Welcome one and all to the TJRWrestling live coverage of NXT Takeover: New Orleans one night before WrestleMania 34. I am your host and the regular NXT reviewer on this fine website, Kurt Zamora. It’s going to be a great show. The boss man John Canton will post his review after the show as well.

One final prediction before we kick off this shindig, based on what I saw in the preshow, I think they’re going to close with Gargano & Ciampa.

The show starts with the opening video package accompanied by a live performance from Cane Hill, the band providing both themes for this Takeover event.

6 Man Ladder Match
Winner Becomes First Ever NXT North American Champion
Ec3 vs. Adam Cole vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. The Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet

We are not messing around by starting with this! I think it goes without saying this is going to be near impossible to follow, but I’ll do my best. In our preview, I went with EC3 and John went with TVD. EC3 bails immediately to start as Cole and TVD take out Ricochet. It doesn’t take long for Lars and Dain to face off but then EC3 starts antagonizing them and they go after him. Everyone now brawling on the floor. Richochet with a shooting star press off the top rope onto Dain and Sullivan!! Ricochet with a ladder but TVD cuts him off. It’s a Ricochet display early. Great offense until he tries to springboard but TVD knocks him off to the floor. Cole now in the ring to go after TVD. Dain gets on the apron but catches an enziguri. Cole with a DVD into the neckbreaker on TVD. EC3 in and a reverse Stunner of sorts on Cole. Sullivan back in and takes out EC3 and Cole. Dain comes in the ring, sends Sullivan to the floor and then a suicide dive through the ropes! Dain got back in the ring and had TVD and Ricochet in his arms but Cole kicked him to get the advantage. Lots of brawling in the ring from everyone but Sullivan, who then gets on the steel steps with a ladder and just throws it at everyone. Sullivan destroys everyone with the ladder. He gorilla presses TVD onto one. Ricochet tries a sunset flip powerbomb off the ladder but can’t pull Sullivan off. Itends up taking four guys to do it but Sullivan takes the fall. Dain backdrops Ricochet onto a ladder. Dain and EC3 start to climb and EC3 drops Dain. Cole and EC3 start to double team Sullivan and pin him in the corner with the bottom of a ladder. Now they both go after Dain on the outside. They get a massive ladder and make a bridge using the apron and announce table. They then whip Dain into that ladder. EC3 makes the mistake though of going “EC3 BAYBAY!” and Cole gives him a DVD onto the ladder. It then becomes a SUPERKICK PARTY!! Ricochet springboards off the top rope but still catches one himself. Cole to the top of the ladder but Sullivan knocks him off.

TVD now hitting Purple Rainmakers on everyone. Sullivan tries cutting off TVD, but he gets a ladder to the face and TVD sets up a ladder in the cornder, he goes to the very top and Purple Rainmaker onto Sullivan!! Great camera shot for that one too. That ladder was at least 12 feet tall. TVD tries to climb a ladder for the belt now but EC3 comes in and ends up Buckle Bombing him into a ladder in the corner. EC3 takes out Dain and Sullivan and starts the climb. Cole now cuts him off and they’re both on the ladder until EC3 somehow gets Cole up and drops him from the ladder with a TKO. Dain bicycle kicks EC3 and has a small amount of blood on his face. Wasteland on EC3 and then he places a ladder on him to which Dain then hits a running senton onto the ladder. Dain tries to follow that up with a Vader Bomb, Cole tries to stop him, but Cole just ends up taking the ride with Dain as EC3 takes the worst of that under the ladder. That was a great spot. Ricochet back in but stuck between Dain and Sullivan. Both big men trade throws of Ricochet across the ring until they’re back face to face. Sullivan somehow catches Dain in the air and gives him a World’s Strongest Slam. Sullivan tries to climb but Ricochet is back in. Richchet is climbing, Sullivan dumps the ladder backwards and in mid fall, Ricochet moonsaults off the ladder, over the top rope, and onto Cole and Dain!! Holy shit! EC3 gets in the ring with Ricochet and Ricochet kicks him onto a ladder laid down, Ricochet off the top rope with a shooting star press! TVD back in the ring and now it’s between then. TVD wedges a ladder between a standing ladder and the middle rope. Ricochet and TVD both on the wedged ladder and OH MY GOD! Cartwheel DVD on the ladder! I have no idea how the hell he pulled that off!

