NXT Takeover: New York – Review

This is either going to be the best or worst blog I’ve ever written. So here we go…

So the kick off show was your usual stuff of the panel previewing the matches for the upcoming event. Charley Caruso was leading it and with her you had Sam Roberts and Pat Macafee. It was fine… and then Sam (after his slagging off of Bianca Belair at the last Takeover pre show) decided to really out of nowhere say Matt Riddle would ‘CHOKE’ tonight and that he had been handed everything since he came to WWE… seemed like to get heat for the sake of heat and it seemed really uncessary to say it. He would go on to, when the panel bought on NXT UK commentator Vic Joseph to discuss the UK Championship match, asked ‘who is this guy?’ when talking about WALTER and ‘how’d he end up in this match?’… which all credit to Joseph he did a great job of putting the match over. Then we had O’Reilly, Strong and Fish of the Undisputed Era cut a very entertaining backstage interview with Sarah Shreiber (Era wore new t shirts that STILL HAD THE STICKY WWE LOGO YOU GET ON NEW WWE SHIRTS ON… these guys are the best)!

AND THEN…

We had the WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge. Essentially a guy who beat a load of other guys to get here faced the game’s cover star AJ Styles in a match on the game, and if he won he’d win a million dollars. This guy was a complete asshole and was cutting funny yet really obnoxious heel promos and the crowd HATED him. Corey Graves and Xavier Woods were out to oversee things and they just stood back as this guy took every second of his big moment. They stood on the top of the entrance ramp and played on the titantron. The guy (who dressed in an all gold suit went by the moniker of Real Golden Voice; Stephan Benson) played the game as Brock Lesnar and AJ was himself.

WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge: Brock Lesnar (controlled by Stephan T.Benson aka The Golden Voice) defeated AJ Styles (controlled by… AJ Styles) 

YES I’M REVIEWING THIS MATCH. JUST ACCEPT IT OK!?

It very quickly became apparent why this guys was in this spot… because he was really good at the game funny enough. Props to him for using Brock Lesnar as he would wrestle IRL. He did a tonne of suplexes as Benson continued to act like the biggest of assholes. The live crowd that was in the arena at this stage HATED this guy and DID NOT want to see him become a Millionaire in front of the world. The crowd went pretty dead as the guy F5’d AJ and won the computer game match. He was an asshole after too and even took digs at AJ and said Orton would beat him at Mania. He held the big novelty cheque after and the crowd hated him.

Dear Triple H,

Your shows are excellent. But please never sell your sole for this kind of thing ever ever again.

Regards,

Everyone who watched this.

*

That was basically the kick off show.

The main show began with an AWESOME video package looking back at the history of NXT Takeovers before leading into the matches ahead tonight. The “record attendance of 15,697” was announced by a delightful-Salmon coloured suit sporting Mauro Ranallo with Percy and Nigel by his side.

NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) (C) defeated Aleister Black & Ricochet to Retain 

