NXT TakeOver: Chicago
May 20, 2017
Allstate Arena
Rosemont, IL

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

  • Andy LaBarre: You can probably find him here writing previews and profiles on old dudes, showing up on Burning Spirits podcast every other month, praising Masato Tanaka in a bar and replying to your tweets @trillyrobinson
  • Lee Malone: OTT show reviewer, find Lee on Twitter @Malone_713 where we can converse about the graps and soccer, may be the biggest D’Lo Brown fan in the world
  • Rich Kraetsch: The face that runs the place. Can be heard this Saturday during TakeOver chanting shit and making people on Twitter upset. Follow him on Twitter @voiceswrestling

WWE United Kingdom Championship
Tyler Bate © vs. Pete Dunne

Andy: If this match is anything like their previous encounter over the WWE UK Championship that shockingly crowned Bate as the inaugural champion, then we could be looking at something with MOTN and possibly MOTM potential. While I think there were unique circumstances and storytelling going into that match that made it extra impactful, and thus doubt they can replicate that first performance, I nevertheless have high expectations for these two – especially leading into the eventual WWE UK Network show. Bate is astoundingly good for 20-years old, it’s been said everywhere, but with his new boy band haircut and full beard, he lacks a little bit of that absurd babyface panache that he displayed for 2016 and this year’s UK tourney. Young Peter Dunne, the Bruiserweight is the fuckin’ business though and was the clear, true star of that tournament. He has the most complete character, the best in-ring presence and is really easy to hate. If WWE is starting this UK show soon (which is shocking itself, considering the disappointing state of 205 live), I think WWE would be smart to put the belt on someone who can act like king pin, that strikes down babyface after babyface and holds the title at the top for the sake of drama. Pete Dunne is the dude to do that. Prediction: Pete Dunne

Lee Malone: This is the match I am most looking forward to all weekend. Their match at the UK Championship Tournament was fantastic and this is an even bigger stage for them to showcase what they can do. Pete Dunne has been my favourite wrestler of the last 12 months and I was spoiled getting to see him in OTT nearly every month. At only 24 years of age he is just going to get better. Tyler Bate is legitimately a phenom in the wrestling business. He is just turned 20 and he is so damn good. The UK Championship Tournament really was his coming out party and you can see the improvement in his work and look in just the last 4 months. With that said though I think Saturday is going to be Petes night and the UK show will be built around the Bruiserweight. Prediction: Pete Dunne

Rich Kraetsch: Is it weird that this is my most anticipated match of the night? As someone attending the show live I’m fascinated to see how the crowd reacts to the two and how they work in a big time arena in a big time match. Don’t get me wrong, both Dunne and Bate have the chops to put together a great match but I’m very curious if the crowd gives them a lot or if they are left underwhelmed and distracted. My ideal situation would be a quiet, unsure crowd eventually being drawn into the match and by the time it’s over a standing ovation for these two unbelievable workers. Oh, did I mention they are 24 and 20 years old respectively. If you’re one of those fans that likes to watch wrestlers progress throughout their career, these are two to get in on the ground floor. They’ll both be big stars and this could be one of the next stepping stones. Prediction: Pete Dunne

Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young

Andy: For most of 2017, Roderick Strong has been THE standout on NXT. He hasn’t had any matches that approach his all-time great 2015, and at times feels a bit limited by the constraints of the promotion, but he always manages to get his shit in, always manages to feel like the guy in the ring that is working the hardest, and with his recent video packages chronicling his life, feels like a babyface that NXT and their fans can really get behind. I have doubts about his ability to succeed in that role, but I truly want the best for Roderick, because I’m a better wrestling fan when he’s got something to do. Eric Young doesn’t do anything for me, SaNiTY doesn’t do anything for me. I find the group to be a tired, embarrassing act and it has been from day one. There’s nowhere for Young and his crew to go, wins don’t make sense. Prediction: Roderick Strong

Lee Malone: Just gonna say this and get it out of the way, I don’t mind Eric Young. He is a perfectly fine wrestler. But Sanity is already a tired act and seem to be directionless so there is no way EY should be winning this. Roddy Strong though has a tonne of momentum now and those great vignettes from NXT tv have given everyone a reason to get behind him. They have showed a side of Roddy that we have never seen before. So now we know the man behind the awesome backbreakers. I am fine with this match happening if it leads to a Roddy vs Killian Dain one on one in the near future. Prediction: Roderick Strong

