NXT TakeOver XXX: The Big Review

Featuring Keith Lee vs Karrion Kross and Adam Cole vs Pat McAfee!

HELLO AND WELCOME to The Big Review of NXT TakeOver XXX!

The first pay-per-view at the brand new WWE THUNDERDOME (erm… Ed), which I think always has to be spelt with capital letters for legal reasons, and I’ll tell you what: I’m hyped. There are some great matches in prospect, a very unpredictable card, and my boy Damian Priest is finally going to win a singles title. That’s right. You heard it here first.

I’m Mike, and as always, I’ll be doing the written equivalent of live-reacting to the show since I’m about to watch it, start to finish, for the first time. I’m settled down, strapped in and snacked up, so with that said, let’s get cracking into the kickoff show!


Breezango vs. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch vs. Legado del Fantasma
Tag Team Triple Threat #1 Contenders Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships

Quite simply, I think the Brit-Am Brawlers are taking the W here since Breezango and Legado del Fantasma will be too busy trying to rip chunks off of one another. Both Lorcan and Burch have been in high-profile singles matches recently, and it seems like the backstage big boys are high on them; plus, a match against Imperium for the belts would be awesome to see. 

My prediction: Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch

I’ve just noticed that this isn’t at the THUNDERDOME!!! at all, we’re actually back at Full Sail! [I was going to tell, you, honest! – Ed] Well, I’ll be asking for some sort of refund. I thought they said it was on for all of SummerSlam weekend!

Not to take away from the opener, and it’s a great triple threat tag match – really slick. It feels like Legado del Fantasma eat most of the offence, first from a Danny Burch hulk up and then a Breezango double team – but the luchadors end up almost getting the first three count after a 450 splash from Wilde that’s broken up. However, just as I feel like the match is getting into a proper stride, Lorcan makes a ghost of Wilde with a leaping uppercut before Tyler Breeze smashes the Boston brawler with a superkick… and that’s three! Wow, that’s a surprising finish. Just a superkick puts Oney Lorcan away? Well then.

Winners, and NXT Tag Team Championship #1 Contenders: Breezango (0/1)

Honestly this could have gone anywhere and the finish was a little out of nowhere for me, but I’m glad for Breezango – they’re awesome.


Finn Bálor vs Timothy Thatcher

Singles Match

Thatcher cost Bálor his chance to be in tonight’s ladder match for the North American title as revenge for Bálor clocking him after their previous triple-threat encounter, so this match has been made as a sort of “get a room” blowoff. Not like that.

Bálor is the winningest pugilist in NXT TakeOver history, I’ve heard – not in those words, obviously – and would easily win if it all came down to experience… but I think Thatcher could do with a victory tonight. He’s the new kid on the block, establishing himself on a roster where Bálor is already royalty; the Prince can take a loss without being dethroned. I have, however, made the mistake of betting against Bálor before.

My prediction: Timothy Thatcher

Thatcher takes Bálor down early and gives him a bloody good slapping around the ears; there’s that classic amateur style. Seriously, though – I’m looking forward to seeing how Finn gets out of the old-school holds that Thatch-as-Thatch-can will employ.

The truth is that he gets out of a few, but the match then becomes a submission clinic. Thatcher has a sensational kimura locked in on Finn, which he escapes, but it just becomes another arm lock. Bálor tries his best to strike his way out of it and eventually does, but sells the Thatcher offence beautifully. After a bit of back-and-forthery, Thatcher hits a BRUTAL slap to Bálor’s throat, but Finn replies with an overhead kick that sends both men down for a breather.

Finn then gets into his stride. After a near fall, he hits his corner dropkick and goes up top for the Coup de Grace, but misses – and tweaks his leg on the landing! Thatcher goes for a submission… and lands a single-leg crab! This must be over for Finn Bálor! NO! He gets to the ropes! Ooft. Close call.

Thatcher replies to the escape by holding Finn’s leg and shoeing him into next week, but Finn boots back – Thatcher German suplex! Balor standing stomp! Both men down again! Blimey. There are going to be some bruises in the morning, that’s for sure.

Bálor’s up to the top rope… and hits the Coup de Grace! 1916 DDT! One! Two!! Three! Finn Bálor wins! My goodness. Hard hitting, brutal, I’m having a shocker with my predictions, but in the end, Finn takes it. I think that’s the wrong decision, personally, but still: great match.

