For the third year in a row, NXT stormed Brooklyn for a pre-SummerSlam Takeover… with a few surprises thrown in!

It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve reviewed anything WWE-related – I blame the Extreme Rules PPV for killing that particular interest – but let’s try and get back on the saddle somewhat with NXT…

We open with a live performance from Code Orange, complete with a few plants by the stage. Perhaps they should have done that for all those WrestleMania performances that fell flat?

Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
The last time NXT had a Takeover, Gargano ended the show by being beaten down by his former tag team partner. Fast-forward three months, he’s looking to re-establish himself as a singles guy… and judging by the first few rows, he’s very much loved.

Almas goes “tranquilo” early as Mauro Ranallo on commentary notes that Almas’ “business manager” Zelina Vega was trying to beat that sort of play-acting out of him. Of course, it plays into things as Gargano pounced on the former luchador, but Almas comes back with a reverse over-the-knee DDT a la his former Ingobernable buddy Tetsuya Naito.

Almas keeps up with an armbar in the ropes after slipping out of his “rest in the ropes” thing, and my word, this crowd were more than happy to root for “Johnny Wrestling”. After a double clothesline, we had some back-and-forth punches before Gargano edged ahead, rolling up Almas into an upkick! Another rope pose earns Almas a kick to the outside for a tope, and Gargano’s firmly got himself in the driver’s seat… especially when he nailed a slingshot into a DDT for a near-fall!

A slingshot spear’s caught by Almas, who comes back with a tornado inverted DDT for a near-fall, before hiptossing Gargano into the corner after shrugging off a brief comeback. Gargano manages to come back again with a headscissors into the Gargano Escape, rolling the former Ingobernable into the middle of the ring… but Almas frees himself with a bucklebomb of all things!

A running double knees into the corner followed, but Gargano kicked out! Gargano’s superkicks keep Almas at bay, as does the lawn dart into the corner… but all of a sudden Vega throws Gargano an old DIY t-shirt. That distraction left him open for Almas’ hammerlock DDT, and that’s the win! I really enjoyed this opener – Almas has been a guy who’s had decent matches, but hasn’t really clicked. Perhaps this is the start of something for him, as Gargano’s NXT career will likely remain in a holding pattern until Tommaso Ciampa’s return next year. ****¼

For some reason we’re taken to a Skybox where Daniel Bryan and Kurt Angle are watching. Roderick Strong, No Way Jose, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are there being amiable/annoying as you’d expect.

NXT Tag Team Championship: SAnitY (Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young) vs. Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) (c)
Corey Graves is out for commentary here, and we get a pre-match brawl as the Authors wore over Killian Dain early. The cameras caught Eric Young pulling out a table as everyone else was kept busy…

Wolfe’s targeted early as the Authors shifted their focus, and there’s a lot of brawling early… oh, and Eric Young gets involved, despite this not officially being a handicap match. Apparently Killian Dain “never tagged in”, which means Young is legal… and gets thrown into a barrier in the crowd, before sidestepping as Akam did the same to himself, only for Young to get dropped with a Dominator as this apparently became fluid-Freebird rules.

A backbreaker/stomp gets the Authors another near-fall on Young, as Rezar tries to squeeze the life out of Young with a standing arm choke. Young escapes, but quickly slides into trouble as he’s held up with a double-handed choke. Wolfe gets the tag in and clears house on the Authors, only for the champs to recover and drop Wolfe with a double team suplex into a powerbomb.

What the hell?! Top rope ‘rana by Wolfe?! SAnitY get back into it with Young dropping Rezar with a neckbreaker, but he’s crotched up top… only for Nikki Cross to make the save on a superplex by clinging onto Young’s legs! An elbow drop from Young nearly does it, but SAnitY are forced to go airborne, with a dive from Wolfe leading to Cross and Paul Ellering squaring off.

