There’s a ton of wrestling this Wrestlemania weekend. Smart money has this being the show to beat thanks to an insanely stacked card. Let’s see if it delivers. OK of course it’s gonna deliver. Let’s see if this will be the new show of the year to beat. It’s got a crazy lineup without a weak sounding match on the show.
NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders vs Ricochet and Aleister Black
I miss Undisputed Era in this slot, but this should be really good. Besides NXT was in danger of O’Reilly and Strong tearing through the tag division with no competition.
War Raiders have great entrances for TakeOvers. This was exactly what I hoped it would be. A hard hitting battle of strikers with Rowe and Black trading violent looking shots. And a fun aerial dogfight with Ricochet and Hansen. Then they start surprising me like Ricochet somehow hitting a fallaway slam on Hansen! Then Hansen nailing a handspring back elbow. I liked them well enough in ROH, but War Raiders really look special under the NXT lights.
Mauro set up the stakes to cast some doubt on Black/Ricochet losing despite facing The Usos on Sunday. The closing stretch really gets exciting as Ricochet hits a flying tiger corkscrew followed by a Hansen cannonball off the top onto the floor. Back in the ring, Black hits Black Mass followed by a 450 from Ricochet. Hansen did a nice job of breaking that up by tossing Black onto Ricochet.
Ricochet misses the 630 after Rowe pulled Hansen out then moved him away from Black’s top rope moonsault outside. With Black out, the War Raiders double team Ricochet and hit Fallout for the win.
Final Thoughts: Yeah this was absolutely worth all the pre-match buzz and excitement. I always give Hansen a break when his moves don’t look as crisp in the end. The dude is carrying some serious weight. War Raiders show respect and shake hands and offer a bow of respect for the departing NXT stars. It didn’t seem like Ricochet has even been in NXT that long, but he was responsible for a slew of great matches during his run.
Time for my favorite NXT game: Who’s at ringside? Nope, just looking at Gargano in the back. No, wait we get it. It’s Piper Niven and Toni Storm. It’s never as exciting when it’s current stars and not new additions or Hall of Famers.
North American Championship: Velveteen Dream vs Matt Riddle
I haven’t watched Riddle’s indie work so I’m working with limited exposure on him and wondering how Dream will ‘carry’ Riddle here. Riddle sucks up to the New York crowd with Yankee pinstripes. Dream comes out like Lad Liberty as he gets the king treatment with platform carriers. Dream’s entrances are always very inspired.
The dynamic is interesting here as both guys have heel-like tendencies, but the fans love their antics. Dream is doing a great job of selling Riddle’s submission moves as he frantically starts twisting and maneuvering to break the hold. That’s that unteachable element Dream has that makes him special. Nigel McGuiness has been so good in terms of explaining these submissions and what they’ll do.
His feud with Kassius Ohno didn’t do much for me, but I get the hype with Riddle now. The belly to back inside the ring from the second ropes was insane. Following that with the Floating Bro (moonsault twisting senton) gets two. Dream finally gets caught in Riddle’s finisher, but flips over to get the flash pin. Dream returns the Bro Bump this time in a show of respect.
Final Thoughts: We’re two for two here with a match that exceeded my expectations again. Is Dream even Vince’s awful character development proof? Because he really should be one of the core building blocks of the main roster for the next decade. Riddle should be right in that mix as well.
The Undisputed Era is in the back with Adam Cole. We see the official signing of Kushida earlier today and cut to him in the crowd. Yep, that doesn’t suck. With this stacked NXT roster, Kushida should not run out of Match of the Night candidates for a year’s worth of TakeOvers.
NXT United Kingdom Championship: Pete Dunne vs Walter
I’m sure Walter is cool and all, but he reminds me of Koslov. He does have some pretty sweet music though. The big story here is Dunne has defeated all comers over the last 685 days and Walter is the big bad coming to end the reign. I’m torn if I like NXT’s booking philosophy of having champions dominate and run through all the competition before losing/getting called up. There always seems to be this moment of inevitability when a title reign has run its course.
Walter’s height and weight advantage is impressive. I haven’t seen the much-hyped Walter before tonight either. It’s interesting in that he stands out now for being more of a throwback wrestler whose moves look like they hurt without taking a lot of unnecessary risky moves. Yep, I dig Walter. Dunne is so good though as he wrestles to Walter’s height without looking like Rey Mysterio fighting Kevin Nash. Walter kicks out of Bitter End signifying it’s just a matter of time before we get a new champ. And it comes via a super powerbomb and a top rope splash.