Winner: Finn Bálor (0/2)


Damian Priest vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Bronson Reed vs. Velveteen Dream

Ladder Match for the NXT North American Championship

This will be the match of the night for so many reasons. Mostly because of the talent, their ability, and the variety: big men, little men, athletic freaks, sneaky heelish weirdos – this one’s got it all. Plus, any of the five could win and I don’t think anyone would be surprised.

I can’t bet against my favourite performer in NXT though. It’s finally his time. A singles title belongs around the waist of Damian Priest, so it’s the Archer all the way for me, Clive.

My prediction: Damian Priest

Priest is out first, and he looks like a champion. He’s a shoo-in here, no question. I’ll stake my entire part-time wrestling writing reputation on it. 

The opening exchanges are impossible to report on, but suffice to say that Cameron Grimes is his usual hilarious self and when the dust settles, Dream and Priest are the ones scampering up ladders towards the title. Grimes stops them, however, but ends up in the splits between two ladders with Reed peering between his legs. Wonderful. Okay, I’ve changed my mind: Cameron Grimes is brilliant.

So far though, it has to be said that Bronson Reed is getting the best of this match. He hits an enormous senton onto a ladder that squashes both Johnny Nicknames and Dream, before turning Grimes inside out with a clothesline. He’s dominant, and it seems the other four realise they need to take him out. I think we all expected this to happen.

However, just as it seems they’re going to team up on the big man, each one of the heels turns on one another. Dream hoofs Grimes, Gargano slams Dream with a ladder, but when the shenanigans are over, who’s standing? Yep, it’s big boy Bronson Reed once again. He’s all over this at the moment, and I’m glad I didn’t pick him. Surely someone so dominant can’t possibly win the match.

He lands a fallaway slam on Gargano but stays down.. Priest is up! DAMIAN PRIEST! Fingertips on the title… and he’s brought down by Dream! Priest recovers, and boots the feet out from under VD! He’s down! TAKE THE TITLE, DAMIAN! Ah, here’s Cameron Grimes to ruin my prediction… oofty, no, it’s Gargano who superkicks Priest in the head to wipe him out of the match for now! Darnit. I’m going zeroes for this whole show, aren’t I?

The action moves to the outside where some absurd moves are hit: Grimes with that flipping powerslam on Gargano, then Reed explodes through the ropes to hit Gargano and Dream with a suicide dive… before Priest runs up a ladder, propped on the top rope inside the ring, and hits a huge front flip kick onto Reed, Gargano and Dream on the outside! They’re all down… except Cameron Grimes! He’s scaling the ladder!

WHAT!! Candice LeRae is out! What’s she doing here?! She ruins Grimes’ attempts to climb the ropes, he protests, so naturally she slaps all hell out of him, and Gargano finishes him with a ladder to the head. That could be Grimes out of the match, but it’s not over for him yet – Candice hits a hurricanrana to Grimes out of the ring and onto Dream and Priest! It’s Gargano’s title to lose now!

Oh boy. Bronson Reed is back. He’s up, Johnny Husband takes over… he’s taken down, but LeRae is on top with Reed! She stops him reaching the title, locks his arms around his neck, he’s going down… and splashes himself, and Candice, right onto Gargano on the floor!! Johnny Pancake is down, and surely out!

I bloody love ladder matches. The action resets, and the other four vie for the title. Everyone seems to have an even shot, there’s nothing to choose between them… until Dream sets up Grimes on a ladder draped between the central ladder and middle rope. Dream climbs to the top of the ladder, goes to leap onto Grimes, slaps the belt by accident… realises he just needs to take it down to win, slaps it away like an idiot, and to be honest, this part took me way out of the moment. I mean, jesus Dream, just take the championship! It’s right there!!

Dream ends up on the floor due mostly to his own incompetence, and after further shenanigans, we’re back with Gargano and Grimes on the ladders. Gargano tries to sunset flip Grimes through the draping ladder but sort of misses, and my god, I know all of this is painful, but that looked especially bad. I hope they’re okay.

Dream then sort of misses a superkick on Priest that he sells anyway before hitting the DVD on Gargano, through Priest and a ladder on the outside – honestly, this match is insane. I feel like we’re no closer to a winner than we were yesterday morning. Dream is up to the top, it looks like he’s got the title… but Bronson Reed is back in the ring! He lifts the ladder by the base, Dream topples backwards, and flies into the “crowd”! Huge bump!! That must be Dream out of it! 