Rich Kraetsch: How great are those Roderick Strong vignettes they’ve been showing on NXT? Why aren’t those made for every single wrestler on NXT, every single wrestler on SmackDown and every single wrestler on RAW? You cannot, with a straight face, tell me they aren’t beneficial. In a few short minutes, Roderick Strong—the human (that’s important here)—gave you a pathway into his life, showed you why he does what he does, why he got into wrestling, how his life went, his wife, the birth of his child, his motivation. Months and years of WWE TV have guys spinning their wheels with no idea what their motivation is or who they are outside of the suffocating universe WWE creates. In a few minutes, Strong burst through that atmosphere and is now someone you’d be a fool not to root for. Those vignettes should be pillars on WWE programming. They’ve made me root for Strong like I never have before. They’ve made a match I wouldn’t have otherwise cared about one that I’m eagerly awaiting. Prediction: Roderick Strong

NXT Tag Team Championship – Ladder Match
The Authors of Pain © vs. #DIY

Andy: At this point, it’s really hard to pick against AOP, even in a ladder match against guys who are much more quick and agile. Truly, the thought of AOP doing a powerbomb spot off of or involving a ladder makes me shudder to think about. This might be a decimation of the highest order once again, but I’m truly hoping not for two reasons: 1) the tag team division in NXT is in really rough shape, and if AOP is just steamrolling everyone, what is the damn point and 2) #DIY feel like the first truly OVER underdog babyfaces since Sami Zayn’s ascent in NXT. It is really hard and rare for WWE and even NXT to successfully build true, classic babyfaces in this era, but Gargano and Ciampa are that. Hell – they’re my favorite act in all of WWE, without anyone really even close. We WANT these guys to succeed. Their challenges and eventual win over The Revival last year was SO meaningful and carried so much weight – because those two teams built a classic feud that was believable and even. That hasn’t been the case here, even though #DIY has come close in the past and has had AOP reeling, it still feels like a secondary feud. I’m scared for Gargano’s body and what he’s going to go through in this match, but I gotta believe this can be a classic, that this can right the Tag Team division of NXT in the long run. We gotta put Gargano and Ciampa on even footing with The Authors of Pain. Prediction: #DIY

Lee Malone: I don’t even know what to expect from this match. AOP doing spots with or off of a ladder is a terrifying thought but then I think of the sympathy Johnny Gargano is going to garner while taking an absolute beating and I am kind of ok with it. I don’t think it is any secret that Ciampa is working with an injury and is due to take some time off soon so I just don’t see how #DIY can win this. AOP have been absolutely dominant in NXT since the Dusty Rhodes Classic and I don’t expect that domination to end any time soon. Prediction: AOP

Rich Kraetsch: This is a coin-flip match for me. I really have no clue who I think is going to win and to compound that, I’m not sure WHO I want to win. Obviously, I’m a much bigger fan of Ciampa and Gargano’s work—what with Gargano being one of my favorite wrestlers ever—but it’s hard to deny how good AOP has been in the spot. I like AOP as tag champs. I like a good powerhouse team. I like that they dominate the division. I like a lot of what they offer but is it a good time to go back to DIY? When the match was first announced I had AOP pencilled in but with the Ladder Match stipulation I had to re-think things. That stip seems to tip the scales towards DIY, though I have no rational reason to think that. I don’t know. Sorry for the cop-out but I just don’t have a good read on the direction for this match. Either way, I believe it has a real chance to exceed expectations and we could be talking about it as Match of the Night when it’s all said and done. Prediction: #DIY

NXT Women’s Championship
Asuka © vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross

Andy: I love Asuka, I love Ruby Riot (even if it’s a bit hamfisted), and I like Nikki Cross. This has potential to be the best multi-women match in WWE since the Four Horsewomen went at it years ago. Sassy, heel Asuka has been one of the best heel turns in recent memory and feels natural, and organic. She seems like the biggest deal on any show she is on, and she’s got the longest winning streak in modern wrestling. I’m expecting a great match and I’d love to root for Ruby, but Asuka ain’t going out now – with the Ember Moon injury, angle and history, she will be the one to eventually win. Expect Asuka to look dominant, because she is. Prediction: Asuka

