The John Report: WWE NXT Takeover Chicago 05/20/17 Review

The WWE NXT Takeover Chicago event aired last night on WWE Network. This is not going to be a full play by play review like most of my WWE show reviews. I’m going to hit on the details of the matches while offering up star ratings and analysis for everything on the show as well.

WWE NXT Takeover Chicago
Allstate Arena in Chicago (Rosemont), Illinois
May 20, 2017

The opening video package aired to hype up all the matches on the show.

The announce team of Tom Phillips, Percy Watson and Nigel McGuinness welcomed us to the show. McGuinness is very good. Phillips is okay. Watson hardly says anything interesting.

Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young (w/Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe)

I liked the start of the match with Strong attacking Dain and Wolfe outside the ring before the bell rang to show that he was ready. The crowd was strong in terms of their support for Strong right off the bat. Young works a bit of a slower, more methodical style, so when he was on offense for much of the match it slowed down a bit too much. Strong did his usual array of backbreaker variations in making his comeback the entire time. There was attempted interference from Dain and Wolfe, but Strong was able to knock them off the apron. Strong finished off Young with a suplex into a double knee to the back (a backbreaker) for the pinfall win at around 14 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Roderick Strong

Analysis: ***1/4 Pretty good match from two veterans that know what they are doing out there. It was the right call to have Strong go over. He's a face on the rise in NXT and made more sense as the guy to get the win here. Strong could be pushed as the next NXT title contender as well.

Video package aired to set up the WWE UK Title match between Bate and Dunne.

There was a loud ovation for WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross calling the WWE UK Title match. He's the best play by play man ever and it's great to have him calling WWE matches. Loud "JR" chants for him. He was there to call just the next match with McGuinness.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne

If you're not familiar with these names, Bate walked in as the face champion and Dunne is the heel. Bate is only 20 years old while Dunne is 23. Both guys are from the Birmingham, England area.

The crowd seemed interested in them from the moment the bell rang with fans chanting “Bruiserweight” for Dunne. They did some technical wrestling early on to show what they can do. Bate did a good job of getting out of an armbar and hit a dropkick. Dunne hit a release suplex on the ring apron, which was a great spot. After a series of great nearfalls, there were "NXT" chants from the crowd in support of these guys. I thought JR made a good comparison in saying Bate was similar to a Bob Backlund in that he's a smaller guy that was really strong. Bate hit a standing Shooting Star Press into a delayed back suplex for a two count. Triangle choke submission applied by Dunne. Bate powered out of it with a one armed Powerbomb like move. Bate got a huge crowd reaction followed by a really fast airplane spin. Who would have guessed that? It was pretty unique leading into Bate getting a two count. Dunne came back with a great suplex into a Powerbomb for a two count. That drew a standing ovation from the crowd. The crowd was going wild as they exchanged kick strikes and Bate hit a forearm to the face after bouncing off the ropes. It led to a "UK" and "fight forever" chant from the crowd. When Bate went for his pumphandle attack, Bate countered it into a DDT leading to a “holy shit” chant. Dunne went to the floor and Bate hit a moonsault off the middle rope onto Dunne on the floor. Back in the ring, Bate hit a corkscrew 450 splash for a two count. Most people thought that was it as Dunne rolled to the floor again. The momentum turned when Bate went for a dive over the top rope onto Dunne outside the ring, but Dunne avoided it and Bate went crashing to the floor. Dunne rolled Bate back into the ring with Dunne hitting the Bitter End (pumphandle slam into a flatliner) for the pinfall win with the crowd going crazy for it. It went about 16 minutes.

