AEW had the floor on Friday night, and then WWE took their turn last night. Now, to close things out, NXT gets their opportunity tonight with Takeover 36. We’ve all seen and heard the rumors, stories, and reports about the changes that are coming to NXT. This could very well be the last major event that we see in the current “era” of NXT. Will they make it something special? We’re about to find out.
Are you ready?
You know the deal, so say it with me…
LESS DEW EET!!!
(0:04) The NXT commentary team is already mentioning that tonight is the end of an era for the brand, and that we’ll be starting the next one. They’re leaning into it, at least.
(0:05) We’re getting things kicked off with LA Knight defending the Million Dollar Title against Cameron Grimes. As always, I am legally and contractually obligated to mention the fact that Grimes nearly broke my leg at an independent wrestling show a few years ago.
(0:06) Grimes removes his Butler clothing, revealing some Ted DiBiase-style trunks and a matching vest. The “Million Dollar Man” is accompanying him to the ring. Of course, the stipulation here is that DiBiase will replace Grimes as Knight’s Butler if Knight wins this match.
(0:09) It has been fun to watch the transformation that Grimes has had recently. Changing his gimmick was fun, and then turning him face was even more fun. He’s really getting a chance to shine in this role and has become one of the most popular performers on the NXT roster.
(0:12) We’ll see if it continues on, but the Capitol Wrestling Center crowd is already more vocal and enthusiastic than they usually are these days. That shows how over Grimes and Knight are. When you look at the rest of the card, there’s no reason the crowd can’t stay invested in what’s going on.
(0:16) On commentary, Beth Phoenix references a feud between DiBiase and “Bullet” Bob Armstrong in 1983. Impressive work.
(0:17) It appears that someone in the crowd is wearing an old Florida Championship Wrestling t-shirt. That’s what WWE would love NXT to turn back into.
(0:21) Grimes is battered and bruised. He has welts on his back that appear to be from hitting the ring ropes incorrectly, and he also has some welts on his chest and stomach. Now, he has come up bleeding from the bridge of his nose after appearing to spike himself on the mat.
(0:22) This has been a lot of fun so far. These two have a ton of chemistry in the ring.
(0:25) DiBiase distracts the Referee by tossing the Million Dollar Title into the ring, and then locks Knight in the Million Dollar Dream. He rolls Knight into the ring and Grimes pins him. We have ourselves a new Million Dollar Champion. Really fun match, made better by the right outcome. Sure, there could’ve been some fun vignettes with DiBiase as Knight’s Butler, but it was time to push Grimes… TO THE MOON. I think I’m going to go with 3.5 stars there.
(0:28) Grimes and DiBiase hug in the ring, and when they break the embrace, DiBiase’s shirt and suit jacket are pretty much soaked through. Damn, Grimes sweats a lot.
(0:29) Next up is the NXT Women’s Title match. Raquel Gonzalez defends against Dakota Kai. They always say the best villains are the ones who don’t believe they are the villains in their story. They feel they’re doing the right thing. Dakota is in that spot here. Everything they’ve had her say about why she attacked Raquel Gonzalez is the truth in the wonderful world of kayfabe.
(0:35) This match as a ton of potential. Raquel continues to improve in the ring, and Dakota is one of NXT’s better overall performers. Add the personal nature of the feud, and we could be seeing something good here.
(0:36) Dakota is working the stick-and-move strategy to perfection thus far.
(0:37) When Raquel is on offense, there is a clear heel reaction from a portion of the crowd. Admittedly, that portion is in the minority, but it’s still there.
(0:39) It’s probably because her frame is really petite, but people always think Dakota Kai is smaller than she is. Her billed height is 5’6″, which is just as tall, if not taller, than most of the top women in NXT or on the main roster. It also doesn’t help when she stands next to the massive Gonzalez, either.
(0:44) Raquel eats a big boot to the face, then responds with “fuck you” multiple times. That’ll do it.
(0:47) Raquel delivers a huuuuuge Chingona Bomb from the middle turnbuckle to pick up the win, retaining the title. That’s a bit of a surprise, if we’re being honest, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Raquel Gonzalez is definitely more of what the company is looking for in their future. Good match, though. I wouldn’t complain if you thought it should go higher, but I think that was 3.25 stars.
(0:49) As Raquel celebrates, former NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray arrives and poses at the top of the ramp. Well, it appears that she’ll be the next challenger for Gonzalez. Where that leaves Dakota is anybody’s guess.
(0:51) Here. We. Go. WALTER vs Ilja Dragunov for the NXT United Kingdom Title. The rematch of my pick for 2020’s Match Of The Year. This is going to be violent.
(0:58) Lots of technical chain wrestling and reversals so far. The crowd is into it, though.
(1:03) Dragunov with the Tea Bag Of Doom on WALTER’s face during an arm submission.
(1:04) A big chop that sounded like a shotgun blast, followed up by a Powerbomb onto the ring apron. WALTER didn’t come to play any games.
(1:07) The physicality in this match is already off the charts.
(1:09) Honestly, I don’t even know what to type for some of these entries. I was thinking about having eight consecutive entries say “Ouch” and nothing more. They’re just beating the shit out of each other. Dragunov’s chest is starting to look like raw hamburger meat from WALTER’s chops.
(1:13) WALTER’s chest is also starting to resemble roadkill now.
(1:14) I’ve said it before, but WALTER really is like the villain in a horror movie. No matter what you throw at him, he keeps moving forward. Dragunov just hit him with back-to-back Torpedo Moscows, but WALTER kicked out. Dragunov got up, nearly in tears, wondering what he needed to do to put the big man away.
