Back in February 2014 WWE’s developmental brand NXT presented the first live event, Arrival, on the company’s then fledgling on demand streaming service the WWE Network. May that year then saw the first event dubbed Takeover headlined by Adrian Neville (now better known as ‘Bastard’ Pac) defending his NXT Championship against Tyson Kidd.
Since then NXT Takeover events have become a staple of the WWE Network’s output featuring some of the best matches WWE as a whole has a seen in recent years with a mix of ‘home grown’ talent and superstar wrestlers of the independent scene and, on one occasion, even Japanese Junior Heavyweight legend Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger!
Following on from Takeover: New York, that took place over Wrestlemania weekend 2019, this show had a feeling of a change of era (pun intended) as all four members of the Undisputed Era team were appearing and recent changes on WWE’s ‘main shows’ have seen several previous key members of NXT’s roster promoted to the ‘bigger leagues’.
After a great opening video that captured both the history of the event and the stories leading into the show’s matches, keeping with tradition of Takeover events they wasted no time getting down to the action
‘The Messiah Of The Backbreaker’ Roderick Strong vs ‘The Original Bro’ Matt Riddle
Strong has been a regular fixture of NXT for a few years now but, arguably, has yet to have a real ‘moment’ as a singles star. Since he joined up with Undisputed Era though he has begun to live up to the reputation he earned elsewhere.
Riddle meanwhile is a relative newcomer to the brand having joined the roster last October following his final independent match against Mark Haskins at Wembley Arena.
This match began with some strong and fast grappling and strikes with neither man getting the upper hand until Strong lived up to his nickname driving Riddle’s back into the ring apron from a back drop suplex position.
This became the story of the match as Riddle fought to overcome his injured back only to be cut off by Strong at every turn despite connecting with a nasty looking fisherman’s buster and a ripcord knee strike that even got called as V-Trigger!
Knees to the back to counter a twisting senton set up Riddle for Strong’s self named submission hold, a modified Boston Crab, which looked to seal things but Riddle fought through and, unable to fully apply his own submission resorted to grounded elbow strikes to look for a knockout.
When that didn’t work he pulled out a move from his back catalogue driving Strong into the Matt with his version of a cradle tombstone for a hard fought win.
Opening the show just how you’d want Riddle and Strong put on a match that told a great story within itself while also being part of something larger as the first Undisputed Era appearance of the night and, even though he lost, this was possibly Strong’s best match in NXT so far as he looked every-bit the dominant, tactical heel.
Riddle meanwhile continued his impressive run since his debut, fighting through the pain to overcome the apparent odds and once again stake his claim as one of the ones to watch.
NXT Tag Team Championship
Fatal Four Way Ladder Match
Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) vs Forgotten Sons (Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler w/Jaxson Ryker) vs Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan vs Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly)
After the NXT Tag Team Championships were vacated by the War Raiders as they moved up to the bigger WWE shows after Wrestlemania (while also getting renamed as The Viking Experience and then again as the less ridiculous Viking Raiders) new champions needed to be decided, so the top four teams on the show were entered into a ladder match.
As always with matches like this it’s impossible to call it all but it was certainly one of the most chaotic examples of the match type I’ve seen with ladders literally flying everywhere at points (though still nothing as legitimately dangerous looking as Brock Lesnar’s thirty-seconds of effort at WWE’s Money In The Bank a couple of weeks ago).
My highlight team of the match may have been Fish & O’Reilly for their multitude of tandem offence and apparent willingness to put their well being on the line more than most, but they were far from the only strong points as all eight men had their moments.
Wesley Blake hit a suicide dive into a ladder that was like none I’ve seen before early on before the larger of the two Street Profits, Angelo Dawkins (who I’ll admit I’d been unimpressed by in the past including when I saw NXT live in 2016) took to the air in a spectacular moment.
As the match neared its end things got even more chaotic as the third Forgotten Son, Jaxson Ryker, got involved and it took the multiple best efforts of everyone but his team mates to keep him down, including an amazing tope con hilo from Montez Ford (it’s clear Ryker’s being built as a new monster heel though I think he’s got a way to go before he can really take that role on alone so I hope they don’t rush things).
With the Forgotten Sons taking the upper hand it looked like they might have the championships within their grasp until a spear from Dawkins and a spectacular precision springboard from Ford onto the ladder saw the Street Profits deliver on their growing position over the last year to grab the gold.
While it was the Profits who got the feelgood win, and looked the best they ever have doing so, a special mention again has to go to Kyle O’Reilly who took a few particularly nasty looking bumps landing awkwardly on ladders or having them land on him and I’m hoping given his appearance later in the show that his isn’t injured.
NXT North American Championship
Velveteen Dream (c) vs Tyler Breeze
While the set up to this match had been somewhat hasty, the returning ‘Prince Pretty’ Tyler Breeze provided the perfect opposition for the perennially preening champion, the Velveteen Dream, as he had filled a very similar role in NXT back in the early Takeover era.
More experienced and mature now though, Breeze began the match by shrugging off the ‘mind games’ of his younger opponent and even retaliated with a few of his own before showing a more aggressive side than in his previous outings.
Dream meanwhile was everything we’ve come to love him for as the crowd still chanted his name despite obviously heelish antics including stopping to take a selfie with the incapacitated Breeze as he lay on the announcers’ table.