Winner by pinfall and new WWE UK Champion: Pete Dunne

Analysis: ****1/2 Wow. That was an incredible match with a hot crowd that got louder as the match went on. They had a great mix of high impact moves, believable nearfall spots and they sold everything well also. I was so impressed by the corkscrew 450 by Bate. It's the kind of move that you aren't going to see very often and you would think it would be a finishing move, but Dunne kicked out of it. Dunne was my pick to win because I think he's got more of a persona and could be a dominant heel champion. Awesome showing by both guys. I’m so impressed by Bate’s ability to do high flying moves as well as power moves with ease. He makes it all so easy. Dunne has developed more as a character as I already said and he’s outstanding in-ring as well. They definitely won over some new fans that may not have seen them in a WWE ring before. It’s a definite WWE Match of the Year contender. I think that's Cena/Styles from the Royal Rumble. This wasn't as good as that match, but it's still amazing especially for guys that are just 23 and 20 years old. One of the best WWE matches this year, no doubt about it. If you’re one of those people that complains about why I didn't give it five stars, please understand that very few matches even hit the 4.5* level in WWE in a year. The Cena/Styles match at the Rumble (I gave that five stars) went about eight minutes longer, they built well off their other matches and had more believable nearfalls. This match didn’t have as many moments where I thought it was going to end except for that corkscrew 450 from Bate. It’s not a major complaint, believe me. Just trying to explain why it wasn’t five stars to me. Kudos to Dunne and Bate - hell of a match that I won't soon forget.

Post match, Dunne posed with the WWE UK Title by putting him in his mouth. Bate was on the floor selling pain. They earned a great ovation from the crowd.

A video package aired to set up the NXT Women's Title match. As Asuka entered, Phillips noted that Asuka has held that title for 414 days.

NXT Women's Championship: Asuka vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross

The first few minutes featured the predictable spots of two women in the ring while the third was on the floor. There was a shot of Ember Moon watching high above in the arena with her left arm in a sling. Cross hit a neckbreaker on Riot and Asuka hit a missile dropkick while landing on Riot, which was a cool spot. Asuka nailed a knee to the face on Cross while she was on the floor. Riot followed that with a suicide dive on Asuka. After Riot hit a splash off the top, Asuka hit a bridging German Suplex on Riot for two.  They did a spot where Riot did a superkick on Cross leading to an Asuka German Suplex on Cross. Riot nailed Asuka with a kick. Asuka avoided a splash attempt by Riot, slapped on the Asuka Lock and Cross made the save. The crowd came alive during a spot where Cross trapped Asuka between the ring and ring apron to seize control. They did a spot where all three women were down at the same time selling exhaustion. Double clothesline by the challengers sent Asuka over the top to the floor. Riot hit a roundhouse kick on Cross. Asuka hit a running knee strike on Riot and Asuka covered both women to win at 13 minutes. The crowd didn't react much to that finish.

Winner by pinfall: Asuka

Analysis: **3/4 It was an average match that wasn't at the level of some of the great Asuka matches at Takeover. The finish was flat. I think it was a good idea in theory, but the execution of the move didn't work. It just felt flat. I also think it's a case of the previous match being so good that it was going to be tough for the match right after it. Anyway, Asuka retains her title. I expected her to keep it in this match. She may not lose the title for a few more months, perhaps at the Takeover during SummerSlam weekend. The announcers wondered if anybody in the world can beat Asuka, which makes me think that another recently signed Japanese star, Io Shirah, may be the one that beats Asuka. If not her then Ember Moon would be my pick.

A video package aired for the Velveteen Dream, who is former Tough Enough guy Patrick Clark. He debuts on the next edition of NXT this Wednesday, which was already taped before Takeover. It's either going to fail miserably or be entertaining.

The video package aired for Itami vs. Roode of the NXT Title match. Good job of focusing on Itami wanting to prove himself after dealing with injuries so much over the last two years.

Analysis: I'm surprised they aren't on last, but makes sense that the tag title ladder match would get the main event spot because it feels more special.

Roode's entrance at every Takeover special is always spectacular. The crowd sings along with every word and he soaks it up so well. I don't even think Roode has a gimmick. He just has the word "Glorious" and it fits so well.

