The pre-show panel for the biggest TakeOver of the year was Charly Caruso, Sam Roberts, and Pat McAfee. McAfee is new to the panel, but had a row with Adam Cole in the first twenty minutes of the show so we like him. They mentioned general manager William Regal was not present due to illness, hopefully nothing serious. Candice LeRae was a preshow guest, to talk about Johnny Gargano’s unsanctioned match with Tommaso Ciampa. She was excellent. I truly can’t wait for her to get established in the women’s division in her own right. Drew McIntyre was also a panel guest. He said he’s going to take Almas’ head when he comes back. He doesn’t care who wins, he’s going for Almas first but, if Black wins, he’ll go for him next and they’ll take the feud around the world. The rest of the show was just chat and the usual, superbly done, hype packages for the card.
Adam Cole def Ricochet, Velveteen Dream, Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, and EC3
Shayna Baszler def Ember Moon
Undisputed ERA def Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong, and Authors of Pain
Aleister Black def Andrade Cien Almas
Johnny Gargano def Tommaso Ciampa
A live performance by Cane Hill opened the show, with enough camera cuts and strobe lights to make you feel properly dizzy. No rousing speeches or intro this time, straight into the ladder match. Nigel McGuinness, Mauro Ranallo, and Percy Watson were on commentary for the show.
EC3 vs Killian Dain vs Adam Cole vs Lars Sullivan vs Velveteen Dream vs Ricochet -Ladder match for the North American Championship
There were an extraordinary number of highlights in this match. It really was sensational. Here are just a few of the big moments (and the review is still too long).
The first move of the match was for EC3 to roll out of the ring, then Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole threw Ricochet out. Huge crowd reactions for the newcomers, but Ricochet got the biggest ovation of all. His first big move was to launch himself off the top turnbuckle and flip onto Sullivan and Dain.
Let’s face it, the entire premise of this match is set up to showcase Ricochet, and I’m not sad about that at all. It also gave EC3 to show off some of his ‘personality’, and made the other four superstars look great too.
So much chaos. I think I could watch it half a dozen times and still have missed something. There was no missing Killian Dain’s suicide dive onto Sullivan though.
Lars Sullivan threw a ladder and took out everyone. He and Dain picked up where they left off in their interrupted match from last week, as often as they could.
EC3 and Adam Cole formed a temporary alliance to take out Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain. It lasted until EC3 got carried away and tried to appropriate Cole’s trademark with an ‘EC3 baybay’, at which point Cole dropped him onto a ladder then superkicked everyone.
They went through a lot of ladders over the course of the match. Everyone ended up under one, hit with one, or knocked off at least one by the end of things. Velveteen Dream hit the Purple Rainmaker off the top of a ladder onto Lars Sullivan, then got powerbombed into a ladder by EC3.
Dain landed a senton on EC3, while EC3 was under a ladder. Adan Cole climbed on Dain’s back while Dain was climbing the turnbuckle for a Vader-bomb. It didn’t put Dain off, he did the Vader-bomb onto EC3 and the ladder, with Cole on his back. Ricochet was thrown across the diagonal of the ring, at Killian Dain, by Lars Sullivan. Dain picked him up and threw him back and Ricochet rolled out of the ring.
Dain launched himself at Sullivan and Sullivan caught him. Lars Sullivan looked like a beast throughout this one, as did Killian Dain. Nothing kept them down for more than a few moments.
Ricochet got near the top of a ladder when Lars Sullivan tipped it. Instead fo falling, Ricochet turned it into a moonsault and took out Dain and Cole.
Velveteen Dream delivered a rolling death-valley driver to Ricochet, while standing on a ladder which was balanced between another ladder and the corner.
Lars Sullivan put Velveteen Dream on a ladder stretched between the ring and commentary desk, then gave EC3 the Freak Accident on top, and they all went through. Killian Dain, not to be outdone, put Ricochet on a ladder and delivered a leg drop while holding Adam Cole, so Ricochet got hit with both of them as the ladder snapped like kindling.
Lars Sullivan got fingertips to the belt before Killian Dain stopped him. EC3 hit them both with another ladder, then put it up for him and Adam Cole to climb. Velveteen Dream put another ladder up alongside and was joined by Ricochet, so all six were up on three ladders next to each other, fighting it out on top. EC3 and Cole hit the floor first. Ricochet took Velveteen Dream and himself down. Lars Sullivan slammed Dain to the canvas from half way up the ladder. Sullivan was up first, again. Apparently bleeding, but still going. Ricochet landed on his back while he was halfway up the ladder, no idea where he came from, and the ladder tipped over.
Ricochet started to climb the ladder, Adam Cole tipped him off and onto the ropes, and climbed the ladder himself. Adam Cole won. Oh well, never mind.
