• Rob Goodwin

PodMania PPV Reviews: NXT Takeover: In Your House

When it was announced that NXT was reviving the In Your House theme for their upcoming Takeover show, I must admit I was a little torn; In Your House was a gimmick rooted heavily in the 90s and one that goes against everything the serious NXT stands for. Even back in the 90s, aside from the inaugural event in 1995, where an actual house was raffled off (and then sold again 6 months later, but let's not talk about that) the moniker of In Your House was merely a prefix with a cool set. However, despite it being dropped in 1999, never really being spoke of again and the earlier shows in the chronology being oft-derided and rightly so, the In Your House name has always held a place in the hearts of the Wrestling collective (mainly due to the set, let's be honest with ourselves.)

Would NXT embrace the cheesiness? Throw caution to the wind and dive headlong into nostalgia, even if it meant being at complete odds with what people think of when they think NXT?

Or would they ignore it? Build a house facade on the entrance ramp and then not mention anything else to do with it? After all, as I previously mentioned, the set is one of the only things many people consider to be worth remembering about In Your House...

Or would it be a little from column A and a little from column B? Goodness knows this show needs a hook as we enter our 11th week of empty arena wrestling, something to take away from the fact that there would be no Takeover crowd.

NXT finds itself in an interesting predicament, and I must admit, I'm intrigued to see which road they take...

Match #1 - Tegan Nox, Shotzi Blackheart & Mia Yim def. Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez & Candice LeRae

The women pair off into their respective feuds, with Mia Yim looking to lock up with Candice, before the latter tags out to Raquel Gonzalez. Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox quickly pick up from where they left off at Takeover Portland, while Shotzi Blackheart acts as the resident pocket rocket, bouncing around the ring at 100mph laying into anything that moves.

All the women get their licks in, before the brawling spills out to the outside. Gonzalez and Candice are on the outside, Blackheart attempts a Suicide Dive but is caught by Gonzalez and is literally tossed to one side. Kai then hits her own Suicide Dive, before Nox takes to the top turnbuckle for the Molly-Go-Round onto everyone.

Throughout the match, they tease tension and dissension between the team of Kai and Gonzalez, first happening when Kai goes for her running Big Boot in the corner, which she misses, narrowly missing Gonzalez. It then happens for real while both are in the ring. LeRae and Yim are fighting on the outside, with Kai and Gonzalez pairing off against Nox and Blackheart. Kai goes for a strike but misses and knocks out Gonzalez, who falls out of the ring, leaving Kai to battle both remaining faces. Nox makes short work of it however, gaining a modicum of revenge after Portland by wiping out Kai with the Shiniest Wizard for the victory.

A surprising result, but an enjoyable match overall. All the women looked good here, though Gonzalez arguably still looks a little green, with Nox and Yim the standout. I’ve not always been the most vocal fan of Yim’s work, especially in WWE, but this was a solid outing for her, and puts her back on course to be at the upper echelon of the division.

I’m a little surprised that we didn’t get a heel victory with the amount of work they’ve put into LeRae’s and Kai’s heel turns, but a loss here doesn’t derail the momentum too much so long as they pick up some wins immediately following this.

PodMania Star Rating: 6 stars

I love that the WWE are going all the way in on the nostalgia factor. Not only do we have the house on the entrance ramp, and the entire show introduced by Todd Pettengill, but we now get an advert for the WWE ice-cream biscuits, with members of the NXT roster taking huge overly-dramatic bites, with matching overly-dramatic sighs of enjoyment; God I miss those ice-cream bars!

A video package follows highlighting the upcoming match between Finn Balor and Damian Priest, which succeeds in doing 2 things: helpfully masking the fact that there has been little to no build over the last 2 weeks of NXT television, and getting me weirdly excited for the match-up.

Match #2 - Finn Balor def. Damian Priest

Priest is out first with his Proto-Baron Corbin entrance, before Balor enters, feeing like a true star. He jumps Priest before the bell and the two lay into one another.

The steel steps are in play from early on with Priest whipping Balor into them that hard that The Prince has the pattern of the steel etched into his shoulder for the remainder of the match.

NB: Big props to the Performance Centre Recruits who start a spirited Damian Priest chant to the tune of the Adamm’s Family, may well be my favourite wrestling chant at the moment.

