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It’s time for the first NXT Takeover of the year. I’m really looking forward to this. Thanks to our NXT guy Kurt Zamora for doing the live review of the show and he also included the winners of the NXT Awards. Let’s get to it.

WWE NXT Takeover Phoenix
From Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona
January 26, 2019

The opening video package aired hyping up the five matches on the show. It was good as usual.

There was a shot of the live crowd at the Talking Stick Resort Arena (such an awkward name) and the crowd looked ready to go. The NXT announce team of Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson welcomed us to the show. The Spanish announce team was at ringside welcoming us to the show while hoping nobody breaks their damn table.

There was a unique entrance for the War Raiders tag team with guys dressed as vikings along with shields. The NXT entrances are oftentimes more elaborate than what the main roster gets. I think we can credit that to Triple H’s vision since he has been known to have some great entrances in his career too. The NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong made their entrance. I always enjoy O’Reilly’s air guitar on the title.

Analysis: Good choice for an opening match. These teams know eachother well from their years before WWE too.

NXT Tag Team Championships: The Undisputed Era’s Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly vs. War Raiders (Rowe and Hanson)

The War Raiders were on fire to start the match by taking out the champs on the floor and Rowe hit a running splash on Strong for a two count. Strong stopped Hanson with a kick while he was on the top rope and the heels threw Rowe into Hanson to knock both challengers down. O’Reilly with a jumping knee on Hanson. Strong tried a suplex, Hanson blocked it and O’Reilly tagged back in with a kick followed by Strong with a forearm to knock Hanson down. Rowe tagged in, gutwrench slam and he tossed Strong into O’Reilly to take out both champs. O’Reilly kicked Rowe off the apron and a knee attack took Rowe down. Hanson knocked both heels to the floor and he went for a suicide dive, but they moved, so Hanson hit the floor hard! That was a loud smack on the floor. Rowe with a spinebuster on O’Reilly and dropkick on Strong. O’Reilly came back with a chop block to the back of the leg of Rowe. Strong came back in with a backbreaker on Rowe for a two count. O’Reilly and Strong drove Rowe ribs first onto the top rope. Sliding knee strike by O’Reilly to the ribs of Rowe. Strong tagged back in with a half nelson into a backbreaker for two. Rowe nearly tagged in, but the heels cheated and kept Rowe in their corner while Hanson was hoping for a tag. Rowe hit an exploder suplex on O’Reilly that sent him feet first into Strong to knock him to the floor. O’Reilly pulled Hanson off the apron and Strong hit a dropkick on Hanson. Strong with a dropkick on Rowe for a two count. Rowe and O’Reilly exchanged strikes with Rowe hitting a knee to the face.

Hanson got the hot tag with a back body drop on Strong to send him across the ring. Hanson with a sidewalk slam, a senton splash and a cartwheel escape leading to the clothesline on O’Reilly. The fans gave that a big ovation because it was a great sequence. Hanson hit running clotheslines, O’Reilly missed a kick and hit Strong and Hanson hit a slam on Strong for a two count. Strong with a vicious clothesline on Hanson. O’Reilly tagged in against Rowe with O’Reilly hitting a spin kick to the leg. All four guys were in the ring, Strong with a gutbuster to Rowe, Hanson kicked Strong and Hanson hit a powerslam on O’Reilly after Rowe launched him in the air. Hanson hit a suicide dive onto Strong on the floor. Loud “NXT” chant from the crowd. Rowe with a Powerbomb on O’Reilly and Hanson went up top with a splash for two, but Strong broke up the pin attempt. Rowe dumped Strong out of the ring. O’Reilly got back into it with a forearm and a kick. Strong went up top with Hanson and hit a superplex. O’Reilly up top with a knee drop on Hanson for a two count. Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. Strong hit an Olympic Slam on Hanson for two. The “fight forever” chant started. O’Reilly and Strong hit the high/low double team move on Hanson for a two count. Hanson with a double back elbow after a cartwheel! That was impressive. Rowe picked up both guys with a front slam and a Powerbomb combo. Rowe held O’Reilly on his shoulders and Hanson went up top with the leg drop into the Powerbomb called Fallout. Rowe covered O’Reilly and the War Raiders became the NXT Tag Team Champions. The crowd popped big for the finish. It went 16:57.

