*Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals: Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai over Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart in 17:41
*NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) over KUSHIDA in 24:52
*Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final: MSK over Grizzled Young Veterans in 18:27
*NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (c) over Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez in 12:15
*NXT Championship: Finn Balor (c) over Pete Dunne in 25:12
Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai vs. Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart in the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
This match was built around Gonzalez as the monster that would not stay down. Kai’s knee was attacked with Moon and Blackheart working the body part over. Moon hit the Eclipse on Gonzalez, but Kai distracted the referee. It was heavily reliant on near-falls and saves with the babyfaces resorting to double-teaming Gonzalez when Kai was out of the ring. Blackheart lifted Kai on her shoulders on the floor with Moon coming off the turnbuckle and landing a high cross in the style of a Doomsday Device. Gonzalez threw Moon off the ramp, military pressed Kai on top of Blackheart from the ramp, and then lifted and choke slammed Blackheart as the two heels piled on top for the win.
WINNERS: Raquel Gonzalez & Dakota Kai in 17 minutes and 41 seconds
All four worked exceptionally hard and I would not call this match great but was a satisfactory opener that relied on a lot of tools to maximize drama and convince the audience that the underdogs may pin Gonzalez. I think Gonzalez has improved greatly in the past year and feels like the next major star they will attempt to build the division around. The win provides Gonzalez & Kai a future WWE women’s tag title shot down the road. Eventually, Gonzalez will get a big singles run, perhaps first as a heel but ultimately, will be a babyface star.
Johnny Gargano vs. KUSHIDA for the NXT North American Championship
Gargano was sporting Wolverine gear including the colors of the Michigan Wolverines.
On the way out from the back, Austin Theory was kidnapped by Dexter Lumis and Gargano sent Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell to the back.
The match got a ton of time clocking in at nearly twenty-five minutes. After all the comedy in the build-up with The Way, this was sold in the final days, and during the match, as a dream match with Gargano eliminating his cowardice. One hilarious part came when the announcers noted he was “Johnny TakeOver” and then pointed out that his record isn’t so great on these shows.
They worked very well together with each targeting the arm of the other and all KUSHIDA’s offense designed to weaken the body part for the Hoverboard Lock. They came up with many clever counters and each trying the other’s moves as KUSHIDA used the Gargano Escape and Gargano with an armbar. KUSHIDA attempted a handspring elbow off the ropes and was caught in the Gargano Escape, but countered to the Hoverboard Lock, which Gargano escaped. KUSHIDA tied up Gargano on the top and flipped him off the top while applying the armbar in mid-air and Gargano had to fight to get to the rope. The end came as they fought on the floor, onto the stage and KUSHIDA was hit with One Final Beat – first on the stage, and then inside the ring where Gargano pinned him.
WINNER: Johnny Gargano at 24 minutes and 52 seconds to retain the NXT North American title
I enjoyed the match a lot, although I’m sure some that aren’t fans of Gargano’s long epics may push back at the time allotment. I thought the styles gelled very well and KUSHIDA has been superb since given a feature role on the brand in this more aggressive presentation. The way Gargano wrestled the match and won without controversy goes counter to the character he has portrayed and personally, I have not enjoyed the heel run. It feels a lot like Kurt Angle in 2000/2001 where he would wrestle these kick-ass matches but then presented as a goof on television.
MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) vs. The Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) in the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
This match was off the charts, in many ways a star-making night for both teams especially MSK in their first TakeOver.
Gibson cut his usual strong promo prior to the match telling them to “wipe that stupid smile off your face and take this seriously” and to take their “sob stories, flips, and twists and stick them up their ass”.
They cut off the ring getting the heat on Nash for a long time, he played a great babyface in peril until sliding under a spinning heel kick to tag Lee. Lee hit a somersault dive over the corner post and landed on his feet. Lee continued with backflips and caught in mid-flip by a boot from Gibson. GYV hit the Helter Skelter and Drake followed with a 450 for a near-fall.
Gibson held Lee on his shoulders on the floor as Drake came through the ropes with a tope suicida into the Doomsday Device to temporarily take Lee out. When they attempted Ticket to Mayhem on Nash, Lee made his triumphant return and isolated Drake for the Hart Attack/Blockbuster finisher and pinned him.
