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NXT TakeOver In Your House preview: How did we end up like this?

Image: WWE

Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and reflects that of the writer.

Have you ever wondered what a main roster pay-per-view would look like in NXT? Wonder no longer.

NXT is back on our TV sets and in our homes Sunday with TakeOver: In Your House with a lineup that looks, well, not great. It’s taking a considerable amount of willpower not to just shrug at this entire card and watch just about anything else. Where is the intrigue? Where are the captivating storylines that made NXT so great for so long?

Nothing here is required viewing and it’s barely DVR worthy. I have been on this NXT preview beat since 2016 (shoutout to me) and this is the first TakeOver card I can remember that feels skippable.

For me, the biggest issue is the overwhelming lack of anything interesting. The absence of that commanding presence at the top of the card is noticeable now more than ever. There is no Finn Balor. There is no Io Shirai (who mercifully returned this Tuesday). Heck, there’s not even a Bo Dallas. The two top champions are either kind of boring (Karrion Kross) or still figuring out how to be on top (Raquel Gonzalez). If it wasn’t for me writing about this, there’s nothing that really compels me to give up two hours of my Tuesday evenings.

When I say this is a main roster PPV, I mean it. Just look at what we have here:

  • A hastily thrown together multi-person scramble for a championship 
  • A match for a made-up title
  • A match with spooky markings and smoke monsters

Throw in a "Can they coexist?!?!?" storyline and you have next week’s episode of Raw, minus Lilly.

The most glaring Raw-ness in all of this is, unfortunately, Kyle O’Reilly. What in the world is going on here? In his first appearance after his match with Adam Cole, KOR came out and dropped both Austin Powers and Dumb and Dumber references in one promo. It wasn’t funny, wasn’t clever or even tongue in cheek. It was just flat-out bad. You know how if Vince McMahon finds out someone is funny, he then makes them do the WWE’s version of funny? That’s exactly what happened here, but just replace ‘funny’ with ‘hipster.' Watching the segment filled me with actual, physical, pain. Come back, actually Kool Kyle. We miss you and we need you.

Since this isn’t a standard TakeOver, I’m going to deviate from my standard format. For each match I’ll look at how we got here, does it matter (spoiler alert: nothing matters because life is just a slow march to the sea.) and where we go next.

LA Knight vs. Cameron Grimes in a ladder match for the Million Dollar Championship

How we got here

Grimes made a bunch of money off meme coins and Reddit stocks and is now a rich boy. Ted DiBiase kept one upping him and laughing, so they had a "confrontation". I’m not exactly sure why Knight got involved, but he’s certainly here now. Both are now vying for Teddy’s affection and for the honor of becoming his large adult son.

Does it matter?

Despite Cameron Grimes doing the lord’s work, nope. Not even a little.

Where we’re going

Who the heck knows. Are they really going to bring back the Million Dollar belt? Gimmick belts mean less than nothing. Brian Cage has the FTW title in AEW and, truly, who cares. He loses all the time and looks like a chump carrying that thing around. I am very thankful this became a ladder match, because even the worst ladder matches are usually still fun. Even though Grimes is significantly better, Knight’s gimmick might have more legs at least in the short term. It’s LA’s night and wow, I’m so sorry.

Xia Li (with Boa and Mei Ying) vs. Mercedes Martinez

How we got here

Martinez did her cool entrance, won a match, and then had a spooky ‘X’ on her hand. Li got big mad about losing to Martinez in the Mae Young Classic years ago and then attacked Mercedes on the way to the ring. That’s it. That’s the build.

Does it matter?

Not really. This matters in the sense that it gives Xia Li a real opportunity against a real opponent on a TakeOver card. She’s been with the company since 2017 and hasn’t had even more than a sniff of forward momentum until this current iteration of her character. It matters less to Martinez, who is an indie wrestling legend with the aura that comes with that. She’ll be fine no matter what happens.

Where we’re going

I truly don’t know. Martinez has been in some high-profile matches during her time in NXT but doesn’t have a signature win yet. Li hasn’t even had a real chance until now. If they are really invested in the Mei Ying/Tian Sha storyline going somewhere, Li has to win. It’s a bit worrying that after the initial rollout and excellent intro video package, there hasn’t been much from this group on TV. I’ll say that changes with a Li victory Sunday.