NXT Championship: Bobby Roode vs. Hideo Itami

Itami was on offense for a few minutes early on. Roode took over thanks to a Blockbuster neckbreaker off the middle ropes. They did a sequence of strikes that ended with Itami hitting a running kick. Itami got a nearfall with a clothesline off the top, but the crowd didn’t buy it as a legit finish. Roode charged, Itami moved and Roode hit the ring post with his left shoulder. Itami took control for a few more minutes including a near finish with a Falcon Arrow slam. Roode stopped the momentum with a spinebuster. When Roode went for the Glorious DDT, Itami slipped out because Roode was selling the arm injury. They battled on the floor with Itami sending Roode shoulder first into the ring steps and then Itami missed a dropkick on the floor. Back in the ring, Itami with a spinning back fist and a corner dropkick fired up the crowd. When Itami went for the GTS, he couldn’t do it because he was selling a foot injury. Roode hit the Glorious DDT for a two count. Itami hit the Go To Sleep soon after and Roode rolled out of the ring. Some fans chanted “CM Punk” but others booed and the chant went away quickly as Itami rolled Roode him in for a two count. Itami destroyed Roode with palm strikes to the face. Roode countered a GTS attempt with a Glorious DDT, then Roode rolled through and hit another Glorious DDT for the pinfall win after about 18 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Bobby Roode

Analysis: ***1/2 Very good title match with Roode coming out on top as expected. There was a slow pace to this match, which has been a regular thing for Roode matches at Takeover events. That’s not a bad thing at all because it allows them to slowly build a story. It just means it takes a while for the crowd to get into the matches sometimes. Itami was the face that got some crowd support, but it wasn’t that strong until the last few minutes. The GTS spot went exactly as I thought it would with Roode rolling to the floor and that way it protected the GTS finish because Itami didn’t pin him right away. The ending was awesome with Roode hitting the Glorious DDT two times in a row. Nice way to end it since Itami kicked out of the move earlier in the match.

After the show, WWE posted a Youtube video that suggests Itami is going to turn heel after being frustrated about the loss. It looks like an angle with Kassius Ohno.

There was a shot of US Champion Kevin Owens in the crowd sitting beside Eric Thames of MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers. Owens hates sports, so he probably has no idea who Thames is. In another section of the arena, Sami Zayn Pat Patterson and Kassius Ohno were shown watching the event in the front row.

The announcers plugged Triple H doing a Facebook Live chat after the show.

A video package aired to set up Authors of Pain defending the Tag Titles against Gargano & Ciampa in a Ladder Match.

There was some concern over Ciampa’s health going into the match since he hurt his ankle at a live event on Thursday, but it ended up being a sprain that he was able to work through it.

NXT Tag Team Championships Ladder Match: Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) with Paul Ellering vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa)

The tag titles were raised above the ring. First team to retrieve them gets to leave as Tag Team Champions.

There was a big ladder at the top of the ramp that Gargano and Ciampa tried to bring into the ring. When AOP prevented that, Gargano hit a suicide dive to take out both guys on the floor. There was a cool spot where one of the AOP guys slammed Ciampa onto Gargano. #DIY came back by ramming a ladder onto the back of the bigger heels. When AOP took control, they were slow to climb the ladder, so the story was about if they could actually do it. The next few minutes featured dominance from AOP using ladders as weapons. The AOP guys used the ladders as a bridge from the ring apron to the barricade. The #DIY guys fought back so that both AOP guys were laying on the ladders. Gargano and Ciampa climbed the big ladder on opposite sides (the ref was holding the ladder to steady it) and both Gargano and Ciampa hit splashes off the top of the ladder onto both AOP guys on the floor. All four guys were climbing, Gargano was left alone after the others were knocked down and Ellering went into the ring to pull him off the ladder. Gargano hit a superkick on Ellering to knock him down. There was a spot where Gargano shoved Ciampa out of the way of a ladder attack, so AOP hit Gargano in the head with a ladder. Ciampa picked up Rezar off a ladder and gave him a German Suplex through a stacked ladder that was against the turnbuckle. That was great! The DIY guys climbed, grabbed the handle above the titles and AOP stopped them. AOP hit Powerbombs followed by the Super Collider spot leading to a Double Powerbomb. Both AOP guys climbed to retrieve the titles and win the match. It went 20 minutes.

