NXT TakeOver XXV supplied everything we’ve come to expect from the black-and-gold brand.
There were surprising finishes, there was heart-stopping action and, as always, it was better than anything WWE’s main roster could put together on its best day.
For those who can’t tell, I’m something of an NXT mark.
And for the first time since the early days of the WWE Network, NXT TakeOver worked without the net of being part of a pay-per-view weekend. This wasn’t the lead-in to a bigger show.
The men and women of NXT had the weekend all to themselves, and they made NXT TakeOver XXV one for the books.
Matt Riddle vs. Roderick Strong
The opening retrospective video package has a voiceover saying, “They’ve been begging for something different!” Yeah, no kidding. We still are, that’s why this brand still works.
Sorry, forgot to leave my soapbox at home.
Matt Riddle comes to the ring without Silent Bob. That could make the difference in this match.
The match starts out with some feeling out on the mat, and Riddle takes an early advantage with a waistlock take down. Riddle uses a lot of his MMA background to keep Strong on the mat, but the Undisputed Era member makes the ropes. Strong backs Riddle into the corner and takes control with some short shoulder tackles before Riddle breaks out a trio of gut-wrench suplexes.
Strong makes for the outside to take a breather, but Riddle follows. They brawl on the outside, culminating with Riddle hitting flying forearm off the ringsteps. Riddle tries to throw Strong back inside, but Strong holds the bottom rope and kicks Riddle to keep him at bay.
They slug it out on the ring apron, and Strong nails a wicked backbreaker on the apron to put Riddle in jeopardy. Riddle climbs back inside, and Strong lays in the knife edge chops before draping Riddle over the top rope on the other side. An exasperated Riddle falls over the top, but Strong chucks him back inside for the cover but only gets two.
Another slugfest leads to another backbreaker for Strong and another two-count. Strong attacks Riddle’s injured back, driving his knees in and locking Riddle in a crossface submission hold. Riddle powers out, but Strong maintains control, stretching Riddle’s back across the ringpost.
Strong keeps up the attack on the back with an Olympic Slam for two. Riddle escapes what looked like an attempt at the Razor’s Edge, but Strong dodges it. The Original Bro tries for the Bromission, but Strong escapes again. A knee to the chest from Riddle has Strong reeling, and Riddle follows through with an exploder suplex. Riddle hits the Broton Bomb followed up by another kick, but it only gets two.
I’m loving this match. Keep it simple, build it slowly.
Riddle gets strong in position for 10 kicks to the chest. Strong fights back but Riddle comes back with a German suplex for two. He tries to pick up Strong for a piledriver, but his back gives out. Strong pushes back to the top rope and hits an enziguri. With both guys up top, Strong hits a superplex for a two count.
After a striking exchange, Riddle manages to get Strong in position for a powerbomb, but Riddle escapes again. Strong keeps up the attack, but Riddle won’t stay down. Crowd is going nuts for this one.
Strong tries to maneuver Riddle into the Stronghold, but Riddle escapes and hits a V Trigger into a powerbomb, followed by the Final Flash knee strike, and Strong kicks out. Riddle goes up top and goes for a moonsault, but Strong gets his knees up straight into Riddle’s back. A gutbuster into a double underhook powerbomb only gets two for Strong, but Strong manages to get the Stronghold locked on.
Riddle’s in the middle of the ring. He tries to crawl away, but Strong drags him back to the center. Riddle escapes with a trio of kicks to the face. Strong leans down for a punch, but Riddle takes advantage and goes for the Bromission. Strong continues to block the hold and gets to his feet. Riddle hangs on and hits a tombstone piledriver for the win.
Winner – Matt Riddle
That was an incredible opener for NXT TakeOver XXV. Riddle is ready for the main roster, and I’m hoping against hope that Vince doesn’t see that.
