Posted May 20th, 2017 by Bill Apter

By Don Murphy

Anyone who’s been a fan of professional wrestling for any length of time knows that the business goes through a series of ebbs and flows. A perfect example is the NXT brand, as it’s introduced us to many talents who, today, are headlining Raw and Smackdown Live. Names such as Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura, have all passed through NXT and established a separate, if not better, style of wrestling. Over the past year, NXT has experienced a bit of a lull, but has started to heat up again during the first half of 2017. That momentum continues on Saturday night, as NXT presents “Takeover Chicago,” emanating from the Allstate Arena. On paper, this is a slightly above average show; however, there are several intriguing stories at play that will make for an interesting show. First – can Hideo Itami, a performer with tremendous potential and a solid resume, finally emerge as a main event player, after being plagued with injuries over the past two years? Is there someone in the women’s division who is ready to take their skills to the next level, with Asuka dominating the group and Ember Moon out with an injury? Can the Authors of Pain finally earn the respect of the hardcore NXT fans and be considered a high caliber tag team? And, can UK talents Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, continue to set high expectations for the upcoming UK-based show on the WWE Network? All in all, it should be an exciting night. Let’s run down the card….

Main Event: Bobby Roode defends the NXT Championship against Hideo Itami

Analysis: When Shinsuke Nakamura left NXT to join the Smackdown brand, everyone wondered who would be featured in the next big title feud with Bobby Roode. Right now, it seems that the spot is being primed for Drew McIntyre, but before we get there, the creative team has done a great job in seeding the upper mid-card with credible contenders. First on the list is Hideo Itami. Since joining NXT, his US career hasn’t really taken off, due to a series of injuries. Nevertheless, he has the talent and the fans clearly want to rally behind him. In particular, I like how they’ve told the story, leading into this match, of the over-confident Roode getting bested by Itami every time they meet. Overall, I think Itami’s moveset will match up nicely against Roode’s slow and steady approach to produce a high-quality match. In the end, I don’t think it will be Itami’s night, but if he can stay healthy, this match can help solidify him as someone who belongs at the top of the card.

Murphy Predicts: Bobby Roode retains the NXT Championship

Triple Threat Match for the NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot

Analysis: In a way, the Ember Moon injury was a blessing in disguise. You never want to see anyone injured, but this forced the creative team to put the Moon-Asuka feud on hold for the time being, while letting the controversial finish to their last match settle and slowly build to the rematch, instead of introducing it prematurely. While I don’t see a scenario where Asuka drops the title, her status as the dominant champion gives Cross and Riot a nice platform to showcase their talents and continue their feud on a bigger stage. Cross has some great potential. Her presence and promo style has been excellent, and her in-ring work has been steadily improving, despite limited appearances. Riot is also a solid hand, though admittedly, I don’t have a clear sense of her acumen and depth as a character. Hopefully, this match will help give me a better idea of where she is and her potential moving forward.

Murphy Predicts: Asuka retains the NXT Women’s Championship

NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The Authors of Pain defend the NXT Tag Team Championship against #DIY in a Ladder Match

Analysis: With the news of Tommaso Ciampa’s injury this week, this match may change, though as of this writing, it’s still scheduled as advertised. That being said, I continue to say that the Authors don’t get the credit they deserve. Their in-ring presentation is still a work in progress, but with the right opponents, they are capable of having good matches, in addition to their incredible presence as monster heels. I don’t really see the need for a ladder in this match, as it’s not really part of the story, but this will be the focal point for some good spots during the match, and importantly, it provides a level of protection for whoever loses. In this case, I still say they are headed to an eventual feud between Ciampa and Gargano, which I think will continue to build as their frustration builds with each loss.

Murphy Predicts: The Authors of Pain retain the NXT Tag Team Championship

WWE United Kingdom Championship Match: Tyler Bate defends the WWE United Kingdom Championship against Pete Dunne

Analysis: After watching the UK tournament back in January, I am particularly looking forward to this match. Pete Dunne has so much potential, both as a performer and a heel character. While it’s early, he’s on my short list to be in the main event picture within the next five years. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve liked Bate’s run and I do think there’s a place for him on the card, but I think he needs a bit of character development. He’s a bit flat for the babyface character they want to portray him as, and his current style doesn’t lend itself to being a heel. There’s potential there, but he’d benefit from some more seasoning. I think this is the match where the title changes hands, as we will see what Pete Dunne can do as the face of the UK-brand, which is set to expand very shortly through a weekly show on the WWE Network.

Murphy Predicts: Pete Dunne wins the WWE United Kingdom Championship

Singles Match: Roderick Strong meets Eric Young

Analysis: One thing that NXT does better than the main roster is the way they introduce their performers to the audience. Up until now, aside from the fact that the fans only new Strong from his time in Ring of Honor, he really didn’t have an identity. We knew he was a great wrestler; we just didn’t have a reason to care. The short, documentary-style videos that aired over the last few weeks told a great story of struggle and triumph and gave us a reason to become invested in the character. Having him lose to Itami, while coming close to becoming the number one contender, was a nice touch and has left the fans compelled to see him climb the ladder again. He’s already had some interaction with Sanity, so this match is a natural fit, and Eric Young is the right opponent for Strong to start the slow build back to the top.

Murphy Predicts: Roderick Strong defeats Eric Young

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