By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
NXT Takeover: Philadelphia
Aired live on WWE Network
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Wells Fargo Center
After the WWE signagure, the show cut to a Paul Heyman promo where he stood in the arena and in the streets talking about the extreme history of Philadelphia. Heyman talked about how the stars of the future will sacrifice. Heyman ended the promo by saying “We are here, and we are NXT!”…
Mauro Ranallo and Percy Watson checked in on commentary with Nigel McGuinness out with a sickness. The Authors of Pain made their entrance to signify that the Tag Title match was opening the show. Mauro noted that the Authors are attempting to join the Revival as two time NXT Tag Champions…
1. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish vs. Akam and Rezar for the NXT Tag Team Championship. There was no Cole at ringside, at least not yet. The Authors were punching around the Era before the bell. Fish started off the match against Rezar. Mauro noted that Rezar is an established mixed martial artist just like the Undisputed Era guys. Fish quickly tagged in O’Reilly who used some Brazillian Jujitsu ground guard moves to keep Rezar at bay. Rezar tried to use brute force to dominate Rezar but O’Reilly locked in the triangle and converted to the high guard to ground and pound Rezar.
Rezar shoved O’Reilly out to cause the reset. Fish tagged in and tried to use kickboxing. Rezar overpowered him to his corner and isolate him from his partner. Akam tagged in. Mauro noted that Akam has a history with the Olympics. The authors dominated the Era with pure power and manhandling. Fish wanted to call a time out but the Authors wheel barrow slammed him into the barricade. Akam went for a top rope stomp on O’Reilly and was selling a knee injury after the successful strike. Fish tripped up Akam on the injured knee to give his team the momentum.
O’Reilly used his Muay Thai to take down and isolate the injured Akam in his corner. Fish and O’Reilly cut the ring in half for Akam with quick tags. O’Reilly used a chop block to set up a half crab but Akam used his boot to power out. O’Reilly transitioned to a knee bar which he used to twist Akam’s leg 90 degrees. The Era went back to the quick tags for tandem offense. The Era hit a kneebar slingshot senton on Akam. Fish tried to poke the bear in Rezar and that cost him a back body drop from Akam. Rezar caught the hot tag and cleaned house.
Rezar hyped up the crowd with ground and pound on O’Reilly. Fish tried to use a sleeper on Rezar to help O’Reilly, but Rezar powered through with a Fallaway Slam leading to a nearfall. Rezar shrugged off an O’Reilly guillotine choke. A O’Reilly knee really shook up Rezar causing the Era to go back to cutting the ring in half. The Era dominated Rezar with power which Mauro noted was a surprise. Akam made his way back to ringside while selling the leg injury.
Fish blocked a Final Chapter with a knee. O’Reilly locked a legbar on Akam. Rezar shrugged off a Fish sleeper by tossing him on O’Reilly to break the submission. Dueling chants broke out in favor of both teams. O’Reilly used low kicks to target the injured leg of Akam but Akam fired up with the adrenaline. Akam sent O’Reilly to the corner and gave O’Reilly knees and a lariat to Fish. Akam hit O’Reilly with a snug buckle bomb. Rezar hit his half of the Super Collider. O’Reilly sent Akam into Rezar with a headscissors which allowed Bobby to get a rollup victory over the Authors.
The Undisputed Era defeated The Authors of Pain via pinfall in 14:50 to retain the NXT Tag Team Championships.
John’s Thoughts: Great tag team match as expected and the best Undisputed Era/reDRagon match in NXT so far. This was a good introduction to NXT viewers as to why there is so much hype behind Fish and O’Reilly. O’Reilly got to really show off why he’s a breakout singles star in the making and Fish did a great job with the selling. The Authors did an exceptional job in a position we usually don’t see them in as the sympathetic babyfaces. The leg injury gave them an out while also making the Era look strong.