That’s just a distraction as Cross slips free and leaps onto Akam… who catches her and gets splatted through a table by an onrushing Dain. All that’s left from there is Young and Wolfe to finish off Rezar with a double-team neckbreaker… and we have new champs! A thoroughly entertaining car-crash of a tag match, with a surprise result at the end! I’ve been watching NXT somewhat regularly, and I still can’t pinpoint when SAnitY turned face, but I’m not arguing! As for what happens with the Authors next… well, they’re still really inexperienced, but we’ve seen in the last few Takeovers that they’re not a dead loss, if handled well. ***¾

That’s not where the story ends folks, as two familiar faces jumped the rail… Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly are here! ReDRagon are in NXT – laying everyone to waste before dropping Young with the Chasing the Dragon superkick-assisted brainbuster! Well, that’s one way to re-energise a tag division!

Neville is in the house, looking disinterested. Kalisto and Shinsuke Nakamura are also there, looking more entertained. And hyped up on caffeine. Jim Ross comes out to do commentary for our next match because… reasons.

Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black
Black was played to the ring by Code Orange, and we started with plenty of kicks! Well, what did you expect, wristlocks?!

Itami’s on the receiving end early on, with a variety of kicks and elbows getting Black a near-fall, before Itami’s knee drop turned things around in his favour. You know he’s the guy to boo as he demanded the crowd show him respect, and Itami did a good job of trying to beat Black into doing just that, kicking him hard in the back numerous times.

More knees keep Black down, but Itami mocking Black’s pose enraged the bloodied Dutchman, but a DDT keeps the momentum in Hideo’s court. Black manages to fight back, avoiding a corner charge before unleashing a litany of kicks to drop Itami to the mat. A massive quebrada kick gets Black a near-fall, but Itami’s still in it, keeping Aleister down with a neck snap and a release Fisherman’s suplex.

After kicking out, Itami’s instantly decked with a roundhouse kick… but he recovers to bring Black off the top rope with a Falcon arrow, and we’re back to the strong kicks and strikes. ALL OF THEM. A bicycle knee from Black somehow gets him a Falcon arrow again for a near-fall, but he can’t get the GTS off as Black continues to resist… and out of nowhere, he brutally cuts off Itami with a Black Mass kick for the win. If you love heavy-hitting matches, you’ll have LOVED this. Luckily for me, I did, and hopefully this isn’t a one-and-done. ****

NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon vs. Asuka (c)
Well, going in Asuka had held the NXT Women’s title for over 500 days – and quite a few had pegged this as being the time that she’d lose… if it were in the plans at all.

Ember leaps into Asuka at the bell, and seemingly has the champion more than matches in the early stages… chasing her to the outside with a baseball slide dropkick as Asuka ate a cannonball on the floor in the opening moments. The champion rebounds, suplexing Ember onto the steel entrance ramp, and back in the ring it’s all Asuka as she drops Ember with an STO before a series of curb stomps wear down the challenger.

An Octopus stretch restrains Ember before Asuka goes back to an armbar, but an enziguiri out of nowhere gets Moon a two-count. Asuka instantly hits back with a German suplex into the turnbuckles, before grabbing the Asuka Lock which somehow gets reversed for a brief moment.

Asuka regains the hold, but Ember falls back and pancakes her way free before blasting Asuka with a lariat after a brief fightback from the champ. A hip attack gets a near-fall, before Moon catches Asuka with a tornado out of the corner into a suplex as the pair traded two-counts back and forth. Sadly, every “two” was met with the latest bane of crowd reactions… people who think that they’re in the Bullet Club.

Knees from Moon get returned in kind as Asuka kicks away some more, before a side suplex gets a near-fall for the challenger… who blasts Asuka with a double stomp out of the corner for yet another two-count. Ember sneaks up top and hits the Eclipse… but somehow Asuka kicks out! HOW?!

In shock, Ember heads up top again for another crack at the Eclipse, but Asuka pulls the ref in front of her to prevent the move… but Ember just leaps down with a crossbody that’s rolled through… and thankfully the ref catches Asuka with a handful of tights as he holds up the count. Out of nowhere again, Ember sneaks in a superkick for a near-fall as she felt she was getting closer to shattering the streak, but Asuka plays possum and sneaks Ember into an armbar.