Winners: Authors of Pain

Analysis: **** Great tag team ladder match that was hard hitting and told a cool story with both teams battling for control at various points. The first half of the match was more of a faster pace while the second half was slower because they were selling pain. I thought all of the big spots were very creative and things that I don’t remember seeing in ladder matches very often, if at all. The tag team splash by #DIY off the ladder onto the AOP guys was cool. They topped that spot with Ciampa grabbed Rezar and slammed him through a ladder that was against the turnbuckle. Very good finish as well with #DIY coming close to winning, but AOP took it away from them.

Post match, AOP left with their titles while #DIY were alone in the ring soaking up cheers. The story was that this was likely their last shot at getting the titles back, so the fans were showing them appreciation for their hard work with a standing ovation. Replays aired of the finish.

Gargano and Ciampa soaked up the cheers while on the ramp. The Takeover logo appeared in the bottom left to show that that it was the end of the show and then…surprise! Ciampa sent Gargano face first into the video wall behind them. Ciampa said “this isn’t our moment, this is my moment” to him. The crowd booed loudly as Ciampa hit a running knee to Gargano’s face. Ciampa hit another running knee to the face. Ciampa had Gargano on the announce table and jumped off with a White Noise slam (when Sheamus does it) also known as an air raid crash. They went through a few conveniently placed tables leading to “Holy Shit” chants. Doctors checked on Gargano while Ciampa stood on the announce table and some fans chanted “Asshole” at him.

The show ended at the 2 hour, 25 minute mark with doctors checking on Gargano while Ciampa was sitting on the announce table looking at the damage he did.

Analysis: What an awesome heel attack by Ciampa. That was great. One of the better heel turns on a WWE TV show in a long time. I have to give credit to my PPV preview partner Kurt Zamora for calling the turn in our preview because I didn’t see it coming, but he did. I thought maybe #DIY would go to the main roster after this loss. Nope. Looks like we get a huge Gargano vs. Ciampa feud.

There have been many Takeover events where I’ve commented about how the matches were good, but they didn’t do much in terms of angle development. That changed with this show because the Ciampa heel turn was a huge moment and will set the table for what should be an outstanding feud with Gargano. I loved Ciampa vs. Gargano in the Cruiserweight Classic last summer. Seeing them in a proper feud after the split is going to be something special. I’m already excited about Gargano vs. Ciampa at NXT Takeover Brooklyn during SummerSlam weekend.

I liked that the tag match went on last. The tag division in NXT has produced so many amazing matches in the last few years, so they deserve it. Plus, it set up the finishing angle so well. What a great ending visual.

Final Thoughts

This show gets a 9 out of 10 from me. Awesome show. If you’re wondering, I gave NXT Takeover San Antonio and NXT Takeover Orlando each a 8/10, so this was the best Takeover so far this year.

In terms of predictions, I went 5 for 5. Does that hurt the show knowing that it was predictable? Not really. It’s one of those things where knowing the results shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. It’s about the storylines and executions of the matches.

Dunne and Bate had an absolute classic. I’m so impressed by how good they are at such a young age. It was definitely one of the better matches of the year. That’s what I’ll remember the most from this show.

Ciampa’s heel turn was done in the perfect way. The fans were cheering for them thinking it was their last shot at the titles and just as the show was going to end, Ciampa destroyed Gargano with a vicious assault.

I say this every time there’s a Takeover event. It's a lot easier to book a five match show that goes two and a half hours compared to a standard main roster PPV because there aren’t any rushed matches on these shows. When the performers get time, they can really show what they can do. We see it every time at these Takeover events. Give guys time and they will have better matches. A lot of people on the WWE main roster don’t get that kind of time. How many 17 minute singles matches has Cesaro had on a WWE PPV? Probably zero. His best singles matches were in NXT against Sami Zayn three years ago. That’s just one guy and that’s my point. The WWE main roster talents need to be given more time to have great matches.

That's all for now. Busy week ahead with Backlash tonight, Raw tomorrow, Smackdown Tuesday and two podcasts this week to talk about it all.

John Canton


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