As the match went on there were points where things felt a little too scrappy, but mostly it just felt like an organic contest between the two as each looked like they might have victory secured; Dream by ‘stealing’ Breeze’s Unprettier facebuster and then Breeze by hitting one of his own along with his Beauty Shot spinning heel kick.
With Dream rolling to the floor after the kick he took the opportunity to pose with his belt which Tyler made a grab for, distracting himself long enough for Dream to comeback with his Dream Valley Driver and an exclamation point of the Purple Rainmaker elbow drop to retain the title.
While the match had a few moments that felt a little too lose the pair told another great story as Dream continued his Star making run and Breeze looked reinvigorated with more passion and seriousness after his comedy lower card run on the bigger shows.
After the match we got a promo video for a new wrestler. In something of a change to recent trend it featured Punishment Martinez but with the new moniker of Damian Priest – either way it looked like he could be an interesting, more character based, addition to the NXT roster.
NXT Women’s Championship
‘The Queen of Spades’ Shayna Baszler (c) vs ‘The Genius of the Skies’ Io Shirai
Having dominated the NXT Women’s Division for the best part of a year the latest challenger to Shayna Baszler looked like potentially the most convincing yet in Japanese puroresu superstar Io Shirai.
The match started out with a game of oneupmanship between the two typified by Baszler holding back on a hard kick to deliver a taunting push to the face of Shirai and Io returning the favour with a hard slap.
This all changed as Baszler hit her trademark stomp to the arm, that has ended matches in the past, and though Shirai fought on valiantly the damage could be seen as she couldn’t hold Baszler down for a pin from a German suplex.
Following some almost Minoru Suzuki-like forearms from Baszler it looked as if Shirai was taking back control as they headed to the floor and she connected with a moonsault from the top rope to the arena floor.
However, as she was setting up for another back in the ring, Baszler’s stable mates Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir made their way to ringside providing a distraction.
Though they were fought off by Candice LeRae in retaliation for their attack on the preceding weekly NXT show, the distraction was enough to save Baszler who, to close an excellent final sequence, reversed a La Magistral cradle pin into her Kirifuda Clutch sleeper hold to which, eventually, Shirai could only tap out.
While Baszler looked dominant she was certainly faced with solid challenge in a match that, while not as spectacular as some, was a solid entry in the canon of Baszler’s defences and made the challenger look more than strong.
After the match an enraged Shirai attacked the champion once again with a Singapore cane before hitting her moonsault twice, with the second including a steel chair, signalling that we’ve not seen the last of this feud as the crowd chanted ‘You deserve it’ at Baszler.
Before the main event an announcement came about NXT’s UK offshoot revealing that the next UK Takeover event is taking place in Cardiff on Saturday 31st of August, making that a huge day for both British and international wrestling as it coincides with New Japan’s first full show in the UK, Royal Quest, along with AEW’s All Out in Chicago while the day before Rev Pro have their big summer show as well.
Johnny Gargano (c) vs Adam Cole
After their spectacular 2 out of 3 falls match to decide a new champion back at Takeover New York there was a fairly understandable concern that Gargano and Cole would struggle to live up to the hype, but, as they made their way to the ring with the crowd clearly divided in their loyalties, there was the feel of something special in the air.
With the crowd chanting NXT the duo began at a fast pace with both looking for their finishes early to no avail and they really didn’t let up the relative pace for the whole match.
As it developed it became a story of Gargano working on Cole’s arm to set up his trademark submission while the leader of the Undisputed Era worked on the legs of the champion in an effort to slow him down.
The match went in and out of the ring at relentless pace but Cole did manage to gain an upper hand getting a close call hitting his brain buster to the knee on the outside followed by a hooked leg version back in the ring.
Gargano then locked in his Gargano Escape hold but Cole was able to roll out of it into a figure four leg lock only for ‘Johnny Wrestling’ to reverse that with an armbar in a way I’ve never seen used before.
Back outside the ring Cole countered a suicide dive with a nasty looking kick to the face before hitting his Panama Sunrise flipping ‘destroyer’ piledriver from the ring apron onto the floor, but even this only garnered a two count (along with a chant of ‘Mama Mia’ from the crowd) once back in the ring.
The tension escalated further as Cole locked Gargano in his own hold only for the champion to use the Last Shot running knee strike to Cole but still to no avail and it was another close call for the challenger as he hit the Last Shot using the momentum from a reverse hurricanrana.
With the referee incapacitated Gargano hit a super kick through a steel chair but there was no one to count the fall and, after escaping the Gargano Escape once more, Cole hit another Panama Sunrise in the ring before connecting with a further Last Shot as an exclamation point as he claimed his first NXT Championship.
While I’m not sure it surpassed their previous encounter Gargano and Cole certainly lived up to the hype maintaining a blistering pace for 32 minutes while telling a compelling story and cementing both men’s positions in the pantheon of NXT while also providing Cole with his long awaited chance at the top spot.
As a whole NXT Takeover XXV continued the trend for Takeover shows setting the bar for all of WWE’s output with matches that marry the parent companies Sports Entertainment ethos with the style of more ‘independent’ wrestling event, in this case highlighted by both the opener and the main event.
Special mention also has to go to the ladder match and everyone in it given the sheer controlled chaos and potential for injury involved.
A lot has been made comparing this show to the previous weekend’s debut from AEW, Double Or Nothing, but from my point of view both presented a lot of high quality pro-wrestling which is good all round without the need for fans to get drawn into any competition between them.
Photos from WWE.com