Royal Rumble weekend kicks off with NXT TakeOver: Phoenix live from the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona! Every NXT Title is on the line including Tommaso Ciampa defending the NXT Championship against former Champion Aleister Black plus Shayna Baszler defends the NXT Women’s Championship against the undefeated Bianca Belair. Let’s start the show!
Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) (c) vs. War Raiders: A Viking introduction was done for the War Raiders which was really cool. War Raiders start this one on offense really catching UE off guard with quick tandem offense. UE find an opening and work Hanson. Rowe gets tagged in and takes over with feats of strength. The action spills outside where Hanson crashes and burns on a tope attempt. Rowe trying his best to fight both men essentially by himself. UE is absolutely dismantling Rowe but he just won’t quit. Amazing strike battle between Rowe and O’Reilly. Finally, Rowe gets the tag to Hanson who takes the fight to Strong. Hanson has people on their feet! Hanson has singlehandedly taken over the pace of the match. Strong gets an opening to get the tag to O’Reilly. All four men landing big strikes, Rowe gets a cover on O’Reilly for a close two! Strong and Hanson battle on the top rope ending with a Superplex from Strong to Rowe followed by a Diving Knee Drop from O’Reilly leads to a close two! Not even an Olympic Slam can keep Hanson down. The High Low Combo can’t keep Hanson down, this is incredible. Hanson avoids another High Low with a Handspring Elbow and assists Rowe with a Powerbomb Slam on UE. O’Reilly gets hoisted up and dropped with the Fallout! 1…2…3! The War Raiders are the NEW NXT Tag Team Champions. What a fun match to start the show. ****1/2
Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno: The Original Bro starts the match off hot taking the fight to Ohno. Riddle shows off his strength by deadlifting Ohno. Riddle attempted a Sunset Bomb to the ringside floor but Ohno uses the ring skirt to cover Riddle’s face and lands a vicious stomp to Riddle’s face. From here Ohno takes control of the match. Riddle tries fighting back but Ohno keeps hitting nasty strikes. Riddle tries another comeback but it is halted by Ohno stomping on Riddle’s bare foot. Riddle takes the pain and hits a German Suplex for two. Riddle with heavy kicks stopped when Ohno bit the foot of Riddle. Fast forward to Riddle finding the opening and taking control of the match. Ohno realizes he’s in trouble and extends his fist to Riddle who denies the request with a sick knee strike. Riddle begins raining down elbow strikes with such viciousness that Ohno taps out. ***
Ricochet (c) vs. Johnny Gargano – NXT North American Championship: This match was as if both men studied for it like a Harvard student studying for finals. Gargano with more aggressive offense knowing if Ricochet leaves his feet Gargano is in trouble. Another beautiful back and forth sequence leads to Ricochet dumps in the corner and we’re back to square. Gargano thought being on the outside would neutralize Ricochet but Ricochet leaps with a beautiful moonsault to the outside. Ricochet lands a beautiful Springboard 450 but doesn’t hit a Shooting Star thanks to Gargano’s knees. Crazy action outside ending with a Reverse Rana on Ricochet. Back in the ring, Gargano lands the Slingshot DDT for a close two! A frustrated Gargano attempted to hurt Ricochet with a Hangman DDT to the exposed floor but thought better of it. More back and forth ending with Ricochet putting Gargano in his own Gargano Escape. There is no quit in either of these men. Gargano pulls Ricochet and hits a Brainbuster on that exposed part of the floor. Vicious. Gargano lands one more vicious Slingshot DDT and gets the win. Johnny Wrestling finally wins at TakeOver. Johnny Gargano is the NEW NXT North American Champion. Beautifully paced back and forth battle where viciousness was the only way to win. I love it. ****
Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship: For a better part of the beginning Belair took it Baszler until the Champion used the Challenger’s hair against her. Shayna grabs the long ponytail and sends Belair shoulder first into the corner on the outside. From here Baszler targeted the arm of Belair like a shark to blood. Baszler bends the elbow putting pressure on the injured shoulder. Baszler getting cocky until Belair slaps the taste out of her mouth. Belair begins to fight back with one arm. The comeback gets cut off thanks to a Jumping Knee Strike to Belair. Strike battle ensues. Baszler had the upper hand until Belair connects with a desperation hair whip. Both women battle, Baszler sending Belair into the official. Belair is able to hit the KOD finisher but there’s no official to count the pin! Of course, this is the perfect time for Marina Shaffir and Jessamyn Duke to come down to the ring! Belair is not phased by the intrusion as she takes them both out. The problem was this allowed Baszler time to lock on the Kirafuda Clutch. Belair, with the heart of a lioness, fought out of the Kirafuda and hits a Snap Suplex. That was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Belair attempts a 450 Splash but her accuracy was way off and she’s trapped in the Kirafuda again. Belair fights with all her might but it is just too much. The official calls for the bell and Shayna Baszler retains the NXT Women’s Championship. The heart shown from Belair made her a star tonight. Great match. ****
Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs. Aleister Black – NXT Championship: Much of the opening of the match was a back and forth striking battle. The action spills to the outside where Ciampa is able to land a Suplex sending the leg of Black crashing into the steel steps. Back in the ring Ciampa targets the leg and is now in control of the match. Black tries fighting back but Ciampa, like a methodical surgeon, attacks the injured leg. Things are not looking good for Aleister Black as Ciampa drives Black into the Spanish commentary table Knee first. Black fights back with a sick kick to the chest of Ciampa. Back in the ring and Ciampa is once again zeroed in on the knee of Aleister Black. Ciampa is perched on the corner where Black comes running with a vicious kick sending both men to the outside. We’re back in the ring where Aleister takes control. Back and forth sequence where each man was trying to hit their finisher ending with Black catching Ciampa with a kick German Suplex combo. It looked as though Black was looking to end things but Ciampa is able to lock Black in a Boston Crab. Black fights out and Ciampa heads to the outside. Black attempted his float over Caprada but Ciampa cuts Black off and hits him with a Hanging Cutter to the apron. Once again we see ourselves in a back and forth for a good two minutes ending with a Brainbuster from Black. Ciampa wisely rolls to the outside but Black hits him with a Caprada. Black slips on some water on the ringside floor and this allows Ciampa to hit the Double Underhook Facebuster he calls Fairytale Ending for two! Ciampa removes the padding at ringside but Black comes flying in with a Meteora crashing into the floor. Both men battle back in the ring with Black rounding off a sick Black Mass kick but only for two. With things in hand, Black looked to end things with another Black Mass but Ciampa pulls the official in front of him not allowing Black to throw the kick. Ciampa hits a Fairytale Ending for two. Back and forth once again this time Ciampa lands a sick Hanging DDT the another Fairytale Ending. Instead of going for the cover Ciampa attempts another Fairytale Ending but Aleister fights out. Black goes to round off another Black Mass but Black’s injured leg could not hold up. Ciampa hits a fourth and final Fairytale Ending and picks up the win. Tommaso Ciampa retains the NXT Championship. The back and forth sequences really made this a fun watch where you didn’t know who was going to come out on top. ***3/4
The show ends with Tommaso Ciampa celebrating at the top of the ramp when Johnny Gargano, the new North American Champion, stands alongside Ciampa and they both hoist their championships in the air to close the show. What does this all mean?!
Another great TakeOver event with some great wrestling. I didn’t expect matches like the Tag Team Championship and Women’s Championship matches to be as good as they were. It just speaks to the allure of an NXT TakeOver. It makes everyone step their game up. Great show.