Fatal 4-Way Ladder Match For The NXT Tag Team Championship – Undisputed Era vs. Forgotten Sons vs. Street Profits vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch
This is gonna be a trainwreck. Luckily, NXT knows a thing or two about managing trainwrecks for NXT TakeOver shows. Why is it, again, that the main roster has stuff to learn from the developmental territory and not the other way around? Anyway.
The referee rings the bell and gets the hell out of dodge, and it becomes a cluster right off the bat. The Undisputed Era team up on Ford to start before turning their attention to the Forgotten Sons. One of them anyway. I forget which one.
After dispatching the Profits and Sons, it comes down to the Undisputed Era against Lorcan and Burch in the ring. Burch headbutts O’Reilly’s sternum, and it looks sick. Lorcan goes to Knifechop Town on both UE guys, but the Era dumps their competition and heads for the ladder.
Fish and O’Reilly carry the ladder to the ring, but Wesley Blake (one of the Forgotten Sons) hits a suicide dive onto the Era. Lorcan and Burch wait for their rivals to take one another out, but the Profits take advantage of the confusion, as Dawkins launches with a plancha from the top rope.
The Profits set up the ladder and make their way up, but the Era rushes the ring and tosses them off. Undisputed Era starts climbing, but Blake turns the ladder over and dumps Fish and O’Reilly out of the ring. Lorcan and Burch try to fight their way in, but the Forgotten Sons knock them off. The Profits and the Era rush the ring, but the Forgotten Sons take them out with the ladder.
Lorcan and Burch come back in, with the Sons both having the ladder over their shoulders, and hit a double German suplex that ruin the insides of all involved. The Street Profits come back in and take down Lorcan and Burch with a slam from Ford and a frog splash from Dawkins.
They drape Blake over the ladder, and Ford leap-frogs Dawkins, crashing into Blake before slamming Cutler into the ladder. Ford goes for another splash, but the Undisputed Era jump back into the fray. The Undisputed Era hit Ford with a dual DDT before German suplexing Ford into the ladder.
O’Reilly has a huge welt on his back, and it’s kinda gross. The Undisputed Era set the ladder up again and make their ascent, but the Forgotten Sons break it up. Fish climbs up with O’Reilly running defense, but the Sons throw O’Reilly into the ladder, and all four guys are legally (though not medically) dead at this point.
The Sons set up one ladder in the corner and another in the center. Cutler starts to climb, but O’Reilly locks a submission on Cutler around a rung of the ladder. Wesley Blake dumps O’Reilly, and Cutler makes his ascent but gets kicked by Fish. Blake holds Fish up, and Cutler jumps from the ladder and drives his foot straight through Fish’s chest.
Forgotten Sons get about halfway up the ladder before the Profits and Lorcan and Burch wake up at the same time and pull them off, with the Profits hitting a Blockbuster on Cutler. These guys are insane, and I love it.
Somehow, Kyle O’Reilly is still alive, but he sees that the Forgotten Sons’ henchman Jackson Riker is making his way to the ring. He powerbombs O’Reilly into the ladder in the corner and turns his spine to powder. A chokeslam for Burch, and a toss over the top for Ford followed by another chokeslam for Fish.
Dawkins starts to climb, but Riker pushes the ladder over. With Dawkins in the corner, Riker just chucks the ladder into this face six or seven times. Oney Lorcan tries to rush Riker but gets back-bodydropped into the ladder. Did I mention that these people are insane?
Everybody gangs up on Riker, beating him to death with a ladder. Then it’s back to business, and everybody goes back to killing each other. Undisputed Era start to set up the ladder, but they realize Riker is still alive, so they drive the ladder into his face and knock him off the apron. But while they’re busy taunting Riker, Ford leaps over everybody and hits a tope on Riker over the ladder and the top rope.
Lorcan hits another dive on Riker, buying Burch time to climb up top and kick the ladder into Fish and O’Reilly. Burch and Lorcan control the ring, sandwiching the Street Profits between a pair of ladders. Because there aren’t enough broken people in this match, they chuck one ladder at anybody who’s standing on the outside.