Winners by pinfall and New NXT Tag Team Champions: War Raiders

Analysis: ****1/4 That was an awesome match with a good story where the heels came close to winning multiple time, but War Raiders managed to come back to get the win. The kickout of the high/low was a big spot since the champs usually win with that (as Ranallo mentioned), yet the match continued. In our predictions, I didn’t predict a title change because I thought they would be built up some more, but there’s nothing wrong with it because War Raiders are a great team. Both teams could do well on the main roster if they are given a chance, but I know NXT wants to keep some acts around for a long time, so maybe Undisputed Era will stay there all year. I don’t know. I enjoyed this match a lot.

The War Raiders celebrated with the titles while the crowd cheered for them along with the “war” chants.

A commercial aired for the Royal Rumble on Sunday night.

There was a shot of UK Champion Pete Dunne and UK Women’s Champion Toni Storm at ringside. They are both outstanding in-ring performers in their mid-20s with bright futures in this company.

Ricochet was shown warming up backstage.

Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno is up next. They get a video package showing Ohno whining about new people coming to NXT, which led to him getting into a rivalry with Riddle.

The “bro” Matt Riddle made his entrance in flip-flops that he kicked into the crowd, which is his usual entrance. He wrestles barefoot. Kassius Ohno is a veteran with over 20 years of experience (Riddle has only been wrestling for about four years) that is 0-4 in Takeover matches as mentioned by Ranallo. That’s because Ohno is there to put people over.

Kassius Ohno vs. Matt Riddle

Riddle with a running forearm to the face while outside the ring followed by a senton splash in the ring. Riddle with a deadlift slam that was impressive. Ohno with a boot to the ribs. With Ohno on the apron, Riddle hit him with a forearm and he wanted a sunset bomb, but Ohno put the ring skirt on Riddle’s head followed by a stomp. Ohno with a leg drop that got a two count. Ohno with an elbow smash to the face. Ohno worked over Riddle with palm strikes to the face followed by a boot to the face. Ohno whipped Riddle into the steel ring post followed by a whip into the steel steps at ringside. Back in the ring, Riddle with a rear naked choke and he wanted a German Suplex, but Ohno stomped on the foot of Riddle. Riddle managed to come back with the delayed German Suplex (similar to how Chad Gable does it) for a two count. Riddle kicked Ohno in the chest repeatedly. Ohno grabbed the right foot of Riddle and bit his toes, which is gross. Ohno with a knee to the face followed by a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. Ohno with a moonsault off the top for two. Ohno with a boot to the face followed by a senton splash. Ohno went for it again, but Riddle caught him with the sleeper leading to Ohno getting to the ropes. Ohno did the heel thing of begging off and wanting a fist bump, but Riddle came back with a knee to the face. Riddle with a sleeper suplex. Riddle hit Ohno with elbows to the head repeatedly and Ohno tapped out to give up at 9:20.

Winner by submission: Matt Riddle

Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match, but not as good as I thought it was going to be. Riddle’s selling is fine and I like his offense. I just think the match was hurt by Ohno not coming close to winning. Ohno’s there to put the younger guy over and we knew that. They could have done more to make Ohno look stronger. The finish was rare for WWE. It’s fine because it fits Riddle’s character. Most of us assumed Riddle would win, which is what happened, but I think they could have made it look like Ohno had more of a shot to win. Riddle has a bright future in NXT. I can see him winning a title within a few months.

Riddle celebrated the win in the ring. It looked like he had a bit of blood in his mouth, but it was not a lot. It was Riddle’s third time beating Ohno.

A commercial aired for WWE Network while highlighting the upcoming PPVs: Elimination Chamber, Fastlane and WrestleMania.

