Last night’s NXT Takeover Phoenix culminated from the Talking Stick Resort Arena(home to NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes) and it was to kick off Royal Rumble weekend. The main event was Tommaso Ciampa defending his NXT Championship against Aliester Black.
The pre-show was pretty solid. I enjoy listening to Charley Caruso along with Sam Roberts and the always hysterical Pat McAfee doing his shtick. They basically ran down the card and Pat’s banter with Bobby Fish of the Undisputed Era was stuff where legends are born. McAfee needs to be called up to the main roster. I like Sam Roberts because although he’s known for his world-famous wrestling podcast, it offers awesome insight and I like his interviews on his podcast. They also used this to announce the year-end awards and it went as follows:
Male Competitor of the Year: Tommaso Ciampa.
Female Competitor of the Year: Kairi Sane
Overall Competitor of the Year: Kairi Sane
Tag Team of the Year: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong)
Rivalry of the Year: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
Breakout Star of the Year: Ricochet
NXT Takeover of the Year: Takeover New Orleans
Future NXT Star of the Year: Io Shirai
The night began to a raucous crowd.
The first match was extremely hot! It was the Undisputed Era defending their tag team titles against the War Raiders. To be honest, I haven’t watched NXT in awhile so WWE does a tremendous job of putting the packages together to get people up to speed. War Raiders are one AWESOME team! They remind me of a throwback team that is influenced by the Road Warriors and the Powers of Pain mixed together. I loved how they threw their opponents against each other and although the crowd was on the Undisputed Era’s side, they play the monster face part well and the crowd switched over to get behind the War Raiders. Hanson of the War Raiders moves like a freaking luchador! He did several cartwheel escapes and he did a springboard elbow that reminded me of Tajiri of ECW. The action was incredible. These two teams really know how to work together. War Raiders won the tag team championships. Cool entrance and everything! 5 star match!
Next match was the bathroom break match between Matt Riddle against Kassius Ohno. This feud has sucked from the get go. Ohno did do a nice heel turn on Riddle leading up to it, and I do like his “we’re a dime a dozen” shtick that he had going on. This was my first time seeing Matt Riddle and my reaction is meh. Riddle comes across as someone that would be an excellent heel. The match was just kind of there. Ohno used dirty tactics such as stepping on Riddle’s feet and even resorting to biting his toes, which kind of made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. The match was just kind of there. NOTHING about Riddle sticks out to me. I would’ve actually had Ohno go over in this match by cheating or getting Riddle disqualified. 1.5/5 stars.
The next match was for the North American Championship as Ricochet defends against Johnny Gargano. I love Gargano kind of being the tweener here, and he promised that 2019 was going to be his year and it hyped up that he came up short a lot in 2018. Ricochet brought in some in-ring psychology by asking Gargano, “which Johnny are we going to get?”. I thought that was really cool. The match was great between Gargano’s scientific wrestling and Ricochet’s flippy-do gymnastics style of wrestling. This is where I’m going to get heat. I wanted to spend my Saturday night watching WRESTLING not this flippy-do stuff. Yes, Ricochet is an incredible athlete but his character is bland and he has a lot of work to do. Gargano, dare I say it, carried the match. Gargano is a genius when it comes to spots, building the story in the match, and manipulating the crowd. The one AWESOME spot was when Gargano turned heel in the match. He removed the padding on the floor exposing the concrete and DDTed Ricochet through there. Gargano won the match and showed the crowd who he really is and that is someone that is willing to cut corners and do what it takes for championships. He showed the crowd that he’s about winning now, instead of making fans happy with his matches. The match gets 3.5/5 stars from me.
The next match was for the women’s championship as Shayna Baszler defender her NXT Women’s Championship against Bianca Belair. Belair confuses me, is she a heel or a face, she sometimes acts like a face yet her character seems really entitled, plus she uses her hair weave as a weapon. Very heelish in my opinion. Baszler is just a badass and I love her for it. I love her Queen of Spades persona and how she uses that playing card to remind others who her next victim is going to be. The match was decent. Belair I can NOT get behind for the life of me. As a babyface, shouldn’t you work towards having me build sympathy for her(or as Scott Steiner would say “sympy”)? I should want Belair to beat Baszler. I ended up starting to cheer for Baszler although she’s the heel in the match. That clutch submission move spot in the end was awesome, it did show Belair passed out and referee stopping the match. Baszler yelling, “it’s not your fault, you don’t belong in the same ring as me”, maybe will humble Belair a bit. The match gets 3/5 stars. It was decent but not memorable.
The NXT Championship match was next between Tommaso Ciampa defending against Aleister Black. This match struggled to get going but once it did it was solid. Ciampa is one of the best heels I have ever seen. He has a blackheart, only cares about one thing and that is winning at all costs. He has manipulated Gargano to help him and everything, people still talk about Gargano being manipulated to attack Black in the parking lot at Full Sail University. Black did a great job on selling his knee injury. However, I do NOT buy Black as a face, he should be a lot more sinister than he is. The match was decent though. Ciampa using the knee to try to take out Black’s “black mass” finisher was effective at the end as it ultimately cost Black. The ending was too predictable because I see Black going up to the main roster. 3/5 stars from me.
The highlight was Gargano realigning himself with Ciampa but at the same time he kept glancing over at Ciampa’s NXT Championship. I am predicting title for title over Summerslam weekend. After the PPV went off the air, Velveteen Dream, Ricochet, Adam Cole, Aliester Black, Johnny Gargano, and Tommaso Ciampa all brawled. I am predicting the NXT Elimination Chamber match for the NXT Championship at the next takeover. This will be the proper send off for Black, Cole, Ricochet, and Velveteen Dream as I predict they will all be on the main roster this year.
Overall rating of the PPV: 3/5 stars. I would go back and watch the tag team championship match and revisit Gargano vs. Ricochet.
The best part: Gargano’s internal conflict and how he sold it to make it believable. This is what makes wrestling great when there is suspension of disbelief. When he pulled the padding back and thought better of it, then ultimately let evil take over to take out Ricochet, that was incredible.
The worst part: Riddle vs. Ohno. The match just did not deliver, I do like Ohno as a heel, but I am not sold on Riddle, he comes off as a frat boy punk ass to me instead of the “surf’s up” dude kind of guy. Plus, the match was pointless as Riddle already beat Ohno twice. Ohno is becoming the one that puts others over, not a jobber but more of an enhancement talent. I would’ve rather seen Riddle fight Adam Cole or something.