They make their own ascent, but the Undisputed Era runs back in and pulls them down. Fish and O’Reilly set up their own ladder, with the Era climbing up one while Lorcan and Burch climb up the other. They throw punches at one another all the way up to the top, but the Forgotten Sons sneak back in and topple both ladders.
Blake and Cutler start climbing, but Dawkins rushes in and spears Cutler while Ford leaps from nowhere onto the ladder, dumping Blake and grabbing the belts.
Hey, AEW? That’s how you do a trainwreck tag team match. Study more TakeOver tapes, you’ll get there.
Winners and NEW NXT Tag Team Champions – Street Profits
They do a video package for Breeze vs. Velveteen Dream where they basically say that Breeze couldn’t hack it on the main roster. Dude, nobody can hack it on the main roster, that’s why they’re all begging to be let go …
NXT North American Championship Match – Velveteen Dream (C) vs. Tyler Breeze
To his credit, Breeze isn’t shaken by the sight of a crowd that gives a crap about what it’s watching. That’s TakeOver, Tyler. That’s NXT. Remember fans?
Dream chucks his glove in Breeze’s face, getting a mini-round-of-applause from Breeze. They lock up to start, with Breeze getting the advantage with a reverse wristlock. Breeze goes for the Unprettier, but Dream escapes and watches Breeze take a break on the top rope.
Tyler Breeze goes for a quick cover before dumping Dream over the top rope. Breeze goes to make chase with a suicide dive, but Dream catches him with an elbow before he can get airborne. A springboard moonsault gets two for Dream, and now Breeze heads to the outside for a breather. Dream gives chase and throws him back into the ring.
Dream goes up top, but Breeze escapes to the outside again and wraps Dream’s leg around the ringpost. He follows up with a flying forearm before throwing the Dream back into the ring. Dream rolls back out and goes for another forearm, but Dream is ready for it and hits an uppercut on a still mid-air Breeze.
Back inside Dream goes for a Fireman’s Carry, but Breeze escapes. Dream escapes more Breeze offense but lands hard on the injured knee. Breeze locks in a half-crab to put more pressure on the knee in the center of the ring. Velveteen Dream makes the ropes to escape, but the damage looks to be done. An uppercut from Dream doesn’t do anything but piss Breeze off.
Breeze dropkicks Dream out of the ring, and the Gorgeous One gives chase. Dream superkicks Breeze into the announce table and heads back inside. Velveteen Dream cuts off the referee’s count and goes back outside for Breeze to ramp up the punishment, bashing Breeze’s head into the announce table.
Dream grabs his belt and Breeze’s phone to take a selfie with himself and a battered Breeze. That was cool.
With Dream focused on the chants from the crowd, Breeze comes out of nowhere with the Super Model Kick. In the ring, Dream hits the Dream Valley Driver, but Breeze kicks out at two. Dream goes up top, but Breeze rolls under the ropes and hits the Dream with an enziguri.
The Dream sets Breeze up in another Fireman’s Carry, but Breeze escapes and goes for a Super Model Kick. Dream goes for the Dream-DT, but Breeze finally hits the superkick and only gets two.
Breeze goes for the Unprettier again, but Dream lands on his feet. Prince Pretty goes for it again, but Dream backs him into the corner. Breeze maintains control, dropkicking Dream out of the air, but Dream manages to hit the Dream-DT for a really close two-count. NXT TakeOver XXV wants me to have blood pressure problems.
Blood starts trickling from Breeze’s ear, as both guys fight on the ground for a second before Dream goes back to the top turnbuckle. Breeze gets to his feet just in time to send Dream crotch-first into the buckle. With Dream hanging over the top, Breeze drags him down and goes for a DDT, but Dream wakes up and shoves Breeze away. Breeze is quick to get up and nails a vicious jumping knee to Dream’s face.
