The preview for tonight’s ‘go home’ show for NXT TakeOver Philadelphia is a little on the minimalist side. Johnny Gargano has put his number one contender’s spot on the line against Velveteen Dream. The winner of that match will face Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas on Saturday night. No Way Jose returns to an NXT ring, against Cezar Bononi. And that’s it for the pre-announced matches. The preview alludes to pre-TakeOver fireworks between opponents, but that’s a given. As the card is currently only four matches, we should also get another match announcement.
No Way Jose def Cezar Bononi
Bianca Belair def Latoya Allsopp
Johnny Gargano def Velveteen Dream
The show opened with Velveteen Dream, with his back to camera, calling for ambience (music), atmosphere (purple light and a smoke machine), and illumination. Still with his back to camera he said, ‘we all dream of being NXT champion one day, life juust allows us to experience different paths’. Eventually, he turned around and addressed his comments to Johnny Gargano – He doesn’t doubt that Gargano is a superstar who will one day become NXT champion, but not yet. Not when the choice is between him and The Velveteen Dream. Gargano’s rise was tainted in doubt, but Velveteen’s experience was pure. No matter how the pieces fall, a dream will be over.
I think I just about got that. How about you?
No Way Jose vs Cezar Bononi
No Way Jose to open the show. Not sure there are many better at getting the crowd hyped up. Cezar Bononi is another one for the list of sadly underutilised and underappreciated. Mind you, No Way Jose may well be on that list too.
Short, fun, but unremarkable match. It would probably have been superb if it had been longer than three minutes. No Way Jose won with the pop up punch.
Hype package next, for the extreme rules TakeOver match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole. I wonder if Black will be able to pull of another match of the year contender, like he had with Velveteen Dream. Guessing this one will be a lot more brutal, but it could be the match of the night.
Bianca Belair vs Latoya Allsopp
Belair is very well thought of, and rightly so, she’s going to be a major star, but I still don’t like the hair thing. It was Allsopp’s debut. Apparently, she has a distinguished resume, and over ten years’ experience, but she was mainly there to make Belair look good.
It wasn’t quite a squash. Allsopp got enough offence in to make her look tough enough to make Belair look even tougher. She took the hair whip as she came off the second turnbuckle, and that was the end of her fight. Bianca Belair picked her up and dumped her face-first into the mat, then pinned her.
Next, we got Percy Watson conducting a sit-down interview with Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler. He asked Moon why she called Baszler out. Moon never took her eyes of Shayna Baszler while she explained it’s because Baszler is just a bully, and suggested she’s compensating because she knows she can’t cut it any other way. Baszler said it was just a strategy, to try to make Moon take the bait, and it worked. Ember Moon said she knew what, but she had a responsibility to the division to deal with her. She might have taken short cuts but she promises Baszler won’t be taking the title home at TakeOver.
Baszler responded that Moon had achieved her dreams, and that was great. But she didn’t care if anyone knew the path she took to get here, she’s worked just as hard as Moon, and after TakeOver, she is going to walk away with Moon’s dreams. They stood up and went practically nose to nose while Baszler was asked what she wanted the NXT universe to know. She said she didn’t care what they think of her of how she got there, they’re just going to have to get used to her being there.
The second half of the TM61 package started last week next up. It focused a lot of Shane Thorne’s injury, and how they plan to come back better than ever. Another very good job by WWE. These guys are easy to like, and I’d like to think they’ll play an important role in the tag division going forward.
Authors of Pain vs Damien Smith & Chris Chase Brown,
Quick little squash match for Authors of Pain. They didn’t even wait for the match to start. They destroyed their opponents, stopped to cut a promo on Undisputed ERA, and then destroyed them a bit more. There was no bell, and so no count, but that didn’t matter. Smith and Chase Brown weren’t getting up.
Lacey Evans said some less than complimentary things about Nikki Cross last week. Next week, Cross gets a chance to make her feelings about them clear, in the ring.
Johnny Gargano vs Velveteen Dream
What an excellent match this was. It makes you hope that Johnny Gargano will be Velveteen Dream’s next obsession. I was quite prepared not to like Velveteen Dream as a character. I’d have been happy to dismiss him as style over substance, or gimmick over talent. I would have been massively wrong. He’s just 22 years old, and he’s so very good. But Johnny Gargano isn’t nicknamed Johnny Wrestling for nothing.
There were duelling chants through the match, which shows how far Velveteen Dream has come in a relatively short space of time. The match against Aleister Black at TakeOver WarGames made him.
Both Gargano and Velveteen are hugely talented, and they’re both storytellers. This was youth versus experience, and confidence versus determination. At one point a ‘fight forever’ chant broke out, and ‘NXT’ chants kept rippling through, as Velveteen Dream and Johnny Gargano threw ever more impressive moves at each other, and kept kicking out. Commentary were so excited by it all they were in danger of going supersonic.
Exhaustion was setting in, and Velveteen Dream was guarding his left arm. He went to the tope turnbuckle, but Gargano countered the Purple-Rainmaker, then managed to hit a superkick and lock in the Gargano Escape. Velveteen Dream tapped out, and Johnny Gargano will go on to face Almas at TakeOver.
Post-match Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega came to the ring. Almas held the belt up in Gargano’s face, then handed it to Vega and tried to attack Gargano, who was ready for it. They brawled, he threw Gargano out of the ring, then posed. Johnny Gargano didn’t stay down. While Almas was posing, he climbed back onto the apron, then kicked Almas in the head, and hit him with a slingshot DDT.
While Zelina Vega screamed at ringside, Johnny Gargano lifted the NXT Championship belt (isn’t it supposed to be bad luck to touch the title before winning it?) and lifted it above his head.
This was a bit pedestrian for a go home show, there were no major shenanigans barring the last three minutes of the episode. And I’m really surprised there hasn’t been a fifth match set. When you take a look at the card, there is nothing which is obviously going to be long enough for them to break the five match format.
If you don’t have time to watch anything else, try to check out the main event. Johnny Gargano is a superstar, and Velveteen Dream has an incredible future ahead of him. That was one of the best matches on an NXT episode in a long time.
NXT TakeOver Philadelphia – Card so far
Anrdade ‘Cien’ Almas, with Zelina Vega vs Johnny Gargano – NXT Championship match
Ember Moon (C) vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
Undisputed ERA vs Authors of Pain, with Paul Ellering – NXT Tag Team Championship match
Aleister Black vs Adam Cole – Extreme Rules match
Make sure you come back to Rear View Reviews tomorrow, for the full NXT TakeOver Philadelphia preview.