OPENING VIDEO PACKAGE - This might well be the single most epic opening video package in the history of pro wrestling.
RODERICK STRONG vs. MATT RIDDLE - 8.75/10
The new NXT ring announcer has been officially named Alicia Taylor. Riddle leapt high into the air and kicked both of his flip-flops off at the same time, in Roddy's direction. Was shocked that Roddy didn't jump the bell on him when posed after that.
The story here was Roddy working over Riddle's back and the pain getting in the way of Riddle's offense, and they told their story wonderfully. Riddle's selling was great, the nearfalls were exciting, and they had some truly excellent sequences, culminating in an insane last two or three minutes. And yeah, I marked out hard for Roddy doing his indy combo. I wonder if the name of his sit-out double-underhook powerbomb becomes the "Noble Driver" now that he's in WWE.
LADDER MATCH FOR THE VACANT NXT TAG TEAM TITLES:
Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) vs. Street Profits vs. Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan vs. Forgotten Sons (Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake) - a PERFECT 10/10!
First things first, it needs to be said that this was a completely terrifying viewing experience, as several wrestlers appeared to come very close to serious injuries. It was one of those matches that almost makes you not want to see another one ever again. The first of those wrestlers was Kyle O'Reilly, and his various scares basically turned him and Bobby Fish babyface for this match... which actually wound up being a boon as it made you really cheer for them when the two of them became the first guys to really get some damage in on Jaxson Ryker. More on Ryker in a minute.
This was one of those rare ladder matches that comes along every few years that feels like a step up from everything that has come before it in terms of creativity. Even more impressively, they managed to do in this match without relying on too many set-ups that felt contrived. Don't get me wrong: The ladder match tropes were definitely there. But the wrestlers' timing was such that these things happening and it not being choreographed ahead of time at least felt plausible.
All of that said, the man who made this memorable for me was Jaxson Ryker. The six babyfaces have been killing themselves all match to try to win these titles... and here comes this monstrous juggernaut of a man to absolutely destroy them. From the moment he came out, you knew business was about to pick up. Kyle O'Reilly's facial expression when he saw Ryker coming down the ramp was like the guy holding up the gas station when he realizes RoboCop is Officer Murphy: Complete and total disbelief, combined with the utter terror of the realization that his man is coming back for vengeance.
Ryker absolutely DOMINATED the match for the next few minutes, until the babyfaces all worked together to take him out... and he still came back several times and needed to be taken out with a ladder to the face. This match MADE Jaxson Ryker, and he wasn't even a participant.
Everyone sold well, the athleticism was off the charts, the match was violent and exciting, everyone got a chance to shine, and we got a huge babyface victory at the end. NXT has set an EXTREMELY high bar with its ladder matches over the past few years, but this one somehow managed to top them all.
NXT NORTH AMERICAN TITLE MATCH:
The Velveteen Dream(c) vs. Tyler Breeze - 8/10
TVD had gloves on that he threw at Breeze before things got started. We're running out of extremity-coverings to throw at this point. The only unused categories of extremity-coverings I can think of are a hat and a jock strap. Fortunately we've only got two matches left.
These two had an exciting athletic clash of personalities. The finish definitely felt like something of a heel turn for TVD, but nothing too extreme that he can't easily jump back from it. One thing NXT has done with both him and to a lesser extent Aleister Black that they don't seem to get credit for is created characters who function wonderfully and naturally as tweeners, which is not an easy thing to do. The finish seemed like it should have pointed to a rematch, but the post-match show of respect indicates that that really shouldn't happen.
DAMIAN PRIEST IS COMING - Not sure who this is
NXT WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Shayna Baszler(c) vs. Io Shirai - 7.75/10
Baszler worked over Io's arm, and the story of the match was the way this affected Io's offense throughout. WE HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN SHOWN Shayna leaving the Horsewomen in the back, but they came out to ringside when she was in trouble, only to be immediately taken out by Candice LeRae with a Kendo stick. Unfortunately, Io distracted herself by cheering Candice on rather than following up on her advantage, and Baszler was able to win via ref stoppage with the Kiramuta Clutch.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Io went nuts on Baszler with a Kendo stick after the match, finishing it with a Moonsault with a chair. I have to agree with Nigel McGuinness that Io came across like a poor sport here, as she wasn't really cheated in any way.
They announced the next NXT UK TakeOver for Cardiff on August 31st. And before anyone says they're trying to hurt AEW by doing this, keep in mind that the show is airing live and taking place in Wales. It will be over well before All Out starts.
NXT TITLE MATCH:
Johnny Gargano(c) vs. Adam Cole - a PERFECT 10/10!
Holy f*ck this was even better than the ladder match! Excellent selling, top-notch storytelling on several different story threads (Cole's arm, Gargano's knee, Gargano's head, and Cole trying to recreate his victory in the first fall of the previous TakeOver by going for the Last Shot), and outstanding false finishes all combing to create some unbelievable drama. Gargano did get a visual pinfall after a ref bump so we'll be getting at least one more of these, which will undoubtedly be amazing, just like this one.
Gargano losing yet another title in his first defense should have a rather interesting effect on him, and builds some cache for a story that can be paid off whenever they need. Cole being the only member of Undisputed Era win his match tonight will surely create some friction, especially between him and Roddy.
Another typically epic TakeOver. That opening montage gave this show a lot to live up to, but holy sh*t did it succeed. Although we had things like the Zayn vs. Cesaro matches that stood out before, and the booking was always solid and gave us a lot of fun, likeable characters, the first TakeOver, with Nattie vs. Charlotte, Neville vs. Kidd, and Zayn vs. Breeze (and the way it showed up the main roster PPV later in the week), is often seen as the big break-out point for NXT. Just over five years later, NXT has constantly been able to keep up that crazy level of quality. In twenty-five of these shows, I can't remember a single one that wasn't great.