NXT Brings Back Nostalgia With TakeOver: In Your House and Crowns Io Shirai As New Champ

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In Your House provided a different spin on the rugged, rebellious TakeOver shows, but ended in the same cutting-edge fashion as Io Shirai pinned Rhea Ripley to become the new NXT Women’s Champion.

Placing modern spin on an antiquated concept, the show playfully paid tribute to ICOPRO, Dok Hendrix, WWE’s Good Humor ice cream bars, the iconic “Promotional consideration paid for by the following” phrase, and even included some slapstick comedy from Todd Pettengill.

Called by the mellifluous Mauro Ranallo, the show captured the long-term vision of Paul “Triple H” Levesque. TakeOver delivered a brilliant match pitting Finn Balor against Damian Priest, established a new paramount heel in Karrion Kross, continued the record-setting reign of Adam Cole and crowned Shirai as the new women’s champ.

“I thought we had an amazing effort from the set design with the old In Your House set to Pettengill bringing his classic voice and nostalgia to the show,” said Levesque, who oversees the NXT brand. “From ICOPRO to the ice cream sandwiches, it made for a great, nostalgic, fun show that had all the epic action and amazing storylines you’d expect from NXT.”

Here are the results from NXT TakeOver: In Your House:

-- Tegan Nox, Mia Yim, and Shotzi Blackheart defeated Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, and Raquel Gonzalez

-- Finn Balor defeated Damian Priest

-- North American champion Keith Lee defeated Johnny Gargano

-- NXT champion Adam Cole defeated Velveteen Dream in a “Last Chance Backlot Brawl” match

-- Karrion Kross defeated Tommaso Ciampa

-- Io Shirai won the NXT Women’s Championship in a triple threat match against Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley

And here are my takeaways from the first In Your House in 21 years:

****

Io Shirai is the new NXT Women’s Champion.

Under triple threat rules, Charlotte Flair did not need to be defeated in order to lose her title, and the finish played out with Shirai pinning Rhea Ripley.

This was a showcase for Shirai, who jumped off the In Your House house, and babyfaced a fantastic comeback against two bigger and more imposing opponents. The match was positioned correctly in the main event, but ended in a peculiar style.

Shirai hit her moonsault on Ripley while Flair already had Ripley locked in the Figure Eight, a unique finish for a babyface.

To me, that finish was a surprise and not the good kind. Regardless of gender, Flair is one of the biggest stars in the world, and putting over Shirai would have given her incredible momentum entering her first-ever run with the belt.

I completely agree that Flair needs to be protected, but she went into this match as champion and the division has been built around her since she won the title at WrestleMania. Wrestling is all about the moments, and not having Shirai pin Flair certainly feels as though a major moment was missed.

In the post-TakeOver media call, Levesque was asked by Sports Illustrated whether Shirai, as the protagonist in the story, not pinning Flair detracted from the win or if it was necessary because Flair is such a massive star and should be afforded that protection.

“I don’t necessarily look at it either way,” said Levesque. “That finish was done tonight the way it was done for a very specific reason. Some people will read into that and go, ‘Oh, Charlotte Flair can’t even get beat.’ Don’t buy into that. First of all, to me, the whole rhetoric of Charlotte Flair, her dad, and her name, and all that stuff is garbage. She works as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen, she’s a great performer, [and] deserves everything she’s ever gotten. This was done for a very specific reason for storytelling purposes and hopefully, if we get to tell the story the way we want to over the coming months, then three-four months from now, you’ll go, ‘I know exactly why they did the finish that they did.’”

****

Adam Cole continued his run as NXT champion by defeating Velveteen Dream in a “Last Chance Backlot Brawl.” Per the stipulation of the match, since Cole won, Dream can no longer challenge Cole for the NXT title.

Cole needed to win for a couple of reasons. Internally, Levesque and his team have cooled on the idea of Dream carrying the brand, which is a pivot from the Halftime Heat special that took place during halftime of the Super Bowl in February of 2019, where Dream picked up the win in one of the highest-profile moments of the year for NXT.

With the women’s match closing the show and Shirai set to claim her first-ever NXT championship victory, Cole also needed to retain as to not water down Shirai’s moment.

This wasn’t designed to be a mat classic. Props included a baseball bat, a fire extinguisher, a ladder, and a cavalcade of steel chairs. The set-up and look of the match added to its aura. Lights were shining on the center of the ring, which was surrounded by trucks and cars all with their headlights turned up.

And the attention to detail didn’t miss. Cole drove into the parking lot with a truck adorned with “Shock The System” on its side, while Velveteen Dream arrived in a yellow Lamborghini. Naturally, the match was still in its early stage when the first car windshield was assaulted. Thankfully, the Lamborghini was untouched.

There were cameos from a misplaced Uber driver and The Undisputed Era, who arrived to ensure Cole remained champion. Dexter Lumis appeared from under the ring to even the odds for Dream, stuffing Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish in his trunk and driving away. Since he has asthma, The Undisputed Era’s Kyle O’Reilly was not at the taping of the match, as there was no need to take an additional risk with his weakened immune system by surrounding him with so many people.

