NXT Takeover 36- Quick Results & Thoughts
Match 1: Million Dollar Championship- Cameron Grimes (w/ Ted Dibiase) def. LA Knight (c) (at 16:31)
Thoughts: The best storyline going in NXT delivered between the ropes when it mattered as well. Both men's characters were built up perfectly heading into Takeover, and Dibiase is a rare example of WWE using a legend in the right way- to enhance current talent. A fun nostalgic moment with Dibiase locking in the Million Dollar Dream, but it was Grimes coming back with the Cave In on Knight to earn a monumental victory. From the symbolism of Grimes' entrance, where he ripped off the butler suit to unveil Million Dollar Man inspired attire, to the post-match of Grimes lifting the gold belt, this was brilliant. (***3/4)
Match 2: NXT Women's Championship- Raquel Gonzalez (c) def. Dakota Kai (at 12:24)
Thoughts: Two matches in a row where the build of the story and characters matched the intense action in the ring. Kai had a chip on her shoulder at being Raquel's sidekick, and wrestled like it, using sharp strikes and her cunning to take the fight to the larger champion. I wasn't quite sold on Kai winning at this stage of the game- the turn and the Takeover match felt hastily put together for some reason- but can't fault this bell-to-bell. Inventive finish where Raquel catches Dakota's kick and lands a devastating top rope powerbomb. Top quality stuff, but didn't quite hit classic level for me. (***1/2)
Match 3: NXT UK Championship- Ilja Dragunov def. WALTER (c) (at 22:03)
Thoughts: Going into this match, the story was, "Hey. these guys had a really awesome match in the UK last year, let's have another!" And they did. Over 20 minutes of WALTER and Dragunov beating the living shit out of each other, and pulling back just enough to stop it from being an all-out shoot. Dragunov had some ridiculously displays of strength as the much smaller challenger, and also showed incredible heart as WALTER hit all his best offense. Kick out after kick out, some way, somehow. FInally, a relentless attack which saw Dragunov pursue the sleeper/rear naked choke in a variety of way, before unleashed some soccer kicks and an elevated sleeper for the tap out win, seeing a new NXT UK champion after about 2.5 years. Brutal! I loved it. (****3/4)
Match 4: Three Stages Of Hell- Kyle O'Reilly def. Adam Cole 2-1 (at 25:20)
Thoughts: This was much more tolerable than the Stand And Deliver match, which went right into wanky, self-indulgent territory. An early pin fall for Kool Kyle in straight up wrestling was a shocker, and allowed these heated rivals to go at each other as brutally as possible in a Street Fight, then a Steel Cage match. Between falls, Cole does a great job as a bastard heel beating down O'Reilly, stacking the deck for the big babyface victory at the end. Looks like it could be the end of Adam Cole's WWE run, with rumours abound that he's joining his girlfriend and his buddies on the ever-growing All Elite roster. Good way to go out if so, putting a bow on the great legacy of the Undisputed Era, which has been a massive part of NXT over the past 4 years. Hell of a match. (****1/4)
Match 5: NXT Championship- Samoa Joe defeated Karrion Kross (c) (at 12:24)
Thoughts: Seen this called a shocker by some people, which is shocking to me. With Kross already working as a part of the Raw roster, it was only a matter of time before he dropped the NXT strap, and Joe is a safe choice. Decent big man match, although most certainly not the epic that has become the standard for big NXT Takeover matches. But it accomplished what it needed to, and the return of the Muscle Buster finisher after years on the shelf got a pop out of me. (***1/4)
Hard not to view this Takeover as the end of an era. Adam Cole referred to it as such in talking about his feud with O'Reilly and that history with the Undisputed Era, but there's definitely a paradigm shift going on with the NXT brand as a whole. All the recent cuts of NXT/205 Live talent, most notably Bronson Reed, and the likely departure of Adam Cole- Reed and Cole main evented NXT TV a month ago and now they're no longer under contract with the company. I would suggest that Karrion Kross is also done with NXT (no Scarlett anywhere in sight either).
That said, Takeover was still a great show. Not one bad match, and while the main event was technically the weakest of the lot, it was boosted by the feel-good moment of Samoa Joe returning to action to become the first 3 time NXT champion. He was a huge part of building NXT into the brand it became, and it's been a rollercoaster year for Joe, from working WrestleMania 37 as a Raw commentator, to getting fired, rehired in NXT and ultimately getting back in the ring to kick ass.
The NXT we know and love may be changing, but this was a hell of a way to close that chapter.