The Kickoff Show panel were Charly Caruso, Pat McAfee, and Sam Roberts. Vic Joseph joined them to talk about the UK Championship match. Undisputed ERA offered their thoughts on the NXT Championship match. Unsurprisingly, they think Adam Cole is going to win.
The WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge featured on the Kickoff show. Beat AJ Styles at the game, win $1m. Stephan T. Benson was the challenger, and he won.
The lack of storyline build to most of these matches was evident in the video packages. They were still great, but there was some distinct reaching for content in places. Sam Roberts is increasingly annoying with his hyper-critical and pointless negativity.
War Raiders def. Aleister Black & Ricochet
Velveteen Dream def. Matt Riddle
WALTER def. Pete Dunne
Shayna Baszler def. Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane, and Io Shirai
Johnny Gargano def. Adam Cole
War Raiders (C) vs Aleister Black & Ricochet – NXT Tag Team Championship match
It made sense to start with this. All matches are title matches on this card, and this was one for the crowd to get invested in.
Rowe and Black got things off to a relatively sedate and respectful start, which ended with them fist-bumping and both tagging out. There was a lot of great teamwork on display, but all four guys were in the ring for significant amounts of the next few minutes.
Highlights and highpoints are kind of difficult in a match featuring Ricochet and Black, there are just too many. Black taking Rowe’s legs out from under him when he was about to drop Hanson on him was a nice moment though. It meant Rowe powerslammed his partner onto the mat rather than onto Black.
Rowe and Black are a great combination. A one on one between them would be so much fun. They had another stint together, but couldn’t break the stalemate, they’re just very evenly matched. When Hanson came back in, he spent time just running corner to corner squishing Ricochet and Black.
The power advantage of War Raiders was oft cited in the build to this match, but Ricochet picked Hanson up and threw him over his head. That took it out of both of them enough for them to tag out, and their still exhausted partners came in. They were staggering before the exchange of kicks and strikes began, and it was brutal but brief.
Ricochet missed a kick to Hanson off a handspring. Hanson levelled Ricochet off his, but it was only good enough for a two count. He took too long going to the top and Ricochet prevented the senton, but he couldn’t prevent himself from being double teamed. He would have been pinned if Aleister Black hadn’t delivered a double stomp onto the pile of Hanson, Rowe, and Ricochet to break it up.
Chaos reigned as Black moonsaulted onto Hanson at ringside, Rowe suicide dived into Black, Ricochet spun over the top onto Rowe, then Hanson dived off the top turnbuckle onto everyone.
Rowe and Ricochet made it back into the ring to stop it ending in a double count out, but they were on wobbly legs. Black came back in quickly and knocked Hanson off the apron before giving Rowe a Black Mass and tagging in Ricochet for the 630. Hanson got back just in time to shove Black onto Ricochet and prevent the pin.
Ricochet went for another 630 but Rowe moved with a bit of help from Hanson. Black tried to deal with Hanson via moonsault, but missed and got clotheslined to the floor. Hanson rolled Rowe back in, tagged himself in, and they finished Ricochet together.
After the match, and after medics had checked on Ricochet and the show of respect had been done, War Raiders left the ring for the crowd to give Ricochet and Aleister Black the massive ovation they deserved. It will be their last TakeOver. Actually, there’s a very good chance they will be the SmackDown Tag Team Champions on Sunday night.
Absolutely incredible start to the show.
Piper Niven and Toni Storm were shown in the crowd.
Velveteen Dream (C) vs Matt Riddle – NXT North American Championship match
Velveteen Dream came out on a throne, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, and no one was even remotely surprised.
An interesting mix of styles here. Matt Riddle favours the functional and effective whereas Velveteen Dream will always go for flamboyance when possible. He’s no less effective for it though and it made for one hell of a match. The opener was so good it was going to be tough to follow it, but they managed beautifully.
A test of strength went on and on but ended in Riddle with Velveteen Dream in an armbar. Velveteen went straight back to the test of strength when he got free, but stamped on Riddle’s bare foot.
Riddle spent too long posing, mimicking Dream, and nearly got rolled up. Velveteen Dream took a German suplex on the outside and a senton in the ring, but there was no breaking the deadlock. Every time one gained ground the other clawed it back.
