The pre-show show was the usual mix of interviews, video packages and discussions. Samoa Joe joined the panel, guess his injury is bad if they’ve got him doing stuff like this. He was brilliant though, intelligent, insightful and pleasant to listen to.
Corey Graves and Renee Young handed out the NXT Year End Awards during the pre-show. The winners were.
Rivalry of the Year – Aleister Black vs Velveteen Dream
Male Competitor of the Year – Aleister Black
Breakout Star of the Year – Aleister Black
Female Competitor of the Year – Asuka
Match of the Year – Tyler Bate vs Pete Dunne at NXT TakeOver Chicago
Overall Competitor of the Year – Asuka
Not handed out during the pre-show were Future Star of NXT, won by Cezar Bononi, Tag Team of the Year, won by SAnitY, and TakeOver of the Year, which was WarGames.
Pete Dunne joined the panel for while after Tyler Bate had accepted the Match of the Year award for them, to talk about the year he’s had. He was asked if there was anyone outside the UK division he wanted to face, he said bring anyone and suggested Brock Lesnar. No-one laughed, which was sweet. Big fan of Pete Dunne and everything he’s achieved, but I don’t think we need to see that. He also said he’s looking for a new challenger for the UK Championship.
Zelina Vega crashed the panel, after the awards were handed out, and got very upset about Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas hadn’t won any. She was great, and her back and forth with Samoa Joe was worth watching the pre-show for all by itself.
Undisputed ERA def Authors of Pain – NXT Tag Team Championship match
Velveteen Dream def Kassius Ohno
Ember Moon def Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
Aleister Black def Adam Cole
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas def Johnny Gargano
Paul Heyman did the intro ‘We are NXT’ bit, it was a bit odd. Just a two-man commentary team for TakeOver, Nigel McGuinness is sick, so it’s just Mauro Ranallo and Percy Watson. There were, of course, the usual fabulous video packages before each match. There’s no need to talk about them individually, we all know by now how well WWE do them.
Undisputed ERA (C) vs Authors of Pain – Tag Team Championship match
Interestingly, they chose to start the show with the tag title match. There was a pre-match brawl, which seemed to put Undisputed ERA on the back foot. As expected, Adam Cole was not with them as he had an extreme rules match against Aleister Black to prepare for.
Fish and O’Reilly didn’t want anything to do with Authors of Pain to start with, making frequent escapes to the outside. After a short amount of time, they tried to walk out. Authors of Pain stopped them, then beat them up on the outside for a while.
Much of Undisputed ERA’s offence sensibly concentrated on submission holds or trying to take out Authors of Pain’s legs. Akam hurt his own knee jumping off the second rope onto O’Reilly and that became a target for the rest of the match.
Fish and O’Reilly periodically tried going toe to toe with AoP for power, and they did better than expected, but they got bounced around a lot. Kyle O’Reilly especially took some heavy looking landings. You would have expected Undisputed ERA to have a speed and agility advantage, but it was negligible.
It looked like Undisputed ERA might be able to make Authors of Pain tap out, when they had both in submission holds, but Rezar dumped Bobby Fish on top of Kyle O’Reilly and broke both holds. Authors of Pain managed to hit their Super-Collider, but before they could get the Last Chapter Kyle O’Reilly sent Akam into Rezar, who fell out of the ring, and Kyle O’Reilly rolled up Akam to retain the tag team titles.
War Machine, who recently joined the Performance Centre, were shown in the crowd. Can’t wait for them to hit the NXT roster.
Kassius Ohno vs Velveteen Dream
Velveteen Dream told Johnny Gargano he could beat Kassius Ohno on thirty seconds. Kassius Ohno clearly wants to knock some of the arrogance out of the youngster. Velveteen Dream had a mouthguard presented to him on a furry pillow, by a large muscular guy, and placed in his mouth by a woman wearing velvet. He was wearing boxing shorts for his match against the ‘Knockout Artist’ and, as with his match against Black, they had both his and his opponent’s faces on them. Kassius Ohno was as practical as Velveteen Dream was flamboyant, no frills.