Hanson and Raymond Rowe, War Machine, were shown in the crowd. Mauro cut to the pre-show footage of Velveteen Dream thanking God for his NXT award and declaring that Kassius Ohno will say his name and that he will defeat Kassius Ohno under 30 seconds. Velveteen Dream Patrick Clark made his entrance wearing a cut up blue sweater and spraypainted boxing shorts. It had Dream’s and Ohno’s face on it. A random oiled up man had a pillow with a mouthguard on it. A seductive woman put the mouthguard in Dream’s mouth. Kassius Ohno wore boxing themed gear as opposed to his usual NBA gear…
2. Kassius Ohno vs. Velveteen Dream. Dream used the buckle as a punching bag before the match. Dream cornered Ohno with gut and face punches. Dream laid a right hand on Ohno and told the ref to call the knockout. Mauro noted that this wasn’t a boxing match. Ohno recovered and hit an elbow on Dream which drew boos. Dream kept Ohno at bay with an elbow but Ohno came back wiht a knee. Dream planted Ohno with a strong spinebuster. By the way, we’re 1:30 into the match. The crowd was fired up with “Velveteen” chants. Clark went to the corner and continued to use boxing punches on Ohno.
Dream slowed down the action after a suplex. Dream taunted Ohno with a Rick Rude hip gyration. Ohno hulked himself up and gave Dream a chop but Dream came back with a snapmare into a abdominal claw. Dream converted into a camel clutch. Ohno stood up with his power. Dream set up Ohno in the corner and went back to the boxing. Dream yelled “Dream Over! ” which he had written on his shorts. Ohno no sold some boots. Dream came back with a high risk axe handle.
Ohno gained a breather after hitting Dream with a front suplex toss. Dream and Ohno had a strong style sequence with Ohno dominated with boots. Ohno hit Dream with a running senton. Ohno hit Dream with a cyclone kick for a nearfall. Mauro noted that Ohno doesn’t want to be known as the Gatekeeper of NXT. Dream shook up Ohno with a hook kick and planted Ohno with a swinging Scorpion Death Drop. Ohno caught Dream with a boot and elbow. Dream hit a catch Death Valley Driver on Ohno.
Dream called for the end with his pose. Ohno responded with his finisher the rolling elbow. Dream kicked out at two for the nearfall. The crowd was fully chanting “Velveteen”. Dream hit his signature rolling DVD. Dream went to the top rope and hit the Purple Rainmaker for the win.
Velveteen Dream defeated Kassius Ohno via pinfall in 10:45.
Dream walked over Ohno after the match as the commentators went over the highlights…
John’s Thoughts: A strong match after a hot opening. This was not as hot as the Black vs. Dream match, but that match was something special. This match also didn’t have the storyline background since it was advertised during a HHH conference call. The most fun part was the story told with the focus being on knockouts and boxing.
Maria Menounos was shown in the celebrity section of the crowd. They cut to the locker room where Johnny Gargano had his entire family in the locker room before his next match. An Ember Moon and Shayna Bazsler video package aired.
The camera followed Baszler as she made her entrance for the title match. Mauro Ranallo talked about Shayna Baszler’s trainer being former UFC Champion Josh Barnett. Ember Moon wore a metallic fleece and gauntlet on her way to the ring, which she had to take off before the match of course. Mike Rome handled the formal ring introductions…
3. Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT Womens’s Championship. Baszler sent Moon to the corner early in the match. Baszler taunted Moon and went to the high guard on Moon. Moon did a matrix kip up and grounded Baszler with a dropkick. Moon hit Baszler with a flurry of dropkicks. Moon hit a darting Suicide Dive on Baszler. Mauro joked that that can be as ill advised as eating a laundry pod. Baszler entered the ring and hit shortarm knee strikes on Moon to topple her into a pin attempt. Baszler snapped Moon’s elbow under her foot just like she did to Dakota Kai. The slow motion made it look like it hurt.
Baszler focused her attack on the joint manipulation. Baszler hit an Eat Defeat to Moon’s shoulder. Moon tried to fight back but was selling her left arm. Moon managed to land a crossbody on Baszler but was fighting one armed. Moon successfully hit the Eclipse finisher but it hurt Moon more than Baszler because of the shoulder injury to the stunner arm. Baszler was knocked out but Moon was rolling around in pain. NXT sent out the medical crew which drew boos and “Boring” chants. Moon waived the medics away while showing her arm was tweaked. Baszler surprised Moon with a crossarmbreaker and just barely broke out of it with a rope break. Baszler pulled Moon to the center and locked in the hold again. Baszler modified the hold with an arm trap. Moon tried to roll around but Baszler was like an anaconda. The sequence looked like Baszler was wrestling an aligator. Moon rolled Baszler on her shoulders to pick up the surprise win.
