NXT TakeOver: In Your House was a night with a couple of surprising outcomes -- none more so than Io Shirai's walking out Sunday night as the new NXT women's champion.
Just two months after Charlotte Flair walked into WrestleMania 36 and dethroned Rhea Ripley as champion, Shirai beat both women in the main event of TakeOver and reshaped the landscape at the top of the NXT women's division.
It was the only title change of the night, as Adam Cole and Keith Lee successfully defended their titles against Velveteen Dream and Johnny Gargano, respectively, but in an equally surprising moment, Karrion Kross continued his monumental leap forward by quickly dispatching Tommaso Ciampa.
Sean Coyle covered it all in real time, with a rating that breaks down each match on a 0-to-5 scale.
(c) - Indicates defending champion
NXT women's championship: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley
When Charlotte Flair returned to NXT and won the NXT women's championship for the second time, her trajectory was unclear. Was she back for a long run to help elevate the next generation of women, or was it a matter of sharpening herself against only the best of what that brand has to offer?
Nothing is set in stone, but whatever Flair does from here on out won't be as NXT women's champion, as Io Shirai won the title by outlasting both Flair and Rhea Ripley in the main event of NXT TakeOver: In Your House.
After the bell rang, Flair rolled to the outside of the ring and allowed Ripley and Shirai to start things off, but it was a facade. Flair returned to the ring within seconds and began to dominate. She caught Ripley with a neckbreaker and Shirai with a fallaway slam and proceeded to chop them both. Flair dominated on the outside of the ring as well, sending both of her challengers into the barricade.
Back inside the ring, she continued to get the better of Shirai and locked her in a lion tamer version of the Boston crab. Ripley had seen enough and charged the ring, getting the better of the champ, which opened the door for Shirai to recover. Each superstar got her licks in as momentum swung in every direction.
Flair hit a double spear onto both challengers. Ripley slammed Flair face-first to the mat. Shirai delivered an excellent springboard dropkick to Ripley. As Shirai was focused on Ripley, however, Flair caught Shirai with the Natural Selection, which led to a near-fall. Flair followed that with a Figure-8 attempt on Shirai, but Ripley pulled Flair to the outside of the ring, where the two battled until Shirai stormed in with a suicide dive to Ripley.
The battle continued up the ramp toward the entrance set, where Flair tossed Shirai through the window structure attached to the In Your House set. Shirai wasn't off-screen for long, though, and after the cameras cut back to the roof of the set, Shirai connected with a cross-body onto both Flair and Ripley.
Back inside the ring, Ripley was seconds from winning the championship after hitting the Riptide off the second rope to Flair, but Shirai was there to break up the pinfall attempt.
An angry Flair snagged a kendo stick from under the ring and wailed on both Ripley and Shirai before locking in another Figure-8, this time on Ripley. Just as it seemed that Ripley was about to tap out, Shirai made her way to the rope, landed a moonsault onto Ripley -- landing on Ripley's face -- and pinned Ripley while Flair still had her legs tangled up in the submission attempt.
What's next? The most logical direction would be a singles rivalry between Shirai and Flair, unless Flair's on an immediate trip back to Raw. Given that Flair was not a factor in tonight's decision, a rematch should be on the horizon.
Karrion Kross def. Tommaso Ciampa
Karrion Kross made a name for himself outside the WWE, and he has already made a considerable impact in the early stages of his NXT run. Sunday's match was unquestionably the most important one of his career to date.
Kross found himself across the ring from one of the pillars of NXT, Tommaso Ciampa, and made a tremendous statement by dispatching the former NXT champion without much trouble.
Ciampa and Kross sized each other up at the start and traded strikes, but a Kross suplex shifted the advantage his way. Kross created even more distance on the outside of the ring when he lifted Ciampa by the neck with both hands and slammed Ciampa back-first onto the edge of the ring.
Kross continued to dominate back inside the ring with a bevy of suplexes. However, seemingly out of nowhere, an aggressive Ciampa began to execute his comeback via quick strikes and a draping DDT, but that comeback didn't last long. As he attempted to connect with the Fairy Tale ending, Kross reversed it into a modified F-5 followed by his straight jacket guillotine choke -- and just like that, it was over.
