NXT TakeOver XXX
August 22, 2020
Full Sail University
Winter Park, Florida

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

  • Jeff Hawkins: Co-Host of Shake Them Ropes. Available for weddings, funerals, birthdays and corporate events.  For what he has no idea.  As heard/seen on Fightful, Afterbuzz and when Andrew Rich needs an old guy on Music of the Mat. @Crapgame13 for my brand of stupid.
  • Joe Lanza: Rare non-paywall written content from the Most Compelling Voice In Wrestling Media?! Wow! Read my world-renowned reviews on our Patreon

#1 Contenders Match
Legado Del Fantasma vs. Breezango vs. Burch/Lorcan

Jeff: Winner gets Imperium? That takes out Legado Del Fantasma, who up until the 6-man on the go-home show, were basically red shirts for the Cruiserweight champion. Breezango and Burch/Lorcan maintain similar spots as gatekeepers on the babyface side of the ledger so either of them can win here. LDF is an interesting choice, as it seems new, but I don’t think I’m going to get that, so give me a nice hard-hitting match with Imperium and Burch and Lorcan and I’ll be happy. Prediction: Burch/Lorcan

Joe: I am on record and stand by the opinion that Lorcan & Burch have been the two best WWE workers of 2020, killing it consistently on literally every brand. I’d love to see an honest push and I think a feud with Imperium could be fantastic, but I have no reason to think it’s a realistic direction. Legado Del Fantasma has been the best thing going on NXT, and Mendoza & Wilde have looked fantastic on 205 Live lately, and if my boys Lorcan & Burch aren’t winning this, I say let LDF dominate the brand, or at least the tag and cruiser titles. That leaves us with Breezango, who I have absolutely no use for. That means they’ll probably win, as modern WWE always feels like a direct elaborate troll to my personal sensibilities. I also learned, today, that it’s Breezango and not “Breezedango”. Prediction: Breezango

Finn Balor vs. Timothy Thatcher

Jeff: Finn Balor’s return to the yellow and black has been terrible. There’s no other way around it. He turned heel on a guy who’s now a better heel and is now “Lone Wolf” babyface but never really turned back. Don’t get me wrong, fans still love him, and will cheer him or the Demon character, it’s just been bad character development. He’s in that same boat with Damian Priest and also in a way Adam Cole as characters everyone isn’t sure about. WWE would then tell you it’s “shades of gray” when really, people need a motive other than “to live in infamy.” Timothy Thatcher has exceeded my expectations in the sports entertainment realm. I found him to be all “mean face” and somewhat dull otherwise on the indies. But much like Drew Gulak, he’s turned up the personality and become, in my opinion, draws interest. In both the Riddle program and the “Thatch as Thatch Can” vignettes, he’s been great. I still think absent Walter, he eventually becomes the head of Imperium. The match will be really good, I can find reasons for either to win, but I think Finn may be next for Kross while Cole is busy elsewhere, and I think Thatcher will get his push with Imperium down the road. Prediction: Finn Balor

Joe: I can’t figure out what the plan is supposed to be with Balor. As the big main roster jump to NXT, I figured he would be the big babyface star the brand would build around in their war against Dynamite, especially after resetting his character to something closer to the pew pew shooter from his Prince Devitt days, but it hasn’t come close to turning out that way. He loses most of his big matches (especially when the stakes are highest), and disappears from the TV so much and for such long stretches that he feels like a part-timer doing the brand a favor, as opposed to a NXT regular. He’s lost three matches in a row, and I don’t see the point in losing to Thatcher unless this is going to be a long term program. It should be noted that Balor is undefeated at TakeOver, and I think it will stay that way. Maybe a program with heel champion Karrion Kross after that? Prediction: Finn Balor

NXT North American Championship – Ladder Match
Bronson Reed vs. Damian Priest vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Velveteen Dream

Jeff: I was hoping for six guys with a chance, but that’s unrealistic given someone needs to be a veteran presence if things go awry. I really thought this would be a good place to coronate Ridge Holland as a guy, but the qualifier with Gargano put the kibosh on that idea but it got said veteran presence into the match. I really liked the idea of Cameron Grimes being the secondary title holder, but I think the main roster ladder match logic is in the DNA here: if you get a visual on a ladder with the title/MITB briefcase, you don’t win the match. The other rule of main roster ladder matches is the person who looks the worst in the build wins the match. Bronson Reed is the built-up star of the match with promos and good wins, he’s the logical winner. The guy who has looked the worst is Damian Priest. I’ll go with my tried and true formula. Prediction: Damian Priest

Joe: It’s pretty hard to pick a winner here, because you can make reasonable cases for and against all five guys. Reed is getting a mega push, but doesn’t feel ready. Priest is a shockingly reliable TV draw (look it up), but his character openly doesn’t care about winning. Grimes would make for a good annoying heel champion, but has never really been booked as anything more than a mid-card goof. Gargano is running hot with his new heel persona, but this title feels beneath him. Dream is back on TV and the office clearly loves him, BUT HE’S (ALLEGEDLY) A FUCKING KID TOUCHER. It feels like they are playing with fire when it comes to Dream, and this company is arrogant enough to thumb their noses at the media scrutiny and ultimately get burned. I just don’t understand why they think someone like Velveteen Dream is worth the trouble. Prediction: Dream