Ember Moon defeated Shayna Baszler via pinfall in 10:06 to retain the NXT Women’s Championship.
Moon rolled to ringside to nurse her injured arm. As the medics carried Moon up the ramp, Baszler ran and locked in the Rear Naked Choke on Moon. Moon was passed out as the referees and medics couldn’t get Baszler off of the hold. Baszler drew boos. Mauro said he lost all respect for Baszler and that William Regal should fine her. They showed that Ember Moon was coughing and barfing up the ramp…
John’s Thoughts: Great match and I disagree with the “boring” chants of the crowd. It might be different live, but these two women told a great story. Shayna won that match and it took the babyface to be resourceful. That was the best way to get out of the match without giving Baszler the title yet. The post match stuff was expected, but it told a great story. Baszler may be inexperienced but she isn’t green by no means. I’ve seen her growth in the local Independent promotion in California, All Pro Wrestling where she’s their champion. Baszler has “it” and is a great heel. Her presence, heel antics, joint manipulation, and demeanor reminds me a bit of Pete Dunne and Dunne is one of the best pure heels in the industry without the chickenshiz.
In the NXT Celebrity seats, they showed Trevor “Ricochet” Mann which is what they billed him as. They cut to the Black vs. Cole video package. Aleister Black made his badass entrance.
4. Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules Match. Mauro noted that Fish and O’Reilly weren’t at ringside and that Cole is looking very confident. Cole yelled at Black early on as a “this is awesome” chant ensued. Black quickly sent Cole outside with a roundhouse and did his meditation taunt. Cole went to the timekeeper to grab a chair which started an EC-Dub chant. Black simply kicked Cole and gained control of the chair. Black leisurely sat in the chair to taunt Cole who retreated to the ramp. Cole tried to enter the ring but was tossed out by Black. Black gave Cole a forearm on the outside. Cole managed to land a few strikes as he loaded the ring with trash cans and hardcore things.
The Kendo Stick popped the crowd. Black found a stick of his own to start a duel of the fates. Black tossed away the stick and told cole to come at him. Black dodged all the stick strikes and dominated Cole with kicks. Cole gained the advantage by hitting Black’s ribs like a baseball during a Black lionsault. Cole trapped Black’s jaw with the kendo stick while taunting Black about being the man that owns NXT. Cole used a stick assisted backstabber on Black. A “We want tables” chant ensued. Cole gave the crowd what they wanted by setting up a table at ringside.
Cole wasted a lot of time which allowed Black to toss Cole off the top rope and give him a high tiger knee. Black favored the lower back. Mauro said this match can damage your soul. Cole baseball slid a ladder into Black. Cole was bleeding from somewhere, maybe the hand? Cole caught Black with an enziguri in the ring. Cole gave Black punches and did his Bay Bay chant. Black took advantage of the chant by electric chair tossing Cole into the ladder. Cole rolled to ringside to have the medics check on his bleeding thumb/hand. Black managed to get a nearfall. Cole escaped a Black knee and jabbed Black in the gut with a chair. Black and Cole matrix dodged each other’s roundhouse kicks. Black hit a double stomp on Cole. Black put Cole’s head on the chair and went high risk. Cole tossed the chair at Black and (protected) superkicked the chair in his head sending him falling into the tables outside.
Black kicked out at two in the ring. Cole set up a chair contraption in the center of the ring. Mauro noted that Black hasn’t been defeated in singles competition. Cole made sure to turn the chair heads into a spike. Black recovered and sent Cole’s back into the spike set up by the chairs. Cole tried to recover but Black nailed him with the chair with a shining wizard. Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish ran in to break up the pin and beat up Black. A “Bullshit” chant ensued. Black was covered in blood, maybe Cole’s blood. Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young attacked Fish and O’Reilly to save Black from going through the announce table. Killian Dain gave reDRagon a suicide dive as Young and Wolfe held them in place.
