Stop! He’s already dead!
That’s the feeling we were left with after the SHOCKING end to NXT Takeover: Chicago. Along with a feeling that we’d just seen an incredible show, with barely any low points.
But before we get to THAT ending, we’ve got a lot to cover. So, let’s get down to business.
NXT Takeover: Chicago kicked off with Roderick Strong vs Eric Young, accompanied by SaNiTy (minus Nikki Cross). Roddy’s had an interesting run of it up to this point. Maybe because I’m not quite as aware of his history as other people, but he’s fallen a bit flat so far. However, the interview segments talking about his life, and family and history have helped a bit with that, and tonight’s match helped even more.
From the surprise entrance taking out Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dane, things were intense right off the bat. Strong was super-over with the Chicago crowd as you’d expect with his ROH history, And Eric Young is as always, awesome. He’s proven over his career he can make just about anything work, and this version of E.Y is no exception. This was a fantastic back and forth match, with just the right amount of interference by the other members of Sanity. My only complaint is the first “Referee didn’t see it so it’s fine” spot, and only because the referee was SO close to the ropes that there’s no way he wouldn’t have seen or at least heard it. So it felt a like a bit of a leap in logic.
Roddy delivered some huge knee strikes, including one while Young was on the top rope, which caused him to fall into Wolfe and Dain, effectively taking them out for the finish of the match, which saw Roderick Strong winning.
I’m ok with this, but I do wonder what it will do for Sanity, that one guy could seemingly beat all three of them. Maybe it would have been better for Dain and Wolfe to have been ejected from the match?
Now You’ve Dunne It!
Next up was the United Kingdom Championship match between Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne. And before we even go any further, I’m just going to say it. This is a genuine match of the year contender. And easily the match of the night.
This is the kind of match where, it just feels like there’s a long history between the two wrestlers. And, I mean we know there is, based on the vignettes and commentary, but it feels like even without that, the story these two were telling tonight would tell you there’s something in their history, even if you’d never seen them before. You can just tell. It’s fantastic, and it’s something we don’t see enough of these days.
Everything they were doing to each other, from the simple punches and chops, to the uppercuts and suplexes looked like it hurt. Nigel McGuinness continually pointed out that Dunne is a master at joint maniuplation on the UK Championship special, and we saw that again tonight. And it’s that sort of thing that translates so well to fans. Everyone knows what it feels like to bend your fingers back too far.
Let’s not forget Tyler Bate as well. Running european uppercuts, deadlift suplexes, standing shooting star presses, and an incredible airplane spin that actually led to a long 2 count. How is he only 20, and this good? (Pete Dunne is also only 23, so we probably have years of amazing matches to come from both guys)
The crowd gave a standing ovation during the match, not once, but twice. I don’t remember the last time I saw a match where a crowd was so genuinely into the match in unison. No one was chanting anything stupid or trying to hijack the show, they were just enthralled and enjoying it.
My only complaint, if it even is one about this match, is that we didn’t have “play by play” Jim Ross, we had colour Jim Ross. He was great, but I feel like if you’re bringing JR in, using him as the best play by play guy in the business is the way you should go.
So as I said, I feel like this is definitely the best match of the year so far, and MUST be a contender no matter what happens the rest of the year. The finish was as good as anything else, and more importantly, it was the only time either guy hit their finisher in the match. Dunne got the 3 count and walked away the new United Kingdom champion and everyone was happy.
An absolutely incredible match.
Asuka vs Nikki Cross vs Ruby Riot was next. I was worried that the crowd would be spent after the amazing UK title match, but they were right into this match from the beginning as well.
It’s a shame that Ember Moon was injured, because I think this match would have been even more impressive as a Fatal 4-way, but the Triple Threat works so well. There are so many more ways for stories to be told and interesting sequences to happen while still feeling like everyone gets a fair shake.
The problem here, both in storyline, and in reality, is that no-one really feels like a legit threat to Asuka. Ruby is fantastic and Nikki is awesome, but no one really feels like they could be champion right now, just because Asuka has been SO dominant for so long. No one really seems to be at her level. So, when someone finally does beat her, it could go one of two ways. Either they get crazy over with that one victory, or, the crowd doesn’t buy it, and it backfires.
