NXT celebrated the 25th anniversary of its signature show on Saturday night, and all NXT TakeOver XXV did is absolutely tear the house down in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Though the show took place on its own as opposed to its normal placement alongside a major WWE pay-per-view, it delivered in every way imaginable, especially as the professional wrestling world has been abuzz over the last week following the debut of AEW with Double or Nothing.
Despite that show's tremendous output, NXT TakeOver XXV surpassed it apples to apples, match by match. In grading the five-match card, not one earned below a "B" and there were three matches that I gave an "A" .. or better.
There have been stronger cards top-to-bottom in NXT history (although one would find that tough to imagine after watching this one), but this event followed through with two new champions, a tremendous bout of character development and an opening match that could have rivaled the main event if it was given an additional 10 minutes.
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NXT TakeOver XXV recap, grades
Matt Riddle def. Roderick Strong via pinfall: Riddle controlled the early action, but Strong dropped him back-first on the ring apron to knock him down a peg. Following a Broton and a GTS into a German suplex, Riddle got his second two count of the night. Strong answered back with numerous step-up enziguri and a half dozen elbow strikes for a 2.8 of his own that sent the crowd into a frenzy. After a Rain Trigger and a Final Flash knee, Riddle missed a moonsault as Strong lifted up his knees. Strong immediately countered with a couple strikes and a powerbomb before placing Riddle in a Boston crab. Riddle avoided a ground elbow and immediately locked Strong in the Bromition, but Strong refused to tap, so Riddle attempted to elbow strike him into a tapout but was unsuccessful. Fed up with Strong, Riddle locked him in a Cradle Tombstone for the clean 1-2-3. That was a main event-caliber match as an opener with non-stop action and a tremendous finish. It was 5 minutes away from being perfect. Grade: A
Tag Team Championship (Ladder Match) -- Street Profits def. Undisputed Era, Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch, The Forgotten Sons to win the titles: The match started slow but kicked into another gear once Wesley Blake threw his body out of the ring with a tope suicida to take out Undisputed Era, which was carrying a ladder. Angelo Dawkins was next to take to the air, surprising, with a top-rope splash that took out all six of his competitors outside the ring. Another sick spot came as Lorcan & Burch hit the Sons with a double German suplex as their necks were inside a ladder. Montez Ford then leapfrogged over Dawkins to splash Blake, who laying on a ladder held parallel with the second rope by Dawkins. It did not take long for UE to take advantage as they German suplexed Ford backward onto a propped up ladder. The Sons were the only team to be booed as they climbed the ladder during the match; Lorcan hit a spinning European uppercut from the top rope on one, while Ford hit a top-rope blockbuster on the other. Kyle O'Reilly looked poised to grab the titles, but Jaxson Ryker entered and stopped him, completely clearing the ring. Ryker brutalized Dawkins in one corner with a ladder and back body dropped Lorcan into it a moment later.
Eventually, the six non-Sons competitors teamed up to take out Ryker together, slamming a ladder onto him six times before Ford hit a tope on hilo onto him outside the ring. Loran & Burch took control by sandwiching the Profits between a couple ladders and throwing one outside the ring to flatten the Sons. That duo and UE tussled atop the ladders only to be knocked off by the Sons, who climbed the remaining ladder together. Dawkins ran under the bottom rope and speared one of the Sons, while Ford leapfrogged from the top rope onto the ladder to knock off the other, grab the titles and win the match. This was fantastic throughout, though the Ryker interference and relatively limited Sons kept it from being other-worldly like the North American title ladder match at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans or the prior tag team title ladder matches, for example. Grade: A
North American Championship -- Velveteen Dream (c) def. Tyler Breeze via pinfall to retain the title: Dream impressed early with a springboard moonsault, but Breeze was able to counter a Dream Valley Driver into a single-leg crab. It was clear that Dream was playing the heel side as he slammed Breeze's head into the announce desk multiple times, then grabbed Breeze's phone and posed for a selfie with it and the title. Breeze got distracted looking at the title, so Dream caught him with the DVD but was unable to hit a second rolling variety. Breeze reversed a DreamDT with a couple Supermodel Kicks but could only get a two count, and it did not take long for a DreamDT to get connected and blood to come out of Breeze's left ear. Dream then hit Breeze with the Unprettier but only managed a 2.5 count. Breeze got his knees up to block a Purple Rainmaker, drilled Dream with a Supermodel Kick and nailed the Unprettier ... but only got a 2.8 count.
