NXT TakeOver Phoenix – PREVIEW

NXT TakeOver Phoenix – PREVIEW

As ever, the card for this TakeOver looks fantastic. There hasn’t been a TakeOver yet that’s let us down and it doesn’t look like NXT TakeOver Phoenix is going to break the run.


Tommaso Ciampa (C) vs Aleister Black – NXT Championship match

Shayna Baszler (C) vs Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship match

Undisputed ERA (C) vs War Raiders – NXT Tag Team Championship match

Ricochet (C) vs Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship match

Matt Riddle vs Kassius Ohno


Matt Riddle vs Kassius Ohno

Matt Riddle vs Kassius Ohno match graphic

The build-up to this match started before Matt Riddle even made it to NXT. As soon as Riddle appeared in the crowd of NXT TakeOver Brooklyn IV Kassius Ohno started asking William Regal for a match against his ‘shiny new toy’.

Ohno got his wish, somewhat unexpectedly, at TakeOver WarGames. Six seconds later it was all over courtesy of a knee from Riddle. Ohno’s second attempt to put Riddle down also ended in defeat. Riddle tried for a fist bump after the match to show there were no hard feelings, instead, Ohno beat him down so badly Riddle was not medically cleared to compete.

The final straw for Matt Riddle came when Ohno used a low blow to defeat Keith Lee. Riddle ran to the ring, despite his lack of clearance, to stop Ohno doing any post-match damage to Lee.

The question is, will it be third time lucky for Kassius Ohno? It might, via another low blow or other nefarious means, but it makes no sense for Ohno to win here. If they were planning a resurgence for Oho then getting one back after losing twice isn’t going to make an impact, although it might restore some self-esteem. Losing clean to Oho would slow Riddle’s momentum, and I don’t think that’s likely. That said, I’d like to see Ohno win anyway.

Prediction: Matt Riddle

Ricochet (C) vs Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship match

Ricochet vs Johnny Gargano match graphic

Well, this is all very complicated and I’m going to end up repeating myself a bit when I get to the Ciampa versus Black match because it’s all tangled up. It shouldn’t be, Tommaso Ciampa put the idea of Gargano going after the North American Championship into Gargano’s head and Ricochet tweeted a response before Gargano had even commented. When Ricochet and Gargano did come face to face, Ciampa interrupted and Gargano superkicked Ricochet in the face. After that, the match was set.

Things get complicated with the addition of Tommaso Ciampa to the mix. He has been everywhere Johnny Gargano is recently, and it seems like he wants his partner, or his puppet, back. Gargano is understandably conflicted about this, he and Ciampa have barely finished tearing each other to pieces. But Gargano’s new philosophy is that success is measured by wins and championships and that’s the goal. He collaborated with Ciampa in DIY’s finisher to put away Aleister Black. He said that would never happen again, but he and Ciampa helped each other out in the final segment of this week’s show and may well have formalised their alliance had Candice LeRae not appeared and ushered her husband away.

It’s in Tommaso Ciampa’s best interests for Johnny Gargano to hold the North American Championship. He talked about their dream, DIY holding the gold, side by side. But it’s simpler than that. There has been an obvious wariness in Ciampa’s attitude to Gargano since he was revealed as Aleister Black’s attacker. If Ciampa manages to get past Black in Phoenix, Gargano is arguably the biggest threat to his title. Their matches were ferocious, and that was before the Gargano attitude change. If Gargano has the North American title, he’s less likely to pursue Ciampa’s.

All that is a roundabout way of saying I expect Ciampa to interfere to help Gargano beat Ricochet for the title.

Prediction: Johnny Gargano

Undisputed ERA (C) vs War Raiders – NXT Tag Team Championship match

Undisputed ERA vs War Raiders match graphic

Undisputed ERA believe that 2019 is the year they will hold all the gold. But Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly have a massive challenge to overcome in Phoenix or Undisputed ERA could finish January with no gold at all.

 Rowe and Hanson aren’t your average big lads. Strong and O’Reilly won’t outpace them by anywhere near as much as they’d hope to, and they’ll need to on their guard for low flying War Raiders. Of course, War Raiders have a huge power advantage as well.