NXT North American Champion Bronson Reed and NXT Tag Team Champions MSK vs. Legado del Fantasma (Santos Escobar, Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde) in a winner takes all match

How we got here

Reed put his belly on Santos Escobar to make sure MSK retained the tag titles over the rest of Legado del Fantasma. No one was really happy about that which led to this. The winner take all stipulation adds some much needed intrigue as if this was just a regular old six-man tag, it wouldn’t have nearly the appeal even if the outcome isn’t really in doubt.

Does it matter?

As much as a Reed match can matter, I guess. He seems like a legitimately great dude and appears to have a much more progressive view of the world compared to most of his colleagues, but his gimmick is really that he's big. The whole size gimmick has a finite shelf life because there is almost always someone bigger and better that comes along. I wish they let him develop a personality that’s more than a big splash off the top rope. Being a big boy got him here, but it won’t get him any further.

Where we’re going

Escobar remains the complete package. He and Reed are as opposite as it gets. One has the aforementioned lack of character, while Escobar has it in spades. The slick looks, smooth words, and superb in-ring work are all there for him. This is him firmly moving on from the cruiserweight ranks and on to, literally, bigger things. If all the belts weren’t on the line, I would say Escobar and his boys would win, but MSK is too hot to drop the tag belts now.

Oh, and where are we really going? We are really going towards a Swerve Scott run with the North American title because Hit Row is one of the few really, really good things on NXT. It’s excellent and Scott’s a full-on star. His first title reign is happening sooner rather than later. 

NXT Women's Champion Raquel Gonzalez (w/ Dakota Kai) vs. Ember Moon (w/ Shotzi Blackheart)

How we got here

These two have been feuding with their tag team partners for a while now. Moon got very upset when Gonzalez beat down Blackheart after a match a few weeks ago, called the champion out, and she obliged. So, now it’s time to fight!

Does it matter?

Actually, it does! There’s plenty of history between these two. Moon and Blackheart won the tag titles from Gonzalez and Kai the very first night they had them. I, too, would be angry if that happened to me. Then again, if it were me, I would simply never wrestle because it seems like it hurts a lot.

Where we’re going

We are barely into the second month of Gonzalez’ reign as women’s champ. NXT typically stays away from the transitional championship reign and one does not dethrone Io by god Shirai only to lose the title a few months later. Apologies to Moon, the Moon family, and the actual moon, but Sunday is not her day. Gonzalez retains, but what’s next? Shirai is back and due for a rematch. Franky Monet will probably get heated up, and they clearly see big things in Zoey Stark. The NXT’s women's division keeps on keeping on.

NXT Champion Karrion Kross (w/ Scarlett) vs. Adam Cole vs. Kyle O'Reilly vs. Pete Dunne (w/ Oney Lorcan) vs. Johnny Gargano five-way title match

How we got here

*Takes deep breath* O’Reilly, Dunne and Gargano had a triple threat match to see who the no. 1 contender would be. Cole came out during the match and beat the bag out of everyone. Later that night, Cole and Kross had a face-off in the ring and a good one at that. Cole’s line about how if NXT wants to make him feel special, they just ring the bell was particularly excellent. Then, big King Regal came out, Kross demanded to fight everyone, and off we went.

Does it matter?

For all intents and purposes, sure. It’s for the NXT title, so I guess it does. This feels like they had no real idea of how to build the next major title program, so they just threw absolutely everything at the wall and hoped something stuck. Maybe something will, but this was disjointed from the start. Even the no. 1 contender's triple threat didn’t have a cohesive build to it as Gargano was kind of just thrown into that. NXT title matches will always matter, but I’d be hard pressed to find one that matters less than this. 

Where we’re going

Cole continues to bend NXT to his will; he is still the biggest male star on the brand and that includes the current champ. His gravity is just too strong. My affections for Dunne and O’Reilly are vast and endless, but let’s be clear: Cole is in a different league as a performer. I thought Cole would be done with NXT after the last TakeOver and I’m not coming off that prediction. With all the releases, there are some spots on the main roster that NXT can fill and I think Cole is one of them. Kross is really the better choice to fill that spot, but he just beat Finn Balor twice, so he’s probably sticking around. Kross retains, but Cole doesn’t take the pin.