We have arrived at the go-home show for TakeOver: In Your House and I have enjoyed the build to the latest TakeOver so far. This week had a few things to look forward to and the biggest thing had to be the finals of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. It is interesting that they dropped the “interim” from the tournament and I am wondering where they go with that. It is also the possible final match for Drake Maverick and boy do I have things to say about what happened with that one. Enough with the intro and let us jump right in to see how NXT did in their go-home episode.
Mia Yim vs Candice LeRae
I was a bit surprised this match started off the night, but it became clear why that would be the case. This was a bit of a battle of Southern California as both women are from the area. I love Candice as a heel because it has brought so much more to her character and it has even brought more into her ring work as well. Not that she was bad, but it has provided that extra oomph to it. Mia is great as well and she came out wanting to get a piece of Candice because of what has been transpiring over the last several weeks. Really fun back and forth in this match and I knew we were about to see something screwy when they kept fighting on the outside. They would both be counted out, but the action would not stop. They kept fighting and Tegan Nox would eventually come out to pull Candice off Mia. That allowed Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzales to come out and beat down Mia a bit before Shotzi Blackheart came out to even the odds. Johnny Gargano even made his way out and it looked like Mia was in trouble until Keith Lee would make his way out to even the odds. The two chased away the heels but it would be announced that the match would restart as a mixed tag team match after the commercial break.
Lee & Yim vs Gargano & LeRae
This wasn’t terribly long, but it did a great job in advancing the story between everybody involved. I love that Johnny and Keith were in their civvies because that added to the surprise nature of this match. Too often do we see wrestlers come down in their gear ready for a match that we don’t know will happen and then does. Candice and Mia did most of the work in the match and it was right where they left off. I loved that Johnny didn’t take off his coat until Keith did it for him when he had him in the corner. The finish saw Johnny jab Lee with his car keys in the eye and the distraction allowed Candice to rollup Mia for the win. Johnny pushed the steps into Keith’s hand after as well and I loved his reaction to it. Johnny has really mastered his facial reactions and he has certainly come a long way. Johnny posed with the NXT North American Championship on the outside and laid it down in front of the TakeOver logo on the floor. That Lee/Gargano match is sure to be a banger and I cannot wait for that. It was also announced later in the night that Candice will team with Dakota and Raquel to take on the team of Tegan, Shotzi and Mia. That match should be a lot of fun as well.
Ciampa/Kross Hype Package
This was an effective hype package for the Kross/Ciampa match. They showed plenty of highlights from both men and Ciampa provided some narration as well. He talked about throwing the questions out of the window and what he has done at TakeOvers in the past. Ciampa seems primes and ready for Kross and I cannot wait to see that match.
Dexter Lumis Interview
At least it was supposed to be an interview, but I loved that Lumis stuck to not speaking. The man says so much without using words and that is a talent that not many have. He went and grabbed an easel and began to draw something on it that we see what it was later in the night. It ended up being a drawing of him driving a vehicle with the Undisputed Era riding along in it. It is clear he has something in mind for the UE, but we can only make guesses as to what that is. Also, I am pretty sure he actually drew that since he is actually quite the artist. You should check out some of the things he has drawn because they are quite good.
Drake Maverick Interview
This almost felt like a shoot interview because of how Drake delivered it. He was very realistic about tonight in knowing that it could only go one of two ways. He mentioned how it could either be the best night ever or the worst night. I love how he feels like he has nothing to lose and that he will leave it all out there in the ring. The storyline with Drake has made him into an absolute star in my eyes and the support he has from the fans is amazing.
Adam Cole & Velveteen Dream Prime Target
This was expertly done, and WWE always nails these video packages to hype up matches. I liked how different both of their side of the video package was. Cole was more like what you would expect from him and the Undisputed Era and Dream’s was humble in a way. Cole was picked up in a limo by the rest of the UE and that included Kyle O’Reilly. I really miss him, and he really is a vital part of the UE. I also love his beard and it really makes him look like a member of a country or folk band. When they cut to Dream, he was just rollerblading around and chiming in with his thoughts on the upcoming match between he and Cole. The then cut to Cole and the UE and they were enjoying a nice dinner where Cole gave a toast on how great of a champion he has been and how the UE has been the greatest thing he has done in wrestling. They finished by going back to Dream and he was on his couch talking about how he beat Cole in the last match they were in and how he plans on beating him at TakeOver. I loved whoever it was that was dressed as Prince because he totally nailed it. Really nice segment here and I wouldn’t mind this being a thing going forward to hype up their matches across all the brands.
Tony Nese vs Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
The only problem I had with this match is that I don’t really care much for one of the competitors. Nese is so talented in the ring but he offers little to nothing with his character. He did show a bit during the tournament but all of that seems to be gone. I would have liked if he used having gone winless in the tournament and infused that to his character to give him more dimension but he didn’t do any of that. I am a huge fan of Swerve and I think he has a lot to offer because he has character unlike Nese. The match was good and had some great back and forth as well. Jack Gallagher made his way out to try and distract Swerve but that ended up not working as Swerve would end up picking up the win with a rollup. No idea where they go from here, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Swerve get in a proper feud with someone that has more character than Nese.
Undisputed Era vs Lorcan & Burch vs ???
