The John Report: WWE NXT Takeover New Orleans 04/07/18 Review

TJR Wrestling

WWE NXT Takeover New Orleans
From Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
April 7, 2018

The show began with the band Cane Hill playing the theme song of this show while highlights of NXT action was shown. That took about five minutes.

There was a shot of the live crowd as Mauro Ranallo welcomed us to the show.

It’s the 6-Man Ladder Match to open the show. The match is for the brand new North American Championship. The referee held up the title in the air and then it was hanging above the ring.

EC3 aka Ethan Carter III made his entrance first with his “Top one percent” song. He’s the former Derrick Bateman in case you don’t know him as EC3.

Killian Dain of the Sanity group was up next. He’s a very hairy man and a good athlete for his size.

Adam Cole got a nice reaction for his entrance. He noted on Twitter that he started wrestling ten years ago, so this is a big weekend for him.

Velveteen Dream got a lot of cheers for his entrance with Ranallo making a good point about Dream having a bright future at 22 years of age.

Lars Sullivan was up next. They filmed him from the ground up to try to put over his size as a big man. The reality is he’s not that tall compared to some guys on the main roster, but he’s got the look of a badass.

Ricochet was the last man to enter. He’s got a lot of hype and it is deserved because he’s a special athlete. I’m so excited to see him in WWE and looking forward to seeing what he can do in NXT as well as the main roster in the future.

North American Championship Ladder Match: EC3 vs. Adam Cole vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Ricochet

The crowd was chanting “this is awesome” before the match began. The guys left the ring quickly leading to Ricochet nailing a springboard Shooting Star Press onto Dain and Sullivan on the floor. That was an incredible move. Ricochet did some incredible moves to take out Velveteen Dream, but Dream managed to knock him out of the ring. Dream set up the ladder to climb, but Cole knocked him down. Cole with an enziguri kick that knocked Dain off the apron and sent him to the floor. Cole sent Dream out of the ring. EC3 back in with a neckbreaker on Cole, splash by EC3 on Cole and a flipping neck snap. Sullivan back in the ring with a splash on Cole followed by a powerslam. Sullivan with a powerslam on EC3. Dain sent Sullivan out of the ring and Dain hit a suicide dive to take out Sullivan on the floor. Cole kicked Dain to knock him down while he was holding Ricochet and Dream. Everybody was in the ring exchanging punches except Sullivan, who had a ladder in his hands and he threw the ladder at the five guys in the ring. That was a unique spot. Sullivan cleaned house with a ladder using it as a weapon to knock down all five guys. Sullivan whipped Dain into a ladder that was against the turnbuckle. Sullivan with a press slam on Dream onto a ladder that was in the ring. Sullivan did a slow climb, but Ricochet (easily the crowd favorite) stopped him. Ricochet was helped by EC3 and Dream to deliver a Powerbomb on Sullivan. Cole even assisted with punches. Dain pulled Cole off the ladder and hit him with a headbutt. Dain with a back body drop that sent Ricochet crashing into a ladder. EC3 with a bulldog on Dain off the ladder. Cole and EC3 teamed together to smash Sullivan with a ladder. EC3 and Cole set up a ladder bridge from the announce table to the ring and they whipped Dain into it. Cole and EC3 gave eachother high five with EC3 saying “EC3 baby” so Cole slammed him onto a ladder. Cole with superkicks for Dream, Dain, Sullivan, EC3 and Ricochet, who was jumping off the top rope. Cole did his “Adam Cole bay bay” taunt with the crowd chanting along. That was a great sequence. Cole tried to climb the ladder, but Sullivan shoved him off the ladder. Dream hit Sullivan with a ladder to knock him out of the ring.