Gargano and Grimes are back to the top of the ladder – one of these men must win the title! They’re so close! Grimes is down! Priest is up!! Priest and Gargano! The title is unhooked!! They’ve both got it!! GARGANO TOPPLES! GARGANO IS DOWN!! PRIEST TAKES THE TITLE DOWN!! DAMIAN PRIEST IS THE NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPION! YES! YES!!

Winner, and NEW NXT North American Champion: My hero, Damian Priest (1/3)

I TOLD YOU SO!! YES! I’m so happy. What a match, and what a result for me. Oh, and also Damian Priest, sure.


Adam Cole vs Pat McAfee

Singles Match

This is going to be the slobberknocker of the evening, and when you’ve also got a ladder match on the card, that’s really saying something. I’ve been cheering Cole and UE for well over a year now because it’s so hard to hate guys who are this good, and finally, Cole is cast in the role of… perhaps not babyface, but at least maybeface, since McAfee has been a straight-up ballbag in all his promos leading up to tonight. Finally I can roar on Cole without my girlfriend calling me a mark. 

I’m amazed this is just a singles match rather than a no-DQ or a street fight, and I half expect the stipulation to change just before kick-off – but either way, Cole has to win. It won’t be the last we see of McAfee, though.

My prediction: Adam Cole, bay-bay

Pre-match, Pat McAfee claims he’s going to kick Cole’s head off, as he has “the strongest leg in the history of legs in general” – a massive boast if true. Can someone check Wikipedia for me? I’m on a schedule here.

I really hope this is over quickly, but I can’t see it. I want a sudden Cole victory, followed by a massive brawl between Pat and the McAfee Stooges, and the whole Undisputed Era. Come on. Do it for me, HHH.

Not a chance. A Cole headlock is reversed by McAfee, who feels smug, before Cole shows him he could superkick his nose into the front row at any moment – and at that point, things get a little more serious. More rudimentary action follows before McAfee’s entourage back him up outside the ring, leading to the whole of UE to approach the ring behind Cole. It’s 4v4… or is it? Pat McAfee is missing! He’s on the top rope! SWANTON BOMB from Pat McAfee onto the seven men on the floor!! Okay – that was ridiculous. Fair enough, Pat.

Following that, McAfee takes control inside the ring. He’s actually in control for… a surprisingly long time, the kind of time that allows you the space to think a little too much. Beth Phoenix is stunned, and so am I, to be honest. Adam Cole is a 400+ day NXT champion and one of the most accomplished pro wrestlers there is, and he’s being taken to task by a guy who’s got big legs? I’m not sure, mate.

Thankfully, eventually, Cole gets slapped, and it wakes him up. He pulls Pat’s tee over his head and gives him a bloody good shoeing in the corner. Cole neckbreaker, two count. Backstabber, two count. Why isn’t Pat McAfee in an ambulance? I would be. Come on now.

Both men fight to the top, McAfee is going for a superplex, but Cole shoves him off… MCAFEE BACKFLIP, LANDS ON HIS FEET IN THE RING. What the HELL was that?! And then, with a single leap, McAfee bounds right to the top rope and hits Cole with a superplex!! One! Two!! Ooohhh, no! Just two. My god. Okay. I feel stupid now. Standing O for Pat. That was ridiculous.

The two continue back and forth, and eventually, Cole almost goes too far in the corner and the referee has to intervene – and in the chaos, McAfee hits a low blow on Cole! He’s punted him right in the trousers! Clothesline McAfee, Cole gets up… punt to the chest! Punt from McAfee! My god, he’s actually going to win this! One! Two!! KICKOUT!! Kickout Cole! Oh, thank goodness. Thank baby Jesus.

McAfee goes for a top rope home run, but eats a superkick from the recovered Cole. He implores Pat to get up, climbs to the middle rope… Panama Sunrise! One! Two! THREE!! There we go. Phew.

Winner: Adam Cole (2/4)

I’ve got to say, that was a lot closer and better than I expected when this started. The early McAfee dominance seemed totally misplaced since he’d done very little to earn the advantage, but my goodness, that top rope sequence was impressive. That should have been what led to his stretch of offence in the first place if you ask me, but either way, the right man won – and not just because I desperately need the win for my predictions.


