NXT Takeover Phoenix: Review

Right so new year new blogs. I’m just going to write whatever comes out, and not put any structure to it, just make it as fun as possible for me, and hopefully it reflects in the blogs being more natural and fun for you all to read. So I watched this show with my friends Dan and Lorraine. It was their first Takeover live, so was nice to share that experience with them. I remember mine (Takeover Dallas the night before Wrestlemania in 2016) and I’ve loved NXT ever since, and I love this brand for nights like tonight. So without further or due I will now talk you through our experiences watching NXT Takeover Phoenix.

So the pre show was your standard kind of thing, it featured the announcements of the NXT year end award winners as well. A highlight being Kairi Sane almost being in tears of joy at winning 2 of the prizes, she’s just the cutest thing. Another notable occurrence was pre show panelist Sam Roberts appearing to hesitate a few times in making a point regarding the women’s title match, and then essentially burying the match and Bianca Belair and saying the match wasn’t Takeover worthy… This obviously made a lot of people MAD on social media, but I’m not 100% sure if he wasn’t fed that line as it was reference on commentary later in the show, guess time will tell…

The main show opened with an extraordinary viking, medieval inspired entrance from the War Raiders. This was awesome.

War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) defeated ‘Undisputed Era’ (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) (C) to become the new NXT Tag Team Champions

This (shockingly enough) was an excellent show opener. Strong & O’Reilly were there usual great wrestlers but acting like dickhead heels, Rowe was his usual scary yet powerful self, but the star of the show in this match was Hanson. Never have I seen a guy of his size do what he did, Cartwheels and springboards off the middle ropes are not usual actions of a near 300 pound guy but this monster was amazing in this match. The crowd were hot all the way through here past all the nearfalls and crazy spots. War Raiders got the win with their tag team finisher, and it says all you need to know that despite the fact the incredibly popular Undisputed Era lost, War Raiders still got the babyface pop they warranted. Largely I’m sure down to their amazing showing in this match. A classic match up that pitted the power of the War Raiders versus the crafty wrestling skills of Strong and O’Reilly and what certainly is UNDISPUTED is this was an excellent show opener.

**** 1/2

They showed NXT UK Champion Pete Dunne and NXT UK Women’s Champion Toni Storm at ringside. This made the 3 of us very happy.

Matt Riddle defeated Kassuis Ohno

I don’t need to tell you I’m sure, but this was a good match. Matt Riddle is so over it’s a joke. Expect him in a title match Mania weekend for NXT. Lots of hard looking strikes from both men, lots of nasty looking bumps but every bit as good as you’d of hoped for. Finish was very creative in my opinion when you factor in Riddle’s MMA past; Riddle had Ohno on the ground and began hitting him with a flurry of elbow strikes to the head area, so many and with such velocity that Ohno tapped out and Riddle had the win. A sort of finish you may see in the UFC so it came across as a believably legit win for Riddle. The Bro train marches on, full steam ahead! Bro.

****

Johnny Gargano defeated Ricochet (C) to become the new NXT North American Champion

Jesus Christ I don’t even know where to begin reviewing this one. Just imagine a match every bit as good as you’d expect from these 2 exceptional talents… then add some more. This was by far the highlight of the evening, not to say the rest was anything less than great but this match was exquisite from start to finish. Ricochet did Ricochet things, and Johnny Takeover put in a performance worthy of his self-proclaimed moniker. By This point in the show I was a few vodka red bulls in so had a blast watching it, and judging by twitter and the reactions of Dan and Lorraine who were with me everyone else loved it too. If you check mine or Dan’s social media you will see a rather hilarious video filmed by Lorraine of mine and Dan’s reaction to one spot where Gargano suplexed Ricochet to an exposed part of the floor outside the ring… Dan cackling away at the perils faced by the hero Ricochet as the villainous Gargano executes his manoeuvre… me furiously screaming “NOOOO, BAD JOHNNY NO, YOU FUCKING PRICK” … It’s a pretty funny clip…. Anyway… yeah the match itself was brilliant. Loads of cool spots and nearfalls, some pretty incredible storytelling, and then Gargano only went and won the belt didn’t he… Amazing stuff as expected.