We got another super cool Viking themed War Raiders entrance. It may have been as cool as their one for Takeover: Phoenix. The crowd very loudly chanted along with the “One and Only” part of Ricochet’s song and sang the first part of Black’s theme too. The live crowd even given the computer game stuff some of them just endured were really fired up for the start of the main show and this first match. The theme of this match was that the two very popular babyface teams had a lot of respect for eachother but still wanted to have a killer match and leave the seemingly obvious result in doubt. They did that and then some! If you want big spots, this match had loads. If you like good old fashioned ‘rasslin, they gave us that at times too! At one stage during this match there was apparently a very bright light that was shining directly into the upper deck of the building, so much so that when it was turned off the crowd went wild for it and chanted ‘you deserve it’ and the YES chants. Although momentarily the attention was away from the match I thought it a good sign that this crowd was excited by a light being switched off, it turned out I was not wrong… There were so many ridiculous spots and exchanges in this match it wasn’t really a match you could watch and take notes on as there was not a second to catch your breathe! By far the most unbelievable spot of an insane match was the surely 300 pound-odd Hanson doing a SENTON SPLASH off the top turnbuckle to the outside to take everyone out! Not to mention Ricochet picking up and slamming Hanson to the ground (Ricochet is a cruserweight and Hanson a heavyweight so bare that in mind). They teased a possible countout and a draw but Ricochet and Rowe JUST made it in the ring in time. Aleister Black then soon after hit the Black Mass on Rowe and Ricochet a shooting star press for a nearfall. Ricochet then missed a 630 and the War Raiders soon then hit ‘Thor’s Hammer’ before Hanson got rid of Black with a Suicide Dive and then they hit the Fall Out on Ricochet for the 1, 2, 3. Medical staff seemed to tend to Ricochet right away after this. Black checked on him to and it seemed War Raiders stopped celebrating for a moment also. It was unclear how badly or what was hurt but Ricochet to me at least looked somewhat dazed when he looked up. But both members of each team embraced after and then Hanson and Rowe put their belts down and bowed to Black and Ricochet before leaving. The fans gave the beaten main-roster bound challengers a giant standing ovation that brought Ricochet to tears. The fans chanted ‘You Deserve It’. If this was main roster someone would have come out and beat them up. Not in NXT. This was all absolutely wonderful all-round. 

****3/4

They showed NXT UK’s Piper Niven and Women’s Champion Toni Storm in the crowd. This made me happy.

NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream (C) defeated Matt Riddle to Retain

This match was extraordinary as well! So in the early stages it was clear Dream was going to be the cocky one and Riddle the fighting babyface. But (and I’m not exaggerating) this crowd was probably 85-90% in the corner of the Velveteen Dream. So I’m not sure if this was planned or if they decided to call it in the ring, but as the match went on they completely switched the way they both acted to suit the crowd response, so it was Dream who played babyface and Matt Riddle who acted more of a heel. It was amazing to witness. Riddle came out first and then Dream came out in typically understated fashion… he was dressed up as the STATUE OF LIBERTY and was carried on top of a platform by people in his t shirt. It was awesome and made him with that belt look like a megastar, which he already is. For the first few seconds of the match the crowd were so loud and pretty split with “BRO” and “VEL-VE-TEEN” chants. This was a really unique match were both guys showcased their styles really well and told a fun story. It may have dragged in the middle but the crowd noise along with the start and finish made it a great match overall. Dream stomping on Riddle’s foot (he wrestles barefoot) was a spot I really enjoyed as I’ve never got why more people don’t do that against him. Riddle showed pretty amazing levels of strength throughout using various throws and holds. It was clear towards the end he was the working heel of the match with his much more aggressive approach to Dream, and the crowd really took Dream’s side. Be it via an Ankle Lock or a crazy looking German Suplex from the outside of the apron into the ring there were many occasions it looked like Riddle would get the win. Dream also coming back by HULKING UP with the point and the “YOU” and the powerslam and leg drop ala Hogan was super cool too.  But in the end the finish came when Riddle locked in the Bromission but Dream managed to roll through and get the pin. A finish clearly designed to protect Riddle somewhat even in defeat so I applauded that thought. Dream celebrated after as a clearly upset Riddle stood and watched. I was convinced Riddle was about to turn heel and beat the shit out of him, but to my pleasant surprise Riddle extended his fist out to Dream and they did the Bro fist bump to a HUGE pop. At the beginning of the match Dream has turned down a bro fist, but by now he had grown to respect Riddle. And then Riddle applauded him and left. So no heel turn at least for now. So that (given the amount of HEAT gaining segments we see on main roster) was a welcomed surprise. I loved this. Dream is great, Riddle is exceptional.

****3/4

They recapped from WWE’s social media a few hours before the show began the news that former New Japan Pro Wrestling star KUSHIDA had signed to NXT. He was then shown in the Barclays Centre sat in the crowd which got a huge pop. He’s really, really good trust me.

