• Rob Goodwin

PodMania PPV Reviews: NXT Takeover: XXX Review



A typically well done video package documenting the last 29 Takeovers worth of NXT history, stopping at some of the more notable moments welcomes us to Full Sail University. Vic Joseph, Corey Graves and Beth Phoenix are the commentary team tonight with Mauro Raunello unable to attend; we wish him all the best and hope he gets better soon. Full Sail looks fantastic, with three enormous video screen Xs adorning the entrance way, very reminiscent of WrestleMania 30!


Match #1 - Finn Balor def. Timothy Thatcher


The complete disparity in styles makes for an enjoyable match here, a match that is laid out as a showcase of the brutality of Thatcher. He targets all of Finn’s limbs with a variety of painful looking submission holds, which initially bothered me slightly - why not target one part? - but the commentary team do a great job of getting across how Thatcher just wants to cause as much pain as possible. Even though his offence can be politely described as ‘not flashy,’ Thatcher still has moments of brilliance; the rolling Kimura Lock a particular highlight.


Finn has apparently injured his left knee prior to this match which is dropped in by commentary part way through the match, and after a Coup de Grace attempt he tweaks it again, causing Thatcher to showcase a facial expression akin to a Shark smelling blood; it’s wonderful! However, Finn does power through Thatcher’s work on his leg to deliver a Coup de Grace, selling the injury slightly at least, and finish him off with a 1916, giving him a record-breaking twelfth Takeover victory.


A strong showing in defeat for Thatcher, though I imagine his ‘no-frills’ style might hinder him slightly as we get more into his WWE tenure which is a shame as he’s great; maybe it’s time to put him with Imperium?


Match Rating: 7 stars


It wouldn’t be Takeover without a few notable crowd shots, and today is no different, with the masked Golden Role Models Sasha Banks and Bayley at ringside, draped in all the gold they will have to collectively defend against Asuka at Summerslam.


Match #2 - Damian Priest def. Bronson Reed, The Velveteen Dream, Cameron Grimes & Johnny Gargano


Ladder matches are always chaotic fun, even if NXT have been hugely over-doing it during the COVID era. When done right, we get the Meltzer 5 star classic ladder match from New Orleans, and here we have some exciting, yet slightly inexperienced competitors that I’m sure, if booked correctly, can equal that match.


It’s a spotfest, but anyone who thought it would be any different, and expected piercing in-ring psychology, is kidding themselves. However, everyone in the match had their own part to play; Gargano was the clever one, Reed the brute, Priest the opportunist, Grimes the comic relief and Dream the experienced ladder competitor.


Before we talk about some of the higher spots, I wanted to talk briefly about how Candice LeRae, one of the brightest sparks in the NXT Women’s Division has now been relegated to a bit part player in her husband’s storylines, appearing here to stop Grimes and then Reed from grabbing the belt. Her interference is at least minimal here as she effectively rides a Branson Reed Splash in his back from the highest ladder onto the prone body of Gargano which was fun.


Other than this we had your typical ladder fun and frolicked; Priest using the ladder as a ramp to Somersault Senton onto everyone on the outside, Reed channeling his inner Terry Funk and wearing the ladder before eating a Spike DDT while still wearing it from Gargano, the now overly used ladder bridge spot with Grimes being the recipient of a nasty-looking Powerbomb onto it, Dream hitting the Dream Valley Driver with Gargano onto Priest who was laid out on a ladder before Dream himself was hurled from a ladder in the ring over the barricades and through a table, and many more.


Eventually, Priest managed to win a tug of war with Gargano to become the new North American Champion, and though his outing against Balor impressed many people into thinking he may be the next champion, it was Reed and Grimes that really stood out for me; the latter especially blending dumb redneck and genuine funny moments with some low key great wrestling, like the modified standing Spanish Fly into Gargano on the outside.


All in all, I think the right person won the belt, and we have a new person near the upper echelon of the card. It certainly will be interesting to see who challenges Priest next, as Reed and Grimes have certainly cemented themselves as legitimate contenders in my eyes.


Match Rating: 8 stars


Match #3 - Adam Cole def. Pat McAfee


"The strongest leg in the history of humans and the strongest leg in the history of legs in general" McAfee, Pat (2020)


I don’t know what winds me up more about this match; the fact that NXT had nothing for their longest-reigning, record-breaking ex-Champion, or the fact that this match was basically 50/50 offence, with McAfee probably sneaking it in terms of time spent in control.


That aside however, I have to say McAfee impressed hugely in the ring!


After a promo about how strong his leg is and basically getting over how much of a self-absorbed arsehole he is, McAfee proceeds to give us a startling insight into how well he has taken to Wrestling, as well as his deceptive athleticism. From his Swanton Bomb to the outside onto the grappling members of Undisputed Era and The Brand, to backflipping off of the top rope, landing on his feet and then vaulting back to the top rope in a single bound, it was all very impressive. From an in-ring psychology standpoint, the match was good as well, but then again, McAfee was in there with one of the best talents WWE has to offer, so you would panic if it wasn’t


Cole does eventually pick up the victory with the Panama Sunrise after teasing hitting the Last Shot by pulling down his knee pad, then inexplicably deciding that the Sunrise was a more impactful move.


All in all, this match was infinitely better than it had any right to be, but as I mentioned at the start, it is slightly concerning that this is the best NXT can come up with for the most over talent on the show aside from Keith Lee; where he goes from here is anybody’s guess.