It looks like TVD was the one bleeding, not Dain. There is no one in the ring. Sullivan destroys TVD with a lariat on the floor and now puts TVD on that ladder that was bridged between the apron and announcer table. EC3 tries to stop Sullivan but that doesn’t work and Sullivan nails the Freak Accident on EC3 through the ladder and TVD!! There are 4 matches left and they all have to follow this!! Dain now bridges another ladder on the outside and sets Ricochet up. Cole makes the EC3 mistake and now it’s a Michinoku Driver through the ladder and Ricochet! This is unbelievable!! Sullivan is the first one back in the ring and makes the sloooow climb. Dain is in and climbing the other side. EC3 back in with another ladder and stops both men. He sets up his ladder and Cole is right behind him on the other side. All 4 men reaching for the title. TVD somehow is back up and he’s got the 3rd ladder set up. Ricochet makes it all 6 men climbing. Cole ends up giving EC3 a Russian Leg Sweep off the ladder. EC3 clipped the ropes hard on the way down. Ricochet now with a massive neckbreaker off the ladder onto TVD. It’s back down to Dain and Sullivan, both on the same side and now a Freak Accident off the ladder! Sullivan is cut on the face. Sullivan climbing again but Ricochet out of nowhere jumps onto Sullivan and the ladder just shatters beneath them. Ricochet climbs but here comes Cole to tip the ladder over and Ricochet takes a fall over the top rope. Cole starts to climb and Adam Cole BAY BAY!!! We have a new North American Champion after 32 minutes.

Winner: New North American Champion, Adam Cole

K-Tank’s Take: Oh. My. God. I don’t want to start hyperbole of saying that was the greatest ladder match of all time, but that was unbelievable!! Do you realize how impossible it is to make SIX MEN look better in a match than they did coming in? Somehow they just did that in this match. Six stars were made or sent to the next level with this performance. Wow. I’m blown away. I’ve said that Cole is the best thing going not named Aleister Black so although I didn’t predict him to win, this is no surprise. You want a big name to get the title off on the right foot. I’m sure I’ll say this more than once tonight but GO WATCH THIS MATCH!

NXT Women’s Title Match
Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

Hate to say it, but this is the right spot for this match. The greatness of Lzzy Hale from Halestorm is performing Ember’s theme live. That’s pretty badass. A good reaction for Ember after the performance so that’s good news for the ladies. Ronda Rousey is ringside for this match. Both women charge each other right away and Shayna knocks Ember the hell out with a right hand. Both women go to the floor and Ember recovers to send Shayna into the steel steps. Ember with a pin in the ring but a kickout. Shayna back to the floor and Ember goes to kick her from the apron but Shayna grabs the leg and sends her hard to the apron face first. Back in the ring and a high knee in the corner from Shayna, followed by a gutwrench suplex. Ember kicks out of a pin. Ember tries a headscissors and doesn’t get Shayna completely but they make it work. Ember with her front handstand elbow in the corner but Shayna recovers right away with another high knee. One more running high knee and that gets a two count. Ember comes back with a one leg dropkick and goes for a pin but Shayna slides into a rear nake choke. Ember escapes before it’s really locked in. Ember with a series of moves and then hits a sliding flatliner as Shayna was on her knees. Ember tries a springboard crossbody but no one was home. Shayna goes for her stomp to the elbow but Ember gets out of the way and then gets Shayna in that position and Ember is able to give her a taste of her own medicine. Ember avoids the ref’s blockage and hits another move on that arm and goes for a pin but Shayna kicks out. Ember tries for The Eclipse but Shayna is able to knock her off. Ember is hanging off the top rope and Shayna takes advantage with a series of kicks. Shayna goes to the outside and slams her shoulder into the ringpost to “pop her shoulder back into place”. I don’t know if the crowd got that, but I love that psychology. Shayna goes to the floor and Ember decides to come off the top rope and Eclipse on the floor! That was impressive. The ref gets to 9 before both women get in the ring at the same time. Ember tries to grab Shayna but she rolls into a rear naked choke. Ember goes right to the hurt shoulder to get out but then Shayna gets a triangle choke. Ember powers Shayna up and powerbombs her. Pinfall attempt and Shayna just kicks out. Really good sequence there. Ember back to the top rope and goes for the Eclipse again but Shayna catches her in mid air with the choke! Wow. Ember tries to go after the hurt arm again but Shayna is blocking it. Ember grazed the rope but it wasn’t enough to have the ref call for a break. Shayna rolls away from the ropes as Ember is fighting as best she can but she eventually passes out and the ref calls for the bell. The crowd did not like that finish. It went about 13 minutes.