WWE United Kingdom Championship: WALTER defeated Pete Dunne (C) to become the NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion 

The crowd popped HUGE when the graphic for the match was first shown. Their noise only continued as they chanted along to WALTER’s theme and gave Dunne a huge ovation when he came out. NXT UK Commentator Vic Joseph replaced Percy Watson to call this match with Nigel and Mauro. In the least surprising thing probably of the entire weekend this match was brutal, really really good, and… BRUTAL! They started at a methodical pace and then began pretty much a constant exchange of really nasty looking submissions and strikes. WALTER chopped the piss out of Dunne, and Dunne bent and twerked WALTER’s fingers in places and ways human fingers should not go. It seemed everytime Dunne defied belief and seemed to hurt the big Austrian WALTER would comeback with a power move, such as the avoidance of Dunne by jumping over him and then seemingly kicking him into WrestleMania weekend next year with a huge big boot. WALTER putting the champion on the turnbuckle and standing on his HEAD looked absolutely vile as did he later stomping on his head and then hitting a powerbomb. There were just so many spots and moments in this match that looked horrible to have to take. Dunne did in fact at one stage hit his Bitter End finishing move but WALTER somehow kicked out. The finish was by far the most insane moment of a long but brutal looking match; the absolute giant WALTER climbed to the top turnbuckle, Dunne went up to and locked in a triangle hold, but WALTER gave Dunne a POWERBOMB OFF THE TOP ROPE and Dunne went absolutely flying across the ring!!! Then WALTER went back up and hit a big Splash off the top.. 1, 2, 3! The 685 day reign of The Bruserweight is OVER and your NEW WWE United Kingdom Champion is WALTER! WOW! This was everything I wanted it to be. In one word this was a WAR!

****3/4

Edge and Beth Phoenix were shown in the crowd. Both of whom the crowd liked a lot.

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler (C) defeated Bianca Belair & Io Shirai & Kairi Sane to retain

They, in the spot they were in, did about as good a job as they possibly could have done. The 3 challengers all got decent reactions, and the champion was seen backstage walking with her accomplices Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir but they did not accompany her to the ring for the match. The four of them went 100 miles an hour but did a great job of it not looking like a clusterfuck. After Baszler and Belair cleared The Sky Pirates out to brawl amongst themselves both Sane and Shirai would team up after to then return the favour and do the same. Baszler did the stomp-on-the-elbow spot she does to Bianca, who in turn would later get her own back when on the outside Shayna tried to pull Belair into the ringpost by her hair, but Bianca kicked her foot off the post and pulled back to send the champion colliding with the post instead! Later in a crazy spot Belair and Baszler were on the top rope with Bianca looking to hit a superplex, but then Kairi Sane came underneath to try and throw them down but couldn’t manage it, so then Io Shirai helped and the gave Shayna a double-powerbomb who in turn gave Bianca a superplex all at the same time. Later on something extraordinary happened; Shayna had Belair in the Kirifuda Clutch but in what I believe is a first Bianca Belair POWERED OUT of it! She would follow up with a KOD but Io Shirai came in to only allow for a near fall. Io and Kairi then seemed to fall out after Sane broke up a Shirai nearfall on Shayna, so then they went at it, which lead to Kairi picking her friend up and hitting her with an Alabama Slam on to Shayna Baszler! Kairi then hit her finishing move the Insane Elbow on Baszler but again it was Io Shirai that broke up the pin! Then in another crazy Bianca moment she knocked Sane off the top by whipping her with her hair then lifted BOTH Kairi Sane AND Io Shirai on her shoulders at the same time for a double KOD… but then Shayna came back in and with both the other challengers OOA she locked in the Kirifuda again and got the win. The crowd seemed in a stunned silence. All the challengers looked visibly upset as Shayna was then joined by Duke and Shafir (who surprisingly didn’t get involved in the match itself at any stage) to celebrate. In my group chat to say one of my friends was unhappy with this result would be like saying it would probably be a bad idea to jump off a cliff. Taking away my personal disappointment at the result here and looking at it objectively this was probably as good a match as they could have put on in this spot and with this result. Although as my friend Dan pointed out, after weeks and weeks of Shayna and co basically burying the entire NXT female roster each time… she then won this match fairly clean. Which I don’t think is a great reflection on them…

