'NXT TakeOver XXX' marked the 30th NXT TakeOver event
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NXT TakeOver XXX was everything an NXT special should be.

Great wrestling action, big chances, and solid entertainment.

But with 29 other TakeOvers having come and gone, is there anything to get truly excited about? The coronavirus era has impacted a lot of aspects of the wrestling business. But perhaps none more than NXT.

AEW has pulled pretty far ahead in the ratings war. Velveteen Dream found himself in, well, some trouble. And Adam Cole is wrestling a retired football player (and I’m not sure who’s supposed to be the good guy).

Can NXT TakeOver XXX turn things around for the black-and-gold brand?

Finn Balor took on Timothy Thatcher at 'NXT TakeOver XXX'

Finn Balor Vs. Timothy Thatcher

NXT TakeOver XXX kicks off with a guy who used to practically run roughshod through NXT. Ugh, look, I hope Mauro Ranallo is okay (he had to return to Canada to be with his family; details aren’t known). But that doesn’t mean I should have to deal with Corey Graves on a Saturday.

Balor jumps Thatcher from the opening bell, and they roll around on the mat. Thatcher gets the early advantage, going for an armbar, but Balor reverses to an armbar of his own. But Thatcher is able to get a pinning predicament for two, but Balor doesn’t release the hold.

Thatcher reverses to a chin lock into a half-crab. Balor kicks him off and reverses to a reverse chinlock. But Thatcher reverses yet again. This is really good already. Also, Thatcher looks a small, toothless Test.

Balor manages to create some separation, suplexing Thatcher over the top. Thatcher comes back in, but Balor puts the boots to him and goes for a facelock, only for Thatcher to reverse to a leglock. Balor gets to the rope to break the hold. But Thatcher goes right back to work and cinches in a bow-and-arrow variant into a pin attempt for two.

Thatcher goes back to the leg, and Balor breaks free momentarily with a kick to the face. Balor tries to get back into it, but Thatcher locks in a Kimura. The Prince breaks free, but Thatcher keeps working on the arm. A leveraged crossface follows, and Thatcher lays in the knees and clubbing forearms.

Balor fights his way up again and turns a chickenwing into a back suplex for two. But Thatcher doesn’t break the hold. Balor rolls through and hits a dropkick to break free again. A slugfest ensues. Thatcher lays in a wicked chop, but Balor hits a kick to the face on the way down. Both guys are down. I didn’t expect this out of NXT TakeOver XXX.

And with the stage set, a pro wrestling match breaks out. Balor throws Thatcher around and goes for a slingblade, but Thatcher blocks. But Balor counters with a double stomp, and Balor pulls him up. Thatcher goes for a suplex, but Balor reverses into an abdominal stretch into an inverted DDT for two.

Balor hits a running dropkick, sending Thatcher into the turnbuckle and onto the mat. The Prince goes up top, but he misses the Coup De Grace and tweaks his knee on the landing. Thatcher smells blood and goes after the injury and locks in a single-leg crab. Balor gets to the bottom rope, but Thatcher drags him back to the center and kicks him while he’s down.

Somehow, Balor is able to lay in a couple of kicks, but Thatcher counters with one of his own followed by a German suplex. Balor gets another abdominal stretch followed by a sitting chinlock. But Thatcher breaks Balor’s grip and transitions into an ankle lock. Balor crawls for the ropes, but Thatcher drags him back only for Balor to escape and hit another double stomp. Both guys are down.

Balor goes up top for the Coup De Grace again and connects. He hits the 1916 DDT for the pin. Weird finish, considering much of the story of the match was about Thatcher dissecting Balor.

Still, an awesome NXT TakeOver XXX opener.

Winner:  Finn Balor

Match Rating:  **** 1/4

A five-man ladder match decided the fate of the vacant North American Championship at 'NXT TakeOver XXX.'

Ladder Match For the Vacant North American Championship – Johnny Gargano Vs. Velveteen Dream Vs. Bronson Reed Vs. Damien Priest Vs. Cameron Grimes

Okay. I trust NXT. And I trust NXT TakeOver XXX to honor that trust. But I think I’m tired of ladder matches.