Winner: New NXT Women’s Champion, Shayna Baszler

K-Tank’s Take: I really thought this would be a title that would stay put but even I said that Baszler would eventually become champion, so not a total surprise. That finish was a little flat, but I really enjoyed everything before that point. They worked their asses off in the 13 minutes they had. I wouldn’t be surprised if this means Ember is going to the main roster.

We got the first preview of Fighting for my Life, the movie based on Paige’s life. Funny clip involving The Rock. Looks like it’s going to be rated PG13.

Adam Cole is shown in the trainer’s room and is telling Kyle O’Reilly that he doesn’t think this title defense is going to happen for him.

NXT Tag Title Match
Winner wins the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
Undisputed Era (c) vs. Authors of Pain (w/Paul Ellering) vs. Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne

Kyle O’Reilly comes out wearing both titles but Adam Cole comes a few steps behind him, ribs taped up. It looks like Cole is going to make a go of it. The bell rings and all 6 men go after each other. Akam goes right for the ribs of Cole. It doesn’t take long for AOP to clear the ring. They hit the combo neckbreaker/sitout powerbomb on O’Reilly but Cole breaks it up. Cole is dumped hard to the floor and it’s hard not to wince at every bump he takes. AOP goes to put him through an announce table, he tries to escape but they double powerbomb him through it anyways. Good God. Just a reminder, Cole is scheduled to wrestle tomorrow MORNING between 8-10AM central time to defend the North American Title at Axxess. Unbelievable. Back and forth action in the ring with no tags so far. Roddy gets a pin on O’Reilly after a backbreaker but O’Reilly kicks out. O’Reilly locks on a triangle and as Akam tries to break it up, O’Reilly just hooks an ankle lock on Akam at the same time. Rezar comes in with Dunne and he powerbombs Dunne onto O’Reilly. It looks like we’re back to legal men as Akam and Roddy are in the ring. and the ref gets everyone back to their corners. AOP now start to work over Roddy. Overhead belly to belly by Rezar and then O’Reilly comes into the ring with no tag, but the ref lets it go. Lucha rules? Rezar dumps him though and back to work on Roddy. Rezar ends up dumping Dunne to the floor as O’Reilly comes back in the match. I think now that one member from each team can be legal. Dunne gets back up and is able to get a tag from Roddy. Dunne escapes an O’Reilly German suplex and kicks him right in the neck. He then counters a Rezar move into a DDT. He goes for a pin but Rezar kicks out. Dunne and O’Reilly trading shots back and forth until Akam comes in and clotheslines both. Set up for the Super Collider and they connect. Last Chapter on O’Reilly but Roddy back in to break up the pin. Dunne legally tags in Roddy who hits a high knee on Rezar and then an Olympic Slam, but Rezar kicks out. Dunne back in and he goes to the top rope but O’Reilly stops him. Roddy goes after O’Reilly and hits a back suplex on the apron. Roddy and Dunne double team Rezar and hit the combo Bitter End but Akam breaks up the pin. Roddy and Akam end up on the floor and Akam goes hard into the steel steps. Dunne and O’Reilly in the ring and Dunne with the Bitter End, 1-2-Thr…. Roddy breaks up the pin!! Roddy with the End of Heartache on Dunne, he drags O’Reilly over Dunne, 1-2-3! WOW! Cole and O’Reilly can’t believe it! Cole is in the ring and Roddy grabs his Undisputed Era armband and puts it on! Roderick Strong has joined the group!