What a night for Kross. In a short amount of time, he displayed natural command in the ring and an impressive moveset, and he defeated one of the faces of NXT.
What's next? The rise of Kross should continue. It's only a matter of time before he finds himself near the top of the heap on Wednesday nights.
Backlot brawl for the NXT championship: Adam Cole (c) vs. Velveteen Dream
What a run it has been for the leader of the Undisputed Era. Adam Cole is the longest reigning NXT champion in history, with more than a year on top. With his victory over Velveteen Dream at TakeOver: In Your House, that run doesn't appear to be on its last legs by any means.
Dream has had quite an NXT career himself, and despite his popularity shooting sky-high, culminating with a North American championship reign, the NXT championship seems like a fading possibility. After Sunday's loss, he can't challenge for the NXT championship as long as Cole is holding the belt.
The backlot brawl wasn't quite as dramatic or over-the-top a setting as the cinematically styled matches that preceded it, but they certainly leaned into the scenery. Cole entered the parking lot, which led to a ring surrounded by cars, in an Undisputed Era-themed monster truck. Dream drove a yellow Lamborghini and dressed as the iconic Negan from "The Walking Dead."
Dream attempted some quick pinfall attempts to begin the match, but he wasn't going to put the champ away that early. A frustrated Cole attempted to leave in a nearby car, but Dream began to smash the car with a baseball bat. As they slugged it out, in a bit of comic relief, a random car drove up and asked the combatants if either of them ordered an Uber.
Cole was able to create some distance between him and Dream when he tossed Dream into a nearby steel post. The champ's next move was to play a bit of hide and seek. He snuck into a building, and as Dream opened the door, he used a fire extinguisher on him.
The pair eventually made their way back to the ringside area, where Dream brought a ladder into the equation, and as Cole laid on top of a car, Dream ascended the ladder. However, as Dream neared the top, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish drove up and attempted to distract Dream. Cole climbed up the other side of the ladder but was pushed down and landed on the windshield of the same car, shattering it.
From there, Cole's comrades ambushed Dream and tossed steel chairs inside the ring, but they were surprised by Dexter Lumis, who was hiding under the ring, steel chair in hand. He attacked Strong and Fish with the chairs, locked them in the trunk of a car and drove off.
Back inside the ring, Dream reversed Cole's Panama Sunrise attempt into a Dream Valley Driver and followed with a Purple Rainmaker elbow drop off the top rope. He then connected with Cole, who was sitting upright on a chair. That wasn't enough to win the title. Cole responded with a low blow and hit the Panama Sunrise onto the chairs to retain his NXT championship.
What's next? Cole's historic title reign continues, and many potential contenders are waiting in the wings. Perhaps Balor could throw his name in the hat after an impressive victory tonight. For Dream, it could be a call to Raw or SmackDown, or else it's back to the drawing board.
NXT North American championship: Keith Lee (c) def. Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano's heel run alongside his wife, Candice LeRae, has been incredibly entertaining, and after setting the bar for what he can do as a bad guy against Tommaso Ciampa, Gargano turned his attention to Keith Lee and a second North American championship reign.
The result was a tremendously entertaining clash of styles, and despite Lee's retention of the title, it seems like their story is far from over.
Lee illustrated his immense power advantage early and often in tossing Gargano around, but Gargano squirmed out of predicaments time and again, resorting to gouging eyes and targeting Lee's fingers on multiple occasions and building on previous damage inflicted.
Gargano picked his spots. Anytime he had a chance to inflict some damage on the big man, he did. He hit an enziguri, stepped on Lee's hand and continually connected with strikes to Lee's injured eye. Gargano maintained that advantage throughout a good portion of the middle stages of the match.
Lee's comeback was right around the corner, and it began with a modified neckbreaker in which he slammed Gargano's neck onto his knee. Even more impressively, after Gargano reversed a spirit bomb attempt into an arm bar, Lee managed to lift him with one arm, slam him to the mat and nail Gargano with a monster clothesline.