Priest wastes no time, attacking Dream during his entrance. Then Reed and Priest double-team Cameron Grimes before going toe-to-toe. But Dream jumps Reed from behind before hitting the Fame-Asser on Gargano followed by a DDT on Priest. A superkick to Reed follows, and Dream throws Grimes out of the ring.

Wow, that was a lot.

Despite there being ladders literally everywhere, Dream looks under the ring for a ladder. Grimes gets the ladder that Dream was going after. It turns out to be a stepladder, and Grimes gets taken out by Priest. He kicks Priest in the jaw from the apron and tries to drag the ladder into the ring. But Gargano fights him for it before hitting a jumping spear through the second rope. Gargano goes to set the ladder up, but Priest jumps him from behind.

Priest hoists Gargano up for a crucifix, but Reed breaks it up, slamming Priest while kicking Gargano away. Reed has the ladder, but Dream runs in and he and Priest set up ladders against each other, only for Grimes to push both of them over. Grimes climbs up both ladders, so Priest and Dream wishbone him for Reed to take him out. But Priest and Dream slam their ladders together onto Reed.

Now Gargano and Dream team up with a ladder, but Reed takes them both out with a senton. Ouch. Reed dominates for a bit. Cool spot, as Reed has a ladder set up flat, and Gargano tries to climb up. Reed sets Garagno up for a powerbomb, but Gargano escapes onto the now set-up ladder. Priest and Reed team up, going for a combination powerbomb/crucifix, but Grimes breaks it up.

Dream, Grimes, and Dream strategize and go after the two big men with their own individual ladders. But the alliance at NXT TakeOver XXX is short-lived, as Dream takes down Grimes. Dream goes up top, so Gargano throws a ladder in his face. Priest comes out of nowhere and attacks both guys in the corner. Each guy takes turns piling another guy up in the corner before only Reed is standing.

With Dream still on the top rope, Reed climbs up, but Priest brushes him aside and climbs up top. Grimes rushes at Reed, but Reed catches him. As he lifts him, Grimes hooks Priest around the waist, and we get a four-man powerbomb. That was cool. Only Gargano is standing, and he sets up the ladder.

But Reed wakes up and hits a Samoan drop on Gargano. Meanwhile, Priest dispatches with Grimes, and heads up the ladder. He gets a hand on the belt, but the Dream comes out of nowhere and fights him off. The Dream scales the ladder, but Priest kicks Dream’s feet out from under him. Now Grimes is in from out of nowhere, but Priest kicks Grimes away only to eat a superkick from Gargano.

Reed gets his hand on a ladder again, but Gargano heels his way into being the one man standing. Dream goes to chuck a ladder at Gargano, but Gargano ducks, and the ladder sails over the top and hits Priest in the face. It de-evolves into chaos, culminating into Reed hitting a TOPE SUICIDA (not the same without Excalibur). Luckily, everyone catches him.

Grimes, of all people, is the last man standing. He goes to set up a ladder, just in time for Priest to wake up and kick it into his face. Priest lays the ladder against Grimes diagonally and runs up, hitting a splash onto the three guys on the floor. Cool, but stupid. Like, at this stage of the match, everybody should be paying off their psychology.

Candace runs out to check on Gargano and pushes Grimes off the ladder before picking her up. But Gargano runs in and hits Grimes in the face with a ladder. With Gargano’s help, she hits a huricanrana on everybody on the floor. Gargano sets up the ladder, but it’s Reed again. They race up either side of the ladder, and Reed punches him off.

He reaches for the belt, but Candace climbs up behind him to swat it away from him. But Reed, with Candace on his bag, hits a splash onto Gargano in the ring, bouncing Candace out of the ring. That was pretty cool. And less stupid. Reed drags himself up the ladder, but Priest races up to intercept. But Grimes sets up another ladder and takes both Priest and Reed out.