WINNERS: MSK in 18 minutes and 27 seconds
This was outstanding and one of the best tag matches of recent memory. I never thought it got gratuitous and MSK was at a different level as a babyface tag team while GYV is such a great heel unit that has their act down so solidly.
Wes Lee was out of this world with the precision of his flying and gymnastics that were breathtaking to watch at different points. Nash was very effective as a babyface selling during the early stages.
The two sold the win incredibly well and were emotional.
It’s the type of match that puts MSK into that next level of stardom on NXT and felt like a major deal by the end, they had two excellent opponents in Gibson and Drake. Highly recommend this one.
Io Shirai vs. Toni Storm vs. Mercedes Martinez for the NXT Women’s Championship
Another solid match on this card with the three engaging in a sprint that never let up. There were several three-way spots including a simultaneous submission sequence as Shirai applied a crossface to Storm while Martinez used a Dragon Sleeper on Shirai.
They went to the floor, Storm cleared off the announcer’s desk and the desk just collapsed, and they had to adjust without the table spot. Shirai came off the lighting tower with a huge crossbody that looked spectacular.
Martinez attacked Storm with several Kamigoyes and a fisherman buster that Storm kicked out from.
Storm took control hitting Martinez with Strong Zero for a near-fall, a diving head butt from the top, and as she went for the cover it was broken up by Shirai landing a moonsault off the top. Storm rolled away selling the effects of the moonsault while Martinez was hurt and Shirai got the pin.
WINNER: Io Shirai in 12 minutes and 15 seconds to retain the NXT Women’s Championship
This was another very good match. The finish protected Storm for a future match with Shirai as wasn’t beaten by Shirai and that’s the story stemming from Storm beating Shirai to win the Mae Young Classic in 2018. Martinez stood out a lot and would have been a great addition on Raw if she stayed on the main roster but she was in a D.O.A. gimmick and is in a much better role on NXT.
Finn Balor vs. Pete Dunne for the NXT Championship
A spectacular main event.
Early on, Dunne used the shoulder strikes that Conor McGregor used against Donald Cerrone and Vic Joseph noted that.
Dunne attacked Balor’s previously injured jaw while focusing a lot of his attack on the hands. There were so many clever attacks by Dunne including the armbar where the leg placed pressure on the jaw, which the announcers focused on and was great attention to detail. From there, Dunne attacked the left arm of Balor for a long time until Balor fought back attacking Dunne’s ankle and knee.
Dunne’s selling was super in the way he limped as he was thrown to the corner, attempted a backflip off the turnbuckle and collapsed from the damaged knee, and was a strong point.
Balor had an abdominal stretch and took Dunne to the ground with a submission when Dunne snapped the fingers. There was a big struggle ending with the Bitter End for the first major near fall. Balor countered another Bitter End with the reverse Bloody Sunday that Dunne kicked out from while holding onto the injured hand of Balor.
Dunne held the injured hand when Balor kicked out his previously injured knee, removed Dunne’s mouthguard to deliver a sit-out dropkick and the Coup de Grace for the victory.
WINNER: Finn Balor in 25 minutes and 12 seconds
This was stellar and continued the trend throughout the night. Excellent chemistry from the two and I got into the bodywork all match long. Balor had the presence of the top-dog on the brand with the title that can adapt to the challenger while Dunne executed tons of submissions and great selling of the knee. It felt like a great world title main event style of a match to cap off an excellent card.
As Balor left, he was jumped by Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. It was a 3-on-1 attack inside the ring when Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, and Kyle O’Reilly (no Bobby Fish) cleared the ring and chased them away.
O’Reilly offered his hand to Balor and helped him up and they acknowledged they respected each other. As the four posed in the ring, Cole superkicked Balor and O’Reilly was furious with Cole ending with Cole hitting O’Reilly with a superkick.
It ended with Cole standing over the fallen Balor and O’Reilly while Strong was caught in the middle and didn’t know who to align with.
One of the best TakeOver events I can recall as this hit on all cylinders with several excellent matches and a huge angle to close the show.
While NXT has affected by momentum with its weekly television, this show felt like a home run and would be on my early list for “Show of the Year”.