladder Match for the NXT Tag Team Championship would main event. It’s the first time the tag titles have been the main event of an NXT special event, and the first time the NXT Championship hasn’t been the main event when it’s been booked on a Takeover. As such, everyone was expecting something special from this tag match. Luckily, they weren’t disappointed.
Whilst Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne put on a five star next level classic, Authors of Pain and DIY put on a solid five star gimmick match that never really felt like a gimmick match. Ladder spots didn’t feel so telegraphed, and it still felt like the wrestling was important. In many ways, it felt like an old school ladder match, where the ladders were just a tool to help people complete their objective, rather than being the focus of the whole match. That isn’t to say there weren’t some crazy ladder spots, because there were, but damn did they feel earned. The Authors of Pain may have been helped in recent months by their opponents being so bloody good (looking at you, Ciampa and Gargano, and the Revival guys), but they are more than holding their own and it will be interesting to see how they carry the division now that their regular opponents are no longer viable opponents.
I absolutely loved Ciampa turning on Gargano at the end of the show. It was genius that the production gave them both the kind of farewell moment that your Bayley’s, Sami Zayn’s, and co., have enjoyed, only to then have Ciampa turn on his friend and confirm that these two are not done with NXT and will in fact enter into a feud that will presumably see them through the next four to six months. It was an “Oh shit!” moment, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t suddenly excited at the prospect of a rematch of their WWE Cruiserweight Classic match from 2016, which was superb. “Fuck you, Ciampa” chants filled the arena, as the show drew to a close and Ciampa continued his beating of his friend.
This is absolutely the best wrestling show I have seen in 2017. I can’t see how anything will top this.
Match of the Night
Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne
NXT TakeOver: Chicago Rating
(+0.5 for the viewing experience and overall quality of the event)