Dream tries to take advantage, but he gets a leg stuck between the rungs, and Grimes takes him down. Grimes and Dream get into a slugfest, and Dream does some furniture rearranging. He drapes Grimes across one and sets up the super-tall ladder. He poses at the top of the ladder and realizes he can reach the belt. But Priest comes up from behind and takes him out.

Priest chokeslams Reed onto the ladder only to eat a running stomp form Grimes. Now Grimes ascends the ladder, but Gargano rushes to the top and hits a powerbomb on Grimes through the ladder. Dream goes for a superkick, but misses by a mile (hi, Botchamania). But he recovers, hitting a Dream Valley Driver on Gargano into Priest.

The Dream starts climbing, but Reed topples the ladder, sending Dream sailing over the barricades. Reed gets to the top, and classic bad NXT editing misses Grimes toppling him off the ladder. Grimes gets a hand on the belt, but Gargano climbs to incercept and uses the belt as a weapon to knock Grimes off.

Now Gargano has a hand on the belt, but Priest intercepts. Gargano unhooks the belt, but Priest pushes Gargano off and hangs on to the belt to become the new champ.

This was exciting, but it was ridiculously all-over-the-place. The right guy won, but man, this was a mess. Still, it’s NXT, so it was pretty great. NXT TakeOver XXX offered up a decent ladder match.

Winner (And NEW North American Champion): Damien Priest

Match Rating:  ****

Adam Cole faced Pat McAffee at 'NXT TakeOver XXX'

Adam Cole Vs. Pat McAfee

Sigh.

So the Undisputed Era and McAfee’s buddies are banned from ringside. I know this is a weird thing to say, considering NXT is WWE. But this feud is WWE stuff.

Um. Wait. Regal banned McAfee’s pals from ringside. Why are they there?

They lock up to start, and Cole rushes McAfee in the corner. But McAfee dodges, and they lock up again. McAfee cinches in a celebrity headlock (i.e. it looks really bad), and Cole elbows his way out only to take a celebrity shoulder tackle. I thought McAfee had been training, like, for the last year or so to be a wrestler.

McAfee ducks to the outside and hides behind his posse, so the Undisputed Era comes out to even the odds. So McAfee hits a swanton from the top rope onto everybody. Including his friends. It was nice swanton, but what was the point?

Referees and security get the extra people out, and McAfee starts kneeing Cole back in the ring. McAfee plants Cole with a slam, but it only gets a one-count, and McAfee locks in another celebrity chinlock. Well, this is kinda dragging NXT TakeOver XXX. Cole fights back but eats a standing dropkick from McAfee.

But Cole comes out of the corner with some chops, and they slug it out, and Cole punts him in the face. He drags McAfee to the corner and stomps ye olde mudhole. Cole hits a fireman’s carry followed by a reverse codebreaker (McAfee jumps into it in obvious fashion). With McAfee prone, Cole climbs to the top rope, but McAfee crotches him.

McAfee climbs up and goes for a superplex, but Cole pushes him off only for McAfee to backflip and land on his feet. Then McAfee rushes up top and hits the superplex for real. It only gets two. Okay, I can be fair. That was a good spot.

With Cole hanging his head outside the ring, McAfee rushes in for a punt, but Cole moves and McAfee punts the steel ring steps. Cole goes after the injured leg and locks in the Figure Four. But McAfee turns it over, but Cole doesn’t relinquish the hold and uses the leverage to roll through to keep the hold on. McAfee makes it to the ropes to break the hold.

The referee gets distracted trying to calm Cole down, and McAfee hits a Greco Roman Nutshot. With Cole stammering to his feet, McAfee hits the punt, but it only gets a two-count. With Cole laid out, McAfee goes to the top rope and goes for a double ax-handle (on somebody laying down), but Cole catches him with a superkick on the way down.

Cole perches himself on the middle rope and hits the Panama City Sunrise for the pin. As celebrity matches go, this was really pretty good. McAfee gave a decent account of himself, and there were no horrendous botches. Some unusual choices, but nothing bad.