Ember rolls out into a cradle for a near-fall, but Asuka traps her in an Asuka Lock in the middle of the ring… and sadly, with the previously-injured arm being wrenched on, Ember’s got no choice but to tap. What a match! The story of Asuka slowly having to cheat more keeps being told – this time almost winning with a handful of tights – and we’re gradually seeing Asuka getting more and more desperate in her successful defences. When the title change comes, it’ll be BIG. ****¼

NXT Championship: Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Roode (c)
If you want to be cruel, this was the promo vs. the theme song. Roode’s NXT run – in-ring, at least – has been very divisive. Some have enjoyed his old-school character, whilst others have loathed the perceived blandness of his matches.

We started off slowly, with McIntyre taking Roode to the outside with shoulder charges, but Roode responded with chops before threatening McIntyre with the Glorious DDT. Regardless, Drew shrugged it off and kept up the pressure, booting Roode to the mat before a standing suplex tossed the champ away with ease.

On the outside, McIntyre catches Roode… and avoids being shoved into the ringpost, before catching the champ with a tiltawhirl slam onto the apron. That looked nasty, almost as if the apron was a late adjustment!

Roode recovered first though, catching Drew with a neckbreaker as he got back into the ring, before stomping away on the Scotsman as he tried to wear down his challenger’s neck. Unfortunately, he spent so long working on the neck that the crowd seemed to tune out, with the diet of neckbreakers and stomps perhaps not being as endearing as it could have been given what was served up earlier.

Roode clings onto a sleeperhold, but Drew breaks free and hits an overhead belly-to-belly as the challenger strung together a series of moves, before charging at Roode in the corner. A crossbody’s caught and somehow wangled into an Air Raid Crash for a near-fall by McIntyre, but Roode goes back to the neck as the match became more and more even.

A superplex attempt gets cut-off and turned into a Tree of Woe by Roode… but he takes far too long and McIntyre sits up into a spider belly-to-belly suplex! It’s Drew who takes too long next, falling to Roode’s possum act as he’s suckered into a jack-knifed pin for a near-fall, before a Roode back cracker gets another two-count.

Another neckbreaker attempt is countered into a backslide, then a Futureshock DDT for a few more two-counts, but Roode comes back with a Ligerbomb out of the corner as the pair continued to trade near-falls! They exchange right hands for a while, at least until Roode connected with an enziguiri, before McIntyre blasted him with a Claymore kick to nearly win… as Roode lifted a foot onto that bottom rope just in time!

Roode rolls outside – and gets booed for doing so as the crowd sensed a cheap finish – but McIntyre wakes up the crowd with a tope con hilo! They go back inside, where Roode countered another Claymore kick with a spinebuster, before a Glorious DDT’s turned into a sat-down sunset flip for a near-fall. The Glorious DDT finally connects after Roode’s tiltawhirl, but McIntyre kicks out!

Roode goes for the Glorious DDT again, and connects, before rolling back up to hit a third one… but McIntyre headbutts free and rushes back in with a Claymore kick in the middle of the ring… and Drew wins the title! Well, this did feel a bit slow at times, but nowhere near as bad as others seem to have taken it… this definitely didn’t feel mundane, but it was certainly the right time to take the belt off of Roode. Especially if bigger things are planned… ***¼

Bigger things like another debut. After the match Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly emerge to confront McIntyre… but they’re not alone. Rushing through the crowd comes Adam Cole! A three-on-one beatdown ensues, and Cole stands over Drew with the NXT title. I guess that’s next up!

For all of the rumblings of NXT “losing steam”, they have never failed to deliver on a Takeover show yet. Even if the NXT title scene isn’t your cup of tea, the ever-engaging “who’ll beat Asuka?” story continues to gather steam, and the arrival of a formerly-Honor-able trio certainly has injected some new life into a product that was bubbling along quite nicely in recent weeks.