It could have been over in the thirty seconds Velveteen Dream promised. He punched Ohno to the mat but didn’t bother to cover him. Ohno got up and hit Velveteen Dream hard enough to knock the mouthpiece out of his mouth.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Velveteen Dream is incapable of having bad matches at the moment. And, despite his current status in NXT, Kassius Ohno is one of the best. Interestingly, it was Velveteen Dream who got the majority of the crowd support.
The shortest match on the card but they packed plenty into it. Entertaining, pacey, hard-hitting, and intricate in places, a thoroughly enjoyable match. Velveteen Dream picked up the win courtesy of a rolling Death Valley driver, followed up with his Purple Rain Maker elbow.
Candice LeRae was shown as part of Gargano’s family group (they’re married), but her signing wasn’t mentioned.
Ember Moon (C) vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
No theatrics for Shayna Baszler’s entrance, but a touch of the Goldberg’s as she was shown walking from the backstage area right through to the ring. Ember Moon signalled her intent by screaming in Baszler’s face as soon as she got to the ring.
Baszler looked a little taken aback in the early going. She escaped from the ring after taking several dropkicks, only to find herself on the wrong end of a suicide dive from Moon
Shayna Baszler pulled the same trick on Ember Moon as she did on Dakota Kai, stamping on her arm and bending it to an odd angle. In the match against Kai, it resulted in a referee’s stoppage, but this time the ref let things continue, and Baszler’s offence was then highly focused on the damaged arm.
Ember Moon hit the Eclipse on Baszler but hurt her arm more in the process and was unable to make the cover. Baszler was spark out on the canvas for a good couple of minutes while doctors attended to Moon. That was the only problem with this match, it was a slow and deliberate kind of contest anyway, with very little in the way of flashy stuff, and the pauses seemed to drag a little. There was nothing wrong with what they were doing, and it was by no means a bad match, but the pacing of it made it feel like a cool-down match.
Ember Moon insisted on continuing, although it looked like the medics were advising against it. As she went over to Baszler, she was grabbed into an armbar. Moon managed to get to the ropes once, but Baszler put her straight back in and wouldn’t let go. They rolled around the ring with Moon still locked in the armbar, until Ember Moon managed to shift her weight and hold Baszler’s shoulder’s down for the three-count.
After the match Baszler gathered herself, then attacked Ember Moon and put her in the Kirifuda Clutch, twice.
Ricochet was shown in the crowd with his name shown as Trevor ‘Ricochet’ Mann. I imagine that means he’s not keeping the Ricochet name in NXT. I just hope he comes into NXT rather than into 205 Live.
Aleister Black vs Adam Cole – Extreme Rules match
Adam Cole didn’t waste any time in bringing weapons to the party. He grabbed a chair within the first minute or two of the match. Aleister Black had said he didn’t need to use weapons, he was the weapon, he seemed content to stick with this. In fact, he managed to get the chaor off him and had a sit down.
More chairs, and a bin, were thrown in the ring by Cole. He grabbed a kendo stick, and Black grabbed one too. Aleister Black threw away his kendo stick, and Adam Cole looked like he’d been given a present. Black appeared to have outsmarted Cole, until he went for a moonsault and Adam Cole smacked him across the midsection with the kendo stick while he was in mid-air.
Adam Cole was bleeding from his right hand for a lot of the match (hence the black and white photo). Not sure how he did it, possibly when he was setting up a table outside the ring, at least that’s when it became noticeable. Aleister Black set up a second table while the ref checked Cole out, and a ladder joined the party. At some point during the replays medics patched Cole up to stop him leaking any more.
They both took some extreme rules worthy bumps. Cole went tailbone first into a ladder. Black got a chair kicked into his face while on the second turnbuckle and fell off through the two tables. I think bump of the night was Aleister Black dumping Adam Cole back first over two back to back chairs, so his spine bounced off the backs of them.
The rest of Undisputed ERA came down to interfere. They dragged Black out of the ring, beat on him a bit, then dragged him round the ring by his ankles and prepared to put him through the announce desk. They didn’t get the chance because SAnitY appeared from somewhere and started brawling with them. Killian Dain hit a suicide dive onto Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe. Needless to say, that was the last we saw of any of them.
Aleister Black looked to be out of it. But he fought back when Cole tried to put him through the announce desk and put Adam Cole through it with double knees to the chest.