Lee Malone: I have loved the Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross feud so far. They have both established who they are and what they are about just by being out to absolutely destroy the other woman. Asuka feels like the odd woman out here with Ember Moon getting pulled from the match. But Asuka is awesome so she can make any situation work and deliver a great match. This could be the best multi person match we see in WWE this year as all 3 women can go and they will be out to steal the show. Prediction: Asuka

Rich Kraetsch: The NXT women’s division is finally emerging from its multi-month malaise and starting to show signs of what made it so important many years ago. Neither Riot or Cross are ready to dethrone Asuka now so the result is predictable but the match itself should impress. Ideally, this would be a one-on-one and not a multi-woman but what can you do? The key here will be Riot and Cross learning little things in this match, maybe storing away some strategies to help them defeat Asuka down the line. Maybe they soften her up for Ember Moon. There’s finally some meat on this women’s division again and I couldn’t be more excited. The month’s ago—particularly with the new arrivals on the way—could be very exciting. Prediction: Asuka

NXT Championship
Bobby Roode © vs. Hideo Itami

Andy: I’ve actually really liked the build to this match and what Itami has been doing since his return. I’m naturally worried about him every time he’s in the ring because of how the last three years have shaken out, but I just want to stay positive and hope for the best here. For all intents and purposes, Itami’s angrier look, more doughy body and ability to take out entire security teams is fucking awesome and the direction we have all been waiting for since he debuted what seems like a decade ago. All that said, he’s not taking the title off Roode because while the last couple of months has been a big step up for Itami, he doesn’t feel like a true title contender. One thing about the NXT championship thus far in it’s life is that title changes FEEL obvious (apart from that weird Samoa Joe one), but it’s the build and the way they happen that make them special. I, for one, am starting to believe in Itami as a wrestler again and potentially a top guy – something I didn’t think the company could make happen, but he’s not there YET. I have no idea who Bobby Roode will eventually drop the title to, and I definitely want the title off of him, but he’s retaining on this night. He might lose to Itami down the road, or Hero or Roddy or McIntyre, but having challengers like Itami is a good move for the company and a step in successfully rebuilding the singles division. I’m excited for the match, I hope Roode has to STEAL the win away from a psychotic Hideo. Prediction: Bobby Roode

Lee Malone: Man so Hideo Itami has been fucking great since his return hasn’t he?! This is the hottest he has ever been in NXT. He has a purpose, he is delivering in ring and he is as close to being KENTA as we have seen in years. Now do I think this match with Bobby Roode will be great? No I don’t. I think this could be a major style clash and we just end up with the typical average Bobby Roode match. Itami is likely to be fired up and wanting to deliver as realistically this is probably the last chance he is going to receive while in WWE. For his sake I want this to be a great match but I just have zero faith in Roode being able to deliver the match we want. All that being said I think now is the perfect time to get behind Itami and take Roode out of the title scene. We have Drew McIntyre, Kassius Ohno, Aleister Black even Andrade “Cien” Almas as guys to build NXT around so there is no need for Roode to be so prominent. Put the title on Itami and put him opposite any of the guys I mentioned and Takeover main events will improve significantly. Prediction: Hideo Itami

Rich Kraetsch: Itami isn’t quite there yet. He’s getting close, but there’s still something missing. It may be time to realize that KENTA is no more and, well, will never return. Itami is Itami now and what we get is what we get. The good news: Itami has been at his absolute best over the last few weeks and has me super excited for his main event spot. Now onto the match itself. Does Itami have a chance to go out here and have a match of the night in the main event? Sure. Is it likely given his opponent is Bobby Roode? Probably not. I’ve been down on Roode since he stepped foot in NXT. The entrance is great, the music is wonderful but the in-ring doesn’t do a thing for me and his 1970s house show style doesn’t jive with the brand dynamic of NXT. I don’t need guys out there killing themselves in main events but I think there’s a certain standard that Roode just hasn’t lived up to. Now, the match could be fun. Itami will be on a warpath and do whatever he can to win but Roode will slow the action down whenever he can before he wins after 15 or so minutes. I want to be more excited about this match but if that’s the Roode template, I can’t. That template worked for dozens of years but I’m not sure it does anymore. Not with attention spans where they are. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day. If Roode goes out and breaks from his dry formula, then talk to me. Until then, I’ll remain dubious. Prediction: Bobby Roode