NXT Takeover: New York took place Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. In the main event, we had the crowning of a new NXT Champion in a match-up between Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano in a two-out-of-three-falls match. Elsewhere, Shayna Baszler defended her NXT Women’s Championship in a fatal-four-way match against Bianca Belair and the Sky Pirates in Io Shirai and Kairi Sane. In the opening match-up we had what we can assume to be the NXT farewell of Aleister Black and Ricochet fighting War Raiders for the NXT Tag Team Championships.
War Raiders (C) vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black
The thing with NXT is the opening match should never be viewed as a “curtain-jerker.” Instead, it should be viewed as a lucky spot because the participants get the crowd at their freshest and most energetic. Add in the modern-day Vikings of War Raiders and the soon to be permanent main roster staples of Black and Ricochet and you have a crowd losing their minds half an hour into the show. Since Ricochet and Black have been building a name for themselves on the main roster, this is assumingly their swan song on NXT television. The Brooklyn audience showered the duo in admiration after a showcase of Ricochet’s picture-perfect Shooting Star Press and Black’s deadly and precise strikes. I would argue that Hanson shocked the crowd with his aerodynamic offense as much as Ricochet normally does. A man his size has no business being as nimble on his feet as he is, but he sure knows how to hit the big moves and wow the crowd. Speaking of that, shout-out to Ricochet as well for deadlifting and suplexing the 300-pound big man midway through the match. This match itself was exciting, back-and-forth and the perfect choice to kick off the show. While it wasn’t my favorite match of the night, I will not argue with anyone who believed it stole the show. Absolutely fantastic.
Winner: War Raiders Time: 21:10 Rating: 4 Stars
Velveteen Dream (C) vs. Matt Riddle
First off, shout-out to Velveteen Dream for showcasing his natural charisma with his Statue of Liberty entrance, easily the coolest theatrical entrance of the night. I really enjoyed the psychology of this match, especially with Riddle working a bit more of a heelish move-set than we’re used to seeing by trash-talking the Dream and striking his opponent to the point of near-disqualification. Although he naturally comes off like the coolest cat in the room at all times, tonight made me think he could succeed as a psychotic heel who can mentally snap as he snaps your arm in half. That being said, Dream played up many of the tried-and-true heel calling cards like raking the Original Bro’s back and stomping on his bare, boot-less foot. But he was also able to drive the crowd into a frenzy by channeling his inner Hulk Hogan and “hulked up” to swing momentum in the match back in his favor. Many of the Riddle-dominated sequences in this match led back to him attempting to lock the Dream into the Bro-Mission, which made for some great grappling between these two. While Dream pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat, Riddle has all the makings of a future champion to me. I predict by this time next year, we see Riddle in the hunt for the NXT Championship. Between all the submissions, knee-strikes, second-rope suplexes and taunts, this was a fantastic match between two fantastic performers.
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Winner: Velveteen Dream Time: 17:35 Rating: 4 Stars
Pete Dunne (C) vs. Walter
While I’m a big fan of Walter, his physical presence presents something of a blessing and a curse for NXT UK. On one hand, having such a towering stature makes for some straightforward storytelling in the ring like chopping Pete Dunne’s chest into a dull red hue and rag-dolling his opponent every which way. On the other, when you have such a supreme destroyer in your midst, how does the rest of the NXT UK roster try to keep up when the very best your division has to offer in Dunne comes up short? I suppose only time will be able to answer that question as we follow along with NXT UK in the next few weeks and months.
For the match itself, Pete Dunne did a superb job selling for Walter’s heavy impact offense while trying to take advantage of any attack he could make on his opponent in the form of snapping fingers or stomping his challenger into the ground after knocking him off his feet. But no matter how much offense the Bruiserweight would throw at his challenger, Walter reigned supreme in this match. I don’t want to call this match “boring” because there was a lot of excellent psychology and storytelling, but I will say that this potentially could have benefitted from a few minutes shaved off of it. Regardless, I really enjoyed this slow-paced and methodical bout for showcasing the offensive artillery of Walter while keeping the former champion Dunne appearing to be a worthy opponent for the new United Kingdom champion. A solid storytelling outing.
