Preview by Josh Nason
"The Bruiserweight" will become the next in line to try and dethrone NXT Champion Finn Balor in the main event of Sunday's NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day on the WWE Network.
Pete Dunne will be looking to hand Balor his first singles loss since August 12th (Velveteen Dream) while the champion will be gunning for the third defense of the title he won in September by defeating Adam Cole at Super Tuesday II.
In other action, NXT Women's Champion Io Shirai will defend against both Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm in a triple threat; Johnny Gargano will defend the NXT North American title against Kushida in a highly anticipated match, and both the men's and women's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournaments will conclude as the Grizzled Young Veterans will face MSK while Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez will take on Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart, respectively.
Our live coverage kicks off at 7 PM Eastern.
– During the pre-show, LA Knight, the former Eli Drake from NWA and TNA, showed up and cut a promo.
– We were serenaded by a Valentine's themed NXT rap from Josiah Williams to start the show.
Women's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals: Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez defeated Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart
This match was fantastic. There were a couple sloppy moment but this was nonstop action for almost 20 minutes, with all four women working extremely hard. This is what the main roster women's tag division could be if they tried.
The winner of this match received a shot at the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships, currently held by Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.
Gonzalez faced off with Blackheart to start and downed her with a shoulder block. Moon tagged in and went for an octopus hold but Gonzalez fought out with a sidewalk slam. Gonzalez took both opponents on and caught a diving Codebreaker from Moon before rolling Blackheart up for two.
A pump kick from Kai sent Blackheart down for two, but Kai missed a follow-up boot and was met with a powerbomb transitioned into a cloverleaf. A slingshot splash from Moon got two.
Kai tried to escape to Gonzalez for a tag, but Blackheart rolled over into a crab. After some double team offense, Moon targeted Kai's knee with a kneebar. After a long battle, Moon tagged in Blackheart, but Gonzalez had the official distracted and as such the tag wasn't recognized.
Moon re-entered the match and sent Gonzalez to the floor with a forearm before resuming the attack on Kai's left leg. Kai finally escaped to Gonzalez, who ran wild with clotheslines on Moon before beating her down in the corner.
Gonzalez hit a series of fallaway slams on Moon, but Moon kicked out quickly. Kai tagged in with a diving clothesline, but Blackheart broke up the pin attempt. Blackheart went for a diving hurricanrana on Gonzalez, who blocked it and powerbombed Blackheart into the plexiglass barricade.
Moon tried to run wild but was overwhelmed by the numbers advantage. Kai went for a facewash boot in the corner that didn't come close for two. Gonzalez tagged in and tried to clothesline Moon, but ended up hitting her partner. Moon sent them both down with a combination DDT and leg lariat.
Kai distracted the official as Moon hit the Eclipse on Gonzalez, getting a visual pinfall. Gonzalez tried to attack but Blackheart re-entered the match with a top-rope dropkick for two. Blackheart ran wild on Kai with, concluding with a facebuster, but Gonzalez tagged in.
Blackheart went for Sliced Bread, but Gonzalez stopped her. Blackheart re-adjusted with a top-rope Sliced Bread, but Kai broke up the pinfall. Moon propped the ropes open as Blackheart landed a nice tope suicida on Kai.
A neckbreaker, a diving lungblower, and a springboard Code Red from Moon got two. Blackheart put Kai in the electric chair on the floor, and Moon landed a doomsday crossbody to take out Kai.
Gonzalez was sent into the ring steps and locked into a deathlock crossface by Moon, but Kai broke up the submission. Kai and Blackheart tagged in, and Kai hit the Kai-ropractor for a close near fall. She and Gonzalez hit the GTK, but Moon broke up the pinfall.
Moon was sent crashing onto the ramp and catapulted off the ramp into the barricade by Gonzalez. Blackheart surprised Gonzalez on her way back into the ring with a springboard kick. She went for a top rope move, but Gonzalez popped up and sent her to the mat. A massive chokeslam followed for the pin.
As Gargano and The Way made their entrance, Dexter Lumis chloroformed Austin Theory and apparently kidnapped him. Gargano sent Candice and Indi to find Theory, meaning he was without backup for the match.
NXT North American Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) defeated KUSHIDA
This match was somehow even better than that opener, an instant classic. This was KUSHIDA's best WWE performance yet and Gargano is, of course, Mr. TakeOver.
