The first NXT TakeOver since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sporting world needed to be special, and the WWE utilized a bit of nostalgia to deliver a wonderfully themed event with In Your House on Sunday night.
Complete with nods to an era that included IcoPro and Good Humor ice cream sandwich advertisements and some great wrestling from today’s NXT talent, In Your House was an enjoyable past-meets-present show that drew upon the pay-per-view events the WWE held in the late 1990s.
The night was headlined by a triple threat match for the NXT women’s championship and featured a cinematic Backlot Brawl for the NXT championship. Here's how Sporting News graded those matches and the other bouts on the card:
Mia Yim, Shotzi Blackheart & Tegan Nox vs. Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez
First things first: The set for the show was a treat; it was a version of the old In Your House PPVs, and the addition of Todd Pettengill certainly added to the show. This triple threat match was a fun opener, in which Nox get the pin on Kai after some miscommunication between Kai and Gonzalez. All six worked hard throughout.
Yim and Lerae took themselves out of the equation late in the match by brawling backstage, which will certainly extend their feud, and left Nox to deal with her longtime rivals. Things became a little sloppy down the stretch as Gonzalez showed how green she is by missing a few spots. Nevertheless, solid work to set the tone for the rest of the show.
Finn Balor vs. Demian Priest
Balor’s brief heel turn allowed him to acquire an edge to his character that he previously lacked. Sunday was a full hybrid of his babyface and heel personas as Balor likely set the stage for an opportunity to regain the NXT championship later this year by pinning Priest after hitting the Coup de Grace.
As good as Balor is, it has to be said that Priest is extremely underrated in the ring. He showcased his ability by gelling with Balor for some great action that included Priest taking a nasty bump off the apron onto the edge of the steel steps outside.
— WWE (@WWE) June 7, 2020
It appears that Priest is destined for the mid-card but has the ability to deliver really entertaining matches if he gets the time. Balor was expected to win and is peaking at the right time with just a mild tweak of his character.
Keith Lee (c) vs. Johnny Gargano (NXT North American championship)
Gargano’s heel turn had been lukewarm to this point. It’s not that he has been bad at it; it’s just that his motivation for turning hasn’t quite won the fans over. The way he worked his match with Lee, however, was well done for his character. NXT also managed to find a way to make a match between a monster babyface and an undersized heel work.
Lee — who had “Black Lives Matter” embroidered on his wrestling tights — has stalled a bit since his run at Survivor Series last year and is in need of a jolt. His feud with Gargano, should it continue, could be just what he needs.
Despite being undersized, Gargano used limb manipulation to even the odds against the giant Lee. Lee's power was on full display as he tossed Gargano around the ring with a plethora of suplexes and slams. But the highlight was a pounce that sent Gargano through the plexiglass on the outside.
— WWE (@WWE) June 8, 2020
Interference from LeRae and Yim hurt the match a bit but allowed Gargano to stab Lee in the eye with a key that he had in his trunks. Gargano nearly stole the win with a DDT and a trio of superkicks, but Lee continued to kick out of every pin attempt. The champion powered up, hit a pair of Spirit bombs and closed the show with the Big Bang Catastrophe to retain his title.
This was a fine match that could have seen a few minutes shaved off, but here's hoping it sets up something more interesting in the future between two of the best wrestlers in the company.
Adam Cole vs. Velveteen Dream (NXT championship)
And this is when the cinematic match officially jumped the shark.
Honestly, the Cole-Dream feud has been relatively devoid of heat from the beginning and their lack of in-ring chemistry has been problematic. NXT tried to make this feel important by adding the cinematic aspect to its Backlot Brawl match
This match absolutely didn’t need to be a cinematic match. The numerous camera cuts throughout were dizzying and took away from the action.
There were some nice touches — Dream’s Negan-inspired attire from "The Walking Dead," The Undisputed Era monster truck and Cole’s spill off the ladder onto a car windshield — but it just didn’t click. Billed as a Backlot Brawl, the match lacked intensity and the interference by Dexter Lumis, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish didn’t help matters.
— WWE (@WWE) June 8, 2020
Cole finally collected the win — and mercifully end this feud — by hitting the Panama Sunrise on a pile of steel chairs after a low blow.
As good as Cole has been, this was an underwhelming performance. It’s not entirely his fault, nor was it Dream’s. It just didn’t work, with failed attempts at humor (an Uber driver, really?) and a poor use of the cinematic. It could have worked just fine as a regular match. Nevertheless, let’s hope that Cole moves on to a feud with Finn Balor in a battle to see who is the greatest NXT champion of all time.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Karrion Kross
There are very few can't-miss superstars in pro wrestling, but Kross is most definitely one of them. With the perfect blend of size, talent and ability to cut a promo, he exudes the "it" factor.
His match with Ciampa was a beautiful execution of violence that formally announced his arrival, with the former NXT champion putting over the newcomer.
The victor was never in question, but Ciampa did an excellent job trying to slay the upstart and avoid being dominated. Kross maintained control with violent strikes and powerful suplexes while Ciampa tried to fend off the monster and keep him from getting the upper hand.
It was a well-booked match. Ciampa kept his luster as a force with his explosive comebacks, but Kross continued to cut off every rally until he earned the victory by nailing Ciampa with an inverted F-5 that was followed with his Kross Jacket submission to put Ciampa to sleep.
— WWE (@WWE) June 8, 2020
Kross looked great, and he has a phenomenal entrance. WWE would have to go out of its way to mess this up. As for Ciampa, he'll be just fine. He's too good not to be.
Rhea Ripley vs. Io Shirai vs. Charlotte (NXT women's championship)
Shiriai's phenomenal wrestling ability might be the worst-kept secret in pro wrestling. Fans have been waiting with bated breath to see the Japanese star get her due. She finally got it in the main event of this TakeOver.
These women put on a show, with Shirai being the highlight with her excellent work, breathtaking dives and ridiculous athleticism. Charlotte's in-ring was uncharacteristically uneven. At certain points, her offense came off sloppy, but then she'd have moments where she'd remind everyone why she’s one of the best in the world. Ripley was solid, too. A Rip Tide off the top rope nearly earned her the win, and for the most part she came off as a powerhouse.
— WWE (@WWE) June 8, 2020
But this was Io's crowning moment, which she punctuated with a splash off the set onto Ripley and Charlotte.
The introduction of the Kendo stick by Charlotte late in the match felt completely unnecessary and didn't add anything. The end came when Charlotte applied the Figure 8 to Ripley and nearly elicited the submission, until Shirai hit a moonsault on Ripley to steal the pin.
Unfortunately, the finish didn't come off cleanly; Shirai nailed Ripley in the face with her knee, which could have resulted in an injury. It also would have been nice to see Charlotte eat the pin here, but WWE seems to be committed to protecting her, as she will likely head back to "Raw" and enter a feud with Asuka.
Shirai has plenty of options for the future, but it's great to finally see one of the best in the business be recognized with a championship run.