Dream went to the top rope and hit an elbow drop on Dain. Dream up top again with an elbow drop on Cole. Dream with an elbow drop to the back of Ricochet. Dream used the ladder to knock down Sullivan. Dream set up a ladder against the turnbuckle and you could see the ref holding the bottom of it to help keep his balance. Dream went to the top of the ladder and hit an elbow drop on Sullivan. Wow! That was impressive. Dream tried to climb, but EC3 cut him off and hit a Powerbomb into a ladder that was up against the turnbuckle. EC3 climbed up the ladder slowly, but Cole stopped that and they battled on the ladder. EC3 hit a TKO off the ladder onto Cole. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them and it was well deserved. Dain used his power to work over EC3 and Cole. Dain dropped a ladder on EC3 and hit a senton splash onto the ladder on EC3 as well. Dain went to the turnbuckle, but Cole went after him and Dain managed to hit a Vader Bomb on EC3 off the turnbuckle with Cole on his back. That was sweet. Another “this is awesome” chant from the crowd. Sullivan picked up Ricochet and launched him across the ring at the feet of Dain. Fans chanted “throw him back” so Dain tossed Ricochet across the ring with Ricochet bumping to the floor. Dain and Sullivan battled with Dain hitting a clothesline to take control. Sullivan caught Dain in his arms and hit a front slam. Sullivan climbed up, Ricochet chased after him and kicked him in the head. Sullivan was pushing the ladder over, so Ricochet hit a moonsault off the ladder onto Cole and Dain, who were on the floor. “Holy shit” chant from the crowd was deserved. That was so cool. Ricochet got back in the ring with a springboard dropkick to take out Sullivan. Ricochet kicked EC3 onto a ladder that was in the ring. Ricochet hit a Shooting Star Press onto EC3, who was laying across the ladder. This match is 20 minutes into it.

Ricochet climbed up the ladder again, Dream pulled him down and punched. Dream missed an attack with a ladder. Dream set up a ladder bridge from the turnbuckle onto a ladder in the middle of the ring. Dream put Ricochet on the ladder. Ricochet went to the top, but Dream kicked him down to crotch him. Dream gave Ricochet a rolling Death Valley Driver on the ladder! That was great and also painful. Ranallo: “Did that just happen?” It sure did. Sullivan got back into it and put Dream onto the ladder that was bridged from the announce table to the ring apron. Sullivan picked up EC3 and slammed him onto Dream, which broke the ladder in half! Fans chanted “holy shit” for that as well and “this is awesome” again. That was a brutal spot. There was another ladder bridged from the other announce table to the ring apron. Dain picked up Cole in his arms and jumped onto Ricochet on the ladder, which broke the ladder! Wow. Fans chanting “fight forever” for them.

Analysis: Those two spots were similar with the big men slamming a smaller guy through somebody that was on a ladder and both were insane with guys being put through steel ladders. Those hurt a lot more than the tables that WWE uses.

Sullivan and Dain got back into the ring to try to pull down the title. EC3 went back in there with a ladder in hand to try to knock them down. Cole made his way into the ring as well. Dream grabbed a third ladder and set it up beside the two ladders. Three ladders were set up with five of the six guys up there and Ricochet was the last man to join the chase. They were all throwing punches. Cole slammed EC3 off the ladder. Dream got his hands on the title, but he couldn’t reach it. Ricochet hit a neckbreaker on Dream off the top of a ladder. Another incredible spot in this match. Sullivan took down Dain with a uranage slam. Sullivan was alone in the ring. Ricochet got back into it by jumping onto Sullivan’s back, which led to the ladder collapsing under them. Ricochet climbed up the ladder, but Cole tipped it over and Ricochet went crashing to the floor. Cole climbed up the ladder and pulled the title down to become the first ever North American Champion. The crowd cheered. The match went 31 minutes.

Winner and New NXT North American Champion: Adam Cole

Cole celebrated with the title. Replays aired of the big spots in the match. There were so many of them that they couldn’t show them all.

Analysis: ****3/4 I’m going just under five stars out of five. That was a special match where all six guys busted their asses, some of them got busted open and they went all out to make that North American Championship feel special from the first match where it was up for grabs. I like how all six guys really got a chance to shine. Ricochet stood out the most due to some of his aerial moves (that ladder match off the ladder was insane) and the crowd wanted him to win the most, but they liked Cole and some of others as well. There were plenty of power spots to make Sullivan and Dain look like beasts. It seemed like EC3 took the most punishment from the ladder. Dream stepped up huge again on a Takeover, which is something he continues to do to impress me. I’m cool with Adam Cole winning because he’s one of the best guys on the NXT brand. He’s a heel that people still cheer for.

A commercial aired for WrestleMania 34.

There was a shot of Andrade “Cien” Almas in the locker room with his manager Zelina Vega.

The video package aired to set up the NXT Women’s Championship match with Ember Moon defending against Shayna Baszler.