Winner:  Adam Cole (Bay-Bay)

Match Rating:  *** 1/4

Dakota Kai challenged Io Shirai for the NXT Women's Championship at 'NXT TakeOver XXX.'

NXT Women’s Championship: Io Shirai (C) Vs. Dakota Kai (W/ Raquel Gonzalez)

Shira tackles Kai right after the bell in this NXT TakeOver XXX women’s title match. But Kai turns things around, going for a high kick. But Shirai turns it around, going to a somersault only for Kai to dodge it.

The champion hits a dragon screw before kicking Kai. They spill to the outside. Gonzalez runs interference for Kai, allowing the challenger to kick her into the ring post from behind.

Kai tosses the champion back inside but only gets a two-count. Now the challenger cinches in an armbar, but Shirai fights out only to get shoved back down by the challenger, who now cinches the armbar through the ropes for leverage. Kai works up a head of steam, but Shirai nails a drop toehold, sending Kai throat-first into the bottom rope.

But Kai ducks under the bottom rope and kicks Shirai before cinching in an octopus hold with the ropes as leverage again. A kick to the face gets two for the challenger.

Kai cinches in another armbar and goes for a quick cover, but she only gets another two-count. The challenger stomps Shirai while she’s down and then chokes her with her foot in the corner. Kai goes for another cover, but she gets another two-count. Kai goes back to Shirai’s injured arm into another cover for another two-count.

Shirai gets a roll-up for a two count, but Kai explodes with a lariat for another two-count. Kai goes for another submission hold, but Shirai slowly fights her way out with an armdrag. The challenger goes for a kick, but Shirai comes up with a palm uppercut that puts Kai on the mat. A couple shoulder tackles from Shirai follow, and the champion hits a 6-1-9 with a bad arm. She comes off the top rope for a dropkick, but Kai kicks out at two.

The champion goes for a German suplex, but Kai reverses, only for Shirai to roll through and hit a standing double stomp. They fight onto the apron, where Kai tries to German suplex Shirai into the barricade. But the champion hangs onto the ropes and stomps Kai in the chest. Shirai goes for the cover, but Kai kicks out and transitions immediately into an armbar.

Kai starts laying in kicks to the face, but Shirai Hulks up and clubs the challenger with forearms. The champ rushes, but Kai bends forward and hits a scorpion kick. Shirai goes for a German suplex, but Kai takes her down into the corner. Awesome sequence here, as they trade places in the corner a couple times, followed by the champ hitting a succession of knees on Kai in the corner.

The champion goes up top, but Kai crotches her. Kai goes for a superplex, but Shirai blocks and puts her in the tree of woe. Shirai gets a double stomp, but Kai kicks out. The champion goes for a double underhook DDT, but Kai reverses with a headbutt and knees Shirai in the back for two. Kai manages to hang onto the injured arm, but Shirai makes it to the ropes.

Shirai comes off the ropes for a springboard, but Kai dodges. The champion goes up top, but Kai intercepts and hits the punt, but Shirai gets a foot on the ropes. Kai accidentally takes the referee out, and Shirai hits a German suplex followed by a moonsault, but there’s no referee (trademark pro wrestling since forever). Shira tries to weak up the referee, but Gonzalez hits a chokeslam on the champion and drapes Kai on top of her.

But Shirai kicks out, and Kai throws a hissy fit. She pulls Shirai up and goes for another punt, but Shirai catches her and locks in a crossface. Kai rolls out of it but eats a knee to the face. The challenger tries to take a breather, but Shirai hits a moonsault on she and Gonzalez on the outside. Back inside, the champion hits another moonsault for the pin to retain.

After the match, Gonzalez jumps a celebrating Shirai, which draws out Rhea Ripley. Lady Hoss Fight!

This was pretty good. Kai going after the arm was a good story, and they made sure Gonzalez only became involved when she needed to. Decent piece of business at NXT TakeOver XXX.