Matt Riddle was in control when Velveteen Dream did his Hulk Hogan bit. He got Riddle down for two, but couldn’t get the three. A Codebreaker got Velveteen Dream another two but Riddle’s ankle lock had him scrabbling to break it.
A superkick, DDT, and Dream Valley Driver might have been enough if Velveteen Dream hadn’t gone to the top, but he found himself in the Bromission when he came down and had to get to the ropes.
Riddle got a couple of the closest near falls and Velveteen Dream got his knees and invited Riddle to bring it. Riddle did, but the resulting pin attempt was only worth two.
Matt Riddle locked in the Bromission again and it looked like Velveteen Dream would have no choice but to tap or pass out. Instead, he jack-knifed over Riddle, pinning his shoulders to the mat and retaining his title.
Post-match, Matt Riddle got his fist-bump from Velveteen Dream.
Kushida has arrived in NXT. Footage of him signing his contract was shown before they cut to him in the crowd.
Pete Dunne (C) vs WALTER – WWE UK Championship match
Commentary mentioned Dunne gave up nearly 100 pounds in this match, which made his joint manipulation strategy a sound one. Trouble is, WALTER just powered out of everything he did.
It didn’t take too long for WALTER to land the first of his signature chops, which knocked Dunne straight to the mat.
Dunne fell off the top turnbuckle to the floor after WALTER had draped him over it, chopped him, then stood on his throat. WALTER followed him out and dropped him spine-first onto the apron.
When WALTER wasn’t trying to resurface Dunne’s chest, it was a technical and submission heavy contest, but no less entertaining for it. Dunne likes his joint manipulation and WALTER seemed keen to meet him on his level. Everything WALTER does looks like it hurts, but Pete Dunne took it all and got back up fighting.
A kick to the head from Dunne left WALTER in real trouble for the first time. He rolled out of the ring and Dunne with a moonsault.
Dunne climbed to the top on his way back into the ring. WALTER followed him up, but Dunne bent his fingers back, flipped over him, and powerbombed him in the centre of the ring. With WALTER outside the ring again, Dunne delivered a double foot stomp from the top rope to the floor. WALTER had recovered by the time Dunne got them both back into the ring, and nothing came of it.
WALTER gathered some momentum and delivered a powerbomb, but Pete Dune kicked out. After a blow for blow exchange, WALTER tried for another powerbomb but Dunne escaped and a step-up enziguri put WALTER down.
Dunne kicked out after a superplex. WALTER got a foot on the ropes in a submission, and kicked out of the Bitter End.
They stood in the centre of the ring to exchange blows, Dunne answering every one of WALTER’s chops with a forearm. Why anyone would willingly go blow for blow with WALTER, I don’t know, and it didn’t work in Dunne’s favour. The final blow of the exchange put Dunne on the mat and WALTER went to the top. Once again, Dunne followed him and locked in a triangle. WALTER countered that by powerbombing Dunne from the top and finishing with a splash. We have a new WWE UK Champion.
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Bianca Belair vs Kairi Sane vs Io Shirai – NXT Women’s Championship match
Shayna Baszler had Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir with her through the backstage area, but they didn’t come to the ring. It was enough to demonstrate they could still be a factor.
Kairi Sane and Io Shirai quickly teamed up to deal with the other two, but as soon as they were alone in the ring, they went for each other, albeit gently and respectfully. It was still early after all.
Baszler did her elbow stomp on Belair and tried to use her hair to pull her into the post (having already used it to pull her into the turnbuckle once). Belair blocked and reversed it so Baszler took a post in the face instead.
While she was down and out, Sane and Belair tried to fight it out. Shirai and Sane swapped places when Sane slipped under the bottom rope to take down the barely recovering Baszler.
Bianca Belair was at the top of the compulsory tower of doom spot. She and Baszler took the worst of it and both rolled out of the ring. Io Shirai assisted Kairi Sane over the top onto them before taking Baszler down with a moonsault.
Belair found herself in the middle of the Sky Pirates, but Baszler pulled Sane from the ring before she could sustain any damage. Belair pressed Shirai over her head and threw her over the top rope at the other two.