Breeze scoops Dream up and goes for a tombstone, but Dream reverses and Breeze counter-reverses, and Dream counter-counter reverses. Breeze’s equilibrium fails him, with the bleeding ear, and he dropkicks nothing. Tyler Breeze is actually on dream street, I think (ba-dum-tss). Dream tries to hit the Purple Rainmaker elbow from the top rope, but Breeze gets his feet up and kicks Dream in the face.
A Super Model Kick into the Unprettier gets a narrow two-count, and the crowd can’t believe it (and neither can I). Dream is still prone on the mat. Breeze goes to lift him up, but Dream sneaks in a small package cover for two. Dream gets hit with a spinning heel kick, but Breeze can’t capitalize, as Dream rolls to the outside.
Breeze follows, but Dream is dead weight. Tyler tries to stop the referee’s count at six, but Dream sneaks in and hits the Dream Valley Driver. The Purple Rainmaker gets three, and Velveteen Dream retains the North American title.
That was great.
Winner and STILL NXT North American Champion – Velveteen Dream
After the match, Dream tries to take another selfie with Breeze’s phone, but Breeze snatches it away. It starts to look like this feud might actually continue, but they do the same old “good sportsmanship” routine and Breeze takes a selfie with Dream.
Y’know, I love NXT, but every big TakeOver match can’t end with mutual respect.
NXT Women’s Championship Match – Shayna Baszler (C) vs. Io Shirai
Please win, Io. I’m not impressed by Baszler; not with her promos, not with her work in the ring. Do please send her down to the main roster.
Yes, I know exactly what I just said.
Baszler comes out solo, leaving the Horsewomen backstage. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll last.
The match starts with a quick takedown of Baszler. Baszler goes to smash Shirai’s hand, but Shirai hits a vicious slap to Baszler. Shirai takes Baszler down and hits a dropkick straight to the champion’s face, sending her rolling the outside. The Genius of the Sky looks to go airborne, but Baszler walks to the other side of the ring.
With Baszler’s eye off her, Shirai hits a baseball slide. She throws Baszler back into the ring and goes up top, but Baszler slams her back to the mat, focused on keeping Shirai earthbound. The Reality Check from Baszler smashes Shirai’s hand. Baszler locks in an armbar and puts more pressure on Shirai’s fingers, but Shirai turns it into a roll-up for a one count.
Baszler hits a lethal lariat for a two-count. The Queen of Spades keeps up the attack, trying to yank Shirai’s shoulder out of its socket. She hooks Shirai’s wrist and hits a suplex followed by an elbow onto Shirai’s arm. Baszler locks in more torque on Shirai’s elbow, as the crowd starts chanting for Shirai to get back into it.
Shirai gets back to her feet. Baszler whips her into the ropes, but Shirai recovers just long enough to get caught by Baszler. Baszler goes for a lazy cover, toying with Shirai. Back to the wristlock armbar on the mat, and Baszler goes for a Reality Check on Shirai’s other arm, but Shirai avoids it.
Baszler goes for a mule kick, but Shirai goads Baszler into running at her in the corner. The champ’s knee goes straight into the turnbuckle, and Shirai catches her with a German suplex, but it just takes more out of Shirai’s arm, and she can’t hold on for the cover.
Y’see kids, that’s what they call ring psychology. It’s a big part of why NXT TakeOver shows are awesome. Vince, take your pills and pay attention!
Shirai gets a pair of axe handles, sending Baszler into the ropes for a 6-1-9. A springboard dropkick from Shirai gets a two-count. Baszler lays in some stiff forearms, but Shirai catches the champ in a crossface submission hold in the middle of the ring. But Baszler’s strength is too much. She fights her way up and hits a sidewalk slam on Shirai. Both women are down.
Using the top turnbuckle for leverage, Baszler goes for an armbar over the top rope, but Shirai drapes her over the top and hits another springboard kick to send Baszler to the outside. Shirai climbs to the top turnbuckle and nails a moonsault on Baszler, but she lands on the injured arm.