But back to this match. It was fantastic. Everyone performed amazingly and they told great little stories within the bigger picture. The ending was a little strange but it worked, but again it just makes Asuka seem super dominant and I’m worried about no one ever feeling on her level. But then maybe she’ll end up moving to Raw or Smackdown undefeated, and vacate the NXT title? That could work.
Regardless, Asuka is amazing, and Ruby and Nikki did an awesome job during the match.
One Glorious Bastard
Next up, somewhat surprisingly (at least at the time), we had the NXT Championship match between Bobby Roode and Hideo Itami. It was really strange to see the main title not be the main event (again, at the time. it all made sense at the end)
This felt like the only point of the show that faltered a little. Possibly to do with having to follow two amazingly strong matches, possibly the crowd was a little drained from that. Possibly just because it was a different kind of match. Bobby Roode is much more cerebral, much more ground based and psychology based. It was a bit of a strange reaction for Hideo though, it initially seemed like the crowd weren’t really into him. Possibly because it feels very quick since his return that he’s in the main event picture? I guess also it’s possible that newer fans, especially in chicago might not know that he is the originator of the GTS, and not a certain other individual. They still popped huge for it when it was teased though.
Once the match got going the crowd got into it though, and both guys told a great story, with great continuity from Roode selling his shoulder and arm, trying the DDT and failing at one point, and the same with Itami and his knee. And then there was the incredible finish. Not one, but two huge ddt’s, the second one being massive. Roode picked up the pinfall and retained the NXT Championship.
STOP!! He’s Already Dead!
And finally, the main event of the evening. The Authors of Pain vs DIY.
This is all pretty fresh and pretty emotional, so bear with me.
As with the NXT Title match, the crowd seemed a little drained to begin with, but DIY were as over as they’d ever been. Their entrance on that massive ladder was awesome.
The match went on for a while as most AOP/DIY matches have, with The Authors dominating and Gargano and Ciampa doing their best to get offense in when they could. Right up until The AOP set up those ladders outside. That’s when, as JR would say, business picked up.
Let’s talk about that ladder spot. How both DIY members didn’t die is beyond me. It looked like Gargano overshot the landing by a long way, and Ciampa ended flipping forward after his landing. And because of that, they both seemed to land on their faces. It was incredible. And scary. And add into that Ciampa’s ankle not being 100%, it’s even more amazing that everything worked out ok.
There were so many highlights in this match, almost too many to talk about. How about Paul Ellering eating a superkick? How about the Authors of Pain essentially uppercutting Johnny Gargano with the ladder, after Gargano saved Ciampa from the same fate? How about Ciampa suplexing one of the AOP off of a ladder into another ladder that was set up in the corner? So many amazing moments that led to a great, if a little rushed ending. It felt disappointing at first, but again, by the end, everything made sense.
The only thing that worries me is what happens with AOP when they’re not in the ring with a team as capable as DIY. They’ve been a part of some amazing matches, yes, but it’s always been because of the team they’re wrestling. Hopefully they can start to hold their own even more though, now that they’ve retained the titles and are still Tag Team Champions.
And then we have the most shocking moment of the night, maybe even the year. The unthinkable happened. Tomasso Ciampa turned on his longtime friend and partner, Johnny Gargano. That’s right folks, DIY is no more.
And what a turn it was. Ciampa looked almost numb to what he was doing. Kind of like a psycho killer you might say. But the real star was Gargano. His facial expressions and reaction to what was happening was probably the best I’ve seen since HBK. From the absolute disbelief after the inital attack, to weakly reaching up to almost say “why Ciampa why?”… he gave us a legit emotional moment.
My only worry is that it went one step too far. After that second knee, before Tomasso started working on the table, the crowd was chanting “F**k You Ciampa” but after the table spot (which was seriously incredible) we got “psycho killer” chants. Although they turned into Asshole chants, so I could be wrong. All in all, it was a perfect heel turn. And now, we get Gargano vs Ciampa somewhere down the line. And if you’re not excited about that, you’re wrong.
Seriously. Wrong. Go and check out their match from the Cruiserweight Classic if you haven’t seen it. Then you’ll see that you’re wrong.
And there it is folks. An incredible show. Backlash has a lot of work to do to follow it up. Personally I don’t think it’s going to live up to the hype, but we’ll see.
What did you think of NXT? What was your favourite moment? Are you as broken up by the DIY breakup as me? Let me know in the comments!