Match Rating: 7 stars


Match #4 - Io Shirai def. Dakota Kai


Horrible as it sounds, I just don't really buy Dakota Kai as a heel. Simply put, I still see the scared woman who was terrified of Shayna Baszler, and this was what Io Shirai alluded to in her promo as part of the video package. However, credit where credit is due, for me this was Kai's best outing as a heel, and played the snively, cowardly heel role quite well.


Kai, bedecked in Hana Kimura inspired gear, dominated early on, with Shirai at one point seemingly forgetting how to do a Round Off and landing on her neck. Kai rang Shirai into the post on the outside early on. From here, Shirai sold her arm beautifully, unable to lock in a Crossface properly due to the pain at one point, and we got to see a wide array of submission manoeuvres from Kai. Both women exchanged stiff sounding kicks, with Kai once again getting the upper hand after a Scorpion Kick. A Gutbuster and A Backstabber don't put Shirai away, but when Kai went for her patented Big Boot in the corner, she missed and took out the referee. This was handy for two reasons; the first, the ref missed the Moonsault and subsequent pinfall from Shirai, and secondly, it also allowed Raquel Gonzalez, who kept her interferance to a pleasing minimum, to come in and deliver a Gutwrench Chokeslam, which Shirai still kicked out of.


Shirai then delivered a Moonsault to the outside, wiping out Gonzalez and Kai, before the champion rolled Kai into the ring to deliver a second one for the victory. Post-match, Gonzalez attacked Shirai but was cut off by Rhea Ripley. The two stared each other down until the former left, not taking her eyes off the former champion. Shirai in the meantime however, had her back to everything, celebrating to the camera with her belt, blissfully unaware of Ripley now eyeing her up from the ramp.


Match Rating: 7 stars


Drew McIntyre then briefly joins the commentary team to plug his Summerslam match with Randy Orton, before choosing Lee to go over when prompted. Cesaro is also in the crowd. We then get a promo telling us that NXT UK will return in September 17th and a short package to advertise Ciampa's imminent arrival back on NXT TV this coming Wednesday.


McKenzie then catches up to Damian Priest asking him for a word on his Championship victory earlier on in the show, but Priest blows her off to get into a handily placed hot tub (while still wearing his leather trousers, a la Chris Jericho on Dynamite) with two unnamed women who proceed to almost drown the poor man with champagne. How long has there been a hot tub at Full Sail University?


Match #5 - Karrion Kross def. Keith Lee


Karrion Kross has the best entrance in WWE. I'm afraid if you disagree, then you are just wrong.


This is a hoss match, with the two exchanging lusty blows througout, with the only real surprise being that Keith Lee had so much of the early offence. The fight goes to the outside and Lee & Kross manage to destroy part of the plexi-glass before Lee runs into the post on the outside, injuring his left arm, which Kross first traps in the barricade fencing, and then kicks. Kross then continues to work the arm with a variety of submissions and by running him repeatedly into the post, with Lee selling incredibly for him.


Lee powered out by Powerbombing Kross as he locked in an Armbar which is always impressive, but from here the match meandered with both men looking very tired. It is worth noting that this is quite easily the longest match Kross has been in in WWE, and it showed as his attention moved away from working Lee's arm and instead stumbled into some ill-connecting strikes, though Lee was also guilty of this the longer the match progressed.


Lee did kick out of one Doomsday Saido Suplex and then fought out of the Kross Jacket, before disregarding the arm injury entirely and hitting Kross with a Spirit Bomb for a two count. The pair fight to the top rope where Kross manages to lift Lee into a second rope Doomsday Saido Suplex and pin him to become the new NXT Champion.


The horrible misconception most wrestling companies have at the moment that their main events need to be half hour epics is unfortunate, as this match suffered hugely from running long. The first part of the match was great, as it had a clear direction, but after that, the match seemed to just keep going for the sake of keeping going. Shame really.


Match Rating: 5 stars


Final Thoughts

Is this Takeover worthy of commemorating 30 years of Takeover history? No, not really.


Unfortunately, we have been rather spoilt with a spate of incredible, epic Takeover encounters. Most importantly though, these matches weren’t epics because they were trying to be, they were epics because of story, and because, ordinarily, they built to a crescendo, leading to some truly iconic matches.


Here though, there was no iconic matches.


Don’t get me wrong, there were good matches; the ladder match was fun but didn’t quite reach the heights of the New Orleans one, Pat McAfee impressed on his Wrestling debut but I stand by the fact that he shouldn’t have been on a Takeover, nor should he have had half the offence he did against Adam Cole and the main event strived to be something it never should have tried to be. On pure match quality of a Takeover standard, the only matches that fell into that category were the Balor vs. Thatcher and Shirai vs. Kai matches, both of which were entertaining, well-executed and didn’t try and over complicate things.


Even aside from the fact that a 45 day reign is extremely underwhelming for Keith Lee, and the fact that Kross sustained what seems to be a legitimately serious shoulder injury, the match was disappointing, going far too long and with no real direction to justify the 20+ minute match.


All in all, this Takeover falls just short of middle of the road in terms of watch ability or importance, which is such an anti-climactic way of celebrating a 30th instalment!

Matches You Need To Check Out: North American Championship Ladder Match, Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee


Matches You Need To Avoid: Karrion Kross vs. Keith Lee


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