Shirai manages to shove Baszler back into the ring and heads up top again. She hits a missile dropkick and nails Baszler with a double knee in the corner. To the surprise of all, the Horsewomen come out, but Candace LeRae is right behind them with a kendo stick, and she goes freakin’ crazytown on the Horsewomen with it.
Baszler locks in the clutch, but Shirai fights out and nails the champ with an uppercut. She walks over Baszler and hops to the top rope. Shirai goes for a moonsault, but Baszler dodges it and locks in the clutch again. Io escapes again and goes for a bridge pinning combination, but Baszler reverses into the clutch again.
Shirai claws for the ropes, but Baszler drags her back to the middle. There’s still fight in Shirai, but it’s fading and she taps to allow Baszler to retain the NXT Women’s Championship.
Winner and STILL NXT Women’s Champion – Shayna Baszler
After the match, Shirai goes absolutely nuts and wails on Baszler with a kendo stick before hitting a top rope moonsault. LeRae hands her a chair, and Shirai cradles it against her chest and hits another moonsault.
I think Shayna’s number might be up at TakeOver: Toronto in August. NXT needs a new top women’s competitor.
Stephanie McMahon is in the crowd, pretending she has any idea what’s going on around her.
NXT Championship Match – Johnny Gargano (C) vs. Adam Cole (Bay-Bay)
Josiah Williams (I don’t know who that is) walks with Cole to the ring and raps lyrics to the Undisputed Era theme. Um. Cool?
Gragano comes out wearing Captain Marvel-themed ring attire. Um. Also cool? I guess? Not sure what NXT TakeOver XXV is going for at this point when it comes to aesthetics, but whatever.
“Cole is ready to hit Gargano with something harder than a diss track!” We don’t deserve you, Mauro. Thanks for signing a new deal and giving WWE at least one announcer worth a damn.
Both guys lock up and push each other all around the ring. Cole tries to get a quick advantage, whipping Gargano into the ropes, but the champ counters with a shoulder tackle. Gargano goes for the Garga-No Escape early, but Cole escapes, and they each dodge each other’s offense to open the first phase of the match on a stalemate.
Cole hooks a wristlock, but Gargano reverses it and puts Cole on the mat for some extra torque. The challenger lays a forearm into Gargano’s face and takes control, throwing Gargano into the corner. Cole goes to whip Gargano into the corner, but the champion escapes and hits a headscissors rana that sends Cole to the outside.
Gargano gives chase and hits a tumbleweed off the apron, tweaking his shoulder in the process. The champion throws Cole inside, but Cole rolls through to the other side of the ring. He goes for an enziguri on Gargano, but nobody’s home. As Cole uses the ring apron to push himself up, Gargano doublestomps the arm, hyperextending the elbow of the challenger.
Inside the ring, Gargano drapes a legdrop across Cole’s arm and keeps up the attack, locking in a hammerlock cloverleaf to put pressure on the arm and the back. Gargano goes for a superplex, but Cole slips off and superkicks Gargano’s knee, sending him crashing to the mat.
Cole smells blood and keeps up the attack on Gargano’s knee and snaps it with a DDT. The challenger locks in a kneebar, but Gargano kicks free. Cole follows up with a dropkick to Gargano’s knee and hits a dragonscrew leg whip on the injured leg. He tries to lock Gargano in a Figure Four, but the champ fights out. Cole leaps from the second rope, but Gargano catches him with a sitout powerbomb.
Both guys trade forearms before Gargano hits Cole with a pair of lariats followed up by a belly-to-bellow throw. Back-to-back kicks to Cole’s head shakes the challenger, and Gargano hits a tornado DDT for two. Cole dumps Gargano over the top and rushes the champ but eats a slingshot spear for another two-count.
Gargano positions Cole on the top turnbckle, but Cole fights him off and goes for an avalanche powerbomb. The champ holds on, only to take a backstabber from Cole for two. Cole hits Gargano with an inverted burning hammer, but the champion kicks out.
