WWE NXT Review: Takeover Phoenix

January 26, 2019 – Phoenix, Arizona

Hanson & Rowe def. Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong {NXT Tag Team Championship Match}
The Raiders won in 16:57. The Raiders had a WrestleMania-style entrance featuring soldiers flanking them, so their win was more or less telegraphed out of the gate. Strong & O’Reilly did a lot here to get the Raiders’ strength over. Beyond that, this had the same vibe as an early ’90s WCW Steiners match; it was filled with big power moves that felt chaotically thrown together. The whole thing was wild as hell, slightly more slow-paced than a typical Takeover tag team opener, but as hard-hitting as usual and probably more intense. This bodes well for the Raiders’ title reign and the future of tag team wrestling in NXT without the Undisputed Era in it. ****¼

Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
Riddle won in 9:17 with the Bro-Mission. Ohno came into this match with a Takeover record worse than Johnny Gargano’s, so it was never looking good for him against NXT’s future golden boy. That said, Riddle gave up a lot here, giving Ohno some cred he’d been lacking for a long time. I don’t know if saving Ohno’s cred was quite necessary at this point in his trajectory, but the match was rarely boring and at times it was disturbingly stiff, so that’s notable at least. ***¼

Velveteen Dream shows up to the show flanked by two random girls to give the commentators a reason to hype next week’s Worlds Collide tournament special (which Dream will be participating in) and the day-long stream that will be shown free on all of WWE’s social networks.

Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet {NXT North American Championship Match}
Gargano pinned Ricochet in 24:37 after hitting the slingshot DDT. This was a hell of a roller coaster. Ricochet had Gargano’s number pretty much the entire time, showing Gargano up with his superior athleticism. The match then paid off half a year of character growth for Gargano, as he finally shook off his good-guy view of himself and hit a brainbuster on the exposed floor. Beyond that, we also got to see an insane sense of place-in-space from both guys, as they hit almost all of their insane offense flawlessly on the way to Gargano’s brutal win. Kevin Ford sent me this gif when the bell rang, and I think it sums up Gargano’s victory perfectly. ****½

Shayna Baszler def. Bianca Belair {NXT Women’s Championship Match}
Baszler made Belair tap out at 15:12 with the Kirifuda Clutch. I’m well beyond my losing patience with the gaga that goes on in Baszler’s title defenses. Referee bumps and interference just don’t have a place at Takeover (and I’m counting her Evolution match here because how are you going to stop me?) on this consistent of a basis. The catharsis that’s going to come from Baszler losing the title isn’t worth it to me. That’s especially the case because Marina Shafir & Jessamyn Duke are completely lost in the ring. Belair was a little bit out of her element, looking out of step here and there. On the other hand, she held up her end of a good story, so points for that. The finish especially was strong, with Belair teasing escaping the submission very convincingly a few times. ***½

Tommaso Ciampa def. Amsterdam Black {NXT Championship Match}
Ciampa pinned Black with the Fairytale Ending in 26:32. These two spent a lot of time laying the foundation for the damage to Black’s leg; more time than most people are probably comfortable with. Because of that the crowd took a long time to get into things, but I was into it. The build from there to the finishing stretch was filled with great segments and opportunities for Black to sell like a mad man. The final chunk of the match was Black doing what he does best, forcing Ciampa into a striking contest. The shift to Ciampa taking control was beautiful, as Black had blasted the champ for winning all his matches circumstantially and an errant slip on some water messed up the Dutch Destroyer’s game. That’s fantastic, but the match also featured the Black Mass continuing to be protected, callbacks to both Black vs. Gargano and Ricochet vs. Gargano earlier in the night, a beautiful ref bump fakeout, and Ciampa finally establishing the Fairytale Ending as a legit finisher. After the match, Ciampa walks up to the ramp where he’s greeted by Gargano. The two pose together with their titles and evil smiles on their faces. Now all that’s left is for NXT to stick the landing on this years-long storyline. ****¼

Takeover always delivers, and this one was no exception. All I need now is for NXT to get the title off of Baszler so I can get back to enjoying every title match on every show to the fullest.

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