Breeze kicked out of a small package by Dream and hit a perfect Beauty Shot, but Dream intelligently rolled to the outside. The referee was about to call a countout, but Breeze stopped him becuase he didnt want to win without the title. Dream attempted to hit Breeze with the title while he leaned between the ropes, but Breeze caught the strarp; both Breeze and the referee got distracted as Breeeze bounced backward into the ring with the title, and Dream capitalized with a DVD and Purple Rainmaker to get the win. After the match, Dream attempted to take a selfie with Breeze's phone, and the two stared at each other as the crowd chanted "selfie." The two men then took one before Dream posed and left to cheers. Well-executed match with the right guy going over, and while there was plenty of action, it wasn't particularly spectacular. Grade: B
Women's Championship -- Shayna Baszler (c) def. Io Shirai via submission to retain the title: Baszler has dominated the offense early, concentrating on Shirai's left arm. Even when Shirai was able to get in offense, she had to sell in the injury and was unable to capitalize. However, after a 619, Shirai hit a springboard dropkick off the top rope and nearly got a fall. Shirai then locked Baszler in a crossface and draped Baszler over the top rope before dropkicking her off it and down to the outside. The challenger followed with a picture-perfect moonsault to the outside, taking down the champion. After a missile dropkick, Shirai drove Baszler with double knees in the corner, but the Four Horsewomen came out before she could hit her moonsault. Candice LaRae stopped the attempted interference, but Shirai was caught from behind in the Kirifuda Clutch. Shirai got out of it twice and attempted another pinning combination, but Baszler bounced out of that and locked in the Kirifuda Clutch a third time. Baszler screamed as Shirai attempted to get to the ropes as the champion began rag-dolling the challenger. Eventually, with barely a breath left, Shirai weakly tapped out.
As Baszler celebrated after the match, Shirai became incensed watching her, grabbed a kendo stick from underneath the ring and beat down the champion. She then hit her signature moonsault and asked LaRae for a chair, hitting a second moonsault with the chair. Fans may not like to see the heel win time and again, but Baszler is being built exceedingly strong as a dominant champion who basically wins clean with a devastating submission finisher. Shirai's post-match meltdown told a great story as well, especially with Baszler convulsing on the mat and selling the attack, setting up a clear rematch in August -- if not sooner. This was perhaps Baszler's best match to date, and it was great to see Shirai get some depth. Grade: B+
NXT Championship -- Adam Cole def. Johnny Gargano (c) via pinfall to win the title: Gargano was the aggressor early, attacking Cole's left arm and even double stomping it as it laid extended on the ring apron. Cole countered by focusing on Gargano's left leg with a variety of strikes and kicks, but Gargano responded with a slingshot spear that garnered a two count. The two then traded superkicks both in the ring and outside of the ring, eventually hitting them simultaneously as the referee began a double count. Gargano then hit his slingshot DDT but only got a 2.5 from the referee. Cole took down Gargano with a ushigoroshi both outside and back inside the ring but also only saw a 2.5 count. After removing himself from the Gargano Escape, Cole applied the Figure-Four Leg Lock and became aggressive after he couldn't get a submission. Gargano responded with Randy Orton's elevated DDT, but as he attempted a tope suicida through the ropes, Cole caught him with a superkick and then followed with a Panama Sunrise outside the ring ... but just for a 2.8 count.
Cole screamed at Gargano that he already had his moment, but when he attempted the Last Shot, Gargano ducked. Cole immediately pounced on Gargano and locked him in the Gargano Escape, but Gargano rolled out of it and hit the Last Shot himself for a 2.7 count. The crowd alternated chants of "mama mia" and "fight forever" as the two traded blows. Cole hit Gargano with three front kicks, but Gargano bounced off the rope with a lariat. They then traded superkicks and Gargano hit a reverse rana, but Cole bounced off the ropes with the Last Shot for a 2.9 count as the crowd went bonkers. Cole got frustrated and pulled a chair out, but as the referee attempted to stop him, Gargano flew by with a tope suicida ... and knocked out the ref. Cole missed a chairshot, and Gargano caught him with a superkick with the chair and rolled him back in the ring with no one to count the fall. When Gargano rolled the referee back inside, Cole summoned the Undisputed Era to help him but no one came out; as Gargano reentered, Cole basically hit an elevated piledriver for a 2.8 count.
Gargano fell to the canvas as Cole attempted to hit Last Shot, and when Cole checked on him, the champion locked in the Gargano Escape. Cole powered out of it by attacking Gargano's knee, but Gargano rolled up an attempted Panama Sunrise. He would not be as lucky the next time as Cole hit the Panama Sunrise and the Last Shot in succession for the 1-2-3 to an incredible ovation. After the match, the rest of the Undisputed Era hit the ring to cheer Cole and lift him in the air. It's nearly impossible to compare this match to their 2-of-3 falls extravaganza two months ago, but this told an incredible story and may have even surpassed it because of the anticipation for the single fall. It was absolutely perfect and challenges that one for match of 2019 halfway through the year. Grade: A+
NXT TakeOver XXV results, highlights
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