When Belair hoisted Baszler up for the elevated double chicken wing, Baszler scrabbled free and locked in the Kirifuda Clutch. Somehow Belair powered out and delivered a K.O.D. Io Shirai broke the pin attempt on two. Kairi Sane broke Shirai’s pin attempt following a moonsault and they started fighting for real. Sane delivered an InSane Elbow to Baszler and Shirai thwarted it.
Kairi Sane versus Io Shirai is a match anyone would pay to see, best friends or not. We got a taster, but Bianca Belair hit Sane with her hair whip then delivered a double K.O.D. to Sane and Shirai. Baszler made it back in time to stop her title being lost and locked Belair back in the Kirifuda Clutch.
With nowhere to go and both Sane and Shirai both still down from the K.O.D., Belair struggled for as long as she could then tapped.
Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir met Baszler on the ramp to help her out of the arena.
Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole – 2 out of 3 falls NXT Championship match
This started with a little under half an hour left of the three-hour time slot. We were clearly going to run over. The rest of Undisputed ERA accompanied Adam Cole to the stage but left him to come to the ring alone. There was a lot of crowd chanting to get through before the match actually got underway.
This was probably the match with the most comparable wrestlers in it. They certainly struggled to gain any kind of advantage in the early going, mirroring each other at times to the point where they took each other down with simultaneous cross-bodies.
Adam Cole got the first fall a little over ten minutes in with a Last Shot.
Gargano, realising it was now do or die, went after Cole hard. He almost lost the second fall very quickly to another Last Shot, but became the first person in NXT to kick out of it.
An avalanche air-raid crash only got Gargano a two count. A slingshot DDT on the apron sent them both to the floor. Gargano could have picked up a count out fall if he’d just got back into the ring and stayed there. Instead, he broke the count and returned to the outside where Adam Cole threw him into a couple of posts and busted his eyebrow open.
Back in the ring, Cole found himself in the Gargano Escape and tapped to even the score.
After a lot of back and forth with near falls but no prolonged advantage, including a moment where they took each other down with tandem superkicks, a superkick, reverse-rana, superkick sequence sent Adam Cole out of the ring. Cole suplexed Gargano into the edge of the ring when he followed him.
Two DDTs as Cole re-entered the ring got Gargano two and three-quarters. Cole superkicked Gargano as he went for the slingshot spear then delivered a springboard Canadian destroyer for his own two and three-quarters.
Cole kicked Gargano out of the ring then followed him and started taunting and pushing him. Predictably, Adam Cole’s trash-talking fired Gargano up and he sent him over the announce desk. Johnny Gargano took a Fairytale Ending on the announce desk and the table didn’t break. Cole climbed back in the ring and demanded the ref start the count. Gargano made it in at nine and took a superkick in the face. He still kicked out.
Roderick Strong appeared on the apron when Gargano had Cole in the Gargano escape. Gargano broke the hold to punch Strong then Strong distracted the ref while Kyle O’Reilly raked Gargano’s eyes. While the ref was trying to find out what happened, Cole kicked Gargano into him and the ref fell out of the ring.
That gave O’Reilly and Fish the opportunity to hit Gargano with a High Low before Strong rolled the ref back in. Johnny Gargano kicked out.
Gargano threw Adam Cole onto his teammates then left the ring to deal with them. He took them all out, but when he got back in he took a superkick and a Last Shot, and still he kicked out.
With Undisputed ERA down on the outside, Johnny Gargano ducked a Last Shot and locked in the Gargano Escape. Cole tried to get to the ropes but Gargano rolled them back to the centre of the ring and Adam Cole tapped out. Johnny Gargano is the NXT Champion.
Candice LeRae ran down to the ring to celebrate with her husband and he celebrated with family, friends, and fans in the crowd.
While Gargano and LeRae were celebrating on the stage, Tommaso Ciampa came out in his neck brace, hugged them both and raised their hands. Smiles all round and a genuinely sweet moment to end the show.
Well, that’s WrestleMania weekend off to a fabulous start. TakeOver always delivers, and this one did not break the pattern. The bar has been set for WrestleMania and it’s a high one.