If there's still any doubt in your mind that NXT is surpassing WWE in terms of in-ring entertainment, do yourself a favor and watch TakeOver: Chicago on WWE Network if you missed it.
Saturday night's show live from Chicago was outstanding from start to finish, complete with a title change in what is a legitimate match of the year contender and a main event that delivered not only in the ring but in after the fact.
With DIY receiving a standing ovation and loud cheers from the capacity crowd, Tommaso Ciampa turned on teammate Johnny Gargango, who had already gone through an absolutely vicious beating during the main event. Ciampa straight laid Gargano out cold, drawing immense heel heat in an unexpected close to the show.
Seriously, you need to watch this TakeOver. But if you don't have time -- or you don't trust me just yet -- check out the detailed results, highlights and review below to get my take on the entire show.
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NXT TakeOver: Chicago results
Roderick Strong def. Eric Young via pinfall: Strong surprised SAnitY at the onset by coming out of the crowd and taking out the rest of the group prior to the start of the match, but a running crossbody by Killian Dain outside the ring slowed Strong's momentum and allowed Young to take over a few minutes in. Dain and Alexander Wolfe both managed to interfere throughout the match despite the referee having them well within his sights. Near the end of the bout, Strong took out Dain and Alexander before delivering a hard jumping knee strike to Young, who fell off the top rope and into his compatriots. Back in the ring, Strong hit another jumping knee and a vertical suplex lifted and dropped into a double-knee backbreaker -- this has been called "End of Heartache" and the "Strong Breaker" before -- for an impressive victory.
Definitely the right move putting Strong over here, and the fact that he won despite so much adversity makes it even sweeter. The hope is that Strong is able to move into the main event picture at NXT once the present rivalry runs its course. Some time with the NXT championship would do him good before he joins the main roster.
United Kingdom Championship -- Pete Dunne def. Tyler Bate (c) via pinfall to win the title: Mat wrestling was the name of the game early until Dunne hit his X-plex (vertical suplex from ringside released mid-air onto the ring apron) and took control. Dunne locked Bate in a triangle submission, but he was able to escape it by slowly rising to his feet with Dunne attached before slamming him down. Bate then executed an airplane spin for a good 10 seconds with both men falling to the mat spent. A strong forearm by Dunne to a flying Bate followed by a vertical suplex released into a sit-down powerbomb only earned the challenger a two count. The men eventually met with a forehead-to-forehead staredown in the ring and traded blows until Bate hit a lariat using his shoulders to propel him off the top rope. Dunne escaped a Tyler Driver 97 (double underhook sit-down powerbomb) and attempted to turn it into the Bitter End (pump-handle flatliner), only for Bate to reverse that with a DDT that sent Dunne out of the ring. Bate quickly moved to the middle rope for a moonsault outside the ring, threw Dunne inside the ring and hit a corkscrew 450 for another near fall. Dunne rolled himself outside and laid in wait as Bate threw himself through the middle rope; Dunne tossed Bate aside, moved him back into the ring and finally hit the Bitter End to become the new champion.
Absolute no-doubt contender for match of the year along with the tag team match from NXT TakeOver: Orlando and AJ Styles vs. John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Though it was a bit sour to see Bate -- a tremendously talented wrestler -- drop the title, Dunne is fantastic in his own right. Most of the near falls were completely believable as finishes, and Bate once again stood out as one of the most talented performers in the entire company despite his neophyte status. It will be almost impossible to top this match on Saturday night, this weekend or perhaps the rest of the year.
NXT Women's Championship -- Asuka (c) def. Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot via pinfall to retain the title: There was plenty of action in the early going, but it was not until Asuka hit Riot with a German suplex bridge for a two that business really picked up. Asuka then avoided a high-risk maneuver by Riot and caught her in the Asuka Lock, but Cross ensured there was no fall. Cross caught a sliding Asuka by pulling the ring apron and getting the champion stuck in the middle. She delivered some vicious blows with Asuka unable to defend herself and followed with a hanging neckbreaker that may have ended the match if not for Riot's interference. The challengers eventually teamed up to knock Asuka out of the ring, and Riot reversed a fishermen's neckbreaker into a Pele kick, covering Cross in a sequence that would have been the end of the match. Instead, Asuka ran in, knocked Riot out with a sliding knee to the face and laid across the women, pinning both of her challengers simultaneously.
While this match certainly would have been better with Ember Moon involved, an untimely injury made that an impossibility. It started quite slow -- due in part to the terrific match that preceded it -- but all three women delivered in the latter stages. The finish was the best part of the entire thing even though the referee had to delay his count to make it work. While it was not Asuka's best match, the double pinfall made her look even stronger, which one would've thought was an impossibility entering the night.