Winners: Still NXT Tag Team Champions, Undisputed Era

Post Match, Bobby Fish comes out on crutches and the four members pose in front of the Dusty Rhodes trophy. I forgot to check my timer at the end, but that probably went 13-15 minutes.

K-Tank’s Take: What a setup. I did not see that coming. I thought for sure they were having a title change when Cole was taken out and no one came out with them at the beginning. I know a lot of people thought this would be the perfect spot for someone like Donovan Dijak to make his debut, but they decided to turn Roddy instead. It makes a lot of sense considering the frustration Roddy has endured over these last few months. It makes Undisputed Era just that much stronger and a force in NXT. I didn’t see it coming, but I love it.

NXT Title Match
Aleister Black vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega) (c)

Gargano and Ciampa will indeed close the show. It makes me second guess my prediction of Black winning the title. You’d think you’d want the crowning of your new champion to be last, but then again Almas won the title going on before War Games in November. This show is going past the typical 2.5 hours. Black wastes no time going after Almas to start. Multiple strikes from all angles. Almas to the floor quickly and Black comes off with a Golden Triangle Moonsault. They get back in the ring and Black hooks a modified octopus stretch and then turns it into a sunset pin but Almas kicks out and goes back to the floor. Black gives chase and as he gets Almas back in the ring, Vega goes on the apron and hurricanranas Black into the steel steps. Almas gets Black back in the ring and goes for a pin but Black kicks out. Almas gets Black tied up in the ropes and connects with a Reality Check. Crowd was 100% behind Black before the match but now we have dueling chants. Almas with a tarantula style move in the ropes and works his five count before breaking. He springboards off the top rope and lands a dropkick. Almas all over Black until he tries another springboard and gets caught in mid air with a knee strike. Black now coming back with his series of strikes. Standing lionsault for a pin but Almas kicks out. Black to the top rope but Almas stops him. Black blocks a superplex attempt and then tries a sunset flip powerbomb but Almas flips out of it. Almas tries to catch Black with his running double knees but Black moves. Almas counters a move and then hits a snap German suplex. He goes to the top rope and goes for a moonsault, Black rolls out but Almas lands on his feet and hits a standing moonsault. I love that spot. Both men trading all kinds of wild shots. Some of these are gnarly looking. Both men end up knocking each other out with standing kicks to the temple.

Both men get up and Almas ends up hiptossing Black into the turnbuckles. He tries for the running knees again but Black blocks it. Black goes for another standing lionsault but Almas dumps him over the top rope to the floor. Almas jumps from the second rope inside the ring and corkscrews over the top rope onto Black. He goes for a pin but Black kicks out. Vega brings the title belt to Almas, which of course gets the ref’s attention, and allows Vega to spike Black with a Hurricanrana. Almas pins but Black kicks out. Almas goes for his Hammerlock DDT but Black rolls through it, both men get up and Black Mass! Almas is out but Vega gets the foot on the rope! The ref only gets a two count and Almas rolls to the floor. Vega now stops Black from another Golden Triangle moonsault and Almas comes from behind and crotches Black. Almas now nails his double foot stomp. Black set up for the double knees again, third time’s a charm but Black still kicks out!! I actually though that was it. Hammerlock DDT attempt but Black blocks it. Black tries Black Mass again but Almas jumps and dropkicks Black in the back of the head. Awesome counter. Both me end up on the apron and Black is set up for the knees again and Almas drills him into the ringpost. Almas looked like he hit one of his knees hard on the ringpost, but he’s not favoring it so maybe not. He drapes Black over the top rope and tries the Hammerlock DDT but Black gets out of it and backdrops Almas over the top to the floor. Black with a huge somersault dive over the top rope! He throws Almas back in the ring but Almas grabs him in the Hammerlock DDT, that’s gotta be it… Black kicks out!! Holy shit what a near fall. Vega is now on the top rope and she goes for a cross body, but Black ducks and Almas has to catch her. Almas looks up and Black Mass!! 1-2-3 NEW CHAMPION!! It’s time to Fade to Black! That went about 18 minutes