Cole and Black brawled on the outside. Black hit Cole with a flying Meteora sending Cole into the announce table. Cole knocked out Black with a superkick in the ring as he struggled to get a chair in hand. Black took advantage of the fatigued Cole by hitting him with the Black Mass for the win…
Aleister Black defeated Adam Cole via pinfall in an Extreme Rules match in 22:02.
Mauro Ranallo said the Black Mass is more devastating than Black Mirror on Netflix… [C]
John’s Thoughts: These NXT Takeovers always deliver. I was about to rate down this match for being a standard hardcore match and not as hardcore as other recent TakeOver matches. Thankfully they picked up the pace and delivered a strong hardcore match with the 20+ minutes. The bloody hand added that ECW nuance to it without head blading. We have seen more “hardcore” matches in the past but this wasn’t bad and Black is the right guy to go over to keep up his mystique.
Oh mah goodness! They cut to the celebrity section and the artist formerly known as Derrick Bateman and the kayfabe nephew of Dixie Carter, EC 3, was shown at ringside. Note the space between C and 3. A Almas and Gargano video package aired…
Before Almas made his entrance theme, Mariachi Luchadores, yes… Mariachi Luchadores, played Mariachi music before Andrade Almas and Zelina Vega made their entrance. Almas wore and took off a luchador mask while also donning Red, White, and Green. It looked a bit like Dr. Wagner but it was probably more of a Mexican Flag or La Sombra Tribute. Mauro noted that Almas was once known as the luchador La Sombra. Johnny Gargano made his entrance wearing a red leather vest. Mike Rome handled the formal ring intros. Drake Youunger was the referee.
John’s Thoughts: Of course, everyone is probably looking at the ramp waiting for Tommaso Champa to ruin the day. I’m hoping Ciampa is one of those Mariachi Luchadores…
5. Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/ Zelina Vega) vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship. Mauro noted that Gargano’s entire family was here but his father couldn’t make it due to a big heart surgery. Mauro also noted that Gargano was 0-2 in his recent series with Almas. The two men had a stalemate during the opening chain wrestling sequence. The next sequence had both men escaping each others’ finishers. Gargano dominated the next sequence with solid lucha libre moves and an armdrag. Almas fought out of pin attempts with several bridges. NXT’s newest women wrestlers and Southern California Legend, Candice LeRae, was shown at ringside.
Gargano sent out Almas with a huracanrana. Lots of nice agility on the outside. Gargano ate dirt after he missed wildly during a Cannonball Senton attempt. The camera showed a concerned Candice at ringside. Almas blocked all of Gargano’s strikes and used dragon sleeper on the ropes which had to be broken. Almas hit Gargano with a yakuza kick and then a cravate. Vega taunted Gargano during the Almas sleep hold. Gargano powered out. Both men countered each others’ suplexes. Gargano hit Almas with the Listo kick. Almas made Del Rio’s finisher make sense with a shortarm. Gargano gave Almas a belly to Belly into the turnbuckle.
Gargano showed off his heart by dominating the next sequence of strikes. Gargano hit Almas with a Tornado Paydirt to get a nearfall. Gargano caught a running Almas with a slingshot spear. Almas countered La Mistica into a power bomb. Almas missed a moonsault but followed up with a standing moonsault to get a nearfall. Almas gave Gargano a series of forearms which Gargano returned in favor. Almas gave Gargano a stiff back elbow for a nearfall. Gargano got a kick and nearfall himself. Both men took each other out with punches.
Gargano slipped out of a Super Hammerlock DDT which Mauro noted took out Mcintyre. Gargano escaped with a superkick. Almas countered and hit a meteora. Gargano ran into a reverse Tornado DDT for a great nearfall. The crowd gave Almas and Gargano a standing ovation. Gargano used his base core strength to block a hammerlock DDT on the apron. lLmas was staggered by Gargano kicks. Gargano nailed Almas with a slingshot DDT to the outside which was the move he used to get the pinfall win over Aleister Black. It took Gargano time to get Almas back in the ring which allowed Almas to kick out at two . Almas held his hands together to block the GargaNo Escape.