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NXT Women’s Championship
Io Shirai (c) vs. Dakota Kai

Jeff: The downside of Charlotte winning the NXT Women’s Championship and then not building up people out of it is the division is a morass of veterans of women’s wrestling they’re keeping around to have matches, PC recruits who haven’t made the next step, and a significantly cooled down Rhea Ripley. Oh, and the best in-ring women’s performer in the world in Io Shirai. In WWE, great babyfaces must turn heel, and I’ve been very out there that I absolutely loved the Dakota Kai heel turn. I think she’s lost something in the follow up being a weasel heel with a bodyguard. Especially since so much attention has been given to Raquel Gonzalez. I’d really like this match to be a chance for Dakota to shine a bit in a longer match in a big spot given her lack of Takeover appearances. But I feel this is going to be WWE overbooked “bodyguard gets involved, but champion overcomes” kind of match. Prediction: Io Shirai

Joe: Kai feels hot right now, and reintroducing Gonzalez makes me think a title change is imminent. Then, start up the long build to the split, because it’s pretty obvious that Gonzalez is viewed as a potential long term star…to feed to Charlotte.  Prediction: Kai

Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee

Jeff: I like Pat McAfee. I find him subversive at times, he seems like he’s having a blast. He actually entertains me on the Watchalongs and is quite subversive in his humor. Trying to make fetch happen on McAfee’s radio show was a poor choice. No one believes Adam Cole is going to go on an expletive driven rant because of some needling in a radio interview. Or at least that the anger would build instead of “snapping.” Regardless, the confusing thing here is due to the lack of a crowd that would turn Adam Cole babyface, we kind of have a petulant heel and a dick heel. But, I tend to think WWE’s going for headlines here from ESPN here. Give Pat McAfee a Haliburton briefcase and make him the new Steve “Mongo” McMichael. He already cuts a better promo and is probably in better shape. The go-home promo made me interested and McAfee wasn’t swallowed up by the moment. Someone or perhaps all three of the Undisputed Era cost this for Cole as McAfee drinks the tears of purists. Prediction: Pat McAfee

Joe: McAfee cut the best WWE promo in months on the go-home TV, mostly because he isn’t a PC trained robot who speaks Universe with Universe cadence. It felt organic and very different from the usual WWE-style, and dare I say, felt like an actual wrestling promo. McAfee may have been a punter, but he’s a legitimate high-level athlete. He was a Lou Groza award semifinalist as a kicker at West Virginia in addition to being an All American punter. At the pro level, he was a 7th round NFL draft pick who was named to multiple Pro Bowls, a first-team All-Pro, played in a Super Bowl, and was named the All-Decade punter by Pro Football Focus. You might be saying, OK Joe, but he’s still a kicker. At 6’1” 230 he has legitimate pro wrestling size, and was known in his NFL days for being a rare kicking specialist who wasn’t afraid to induce contact. There are no guarantees, but he does fit the profile of the kind of athlete who could pick up on the physical side of pro wrestling quickly. He’s got the rest of it down. I’m cautiously optimistic about the match, because I think Cole is good enough to carry an athlete of this caliber, assuming McAfee doesn’t completely shit the bed. What I have no confidence in, is WWE’s booking and story layouts. Picking a winner is impossible since McAfee’s long term wrestling plans are unknown. I’ll assume it’s a one and done, but wouldn’t be shocked at all if he ends up doing more bouts. Prediction: Adam Cole



NXT Championship
Keith Lee (c) vs. Karrion Kross

Jeff: NXT has a purpose problem: are they to create stars for their brand or build characters ready for the main roster? I really think this card could have been something special if Keith Lee had defended both titles on this show and retained both. We’ve seen more “main roster” style influence since the show has gone to USA and with Kross, and especially the Scarlett character, we now have a supernatural influence on what used to be more of a studio wrestling show. Don’t get me wrong, there were attempts at the supernatural during that era: from Mark Gullen introducing Teijo Khan to the New Breed being time travelers. I think Kross with his entrance could be a hit. Vince loves gimmicks with a hook, and while this may be “50 Shades of Meh” to you, guy with size plus hot blonde plus entrance with spectacle has a good formula. Keith Lee *should* have been elevated after the Royal Rumble to follow up on his great reaction there. I think one of these guys is going to the main roster after SummerSlam or maybe the announced draft, and I think it’s going to be Lee. Ordinarily I think it’s foolish to take a title off a guy this soon, but they’re building Kross and Lee’s already there. I think they give a nice homage to the Lee/Gargano key to the eye spot and Scarlett digs in with one of those fingernails that’s been teased. Cole and Kross has been teased, there’s no live crowd to turn on the show. Prediction: Karrion Kross

Joe: Tick Tock guy and Fall & Pray girl is an absolute shit gimmick, especially when they added the supernatural elements, but make no mistake, the dorky NXT crowd eats this stuff up, and there is virtually zero chance he isn’t taking the title in the midst of this mega push. Prediction: Kross