KUSHIDA went for the hoverboard lock right away, but Gargano was too close to the ropes. They performed an extended chain wrestling sequence, with KUSHIDA out-grappling his opponent.
The pace quickened with an athletic sequence where both competitors missed major strikes. Gargano locked on the Garga-No Escape but KUSHIDA transitioned into one of his own, and Gargano reached the ropes for the break.
Both men spilled to the floor, where Gargano sent KUSHIDA into the steps. KUSHIDA countered into a suplex on the floor and locked on a cross armbreaker as the referee counted. KUSHIDA broke the count and hit a hammerlock suplex on the floor.
As Gargano recovered on the ropes, KUSHIDA dropkicked his arm, making it the focal point of his attack. Gargano bought himself some time with a rope-assisted neckbreaker. After that, KUSHIDA's head and neck area was the target of Gargano's attack.
Gargano hit a suplex and floated over into a cover, but KUSHIDA kicked out immediately. They fought over a backslide attempt, but Gargano transitioned into a release suplex and a soccer kick to KUSHIDA's arm. Gargano kept up the attack with a submission hold.
KUSHIDA turned it into an octopus stretch, but Gargano escaped into a cradle. They exchanged cradles until KUSHIDA locked on La Magistral for a close near fall. Both men popped up and landed clotheslines for the double down.
They traded strikes in the center of the ring before KUSHIDA hit his hip toss into a low dropkick combo. KUSHIDA laid in curb stomps to a defenseless Gargano and attempted another hammerlock suplex, but Gargano escaped.
Gargano hit an enziguiri and avoided one from KUSHIDA, but the latter locked on an ankle lock and hit a German suplex and a buzzsaw kick for two. KUSHIDA sent Gargano to the floor, Gargano went for his slingshot suplex, but KUSHIDA caught him in a DDT before maintaining the hold with a Northern Lights suplex bridge for two.
KUSHIDA cut off a slingshot attempt from Gargano and drove his left arm into the turnbuckle. A handspring kick stunned Gargano on the top rope, where KUSHIDA went for the hoverboard lock. Gargano countered out and hit a second rope twisting suplex and a step-up swinging DDT for two.
Gargano went for a chicken wing, but KUSHIDA hit La Mistica as the two jockeyed for position to lock in an armbar. Gargano rolled through on one for a two count as the two hit clotheslines for another double down.
KUSHIDA laid in kicks, but Gargano caught a handspring and applied the Garga-No Escape. KUSHIDA had to fight and attack Gargano's left arm to turn it into the Hoverboard lock. Gargano went for a Japanese clutch, but KUSHIDA applied a European clutch for a close near fall.
Gargano hit a superkick, KUSHIDA hit a punch, and Gargano sent KUSHIDA face-first into the turnbuckle with a lawn dart. They traded elbows before KUSHIDA hit a corner suplex. An overhead superplex allowed KUSHIDA to lock on the cross armbreaker. Gargano tried to block it, but KUSHIDA broke the grip and re-applied it. After a long fight, Gargano barely was able to roll to the ropes.
KUSHIDA applied the Hoverboard lock on the floor, but Gargano drove him into the barricade to escape. KUSHIDA appeared on the stage and soccer kicked Gargano's arm before locking on a flying Hoverboard lock in the ring. Gargano positioned KUSHIDA between the ropes and sent KUSHIDA into them neck-first before following it up with the One Final Beat on the ramp.
A second One Final Beat in the ring was enough for Gargano to get the win.
Zack Gibson cut a fun promo during the Vets' entrance telling MSK to wipe the smiles of their faces, because they won't enjoy a single moment of this match.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals: MSK (Nash Carter & Wes Lee) defeated Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake)
TakeOver Vengeance Day is three for three after this match. It started a bit slow but picked up into an insanely hot and fast-paced closing stretch. Both teams gave some of the best performances of their careers.
The winner of this match receives an NXT Tag Team Championship shot.
Gibson overpowered Carter early on, attempting to wear down Carter's left arm. The Vets isolated Carter on their side of the ring, grounding him with holds. Carter escaped with a springboard tornillo, allowing him to reach Lee for the tag.