Tommaso Ciampa was shown warming up backstage.

There was a shot of somebody arriving in a truck. It was Velveteen Dream along with two lovely ladies and he walked into the arena.

There was a plug for the Worlds Collide featuring NXT, 205 Live and NXT UK next Saturday. That is being taped this weekend at Royal Rumble Axxess and it will be shown next Saturday, February 2.

The video package aired for Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano for the North American Title. It featured some cheap attacks from Gargano leading to Ricochet agreeing to put his title on the line for this match.

Johnny Gargano was up first with “Takeover” tights. The fans facing the camera were given the Gargano face symbol to hold up for his entrance. Ricochet got a big pop for his entrance.

North American Championship: Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano

There was some mat wrestling with Gargano in control for the first minute, but Ricochet got back to his feet. There were plenty of fast-paced spots with reversals where Gargano did a headscissors that led to Ricochet landing on his feet, which led to “NXT” chants. Gargano with chops to the chest of Ricochet. They got into another sequence with Ricochet hitting a headscissors followed by a dropkick. They left the ring with Ricochet hitting a moonsault off the turnbuckle to take out Gargano on the floor. Back in the ring, Ricochet had Gargano set up on the top rope with a hard slap to the face. Gargano got out of it by sending Ricochet face first into the top turnbuckle. Gargano hit a dropkick to the back while Ricochet was seated. Gargano slammed the back of Ricochet’s head into Gargano’s knee. Ricochet tried a suplex, Gargano fought out of that, Gargano went to the apron for a leaping DDT, but Ricochet came back with a standing moonsault. Ricochet with clotheslines, flying headscissors, kick to the face and a springboard European uppercut off the top. Ricochet hit a roll through into a Northern Light Suplex into a brainbuster for a two count. That was great. Gargano blocked the suplex with a palm to the face, Ricochet with a springboard attack, but Gargano moved. When Ricochet charged, Gargano hit a seated Powerbomb for a two count. Gargano with a Crossface submission, Ricochet got a two count of his own and when Gargano tried a DDT by the ropes, Ricochet managed to dump him out of the ring. Ricochet ran the ropes and hit a dive over the top onto Gargano on the floor. They went back into the ring, Ricochet with a standing Shooting Star Press and a moonsault off the middle ropes for a two count. This guy makes it look so easy. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. I strongly agree with that chant!

Ricochet went to the ropes again, so Gargano grabbed the legs to stop the climb. Gargano went for a top rope hurricanrana, Ricochet caught him, Gargano with the hurricanrana and Ricochet landed on his feet! The crowd gave that a huge ovation. Ricochet missed a back kick, Gargano with a superkick and Ricochet hit a backflip kick to the head. When Ricochet went for a handspring elbow, Gargano grabbed and him the Gargano Escape submission. Ricochet powered out of that with a fallaway slam that sent Gargano into the turnbuckle. That was impressive. Another “NXT” chant for that. Gargano left the ring, so Ricochet hit a somersault dive over the turnbuckle to take out Gargano on the floor. Back in the ring, Ricochet hit a springboard 450 Splash for a two count. Ricochet up top again, this time with a Shooting Star Press and Gargano got the knees up leading to a cradle for two. Gargano hit a superkick while Ricochet was seated in the ring and it sent Ricochet out of the ring. Gargano went for a suicide dive, Ricochet caught him and Gargano hit a Reverse Rana that sent Ricochet head first into the floor. Back in the ring, Gargano hit a Slingshot DDT and Ricochet got the shoulder up at two! The crowd gave them a huge ovation. Gargano left the ring where he pulled up the mat to expose the floor just like Tommaso Ciampa did against Gargano last year. The referee warned Gargano not to do it, so Gargano put Ricochet back into the ring where Ricochet got a rollup for two. Ricochet decked Gargano with a clothesline. Ricochet missed a Phoenix Splash and Gargano hit another superkick. Ricochet slammed Gargano down and Ricochet slapped on the Gargano Escape submission, which led to the crowd going wild at the sight of Gargano in his own submission hold. They battled on the apron with Gargano sending Ricochet into the turnbuckle. Gargano gave Ricochet a suplex onto the exposed floor. They sold it like it was a huge move because bumps on the cement are rare. Gargano put Ricochet into the ring and hit a leaping DDT. Gargano pinned Ricochet to win the North American Title at 24:34.