Strong and O’Reilly’s biggest advantage is likely to be the presence of Adam Cole and Bobby Fish on the outside. Without them, I think it’s a clear-cut War Raider’s victory. With them, it’s hard to say. Of all the matches on the card, this is the one I’m least happy predicting.

There has been plenty of previous interaction between the teams, not least of all the WarGames match that left Hanson on the injured list. The only reason War Raiders didn’t win the title at their first attempt was interference from Bobby Fish. There’s no easy way to deal with four on two for any length of time, however big the two are.

I’m going to be an optimist and call it the way I want to see it. New year, new champions. Undisputed ERA have had the titles for what feels like ages, and they’ve been excellent champions, but it’s time for a change.

Prediction: War Raiders

Shayna Baszler (C) vs Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship match

Shayna Baszler vs Bianca Belair match graphic

There has been very little interaction between Shayna Baszler and Bianca Belair in the run-up to this match. They had one face to face meeting which ended with Belair slapping the champion and fleeing before she could be set upon by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir.

Baszler told Belair she didn’t have to worry about Duke and Shafir because it would just be the two of them in Phoenix, but will that really be the case? I’d like to see Baszler come alone and stay alone for the match, but I find it hard to believe without a stipulation banning her lackeys from ringside. Bianca Belair has no friends to bring with her. Duke and Shafir are scheduled for a match with Io Shirai and Kairi Sane next week, so the match will be filmed before TakeOver and they will be in the building. It is very possible they could be a factor, would Shirai and Sane neutralise them just because it’s the right thing to do?

Bianca Belair has quietly, or not so quietly, worked her way through the NXT women’s division and remained undefeated to this point. She might not have received the hype Baszler has, and it’s certainly taken her some time to work her way into the title picture, but there’s no doubt she deserves to be there. She’s a different opponent to Baszler’s previous challengers. In other contests, Baszler mainly had to avoid being out-skilled by more experienced competitors with a wider-ranging skillset to draw on. This time around, there is a very real chance Baszler could be out-powered as well.

It would be the fairy tale end to this chapter of Bianca Belair’s story if she won the title and remained undefeated. There’s no doubt in my mind that she’s a future women’s champion on more than one brand. Somehow, I just feel it’s not going to be her night. I don’t necessarily think Baszler will beat her clean, but I do think NXT TakeOver Phoenix will see Bianca Belair’s first defeat.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Tommaso Ciampa (C) vs Aleister Black – NXT Championship match

Tommaso Ciampa vs Aleister Black graphic
Photo credits: wwe.com

This rematch has been a long time coming. Tommaso Ciampa only won the title, back in July, because of accidental help from Johnny Gargano. Before Aleister Black could get his rematch (in one of the greatest injury-covering storylines ever), he was attacked by Johnny Gargano and was out of action for months. When he came back, Gargano was his top priority. I’m not sure you could call that issue settled, especially after the ending to this week’s show with Gargano attacking Black to help Ciampa, but Black’s attention is now fixed on regaining the NXT Championship.

Tommaso Ciampa has made it clear he will do anything to keep hold of the title he calls Goldie. One of his snide focuses recently appears to have been cultivating backup in the form of Johnny Gargano. Now Gargano’s attitude has aligned with his former teammate and best friend’s, he seems tempted to renew their alliance. If Ciampa interferes to help Gargano win the North American Championship, will Gargano feel inclined to help Ciampa retain his title and fulfil their dream of old?

I think that’s a plausible scenario, but I’m willing to accept I could be picking up a false trail I have been deliberately walked down (it wouldn’t be the first time). It’s likely to be a spectacular match, interference or not. If it is one on one throughout, it becomes a straight battle between Blacks need for vengeance and vindication, and Tommaso Ciampa’s desperation to keep hold of his title. I’d love to see Aleister Black as NXT Champion again, but a desperate Ciampa is going to be hard to beat. I don’t see a clean finish here, it seems like there is more mileage in this tangled feud.

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Final word

The theme of this preview appears to be, there might be interference, and there almost certainly will be at some point in the night. What is much too close to call is the match of the night. Any of the four title matches could take that spot.

Check back here on Rear View Review for a full review of NXT TakeOver Phoenix a few hours after the show.

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