MSK traded strikes on both of the Vets before Lee hit a great Space Flying Tiger Drop and Carter hit a step-up dive. Carter only hit Drake, however, allowing Gibson to surprise him with a clothesline.
The Vets isolated Carter again for an extended heat sequence. Drake and Gibson each went for grinding holds and quick covers. Carter made a couple escape attempts but would always get cut off, including with a strong clothesline from Drake for two.
Carter countered a suplex into one of his own, but Gibson ran interference, preventing Lee from the tag. With the official distracted, the Vets hit an assisted dropkick for two. Drake grounded Carter once more and tagged in Gibson, but Carter avoided a double team and tagged in Lee.
Lee ran wild on the Vets with running kicks before hitting a snapmare into a dropkick on Gibson. As the Vets regrouped, Lee landed an awesome corner tope con hilo on both men. Back in the ring, Lee connected with a back handspring kick for two.
Drake pushed Lee off the top rope and Gibson looked to take advantage with a powerbomb, but Lee escaped into an X-factor. Carter tagged in and landed dropkicks on both men before taking down Gibson and laying in ground and pound. A springboard cutter followed for two.
Gibson fired up and fought off both of MSK, but Lee landed an enziguiri to the back of his head. He tried to follow it up with another handspring kick but Gibson kicked him out of the air. Gibson hit Helter Skelter and Drake hit a 450 splash for a close near fall.
The Vets went for a Doomsday Device, but Lee rolled through into a cradle. Gibson kicked out and beat him down, but Carter broke up Ticket to Mayhem. MSK hit their assisted standing moonsault and a reverse hurricanrana.
Carter tagged in and landed a senton atomico before Lee hit a corkscrew senton for a near fall. MSK went for a Hart Attack but Lee was sent to the floor. Gibson set Lee up in the electric chair and Drake came through the ropes with a tope suicida Doomsday Device.
The Vets tried to isolate Carter, but Carter fought back on both. He was overwhelmed by the numbers advantage and the Vets hit a powerbomb backstabber combination for two. Gibson screamed in Carter's face and hit a stiff slap, but Lee ran in and MSK downed the Vets with superkicks.
Lee tagged in and hit a springboard Doomsday flipping neckbreaker for the pinfall.
A video package of the newly rich Cameron Grimes played, soundtracked by a rap song discussing his monetary exploits. "You can kiss my grits" was one of the lines. It was a lot of fun.
NXT Women's Championship: Io Shirai (c) defeated Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez
I'm not sure how it's possible to have a "dead crowd" in the Capitol Wrestling Center, but that's what happened here. There was some very strong work in this match but there were some disjointed moments as well.
Martinez attacked Shirai during the ring announcements, leading to the match starting right away. There was a lot of two in, one out early on, with Shirai controlling. Storm countered a Shirai move with a slam, but Martinez got involved and hit a draping neckbreaker on the floor.
Shirai went for an Asai moonsault, but Martinez avoided it and Shirai went crashing into the barricade. Martinez and Storm had an exchange in the ring, which Martinez won with a spinebuster for two.
Martinez went for the Three Amigos suplexes, but Storm fought out of the third and Shirai landed a missile dropkick. Shirai charged in with double knees on Martinez, but Storm caught the followup with a black hole slam. Martinez surprised Storm with another spinebuster for two.
Shirai broke up a Martinez submission attempt and locked on a crossface of her own. With the hold still on, Martinez applied a dragon sleeper on Shirai, forcing her to break, before Martinez herself broke the hold with an inverted suplex. Shirai sent Martinez into the ropes and landed a tiger feint kick.
Storm and Shirai fought up top, but Martinez pushed Shirai to the floor and hit a top-rope German suplex. However, Martinez was stuck in the Tree of Woe, allowing Shirai to come off the top with a double stomp.
Martinez and Shirai fought on the floor and the former sent the latter into the barricade with a Death Valley Driver. Storm flattened Martinez with a clothesline and tried to clear off the announcer's table, inadvertently breaking it in the process. She went for the Storm Zero anyway, but Martinez countered out with a DDT.
The camera panned up and suddenly Shirai was climbing some of the staging. She came off with a diving crossbody on both opponents. Martinez sent Shirai into the steel steps and brought Storm back into the ring.