Back to more steel step action, this time on the other side of the ring, with Priest using them to give Balor an elevated Side Walk Slam, which is pretty innovative. Balor attempts to rally but is cut off by an Jumping Flatliner, before Priest brings the pace down, stretching Balor’s shoulder in the middle of the ring. Finn does eventually work an opening with a Jawbreaker (cue the greatest spaghetti-legs sell of all time) and then floors Priest with a Brainbuster.

We brawl outside again before the action returns to the ring, Priest levelling Finn with a Clothesline, trying and failing with the Crucifix Bomb, but hitting the Broken Arrow. He tries for the Crucifix Bomb again, but Balor counters with a Double Leg Takedown and a Double Stomp for the double down.

A Roundhouse Kick into a Pele Kick brings a close 2 count, a Chokeslam attempt is reversed into a Victory Roll by Finn, before Priest finally succeeds in hitting the Crucifix Bomb on the apron, which Balor somehow kicks out of at 2. Priest is then a little over confident going for 3 Splashes in the corner, and eats a Slingblade during the last one. The pair transition from The Reckoning to a GTR beautifully, with Balor once again on top. He goes for the Coup de Grace but gets caught with a South of Heaven Chokeslam off of the top rope for yet another near fall!

Moving to the outside Priest throws the top part of the steel steps away (they weigh over 400 pounds don’t you know) and sets them up on the outside. With Balor rocked, Priest looks to deliver a Razor’s Edge to the steps off of the apron. However, Balor wriggles free and slips back into the ring. As Priest spins round to see where The Prince has disappeared to, he eats a Forearm, falling backwards and taking a flat-back bump onto the steps. Oh my God, the noise it makes is so loud, not helped by the lack of audience, it is so gnarly and the bump itself just looks horrendous, Priest does nothing to protect his back; though I suppose there’s not a lot you can do!

Somehow Priest gets back into the ring before the 10 count, but Balor comes from the top rope with a Coup de Grace to the back of the doubled-over Priest. A second follows and Balor covers for the victory.

What a great match. I openly went into this match-up doubting Priest’s ability in the big matches but he more than held his own here. The reversals were crisp, the kicks and strikes impactful while his power moves gave the impression they would be devastating. A lot of credit of course goes to Balor, who continues to go from strength to strength back in NXT, but Priest has got me fully invested now; if that’s what he is capable of, I can easily see him as a North American Champion further down the line.

I just the wish the camera work at the end had captured the pose off between the two without cutting to an advert. It might be nothing, but a show of begrudging respect between the pair could be an interesting first step toward a collaboration...

Balor Club anyone?

PodMania Star Rating: 8 stars

Adam Cole advertising ICOPRO comes after this, which has me in stitches; The WWE poking fun at the WWE is the best WWE.

Match #3 - Keith Lee (c) def. Johnny Gargano

[NXT North American Championship Match]

I’m not altogether sure how I feel about Gargano, who comes out tonight in Mandalorian inspired gear, as a heel. Or rather, I’m not sure what to make of his motives. Or rather still, I’m not sure how I feel about if he will fully commit to this heel turn. The video package leading into this certainly doesn't convince me; a mercifully quick recap of the awful 'at home' segments with the Garganos and Keith Lee/Mia Yim - it just leaves me with a sense that all parties are, and deserve better.

Gargano looks to grind down Lee early, but just bounces off of him. He avoids two attempts at the Spirit Bomb on the outside by grabbing at Lee’s injured eye, but then draws the Champ’s ire by attempting to kick his injured hand against the step, eating a Snake Eyes on the apron for his trouble. Gargano hilariously tries to escape through the locked door of the In Your House set (clearly forgetting the key he has in his trunks) before Lee catches up to him, which we see through the doorbell camera, just as Gargano utters “Please don’t” before Lee slams him into the door.

Gargano continues to be pin-balled around the ring until Lee makes the mistake of Punching him with his bad hand, giving Johnny Takeover the chance he needs as he targets the hand mercilessly, even using the turnbuckle wires to stretch it out. He keeps him grounded with a Cobra Clutch, attacking the eye and the fingers before just openly striking the eye and standing on the hand. Lee eventually grabs Gargano with his good hand, tethering him there as he strikes him with forearms. He dodges a Slingshot Spear by just clubbing Gargano on the back of the neck and then hits a Backbreaker.