(1:16) “Fight forever” chants from the crowd. I don’t think Dragunov could survive that, folks.
(1:19) Both men have scrapes and welts and bruises on their arms, backs, chests, necks, faces, and legs. They’re bleeding from multiple places.
(1:20) WALTER TAPS! WALTER TAPS! Dragunov breaks into tears when he realizes that he’s won the match. WALTER’s title reign ends at 870 days. What a fucking match. That may have been every bit as good as their match from 2020. Holy shit. I have to give that 5 stars.
(1:27) Next up is Kyle O’Reilly vs Adam Cole in a Two-Out-Of-Three Falls Match, which could very well be Cole’s final match with the company. The latest report is that he signed a short contract extension through this weekend, so unless that changes, he won’t be a WWE employee a few hours from now.
(1:30) The first fall is a regular match. A Street Fight will take place during the second fall. If (lol) we make it to a third fall, it will take place inside of a Steel Cage.
(1:32) During his entrance, Cole refers to himself as the biggest star that there has ever been in NXT. He pauses for a moment and then says that he’s also the biggest star that there ever will be in NXT. I’m sure that pause and last line are going to be dissected on social media.
(1:36) Cole and O’Reilly are not pacing themselves at all. They’re working a rapid pace so far.
(1:37) O’Reilly blocks a Panama Sunrise and pins Cole to win the first fall. The crowd was completely silent, seemingly surprised that the fall ended so quickly and on such a small move. I’m not saying each fall should be 30 minutes, but that’s one of my pet peeves in pro wrestling for these types of matches. It’s like in a Survivor Series elimination-style match, where someone will get eliminated by the most basic of moves in five minutes, and then someone else gets eliminated by a basic move two minutes later. You don’t see that in a normal situation, so you shouldn’t say it in those settings, either.
(1:41) O’Reilly has been selling damaged ribs for a while, so of course Cole has been targeting them. Good strategy.
(1:44) Maybe it’s because they’re exhausted by the previous match, or maybe it’s because they’re exhausted by this feud, but the crowd isn’t as loud for this match as I thought they would be.
(1:44) Cole puts O’Reilly in the Lockjaw. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
(1:50) I’m pretty sure Kyle O’Reilly is dead. With two chairs set up back-to-back in the ring, O’Reilly is thrown from the top rope and lands across the tops of the chairs. Good God. It leads to Cole picking up the win in the second fall.
(1:51) As O’Reilly is being checked on by medical professionals and the sides of the cage are being lowered, Cole attacks him, then delivering a Powerbomb onto the announce table. Dastardly!
(1:54) O’Reilly has defeated death and is continuing on with this match.
(1:56) Cole hits O’Reilly in the little Kyles. Dastardly!
(1:58) Well, Cole has now handcuffed O’Reilly to the top rope.
(1:59) But… it doesn’t matter. O’Reilly locks in a one-armed Heel Hook submission and makes Cole tap out. That was pretty pointless. Audible “bullshit” chants are heard from the crowd. The overall match wasn’t bad, but not only did it have to follow WALTER vs Dragunov, but it wasn’t even the best Cole vs O’Reilly match we’ve ever seen. I think 3.5 stars is fair, but it wasn’t anywhere near what a lot of folks were hoping they would see here.
(2:01) Cole is aided to the back by those same medical professionals from earlier. No crazy post-match angle to write him off. Not a major beatdown, or an emotional embrace between the two friends. Crazy.
(2:04) Main event time. Karrion Kross defending the NXT Title against Samoa Joe.
(2:06) We may have seen the end of the “Adam Cole Era” in NXT. We’re apparently witnessing the end of the “Modern Era” for the brand as a whole. Are we about to witness the end of the “Karrion Kross Era” on top of all that?
(2:14) Not even a minute into the match, and Kross has already been met with a “We Want Scarlett” chant, as well as a “Har-dy, Har-dy, Har-dy” one.
(2:15) NXT has had a recent formula for Kross matches that has worked. They’ve had him in the ring with smaller, faster opponents. That allows his opponents to handle the bulk of the matches, and it allows him to have his power game on display. Joe has been a world class wrestler, but he’s not exactly prime Rey Mysterio when it comes to his size and speed. I’m interested to see how Kross handles this, and I’m also interested to see what Joe looks like in the ring after being away for a year-and-a-half.
(2:19) Keeping with a theme for this weekend, the story is that Kross is younger, faster, and not as rusty as Joe is. Kross has looked good so far, dominating stretches of the match and throwing Joe around.
(2:23) Joe is either bleeding from the mouth, or from the lip.
(2:26) Muscle Buster finishes it for Samoa Joe! We have a new NXT Champion. Joe becomes the first ever three-time NXT Champion, breaking a tie he held with Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, and Karrion Kross. That was a good match. Fitting in with the rest of the show, it was another solid, but not quite spectacular, bout. I’ll go with 3.25 stars here. Takeover saw five main show matches, with four of them being in that same star rating range, and one being a Match Of The Year candidate.
(2:28) We go off the air with Joe celebrating on the ramp as he gets the Goldberg pyro behind him.
All in all, I don’t have much to complain about. No bad matches, no time-wasting filler, and most of the results made perfect sense. It really does feel like the beginning of a new day (not THAT one) in NXT, though. Time will tell if the changes to come are for the better or not.
I’ll be back on Wednesday with my usual weekly column. Until then, be good to each other.