Ember Moon, the NXT Women’s Champion, made her entrance with a live band there to play her down to the ring.

Shayna Baszler was up next as the challenger. They had a staredown as they stood in the ring for the in-ring intros from ring announcer Mike Rome.

NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler

Baszler punched Moon out of the ring. When Baszler went after Moon on the floor, Moon hit a dropkick that sent Baszler into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Moon jumped off the top with a double knee attack for a two count. Moon slapped on an armbar submission. Baszler left the ring and tripped up Moon to send her face first on the apron. Baszler whipped Moon back first into the barricade. Baszler took control back in the ring with a running knee, gutwrench suplex and a kick to the back. Moon with a running palm strike, but Baszler came back with a knee to the face. Moon got a rollup for two. Baszler came back with a leaping knee for two. Moon broke free of a submission by falling on her back and forcing Baszler to break the hold. Ranallo noted Ronda Rousey was at ringside rooting on her friend Baszler. Moon with a running dropkick that took down Baszler followed by a suplex and a takedown for two. Moon missed a diving cross body block. Baszler tried to step on the elbow, but Moon avoided it. Moon managed to kick the left elbow of Baszler leading to Baszler screaming in pain. Moon with an armbar takedown and got a two count. Baszler sent up Moon on the top rope, kicked her in the back and hit a dropkick to the back with Baszler favoring her injured left arm. Baszler hit her shoulder against the ring post twice to get the feeling back in her left arm. Moon kicked Baszler and knocked her down to the floor. Moon was on the middle turnbuckle and hit a somersault dive to take out Baszler on the floor. That was impressive. Baszler had Moon in the submission again, but Moon broke free by attacking the left arm of Baszler. When Baszler grabbed an armbar, Moon powered out into a Powerbomb for a two count. Moon went up top for the Eclipse, but Baszler caught her and slapped on the Kirifuda Clutch. Moon was fading away, the crowd was cheering her on and Moon fought it off as much as she can. Moon was out, so Baszler won by submission after 13 minutes.

Winner by submission and New NXT Women’s Champion: Shayna Baszler

Analysis: *** They worked hard and had a good match with plenty of psychology since Baszler was selling the arm injury and Moon did everything she could to avoid it. I like the drama that existed in the final sequence because Baszler had the Kirifuda Clutch locked in there for a few minutes and Moon tried to fight it off, but she couldn’t do it. I think Moon may debut on Raw or Smackdown this week, which is why I picked Baszler to win here. Plus, this match was a rematch from the last Takeover and that usually means a title change is coming.

After the win, they showed Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke in the crowd cheering their friend on. Baszler was handed the NXT Women’s Title and she went over to Rousey and Duke for a victory hug.

Paige set up a clip for the movie about her life called “Fighting With My Family.” It’s a scene with Paige in the movie and her brother meeting The Rock backstage at a show. Rock ended up yelling at them with an over the top promo as advice for them as wrestlers. As if that really happened, but it’s a movie, so there ya go.

There was a scene in the locker room with Adam Cole getting looked at by a doctor and his NXT Tag Team Title partner Kyle O’Reilly was there with him.

The announce team of Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson were shown on camera.

Aleister Black was shown warming up backstage.

The next match is the triple threat NXT Tag Team Title match that is also the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. A video package aired to set it up.

The Authors of Pain duo of Akam and Rezar entered with their manager Paul Ellering. The Dusty Rhodes Classic trophy is on the stage as well.

Pete Dunne was up next. He is the United Kingdom Champion that has been very impressive during his WWE career. He puts the title in his mouth and walks down to the ring with it. Roderick Strong was up next as Dunne’s partner.

Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole of the Undisputed Era were up next. They are the NXT Tag Team Champions. O’Reilly’s usual partner Bobby Fish is out of action due to knee surgery. Cole had the North American Title with him and his ribs were all taped up. They were not happy about defending the titles.

There was a shot of Dustin Rhodes and Jeff Jarrett seated at ringside watching the match.

NXT Tag Team Championships: The Undisputed Era – Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne vs. Authors of Pain – Akam and Rezar (w/Paul Ellering)

The first pinfall or submission wins this match.

