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Kurt: Welcome one and all to a special edition of the NXT Spotlight here at TJRWrestling. This weekend, all eyes are on Chicago. As in addition to the Money in the Bank PPV taking place, NXT will presenting their next Takeover event. The last one during WrestleMania weekend was considering the best Takeover event ever. Can this one top it or even come close? Here to help me answer those questions and much more is our fearless leader, John Canton.

There are the normal five matches on this card and I think before we even get to the card John, we need to discuss the lack of NXT North American Title on this show. Adam Cole is the champ, and without question one of the top 5 stars on the brand. You have a brand new title that just stole the show last time out to crown the winner, and now it’s not even on the next Takeover event? I’m sure he’ll be defending it on the TV episode taped before Takeover, but it’s still a headscratcher to me. What’s your take?

John: I think this is a pretty good Takeover card, but not as strong as New Orleans was. There may never be another Takeover as good as that one since I gave that show a rare 10 out of 10 score. The first thing that comes to mind when I look at the card is the absence of the North American Champion Adam Cole. The NXT brand debuted that title at the last Takeover and they aren’t even going to include it on this Takeover? Weird. I also think it’s a mistake to keep EC3 of the card because he’s a great all around performer that is still new in NXT and he should also be in a match.

I know the NXT brand is set in its ways to have just five matches on the card, but considering all the talent that’s on the roster right now, a sixth match would have been welcome whether it was Cole vs. EC3 in singles or adding a third guy to make it a triple threat. I doubt anybody would complain about there being a sixth match on the card. Anyway, it’s not a major gripe, but I will miss Cole and EC3 during this show.

Ricochet vs. The Velveteen Dream

Kurt: This is being labeled as “The King vs. The Prince”. I was able to see these two face off at a live event last month, and although the show as a whole was disappointing, this match was off the charts and only just a taste of what they can do. This could and SHOULD be the start of a years long rivalry like Rock/Austin, Cena/Orton, one of those pairs that just can’t separate from each other. I feel that strongly about these two together. It’s the little nuances with these two that make them so perfect.

The moment from a couple weeks ago when Ricochet flipped over the top rope and landed right in Dream’s face, plus Dream’s reaction to that, it was magic. Despite all the fanfare for Dream, and rightfully so, he hasn’t had that big win yet. He defeated Kassius Ohno back in January at Takeover: Philadelphia, but considering where Ohno is on the roster and the fact that match was thrown together, it doesn’t speak much for Dream. He needs a big win and he needs this win to keep this angle hot.

Prediction: The Velveteen Dream

John: This should be an awesome match as Ricochet will do everything he can to wow the crowd while Dream will continue his ascent with the biggest match of his career to date. These guys have been wrestling eachother regularly at the NXT live events for over two months, so they have developed chemistry and I expect an awesome match that will go around 20 minutes. A lot of WWE fans haven’t seen Ricochet in a long singles match, so this is a match that should get people talking about him as the special performer that he is. I’m sure Dream will be able to hang with him too.

I feel like the win could go to either guy, but I’m going with Dream because he’s been a part of NXT longer. This could be a breakout win for Dream leading to a NXT Title shot against an old rival in Aleister Black. If it’s a win for Ricochet that’s fine. I just feel like Dream could use the win more.

Winner: Velveteen Dream

NXT Women’s Title Match
Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Nikki Cross

Kurt: I don’t know if this will be the best NXT Takeover ever, but I do feel like this is my favorite Takeover card ever. Every match has someone that I love and am emotionally invested in. As much as Carmella has grown to annoy me as of late, there is no denying that the decision to keep her down in NXT while Enzo and Cass moved up, was a great decision for her career. It looks like the same could be said for Nikki not being called up with Sanity. Sanity hasn’t debuted on TV, so realistically, she could lose this match and join them shortly thereafter. I think this is a match for her taking.

Baszler is a great champ and continues to get better and better, but there’s something about the dichotomy between these two where Nikki doesn’t care about Shayna’s size or bullying tactics. Shayna, like a real bully would, is playing the role perfectly of being completely caught off guard by someone who doesn’t back down from them and actually steps up. I think there’s even more money to be made in this storyline if Shayna has to chase Nikki for a bit to get her title back. Nikki’s crowd reactions as of late cannot be denied and I think based on the way the rest of this card lays out, this is the perfect time for a title change.

Prediction: New Women’s Champion, Nikki Cross

John: When it was announced that Sanity was going to Smackdown, some people were mad that Nikki Cross wasn’t going to be a part of the group on the main roster. It didn’t bother me because I felt like Cross had a lot of potential as a singles wrestler. Cross is finally getting the spotlight on her with this title match where it’s possible that Cross will taste gold. That’s not where I’m going with my prediction, though. I think Baszler is going to continue her reign possibly by disqualification when she gets frustrated that she can’t put away Cross.  I’ll go with Baszler to retain.

Winner: Shayna Baszler

NXT Tag Title Match
The Undisputed Era – Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly (c) vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch

As I stated in the women’s match, this is my favorite card because of people like Lorcan and Burch getting an opportunity like this. They have been building these two for months and now it’s finally paying off. I have been singing the praises of these two that entire time, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them on a big stage and really showing out. This will be the hardest hitting affair on the card besides the street fight. Again, it’s odd that Adam Cole isn’t on the card, but that leads to a perfect opportunity for he and Pete Dunne to get involved in this match. You look forward on the NXT calendar and can’t help but think that these two units will still be crossing hairs with each other heading into War Games in November. I don’t expect a title change, just because Burch and Lorcan aren’t fully established yet and The Undisputed Era are presented like top stars every time out. My only hope is that they do a flukey finish where they come close to winning the titles, but due to the outside shenanigans sure to take place, it leads to the Era stealing the win, instead of a decisive win.