Black threw Cole into the ring and got hit with a superkick when he tried to follow. Instead of covering him. Cole grabbed a chair. But, as he swung it Aleister Black landed the Black Mass for a well-earned victory.
EC3 was the final signing to be shown in the crowd.
Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (C) vs Johnny Gargano – NXT Championship match
Almas came out with a mariachi band and with a mask on. He ripped off the mask at the top of the ramp. The crowd are still underwhelmed by him, sadly, and it doesn’t help when he’s against one of the most popular wrestlers on the NXT roster. There were signs showing Johnny Gargano’s logo throughout the arena.
This was a very long match, and they rarely stopped moving. It felt a bit slow to start, but that could just have been brain lag on the style change after the previous match. Once they got going, it was all the technicality, all the style, and bodies bouncing around all over the place.
That sounds dismissive, but it’s just too hard to pick out the highlights of this one. There were ‘qualifying as a highlight’ moves coming along with almost alarming regularity for most of it. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that this one will hit the match of the year contender lists for most of those who make them.
The pin attempts were plentiful, giving the crowd the opportunity to ‘sweet’ many two counts. Gargano’s slingshot DDT onto the apron might have been enough, if he hadn’t had to get Almas back into the ring afterwards. By the time he managed that Almas was together enough to kick out of the cover, and to prevent the Gargano escape moments later.
They ended up outside again a few minutes later, thanks to Almas double stomping Gargano from the corner to the floor. By twenty-five minutes into the match the crowd were chanting ‘fight forever’, and both Gargano and Almas looked like they had been.
Gargano got the Gargano escape in, but Zelina Vega tried to pull her client to the ropes and, while the ref was distracted, Almas raked Gargano’s eyes. Johnny Gargano threw Almas out of the ring, suicide dived after him, and was sent into the steps by a hurricanrana from Zelina Vega. After all that, Almas’ hammerlock DDT still only got a two count.
As Zelina Vega went to interfere again, Candice LeRae jumped the barrier, started pounding on her, and chased her out of the arena to chants of ‘thank you Candice’.
Almas got his foot on the ropes from another Gargano escape. Double knees to Gargano’s head up against the ringpost had the ref asking Gargano if he wanted him to stop the match.
He didn’t, but it was the beginning of the end anyway. A final DDT ended Johnny Gargano’s title aspirations. Zelina Vega made it back to the ring in time to celebrate with her client.
Candice LeRae consoled her husband while he got a huge ovation from a disappointed crowd. When Gargano turned at the top of the ramp to acknowledge the crowd support, Tommaso Ciampa hit him across the back with a crutch, then just stood looking at him.
The final shot of the show was Candice LeRae knelt over Gargano as he lay on the floor writhing in pain, with Ciampa fading into the background. She said, ‘your back’s bleeding’ as the cameras cut off.
Match of the night – Either Almas vs Gargano, or Aleister Black vs Adam Cole, I can’t decide between them.
The only match which I felt let down by was the women’s title match. As I said, there was nothing wrong with it, but it felt slow and didn’t seem to flow as well as it could have. I was rooting for a messed-up finish to keep them both strong. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Some of Baszler’s standing was regained with the post-match attack, and it’s nice to send the message that bullies don’t prosper, but she still lost her first TakeOver match.
Authors of Pain must now be headed to the main roster. They’ve had their final TakeOver moment and failed to win back the gold. The NXT tag division needs them less than the main roster does. I’d be very surprised if we don’t see them on RAW or SmackDown in the next couple of weeks.
Velveteen Dream has confirmed he is a star. As has Aleister Black. This should be a huge year for both of them, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to see Black with the title before the end of 2018. Aleister Black versus Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas would definitely be worth watching.
I was sad that Gargano didn’t pick up the win against Almas, until the reappearance of Ciampa. It would have been a lovely finish to Gargano’s redemption story to have seen him lift the belt with his family at ringside. But, if Ciampa is almost ready to return and begin their feud then it’s fair enough. Gargano and Ciampa is a feud that doesn’t need a title to fight over, it’s enough on its own and it’s going to be fantastic.
NXT TakeOver Philadelphia delivered on its promises. Royal Rumble will have to be epic to come close to beating it.