The Authors of Pain dominated early on as the biggest men in the match and they cleared the ring. There was a nasty hip toss on Dunne over the top to the floor. Double team neckbreaker into a Powerbomb for a two count with Cole breaking up the pin. The AOP guys set up Cole by the Spanish announce table. They slipped picking Cole up, but then they gave Cole a double Powerbomb to put Cole through the table. O’Reilly came out of nowhere with a kick onto one of the AOP guys. Back in the ring, O’Reilly kicked Dunne, but Strong nailed O’Reilly with a dropkick. Strong knocked the AOP guys down followed by another backbreaker on O’Reilly. There was a spot where O’Reilly used his legs around the neck of Strong, an ankle lock on one of the AOP guys and the other AOP guy with a Powerbomb on Dunne that broke up the submission. The match reverted back to a regular tag as the AOP guys worked over Strong in the corner. Rezar with an overhead belly to belly on Strong. O’Reilly went after Rezar while Cole was shown out on the announce table. Rezar with a German suplex release leading to O’Reilly bumping to the floor. Akam tagged in with a vicious knee to the ribs of Strong. O’Reilly went back into the ring as Rezar kicked him down. Strong hit an enziguri kick on Rezar. Dunne got the tag with punches followed by a leaping kick on Akam. Dunne with a hard kick to O’Reilly’s back and Dunne avoided a Rezar slam by turning it into a spinning DDT for a two count. Dunne and O’Reilly got into a slugfest. Hard slaps by each guy that stopped when Akam went back into the ring with running clotheslines on both guys. Authors of Pain hit their double Powerbombs on O’Reilly and Dunne followed by a clothesline into a sweep combo for two as Strong made the save. Strong tagged in, he hit a knee to the face of Rezar and an Olympic Slam for a two count. Strong slammed O’Reilly back first on the apron and Dunne with a double foot stomp on O’Reilly. Double team knee attack by Dunne and Strong followed by a double team slam for two as Akam saved Rezar. They left the ring with Strong sending Akam into the steps. O’Reilly back in, Dunne with a kick and he hit the Bitter End for a two count as Strong attacked Dunne. Strong suplexed Dunne onto his knee and Strong put O’Reilly on Dunne to give O’Reilly the win after 12 minutes.

Winners by pinfall: Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole

Analysis: ***1/4 It was a good match with a nice heel turn to end it. It started out as a tornado tag match for the first half, they obeyed the tag team rules for some of it and then it broke down again. Authors of Pain were booked strong like usual by not having one of them take the pin and they got the most offense in the match. The finish was well done with the Strong heel turn coming out of nowhere. I didn’t see it coming, but it made sense if you know his history because he was a long time Ring of Honor guy like Cole, O’Reilly and Fish. The Strong and Dunne allegiance was only a few weeks old, so it’s easy to have Strong explain why he turned.

After the match was over, Strong grabbed the Undisputed Era armband of Cole and put it on himself. Strong handed Cole and O’Reilly the titles. They stood together in the ring as the new three-man version of the Undisputed Era. Those ROH buddies stick together.

The Undisputed Era trio posed on the stage with Bobby Fish joining them. Fish was in his street clothes with a brace on his left knee and crutches. They posted by the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy as well.

Analysis: I like seeing those three guys together as an active group and when Fish gets back in the ring in six months it will be even better. I think NXT needs a dominant heel faction and now they have two sets of titles with the Tag Team

A commercial aired for WrestleMania hyping Rousey/Angle vs. Stephanie/Triple H.

A commercial aired for Five Hour Energy. I may need that to get through a lot of typing during WrestleMania.

There was a shot of Nita Strauss at ringside. She’s an Alice Cooper guitarist.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black for the NXT Championship is up next. A video package aired for it. That means Gargano vs. Ciampa is up last.

Aleister Black made his entrance to a good ovation from the crowd. His theme song is one of my favorites in all of WWE. I’m not even that much of a fan of that kind of music, but it fits this guy perfectly.

Andrade “Cien” Almas, the NXT Champion, made his entrance with his manager Zelina “no relation to Savio” Vega. They were booed, but not that much because this crowd likes to cheer everybody in NXT.