Almas took down Gargano with a elbow. Gargano turned Almas inside out with a lariat. Gargano was distracted by Vega for a bit and Almas almost got the win. Gargano hit Almas with a feint superkick and DIY suerkick for a great nearfall. We’re hitting the 20 minute mark at this point. Almas tripped up Gargano on the second rope. Almas hit a logical version of the Del Rio footstomp on the outside on Gargano. Almas also tossed Gargano several times into the LED apron. Almas didn’t relent as he hit the running meteora on Gargano in the ring.
A “Fight forever” chant ensued. Both men sold fatigue on the ground with slow recovery. Gargano told the referee not to call the match off. Gargano was on his knee as he hit some desperation punches on Almas. Gargano hulked up and hit Almas with a frankendriver. Gargano hit La Mistica and locked in the GargaNoEscape. Vega tried to pull ALmas to ringside which distracted the referee to allow Almas to poke Gargano’s eye. Gargano shoved and hit Almas with a suicide dive. Vega hit Gargano with a huracanrana sending his head in the steps. ALmas hit the hammerlock DDT. Gargano kicked out at tow and I thought that match was over. A “yes” chant erupted followed by “Johnny Wrestling”.
Vega tried to interfere again as Candice LeRae ran in and pummeled Vega and chased her to the back through the crowd. Gargano nailed Almas with the slingshot for a great nearfall and he locked in the GargaNo Escape quickly. Almas made it to the rope for the break. 30 minutes right now. Almas shoved Gargano into the LED ringpost. Gargano sold being concussed. Almas hit Gargano with the meteora into the LED. Mauro said they might have to stop this match due to Gargano’s health. Almas pulled up and hit Gargano with a hanging hammerlock DDT for the victory.
Andrade Almas defeated Johnny Gargano via pinfall in 32:19 to retain the NXT Championship.
Zelina Vega returned to the ring while selling the punches to her lip. Vega and Almas celebrated the win. Candice LeRae joined Gargano in the ring after Almas and Vega left to check on him. The camera stuck around an extended time to show Candice carry up Gargano up the ramp. Of course, similar to a familliar scene, Tommaso Ciampa showed up as the closing signature graphic aired and hit Gargano in the back with his walking crutch. Ciampa left and the show ended with Candice checking on Gargano who was on the ramp in pain.
John’s Thoughts: You would think that one day they will stop raising the bar with these Takeover shows, but they just keep getting better and better. It’s tough to stand out as a TakeOver main event because of how the undercard would stand as a main event on the main roster or any other company, but they just keep finding ways of delivering. This was a stellar marathon of a main event. Gargano is such a unique individual and you can watch him suffer for 10, 20, 30 minutes and hell maybe even an hour and he will have you at the edge of your seat. Almas and Gargano have great chemistry and they found a way to take the match to the next level after stealing the show with their other two matches. They also managed to possibly build to a Vega vs. LeRae match at the next takeover. Though I would prefer that Vega stay as a manager because she stands out as the elite in that way in all of pro wrestling.
These Takeovers continue to be the best wrestling PPVs/Live Events in the industry. It’s not even hard to assume that this will be better than Royal Rumble tomorrow since it’s the main roster PPVs that aren’t reaching the quality of the consistent Takeover specials. All of the matches delivered as usual. I’m still afraid that someday they won’t I felt that a bit with the Extreme Rules match but they managed even there to tell a great story after. Great storytelling and efficiency, that’s the story of NXT. Percy Watson was ok but since they had Joe on the pre-show panel, I would have loved to see Samoa Joe as the color commentator given how Joe has the background with all of the former ROH and TNA wrestlers and he does have similar instincts as CM Punk being Punk’s best friend, and Punk was great on commentary. That’s just a nitpick, this was a strong show top to bottom. I’ll be by later tomorrow with my NXT Takeover Hit List and Jason Powell will be by in a bit with the Members Exclusive Audio Review.