Hell of a match and I’m not sure how you’re supposed to follow that. Less than an hour into the show and I’ve already lost count of the, ‘bloody hell that looked painful’ and ‘is he dead’, moments.
Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
Normally I’d complain about the placement of the women’s title match so early, especially as it’s the only women’s match, but with this card, it’s fair enough, everything’s got to go somewhere. Ember Moon came out first but got a live music entrance.
Tough for anything to follow that ladder match though, there was a lot of polite applause and the quiet moments of a live crowd still trying to process what they just saw.
The match start was a missed dropkick from Moon, but it didn’t slow her down and she started with intent. It wasn’t long before they were on the outside, with Baszler managing to take Moons feet out from underneath her and send her face first into the apron, before throwing her into the barricade. No nice padded barricades for NXT either, they were the metal ones with just a thin fabric covering.
Lots of submission stuff, as you’d expect from Baszler, and Moon wanting to prove she can beat her at her own game.
Ember Moon gave Baszler a taste of her own medicine by stepping on her hand then stomping her elbow, like Baszler did to Dakota Kai. Baszler was together enough to knock Moon off the turnbuckle when she went for the Eclipse, but was in obvious pain. While Moon was hung up in the ropes, Baszler was seen attempting to put her shoulder back in by banging it on the ringpost.
She went back to Moon, who knocked her off the apron to the floor and dived off the top turnbuckle onto her wiping them both out. They made it back into the ring together at the count of nine and a bit.
Baszler got the Kirifuda clutch in, but Moon yanked the injured arm and Baszler let go. Baszler got a triangle, but Moon managed to break it by picking her up and dropping her
Moon went for the Eclipse again, but Baszler countered it into the Kirifuda clutch. That’s the first time the Eclipse has ever been countered. Baszler kept it locked in, holding her own hair instead of using the injured arm, while Ember Moon struggled and fought. Eventually Ember Moon passed out.
Shayna Baszler is the new NXT Women’s Champion.
Undisputed ERA (C) vs Authors of Pain vs Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong – NXT Championship and Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Final match – winner takes it all
Chaos reigned at the start of the match, as expected, when Authors of Pain piled into their opponents. Akam kicked Cole in the face and sent him straight out of the ring.
Adam Cole was put through an announce desk by Authors of Pain, despite struggling really hard to get away, and that was the end of his contributions to the match.
It eventually, loosely, settled into tag team action with regular descents back into chaos. Kyle O’Reilly was going it alone but seemed to take a team’s worth of punishment. The crowd still really like Pete Dunne, he got a great reaction whenever he was in the ring.
Authors of Pain were dominant throughout, but didn’t look anywhere near as unbeatable as they have in previous matches.
Roderick Strong got Kyle O’Reilly and Akam into submission holds. Rezar slammed Pete Dunne onto Strong to make him let go.
Authors of Pain hit the Supercollider of Dunne and O’Reilly, then the Last Chapter on Kyle O’Reilly, but Roderick Strong broke the pin up.
Pete Dunne hit the Bitter End on Kyle O’Reilly and almost got the pin, but it was broken up by his partner, Roderick Strong. Strong gave Pete Dunne the End of Heartache and draped O’Reilly over him for the win.
Cole and O’Reilly seemed just as surprised as anyone else (ok, maybe not quite as surprised as Pete Dunne), until Strong pulled Adam Cole’s Undisputed ERA armband off and put it on himself.
Undisputed ERA retained the tag title, won the Dusty Cup, and gained a forth member in the form of Roderick Strong. With Adam Cole having become the first North American Champion as well, it’s not been a bad night for them.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (C) vs Aleister Black – NXT Championship match
No special entrance for Almas, surprising as Ember Moon got one, he did come out with his mask on, but ripped it off on the stage.
Aleister Black started as he meant to go on, straight on the offensive. They too things to the outside quickly, and it looked like it might be a fast-paced strike-fest, with Black in control. Obviously, that wasn’t going to last.
On one of their early trips to the outside, a hurricanrana from Zelina Vega sent Aleister Black into the steel steps and gave Almas the advantage for the next portion of the match. It was six of one, half a dozen of the other, for most of the match. At one point they delivered mirror image kicks and took each other out. However hard the strikes or spectacular the flight, the other always had an immediate response.
Sadly, the hurricanrana wasn’t the only time Vega got involved. She spiked Black into the mat while Almas had the ref distracted with the title belt she handed him. She put Almas’ leg on the ropes after the Black Mass, and she grabbed Black’s leg giving Almas enough time to knock him off the turnbuckle. While he was hung up in the ropes, Almas delivered a double stomp to his shoulder and followed up with double knees in the corner.