NXT Championship: Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Aleister Black

Black was on fire with strikes including a running kick that sent Almas out of the ring. Black hit a moonsault off the middle rope onto Almas on the floor. That landed perfectly. Great move. They went back into the ring with Black getting a rollup for a two count. Black sent Almas into the ring, so Vega hit a hurricanrana that sent Black into the steel steps. The ref didn’t see it because he was checking on Almas. That led to Almas taking control with an elbow to the chest off the ropes. Almas pulled on the left arm of Black and followed that with a springboard dropkick on Black for a two count. Almas slapped on an armbar. Black sent Almas into the turnbuckle, Almas with a boot to the face and Almas pulled on Black’s arm again using the ropes as an assist. Almas with an attack off the top, but Black kneed him to knock him down. Black kicked Almas into the ropes followed by a running knee to the face. Black with a springboard moonsault press for a two count. Black went for a sunset flip out of the corner, Almas landed on his feet and Almas hit a German Suplex. Almas with a moonsault, Black moved, Almas landed on his feet and Almas hit another moonsault for a two count. That was great. They exchanged strikes and Almas hit a back elbow. Almas came back with a running knee for a two count. They each connected with kicks to the head at the same time to knock each man down.

They got back to their feet and Almas hit a hip toss that sent Black into the turnbuckle. Black tried going for a moonsault, so Almas shoved him over the top to the floor. Almas with a corkscrew plancha on Black on the floor. Almas sent Black back in for a two count. Vega handed Almas the title, but the ref took the title saying it’s not over. Vega went into the ring with a spike hurricanrana on Black, which led to a two count for Almas. Black came back with the Black Mass kick, but Vega put Almas’ foot on the ropes to stop the count at two. The ref didn’t see her do it. Vega is an awesome valet for Almas. Black went to the turnbuckle, Vega grabbed his foot and Almas tripped up Black on the turnbuckle. Almas with a double foot stomp off the top rope on Black. Almas with the double knees in the corner got a two count. When Black went for a spin kick, Almas nailed him with a dropkick to the back. Almas set up Black against the turnbuckle. Almas hit the running double knees against the turnbuckle like he did against Johnny Gargano at the last Takeover. They went back into the ring with Black hitting a back body drop to send Almas over the top to the floor. Black nailed a somersault dive onto Almas on the floor. They went back into the ring with Almas hitting the Hammerlock DDT for one…two…and Black kicked out. Wow. Incredible nearfall there! Vega went up top, she jumped off, Almas caught her and Black nailed the Black Mass spin kick on Almas. Black pinned Almas to win the match and the NXT Championship. It went 18 minutes

Winner and New NXT Champion: Aleister Black

Analysis: ****1/4 Awesome match. Almas is performing at a high level in these Takeover matches and Black is right there with him. The story of the match was about Vega interfering heavily and it looked like she would give Almas the win due to all her interference, but she ended up failing to do that, which cost Vega because he was vulnerable and Black nailed the Black Mass for the win. I figured there would be a title change here because Black had a lot of momentum going into this match. I think Almas and Vega are very likely going to be on Raw and Smackdown as soon as this coming week.

Black celebrated with the NXT Championship with Ranallo noting that Black is the 13th NXT Champion in history. The crowd was happy for Black. Replays aired of the win.

They aired the same clip from the Paige movie that they aired earlier in the night.

A commercial aired for AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania.

They advertised Triple H’s comments on Facebook Live after the show.

There was a clip from Earlier Today showing a clip of Johnny Gargano signing a hold harmless agreement that means he can’t sue WWE or hold them responsible if he gets injured.

The video package aired for the Unsanctioned Match between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, the team known as #DIY. This is going to be great. They were best friends, then Ciampa turned on Gargano after they lost a big match at the Takeover last May and Ciampa had to miss eight months because he tore his ACL. Gargano came close to winning the NXT Title, but Ciampa cost him the title and then he cost Gargano his job, so that led to this match.

Tommaso Ciampa entered first to no music. He was booed heavily by the crowd. There were Johnny Gargano signs that were handed out to the crowd before the match. The fans chanted “you suck” at Ciampa and some were chanting “fuck you Ciampa” at him as well. They chanted “Johnny Wrestling” as well.

Analysis: I think it’s great that most NXT fans cheer every heel on the show, but they are booing Ciampa and chanting bad things at him because they are buying into the storyline. It shows how successful this angle has been.

Johnny Gargano entered to a big ovation from the crowd. The Gargano signs in the crowd were all over because WWE hands them out to the fans. It’s all about telling a story after all.