Winner and New North American Champion: Johnny Gargano

Analysis: ***** That was awesome and another five-star match by Gargano at a Takeover. Five stars are as high as my scale goes. It was an incredible match as expected. Ricochet’s athleticism was on full display while Gargano used his great technical wrestling skills to keep coming back for more. It was no great to see Ricochet showing his full arsenal of movies because we had only gotten a taste of it previously. There’s still more that he can do, but he did more in this match than any WWE match he’s had so far. The story had a similar feel to when Daniel Bryan won the WWE Title because that led to his heel turn. In this case, Gargano did something cheap (suplex on the floor) to get the win because he knew he couldn’t beat Ricochet without doing something cheap like that. This match will be remembered later in the year as one of the best matches of the year. I’m happy Ricochet had a match at this level in WWE while Gargano proved again that he is one of the best in the world. This is the second five star match of the year that I have reviewed with the other being Tanahashi/Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 13. I think that match was a bit better than this one, but this is the best in WWE so far this year.

Gargano celebrated with the North American Title while the announcers gave him credit for finally winning a singles title.

A video aired promoting the Royal Rumble and the Rousey vs. Banks match for the Raw Women’s Title.

The video package aired to set up the NXT Women’s Title with Shayna Baszler defending the gold against Bianca Belair. The story is that Baszler is the dominant champion while Belair is undefeated.

The women made their entrances for the title match.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair

There was some trash talking early with Belair saying she was undefeated repeatedly while Baszler said Belair was overrated. Belair showed off athleticism by avoiding an attack and hitting a shoulder tackle. Baszler utilized the long hair of Belair to send Belair shoulder first into the steel ring post. That was a clever spot. Back in the ring, Baszler twisted on the left arm of Belair and Baszler stomped on the left elbow of Belair, who sold it like she was in a lot of pain. Baszler wrenched on the left arm of Belair again. Baszler continued the offense with a knee strike followed by a kick to the chest. Hard slap by Belair, shoulder tackle with the left arm and a hiptoss. Belair used the injured left arm for a shoulder tackle followed by a dropkick and a Spear got a two count. Belair went for a splash, but Baszler got the knees up to block followed by a running knee strike to the head for two. They got into an exchange of strikes, which Belair won with a hair whip to the ribs. Baszler sold that as if it was very painful, it drew a pop and you could hear it when Belair hit her with the hair. There was even a scratch on Baszler’s ribs after the hair whip. Baszler avoided a move and shoved Belair into the referee. Belair picked up Baszler for the KOD (Kiss of Death) slam, which doesn’t look that impressive. Belair covered, but with no referee to count, there was no win for her. Shayna’s buddies Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke showed up to help, but Belair slammed Duke onto Shafir. Baszler recovered, took down Belair and slapped on the Kirifuda Clutch submission on Belair. The referee recovered, Belair got to her feet and powered out of the hold. Belair managed to hit a suplex to a big ovation from the crowd. Belair up top, she kicked Duke off the apron and Belair went for a 450 Splash, but Baszler moved out of the way. Baszler slapped on the Kirifuda Clutch submission again and Belair tried to fight it. Baszler took Belair down again, Belair got back up and Baszler took her down again. When it looked like Belair was passing out, the referee called for the bell at 15:26.