NXT Championship -- Bobby Roode (c) def. Hideo Itami via pinfall to retain the title: Itami had Roode on the ropes after hitting the Falcon Arrow and spending a lot of time on Roode's left shoulder. Due to the injured shoulder, which was exasperated when Itami threw Roode shoulder-first into the steel steps, Roode struggled to get Itami up for the Glorious DDT. Attempting to hurt Roode's shoulder further, Itami tried a running dropkick into the steel steps, but Roode avoided it and Itami hurt his left knee. The knee made it equally difficult for Itami to hit Go To Sleep, which Roode reversed into a Glorious DDT but only got a near fall. When Roode went for a second Glorious DDT to seal the deal, Itami caught him with the GTS, but Roode rolled out of the ring to prevent the pin attempt. Just as Itami looked poised to win with another GTS, Roode pushed himself off the challenger's shoulders, hit a Glorious DDT and retained the headlock, picking Itami up for a second straight Glorious DDT before covering him for the victory.
Great work from start to finish in this one as Roode and Itami succeeded in telling a captivating match story. The only hiccup was both competitors suddenly being able to recover from their finishing maneuver-limiting injuries late in the contest after the shoulder (Roode) and knee (Itami) were such an issue earlier. Nevertheless, both competitors did themselves proud and put together an entertaining title match that was placed properly within the show considering the main event.
NXT Tag Team Championship (Ladder Match) -- Authors of Pain (c) def. DIY to retain the titles: Rezar powerbombing Johnny Gargano into Tommaso Ciampa was an early highlight, but AOP was unable to capitalize due to their size making it difficult to climb the ladder. Ciampa at one point used a ladder being held up as a ramp and was able to touch the titles but not grab hold. Their inability to climb the ladder quickly resulted in AOP often stopping mid-climb to take out DIY, at one point running through the team with a ladder. AOP then set up an extra-tall ladder at ringside along with ladders crossing horizontally from under the turnbuckles to the ringside barrier. DIY eventually laid AOP on those horizontal ladders, climbed to the top of the tall ladder and delivered splashes. Ciampa connected, breaking the ladder and Rezar in half, while Gargano overshot the his ladder, denting it and knocking Akam off while flipping over and nearly landing on his head.
Back in the ring, all four competitors stood on two ladders trading blows (Ciampa vs. Akam, Gargano vs. Rezar). Akam knocked off Ciampa, who pushed Rezar's ladder to the side as Gargango jumped to the main ladder and punched Akam off. Just as Gargango was about to claim the belts, Paul Ellering entered the ring and held his foot. Gargano moved off the ladder and superkicked Ellering, giving Akam an opening to kick Gargango square in the gut. AOP prepared to drill a kneeling Ciampa with the top of the ladder like a battering ram, but Gargango jumped in the ring, pushed his teammate out of the way and took a disgusting shot to his face. Rezar had both hands on the belts as Akam held the ladder, but Ciampa sprung to action and powerbombed Rezar into a ladder propped up in the corner, completely shattering it. With Rezar out, Akam picked up a ladder to take out DIY but instead got kicked in the head multiple times. DIY then hit Meeting in the Middle with the ladder around Akam's head, climbed a ladder together and held onto the belts as AOP removed the ladder from under them. AOP pulled DIY down with consecutive powerbombs, picked up Gargano and Ciampa, hit the Super Collider, climbed a ladder and won the match.
After the match, the crowd chanted "D-I-Y" loudly and gave the team a standing ovation as Gargano and Ciampa stood in the ring defeated. DIY eventually made their way up the entrance ramp with fans still chanting and cheering. Just as it looked like TakeOver: Chicago was about to go off the air, Ciampa put his arm around Gargango and threw him into the set. He then removed his pad and hit Gargano with a running knee to the face. The crowd responded with an audible "F--- you, Ciampa," which led him to throw a helpless Gargano on the announce table and deliver a death valley driver off the stage and into a pair of tables.
Wow. Wow. Wow. This was one hell of a spotfest with two drastically different teams putting on a show for the second straight TakeOver event. I could break down how amazing it was to watch, but hopefully you are able to gleam that from the paragraphs above. Gargano really took a beating in this one. The missed splash and ladder to the face were legitimately scary bumps, particularly the second one. For him to then get dismantled after the match and dumped into a couple tables off the stage makes this one of the most violent nights for a single competitor in some time on a WWE broadcast.
Though the two NXT singles championship matches were well above average, they kept this show from receiving a top-tier grade. Regardless, this was a solid TakeOver that delivered from start to finish and had this viewer gasping for the final 20 minutes. Grade: A