The pair exchange blows before Gargano uses the injured hand again to avoid the Spirit Bomb. An attempted Pop-up Powerbomb from Lee is turned into a Arm-Bar by Gargano, before Lee manages to complete the Powerbomb with one arm. Gargano then reverses another Spirit Bomb into a Victory Roll, and a Big Bang Catastrophe into another pin attempt, but both only garner two counts. Gargano manages to roll out of the ring after a one-armed Spinebuster, but then gains the upper hand again shortly after with a Suicide Dive into a DDT on the outside; Unfortunately this leaves Gargano with the problem of how to get Lee back into the ring. He remonstrates with the referee before rolling outside again to attend to Lee, who responds by Pouncing him through the Perspex at ringside, which collapses in fantastical fashion - wow!

Lee has no such trouble getting Gargano back to the ring, Fireman’s Carrying him there. LeRae attempts to help her husband but is cut off by Mia Yim. This distraction allows Gargano to get the key out and stab at Lee’s eye. He follows this up with a Slingshot DDT, but Lee kicks out at 2. 3 Superkicks follow, but Lee kicks out of all 3. In desperation Gargano targets the hand once more, but Lee pulls him into a Spirit Bomb. He elects not to cover, and instead hits another Powerbomb followed by the Big Bang Catastrophe for the win, retaining his NXT North American Championship.

A great match, like we expected any different from the people involved. Lee’s selling of the hand in particular was great, and Gargano repeatedly going back to it worked well into the story.

The only criticism is that it was a bit long. If you shaved off 5 minutes, this would be a classic. But instead there was just a few too many false finishes. Plus, is this really the best utilisation of Candice LeRae? One of the best workers, male or female, you have on the roster? Let's face it, the 'Let's fight because our husbands/boyfriends are fighting!' is a tired and dated trope for a reason! However, a truly great match and Keith Lee remains one of the best things about NXT. Plus, I’m sure we’ll see these two have another match when Gargano decides to turn face again next week.

PodMania Match Rating: 8 stars

We cut to an advert for the 24 documentary about Ric Flair’s retirement at WrestleMania 24, obviously omitting all references to his run in TNA post-WWE 'retirement', which is probably for the best all things considered.

We then have a video package not only highlighting Adam Cole’s record-breaking run with the NXT Championship, but also the claim the Dream actually has to the belt, with the Undisputed Era having cost him the belt on NXT TV.

Match #4 - Adam Cole (c) def. The Velveteen Dream

[NXT Championship Backlot Brawl Match]

We are outside for what is clearly this PPV’s cinematic match. Cole arrives in a Shock The System branded Monster Truck, while Veveteen Dream arrives in a yellow Lamborghini and emerges cosplaying as a member of the Walking Dead cast.

The ring is in the centre of a circle of cars with their headlights on, instantly giving this a different vibe to your normal backstage brawl, while also giving it a Fight Club like feel. Unbelievably we start with actual wrestling, as Dream goes for the three consecutive Roll-Up attempts but Cole escapes and runs from the ring. Cole attempts to escape in an unlocked car, but Velveteen smashes the car up with a bat until he emerges. The pair brawl and an Uber turns up...why? Was this supposed to be funny? It's never mentioned again and doesn't play into the narrative, it's just terrible! Cole scarpers, presumably to escape that wretched comedy spot, attempting to open every door of every building surrounding the Parking Lot. Dream gives chase and finds an open door, but is met with the blast of a Fire Extinguisher.

More brawling follows, until we get back to the ring, Dream attempts a dive off of the apron but is halted by a Superkick, before Cole then tries a Panama Sunrise, with Dream stopping him with a Superkick of his own. The pair continue to fight into the cars, with the Champion finding himself on the bonnet of one of them. Dream finds a ladder and is ascending to the top when he is blinded by the lights of the arriving cavalry of Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish. Their distraction is enough for Adam Cole to get to the top of the ladder, but he is then pushed off through the windshield of the same car he was on earlier.

The Undisputed Era attempt to play for time, climbing into Cole’s truck after laying out Dream, throwing chair after chair into the ring. They drop one and Strong goes to get it, but it disappears under the ring. Dexter Lumis emerges (how long has he been there) lays out both men, puts them in the boot of a car and drives off...okay...

