Roundtable: NXT TakeOver XXX Predictions

With NXT TakeOver XXX upon us, we asked the Hooked On Wrestling team to weigh in with their predictions for the landmark card on WWE’s black and yellow brand.

NXT TakeOver 30 - Keith Lee vs Karrion Kross

Tonight, the greatest event brand in wrestling history presents its 30th installment. WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, Starrcade, Bound For Glory, erm….Joey Janela’s Spring Break; none of them have been as consistent in their excellence as NXT TakeOver. Not even close.

Saturday’s event promises more of the same and we asked the Hooked On Wrestling team to give us their predictions. Think you can do better? If you’re reading this before the show, why not enter our NXT TakeOver XXX predictions game by clicking here.

NXT Championship: Keith Lee (c) vs. Karrion Kross

Paul Benson: Such a hard match to predict! Unusually for an NXT Championship match, this match is between two big men who trade primarily in shock and awe. The timing feels very odd. Lee has the makings of a great champion but has barely had the time to establish himself. Kross on the other hand has looked a star from the moment he made his first entrance. His destiny is the top championship in NXT but by coming so soon, does it feel a bit, I don’t know, unsatisfying?

Something smells fishy. I smell some form of shenanigans here. But I think Lee remains champion at the end of the event.

Chris Napier: This is a tough one because Lee is box fresh as NXT champion and is super-over but Kross is the shiny new toy that management are clearly high on and is being pushed to the moon. That said, I’ve never been too high on Kross as a worker so I hope and think Lee will retain in a match that I expect to be full of gimmicky antics, care of Scarlett.

Lewis Brown: I actually think Kross might win the title. Crazier things have happened. I know that he is still quite new to the company and Lee hasn’t long since won the title but I think they need to and want to capitalise on Karrion Kross’ popularity A.S.A.P. Plus I think they will want Lee up on either Raw or Smackdown soon so this is the perfect way to set that up.

Cameron Bennett: I’m torn between Keith Lee cannot be a transitional champion and Keith Lee to main roster. But I’m going to go with Kross winning here and becoming NXT’s resident Shao Khan.

Josh Chapman: How do you solve a problem such as keeping the title on Keith Lee whilst making Karrion Kross continue to long like an all-conquering destructive force?

For me, it can only go one way. The fireball incident stokes a fire (pun completely intended) in Keith Lee that sees the big man lose it to a point where he gets himself disqualified.

I think we’re going to see one of the best big man matches for many a year when these two come to blows, it’s going to be filled with big spots packed with plenty of power and Mauro “MAMMA MIA!” moments.

We know Keith is the very definition of 305 Live, that combined with Karrion’s grappling style, and both men’s power and strength game, means we’re heading straight into a TakeOver classic.

The potential of Mia Yim and Scarlett coming to blows on the outside adds an interest for me.

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Sharai (c) vs. Dakota Kai

Paul Benson: Io Sharai has had a solid reign as champion since her win at Takeover: In Your House. But I can’t escape the feeling that it was rushed to get the belt off Charlotte. Was she the intended champion at this time? I’m not so sure.

I think Kai wins this. She has been built as the next great NXT heel woman and she is living up to that push. She feels like she has a big future and I expect her to take the belt.

Chris Napier: Dakota Kai’s rise as a heel from her turn on Tegan Nox at last year’s War Games has been pretty special and the addition of Raquel Gonzalez to the package makes her more than a credible threat. 

Similarly, Io Shirai also blossomed on NXT once pushed as a heel, but has hit the point of being so damn good that she’s impossible to boo.

I’d hate to see Shirai’s title reign cut short but Kai as the bully champion – validated for her actions last year by possession of the gold makes a lot of sense. This is my pick for match of the night and I can see Dakota Kai taking the belt.

Lewis Brown: I think Sharai will retain here. I just don’t think it is the best time to take the title off her and also the timing isn’t right for Dakota Kai. That is not a knock on Kai by any means, but I feel like the build hasn’t really been enough to make me believe she will actually win.

Cameron Bennett: Io absolutely has to win this one. I like Dakota, I like her a lot but I’ve already placed Keith Lee as a transitional champ and I can’t have Io be disrespected that way. All hail queen Io. 

Josh Chapman: The best women’s wrestler in WWE right now against one of the hottest and upcoming heels in the industry. This could be a belter.

Both have the ability to fly and strike and that always brings a certain excitement level with it and I already feel we could have a match that could be a show stealer but also going under the radar but will be very high in quality.

The past couple of week’s NXT have made Io look vulnerable, which is a first since she took the gold, and adds a different dimension that books Kai stronger than you usually would associate with her as both a heel and a face.

The return of Raquel Gonzalez adds a different element to this feud and match on top of the mind games we’ve seen from Kai, and I like what Gonzalez brings to the table when it comes to being Kai’s guarantee at ringside.