Gargano's psychology game was on point, though, and seemingly every time Lee attempted a power move, Gargano ripped and tore at the injured hand of Lee. Gargano's reversals were excellent in the match, highlighted by his reversing of Lee's Big Bang Catastrophe power slam into a small package for a very close near fall. Shortly after that, Gargano turned a suicide dive to the outside of the ring into a tornado DDT on the champ.
However, after Lee recovered, he body-checked Gargano through the plexiglass that surrounded the ring in what was one the best spots of the match. As Lee carried Gargano toward the ring, Candice LeRae stepped in and attempted to stop him, but Lee's significant other, Mia Yim, was right behind her and chased LeRae off. The distraction allowed Gargano to gouge Lee's eye with a key and connect with his slingshot DDT, but neither that nor the ensuing superkicks was enough to put Lee away.
The resilient Lee responded with a spirit bomb, another power bomb and his Big Bang Catastrophe power slam for the win.
What's next? Although a clean win would appear to give both Lee and Gargano a chance to head in separate directions, there's almost certainly a mixed tag match including LeRae and Yim to come.
Finn Balor def. Damian Priest
After being revealed as Finn Balor's sneak attacker, Damian Priest entered Sunday's TakeOver looking for the biggest win of his NXT career. Although Priest wasn't able to capture the North American championship in two attempts in the past few months, a win vs. Balor could propel him back into a championship conversation.
Balor wasted no time getting things going, as he charged and connected with a dropkick to Priest right out of the gate. After maintaining that advantage for a minute or two, a reversed Irish whip into the steel ring steps outside of the ring turned the tide, and Priest was suddenly in control.
Priest proceeded to hit a side slam onto the edge of the ring while standing on the ring steps to gain leverage and showed no signs of slowing down, with both an elevated flatliner and a nice-looking, leaping reverse elbow. Balor did enough to stay in the match, despite getting caught with a falcon arrow and connected frequently with strikes, but Priest continued to bring the offense and impressively executed a razor's edge to Balor onto the edge of the ring and the bottom rope.
Balor continued to battle back, but Priest was the one connecting with the high-impact moves, including a modified top rope choke slam. But Balor simply wouldn't quit. The turning point of the match saw Balor nail Priest with a forearm that sent Priest tumbling to the outside onto the steel ring steps. As Priest crawled back into the ring, Balor connected with a Coup de Grace on the back of Priest and followed it with a second on Priest's midsection to pick up the victory.
What's next? While a win over Balor would have put Priest in a championship conversation, it's Balor who is in that conversation now.
Mia Yim, Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox def. Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai and Raquel González
This match featured several rivalries crossing over at once, and there's no denying the overall level of talent in the match. Mia Yim and Candice LeRae have been at each other's throats as their significant others, Johnny Gargano and Keith Lee, face off for the NXT North American championship. Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox have butted heads with Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez on recent episodes of NXT TV.
There was no sticking to natural rivalries, though each of those sequences was particularly charged. Gonzalez illustrated her strength advantage early on, getting the better of both Yim and Nox. After a tag, Kai and Nox took center stage to continue their long-standing rivalry with some nicely timed sequences.
Frequent tags and drastic swings in momentum were the stories of the night -- until they took to the skies. After Blackheart was caught out of midair by Gonzalez after attempting a suicide dive, Yim, LeRae and Nox connected with various planchas to the outside of the ring.
Yim and LeRae had a nice exchange in which Yim connected with a beautiful dragon suplex, but their battle got so intense that they tussled with each other all the way backstage, which left us with a standard, two-on-two tag team bout.
That opened the door for Nox and Blackheart to gain leverage, culminating with Nox hitting her patented shiniest wizard knee strike onto heated rival Kai for the pinfall victory.
What's next? The Yim-LeRae conflict should continue in the coming weeks, but with a definitive win for Nox over Kai, perhaps they'll finally go their separate ways. There are certainly plenty of options with a deep NXT women's division.