Cole has come to by now and makes his way to the ring, eats a Dream Valley Driver, and a Purple Rainmaker off a chair, but kicks out. Dream taunts him but gets too close, eating the mother of all Low Blows. Cole finally manages to hit the Panama Sunrise onto the pile of chairs for the win. Cole’s record reign continues and Dream can no longer challenge for the title so long as it continues.

A good brawl, with some interesting and memorable spots. There was never going to be much wrestling in this, but the spots weren’t over the top which helped it, and the selling was relatively consistent which, even in these unusual match types, is still a bugbear of mine. However, there was a lot punching and bouncing people off of cars, which no matter how entertaining a brawl it is, can get rather repetitive. Another huge headache in this match was the additional light from the semi-circle of cars; not only did it play havoc with your eyes, as all the action in ring was bathed in blazing light before all action outside was instantly too dark in comparison, but it noticeably messed with the camera‘s focusing. The quick-cuts were a pain as well, not only because of the speed but the amount that we had in such a small space of time; unfortunately it does take you out of the match somewhat. Plus, that Uber segment? Yikes.

It’s going to be interesting to see where both men go from here, who is left to finally take the belt of Cole, and what direction do you take with Velveteen Dream who can no longer challenge for the NXT Championship?

PodMania Star Rating: 6 stars

Todd Pettengill attempts to shill NXT merchandise via 1-900 numbers only to be told that technology has actually advanced in his absence, eradicating those numbers. Honestly, this is the most I’ve ever been entertained by Pettengill! He throws to the AOL Chatroom with DX replete with ancient looking Road Dogg - the beard unfortunately does him no favours.

Match #5 - Karrion Kross def. Tommaso Ciampa

We get the full black and white treatment for Kross's entrance as he emerges first, followed by Ciampa. The intensity between these two is almost unbearable, with Kross's wide-eyed, maniacal, sociopath character feeling particularly legitimate here; if there was ever a match that was at a complete disparity to the vibrant colours and goofy nostalgic set of In Your House, it’s this one.

Kross murders Ciampa, there is no other way to put it. Yes, Ciampa gets in a few hope spots including the Widow’s Bell and channeling his inner Kento Miyahara by spamming a few knee strikes, but it’s all Kross otherwise, throwing the former Champion around like a sack of potatoes. He drops Ciampa on his neck on the apron, before hitting him with a standing F5, as well as a few Suplex variations and clubbing Lariats to boot. It’s a small mercy to Ciampa that the match ends when it does, with Kross locking in the Kross Jacket for the victory.

They really are going all in on Kross, and it’s easy to see why; the man is a beast. Not only is his power game excellent, but his terrifying intensity makes him instantly compelling. It helps as well that he is good on the microphone to boot. All he lacked heading into Takeover was the marquee win, you can check that off now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him main event one of the next 2 or 3 Takeovers.

PodMania Star Rating: 5 stars

No goofiness or In Your House nostalgia here, just an epic video package that makes me feel like we are getting ready for a true main event. The music, the delivery and the superstars legitimising each of the three women makes this feel like we are truly about to witness a truly special match, and does its job of getting me incredibly excited to see it.

Match #6 - Io Shirai def. Charlotte Flair (c) & Rhea Ripley

[NXT Women's Championship Triple Threat]

Charlotte powders to the outside and encourages the others to fight. Whenever Shirai and Ripley engage, The Champion rolls back in, attacks and rolls out again to chants “You don’t go here!” After Flair lights up both Shirai and Ripley with chops, the pair finally unite and beat down the Champion, which brings cheers of joy from the Performance Centre recruits.

Ripley crashes and burns with a Cannonball off of the apron, before Charlotte runs her into the barricade. Charlotte then stands bafflingly waiting for her cue as we cut to a picture in picture replay, before Shirai can take her down with a Hurricanrana, but the Queen recovers and runs her into into the post and then into Ripley.

Back into the ring, and Charlotte catches a Shirai Dropkick and reverses seamlessly into a High-Angled Boston Crab. Ripley reappears and takes Charlotte out, Shirai levels Ripley with what looks like a botched move before hitting the Tiger Feint Kick and a Basement Dropkick onto Charlotte for a 2 count. Io and Ripley knock each other down with stereo strikes before Charlotte launches into a Double Spear, getting her own 2 count on Shirai.