I get the feeling that Sharai is going to reach Asuka and Baszler levels with the gold in terms of reign length, so I’m going to have to side with the champ.

NXT North American Championship Ladder Match: Bronson Reed vs. Damian Priest vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Johnny Gargano

Paul Benson: I’m not going to lie; this whole series has felt like a let down. The premise of giving opportunity to new stars was a sound one but my personal opinion is that the new faces in the match don’t interest me all that match. Even worse, the two existing stars in there that I do enjoy immensely feel like they’ve been pulled down by association.

Maybe I’m being a stick in the mud but the mix of talents doesn’t excite me and I don’t see the ingredients in place for a great ladder match.

Pick a winner? Cameron Grimes.

Chris Napier: Two former champions, two guys NXT have been building as a legitimate threat for months and the suddenly credible Bronson Reed. You can make a case for any of these guys to win but I’d discount Velveteen Dream because of his current controversy and it feels too soon for Bronson Reed. Either Grimes or Priest could be excellent champions, but I suspect that Gargano’s heel character needs a belt to pose around with so I’m going for Johnny.

Lewis Brown: I’m so excited for this match! It was phenomenal the last time they did it. At one point I did think Velveteen Dream would win this one, but I think WWE may change that due to the recent controversy surrounding him so due to that, I think they may put the title on Bronson Reed. He ties in with what Keith Lee said the title represents: opportunity. He is still quite fresh in the WWE but is gaining popularity fast.

Cameron Bennett: This match is going to be a clustermuck in the best possible way and my pick is The Archer Of Infamy (What does that even mean?). Bronson Reed will have his hands on the belt ready to get the win only to be pushed off by Priest. 

Josh Chapman: In truth, any of the five men could be booked to win this one and all offer a different style and a different kind of championship reign that will follow.

Exciting spots, high flying spots, brutal spots. We’re getting them all in this one, but I’m going to back the Archer of Infamy.

The build of Damian Priest since his debut last year suggests the classic tale of a highly touted superstar playing the waiting game in the upper mid-card before being shot into the limelight.

His TakeOver debut in the triple threat match with Pete Dunne and Killian Dain was one of the most underrated matches I think we have ever seen and at In Your House, he absolutely stole the show with Balor.

We know he has the mic skills, the ring skills, and the looks to be one of the best and this is the perfect opportunity to propel him to that next level in a way they did with Adam Cole in the previous NA ladder match in New Orleans.

After all, the name Damian Priest? It’s going to live forever.

Adam Cole vs. Pat McAfee

Paul Benson: Finally, we have permission to cheer Adam Cole and The Undisputed Era! Fans have been itching to do so since the moment they arrived in NXT and it’s a massive credit to the four guys that they’ve stayed heel until now.

Adam Cole is the absolute best piece of talent in modern NXT and has all the gifts he needs to become a bigger and bigger star as time goes on. McAfee is the perfect opponent to bring his babyface character at. He’s a natural born douchebag and the NXT fans will hate him because he is an outsider.

Will it be a good match? Cole is involved so a certain level of quality is guaranteed but I think McAfee will be a lot better than many expect. The build to this has been stellar and it is the match I am most looking forward to by far. I’m picking Cole for the win.

Chris Napier: As a rule, big name sports celebrities go over in wrestling matches as the likes of Laurence Taylor and Floyd Mayweather have shown. However, they tend to be paired with relatively disposable talent (not meaning to disrespect Bam Bam Bigelow or the Big Show here) and they tend to be the good guy. McAfee is both coming across as the heel and is paired with one of NXT’s most valuable workers, which puts the outcome in more doubt than you might think. Plus, the fact that McAfee has shown himself to be a really good promo and is a genuine fan raises the possibility that this is not a one & done.

I think that McAfee will win with help from outside, while Cole will – to prove a point – refuse help from the rest of UE, thereby protecting Cole and giving him more of a babyface feel.

Lewis Brown: Please, PLEASE don’t let Adam Cole, the longest reigning NXT champion EVER lose to Pat Goddamn McAfee! PLEASE. I know the usual set up is for the celebrity to pick up a win, but it seems McAfee has actually managed to get a bit of in-ring training so I think they will have a somewhat back and forth match, with Adam Cole (Bay Bay) taking the win. PLEASE!

Cameron Bennett: Fresh off a ridiculously good promo, Pat McAfee has made himself into the best kind of heel – One who’s face I want to see kicked in! Adam Cole picks up the win here but I honestly wouldn’t mind Pat winning if he’s even half the wrestler he is a talked up to be. 

Josh Chapman: I’m going to be straight up and as brutally honest as it comes with this one, I hope Adam Cole rips this jean short wearing dork limb from limb and kicks him every one of the seven shades of sh… well, you know.

I’ve never been a fan of McAfee, I’ve always found his pre-show panel appearances tiring and cringeworthy and I have found the way he is playing the heel in this feud irritating and forced.