Winner: Walter Time: 25:40 Rating: 3.5 Stars
Shayna Baszler (C) vs. Bianca Belair vs. Io Shirai vs. Kairi Sane
The story of this match was three hungry competitors all striving for one prize in Baszler’s NXT Women’s Championship. Recognizing this, Baszler even admitted in the pre-match hype video that she would lure in her opponents to get too close and take them out with the Kirafuda submission hold. There was a mini-story with Baszler trying to break Bianca Belair’s arm ala Ember Moon a year ago, but it wasn’t milked or mentioned that much throughout the match. Belair gorilla-pressing Io Shirai over the top-rope and being able to carry both of the Sky Pirates on her shoulders was awe-inducing to watch. She may not have come up victorious in this match, but the future looks bright for her and I feel confident predicting she will be holding NXT gold if not by the end of this year, then by this time next year. I’m a little surprised they went with Shayna retaining the belt here considering the four-woman stipulation would have made it easy for Shayna to hold onto her dominance by not taking the fall or submission in losing the belt. Nonetheless, Belair tapping out for the second Takeover show in a row would seem to knock her to the back of the line, but that leaves the Sky Pirates as two remaining challengers itching to reach the top of the mountain. A decent match, but there wasn’t much story or intensity to it.
Winner: Shayna Baszler Time: 15:45 Rating: 3 Stars
Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole
What a shame that this couldn’t be the ultimate and final battle between Johnny Gargano and Tomaso Ciampa. But in looking for the silver lining, we had Adam Cole, a guy who just eight months ago damn near stole the show in this very building with Ricochet and had an equally entertaining match with Aleister Black 15 months ago in Philadelphia. If there was anyone deserving of Ciampa’s spot to face-off with “Mr. Takeover,” that would be Cole.
Safe to say, both men lived up to the enormous expectations presented before them in this match. The first fall build-up involved a lot of submissions and “feeling out” the other competitor for weaknesses that could be exploited later on in this marathon match-up. Cole won the first fall after a Last Shot concluded a lengthy back-and-forth. I really liked putting Cole up 1-0 because of the simple storytelling device of building a quick obstacle for Gargano to overcome. After refusing to take a count-out victory for a fall, Gargano locked Cole in the Gargano-Escape to pick up the second fall of the match.
The last fall of this match and the ten minutes leading up to it easily took this match’s status from “good” to “great.” Adam Cole threw everything (including the other three members of the Undisputed Era) and the kitchen sink at Gargano and nothing would put away Johnny Wrestling. After every big kick, after every Panama Sunrise, after every Last Shot, the drama in this match grew and grew and grew like the contents of a pressurized cauldron ready to overflow. And when Johnny Gargano got Adam Cole to tap-out again to the Gargano-Escape, the Barclays Center absolutely erupted. The final 10 minutes of this match alone within the third fall could be the match of the weekend all by itself. While not on as big of a stage, I think this victory will go down as one of the best underdog babyface championship victories in company history alongside those of Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy and Sami Zayn. Gargano was even handed the belt in a similar fashion by the referee ala Michaels at WrestleMania XII. The perfect match with the perfect ending to close the night.
Winner: Johnny Gargano Time: 38:25 Rating: 4.5 Stars
Overall Thoughts: It’s NXT Takeover. It’s another homerun. I don’t have much else to add that I’ve said in previous “Overall Thoughts” in the past. Hopefully you all are as excited about the Keith Lee-Donovan Dijakovic match-up on NXT television in a couple of weeks as I am. Anyway, match of the night honors goes out to the NXT Championship match, with a close runner-up being the North American title match. Great show once again for NXT.
Final NXT Takeover New York Rating: 4 Stars