I wondered who the third team would be since they said it would be a mystery team and I loved who it ended up being. Fandango is back from injury which means that Breezango is back. I was so happy to see them back because they are truly needed in the tag division in NXT. I think this may be the shallowest the NXT tag division has been since I have been watching. These are all great teams when it comes to in-ring talent so it should be no surprise that this was a fun match. It is always tough following a triple threat like this because there are three men in the ring, and it could make for a cluster at times. There was a lot of fun action in this match and a lot of that came down to the three teams. Breeze is probably the most underrated in-ring talent in WWE because he has rarely had a chance to show it. Fandango is darn good as well and they both showed they are more than a comedy act even though their entrance would say otherwise. Lorcan and Burch brought a bit of that stiff wrestling to the equation and the UE brought that experience as a team. I really thought Lorcan and Burch were a lock for this one but Breezango were able to pull out the win and earn a future title shot. Imperium would end up coming out to the entrance ramp to scout Breezango and then Indus Sher would come out with Malcolm Bivens. We did just talk about them and wondered where they were and here they are. I wonder if we are seeing a new trio of teams that will be fighting over the titles.
Aliyah vs Santana Garrett
Not much to say about this match really other than Aliyah looked decent in this match compared to her last few appearances. I do wonder if that is due to working with a veteran like Santana that can be a great guide for the younger talent. The match was fine and the real noteworthy thing to happen was that Robert Stone came out looking disheveled after losing Chelsea Green since she fired him. It looked like he was ready to sign Aliyah to the Robert Stone Brand, but she would lose to Santana in this match. I do think this is Garrett’s first televised win and I feel like it is about time. She is a solid veteran that can be used well if given the chance. Aliyah tried to talk to Stone after the match, but he doesn’t look like he wants someone that just lost as a member of his brand.
Io Shirai, Rhea Ripley & Charlotte Flair Prime Target
This was the second and final one of the prime target videos for the night and it was just as well executed as the first one. Io was the first one we saw, and she was in some water and spoke about herself a bit before they cut to Rhea Ripley waking up in the morning. She was making her breakfast and spoke about how her loss to Charlotte changed her and how she will rebound from it. It then cut to Charlotte and she spoke about how she helped build the NXT women’s division with her matches during her initial run. They then cut back to Rhea working out in a gym and she spoke about how she wants the title back. She mentioned how she saw an opportunity to call out Charlotte for a match after she won the Rumble and how she ended up losing. She is ready to take the title back and then the video cut back to Io. Various wrestling personalities chimed in during this part, as they did during both videos, and they spoke about Io’s accolades during her career. I would guess they took this approach so they wouldn’t need either subtitles for Io or have her speak in English. This was a solid video package and like I said with the Cole/Dream one, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these across all the brands.
Cameron Grimes vs Bronson Reed
This was a fun little match for as long as it went. I love how Grimes has embraced this “Grimes Time” thing he has going on and is walking out with a bit more swagger of late. Bronson Reed was his opponent and I really feel like he could have a nice future if he is given the chance. I have seen moments of his personality and I feel like he could be a nice star for NXT. Fun back and forth in this match and Bronson definitely use his size for the advantage when he could. Grimes ended up winning in the end though with the Cave In to continue his momentum. Karrion Kross appeared in the ring after the match and Grimes didn’t waste any time getting out of the ring. Kross suplexed Reed and then went to a camera to talk directly to Ciampa. He told his that Sunday will be special and I loved the intensity he showed in his eyes.
El Hijo del Fantasma vs Drake Maverick
This match was amazing from start to finish and I loved every minute of it. The story of Drake trying to win to stay in WWE has been told masterfully during every one of his matches and that continued with his match against Fantasma. Fantasma has looked great during the tournament as well and has looked every bit of the man I saw wrestle in AAA in Mexico and as King Cuerno in Lucha Underground. Both men didn’t waste any time in getting into it and they brought it from the opening bell. Fantasma used his size advantage over Drake during the match and Drake had to use his speed advantage to slow him down. Really great back and forth in this match and I love how Drake would yell at the referee to not stop this match because Drake was fighting for everything he holds dear to him. I had wondered if we would see the masked lucha men in this match because we all figured they would come out to help Fantasma win in the finals and that did end up happening. They came out and Drake fought them off before the could possibly attack Fantasma. That ended up costing Drake as Fantasma would hit him with a Superkick and the Phantom Driver to become the new NXT Cruiserweight Champion. Drake looked so distraught at losing and that is when things got interesting…
Drake Maverick Sendoff
I am totally breaking the rules of ratings here and am doubling the max crowns for this segment. This not only deserves all the crowns but deserves double that amount. The PC trainees showered Drake with love after the match and were giving him the proper sendoff to someone that if leaving the company. He was met with cheers, applause and everything else you could think of that they could give him. He took it all in and thanked them all as he would make his way up the ramp. That is where things got interesting as Triple H made his way out and embraced Drake on the entrance ramp. Then, in the moment of the freakin’ year, Triple H handed Drake an NXT contract and told him that he wasn’t going anywhere. Drake signed the contract and he is sticking around in NXT!!! This is the best ending to any show this year and I do not see anything possibly topping this. Drake was part of the releases and I truly believe the brass were so impressed by him during this tournament that they decided to hire him back. Drake was showered with cheers and applause during this and the emotion was real on his face. That smile Triple H has when he handed him the contract was everything as well because you can see how he loved what he was about to do. I have no idea if this was the plan or not from the start, but one thing is clear, WWE made Drake Maverick into a superstar.
This was such a fun episode of NXT with no real complaints from me. The only low point I guess was the Aliyah/Santana match, but I did enjoy seeing a disheveled Robert Stone. The main event match and Drake Maverick contract signing were fantastic and is the highlight of this week across wrestling. The triple threat tag team match was a lot of fun and so was the opening two matches. I enjoyed the Prime Target videos that hyped up two of the title matches for TakeOver as well and would not mind seeing more of those across all the brands. The Dexter Lumis stuff was great as well and I love that he has yet to utter a word. All in all, really good episode of NXT this week and a solid go-home episode as well. Make sure you join us on Sunday for the Dignified Discussion for TakeOver: In Your House and keep an eye out for our match predictions for the show as well. I am Sovereign S.A.M. and I will see you all around the WRC.