NXT is in Phoenix for the latest Takeover, and it looks on paper like nothing less than one of the greatest shows the brand has ever produced. Those words are not used lightly. Every match has a major story behind it, as well as a great matching of talent.
During the pre-show, they presented the NXT Year End rewards, which began with Breakout Star of 2018. Ricochet won, and cut a promo in a pretty dapper red sportcoat.
Match Of The Year was presented to Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas. I would have thought it would be one of the Gargano/Ciampa matches. Gargano started talking about the match when Zelina Vega stepped in and said the only reason that match won was because of Almas. She bragged that they were now on Smackdown while he was still on NXT. Gargano said she was right, but he will have another Match Of The Year tonight, and the outcome will be different.
Male Competitor Of The Year was awarded to NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa. He stepped in, but said nothing, and handed the award back.
Kairi Sane won Female Competitor Of The Year. She thanked everybody and said she will have a great year this year as well.
Bobby Fish interrupted the pre-show by walking out with the Tag Team Of The Year. He rang the bell on the plaque, proving it to be a real bell. He told the hosts that they will continue to be the best tag team in 2019. Every time Pat McAffe tried to talk, Fish would ring the bell to drown him out.
The final award was Overall Performer Of The Year, which Kairi Sane also won. She seemed overjoyed to have won, which was a nice feel good moment. I guess Performer Of The Year is a little different than Competitor Of The Year. Anyway, after a recap of tonight’s card, and a plug for Royal Rumble, it was time for the main show.
War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) b. NXT Tag Team Champions The Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly) when Rowe pinned O’Reilly after Fallout – UE jumpstarted the match by dropkicking WR from behind. Rowe got a tag and did well until Hanson missed a dive to the outside. That enabled the heels to take control and get the heat on Rowe. Hanson got the hot tag and rand wild, including hitting the multiple clotheslines in the corner. Double tag out to Rowe and O’Reilly and a four way broke out. Hanson hit a top rope splash onto O’Reilly, but Strong broke the pin. Hanson went to the top again, only this time Strong met him at the top and hit a Superplex. O’Reilly followed with a top rope kneedrop for a two count. The heels tried to double team Hanson, but still could not get the pin. Hanson countered with a double backspring elbow. Rowe tagged in, and the Raiders hit Fallout on O’Reilly to score the pin and win the titles.
That, my friends, was why I love tag team wrestling!
Matt Riddle s. Kassius Ohno with elbow strikes – Yes, you read that correctly. Ohno submitted to multiple elbow strikes. Ohno controlled most of the match early. Riddle mounted a comeback, and hit several strikes. Ohno countered by biting Riddles tow. Why more don’t attack barefoot wrestlers’ feet is really a mystery. Ohno hit a Liger Bomb and a moonsault, but still Riddle kicked out. Riddle went for the Rear Naked Choke, the move he won with the last time they wrestled. This time, Ohno made it to the ropes. This turned out to be bad for Ohno, as Riddle mounted him and started landing the elbow strikes. That was the end for Ohno, who tapped out after a few seconds.
Backstage, Tommaso Ciampa admired his championship belt before he began training. Velveteen Dream made his entrance backstage in a SUV limo with two women in tow.
Johnny Gargano p. NXT North American Champion Ricochet with a Springboard DDT to win the title – The story was pretty simple in this one. Ricochet kept going for aerial attacks, and Gargano kept trying to ground him. In a move that never fails to impress, Gargano went for a top rope hurricanrana, only for Ricochet to land on his feet. Not to be outdone, Gargano reversed a backflip cutter (Will Ospreay’s Oscutter) into a cutter of his own. Ricochet refused to stay down, and hit a 450 for a near fall. Gargano blocked a Shooting Star by getting his knees up and tried for a dive to the outside. Ricochet caught him and presumably tried for an Electric Chair, which Gargano turned into a reverse hurricanrana. Johnny removed the mat on the outside to expose the cement floor. Back in the ring Gargano hit a springboard DDT for a near fall. Ricochet missed a Phoenix Splash (fitting that he tried it in the city of Phoenix) but landed on his feet. Gargano gave Ricochet a Brainbuster of the cement. Back in the ring Gargano finished off Ricochet with a second DDT. An excellent match that neither man was hurt by losing.
NXT Womens Champion Shayna Baszler s. Bianca Belair via Kirifuda Clutch to retain the championship – Baszler took control right of the bat and dominated the first few minutes. She made the mistake of taunting Belair and telling her she’s overrated. Belair fired up and tried a comeback, including whipping Baszler with her hair. The referee got bumped, and Belair got a vuisual pin with a KOD. Belair shrieked at the referee to come to. Marina Shaffir and Jessamyn Duke ran to interfere, but were fended off. Still, this allowed Baszler to use the Kirifuda Clutch. Belair kept escaping the hold, only for Baszler to lock it back in. After the second escape, Baszler clamped the clutch in again. Finally, Belair passed out, and Baszler retained the title.
NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa p. Aleister Black with a Fairy Tale Ending – These two went at it off the bat, and quickly took the match to the outside. Ciampa stalked Black for the next several minutes. He repeatedly smashed Black’s legs against the ringpost to work over the knee, and followed up by smashing the knee into the announce table. Why these actions are not a DQ anymore I’m not sure. Ciampa continued the assault by putting Black in the Tree Of Woe. Eventually, Black escaped and kicked Ciampa to the outside. This put Black on the offensive until Ciampa grounded him with a half crab. Ciampa hit a Tower Of London on the apron and got a two count. Black struck back with V-Trigger like knee strikes. Ciampa kicked out of a Brainbuster. Black followed up with a moonsault to the outside. He rolled Ciampa back into the ring , only for Ciampa to get a near fall with a Fairy Tale Ending out of desperation. The mat on the floor got moved for the second time tonight, this time by Ciampa. Before the champion was able to follow up, Black hit a dive to the ouside. Back in the ring, Black hit a Black Mass kick, but Ciampa was able to roll over and escape the pin. Black kikced out of a second Fairy Tale Ending. Ciampa hit a third Fairy Tale Ending, but did not make the cover. He went for a fourth, but Black escaped. However, Ciampa thwarted any comeback by Black and hit a fourth Fairy Tale Ending. This time, Black didn’t kick out.
After the match, new North American Champion Johnny Gargano came out to the ring and stood alongside his rival. The two held their belts high as teh show went off the air.
Very strong show, and arguably one of the best NXT Takeovers of all time.