Io Shirai (c) vs Dakota Kai w/ Raquel González

Singles match for the NXT Women’s Championship

While I’m sure interference from Raquel González will bring DK within a hair’s breadth of pinning the champ, I don’t think Io Shirai is losing her title tonight. It’s too soon into her run, and if it were me, I’d be booking her strongly for the foreseeable. 

My prediction: Io Shirai to retain

Io goes for a couple of early backflips but lands very awkwardly on her head. I spend a good 20 seconds incredibly worried about Shirai before Raquel González gets involved. That didn’t take long – I suspect because of that nasty landing – and the story of the next six minutes is that Dakota Kai is on offence, but it never really feels like she’s going to put Io away. 

Shirai then recovers with a tiger feint kick and springboard front dropkick for two, so I guess it’s safe to assume she’s alright. The action then moves back and forth with neither woman really able to gain a lengthy advantage; Shirai is hitting more of the big moves, with double stomps aplenty, but DK does hit some enormous strikes of her own – kicks to the face, knees to the back, and one gigantic headbutt that should put Io down, but in all cases, we’re still only seeing two counts.

Suddenly, Kai is back in control with an armbar on Io, a limb she’s been sporadically working on throughout. It’s the longest submission hold of the match so far, with Kai positioning herself between Io and the ropes – this could be a title change! It could happen right here! NO! Shirai finds the bottom rope with her foot! Great effort from the champion. 

But it’s not over for Kai! Io recovers to climb the top rope but is met by the challenger, who gets her into a Tower of London-type position, draped from the top rope, and launches into an overhead kick to the face! That’s a HUGE hit, and Shirai is down! One! Two!! NO, just a two count!

We’re down the stretch now, surely. Kai tries to whip the champ into the corner, but the referee is badly positioned – she manages to stop herself from crashing into him, but here comes Dakota Kai! HELLUVA KICK to the referee!! Shirai German suplex and Over The Moonsault on Kai, covers… but the referee is down and out! She can lay there all night – she’s not getting a three count! And here we go, Raquel González is in, chokeslam to Shirai, she puts DK on top and throws the referee over to make the count. Dakota Kai has got it! One! Two!! KICKOUT BY IO SHIRAI!! At the last possible moment! Woooofty, that was the best false finish of the night so far.

Kai looks on in disbelief, seemingly out of ideas. She waits just a little too long to get Shirai onto her shoulders, and the champion reverses into a crossface. There’s still not really a referee as Shirai knees DK right in the chops, then wipes out both González and Kai on the outside with a moonsault – then back in the ring, she hits a second moonsault on Kai for the recovered zebra to count the one, two, three! 

Winner, AND STILL: Io Shirai (3/5)

Although it was a pretty textbook match from a booking point of view, this was a great match. Really well worked, impressive action – and it’s not over yet.

Post-match, González wipes out Shirai from behind and it looks like she’s about to destroy her with some sort of pump-handle slam… but here comes Rhea Ripley for the save! Ripley and Raquel square up to each other in the ring as Corey Graves shouts, “this! Give me this!” – and I couldn’t agree more. This would be some kind of a fight.

Eventually the heels back down and retreat up the ramp, and that’s it for the undercard. It’s time for tonight’s main event.


Keith Lee (c) vs Karrion Kross w/Scarlett

Singles match for the NXT Men’s Championship

This one is too tough to call. Lee is so new into the role of top guy he still smells of baby powder, but Kross has been booked like a straight-up maniac since his arrival on the black-and-gold brand and I don’t think he can afford to be stopped by Keith in his first title match. I really want to see Karrion carrying (thanks) the big belt, but not at the expense of Keith Lee.

As such, I’m going for a screwy DQ or no contest finish to give them a chance to have another go at this down the line.

My prediction: Keith Lee to retain via DQ or something

During the entrances, Beth Phoenix describes Karrion Kross as “the supervillain we’ve always feared”, and it’s hard to argue. Standing in the ring awaiting Keith Lee, Kross looks like he’s already won. I still think Keith Lee is taking the title home tonight, but man, this is going to be a rough match.

Keith Lee is seriously fired up from the get-go, laying massive left hands into the challenger – and Kross is rocked. I don’t think he’s been hit like this since he joined the black and gold brand. Eventually, a Lee cross body causes Kross to roll out of the ring towards Scarlett on the outside – I’m not sure we’ve ever seen that before. Great stuff. 