Winner: New NXT Champion, Aleister Black

K-Tank’s Take: What a war! Holy hell that was a rough and physical match. Ugly, but not in a bad way. The story is that Vega went to the well one time too many, which I think is quite poetic and tells a great story. I loved the emotion out of Black after the match. It clearly meant a ton to him. I honestly am surprised he won and it didn’t close to show, but it’s all relative. He’s the man of NXT now.

Unsanctioned Match
(If Gargano Loses, He’s Out of NXT Forever)
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano

Ciampa comes out to no music but his own stage design, wearing a kneelength trenchcoat. As slow of a walk as he was making, I expected Gargano to attack from behind but he did not. It is a sea of Gargano signs in the crowd. The lack of music makes the “F—- You Ciampa” chants heard loud and clear. That amused me. Ciampa is without a doubt in the best shape of his career. The ref is not wearing a traditional ref’s shirt, just a solid black polo with the NXT logo. He’s already got latex gloves on, which is interesting. That’s the only difference in presentation for an “unsanctioned match”. Gargano all over Ciampa to start. This is starting at :28 past the hour, so like I said, we’re going overtime tonight. Gargano is stomping the hell out of Ciampa. Gargano with a clothesline over the top rope and then a suicide dive through the ropes. None other than Shane-O-Mac is front row for this match, but he’s not acknowledged. He’s on the hard camera side, not the typical area where they plant stars. Ciampa is dumped over the barricade into the crowd and Gargano dives over the barricade and takes out Ciampa. Ciampa finally slows down Gargano and suplexes him stomach first over the barricade. The Rock’s mom and daughter are also front row. Ciampa with a backbreaker on the floor. Ciampa rips up some of the padding around the ring to expose the concrete floor. Ciampa tries to suplex him but Gargano with blocks. Gargano evetually reverses it, goes to the apron and superkicks Ciampa. Gargano chunks Ciampa into the announcers and takes out Percy Watson. Mauro just gets out of the way and that leads to a funny “mamma mia!” chant. Gargano gets Ciampa on top of the announcer’s table. Gargano actually tries to piledrive Ciampa but Ciampa blocks it. Ciampa hits Gargano in the midsection with one of the monitors, he wanted to hit him in the face, but the wires got in the way. Ciampa then suplexes Gargano off the table and both men land with a hard thud. Ciampa sets up the top piece of the announce table that shows what brand it is and back suplexes Gargano onto it.