Winner by submission: Shayna Baszler

Analysis: ***1/4 Good match with the champ finding a way to retain again. Belair did well in this match, which was the biggest match of her career since it was her first Takeover match. Like most Baszler matches, she focused on Belair’s arm and dominated most of the match. I thought Belair could have sold the arm injury better. The spot with the ref getting bumped when Belair had the win is a way to set up a rematch since Belair can say she had the match won. The finish was done well as Baszler continues to dominate the women’s division in NXT. There could be a rematch down the road with Belair possibly becoming the next champion.

After the match, Baszler celebrated with the title with her buddies Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke by her side. It was noted by Ranallo that Belair is no longer undefeated.

There was a commercial for the WWE 24 documentary about WrestleMania 34 from last year. Those are always great, so it’s worth checking out on WWE Network after it debuts after the Royal Rumble. I’ll catch it on demand during the week most likely.

A commercial aired for the Royal Rumble on Sunday night.

The announcers plugged the Triple H interview on Facebook Live after the show.

Velveteen Dream was shown seated at ringside with two lovely ladies. He should have been wrestling on this card.

The video aired to set up NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black, who lost the championship to Ciampa last July. Black was taken out by Johnny Gargano (due to Black having a groin injury), so Black got revenge by beating Gargano at NXT Takeover WarGames and after that happened, Black could go after the title again. That set up this match.

Aleister Black made his entrance as the challenger, which is one of my favorite songs in WWE. He was cheered as one of the top faces in NXT. This guy will do well on the main roster whether that’s soon or a bit further down the line.

Tommaso Ciampa was next as the NXT Champion with the title that he calls Goldie. I miss the days when he had no theme song and the fans just booed him on his way to the ring. The song is cool because it fits him.

NXT Championship: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black

They did a lockup that led to them going to the floor right away and then they went back in the ring for a staredown. Ciampa took control by grabbing the arm of Black followed by Black taking him down with a side headlock. Black kicked Ciampa out of the ring, Black went for a roundhouse kick, Ciampa moved and Black sat down in the ring with him, so Ciampa kicked him in the head. Black sent Ciampa out of the ring followed by Black hitting a somersault dive over the top to take out Ciampa on the floor. Knee lift to the face by Black when they got back into the ring. Black with a quebrada moonsault onto a standing Ciampa. When Ciampa bailed to the floor, Black kicked him. Ciampa took control as he whipped Black’s foot into the steel steps and then he whipped Black into the ring steps. Ciampa hit a vertical suplex that sent Black into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Ciampa focused his attack on the left leg of Black. Ciampa jumped on the left leg of Black to keep the challenger down. Ciampa with a running knee to the leg of Black while the leg was up against the ropes. Ciampa whipped the left leg of Black into the ring post repeatedly. They left the ring with Ciampa slamming Black’s left knee onto the Spanish announce table. Ciampa celebrated with some applause for himself, a pat on the back (hey Barry Horowitz) and he mocked Black’s sitting pose. Black got back into it with a kick to the chest. Back in the ring, Black was limping, so Ciampa hit a dropkick to the left knee. Ciampa was on the middle ropes, Black managed to stun him on there and hit a running kick with the right kick to knock Ciampa out of the ring. Back in the ring, Black with a right knee lift to the head, Black with a kick, two elbow strikes and another Black kick to the head got a two count. They were each going for moves, there were counters and Ciampa hit a forearm to the back. Black managed to get a pin attempt for two. Black with two roundhouse kicks and a bridging German Suplex got a two count.