An even exchange on the outside ends with Kross crushing Lee’s left arm between the barricade and the plexiglass, and once we’re back in the ring, the challenger pinpoints it with submissions and strikes for the next seven or eight solid minutes. Armbars, tosses to the ringpost, DDTs to the shoulder – Kross is dissecting the champion, with Lee barely able to get anything out in response. Eventually, Kross goes underneath with a triangle/armbar combo that allows Lee to haul him into the sky, and down with a crushing side powerbomb, and both men are down – but is the damage done to the left arm of Lee?

Both men return to their feet and endure a brutal striking exchange – at one point Kross seems to legit go down from a Lee left forearm that’s either a genius moment of selling or an actual concussion, I’m not sure which. Lee follows up with a succession of rebound strikes, eventually hitting his big powerslam for two. Kross is down, but his eyes still look focused. The guy isn’t human, I’m sure of it.

Kross recovers with some lethal kicks to the head of Lee, who looks like he might be out cold himself – he barely and awkwardly kicks out of the following pinfall attempt at two, and my goodness, these guys are beating each other senseless. It’s incredible.

Kross, for the second time, goes for the Doomsday Saito suplex, which it feels like he’s never going to hit on the much larger Lee – and indeed, Lee turns it around into a picture-perfect vertical suplex of his own. The match continues with both men grimacing through every interaction; Lee kicks out after a massive lariat from Kross, a striking exchange ends with a lariat from Lee that puts both men down, and when they both get up, it has to be said: Kross looks fresh, whilst Lee looks like he’s just done twelve rounds with a bear. 

Kross goes behind Lee… and hits that Saito suplex! He’s hit it! Unbelievable! One! Two!! NO, that’s just another two count. I didn’t think that would be the end of this match, but still – impressive move. Beth Phoenix calls Kross “the Suplexorcist” in the latest in a number of super commentary moments on tonight’s show. If there’s anyone out there who knows about contracting two words together into catchy nicknames, it’s the Glamazon.

Kross goes behind Lee again, but this time… he locks in the Kross Jacket! He takes Lee down and coils himself around the champion! Lee is definitely fading! His eyes are closing, he’s not responding! The referee raises his arm, it drops… BUT LEE IS STILL ALIVE! Very nice. I really thought that was over. Lee squirms and struggles his way to the bottom rope, barely escaping the tapout. Well, you know what – regardless of how this match goes, there’s no doubt that Kross is a killer. He’s going to be massive in WWE.

Lee manages a headbutt on Kross and even hauls him up for the Spirit Bomb – whoa! Where did that come from! One! Two-oh my goodness. Kross rolls out of it at just over two. It’s an incredibly early kickout from Kross – what a statement from the challenger.

Lee tries to escape to the top rope for whatever reason, and as you’d imagine, Kross goes up to meet him. A crushing strike exchange finally ends… with Kross hitting that Saito suplex again! From the top rope! Avalanche Doomsday suplex – cover! One! Two!! THREE! THREE! WE’VE GOT A NEW CHAMPION! KARRION KROSS IS NXT CHAMPION!!

Winner AND NEW NXT Men’s Champion: Karrion Kross (3/6)

Wow. I can’t believe that. A clean finish that was definitely earned after a crushing, dominant, terminating performance from Karrion Kross, but my goodness, Keith Lee has gone from double champion to empty-handed in a matter of weeks. I’m absolutely gutted for the Limitless one, but there’s no denying Kross. He is incredible.


And that’s curtain, everybody. As usual, it’s a really excellent NXT TakeOver, without a bad match or moment of filler on the whole card. 2h 23m is the total run time for the five main matches and that tells you what you need to know about them all: they were given plenty of time to reach their full potential, and I’d say they did. Every single one. 

The ladder match was probably my favourite of the night, but it’s a tough choice – and boy, huge shoutout to Pat McAfee. I really didn’t expect him to bring what he brought. Plus, can you believe it – we’ve got new champions in my boy Damian Priest (North American) and Karrion Kross (NXT Men’s Title), who spent pretty much 20 minutes eviscerating Keith Lee on his way to the top strap. What an evening of action it’s been.

I’ve been Mike, thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you tomorrow for The Big Review of WWE SummerSlam 2020!

close

Want to hear the latest news from Hooked On Wrestling? Join our mailing list!

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter