It’s WrestleMania weekend which means we kick off with NXT Takeover: New Orleans. The card looked to be a very solid show on paper, so did it live up to the hype? Let’s break it down and take an in-depth look at how the night went.
1) Adam Cole (BAY BAY) def. Ricochet, EC3, Velveteen Dream, Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan in a Ladder Match to capture the NXT North American Championship. Holy sh*t this match awesome! Everyone had their moments to shine and they all took advantage of it. The action was constant and fast paced. I didn’t know the match went for thirty minutes until a mate pointed it out. There were a few odd spots which was mainly on EC3’s part, but there were enough exciting moves and moments in the match to let it slide. This has easily been one of the best ladder matches in the past fifteen, maybe twenty years. It’s up there in my favourite ladder matches of all time.
Cole winning was a shock to me. I honestly thought it would be Ricochet or Velveteen Dream winning the match. Regardless, I was happy to see Cole win it. I knew Lars, Killian or EC3 weren’t going to win. Speaking of EC3, he really didn’t do much for me in the match, especially seeing some of the awkward moves he hit as I mentioned above. I’ll need more time to see what he’s got since I never watched him wrestle in TNA (or watch TNA at all for that matter). I watched Ricochet wrestle in Lucha Underground as Prince Puma, so I know he’s a great in-ring performer. It’ll be interesting to see him in the WWE and so far, he’s been a huge hit with the crowd.
I love the look of the North American Championship belt. It’s very old school and there’s something about red leather straps make it look, as the Iconic Duo say, schmick!
2) Shayna Baszler def. Ember Moon to capture the NXT Women’s Championship. Coming off a big, exciting match hurt Ember and Baszler more than it should’ve. We received another average match between the two which had some throwbacks to their previous match, such as Ember being the one to damage Baszler’s arm. I’ll give props to Baszler for finally learning about “ring psychology”, even if she did ram her arm multiple times into the ring post to “put her dislocated shoulder back into it’s socket”.
The main problem with the match was the ending. Baszler had Ember locked in a one-armed chokehold and Ember’s foot touched the rope multiple times. The referee told Baszler to break the hold. She didn’t, rolled Ember away and continued to choke out the NXT Women’s Champion. The referee allowed this and awarded Shayna the win, pissing off every fan around the world. I seriously think the only two people excited about Shayna’s win was Ronda Rousey and the Mongo McMichael of the UFC Horsewoman.
Ember’s run as Women’s Champion wasn’t good, considering her main opponent was always Shayna. Maybe Ember’s not a good fit for Shayna, or maybe Shayna isn’t a good fit for Ember. I hope Shayna’s run as champion is an improvement, otherwise we’re looking at the end of the NXT Women’s Division, especially your newly crowned champion says “I’m the best wrestler you’ve seen in forever.”
The match was average and was never going to be anything amazing. With Cole winning and Bobby Fish not able to wrestler for several months, many assumed it was going to be Pete Dunne and Roderick Strong winning the match. It makes sense for Undisputed Era to drop the tag team titles to them, right? Wrong! Strong shocked everyone and “shocked the system” (sorry, couldn’t help myself) by turning on Dunne and joining Undisputed Era! Everyone watching collectively lost their sh*t when Strong broke up Dunne’s pinfall attempt, attacked him then dragged Kyle O’Reilly on top for the pin.
It’s great to finally see Strong develop a character and joining Undisputed Era is the perfect start. While Strong’s turn was a good highlight, the best highlight had to go to Kyle O’Reilly. There was a great moment when he took a German Suplex from Akam and/or Rezar. He got up and mildly “hulked up” before tumbling out of the ring and down to the arena floor. Going at it alone for his team allowed Kyle to really showcase his stuff to the world.
4) Aleister Black def. Andrade Almas to capture the NXT Championship. The second great match of the night. Almas and Black have great ring chemistry, and everything was on point. There were some nice moments where Almas hit moves he’s put people away with, but Black would kick out at the last second. I love watching how precise Black is with ever move he hits, especially the Black Mass he delivered to Almas when he had Zelina Vega in his hands.
This match was basically a handicap match due to the amount of times Vega got involved. She’s the best manager WWE has had for a very, very long time. Her style of management mirrors Sensational Sherri: the microphone work, the way she gets involved in her client’s matches, right down to the emotion she shows for every near-fall both men were taking. Vega losing it because Almas lost the title was great.
Black’s going to be a great NXT Champion. He hasn’t had a dull, boring match (yet) and his Takeover matches almost always steal the show. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for Black, Almas, and Vega.
5) Johnny Gargano def. Tommaso Ciampa. What happens when the year-long storyline you’ve been running culminates with an unsanctioned match? You get yourself a God damn match of the year, that’s what. This match was an emotional, wild rollercoaster ride from start to finish. I haven’t seen a heel receive this much heat for a long time. The fans HATED Ciampa so much his new theme song is officially the crowd chanting “Asshole” and “F#$% You Ciampa”.
Words can’t explain just how fantastic this match was. Every single fan invested in this storyline was not let down. Ciampa lived up to his promise of becoming NXT’s most dangerous son of a bitch when he returned, and Gargano delivered punishment just as much as he received it. These two men beat the absolute hell out of one another. Ciampa’s eye was swollen. Gargano was left with some vicious marks all over his body. They did not hold back. You could feel the intensity and the hatred behind every strike and move delivered.
Everyone couldn’t keep up with the number of near-falls happening. Just as you thought the match was over, they kept going for another minute or so. I loved Ciampa playing on his knee injury. I loved how Gargano hesitated so badly not to stab Ciampa (yes, you read that right) with the broken crutch. I loved how they almost recreated that moment the two had at the Cruiserweight Classic. I loved how Ciampa tried to take advantage of Gargano’s vulnerability, but ultimately failed.
The only (slight) issue I had was Gargano winning the match. While a lot of people think it’s great to see Gargano sticking around in NXT, I think he’s time in NXT is over. He had a great solo run when Ciampa was injured and he should move on to the main roster (probably 205 Live at this stage). Ciampa should’ve won this match. He would’ve cemented himself for life as the most hated person in WWE and could’ve used the momentum moving forward as NXT’s residential Psycho Killer. Regardless, Gargano’s win was the fairy-tale ending to the heartbreak we all suffered at NXT Takeover: Chicago. Congratulations Gargano and Ciampa. This was awesome.
In all, NXT Takeover: New Orleans was a fantastic way to start off WrestleMania weekend. Match of the night was extremely hard to pick, but I think Gargano/Ciampa just took it over the 6-Way Ladder Match. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the show so leave your comments below!
And now, we wait for the grandest stage of them all – WrestleMania! See you tomorrow!