Ciampa regained control with a dragon screw leg whip on the injured left leg of Black followed by a single leg crab submission. Black punched Ciampa down and had a brief single leg crab submission of his own, but Black’s left knee gave out. Black with an elbow to the head, Black limped over the top to the apron and Ciampa caught him with a cutter on the ring apron. Nice spot that got a two count. Ciampa with a running knee strike that got a two count. Black with a knee to the face and Ciampa responded with his own knee to the head. After they exchanged strike, Black got a kick to the head for a two count. Ciampa with a rollup for two. Ciampa with a clothesline that Black sold with a flip bump. Black exposed the knee, he avoided a kick and a double foot stomp by Black. Sweet counter. Black hit a knee to the back and a brainbuster for a two count. Ciampa went to the floor, so Black went after him with a moonsault off the turnbuckle to the floor. Black slipped on some water that was on the floor from when Ciampa grabbed the water earlier and Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending sitout slam for a two count. Ciampa pulled off the mat to expose the floor just like Johnny Gargano did earlier in the night. The ref wasn’t counting them out of the ring as he got in Ciampa’s face on the floor. Black came back with a double knee attack on Ciampa, which sent Ciampa back first on the cement. Back in the ring, Black connected with the Black Mass kick to a big pop. Black crawled over to Ciampa, he was too slow and Ciampa turned over to avoid being pinned. Black went for Black Mass again, Ciampa pulled the referee in front of him, so Black sopped his kick. Black with a knee, Ciampa with a rollup leading to a draping DDT and Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending with Black kicking out for the second time. The announcers were shocked by it as fans chanted “NXT” for them. Ciampa picked up Black, he hit the Fairytale Ending for a third time. Black got back up with a kick to the head. Black wanted Black Mass, but his left leg was hurting and Ciampa hit the Fairytale Ending for the fourth time for the pinfall win at 26:30.

Winner by pinfall: Tommaso Ciampa

Analysis: **** That was a lot of fun with some great moments along the way. It would have been a better match if they shaved off 5-7 minutes because I think it went a bit too long. I understand why they got that much time because Ciampa worked over the left leg for an extended period, which set up Black’s comeback. That spot where Black hit the Black Mass and couldn’t cover was well done. Black was put over strong even in defeat because it took Ciampa hitting the Fairytale Ending four times to get the win. I expected Ciampa to win and the match ending up as a four-star match is what I thought it might be going into it. This could be the NXT goodbye of Black because he might be in the Royal Rumble match. We’ll find out very soon if that happens.

Post match, both guys were selling and looking they were exhausted. Ranallo noted that Black is now 7-1 at Takeover events. Replays aired of the key spots in the match.

Ciampa walked up the aisle with his title “Goldie” in his hands. Ciampa held up the title in his hands. Johnny Gargano showed up on the stage with his North American Championship. Gargano stood beside his former best friend, they had a staredown and they each held up their titles on the stage. The fans cheered them while some were booing. Ciampa had an evil grin on his face. Gargano stared back at him and that was the end of the show.

Analysis: That means their story went from being the best of friends to enemies and now they are friends again…but are they really? It’s the classic tale of keeping your enemies close where I think Gargano will go back to being the good guy after he attacks Ciampa and sets his sights on winning the NXT Title for the first time. I’m not really sure what the direction is. It’s possible that Ricochet gets elevated to NXT Title contender level and he’s the one to end Ciampa’s reign. Maybe Velveteen Dream will get another shot. I’m not sure. In the preview, I wrote that Gargano/Ricochet should have been the main event and I still believe that. They still could have had that ending with Gargano and Ciampa on the stage together too.

The show had a run time of 2:35:54 on WWE Network.

Analysis: One of the things I love about Takeover shows is they don’t run too long. Going 2.5 hours feels just right.

After the show, there was a post match brawl featuring some of NXT’s biggest stars. You can watch it below.

Analysis: My guess is that leads to a tag team match at the next tapings, which can be a way to build to the next contenders for the titles held by Ciampa and Gargano.

 

Final Thoughts

I give this NXT Takeover event a 8.5 out of 10.

It was an excellent show as usual from NXT with the five star Gargano/Ricochet match as the standout. Two other matches were above four stars, so that’s great too. The other two matches were solid as well. As far as predictions go, I didn’t expect Gargano and War Raiders to win their titles although it’s certainly fine with me because they are awesome at what they do. I don’t really question NXT booking that much. It’s a great show on a consistent basis and it has been that way for about five years now.

Please try to check out Ricochet vs. Gargano if you missed it because it was exceptional. I want to see a rematch soon.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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