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Previewing the stacked NXT TakeOver: Chicago card

NXT makes its debut in the Second City this Saturday with an absolutely stacked card from top to bottom. It might sound weird, but a lot has changed since the last TakeOver. The bumpy transition time seems to have smoothed itself out as more talent is added (or returned) to the brand, and wrestlers move up the card.

There isn’t a dud on this card, but is there really a must-see match? To use a baseball analogy, it seems like there will be a bunch of doubles and a couple triples, but probably no home runs -- and that’s okay!

As always, let’s take a look at the matches and see what stands out.

Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young

I’m not the first person to talk about how much the "Who is Roderick Strong?" videos helped establish Roddy’s character in NXT. No one does that type of production better than WWE. Just look at the video package they put together for Seth Rollins/HHH at WrestleMania this year, that thing was pretty much art and made their feud feel 100x more important than it really was.

My only problem, and maybe that's due to so much exposure to him pre-NXT, is that babyface Roddy is just flat boring. There is no substance to it, and honestly? It’s just hard to believe. Yes, his life and the struggles to overcome it are nothing to make light of, but since when is that enough to make for a fully fleshed out character?

The best version(s) of Roddy were the PWG Champion version where he was just the WORST, or when he had a mouthpiece with him -- like with Truth Martini in ROH.

For this match though, the dynamic will most likely work out just fine. Young has been everything you could really expect him to be as the leader of SAnitY. A good worker, with incredible facials, Young really shines at the front of this group. He also hasn’t let his ego get in the way of the real stars of the group, Nikki Cross and, hopefully, Killian Dain.

This match should open the show and play to Strong’s strengths -- moving really fast and chaining 78 moves together at once. If they’re really invested in Strong as a babyface, he should lose here and keep feuding with Young through Brooklyn. Or he could lose and join SAnitY and convince all of them to go do CrossFit with him. I’m cool with either.

Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne for the WWE United Kingdom Championship

Man, am I excited for this potential show-stealing match. My exposure to both these guys comes from PROGRESS Wrestling where they, along with Trent Seven, make up British Strong Style. And oh my goodness they are GREAT (quick aside, Alan Boon does a great job covering the British wrestling scene for this site, so read his weekly piece if you aren't already).

When BSS first started Bate wasn’t a part of it, he joined Seven and Dunne later on. It’s been great watching his progress (no pun intended) from someone who seemed a bit uncomfortable as a heel having to be such a sh*t at every PROGRESS show. Comparing that to his babier than babyface persona in WWE shows his versatility as a wrestler.

All that said, both of these dudes can just straight up go. Dunne is an absolute heat magnet whose style is a perfect match to his "Bruiserweight" nickname -- vicious, stiff, and brutal. Bate is like 12 years old and impossibly strong. Heck, he deadlifted the 300+ pound WALTER at a recent PROGRESS show and I rewound it five times to make sure I saw it right.

I think the right call is to put the belt on Dunne now and let Bate/Mark Andrews challenge him for it. Dunne is on fire and is the perfect heel to carry the belt forward. Clearly the WWE has big plans for Bate, but let him chase after the belt.

Asuka vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross for the NXT Women's Championship

After the Four Horsemen got called up to the main roster, the women’s division in NXT was left very thin. Now? It is anything but. With the upcoming women’s tournament and the rumored signings that go along with it, the women’s division will arguably have the most talent it ever did (except Liv Morgan).

But where would they be without Asuka? Not only is she the most dominant talent ever in NXT, she served as a bridge from the lean times to now, where the division is full and healthy. She brought them out of the darkness that came at the end of the Bayley era of NXT, and into the light that it is now.

The funny thing is? This match isn’t even about her. Let’s face it, there is no way she is losing this match. There is no universe where she should. This match is really just a jumping off point for a Ruby Riot/Nikki Cross feud that is going to be SO GOOD because Nikki Cross is SO GOOD, you guys. Her bizarre sit-down "interview" last week was so perfect for her character. This is how you should do unhinged and unstable, not the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way they do it with Dean Ambrose on the main roster.

Riot's character is still yet to be defined, but a program with Cross should do wonders in establishing that. Hopefully Ember Moon is healthy when NXT Brooklyn III rolls around and we can get the one-on-one rematch that could rival even the best NXT women’s matches.

The Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) in a ladder match for the NXT Tag Team Championship

I don’t know when it happened, but I’m pretty sure that I am in love with The Authors of Pain. It’s not that heart-racing, one in a million kind of love that comes along once in a lifetime like with The Revival, but man am I falling hard. Just two huge dudes who do moves that look like they really hurt and get better with every single match they have.

Part of that is because they usually have the perfect dance partners in #DIY, who are at Sami Zayn levels when it comes to working from underneath. This does feel like the logical end to their feud, though. There isn’t much to do after a ladder match, especially if AOP retains. But that doesn’t mean the ladder match won’t be awesome. There have only been two ladder matches in NXT (Neville vs. Bo Dallas and Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens) and while it's not saying much, this match has the chance to be the best of the bunch by miles.

While the other divisions in NXT are beginning to thrive, the tag division certainly is lagging behind. Other than these two teams, there really isn’t much to speak of at the moment. Expectations are high for Heavy Machinery, but they just started showing up on TV. SAnitY is still a thing, but they are involved with Rod Strong at the moment.

Not every division can be strong at the same time, so it’s worth watching who steps forward in the tag division beyond these two.

Bobby Roode vs. Hideo Itami for the NXT Championship

Is the entire purpose of this match Hideo teasing a GTS in Chicago? Because that's kind of what it feels like, and would be the most perfect troll job ever. He’s hit so many leading up to the match that it would be perfect if he didn’t get to in this match.

Bobby Roode is the most whatever NXT champion...ever? Certainly of recent memory. His matches are forgettable, his in-ring work and promos are nothing we haven't heard before. But with all that said, he kind of is the perfect champion for NXT right now. With no one really "ready" to hop into the main event scene, Roode is the right guy for the babyfaces to try and run down for the title.

The good news is that the main event scene will be very crowded, very soon. With Itami getting his first shot this weekend, Kassius Ohno, the returning Drew McIntyre, Roddy Strong, and the recently debuted Aleister Black, the men's singles scene could be as good as it’s ever been.

Add to that Adam Cole’s free agency (which I mention in just about every column) and the rumored signing of Kyle O’Reilly, NXT might actually need to go to two hours just to accommodate the sheer amount of talent on the roster. It also makes you wonder if they would ever consider adding a secondary title to the NXT brand?

The guess is that Roode retains here. There hasn’t been enough of a build between the two to justify changing the belt, and Itami absolutely feels like a placeholder for someone bigger. Due to his well-documented injury history, this will, by far, be his biggest opportunity in NXT, you just can't help but think it won’t really lead to anything special.