Final Thoughts: Vic Joseph was really good as the third man on commentary. Percy is fine, but Vic meshed exceptionally well with Mauro and Nigel. I didn’t love the finish as Dunne kinda put himself in position to get powerbombed by going for a triangle on the top. Besides that, I really liked this one as well thanks to the different presentation of the previous two matches. This was not a pretty match in a good way. The moves looked impactful and the crowd was into it.
Edge and Beth Phoenix are in the crowd. They look happy to be here. I’m rooting for Beth and Natalya to win the tag titles on Sunday just because Beth deserves to be part of this era in terms of championship glory.
NXT Women’s Championship: Fatal 4 Way: Bianca Belair vs Io Shirai vs Kairi Sane vs Shayna Baszler
This seems like the ideal time for Bazler to lose and get called up. Baszler can’t get any better here and there’s a ton of fresh opponents for her to fight on the main roster. Belair’s tights feature her beating down her opponents. That’s funny and a nice update on Rick Rude’s tights.
Nigel rightfully questions why Kairi and Io would fight each other so soon. Just because their opponents are outside doesn’t mean friends have to fight.
Bianca isn’t hardly as polished as her opponents, but she’s got the personality this division needs. I’d put the belt on her and let her be the face and mouth of this division. The Sky Pirates have such good teamwork I’d rather they start feuding with whoever wins the women’s tag title match Sunday than stick around here. Of course since they both cost each other the pin, they could be headed for a feud themselves.
In an impressive show of strength, Belair gets a Double KO knee. While she recovers, Baszler sneaks in to get her submission. The crowd isn’t happy. Me neither.
Final Thoughts: This reign is so boring. Baszler is the dominating wrecking ball, but after Asuka, this division would benefit from a less dominant champion. Still, this was a good match, but Baszler has beaten everyone now to the point a new challenger has to be developed. Where does Belair go from here? She can’t really run her mouth after getting beat in consecutive Takeovers.
NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole (2 out of 3 falls)
They’ve basically got an hour so this could be special. Great video package that did a tremendous job making this feel like it was the match that was years in the making and not Gargano/Ciampa.
Iron Man ring gear for Gargano tonight. Cole comes out with the rest of the UE, but they head to the back. Fans seem louder for Cole to start, which is interesting. I like the 2 out of 3 falls format for a vacated title. It makes the winner deserving instead of lucky.
Cole gets the first fall with Last Shot just to stack the deck against Gargano further. That’s smart booking as it subtly plays up Gargano as the perpetual underdog. Now desperate, Gargano busts out all kinds of offense including some DIY and pre-NXT moves. Mauro can’t say it, but Cole seems to be doing a lot of Bullet Club aiming too. Johnny gets the submission with the Gargano Escape to claim the second fall as Cole quickly taps out to avoid injury.
Gargano got lacerated when he got thrown into the ring post, but it’s not too bad. They had to start slow, but by the third fall, this bad boy reached an epic high level. Gargano busts out a spike reverse hurricarana and superkick combo that Cole escapes by barely falling outside. Then he hits a wheelbarrow suplex onto the apron. Garagno tries a comeback with an apron spear that gets countered into a superkick and a destroyer. That was a great near fall.
Once Johnny gets the advantage again, Strong runs out to distract the ref. O’Reily and Fish hit Total Elimination, but Gargano kicks out. These are terrific near falls and the crowd (and me) keeps thinking that’s it. Gargano tosses Cole over the top onto UE and then takes them out. That gives Cole enough time to hit a series of superkicks and Last Shot, but Gargano still kicks out. Gargano fights back and slaps on the Gargano Escape, which finally forces Cole to tap out and crown Johnny the new NXT champion.
Final Thoughts: From an emotional perspective and tight bow to end NXT’s best storyline, Gargano/Ciampa would have been great. But man did this match manage to feel like a worthy conclusion to Johnny’s journey all the same. Cole deserves a ton of credit for on the fly getting tosses in to this angle and establishing himself as a bastard foil to still make Garagno’s title win a moment. I’m ready for an Iron Man and a steel cage rematch. This feud can absolutely carry NXT through the summer and fall. And to really tie everything together, Ciampa comes out to help Johnny and Candice celebrate. Excellent match and tremendous moment.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Women’s title result aside, NXT TakeOver New York more than lived up to the hype. The hot streak of these specials has been ridiculous and even with losing Ricochet, Black and Ciampa, there doesn’t look like there’s going to be a drop off in quality any time soon. I think we’ll be talking about this show for a long time and it might be the definitive TakeOver all others are compared to in the future.
Photo Credit: WWE.com