The sun has set on the summer of Keith Lee.
At least, that is, in NXT.
Karrion Kross defeated Lee in the main event of NXT TakeOver XXX, becoming the new NXT Champion. Lee’s reign did not even last two months, and he went from wearing both the NXT title and the North American belt in July to holding neither in August. The defeat fuels further speculation he is headed to either Raw or SmackDown, perhaps as soon as Sunday at SummerSlam. And despite only being with the company since February, Kross now takes his place as the face of Wednesday nights for NXT.
Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who oversees the NXT brand, spoke to members of the media following TakeOver, discussing Kross’ ascent as well as the decision to continue the main event after Kross endured a shoulder injury midway through the match.
“We’ll get him an MRI, but right now, it looks like he separated his shoulder somewhere in that match,” said Levesque. “I knew he was hurt, he wanted to continue, and our medical team felt like he could continue. He’s tough. When your shoulder is separated like that, it’s not easy and it’s very painful, but he got through it.”
In addition to Kross defeating Lee, results also included Io Shirai successfully defending the NXT Women’s Championship against Dakota Kai, Adam Cole defeating former NFL player Pat McAfee, Damian Priest winning the North American title in a five-man ladder match, and Finn Balor defeating Timothy Thatcher in a physical bout to open the card.
In a rare occurrence, TakeOver ran directly against AEW’s Dynamite, which aired on Saturday after being pre-empted earlier in the week due to the NBA playoffs. This meant that Brodie Lee defeated Cody Rhodes for the TNT Championship at the same time that NXT Women’s Championship match was starting.
The show took place at Full Sail University in Florida, providing a very different visual than the ThunderDome that WWE just debuted on Friday’s SmackDown. There was a different soundtrack to the event with lead commentator Mauro Ranallo missing the show, with Levesque stating to media that Ranallo “wasn’t available tonight.” Announcements were also made during the broadcast, with the return of Tommaso Ciampa officially set for this upcoming Wednesday’s edition of NXT, putting him in a position to challenge Kross, as well as the return of NXT UK this September.
The main event finished after Kross hit Lee with a Doomsday Saito Suplex from the second rope, and TakeOver went off the air with Kross and Scarlett Bordeaux celebrating the win. Kross, who has wrestled around the globe but never been relied on as a top company’s leading figure, now has the opportunity he has long been seeking, permitting he is healthy enough to compete.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Levesque. “He’s ecstatic in the moment, this is a dream come true for both him and Scarlett. They have worked an entire career to get to this point. So for him to get to this moment [and suffer an injury], my heart breaks for him. But we’ll see where he’s at.”
Io Shirai’s match against Dakota Kai was another compelling argument as to why she is pound-for-pound the most talented wrestler in the world. She helped Kai deliver her best match yet in NXT, and the aftermath was also well-executed, as Rhea Ripley had a standoff with Raquel Gonzalez. We were then treated to a fantastic visual as Ripley stood in the background watching Shirai celebrate with the title that once belonged to her.
“I just thought Io and Dakota tore it up,” said Levesque. “They continued the legacy of NXT. The women in NXT go out there and raise the bar almost every time they’re in the ring. It’s hard for me to put in words how good the women’s division has been. It’s become the normal thing for the past 30 TakeOvers.”
Adam Cole delivered a fantastic performance against former NFL player Pat McAfee, ensuring that the wrestling rookie had an impressive showing in his debut. McAfee joins an impressive list of football players-turned-wrestlers, and he showcased talent and tenacity in the ring that could lead to more than just a one-off.
“Pat has every intention of doing this and not only being an NXT superstar, but when the time is right, a WWE superstar,” said Levesque. “He has a lot of other commitments, from his podcast to everything else he does, but he’s very serious about this. We’ll see where it goes. I don’t know what his future will be, but I will certainly say I do not believe, at all, that was the last time you’ll see Pat McAfee step through those ropes.
“And my hat is off to Adam Cole. There is a lot that goes into this. Adam is the consummate pro on every level, and he showed that again tonight.”
TakeOver events are always known for stars sitting ringside, and that was visible at TakeOver XXX with Sasha Banks and Bayley, along with Drew McIntyre and Cesaro, watching the show. The appearance by Banks and Bayley was especially meaningful, as the two set a new standard across wrestling at TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015 on a loaded card that included Balor, Kevin Owens, Jushin Thunder Liger, Apollo Crews, and Samoa Joe.
Levesque was asked by Sports Illustrated to touch on the meaning of Bayley and Banks, two stars that helped define NXT, choosing to attend TakeOver XXX.
“It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, if they’re in town, I know I will get a text from one of them saying, ‘Can we come by tonight?’” said Levesque. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, by the way, if you want to put us in the show, we’d love to do something, too.’ They just love this. Their passion to want to come here and contribute to the future of it, that just lights me up.”
Damian Priest took another step toward stardom, figuratively and literally climbing the ladder of success in a North American title ladder match that included Johnny Gargano, Bronson Reed in Bam Bam Bigelow-inspired gear, Velveteen Dream, and Cameron Grimes. Levesque noted that Priest is still far from a finished product, but he is pleased with the continual progress from the powerhouse.
“The last six months or so, he’s really come into his own,” said Levesque. “He’s not playing the role anymore. You can feel the authenticity, he’s being himself. It’s working, and he’s been on fire lately. Not to take away from anyone else in the match, but he’s earned the spot.”
In the opening match of the card, Timothy Thatcher delivered a phenomenal performance in a loss against Finn Balor, who has turned into NXT’s gatekeeper. Emerging stars need to prove their worth against Balor to solidify their spot on the card, which was the spot Priest was in at the previous TakeOver.
TakeOver XXX met NXT’s high standard of excellence. Although there were multiple standout performances, this will be remembered as the night Kross became the new NXT Champion.
“Congratulations to Kross on an epic beginning,” said Levesque. “He’s delivered on every level to get to this point. It sort of unraveled for him [with the shoulder injury], but he gutted through it.”