Prediction: The Undisputed Era retains

John: This doesn’t feel as big as some NXT Tag Team Title matches at Takeover events. It’s nice to see hard-working guys like Lorcan and Burch wrestling at a Takeover, but I don’t view them as a long-term team or guys that should win the titles. It should be an interesting match with a lot of cool nearfalls, but I’m going with the Undisputed Era duo of O’Reilly and Strong for the victory.

Winners: The Undisputed Era 

NXT Championship Match
Aleister Black (c) vs. Lars Sullivan

Kurt: If there’s one match on the card that I’m torn on, it’s this one. That’s not to say anything negative about either man because I like them both. It’s just… odd to me that you have a new NXT champion, a man you want to be the face of the brand, and yet on the show he won the title and the show where he has his first title defense, he’s not even the main event. It just sends off a weird vibe for Black. I think I would’ve rather seen a triple threat main event between Black, Gargano and Ciampa. That would’ve left room for a potential North American Title match, which again should be on the card.

Lars is a fantastic heel and really growing into his own, but I don’t know that he’s ready for a title shot yet. There was more room for growth in his rise as a monster heel. Maybe a program with someone like EC3, who also is missing from this show, would’ve been a little better. That being said, both guys are so unique in everything they do, I think this will be a really good match. It’s hard to see Lars taking a clean loss based on everything I just said, so I could see a DQ finish or maybe a countout win for Lars and have this program continue. The worst thing they could do is have Lars lose cleanly and have this be a one off opportunity.

Prediction: A DQ or Countout finish

John: I’m writing this after watching the last NXT before Takeover. That show ended with Lars hitting his Freak Accident finishing move repeatedly on Black. That’s the kind of ending you do for a guy that’s going to lose at the PPV. Sullivan feels like the kind of guy that WWE may want to push harder when he’s on the main roster. I think he’s somebody that would benefit greatly from having a manager. Why not put Paul Ellering with him? Ellering is off TV since the Authors of Pain dumped him and I think Ellering would be perfect for Sullivan.

Black is my pick to retain the title because he just won the title two months ago and there’s no reason to take the title off him. There are several possible opponents for Black at future Takeovers like Velveteen Dream, EC3, Adam Cole or you can do a triple threat with Gargano and Ciampa to get the title onto one of those guys. I think Sullivan will dominate 90% of the match, Black will make the comeback and get the win to retain the title.

Winner: Aleister Black

Chicago Street Fight
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

Kurt: After everything I just said about the NXT Title/Champion, let me be clear, this match deserved to be the main event in Orlando and deserves to be the main event in Chicago. This is the best thing going in ALL of pro wrestling for 2018. The best part, it’s not ending any time soon. This is going to a 3rd and decisive match in Brooklyn. I thought potentially Gargano could win back to back matches, but after the bloodshed Ciampa endured last week on TV and the staples he received, it was clear that he was going to win this Street Fight. They maximize every minute they’re on television and make you believe every word and every movement of theirs.

I’m in awe of what they’ve been able to accomplish. I’d love to see some more blood in this match. I feel after Ciampa has taken it in the shorts twice with the way he tapped out in Chicago, and his blood loss from last week, he needs a big moment to get some heat back on Gargano. Gargano as the babyface in peril with blood running down his face, that would be one hell of a sight to see. The finish seems a little too obvious to me, as Candice LaRae has to get involved at some point due to her involvement in the storyline. Maybe she throws in a towel because Gargano refuses to give up or maybe she hits him with something by accident after a grueling match. Either way, Ciampa wins and I will hope every day after the match is over that part three will be the first NXT Hell in a Cell match between these two.

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

John: Gargano is on an incredible roll. I gave his January Takeover match against Andrade Cien Almas five stars out of five and his match with Ciampa at Takeover in New Orleans also got five stars out of five. I’m not the kind of give to give out five stars easily, but Gargano has put on two classics back to back this year. Can he do it again? Maybe. This feud is certainly worthy of being the main event of Takeover like it was in April. Watching that video package above is a reminder of how incredible this storyline has been going back to a year ago when Ciampa turned heel on Gargano in the same building in Chicago.

This feels like the second match in a trio for this rivalry, so I’m going with Ciampa to win since Gargano was on their match at the last Takeover. Like Kurt, I think they need to involve Candice LeRae in the finish somehow since she has become part of the story. It’s possible that she will turn heel on her husband Gargano and side with Ciampa, but I don’t think WWE books like that anymore. In the prior decade, maybe. Not now. I think since it’s a Street Fight maybe something will happen where Ciampa teases hitting LeRae with some object, then Gargano takes a blow for his wife (let’s say a chair shot for example) and after Ciampa hits Gargano, Ciampa covers to win. It’s possible Gargano wins, but I think Ciampa winning is more interesting because it continues the rivalry and that’s what I want because it’s too good to end.

Winner: Tommaso Ciampa

Final Thoughts

John: That’s all for us. I’ll be handling the live NXT Takeover Chicago recap on the site on Saturday night because Kurt is going to a Ring of Honor event in Dallas. I want him to write about Takeover when he sees it too, so that’s up to him. It should be great as usual from NXT. Thanks for reading.

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