Charlotte then unwisely tries a Moonsault on both Io and Rhea but eats a boot. We then get a lovely multiple Roll-Up routine which comes to an end when Shirai reverses the Riptide, and then attempts to lock the Crossface in on Charlotte. Ripley comes to the rescue, and Charlotte repays the favour by cleaning out Ripley with a Big Boot.

Ripley avoids Natural Selection but is then hit with a Springboard Dropkick from Shirai. Then, as Io Shirai goes to hit Ripley in the corner, the referee inexplicably stops her and tells her to wait so we can go to a picture-in-picture replay, before letting her go! I’ve never noticed this before and this is twice now in this match - it’s blatant beyond belief! Shirai is finally allowed to hit Double Knees in the corner, but is then instantly hit with Natural Selection, which she kicks out of at 2.

Charlotte attempts Figure 8, but is pulled out of the ring by her hair by Ripley. The pair brawl on the outside with Shirai taking out Ripley with a Suicide Dive, but Charlotte hits a Forearm from behind on the Genius of the Skies, and then launches her through the window frame of the House. Ripley attempts to get some revenge by launching a plant pot at Charlotte before the pair start brawling on the ‘front lawn,’ into the plexiglass and back toward the front door. Shirai is waiting on top of the roof and takes both women out with a big Crossbody - great stuff!

Shirai takes Charlotte into the ring and sets up for the Moonsault but Ripley stops her. Charlotte attempts to take advantage but eats the ring-post after missing a Spear. Ripley and Shirai brawl to the top rope, where Shirai attempts a Hurricanrana, which Ripley blocks, allowing the returning Charlotte to hit her with the Big Boot. Charlotte then hits an Avalanche Riptide but Shirai breaks it up. Ripley doesn’t take too kindly to this and ties her up in a Cloverleaf, until Charlotte returns once more with a Kendo Stick. She continues to beat Ripley, hits a Spear and locks her in the Figure 8. Shirai takes to the top rope and hits her Moonsault, not only to break the hold, but also then to pin Ripley and become the new NXT Women’s Champion.

Another really enjoyable match. The video package did a great job of making this feel huge, and all three women were at the top of their game; it felt right for this match to main event this show. It’s certainly the right decision to put the belt on Io as Charlotte was doing little to elevate it, but it seems a shame she did it at the expense of Ripley; her time will come again however I’m sure.

PodMania Star Rating: 8 stars

Final Thoughts

All in all, the in ring action for NXT Takeover: In Your House was solid! Gargano vs. Lee was great and match of the night; hard-hitting and told a good story with Gargano focusing on the limbs. The Women’s Triple Threat felt huge and even though it was a little botchy at times, it was still great with some tasty spots. Io was the real hero of this match, keeping it all together and being involved in all of the most exciting parts of the match, it was absolutely the right decision to put the belt on her and I can’t wait to see what feud she ends up in next. Balor vs. Priest was also a welcome surprise, solid and enjoyable with some beautiful reversals and vicious striking. The match itself goes a long way to cementing Priest as a star toward the top of the card; even though he lost, he was given instant credibility with his performance.

Aside from the in-ring action, I thought NXT did a great job balancing nostalgia with the modern day product, whether it be the ICOPRO advert, Todd Pettengill, William Regal narrating as though he was Lord Alfred Hayes during the Ice-Cream sandwich commercials, DX in the AOL Chatroom or the iconic set! The entire thing looked and felt great without it feeling like nostalgia and comedy was being rammed down your throat unnecessarily.

Unfortunately it needs to be said that the NXT Championship match was a little flat. Aside from what was basically a rudimentary brawl with two great spots, we had to endure vertigo-inducing quick cuts and a haze of light from the cars that hampered the production. Not only that, but the forced comedy of the Uber arriving really epitomised to me that NXT have yet to quite master the cinematic match in the same way the main roster has done for the most part and AEW did with the Stadium Stampede match - though it was a marked improvement on the Gargano vs. Ciampa match, at least this one lasted less than 15 minutes!

Are we going to look back at this show in a year’s time for anything other than the set and the nostalgia? Probably not, but NXT did enough here to produce an enjoyable show that breezed by in under 2 and a half hours.

Matches You Need To Check Out: Johnny Gargano vs. Keith Lee, Io Shirai vs. Charlotte vs. Rhea Ripley

Matches You Need To Avoid: Adam Cole vs. The Velveteen Dream (just for the Uber spot)

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