Martinez laid in knee strikes on Storm followed by a fisherman's buster for two. Storm fought out of a fireman's carry and hit a headbutt before hitting Storm Zero for a close near fall. It's now been minutes since Shirai was involved in the match.
Storm came off the top rope with a flying headbutt, but Shirai broke it up with a moonsault, pinning Martinez to retain.
A video showing LA Knight, the former Eli Drake, signing to NXT was shown. They also played a clip of his promo from the pre-show.
NXT Championship: Finn Bálor (c) defeated Pete Dunne
This was a very good title match. It was very similar to Bálor's TakeOver defense against O'Reilly, but I think that match was superior. Much of the initial portions of the match were just aimless technical wrestling, but the closing stretch was excellent.
They chain wrestled to start as the announcers discussed Bálor's injuries. Dunne hit a monkey flip but Bálor kept his grip on Dunne's hands. Neither man could establish an advantage an advantage until a running crossbody took down Dunne, who kicked out of a cover and locked on a headscissors.
The hold was broken and the match reset. Dunne laid in some McGregor-like shoulder strikes during a lock-up before targeting the small joints of Bálor. Bálor fought out but Dunne immediately turned it into a triangle, forcing Bálor to fight out again.
Dunne went for an armbar this time, but Bálor kept his grip. Dunne then locked on an omoplata and fell back into an armbreaker. Bálor escaped, but yet again, Dunne kept up the attack, targeting Bálor's fingers.
Bálor finally turned it around into a deathlock before rotating into a modified figure four. From a standing position, Bálor sent Dunne to the mat and applied a crab. Dunne brought Bálor back to the ground and targeted his head, but Bálor kept his grip on Dunne's leg.
Dunne went for a modified ex-plex and hit it for two. They traded strikes in the corner, but Bálor caught Dunne's leg and stomped on it, using the ropes as an assist. Dunne cradled Bálor for two and hit an enziguiri, but the champion came right back with a lariat for a near fall of his own.
Bálor laid in strikes before re-focusing his attack on Dunne's leg. With a toehold locked in, Bálor hit forearms on the back of Dunne's head before applying an STF. Dunne fought out by driving Bálor's fingers into the mat.
A frustrated Bálor hit chops and used illegal rope-assisted holds to beat down Dunne. Dunne tried to use his corner escape, kind of whiffed on it, but they recovered well by selling his knee. Dunne kept up the attack with forearms, stomps, and a powerbomb for two.
Dunne hit his signature arm stomp and a snap German suplex before stomping on Bálor's hands. Bálor swept out Dunne's leg and hit a backstabber and shotgun dropkick, sending Dunne into the corner. Dunne countered the Coup de Grace into a triangle hold. After a long battle, Bálor reached the bottom rope to break the hold.
Bálor sold like he was unconscious. Dunne tried to follow up his attack, but the referee had to check on Bálor. Bálor said he could continue and was met with a jumping stomp, but he popped up and locked on an abdominal stretch, bringing Dunne down to the mat. Dunne escaped with his signature finger break spot.
Dunne wouldn't let go of his hand, so Bálor laid in stomps. Dunne still wouldn't let go and used the grip to hit the Bitter End for a great near fall. Dunne stomped on Bálor's hands again and went for another powerbomb, but Bálor turned it into a DDT. Dunne hit an enziguiri, Bálor hit a dropkick, and Dunne hit a buzzsaw kick.
They had a counter sequence which Bálor won, hitting a lifting suplex. Dunne wouldn't let go of Bálor's fingers and snapped them again, but Bálor no-sold and stomped on Dunne's back. Bálor ripped out Dunne's mouthguard and flattened him with a shotgun dropkick before nailing the Coup de Grace. The 1916 DDT followed to retain the championship.
– After the match, NXT Tag Team champions Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch laid Bálor out in the ring. An official tried to break it up, but they sent him packing. Undisputed Era's music played, and Dunne and co. escaped to the stage as Cole, Strong, and O'Reilly chased them off. O'Reilly helped up Bálor and called him a real champion.
They did the classic logo trick. Right as the show was about to end, Cole flattened Bálor with a superkick. O'Reilly confronted him and took another superkick for his trouble. Cole went back up the ramp, Bálor and O'Reilly were laid out in the ring, and Strong acted conflicted between the two as the show went off the air.