*****

Shayna Baszler (C) defeated Bianca Belair to retain the NXT Women’s Championship

I wasn’t sure about this match going in. I like both women but wasn’t sure how their characters or styles would mix on such a big stage. But they did a great job and probably produced as good a match as these two against one another at this stage in their developing careers could have put on. Bianca did a great job of being the underdog but fearless and fighting babyface, Shayna played the asshole, scary heel monster equally as well. Of course Bianca’s hair was a key element in the match, and of course Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir ran in a times but it all happened enough and at times when it made sense for it to do so. At one point as well Belair whipped her long hair so hard it actually caused a visible cut on Baszler’s chest area (this may have been down to the jewellery type things the challenger had wived into it mind) These women were in a super tough spot sandwiched between the two most hyped matches on the show, but they did an admirable job. After Belair fought and fought with all her mite to try and stay in the match, Shayna eventually got the submission win after Belair finally passed out to Baszler’s finishing hold.

*** 3/4

They showed Velveteen Dream sat ringside watching the show, with 2 female friends with him. This was after earlier in the night he was shown arriving backstage with a chauffeur and his said lady friends arriving. I love this guy, he’s the coolest.

Tomasso Ciampa (C) defeated Aleister Black to retain the NXT Championship

Again I don’t think I need to tell you that this match was very very good. If not as good as Ricochet vs Gargano it was only the next level down from. And in some minor similarity to the previous title match on the show it was the babyface challenger fighting valiantly against the asshole Champion whilst carrying an injury that meant they came up just short of the win. But before I get into talking about the action itself I must touch on… at one point in the match as has now become customary Tomasso Ciampa complimented himself saying “I’m so damn good”. This made the 3 of us HOWL laughing, followed by myself and Dan making a series of funny meme-like quotes with the phrase as a punchline. I hope and pray I see some gifs of this tomorrow. So the match then? They traded moves in the early stages, but quickly Ciampa began to target Black’s leg (which is a crucial factor in his offensive kick-based arsenal particularly his Black Mass finisher). After this it was pretty much Ciampa led most of the way aside from a few brief moments of Black offence which got the crowd excited. I don’t know if it was just me but at one stage I thought it was going too long, but then they picked it up and in the end when it wad done I thought it had been a great match. Black at stage despite his injured leg hit the Black Mass kick but as he and the champion fell to the ground Ciampa rolled onto his side so that Aleister couldn’t pin his shoulders to the mat as Black was so exhausted. The finish came when Ciampa hit his finisher (now called ‘Happy Ending’, a sort of sit-out Pedigree for those who haven’t seen it) about 4 times overall, Black kicked out after 3 to the shock of us all, including Ciampa who for maybe the first time as champion looked to doubt himself. Black summoned enough energy and momentum not long after to go for the Black Mass again but his standing leg (the same leg Ciampa had targeted all match) gave way on him, and in his second of weakness it cost him as Ciampa picked him up once again, hit his big move and got the pin to keep hold of his precious ‘Goldie’. An excellent Takeover worthy main event match.

****3/4

The show ended in somewhat of an amazing visual, as Ciampa was on the top of the rampway about to exit, his former tag team partner and best friend turned mortal enemy, now turned… I don’t know what… but Johnny Gargano joined Ciampa on stage. And the two held up their championships side by side to the crowd to close the show. An amazing visual to close a pretty amazing show.

So after the show went off the air it appears Adam Cole and Velveteen Dream along with Black and Ricochet came out, and there was some form of confrontation that saw Dream, Ricochet and Black side against Ciampa, Gargano and Cole that Triple H had to try and control. I don’t know what this will mean in NXT going forward and how all these pieces fit but Triple H talked about it on his post show interview so I’m sure it’ll be addressed once the new tapings occur.

Overall it seems universal across the board this was yet another brilliant NXT Takeover. It certainly seemed that Dan & Lorraine felt as good about the show, maybe more so than I did after my first live viewing of a Takeover show. NXT has a lot of ways it could go now, but all of them are good. The amount of talent on the roster, even if a few find homes of the red or blue variety between now and the Takeover of Wrestlemania weekend, we will still have a number of really interesting storyline avenues we could go down. Firstly after Adam Cole proclaimed weeks ago that his Undisputed Era would be draped in gold in 2019, they now have 0 championships to their name. Who next for Shayna Baszler? Io Shirai perhaps? and what on earth will the NXT universe do now that the former DIY tag team now hold the singles titles of NXT? It all has left NXT in a really exciting position going forward after what , in NXT Takeover: Phoenix was an excellent show.

Josh.

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