****

NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano defeated Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to become the NEW NXT Champion 

The video they showed before the match, considering it was a change from the original match with Ciampa, was exceptional. Gargano came out to a mixed reaction sporting an Iron Man inspired attire, Cole came out with the rest of the Undisputed Era and got possibly the biggest reaction for an entrance of the entire show, he was like a God to this crowd. The ‘boom’ and the ‘ADAM COLE BAY BAY’ chants during his entrance were absolutely thunderous. The chants were duelling as the match started at a slow pace with Cole and Gargano eventually colliding in the air as they both hit a crossbody, Gargano later hit a Flatliner after moving out the way of a superkick and got a nearfall, and not long after got another with an inside cradle pin attempt. There was then a really fun spot where they both went to superkick one another but both stopped at the same time realising what one another was going for, but it was Gargano who reacted quickest after hitting a kick to the knee of Cole instead. Gargano then went for a Sunset-flip but Cole rolled through it and connected with his Last Shot knee strike to score the pin and the first fall. 1-0 to Adam Cole.

Adam Cole continued to be in charge as the second fall began. He pretty soon hit the Last Shot a 2nd time but somehow Johnny Gargano kicked out. Later Adam Cole tried to get a powerbomb off the top rope but Gargano hit a form of body-drop instead which got a nearfall, and not long after that Gargano hit his signature slingshot DDT on to the apron which looked as good as always. Cole was on the verge of having the match tied at 1-1 but chose to break the refs 10 count as Cole was on the outside. And so then of course Cole immediately got back in to it by sending Johnny into the ring post. After they both went for submissions Gargano was able to transition into the Gargano Escape and Cole tapped frantically almost right away after the hold was put in. 1-1. I felt at this stage the match was good, but not a classic… that changed…

They had a brutal looking exchange of strikes in the ring before Gargano got the better of it with a big Clothesline for a 2 count. A notable cut then appeared above Gargano’s eye I wasn’t sure where from the cut was caused to be honest. In retaliation Gargano picked Cole up and launched him half way across the ring, head-first into the middle turnbuckle on the far side. Ouch. There was then a great spot where they simultaneously hit one another with Clotheslines and then Superkicks to the side of the head which the crowd loved. Cole after hit another Superkick then a German Suplex for a 2 count. Johnny Wrestling came back with a beautiful reverse Hurricanrana and then a Superkick… only for Adam Cole to roll out of the ring. Cole then pulled Gargano to the outside and gave him a big German Suplex into the apron which looked horrid, but Gargano cameback with a draping DDT and tried for another slingshot Spear only to be caught with a Superkick by Cole. He then hit an exquisitely executed Canadian Destroyer for a very, very close 2 count. So Adam Cole as the heel went in on the heroic Gargano and called him a ‘failure’… so Gargano got mad and launched him over the Spanish announce table at ringside. But with both men on the announce table it was Adam Cole who got the better of it and of ALL the moves in professional wrestling… Adam Cole hit Johnny Gargano on the announce table with… THE FAIRYTALE ENDING (the finishing move of a certain TOMASSO CIAMPA)… beautiful stuff!!! Cole made his way back in the ring as the ref began the 10 count. I legitimately thought this COULD be the finish and I don’t think I was alone! Gargano though made it back in to the ring at probably 9 and 1/2! Cole not long after hit another Superkick for another close nearfall which everyone again bought as a possible end of the match. They then traded kicks again before Cole eventually went for another Canadian Destroyer… only for Johnny TAKEOVER to transition into the Gargano Escape again… and just as the crowd went wild the rest of the Undisputed Era made their presence known. Roderick Strong came running out to divert the referees attention and allowing for Kyle O’Reilly to get in the ring and despite Cole tapping out the ref was dealing with Strong so didn’t see it and O’Reilly instead raked at the eyes of Gargano to break the hold. Cole then pushed Gargano in to the ref to take him out, and then Bobby Fish came in and he and O’Reilly hit their tag team finisher on Gargano before they all retreated. This though only got a 2 count! In his anger Johnny Gargano threw Cole onto all 3 other Era members outside the ring, and then one by one fought them all off. Adam Cole then hit two superkicks and then the Last Shot but Gargano kicked out again! The crowd by now were going wild and by far the loudest they were all night (and they were pretty loud all show to be fair to them). AND THEN COLE WENT FOR THE LAST SHOT AGAIN BUT MISSED, GARGANO PUT IN THE GARGANO ESCAPE, COLE NEARED THE ROPES BUT GARGANO ROLLED OVER WITH THE HOLD STILL LOCKED IN SO THEY WERE AWAY FROM THE ROPES ONCE AGAIN… AND ADAM COLE TAPPED OUT!!! JOHNNY GARGANO HAD FINALLY DONE IT AND WAS THE NEW NXT CHAMPION!!! That 3rd and final fall was probably over ****1/2 on its own! Despite the fact upon the entrances and all show it appeared Adam Cole was the most popular guy with the fans, when this match was drawing to the end and then for the finish this crowd was so desperate for Gargano to win you would not believe it. It was pointed out to me Gargano may have lost a tooth in the process to but I’d presume he wont mind too much. They laid this match out so well to ensure Gargano got the biggest of babyface pops at the end. Johnny Gargano it was noted was now the only man to have won the NXT Championship, the NXT North American Championship and the NXT Tag Team Championship. This was one of the all time great NXT Takeover matches. And that is saying something!

