Andrade "Cien" Almas def. Johnny Gargano
This bout didn't receive too much build beforehand on NXT TV, but they went all out as expected and delivered a hell of an opening match. Gargano had a stellar showing here and has massive breakout babyface potential, but it's easy to underrate Almas because he's flown under the radar for so long. No more! He has been reborn with Zelina Vega as his manager and needed the victory more than Gargano did here. The finish was brilliant with Vega tossing in a #DIY t-shirt to distract Gargano and allow Almas to score the win.
SAnitY def. The Authors of Pain to Win the NXT Tag Team Championship
I can't say I was highly anticipating this match coming into the event because I wasn't sure what type of chemistry they would have, but it ended up being a pleasant surprise and a really fun matchup. It was weird because Authors of Pain were made out to look like babyfaces in the build-up to TakeOver, yet SAnitY were clearly the babyfaces in this rare heel vs. heel contest. Nevertheless, the crowd ate it up and the incorporation of Nikki Cross was well done as well. I don't think anyone predicted a Authors of Pain loss at this point, so that was certainly shocking (but in a good way). As if that wasn't enough, reDRAGON (Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish) debuted as a tandem afterward by attacking everyone. Things are about to pick up in the NXT tag team division.
Aleister Black def. Hideo Itami
Itami has really come into his own as a heel character-wise and it's more befitting of his highly physical style, but there's no denying that Black is a total superstar. Seriously, that entrance was incredible and he has an aura about him that few others do in the entire WWE at the moment. This was a hard-hitting and enjoyable bout that benefited from having Jim Ross on the call. Everything about Black is absolute money and I doubt it will be long before he surfaces on the main roster.
NXT Women's Champion Asuka def. Ember Moon
Asuka has had several standout matches throughout her NXT run, but this very well might have been the best of the bunch. Not only was the in-ring action exceptional, they told a stellar story with Moon struggling to put Asuka away and coming close to doing so on multiple occasions. The Eclipse has been so protected since Moon's debut last year that fans truly thought she had the match won at one point. Moon was my pick to win, so "the streak" continuing was a welcome twist. A main roster call-up should be next for Moon because I'm not sure where she goes from here in NXT. As for Asuka, it would be cool if the winner of the Mae Young Classic challenged Asuka at the TakeOver special in November.
Drew McIntyre def. Bobby Roode to Win the NXT Championship
It's worth noting that while this was a well-wrestled match, I'd argue it was the weakest bout of the night. The first half was solid, but they didn't really capture the crowd and pick up the pace until the final stretch, which was wildly entertaining. I figured Roode would somehow find a way to retain his title (or Roderick Strong would interfere), but McIntyre prevailed and captured the championship. Considering he was a member of 3MB before being released from WWE three years ago, that's an incredible turnaround. The show didn't end there, though, as Adam Cole made his highly anticipated debut and attacked McIntyre, standing tall over the newly crowned champion with reDRAGON by his side. What a cliffhanger!
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but it never ceases to blow my mind how of the 17 TakeOver specials we have had over the last three and a half years, not a single one of them could be considered bad. Some have been better than others, of course, but I would rank this toward the top to be honest. All five matches were remarkable, two titles changed hands, Cole arrived in NXT, and the Brooklyn crowd was hot from start to finish. My only regret was that I wasn't in attendance this year like in 2015 and 2016, but I'll be excited to be back next year. More importantly, I'm excited for what's in store for NXT going forward with all the star power the brand has at the moment and the countless possibilities for future feuds.
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