17th Sep2019

Ten Best: NXT TakeOver Shows!

by Chris Cummings

May 29, 2014. The date of the very first NXT TakeOver show. Man… that was over five years ago, and in the time since that show aired live in the WWE Network, we’ve seen so much change. Not just in NXT, but in WWE in general and in the world of pro-wrestling. Going back to that first show highlights not only how much has changed, but how far NXT as a brand has come. It’s about to go live every week on the USA Network as a two-hour show, head-to-head with the first potential wrestling competition to WWE in years, AEW. The landscape of wrestling is different now. Going back, for the sake of this article to watch every NXT TakeOver show was no small undertaking. There’s been 26 (28 including the UK TakeOver shows) of them to date. Still… I’m a huge fan of NXT (and NXT UK, which I will also include here, as seen as they only have two shows) and it’s hardly difficult to go back and enjoy the high-quality specials that have been making waves over the last few years.

This is harder still because there are some incredible matches in TakeOver history that exist on an overall show that is weaker than other shows, so while I may miss some fantastic events that contain some brilliant matches, just know that I did my best to rank these according to the overall event and just how good it was as a whole. Sheesh, this is gonna be tough.

So, here we go. My list of what I personally feel are the ten best NXT TakeOver Shows.

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10) NXT TakeOver: Toronto: November 19, 2016

The first NXT TakeOver Toronto show was a damn fine one. Opening with a great singles encounter between Bobby Roode and Tye Dillinger, the show just got better. Authors of Pain and TM61 had a fun tag team match that lasted under ten minutes, but that worked well for it. It was good. DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) took on The Revival (Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder) for the NXT Tag Titles in a twenty-two minute tag classic in the third match. This was phenomenal and one of the best tag matches ever from NXT. These two teams were so good together and this was packed with drama and excitement throughout. DIY winning was a fantastic outcome that everyone went mad for. Asuka had an enjoyable match against the returning Mickie James. It wasn’t the best match of Asuka’s NXT run, by any means, but it was still good. The main event was awesome, though, with Samoa Joe beating Shinsuke Nakamura in an NXT Title match. I liked Joe and Nakamura’s feud and this match was the strongest they had. A top notch end to a great event.

9) NXT UK TakeOver Cardiff: August 31, 2019

I’m a big fan of NXT UK and have personal attachments to the show, but aside from that… this event is just an unmissable slice of what NXT UK is all about, and maybe it’s a little soon in some minds to include it on this list, but after watching it three times since it aired only a week ago, I had to put it on here. It’s bloody fantastic. A solid opener see’s Noam Dar take on Travis Banks. This was a strong way to start the show and the two had a good traditional bout. The second match saw Cesaro take on Ilja Dragunov in an absolutely fantastic battle. This had it all, and in twelve minutes these guys had an insane match. The crowd went nuts for this. The NXT UK Tag Titles were on the line next as Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) defended against Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang) and the team of Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster, who were the hometown boys. This was bloody brilliant, a twenty-minute action-packed and dramatic scrap that never stopped being good. I love when tag team wrestling shows the world just how good it can be. Joe Coffey and Dave Mastiff had a big brawl around the building in a hardcore match that was way more fun than it had any right to be. Kay Lee Ray beat Toni Storm for the NXT UK Women’s Title in a good match too, a result that shocked many people who were watching. The main event, which lasted over forty minutes, was an immediate classic. Walter, the WWE UK Champion, fought the first-ever WWE UK Champ, Tyler Bate, in a drama-filled, violent, wonderful match. Tyler’s selling here is unreal, and Walter showed just how great he is. These two have so much chemistry, and they closed a wonderful show in the best way possible, with a match that will go down as one of the best to ever grace NXT. NXT UK showed the world how much it has to offer with this TakeOver, for sure.

8) NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4: August 18, 2018

Five strong matches with a main event that was epic, this was a bloody good show. The opener saw a freaking fantastic tag match for the NXT Tag straps between Moustache Mountain and eventual winners The Undisputed Era (O’Reilly & Strong). These two teams never fail to have amazing matches together, and this was another one of them. An awesome way to start this show, and easily one of the best opening matches in TakeOver history. Velveteen Dream had a fun old-school type match with EC3. This was more about story as these two charismatic show-offs fought for fifteen minutes. Good stuff. Ricochet beat Adam Cole for the North American Title next in a wonderful match. Ricochet’s movement is so smooth and his high-flying always looks flawless and easy, and with Cole’s technical style and heel persona, this worked brilliantly. Kairi Sane surprised the fans when she beat the ultra-mean Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s belt in a very good bout. I liked their feud, it worked very well having Sane, the likeable and hard-working underdog, taking on Shayna, the mean spirited and nasty heel. Finally, for over thirty minutes, Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano beat the hell out of each other. Their feud is, in my opinion, the best feud in NXT history, and their TakeOver matches are all phenomenal. This is one of them. It’s wild, unpredictable and… well, awesome.

7) NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn: August 22, 2015

The crowd at this TakeOver really stand out to me, even now. They really made the whole night feel that extra bit special. This event was a bloody fun one, with one match especially that stands out as a highlight of NXT, one of the big matches that will always be pointed to as one of the best. The show began with a really good match between the legendary Jushin Thunder Liger and Tyler Breeze. Seeing Liger in WWE was weird, but awesome, and they had a really nice, though short, match. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English & Simon Gotch) beat Blake & Murphy in the second match for the NXT Tag Titles. This match was a blast, and the reaction to English and Gotch winning was awesome. Also, Blue Pants… remember her? Apollo Crews beat Tye Dillinger in a short one, which is okay but nothing special. Samoa Joe had a fun scrap with Baron Corbin, a match that helped build Joe even more as a killer. The next match was the show-stealer, with Bayley finally winning the NXT Women’s Title in a classic against Sasha Banks. This almost twenty-minute match was one of the best women’s matches ever presented on WWE programming, and it remains so today. They hit each other hard, they traded great looking moves, and the crowd was on-board for all of it. Emotional, exceptional and a highlight in women’s wrestling. The main event, which had a tough job following the fantastic women’s match, was still a great deal of fun. Finn Balor took on Kevin Owens for the NXT Title in a ladder match. This was really enjoyable and though it suffered due to the match that went before it, it’s still super solid. A nice end to a really good TakeOver event.

6) NXT TakeOver: Chicago: May 20, 2017

I really like this TakeOver. It features a strong main event ladder match between The Authors of Pain and DIY (Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano) and a few really cool undercard matches, such as Eric Young against Roderick Strong, a match that kicked the show off strongly, and a solid women’s Triple Threat match over the NXT Women’s belt between Asuka, Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot. Bobby Roode and Hideo Itami have a fun clash too, though prior to revisiting this show I’d forgotten all about that one. It was good. This show is stolen and taken to new heights, though, by a match that sits in the middle of the card. For just over fifteen minutes we saw Pete Dunne wrestle Tyler Bate over the WWE United Kingdom Championship in an astonishing, bewilderingly good singles match that saw Dunne capture the gold and kick off a title run that would last 685 days. This match would go on to win NXT Match of the Year, and it’s easy to see why. This match is one of the best in TakeOver history and a perfect reason for fans to chant “fight forever”.

5) NXT TakeOver: WarGames: November 18, 2017

The first ever War Games match presented by WWE was here at this TakeOver for NXT. The event was built around the spectacular main event, but the undercard is nothing to sneeze at. Opening with a quick match between Lars Sullivan and Kassius Ohno, which is okay, the show picks up with a super-strong match between Velveteen Dream and Aleister Black, a match that quickly put Velveteen Dream on the map as someone to watch in NXT. This was the moment that the Velveteen Dream character was taken seriously and embraced by fans. Such a good match. A cool and enjoyable Four-Way match for the NXT Women’s Title saw Ember Moon win against Peyton Royce, Nikki Cross and Kairi Sane. Andrade “Cien” Almas shocked the wrestling world when he beat Drew McIntyre for the NXT Title in a solid match. McIntyre would go down with an injury, but this resulted in a very good title run for Almas who was fast becoming one of the best wrestlers in NXT. The main event went almost forty minutes, and we saw the Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) take on Sanity (Eric Young, Killian Dane & Alexander Wolfe) and the team of AOP and Roderick Strong. This was a wild, crazy, brutal and very fun War Games match that just kept upping itself as it went on. So entertaining.

4) NXT TakeOver: Dallas: April 1, 2016

This event took place on WrestleMania weekend back in 2016 and featured an array of great matches on its two-hour card. Opening things with a brilliant tag-team match between American Alpha and The Revival, this show started huge. I loved these teams in NXT, they had great chemistry and together, and with other teams, had some of the best tag matches in recent WWE memory. Austin Aries had an okay match with Baron Corbin which goes down as the weakest of the card. It’s the third match, though, that steals the show, as Sami Zayn, the underdog babyface of NXT, took on the debuting Shinsuke Nakamura in a bloody brilliant match. They fought for twenty minutes and the crowd went ballistic for all of it. This was one of the best debut matches in WWE or NXT history and launched Nakamura into North America with a bang. Asuka had a great bout with Bayley over the NXT Women’s strap, a match that Asuka worked as a tweener, which works so well for her. In the main event we got a damn good singles match between Samoa Joe and Finn Balor over the NXT Title. Balor and Joe are great together, and their NXT feud was fantastic. It closed the show very nicely indeed. What a TakeOver.

3) NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia: January 27, 2018

I remember watching this TakeOver when it aired live and then watching it again the morning after, when I got out of bed. It was one of those shows that just nailed most of what it tried to do. Five strong matches with two absolutely phenomenal closing matches, the last of which is one of my favourite matches in NXT history and one of the best WWE matches in years, possibly ever. The show opened with a solid match between Undisputed Era comrades Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish and The Authors of Pain. The AOP were pretty green here but they still had a great match because Fish and O’Reilly are so good. It helped AOP up their game and step up to the challenge, and they did. The weak point of the show was the match between Velveteen Dream and Kassius Ohno. It isn’t a bad match, but due to a chemistry that didn’t quite gel, it falls as the weakest on an awesome show. Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler had a strong match in their really enjoyable feud. It’s those last two matches, though, that push this into the stratosphere. Aleister Black against Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules match is brutal, shocking, exciting and full of near-falls and drama. These two worked so well together, and this was the best match they had in NXT in my view. Finally, Andrade “Cien” Almas against Johnny Gargano. These two incredibly talented performers wrestled for over half-an-hour in a mind-blowing display of technical wrestling, brawling, high-spots, near-falls, dramatic sequences and hard-hitting striking. They had an awesome chemistry together, and created one of the best matches to ever grace WWE or NXT rings. Wow. Still… wow.

2) NXT TakeOver: WarGames II: November 17, 2018

Jeez, 2018 was an amazing year for NXT, wasn’t it? This show featured four (kinda five) really good matches, with three of them being just bloody brilliant. Opening with a Matt Riddle versus Kassius Ohno match that lasted only six seconds, that was, for obvious reasons, the weak match, but hey… it did its job, it was an angle more than a match. Then we got a fantastic two-out-of-three-falls match for the Women’s Title between Shayna Baszler and Kairi Sane which was excellent. Sane, as the underdog, and Baszler as the cold and ruthless heel, works so well. Aleister Black taking on Johnny Gargano is splendid. An almost twenty-minute match, these two went back and forth and blended their styles together seamlessly to create a fantastic bout. Tommaso Ciampa defended his NXT Title in a match against Velveteen Dream. Ciampa’s NXT Title run has been my favourite NXT Title run yet in NXT. His obsession with the belt and heel character were just fantastic. This match with Dream was a really great one. The two worked nicely together, and it would be nice to see them fight again one day. Finally, in the second War Games match in NXT, we saw The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong) take on the team of Ricochet, Pete Dunne and The War Raiders. This was phenomenal. All the violence and excitement you hope for in a match like this is there, and each guy does something to stand out. Going almost fifty minutes, this ends the show in a huge way and is one of the most entertaining matches ever in NXT. Bloody brilliant.

1) NXT TakeOver New Orleans: April 7, 2018

This show. My god, this show. This was a tough choice, and it’s a close one with this top few shows, but I had to go with New Orleans as the best NXT TakeOver yet to happen. I mean, look at the card. We had a stunning opening thirty-minute ladder match to determine the first ever NXT North American Champion between Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole, Lars Sullivan, Ricochet, Killian Dane and EC3. Cole would go on to become the inaugural champ. Such a wild, exciting and brilliantly executed ladder match, and one of my favourite ladder matches in wrestling history. NXT Women’s Champion and one of the best female talents ever in NXT, Shayna Baszler beat Ember Moon in a stunning match. These two had a nice chemistry together and their NXT feud was a lot of fun. The Undisputed Era took further gold this night, too, as Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish took on the teams of Authors of Pain and Pete Dunne & Roderick Strong. The Era would win, picking up the titles and becoming the winners of the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. This match would see the heel-turn of Roderick Strong, who would turn on Dunne and join The Undisputed Era. So good. The NXT Title match saw Aleister Black beat Andrade “Cien’ Almas in a fantastic almost twenty-minute scrap. These two are so good, and their NXT runs were phenomenal. Finally, in what I feel is the best match in their infamous and incredible feud, Johnny Gargano got himself reinstated into NXT when he beat his bitter rival and former best-friend Tommaso Ciampa in an unsanctioned match that went almost forty minutes. It was one of the best main-events in WWE history, in my view, and ended what was a show without fault, a show full of awesome moments and excellent wrestling. This is what NXT has always been about and should always be about. The crowd were hot, the talent gave everything they had, and in the end we got a TakeOver that represented what many fans truly want to see. Absolutely amazing.
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So there we have it. What is your favourite NXT TakeOver event? Do you agree with this list? Thanks for reading, folks!

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