Around the Loop: Baszler, Shirai Should Dominate NXT’s ‘TakeOver XXV’

NXT TakeOver XXV is happening Saturday night. There’s not a main roster PPV that weekend, either, so this will be the first standalone TakeOver since NXT’s inception. NXT cards are always strong, and the TakeOver XXV matches are no exception. Anything can happen, of course, but I’m putting my imaginary money on the Undisputed Era to dominate the show. Here’s a look at each of the five matches, including who I think will win, and why.

Matt Riddle v Roderick Strong – This non-title match between the Original Bro, Matt Riddle, and Undisputed Era member, Roderick Strong, has the potential to be a technical clinic. With his MMA background, Riddle has a strong overall style. He’s what the announce team refers to as a “submission specialist,” which always cracks me up. I’m going to start tweeting about things the announcers say that sound vaguely sexual, but aren’t. Riddle’s finisher, a sidelock called the Bromission, is a fierce move. That’s not to say Riddle’s bad on his bare feet, though. With his long legs, Riddle’s superkicks and running knee moves are devastating. If Roderick Strong is going to have a chance against Riddle, he’s going to have to get Riddle out of his own rhythm. Strong, known as the Messiah of the Backbreaker, likes to drive his knee into the spine of his opponents. He’s also fond of slamming people down onto the ring apron. The apron, by the way, is “the hardest part of the ring,” according to the commentators. Heh. Hardest. There’s no gold on the line here, but it’s going to be a tremendous match, nonetheless. Prediction: Strong defeats Riddle, for reasons that will become clear later.

Vacant NXT Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: The Undisputed Era v The Street Profits v The Forgotten Sons v Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch – Since the Viking War Machine Raiding Experience abdicated their titles, the battle over who gets to hold that sweet NXT tag team title gold has been pretty heated. Going by scrappiness alone, Lorcan and Burch deserve to win. They’re not pretty but, given the right circumstances, they could legitimately beat the hell out of most of their opponents. The Forgotten Sons have beards. That’s about the best thing I can say about them. The Street Profits are fan favorites, and they know how to get the crowd pumped up. Dawkins and Ford are the Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince of NXT, a scrawny guy and a muscular dude who can get the job done. But the gold is going to go back to Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish of the Undisputed Era. There are two reasons for this. First off, this is a no disqualification ladder match. That’s perfect for a heel faction like the UE. It won’t surprise me a bit to see their compadrés, Adam Cole and Roderick Strong, run into the ring and help secure their victory. Secondly, it’s the Undisputed Era’s night. They said they would be dripping with gold in 2019. That starts at TakeOver XXV. Heel champs are amazing! More about that later.

NXT North American Championship Match: Velveteen Dream (c) v Tyler Breeze – Prince Pretty is officially back in NXT, and I could not be more thrilled. Not only is his character a hoot, but Breeze is great in the ring. He knows when to ham it up and when to hammer it home. Placing him against the vainglorious Velveteen Dream in a title match is fantastic booking. Their personas are similar. Their popularity with the fans is about equal. Dream, however, is the more flamboyant of the two. He always looks surprised when he wins. His finishing move, the Dream Valley Driver, is a marvelous thing to watch. Dream is one of NXT’s top performers, so he’ll lose his title to Breeze. That will be disappointing to fans of the Velveteen Dream but think of the feud that will ensue. It’s going to be nothing but masterful promos, bitchslaps, and a rematch in Toronto that will blow the doors off the place.

NXT Women’s Championship Match: Shayna Baszler (c) v Io Shirai – Baszler is the baddest bitch in the company. With her former MMA friends, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, they have been running the women’s division at NXT like Jack Hill characters. Leather jackets, heavy metal, and Baszler’s vicious Kirifuda Clutch finisher all make Baszler one to be feared. Io Shirai recently lost her tag partner, Kairi Sane, to the main roster. Her newest buddy, Candice LeRae, did some fantastic work in the indies with Joey Ryan, but has yet to really prove herself in NXT. She’s best known as Johnny Gargano’s wife. I only bring LeRae, Duke, and Shafir up because they’ll play a role in this match. The real thing to look for here, though, is the differing styles of Baszler and Shirai. Shirai likes to jump off the top rope and flatten her opponent. Baszler prefers the ground and pound (heh) approach. Despite my unabashed love for the Undisputed Era, this could very well be the match of the night. But, I don’t think it’s time for Baszler to lose the title yet. Not to Shirai, at least. It’s going to be one hell of a bout, but Baszler will retain her title.

NXT Championship Match: Johnny Gargano (c) v Adam Cole – In 2018, Johnny Gargano had one of the greatest character arcs I’ve ever seen. His battles with and against Tommasso Ciampa are classics. That’s why I was disappointed when that arc was forced to end quickly because of Ciampa’s neck injury. Gargano is a good guy now? Really? I have to be honest. I don’t trust him. He’s squiffy. Cole, on the other hand, is born to be bad. He is everything Shawn Michaels wanted to be. Cole is vicious, his promos are clever, and the guy can go. Both performers are going to give the crowd their money’s worth, but I predict Cole coming out the winner. As I said before, it’s going to be the Undisputed Era’s night. With Adam Cole as NXT champ, O’Reilly and Fish as tag champs, and Roderick Strong as, well, Roderick Strong, the UE will be back in full heel form. Can’t you just smell the arrogance now? Besides, when we finally get Gargano v Cole 3, there’s going to be so much heat, you could bake a pizza by setting it in front of your television.

See, this is all leading up to the day when top NXT talent gets sucked up by the main roster vacuum. Not only do the performers have to be ready for that day, but so does the audience. While I doubt that the top talent is leaving yet, that day is coming, and it’s usually around SummerSlam. Enjoy these folks doing what they do in a great environment while you can.

Will NXT’s TakeOver XXV be better than AEW’s Double or Nothing? How the hell should I know? They’re two different companies with two vastly different philosophies. So, your answer to that question is yes and no. It’s going to be a fantastic NXT show, but we just haven’t seen enough AEW to make a proper comparison. If there is any blood at TakeOver XXV, it will be accidental. Nobody will be blading like Dustin Rhodes obviously was in Vegas. But NXT will still show the world why they’re the best brand under the WWE umbrella. Besides: Baszler v Shirai? The thought gives me happy chills.

NXT’s TakeOver XXV will be presented on the WWE Network Saturday, June 1, at 7 PM EST.

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