By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
Join John Moore for live coverage of NXT Takeover: New Orleans as the show airs tonight at 7CT/8ET. Dot Net Members will hear his exclusive audio review after the show. Get ready for NXT Takeover with Will Pruett and Jake Barnett’s free audio preview at PWAudio.net.
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black for the NXT Championship: NXT usually does a great job booking their matches where multiple outcomes can be both logical and valid. This is no exception. I find the booking of this story to be a bit odd. They booked this story with Aleister Black doing a comedy routine where he made fun of Zelina Vega’s height. I did like what that pulled from Vega and Almas as the disrespect invoked a ton of rage from the duo which overwhelmed Black. The odd part was just Black stepping into light comedy. It wasn’t egregious, just a bit odd. It’s also odd that they introduced Candice LeRae into this storyline when Black brought in LeRae as an equalizer, yet they didn’t book the LeRae vs. Vega match that would have been the most logical route given that they are both experienced wrestlers. Back to the match, I think the prediction here does link to a possible main-roster call-up. I feel that if Almas can carry the title until Takeover Brooklyn he would both elevate himself for a main roster call-up along with elevating the prestige of the title. A longer title reign will also give Vega more fuel to cut great promos. I can see Aleister Black winning, but I ultimately think that Almas has more to gain now and Aleister Black is main-roster ready. The guy can appear next week on Raw and Smackdown and it wouldn’t be shocking. I’ll go with Almas winning here via Vega not being equalized. Black has already been pinned by Johnny Gargano so his first single’s loss wouldn’t hurt him at all. In fact, Almas being the first person to defeat Black in a singles only levels him up further. I’m not saying Black won’t make a good champion and if he wins I think they can make him a babyface prizefighting champion, similar to what I would like to see with Ricochet in my confidence pick rankings for the North American Championship.
Prediction: Andrade Almas defeats Aleister Black via pinfall to retain the NXT Championship via pinfall.
Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship: This one is very intriguing and may also have main roster call-up implications. If Shayna Baszler doesn’t win, I’ll assume they have plans to utilize her on the main roster, maybe as Stephanie McMahon’s heavy-hitter or something. Based off of how they built towards this match with Baszler losing at the last Takeover, I can only assume that Baszler will end up winning the title here. Simple as that. Ember Moon might be due for a main roster call-up to whatever roster Asuka isn’t on. Since Moon’s a babyface, I’ll assume she passes out to the rear naked choke. If Baszler is staying in NXT for a while she will have a lot of fun matchups down the road. Part of what makes me think she’ll go over is an eventual feud with Dakota Kai who Baszler has been terrorizing in recent months.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler defeats Ember Moon via ref stoppage to become the new NXT Women’s Champion.
Undisputed Era vs. The Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne for both the NXT Tag Team Championship and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Trophy: Having the trophy be on the line is a bit goofy especially with Undisputed Era not being in the tournament. Of course, this situation came to be due to the injury to Bobby Fish. Because Roderick Strong has been Paul Levesque’s “in case of emergency, break glass” guy, I think I have to go with Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne going over here. There’s a lot of fun potential with this pairing that will lead to a fun breakdown sooner or later. I can see the Authors winning if they aren’t confident in Dunne and Strong but they wouldn’t be at the top of my confidence picks. Maybe they want to call the Authors “two time NXT Tag Team Champions” like the Revival, I don’t know. Again, I’m picking Dunne and Strong. The most intriguing possibility is the Era retaining via a new member joining the group. The way Regal worded the three-option scenario makes me think that Adam Cole’s doing double duty and will prioritize winning the North American Championship over the tag belts. Looking at the NXT roster for former ROH wrestlers, I see Chris “Donovan” Dijak and Kassius Ohno. I think the Ohno one would be the most intriguing since Ohno’s losing streak is a good impetus for a heel turn. The only think holding that prediction back is how NXT likes to make sense and Ohno got beat the hell up by Cole. One prediction that I’m 95 percent sure won’t happen but I would love to see is Mike Bennett becoming the newest member of Undisputed Era where they can go into some past Kingdom history. Bennett is a great talker and a good wrestler. He’s wasted losing Smackdown dark matches. The reason I don’t see this likely is due to his and Maria’s baby just being born. If it were possible, how great of a bonus would it be to have Maria in the NXT Women’s Division? Just imagine the yell-off between Maria and Zelina Vega. Plus, being in Florida means Maria doesn’t have to be on the road often. I’m going off track.
Prediction: Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne defeat The Undisputed Era and Authors of Pain to win both the Dusty Classic and Tag Team Championships. Very Unlikely Fantasy Booking: Mike Bennett shows up, not Donovan Dijak, to help Undisputed Era retain their belts.
North American Championship Ladder Match: I’m not going to go into great detail here because my “confidence picks” article for this match is already available on the main page. I’ve been going back and forth between Adam Cole and EC3 all week. Yesterday I had EC3 at the top of my confidence picks but just a few hours ago Adam Cole shot up to the top again.
Prediction: Adam Cole becomes the inaugural NXT North American Champion.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa: One of the best feuds in professional wrestling and Ciampa has missed most of if due to injury. It goes to show how great of a babyface Gargano is. I’m always a fan of strong heels being built up in professional wrestling. It just makes it much more compelling when a babyface dragonslayer takes that big heel down. This match has the potential to steal the show. Gargano is going to sell the hell out of this thing. This is Ciampa’s first match back and one can only hope he is ready for what I expect to be a brutal battle. I’m going with Ciampa winning being the best option here. They could have Gargano win and stretch this out to Takeover Brooklyn, but it’s not NXT’s style to spin wheels and drag out things.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa defeats Johnny Gargano via pinfall.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...