This week’s NXT if anything fuelled that hatred even more, and I hope he brings his stooges from the NFL with him again on Saturday night so Fish, O’Reilly and Strong can show them what happens outside the ring if you want to play wrestler.

Inside the ring, I hope we see Cole find his NXT Championship reign form once more and puts on a wrestling masterclass which hopefully results in not only a win for Adam Cole (Bay Bay) but also Pat going back to his podcast.

But only after his million dollars in 7 different professions goes on his medical and dentistry bills of course.

Finn Balor vs. Timothy Thatcher

Paul Benson: A late addition but a very, very welcome one. I am not Balor’s biggest fan (I just don’t get the appeal) but he most certainly should be on this card. Timothy Thatcher I adore. Just a mean, nasty, old school bully. Right up my heel street.

I would love to see Thatcher snarl and snap his way to a win here but Balor has lost a lot recently and probably needs heating back up if truth be told. So I expect The Prince to win.

Chris Napier: This is a tasty late addition to the card. Thatcher has bedded into NXT nicely and his distinctive style sets him apart from the rest of the brand. Finn Balor’s return to NXT and to a persona more akin to his New Japan one was also welcome but hasn’t really seen him rise to the top of the NXT card. He’s 0-3 on NXT TV since beating Cameron Grimes in June, while Thatcher is 3-1 over the same period, although mostly against less celebrated opposition. 

Chris Napier: This is almost a coin toss match, because a good win could put Balor right back in the NXT title picture, while a win over the Prince would solidify Thatcher’s return to the same level. Neither are in the middle of a solid push but are excellent workers and I’m happy with ten minutes of them stiffying the bejeezus out of each other. Pushed to pick a winner, I’ll say Balor.

Lewis Brown: This one is difficult because on one side you have Timothy Thatcher who is getting over really well as a total badass however on the other side you have Finn Freaking Balor. It’s going to be hard hitting and I can’t wait for this one, but I think Balor is taking the win here.

Cameron Bennett: How much Thatch could a Tim Thatch catch if a Tim Thatch could catch Thatch? The answer? Enough to beat Balor. 

Josh Chapman: For Papa Hunter to make the call to leave the PrinXe out of the ladder match to put him in this match suggests to me Finn is about to take the ‘Golden Shovel’ title from John Cena.

We know we’re going to get a hard hitting, brutal, old school, mat wrestling style match between them two and after watch Thatcher produced with Matt Riddle in the Fight Pit, I for one cannot wait.

However, Balor has been sacrificed in every big match and every opportunity he has had to this point in the year since his return and I can’t see it happening again against Thatcher.

I know in truth they’re keeping Finn out in the wings until COVID-19 restrictions ease and allow Walter to return to continue their United Kingdom title feud, but again a feud with Timothy plays right into that feud also.

Could we see Thatcher reunite with Imperium to bring Ringkampf back together on the biggest stage? Probably not, but one can dream. Balor wins.

Pre-show: Breezango vs. Legado del Fantasma vs. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch

Paul Benson: I guess I should pretend to care but I’m afraid to say I don’t. A thrown together match with a thrown together stipulation (The old ‘title shot at undetermined future date’ fallback).

Legado del Fantasma are winning this. Hands down. And they will probably go on to take the tag titles and have some incredible matches in the future. The stable has a huge amount of potential. But it would be nice to have something with more foundations to build their push on than this.

Chris Napier: This is for a shot at the tag team titles, which are held by Imperium. That kind of eliminates Legado del Fantasma as I can’t see them putting two strongly pushed heel teams against each other in that situation just now. The ongoing issue between Breezango and Legado del Fantasma makes me think those teams cost each other the win and allow Lorcan & Burch to come away with a big win, that sets up a tantalisingly hard hitting bout for them against Aichner & Barthel.

Lewis Brown: I think Lorcan and Burch will win this one. Don’t have much to say on it other than with the fact that Imperium are the champions, I’m basing my pick on out of these three teams, who I’d most like to see them face.

Cameron Bennett: Legado del Fantasma are great but I don’t see Imperium’s first major defense (I don’t count rematch clauses because, reasons) being against another heel team. So I’m going Lorcan and Burch. For one, because Breezango and LdF are currently embroiled in their own rivalry. Secondly, because I want more Lorcan & Burch in big matches. 

Josh Chapman: Another TakeOver without a Tag Title match screams two things to me, that the division is suffering and/or in reality, Imperium are just title fillers which I hope isn’t the case as they’re work in NXT UK is deserving of a fair shot in Full Sail.

With Imperium already facing and defeating both Breezango and Burch/Lorcan, I’ll give the nod to Mendoza and Wilde as it will offer a fresh challenger and a different path for Aichner and Barthel to walk down in the short term.

It would also add another layer to the ever growing Legado Del Fantasma story of being the dominant, untouchable force of NXT and 205 Live, whilst continuing to bring respect back to the name of Lucha Libre.

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