But one-on-one, the match belonged to Cole, who ended Dream’s championship aspirations after delivering a Panama Sunrise on the steel chairs.

****

In the 1990s, the stars that helped define the In Your House pay per view were, most notably, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels.

Michaels now serves as one of the lead trainers for the Performance Center, and he discussed the decision to bring back the In Your House show for NXT.

“Most of the talent here in NXT can remember watching an In Your House pay per view,” Michaels told Sports Illustrated. “This is one of those shows that our NXT talent aspired to be a part of when they were youngsters. It’s one of those things they wanted to check off on their to-do list.

“From a nostalgia standpoint, they all remember what they were doing when they watched these shows and it’s something they never thought they’d have the opportunity to do.”

****

Keith Lee continued his climb to stardom with a singles victory against Johnny Gargano.

Known as “Johnny TakeOver” for his bevy of standout matches at NXT’s signature show, Gargano bumped and sold for Lee, as well as further developed his sneaky, narcissistic heel character. In case you forgot Gargano was involved, there were no shortage of near-falls, obligatory in any TakeOver match featuring Gargano.

Lee won’t hold onto the North American title forever, as he is destined to become NXT champ.

****

Karrion Kross was presented in a perfect manner at TakeOver, making short work of NXT cornerstone Tommaso Ciampa.

In order for Kross’ destructive, unstoppable character to work, his TakeOver debut needed to be dominant. In just over six minutes, which was the shortest match of the night, Ciampa ensured that happened. Kross finished the match by finishing Ciampa with the Kross Jacket submission hold, which was smart as it enhanced the value of that maneuver.

Ciampa is in a unique spot on the card. He is no longer the top heel, instead contributing by helping the promotion build its next preeminent villain. This program is certain to continue, and Ciampa will eventually enact his revenge, but it is worth asking what will happen first–another NXT title reign or a call-up to Raw or SmackDown?

****

Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox were the stars of the six-woman tag match that opened the card.

Nox pinned Kai to end the match, seemingly ending their program. It is hard to gauge who holds the brighter future, as both are incredibly talented and charismatic. But another singles match, with Kai coming out victorious, would allow for the story to linger as each woman pursues new programs.

Especially with Raquel Gonzalez in her corner, Kai would make a great opponent for Io Shirai as she establishes herself as NXT champion. Although it isn’t time for Kai to have her run with the belt, a program with Shirai should lead to some compelling matches, providing Kai a chance to show she belongs on the top of the card.

Both Kai and Nox should eventually have a run with the belt, and it would make sense if Nox wins the belt from Kai.

****

Finn Balor also defeated Damian Priest in what is likely the best wrestling match Priest has ever been a part of in his career.

The Balor-Priest match reached an incredibly high, elite level, and now serves as a new in-ring standard for Priest.

“Damian Priest had a star-making performance tonight,” said Levesque. “It takes guys a while. He’s been handed the ball here more than he’s ever been handed it anywhere before. I think, at some points in time, being handed that ball was a little overwhelming to him. Tonight was the first time I felt like he really performed and gave me him, and just let it go and was just there.

“He was feeling it, he was in the moment, he was there. He wasn’t overthinking, he was just performing in the moment and it was real. Tonight was the night for me I felt like Damian Priest arrived. That’s the Damian Priest I wanted, and I can build on that. He had that star-making moment, and now it’s up to us and up to him to capitalize on that and giving us that.”

Formerly known as Punishment Martinez, Priest had a match with New Japan star Tomohiro Ishii in 2018 that stood out, but this was even better. Balor, of course, is also a New Japan alum, and he is so talented at making his opponents, especially a giant like Priest, shine throughout the match.

Balor winning is the right call. He is too big a star to lose this early in the program, but it is worth questioning if he should even be part of NXT. Balor belongs on Raw chasing Drew McIntyre and the WWE championship, and he would be even more dynamic leading his own villainous faction. But that role is being played by Seth Rollins, and Balor was brought to NXT by Paul Levesque to add star power in a weekly battle against All Elite Wrestling.

“Finn’s one of those guys that is so consistently good that you just come to this level of expectation of he’s going to deliver this great match for you,” said Levesque. “When it’s great, you almost say, ‘Yeah, that’s Finn,’ and it loses that specialness. He’s so consistently good, and he was incredible tonight.”

In its prior form, NXT was a blend of developmental and a place where stars could sharpen their teeth. That has changed with the pressures and expectations of live weekly television. Since Balor is in NXT, the only natural step is to challenge Adam Cole for the NXT title.

****

TakeOver: In Your House showcased why NXT is such a dynamic brand. Though the card could have benefitted from a tag team title match, it delivered all of the signature elements of the brand and continued to build Keith Lee as well as established Karrion Kross as a viable threat.

Adam Cole remains the world champion, and it will be very interesting to see which direction he goes next, especially considering he would be a perfect fit on SmackDown. And even if she didn’t pin Charlotte Flair to do it, Io Shirai is the new NXT Women’s Champion, adding a new title to her collection and providing a long-awaited opportunity for her to further elevate women’s wrestling in NXT.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.