*****

As Gargano was celebrating his wife Candice LeRae came out as Gargano got a massive ovation from the crowd. The two went in to the crowd to celebrate with Johnny’s family including his parents which was super cool. And then just as they made their way to the top of the ramp… out from behind them came… TOMASSO CIAMPA!!! He hugged them both as everyone went wild… and I’m not going to lie when I said I cried my eyes out at this. I, after seeing an incredible match and a guy I’ve seen in over a dozen Takeover matches finally win the big one, was not ready to see the injured former champion as a total surprise, and then for him to embrace his IRL best friends on the ramp was an absolutely surreal moment. One of those that if you know the full story transcended professional wrestling. This was one of the most special moments I think I’ve seen in wrestling for a long long time possibly ever. Yes as a grown man I cried at this. But FUCK YOU if you think that is not a worthy reaction. This was absolutely beyond belief cool. The final shot we saw of the show was Gargano, Ciampa and Candice embracing to end what may be the best story in the history of NXT and one of the best in the business for many years.

There was a lot of talk online after the show of ‘best Takeover ever’. Right now in the immediate aftermath I think it was. One thing I don’t think is up for debate is in terms of the quality of the matches this was the best NXT show I’ve seen EVER. Yes this time last year we had two ***** matches but the matches in between I didn’t feel were as consistently strong as this show had. The crowd was certainly one of the best and Takeover crowds are usually good but this one was exceptional and credit to them. The ‘Mamma Mia’ count from Mauro tonight was off the scale! I’ve never seen a bad Takeover and with the historic implications of what took place on this show: Ricochet and Aleister Black’s NXT swansong, Matt Riddle being pinned for the first time in WWE, the arrival of KUSHIDA, the ending of the reign of Pete Dunne and the beginning of WALTER’s, the women’s 4 way being great and of course the main event with the embrace of Ciampa/Gargano/LeRae to end the show… this once again took me on an emotional rollercoaster maybe even more so than NXT Takeover New Orleans this time last year. And after that show was over I thought that was the best Takeover I’ve ever seen. But this bettered it. ANOTHER absolutely incredible show, and considering the standard NXT Takeover shows set, to say this was the best one EVER says all you need to know. If I’m ever going to have to convince someone to like professional wrestling I’m going to get them to watch this show. And I think that’s maybe the biggest compliment I could possibly give it.

Josh. 

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