NXT TakeOver: Chicago in review: Same old story

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Asuka‘s tight grip on the championship has sent a once thriving division into complete chaos. Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, and Ruby Riot were the last beacons of hope to stop Asuka’s reign of terror.

However, Ember withdrew from a hotly anticipated Fatal Four Way set for TakeOver: Chicago due to injury, leaving Nikki and Ruby to take their rivalry to the next level and show Asuka that there’s still competition left in the Women’s Division.

Before we get to our Triple Threat, Ember joins the pre-show team to talk about her disappointment in being unable to compete in the match:

She talks about her injury, saying she’s thankful she won’t be out for six months (which hopefully that mention of a time frame is work!). The broadcast team asks her who she’d like to face for the title and she says it doesn’t matter and whoever the victor is will have to deal with Ember Moon. She says she will get her retribution on Asuka.

Now onto our triple threat match!:

Asuka and Nikki start the match off hot. It’s not before long that Ruby steps back into the ring after being thrown out by Nikki and a hip attack. Ruby and Asuka go toe to toe, with Ruby taking Asuka’s offense well, never backing down or gassing out quickly.

Ruby tosses Asuka out of the ring, but as Ruby prepares to fly, Nikki comes barging in and throws Ruby off her feet. They take their fight to the outside where Ruby hits Asuka in the face with a forearm. Nikki takes out Ruby from behind right after.

As the women fight, we go to a shot of Ember in a sky box watching the match. Ruby and Nikki get back into the ring and Nikki pummels Ruby with a flurry of offense. Asuka makes her way back to the ring from the top rope. She takes down Nikki with a missile dropkick. She lands on Ruby in the process. Ruby rolls out of the ring, leaving Nikki and Asuka to battle.

Asuka strikes Nikki repeatedly with kicks but Nikki bounces back with a hard hit of her own to Asuka’s midsection. She hits a neckbreaker and tries to get a three count. Asuka kicks out. Nikki just sits up and laughs. Asuka hits Nikki with another stiff hit and a codebreaker to create seperation. Ruby runs into the ring, striking Asuka with her own kicks. Asuka catches Ruby’s leg and lifts her up for a powerbomb.

Asuka transitions from the powerbomb into an ankle lock. As Ruby scrambles to break out, Nikki comes into the ring and breaks up the hold by scratching her nails down Asuka’s back. She starts fighting Asuka but Asuka knocks her back. Ruby enters the fray and gets knocked back. Asuka charges at Nikki but Nikki opens the ropes and Asuka falls out of the ring.

Nikki and Ruby scrap for a bit before Asuka comes in. Asuka attempts to slam Ruby into the top turnbuckle but Ruby reverses it into a Ruby-canrana. Ruby then slams Nikki’s face into the middle turnbuckle with her knees.

Asuka comes back in and hits Ruby. But it’s not long before Nikki throws her out again. Nikki aims to take out Asuka from the ring apron but she jumps into Asuka’s knee instead. Ruby comes flying outside the ring and takes out Asuka. She throws Nikki back into the ring and jumps off the top rope for a senton.

Asuka jumps in to interrupt a three count and stars suplexing her opponents. Ruby gets up and kicks Nikki, allowing Asuka to hit a suplex and then walk right into another kick by Ruby.

Ruby goes up for a senton right into the Asuka Lock. Nikki, with a splash from out of nowhere, breaks up the pin. Nikki then trips Asuka up in the ring apron and beats her up with stiff punches. She then drags Asuka into the ring and grounds her with an avalanche neckbreaker. Ruby rushes in and they both flatten each other with crossbodies.

Asuka starts shaking her head, screaming. Nikki and Ruby team up to clothesline her out of the ring. They then focus on each other before Asuka makes her way in, hitting a shining wizard on Ruby. She pins both women to retain the championship.

After the match an interviewer meets up with Asuka:

Asuka says no one can stand toe-to-toe with her.

Thoughts: My initial feelings about the match last night were that something didn’t click with all three women, the match seemed slow in some places and there looked to be some miscommunication between the competitors and Asuka in spots. However, upon second viewing, things meshed well slightly better and the near-falls kept coming as the match climaxed and wound down, allowing Nikki and Ruby to focus on taking each other out while making sure Asuka was subdued.

Nikki and Ruby had to take each other out for Asuka to even retain her championship here. That’s a fairly fine story for the match up, despite our narrative continuing to be the worn out “Who can beat Asuka?” and “No one is ready for Asuka.” Even though with each match, Asuka continues to show vulnerabilities now, making the audience, and me, to hope someone is about to get that win.

Ruby continues to impress the hell out of me. She looked the strongest here taking Asuka’s beating. She could believably have a one on one match up because she never crumbled from Asuka’s hits at all, she was always up shortly after. Her strength and her move set is so unique, I’m wondering where she goes from here.

I, disappointingly, expected some more from Nikki. I really wanted her to throw out something completely insane. Instead we got several versions of neckbreakers and brawling. I understand she’s an uncontrolled, crazy mess but, I want her to be so much more ruthless. She needs to incorporate more devastating hits, like that ring apron beating, and power moves. She doesn’t have to be a toned down female Dean Ambrose, who I think is sloppy as hell. I know she can work and I know she has a repertoire of varying moves, she should be able to use them.

It was a nice touch having Ember watch from the sidelines. I’m really hoping she’s not out for six months and that mention was just a work to worry us. I’m not sure if the division can handle being mishandled for that long while we wait for Ember to heal.

Asuka’s reign to me is tired at this point. I’m still a fan of her and her work. I praise her all the time here, but, it’s the booking that has completely destroyed the women’s division’s credibility at this point. What is the point here anymore? We all know that Ember is going to unseat her and if it’s not Ember, it’ll be someone from the Women’s Tournament. Where does Asuka go after she’s finally defeated? I don’t trust creative to actually handle broken Asuka the right way.

I know she can stand a loss and I know that it will be marvelous to see an Asuka hell bent on getting back her championship. That’s a story that needs to be told, that’s a narrative Asuka can work well and make it entertaining for the whole division. It would be interesting to see the fallout and how the rest of the women in the division will feel after seeing her fall from grace.

At this point NXT just needs to completely start over and learn how to write an actual compelling story again while developing actual characters with deeper motivations.

What did you think about last night’s match? Where does the division go from here? How would you book it? Sound off in the comments below.