Ciampa gets Gargano back in the ring and stomps away on Gargano. Hard whip into the turnbuckles and Gargano takes a hard front flip bump. Gargano fights back for a minute but Ciampa lands a back suplex. Ciampa tries a Texas Cloverleaf but doesn’t step over with it. Gargano gets the ropes but the ref can’t break it. Gargano crawls half way out of the ring to finally break it. Ciampa just goes to the apron and viciously stomps at the back of Gargano’s head. Ciampa is looking for something under the ring but can’t find it and then just delivers a running knee lift to the side of Gargano’s head. There’s a fan with crutches in a Johnny Wrestling shirt, probably a plant, and Ciampa takes a swing at him and takes his crutches. Ciampa tries two knockout blows with the crutch but Gargano moves. Gargano with his rolling enziguri kick. Ciampa on the apron and Gargano comes from behind with straight left punches. Gargano is standing on the bottom rope and Ciampa is able to trip him up. They’re right in front of the area where the concrete was exposed. Ciampa wants to suplex him over the top rope but can’t. Both men trying to use the concrete to their advantage and finally Gargano slides down and powerbombs Ciampa off the apron onto the concrete! Good God. That thud was sickening. Both men slowly end up bck in the ring and in opposite sides of the ring. They both go for the crutch in the middle and it’s a tug of war. Gargano wins the war and he unloads on Ciampa. He takes swing right at the injured knee. He tries one more home run swing but Ciampa manages to dump him to the floor. Ciampa goes to grab Gargano but Gargano swings from back in Full Sail and drills Ciampa over the head! Gargano comes in with his slingshot DDT but Ciampa somehow kicks out. Gargano exposes one of the middle turnbuckles and goes to lawn dart Ciampa, but Ciampa gets out. Gargano to the apron and Ciampa lands a massive back elbow. Ciampa runs at Gargano as Gargano tries his spear through the ropes and Gargano catches all knee from Ciampa. Blue Thunder Bomb from Ciampa but Gargano kicks out. Ciampa has Gargano set up for his running knee strike, ala DIY days, and drills Gargano in the back of the head. He doubles up Gargano, but Gargano still kicks out! Gargano escapes a hold and goes on on Ciampa. Ciampa comes back with a lariat but Gargano escapes a powerbomb and then lands a reverse hurricanrana. Gargano has the Gargano Escape on! Ciampa gets the ropes but that’s not gonna help him. Gargano rolls back into the ring but Ciampa now just gouges at the eye of Gargano and he has to let go.

Ciampa takes off his wrist tape and tries to choke Gargano, but Gargano doesn’t let him. Both men gripping the tape as they tee off on each other. Gargano looked to have the advantage finally but Ciampa with a kick to the Johnny Ding-Ding. Ciampa grabs the second crutch and drills Gargano over the back with it. He picks up Gargano and lands the powerbomb into the backstabber. Gargano kicks out!! Ciampa on his knees as Gargano crawling towards him. Ciampa yelling at Gargano and now both men trading blows again. Superkick by Gargano and then a lariat. He gets Ciampa up and lawn darts him into that exposed turnbuckle! Two superkicks dead to rights on Ciampa… 1-2-Ciampa still kicks out!! I can’t believe it! Gargano slowing going to the top rope but Ciampa cuts him off. Big headbutt by Ciampa and now he gets Gargano up in the Irish Curse backbreaker. Gargano trying to fight it off. Gargano wants a top rope hurricanrana but Ciampa reverses it into the powerbomb backstabber off the second rope. Gargano still kicks out!! Ciampa now favoring the knee that was surgically repaired. He takes off everything on that knee and exposes it. He wants one more knee strike but Gargano grabs the heavy knee brace and swings it right into that knee! Gargano gets the crutch now and bred breaks it in half. He goes for the killshot but stops as Ciampa tries to block it. Gargano can’t do it. Ciampa’s right eye is swollen. Gargano and Ciampa look like they’re going to have a moment but Ciampa has the knee brace and swings for Gargano, Gargano ducks and Gargano Escape!! Ciampa has the brace again, Gargano sees it and now he hooks a STF on with the brace wrapped around Ciampa’s face… CIAMPA TAPS OUT!!!!!!!! Johnny Wrestling did it!!

Winner: Johnny Gargano (Gargano gets to stay in NXT)

K-Tank’s Take: Ciampa was IMMEDIATELY taken out by multiple refs. I hope he wasn’t hurt again in that match. He had about 3 refs with him. That right eye looked pretty bad but I don’t know that you need three refs for that. Candice LaRae came out ot celebrate with Gargano to end the show. The match went about 35 minutes. What a moment and what a match. That was amazing. It was everything you could’ve hoped for and more. Those near falls were just incredible. I’m almost at a loss of words for how good that emotional roller coaster was. I’m just going to leave it at that because I honestly don’t know what else to say.

Thank you everyone for joining me for this Takeover even that absolutely lived up to expectations. This brand is better than ever in my opinion. I can’t wait for what’s next. Until next time, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but if you do, name it after me.