Many of us still haven’t recovered from the masterpiece that was NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, and the follow-up is already upon us. I remarked that the WrestleMania starter (which was the main course, if we’re honest) was the strongest NXT show in history on paper. Not only did it live up to those expectations, it exceeded them.
The same cannot be said for this year’s edition of the Chicago show. It’s a solid card, sure, but between a puzzling top title match and a clash that we already saw a couple of months ago, it’s hard to be fully on board. However, the excellent standards that these events have set for themselves almost guarantees a show that is at least good. So let’s break down this card piece by piece.
Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream
This is the match that I think many of us are anticipating stealing the show. Velveteen Dream’s character work is second-to-none and he has the athletic ability to keep up with a man of Ricochet’s talents. The Dream has consistently been the highlight of his feuds, imbuing them with raw sexual energy and memorable promos. But Ricochet has endeared himself to the fans just as much as we expected (and he did that wicked flip last week that had me scrambling to pick up my jaw).
Prediction: This is the easiest match to call, it’s Ricochet’s to win. It’s his singles debut on a TakeOver show and there are obviously plans to push him hard. Both men will make each other look good and be sure not to blink, or you’ll miss the awesomeness.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match
The Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong) (C) Vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch
Boy, oh boy, this is gonna be a good one. The Undisputed Era might be the most exciting thing in NXT today, from their cocky a-hole promos to their hard-hitting ringwork. It’s a shame Bobby Fish is injured, as it means reDRagon has been side-lined as of late, but Roddy Strong needed a career boost and he got one. Throw Lorcan & Burch into the mix and you can expect a stiff, indie-style match that will be full of lengthy chain wrestling sequences, chops, kicks, and Kyle O’Reilly being a bloody legend. It’s just a shame that Adam Cole isn’t booked on the show, especially when you consider the fact that he won a brand-new title at the last TakeOver event.
Prediction: It’d be amazing to see the two bald underdogs get the win, but I just can’t see it. They scored a shock clean victory over the champs to earn this match, and the UE need to be protected for now. I’m not completely ruling out an upset, but I’m siding with those mean, black and yellow bastards.
NXT Women’s Championship Match
Shayna Baszler (C) Vs. Nikki Cross
I’ve enjoyed the build to this odd couple match-up (the same can’t be said for the other one on this card), Nikki Cross is an outstanding character worker and Shayna plays the arrogant badass well. It’s been a little disheartening to see this feud come at the expense of Dakota Kai, though, who has been portrayed as terrified of the bullish champion at every turn. I believe this could be a sleeper hit, as not many are expecting an outright classic. I have faith in the abilities of both talents to create something worth talking about.
Prediction: It’s unclear what the plan is here for Nikki Cross. It’s either a way for her to put over the new NXT talent before joining her Sanity stablemates on SmackDown, or a reward for the hours she’s put in for the women’s division. I hope it’s the former, as Sanity without Nikki just feels wrong, and it’s far too soon for a reign as dominant as Shayna’s to end. With some trepidation, I’m going with Shayna Baszler.
NXT Championship Match
Aleister Black (C) Vs. Lars Sullivan
Now, I watch NXT every single week, and I’m still not sure how we’ve arrived at this point. I like both guys and see real star quality in Aleister Black. As for Lars Sullivan, he plays the big man role well (though not as well as his predecessor, Killian Dain). There just seems to be a lack of sense to this match. We’ve already seen Black take on a big man in the aforementioned Dain, who Lars just isn’t on the same level as. I’m hoping both men bring out something to surprise us, but I’m not holding my breath.
Prediction: Easy win for Aleister, not much more to say.
Chicago Street Fight
Johnny Gargano Vs. Tommaso Ciampa
I’ve already spoken at length about the brilliance of the last encounter between these two, so I’ll try to focus on the events that have led us here. Ciampa’s continued antagonising of Gargano has allowed this intense rivalry to continue. We’re now at a point where blood has been spilled and the stipulation is specifically a Chicago street fight (why does Chicago get namedropped with street fights, anyway?), so expect more weaponry to come into play than it did in their unsanctioned match.
Prediction: We were all certain that Ciampa was winning the last match and were happy to be proven wrong. But the feelgood moment of Johnny Wrestling tapping his mortal enemy out is about to fade away. Ciampa simply can’t lose twice in a row, otherwise there’s no point in any of this. The only thing we should be wondering isn’t who should win here, but whether they can top the masterclass of their last battle.
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