Time and time again, NXT shows us what truly great wrestling can be. At one TakeOver after another, we see them push the limits. There were only five matches on this two-and-a-half hour show, but they will likely prove to be better matches than most of the nine in tomorrow night’s four-hour Money in the Bank event. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes NXT shine when compared to the main roster, but a lot of it comes down to focus.
Week in and week out, it’s clear that changes are made on the fly and poorly written or planned storylines fall flat. Look no further than Money in the Bank for plenty of examples. Meanwhile, NXT shows us what good storytelling can become despite having literally one fifth of the television time the main roster does. The second installment of NXT TakeOver: Chicago put this on display once again at every turn. It wasn’t a perfect event, but the good heavily outweighed the bad.
Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch prove themselves
Going into TakeOver, some fans were disappointed in the scheduled NXT Tag Team Championship match. While they've competed together at live events for some time, Lorcan and Burch are fairly new to NXT television as a tag team. With other established teams like Street Profits and Heavy Machinery to choose from, some fans weren't pleased with Lorcan and Burch getting the title shot.
Fortunately, any fears of the match being disappointing were smashed. They may be a rookie tag team, but Lorcan and Burch are veteran tacticians. They showed their mettle from start to finish with bone-breaking physicality and sheer tenacity. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch deserved the standing ovation they got from the crowd in Chicago, but they didn't leave as champions. Despite their efforts, it was The Undisputed Era that reigned supreme once again.
The Undisputed Era remains on top
The Undisputed Era was given a beating like no other from their challengers, but they proved once again why they are the most dominant faction in professional wrestling today. Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong (and Bobby Fish, don't forget about him) are still the NXT Tag Team Champions. Adam Cole, thanks in part to having a night off, is still the NXT North American Champion. That's Undisputed.
Velveteen Dream goes all in early
This daring top rope Death Valley Driver looks like the kind of moment that could end a match, but it came only a third of the way through. Ricochet kicked out, but the tone was set from that point on. There was not going to be any holding back. For as much trash talk as Velveteen Dream dished out with the assistance of his cocky antics, he backed all of it up with physicality, and a little bit of flight.
While Dream showed his athleticism, his high-risk attempts did backfire on more than one occasion. This specific moment was right near the climax of the match. After countless near falls, at a point where it seemed nothing Dream could hit would put away Ricochet, this was the moment that cleared a path for The One and Only. After rolling out of harm's way, Ricochet nailed the 630 Senton for the win. It's a huge boost to Ricochet's career and could signal pursuit of the NXT North American Championship or even NXT Championship. Despite the loss, Dream looked as spectacular as ever. Even if his TakeOver record isn't spotless, there's no denying the power of the Velveteen Dream experience.
Nikki Cross brings the mind games
It may have been Ember Moon's defeat of Baszler that gave The Queen of Spades her first taste of doubt, but it was Nikki Cross that gave her that first taste of fear. Cross is crazy, that much is clear, but the method of her madness actually played to her favor early on. Nikki's invitation for Baszler to attack was so jarring that it completely threw the champion off of her game.
Unfortunately for Nikki, her antics weren't enough to stay conscious. While Cross was a split-second from victory on several occasions, there was once Baszler had the Kirifuda Clutch in deep. Nikki refused to tap, ultimately smiling widely in her last few moments before losing consciousness and causing the referee to call for the bell. Could another member of MMA's Four Horsewomen hold gold by this time tomorrow night?
Lars Sullivan can go, but Aleister Black can too
There were some fears going into this match about Lars Sullivan's readiness for such a contest. While he's impressed on NXT television and in the ladder match in New Orleans, an NXT Title opportunity is something completely different. Rest assured, Lars proved himself plenty worthy of this spot.
Whether giving or receiving the punishment, Sullivan was on point throughout the entire match. Well, almost the entire match...
...but we don't have to talk about that. From his sheer power to his surprising agility, Sullivan proved himself a versatile and worthy big man up against the veteran NXT Champion. Despite his power (and hiccups that won't be talked about), Lars could not escape with championship gold.
After pushing Black to the limit and still not being able to put him away, Sullivan found himself on the receiving end of several Black Masses. One may have been less than perfect, but the impact was felt in the final moments. The Mad Titan fell and Aleister Black stood tall as the NXT Champion.
All hell breaks loose between Gargano and Ciampa
Did anyone expect anything different? If an unsanctioned match wasn't enough to contain these two, it was clear the violence would be ramped up even more for this Chicago Street Fight. It didn't take long at all for these former friends to spill out into the crowd. A few of the weapons to join the fray were steel chairs, steel stairs, trash cans, trash can lids, tables, a fan sign with a hidden stop sign, crutches, Ciampa's shirt, and many other things.
It's hard to articulate just to what extent these two beat the everliving f*ck out of each other. The hatred wasn't just bubbling to the surface; it was erupting like a volcano of violence all over the arena. When Ciampa dragged Johnny Wrestling up the ramp and looked to end things by the screen, things took a turn. As the two of them reached the top of a stack of cases, the potential danger was real. However, Ciampa was as focused as ever on being a complete asshole.
Ciampa's choice to spit on the wedding ring of Johnny Gargano and chunk it into the distance looked like it just might be his undoing. Right before Ciampa could capitalize on their position, Gargano turned the tide.
It looked like everything was over right here. Medics made their way to Ciampa with a stretcher and began to take him out of the arena. As Gargano looked at his ringless finger, he snapped and went after Tommaso. Johnny tore him off the stretcher and the fight continued in the ring. Johnny had him dead to rights and even had Ciampa tapping in the center of the ring to the Gargano Escape, but for some reason there was no referee.
Even as Gargano locked his foe in a pair of handcuffs introduced earlier in the match by Ciampa, The Psycho Killer was looking for a moment. All he needed was a second, and one DDT won the war for Tommaso Ciampa.
The Undisputed Era (Kyle O'Reilly & Roderick Strong) def. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship
Ricochet def. Velveteen Dream
Shayna Baszler def. Nikki Cross to retain the NXT Women's Championship
Aleister Black def. Lars Sullivan to retain the NXT Championship
Tommaso Ciampa def. Johnny Gargano
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