Winner (And STILL Champion): Io Shirai

Match Rating: *** 3/4

At 'NXT TakeOver XXX,' Keith Lee defended the NXT Championship against Karion Kross

NXT Championship: Keith Lee (C) Vs. Karrion Kross (W/ Scarlett)

Kross gets the holy hell clubbed out of him to start out the NXT TakeOver XXX main event.

Lee keeps up the clubbing blows, but Kross escapes only to get flung into the ropes and splashed by a freaking giant. Kross goes outside for a breather with Scarlett, but Lee follows and slams Kross’s face into the ring apron.

But Kross gains the advantage while playing the referee’s count. He goes to punch Lee’s head into the plexiglass, but Lee dodges and gets mad enough to punch right through it.

SAFETY FIRST, WWE!

Kross kicks Lee’s arm between the plexiglass and the barricade. He takes advantage and makes with the stomps back in the ring, leading into a rear armlock. But because he’s a genetic freak, Lee powers out of it only for Kross to go right back after the arm.

Lee goes for a running powerslam, but Kross escapes and bashes Lee’s bad arm into the corner. The challenger goes for the cover, but he only gets one. Back to the elbow for what feels like two or three years. Lee finally fights his way back to his feet, but Kross locks in another armbar, but Lee has his fingers locked to prevent Kross from extending his elbow.

The champion, with Kross still holding on, gets to his feet and powerbombs the challenger. Both guys make their way to their feet at the same time, and it’s a slugfest. Obviously, Lee comes out on the better end of that. Lee charges Kross with forearms in the corners followed by a powerslam. He goes for the cover, but Kross kicks out at two.

Lee tries to pull Kross up, the challenger nails a forearm followed by a back elbow. He goes for the Doomsday, but Lee blocks, forcing Kross to resort to a couple kicks to the head followed by a DDT, but it only gets two.

The champion goes for a headlock, but Kross breaks free only to eat a couple headbutts. Lee hits a vertical suplex, but Kross kicks out. A lariat puts Lee on his back, and Kross makes with the punches. Now both guys are trading punches and forearms, but Lee takes the challenger out with a running shoulder tackle.

Kross runs in for a big boot, but Lee sidesteps it. The challenger hits the kick for real, but it only makes Lee mad. He swats at Kross, but Kross hits the Doomsday Suplex, but Lee kicks out. Kross and Scarlett can’t believe it. The challenger goes for the Kross Jacket, and Lee falls backward. Lee’s arm starts to go down, but he Hulks up (lot of that going around tonight).

The champion fights his way to the ropes. He pulls himself up to his feet and puts the challenger down with a weak shoulder tackle followed by the Spirit Bomb for two. Lee drags Kross to the corner and heads for the top rope, but Kross kips up and halts Lee’s progress.

They fight it out at the top, and Kross hits an avalanche Doomsday to get the pin and the title.

Wait, what? I don’t get that finish. Unless they plan to move Lee up to the main roster. In any event, this was a little plodding, even for a Keith Lee match.

It was good, but it wasn’t really anything super special.

Winner (And NEW NXT Champion): Karion Kross

Match Rating:  ***

The Breakdown

So NXT TakeOver XXX wasn’t lacking for great in-ring action. But some of the booking decisions are a little on the baffling side.

I’m not sure what is to be gained by taking the belt off of Keith Lee so soon. Karion Kross is awesome, and he’s completely deserving. It just feels like it’s too soon to move to another champ.

As for the McAfee match, it was fine for what it was, and a solid celebrity match.

Lots of good wrestling, but there was nothing to really stand out.

It’s impossible for there to be a “bad” NXT TakeOver show. But this one was pretty middling by comparison.

All images courtesy of WWE.

NXT TakeOver XXX

8.5

In-Ring Action

9.7/10

Booking

7.3/10

Promos/Video Packages

8.0/10

Entertainment Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Not a bad match in the bunch
  • That opener between Balor and Thatcher was a mat clinic.
  • As always, tremendous trainwreck of a ladder match
  • McAfee was better than I expected

Cons

  • Don't really understand taking the belt off of Keith Lee
  • Lots of weird booking decisions
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