Unsanctioned Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

(If Gargano wins he gets his NXT job back, but if Gargano loses he is gone from NXT forever.)

They started out with punches as they should in a match that’s built around a personal rivalry. Slingshot Spear by Gargano followed by more punches and kicks. Gargano with a clothesline that sent Ciampa out of the ring. Gargano with a suicide dive for a two count. There’s Shane McMahon in the front row along with his three sons. The Rock’s mom and oldest daughter are also there. I can spot Bayley and Sasha Banks as well. They brawled outside the ring with Gargano hitting a dive over the barricade and he took down Ciampa while they were in the crowd. Ciampa came back with a suplex that sent Gargano’s ribs into the barricade. Ciampa hit Gargano with forearms to the back. Ciampa with a backbreaker as they battled outside the ring. Ciampa pulled off the mat outside the ring in front of Shane McMahon, who wasn’t acknowledged by the announcers. Ciampa teased a suplex on the floor, but Gargano fought out of it and hit him with a kick. Gargano whipped Ciampa over the announce table and Ciampa went crashing onto the announcers. Fans chanted “Mamma Mia” for Ranallo as he got out of the way. That’s funny. Gargano teased a move on the announce table, but Ciampa hit him with a monitor to the ribs. Ciampa suplexed Gargano off the announce table onto the floor. Ciampa suplexed Gargano onto the top of the announce table. Fans chanted “Fuck You Ciampa” as Gargano struggled to get back to his feet. Back in the ring, Ciampa with a hard whip into the corner. When Gargano got back to his feet, Ciampa took him down with a belly to back suplex. Ciampa slapped on a Cloverleaf submission. When Gargano got to the rope, the ref told him there’s no rope break. Ciampa stomped on the back of Gargano’s head and then sarcastically clapped at the fans. Ciampa with a running knee lift. There was a fan that was clearly planted there with crutches and Ciampa grabbed the crutches. Security walked the guy to the back. That was obviously a plant since there wasn’t even a seat there.

They went back into the ring with Ciampa bringing the crutches in the ring. Gargano avoided two crutch attacks, punched him and Ciampa kicked him. Gargano nailed a rolling kick that knocked Ciampa to the apron. Ciampa was on the apron and he tripped up Gargano to take him down. They were by the part of the apron where the floor was exposed. Gargano with a kick to the head. Gargano jumped over the top teasing a slingshot DDT. Ciampa fought out of it and Gargano hit a Powerbomb onto the exposed concrete. Ouch. They showed former NFLer DeAngelo Williams in the crowd. Fans chanted “you deserve” it for that. They went back into the ring fighting over the crutch that was in there. Gargano hit Ciampa in the gut, crutch to the back and a crutch to the knee for Gargano. Ciampa came back with a back body drop that sent Gargano over the top to the floor. Gargano came back with a crutch to the back of the head. Gargano jumped over the top and hit a DDT for a two count. Gargano exposed a middle turnbuckle. Ciampa avoided being sent into it and hit a back elbow to the jaw of Gargano. When Gargano tried to jump back into the ring, Ciampa hit a knee to the face. Ciampa hit a spinning sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Ciampa hit a running knee to the back of the head for two. Gargano broke free, hit him with three clotheslines, five slaps and Ciampa came back with a stiff clothesline. Gargano hit a reverse rana that snapped Ciampa’s head back. Gargano slapped on the Gargano Escape submission hold. Ciampa tried to fight it and he managed to crawl to the ropes. Gargano kicked his hand off the ropes and spun back to the middle of the ring. Ciampa gouged Gargano in the eyes to break free. Ranallo called Ciampa a “sadistic son of a bitch” for that.

Ciampa took his black wrist tape off to try to choke Gargano, but Gargano fought him off. They exchanged punches for about one minute with Gargano getting the control with several lefty punches. Ciampa stopped that with a kick to the gut. Ciampa with a crutch to the back. Ciampa picked up Gargano and hit the double knees to the back for a two count. Great nearfall there. They slowly got back to their feet with Ciampa saying it was his moment. Gargano came back with a superkick, clothesline and he sent Ciampa like a lawn dart into the exposed middle turnbuckle. Gargano with another superkick. Gargano with another superkick for just two as Ciampa got his right shoulder up to kick out. The crowd thought that was it and I thought so too. They went over to the turnbuckle and battled on the top rope. Ciampa set up Gargano, but Gargano elbowed out of it. Ciampa hit a Powerbomb off the top onto the double knees for a two count as Gargano got his left shoulder up. That was an excellent nearfall. Ciampa took off the knee brace. Ciampa charged in and Gargano hit Ciampa in the right knee with the brace. Gargano broke apart the crutch and he was going to hit Ciampa with it, but then he stopped. Gargano threw down the crutch. They had a long pause where Gargano just stared at him. Dramatic moment here. Gargano had a swollen eye or something wrong with his eye. Ciampa tried to hit him with the knee brace, so Gargano slapped on the Gargano escape. Gargano slapped on the STF like submission and pulled back with the crutch on Ciampa’s neck. Ciampa tapped out to lose the match. It went 37 minutes.

Winner by submission: Johnny Gargano

Analysis: ***** What an epic match this match was. Amazing. Five stars out of five again for Johnny Gargano in back to back Takeover shows. That’s incredible. This felt like the kind of fight it needed to be with two former best friends trying to hurt eachother, yet still executing everything perfectly as the great professional wrestlers they are. You could feel the emotion in the arena from the moment Ciampa got out there, the crowd was against him and they hated him the whole match. The fact that Ciampa got booed the way he did made this match feel special. We all knew Gargano was going to win, but it was a question of how. What I loved so much about the match were the incredible nearfalls for both guys that made it look like it could end at any time. It was also violent with some hard bumps on the floor like that Powerbomb on the cement. That sounded brutal. No rest holds either. Their endurance was impressive because it didn’t look like either guy got tired the entire time. The ending was perfect with Gargano getting a hold of the knee brace and pulling back on Ciampa’s neck for the win. It was a brutal way to end a very physical match. What an awesome performance from Ciampa. The guy missed nearly one year of action, he comes back and has to have a nearly 40 minute main event match where he got booed massively. He was so great. I know Gargano was too, but Ciampa was right there the whole way. I loved it. (I know others like Dave Meltzer, who I respect a lot, go over five stars for matches sometimes, but to me that’s where the scale stops and I don’t go over that.)

After the match was over, Gargano’s wife Candice Lerae went into the ring to hug her husband. The result means that Gargano got his NXT job back. Ciampa was quickly helped to the back by the referees because I assume the trainers wanted to check on his eye.

Replays aired of the key spots in the match. There were so many of them.

The show ended with Johnny and Candice celebrating in the ring.

Analysis: A case can be made for Gargano to move up to the main roster soon because he’s such an outstanding performer. However, I think since he came so close to winning the NXT Title in the past, his journey in NXT should see him win the NXT Title and I hope that happens later this year.

The show had a run time of 3 hours, 7 minutes. I think that makes it the longest Takeover ever.

Final Thoughts

I’ll give it a 10 out of 10. Best Takeover ever.

It’s very rare for me to go 10 out of 10 for any kind of show. This was special with a five-star main event and the opening match was nearly five stars. You just don’t get that very often. I’ve run out of words to use to describe how incredible this event was.

I think it’s a 10 because when you have a five star match, another match that was right there, another match over four stars and the other two matches are still very good then it’s going to get that from me. If that’s not a 10 then nothing is gonna be a 10. I’ve been doing this for two decades and come up with a system for my reviews that work for me, so that’s why it felt like a 10. It’s unrealistic to expect a show to have 5 matches hitting at least four stars, but when you can do what this show did then that’s a 10 out of 10 show. It is for me anyway.

I’m in awe of how good Johnny Gargano is. Two five star matches in back to back Takeover shows. It certainly helps to get 30+ minutes to have these matches because they can tell a complete story and he’s taking advantage of the opportunities given to him.

Big nights for Adam Cole, Aleister Black and of course Johnny Gargano. That’s great because I’m a huge fan of all three.

I went 4-1 in my predictions with the only wrong prediction was Adam Cole winning the North American Championship. That’s a reminder that predictable isn’t bad.

Ranking The WWE NXT Takeover 2018 Events (1 to 10 scale)

NXT Takeover New Orleans – 10/10

NXT Takeover Philadelphia – 9/10

I’ll be back on Sunday night with the WrestleMania Review. My contact info is below.


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