We’re back to tit-for-tat slugs and superkicks, and Cole gets the better of it. He goes up to the second rope and leaps off, but Gargano catches him in mid-air with a superkick. Guys, enough with the superkicks.
Champion and challenger are both down on the outside and hit simultaneous superkicks on one another. Fellas, what did I just say?
The referee’s count makes it to nine, but both guys make it inside, where Gargano hits a slingshot DDT for two. Gargano hits a doublestomp to the back of Cole’s neck, but Cole rolls to the outside. The champion goes to give chase, but Cole kicks the injured leg out from under him. Back inside, a brainbuster to the knee gets a two-count for Cole.
Cole goes back up top, but Gargano whips him off, and Cole’s shoulder hits the mat hard. The champ goes for the Garga-No Escape and locks it in. Cole escapes and reverses it into the Figure Four! How did he do that? Seriously, how? How does NXT keep pulling off these wrestling magic tricks?
Gargano reverses the hold, and both guys are just wiped out. Cole punches his injured arm to get some feeling back into it. It’s little touches like that that make shows like NXT TakeOver XXV work.
They slug it out on the mat, and Cole spikes Gargano’s knee into the mat like a jackhammer. Cole pulls Gargano’s knee pad down and resumes a relentless assault. Gargano manages to kick Cole out of the ring. Cole rushes back in but takes a DDT on the way in. The champion goes for a tope but takes a vicious superkick in midair. Okay, that superkick works.
Cole follows up with a Panama Sunrise on the outside and rolls Gargano back inside, but it only gets two. HOW?! Gargano’s internal organs are liquefied after the Sunrise, how did he kick out?
The challenger wastes time taunting Gargano. Cole sets Gargano up for the Last Shot, but Gargano slides out of it only for Cole to lock in the Garga-No Escape! Gargano rolls through and hits the Last Shot for two. This is exhausting. Only NXT can make “exhaustion” a good thing.
Another slugfest signals that the final sequence is coming. Cole hits a pair of kicks to Gargano’s face, but Gargano recovers. The challenger hits a superkick, and Gargano goes to counter with one of his own, but Cole hits the Last Shot and … IT ONLY GETS TWO?!
Cole’s frustration sends him to the outside to grab a chair. The referee tries to reason with Cole, but Gargano goes for a dive on Cole and winds up taking the ref out instead. Cole goes to swing the chair, but Gargano superkicks it into the challenger’s face, and there’s (wait for it) no referee.
Gargano tries to revive the referee and rolls him into the ring. Cole starts motioning for the Undisputed Era to come out, but they’re nowhere to be found. The challenger hits an underhook powerbomb with the ropes as leverage but can’t get the pin.
Cole goes for one more Last Shot, but Gargano collapses onto the mat. Because he’s a heel, Cole wastes time taunting Gargano, who snaps out of it and locks in the Garga-No Escape. Cole tries to roll out of it, but Gargano holds on. The challenger starts elbowing the injured knee and breaks free.
He goes to the second rope for the Panama Sunrise, but Gargano rolls through. Cole hits another one and sets up Cole for the Last Shot, and he escapes the main event of TakeOver XXV with the NXT Championship!
Please stop allowing me to predict things.
Winner and NEW NXT Champion – Adam Cole (Bay-Bay)
The Undisputed Era comes out to celebrate with Cole, hoisting the new champion onto the shoulders of O’Reilly and Strong. And … the show ends. I really thought that was gonna end with the Undisputed Era turning on Cole.
NXT TakeOver XXV delivered in every way imaginable in the ring, although I would’ve liked to see the furthering of more stories. The feud between Shirai and Baszler still seems to have legs, but Gargano is left without a fresh feud, still waiting for Tommaso Ciampa to be healthy again.
As for Cole, one has to imagine his first challenger is going to be Riddle, but I’m not sure where they go with anything else.
Still, five good-to-great matches make NXT TakeOver XXV an easy thumbs-up, and NXT is making classic shows seem routine.
All images courtesy of WWE.