I was looking forward to NXT Takeover; Chicago II, but I couldn’t say I was majorly excited. The card looked good and NXT rarely lets me down, but the card looked a bit predicable. Still, there is nothing wrong with predictable storytelling when it is done right, so I’ll give Takeover: Chicago II the benefit of the doubt to begin with.
The opener, Undisputed Era vs Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan for the NXT Tag Titles was one of the matches I considered predictable, yet it was damn entertaining (4/5). The ‘Undisputed Era vs Pete Dunne, Lorcan and Burch’ feud has been the second best story in NXT (and WWE!) behind the Ciampa and Gargano feud and the matches involving the six have been great. There was a superb match between Pete Dunne and Kyle O’Reilly on NXT TV this week that was worthy of a Takeover spot in it’s own right and I wish we could have maybe had Adam Cole vs Pete Dunne tonight as that match would be great. This match though was superb and even though I knew Undisputed Era weren’t losing, I was entertained as the performances here were fantastic. These are the tag team matches I love – two actual teams in matching gear working as a team in a fast, slick, even encounter. I would love to see these two teams face The Revival (or Team DIY…sob), it’s not like Dawson and Wilder are doing anything on RAW right now. Kudos to Oney Lorcan too for two crazy bumps…a slam from the top rope onto the ring apron and then a double Blockbuster on the floor. You know it’s a crazy show when those two aren’t the most painful bumps of the night….
I watched Ricochet and the Velveteen Dream and thought “This is good, but it’s not the epic they’re going for.” I liked the story (both men were trying to one-up the other) and the effort was there, but it was a bit clunky in places. I thought Dream oversold in places on fairly innocuous moves and there were spots where the action wasn’t as smooth as it should have been (a slightly off 619 from Ricochet in the corner springs to mind). I hate to quibble on minor stuff like this – I’m certainly no athlete and couldn’t have done anything better. However, if things like this affect my suspension of disbelief, then I have to be honest, right? I’d go 3.5/5 for this one, but feel free to call me a moaner if you thought it was better than this!
The NXT Women’s Title match between Shayna Baszler and Nikki Cross was decent, but it felt a bit short to me (3/5). Plus, with Nikki passing out in Kirifuda Clutch, it’s kind of a decisive ending. I wanted something a bit more competitive here – instead we got a ten minute win for the champion. It’s a shame as the match was just picking up pace when it ended and could really have done with Nikki getting some nearfalls and looking like more of a threat.
The NXT Title match, with Aleister Black defending against Lars Sullivan was enjoyable even if I knew Black would retain (3.5/5). I like Sullivan, I’m not usually a fan of big wrestlers, but he’s quite convincing in the role and can keep up with smaller wrestlers. Despite one missed Black Mass neat the end, this was good brawl that had a little of the ‘big title fight’ feel that all title matches should have. I think Black is great and it’s going to be fun watching him defend the title against the other big names in NXT. I really want him to face Velveteen Dream again, as I loved their match from last year.
The main event, the Chicago Streetfight between Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa gave me headaches…a cracking, violent epic brawl with a clever twist ending and an absolutely sick Air Raid Crash off the electrical equipment near the stage. However, something is stopping me from going the full 5/5. I’m not sure why either…it’s not an issue with either wrestler or the result. I think it’s just a few little things that bothered me. I hate trash can lids as weapons for a start. They’re unconvincing and are always conveniently under the ring. The stop with the stop sign concealed in the fan’s Johnny Gargano sign was a cute reference to ECW, (the same thing happened between Tommy Dreamer and Raven) but the reference took me out of the match. I felt the ending, while clever, was a bit of a stretch – after taking the aforementioned insane Air Raid Crash, several superkicks and the Gargano Escape submission hold, there is no way Ciampa should be able to come back and win the match. Much like the Dream vs Ricochet match, I felt like WWE/NXT shot hard for epic and kinda took me out of the match along the way…it’s like they overthought things when the match was put together. I personally think the ‘ECW Brawl’ has been done to death and you don’t need tons of weapon shots and big stunts to get the intensity of a feud across.
I’m sorry, I know I’m nitpicking…again these ratings aren’t gospel, but a few thoughts and this was still a brilliant match. I’m going 4.5/5…again, a brilliant match but not quite a 5/5 for me. I’ll go one further too – as great a feud Ciampa vs Gargano has been, it needs to be wrapped up soon in my opinion. It’s in danger of outstaying it’s welcome. A decider at Takeover: Brooklyn would be great, then the two should be kept separate for a while. We’ve had two excellent epic matches with no rules, but there is only so many times you can go to that well. Let’s have one more big match (Hell In A Cell?) then move the two on…
Overall – the rating for NXT Takeover: Chicago II was 3.70/5.00 which places it into the upper echelon of shows we’ve had this year. Maybe if I wasn’t in a strange nitpicking mood, this show would of got higher (3.90/5.00 if I go 0.5 higher on both the main event and Dream/Ricochet) but I’m comfortable with this rating. I think, when you watch more wrestling, you become more critical and that’s something I’m pleased with – I wanted to watch more wrestling to broaden my horizons and I feel like I’m doing that, so go me! Mind you, I need to nitpick more – I was seemingly the only person in the world who enjoyed WWE Backlash (truthfully, it was a little better than I thought it would be) and with Money In The Bank to catch up on tonight (I’m in the ‘UK timezone plus job and kids’ bubble) I might need to be picky. It’s a four hour show with loads of matches and two gimmicky ladder matches, which already sounds awful to me. Still, I’ll give it a fair chance…