It was a very good match, but I didn’t love it until towards the end. A couple of spots looked mistimed, but nothing too distracting, and they did more than enough to be entertaining and impressive. Maybe my expectations were just too high. These are two of the most talented wrestlers on the roster, and Aleister Black is one of my personal favourites, but it took me some time to get invested in the action.
Black looked to be in trouble after a dropkick to the back of the head, and double knees slamming his head into the ringpost from the apron. He got some time to recover when he tipped Almas out of the ring, but somersaulted over the top rope onto him instead. And he still had enough left to kick out of the hammerlock DDT.
Zelina Vega was even involved in the finish, albeit accidentally. Almas caught her when she launched herself off the top rope just as Almas pushed Black into the corner. Before he had chance to put her down, Aleister Black hit the Black Mass and pinned him.
Aleister Black is the new NXT Champion.
Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa – Unsanctioned match – If Johnny Gargano wins he gets his job back, if he loses he never comes back to NXT.
Right, well, this one was always going to be emotional. And, as it’s unsanctioned, there are no rules. The ref is simply there to count a pin or confirm a submission. Ciampa came out with no music at all, just a large crowd chanting and booing at him. When Johnny Gargano came out, well, to be honest it could have been louder, but maybe that was a mic issue, there were huge Johnny Wrestling chants when he got to the ring so they were definitely pleased to see him.
Gargano started like a man possessed. He’s waited a long time for this. On their first trip to the outside, Gargano sent Ciampa flying over the barricade, then dived after him. Ciampa came back by dumping Gargano ribs first onto the barricade. Then Ciampa upped the stakes even further by peeling back one of the ringside mats and exposing the concrete.
Gargano threw Ciampa over the announce desk and into the laps of the commentators (The crowd did a ‘mamma mia’ chant when Mauro Ranallo almost got kicked in the face. That made me laugh). Ciampa suplexed Gargano off the announce desk onto the floor, which didn’t look to do either of them any good.
Tommaso Ciampa got firmly in control of the match from there because, well, there’s nothing for Gargano to come back from if he’s not the underdog for at least a while (cynical, I know, it’s late, I’m tired).
Tommaso Ciampa was looking for weapons and found a ‘fan’ in the crowd on crutches, so he took them. Gargano managed to avoid his attempts to attack him with one of the crutches, and landed a kick to the side of Ciampa’s head.
When Ciampa tried to suplex Gargano over the top rope, Gargano wriggled free and slammed Ciampa off the apron onto the exposed concrete. The noise it made when Ciampa’s body hit the ground was slightly nauseating, but the crowd chanted ‘you deserve it’.
They played tug of war with the crutch, Gargano won and hit Ciampa with it until Ciampa tossed him over the top rope. Then he hit him on the head/back with it from the outside, just for good measure.
Gargano exposed a turnbuckle, but it didn’t come into play straight away. There was almost contact then they moved away. By the time Gargano sent Tommaso Ciampa into it a few minutes later, it was almost a surprise.
Johnny Gargano almost got a submission, but Ciampa got out of it by raking Gargano’s eyes. Tommaso Ciampa followed it up by trying to throttle Gargano with his wrist tape, but instead they just ended up joined together by it. He also tried low-blowing Gargano, and attacking him with a crutch, again. None of it worked and Gargano still kicked out. Ciampa’s growing desperation started to show when he not only took off the knee brace but exposed the knee completely. Gargano hit him with the knee brace as he charged towards him.
With Ciampa down, and a broken crutch to use as a weapon, Johnny Gargano showed a moment of compassion. He didn’t hit Ciampa with the crutch, couldn’t seem to do it. He sat down next to his former best friend, and quickly ducked out of the way as Ciampa tried to hit him with the knee brace. Gargano rolled into the Gargano escape, Ciampa got out. Gargano locked in an STF using the knee brace against Ciampa’s face, and Tommaso Ciampa tapped out.
Candice LeRae ran down to the ring to celebrate with her victorious husband.
My preview predictions were: Ricochet, Shayna Baszler, Undisputed ERA, Aleister Black, and Johnny Gargano. So I got one wrong, and that was largely because I didn’t want to predict an Adam Cole victory. I’m pretty happy with that.
What a show! I seem to say the same thing after every NXT TakeOver, but they keep getting better. The ladder match and Gargano versus Ciampa are clearly match of the year contenders.
We have three new champions in Aleister Black, Shayna Baszler, and Adam Cole. And I think it’s safe to say the debuts of EC3 and Ricochet went well. Johnny Gargano is safely back in the NXT fold. And Roderick Strong has some explaining to do. There’s a lot of good stuff coming up for NXT.
Before any of that can happen, we have WrestleMania, where we will see if any NXT superstars appear in one of the Battle Royals. Followed by the RAW and SmackDown after WrestleMania, where we will see if there have been any post-Mania call ups.
WrestleMania has quite a standard to live up to. NXT did themselves proud tonight.