The WWE’s traditional showstealer kicked off their weekend as Takeover: New York crowned a new NXT Champion.
We’re coming from the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn after an interminable pre-show that featured a man in a gold suit that looked like it came off of Wish.com. Commentary comes from Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson, just because.
NXT Tag Team Championship: War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe) (c) vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet
We’ve got more LARPers for the War Raiders’ entrance, as we go all Viking, crawling through the stage for their entrance as the crowd chanted “war” in unison. It felt quite atmospheric and in fitting with the act, helped by the hot crowd.
Nigel calls the opening lock-up a “relatively slow start”. Give them a chance! Of course, the pace quickens as Black and Rowe counter each other as Rowe had Black cowering on the mat, before another series had Black holding himself short as he prepared to kick Rowe’s head off. Tags bring in Ricochet and Hanson, and of course Hanson’s not going down to an early shoulder charge as Ricochet had to flip around to land some headscissors and a dropkick to take the big man outside. Aleister Black fakes out a dive as he challengers sit cross-legged… and this crowd are eating this up!
Hanson sits down on Black out of the corner as the champions found their groove, with Rowe flattening Ricochet as he slammed Hanson onto him. The Raiders work over Black’s arm, but Aleister sweeps the leg as another Raiders slam looked to be in motion, as Ricochet comes in to work his magic. A springboard elbow drops Rowe, as does a running shooting star press as the crowd randomly popped… because a blinding light in the bleachers got shut off! No, they weren’t cheering for a grounded abdominal stretch from Black.
After letting go, another leg sweep from Black has Rowe down, but the champion’s back with a Judo throw and a bicycle knee before Ricochet was propelled by Hanson’s back body drop. A diving crossbody is next, as Hanson gets his cardio in with the corner-to-corner charges… only to be outdone as Ricochet caught him with a fallaway slam. You what?! Mauro Ranallo loves alliteration as Black and Rowe trade strikes, but Black blocks a kick and finds his mark with a roundhouse kick, before he leapt into a knee strike. He has a retaliatory one later, before a German suplex dumped Rowe for a near-fall. Hanson ducks a handspring as he caught Ricochet with a handspring back elbow for a near-fall.
Hanson goes one better as he heads to the top rope… but Ricochet catches him and brings him down before a rolling DDT is caught, leading to Ricochet getting dumped with some shotgun knees into the corner from Rowe. Another charge takes Hanson in there, before a springboard lariat-assisted German suplex drew a two-count thanks to Black’s stomp off the top breaking the count in the nick of time. Black turns it up with an Orihara moonsault as we broke into dives, followed by a Rowe tope, and… Ricochet’s corkscrew Sasuke special to the outside. Just… HOW!? Oh crap, Hanson’s left, and he goes up for a cannonball to flatten the field!
There’s a count-out tease, but Ricochet and Rowe dive in at nine to keep the match alive, as the pair resumed striking, including a big superkick from Ricochet… then a big boot from Black to Rowe. A Black Mass out of nowhere decks Rowe, before Ricochet tagged in and nailed a sweet shooting star press as he bounced high off of Rowe… but Hanson breaks up the cover! Ricochet crashed and burned on a 630, but Aleister Black didn’t care as he went for an Orihara moonsault, only to miss as he ate a lariat on the outside. Ricochet’s back up somehow as he went for Hanson in the corner, only to run into a pop-up slam as the Raiders finally put him away with Fallout. Just. WOW. Good luck to whomever has to follow this, as this was exquisite. *****
Aleister Black and Ricochet have two more shots at tag titles in the next few days, starting with the SmackDown belts at ‘Mania… and to be fair, this felt like a farewell performance from them, especially with their curtain call at the end…
Piper Niven and Toni Storm happen to be in the front row…
NXT North American Championship: Matt Riddle vs. Velveteen Dream (c)
Dream had a wacky entrance, with orchestral music straight out of a movie, while he was carried to the ring a la Mabel.
Riddle’s gear accentuated a certain part of him, as we start with the pair playing to the crowd, and we finally get going as Riddle stung Dream with some inside leg kicks. A springboard armbar takedown has Dream in trouble, but he backs into the ropes to save himself, before a monkey flip into an armbar again forced Dream into the ropes. A shoulder charge from Dream gets a one-count as he tried to up the pace, before he went old school with a BACK RAKE OF DOOM! Riddle just seemed annoyed by that, as he gutwrenches Dream, complete with some hilarious screams from the champion while he was hurled across the ring. Dream lands a dropkick after wriggling free, then a double sledge off the top… before one on the outside missed, as Dream ended up getting dumped with a German suplex on the floor.
Back inside, a back senton drops Dream, as does a series of palm strikes before Riddle worked into an overhead kick… taking Dream into the corner for some running forearms and an Exploder suplex. Riddle nearly wins with a PK, then with another armbar, but Dream’s again able to get to the ropes to save himself. Dream tries to out-Riddle Riddle with a German suplex, but the challenger comes back with a running knee and a Fisherman buster for a two-count. More back sentons from Riddle looked to lead to some Danielson elbows, but Dream got to the ropes… and Riddle threw them anyway as some of the crowd turned on him for it. A sleeperhold from Dream is next, but Riddle slips out with a monkey flip-like escape and a Euro clutch for a near-fall, before he caught Dream in the corner with a triangle armbar.
Another escape led to a German suplex as Riddle came even closer, before he resumed pelting Dream with kicks to the chest. Those kicks just fire up the Dream into Hulking up, before he boxed back into life with a big boot! A body slam followed as Dream has his own PK, then a clothesline to the outside before the double sledge cracked Riddle on the floor. Back inside, Dream heads up top again, but he leaps into a knee from Riddle, only for Dream to catch him with a Codebreaker for yet another near-fall. Rather than head up top, Dream goes for yet another PK… but Riddle rolls through into an ankle lock, and that moment of being overly confident almost ended up backfiring as Riddle clung on. Dream kicks away, then avoids a powerbomb before the Dream DDT landed, before he rolled up Riddle for a Haskins-like Death Valley Driver. From there, Dream heads up for an elbow drop, but he lands into an armbar from Riddle on the mat, which turned into the Danielson elbows before Riddle got pulled into the ropes for the break.
Dream headed to the apron, but got caught with a deadlift German suplex for a nasty landing back inside, as a corkscrew senton from Riddle let to yet another close call! Somehow, Dream has plenty left in the tank, but Riddle floated over into a powerbomb, following in with a Tiger knee before a Bromission led to Dream finding a counter by rolling backwards… stealing the win! Oh my God, this was all kinds of excellence – Riddle tried to outwrestle Dream and ignore the mind-games, but in the end he got caught out when he least expected it. This didn’t have the craziness or the balls-to-the-wall action of the opener, but Dream brought his A-game here as we’re again reminded at how ridiculously good he is for his age. ****½
Post-match, Riddle offers a fist bump, and gets it.
Adam Cole is warming up backstage with the rest of the Undisputed Era… as they then cut to footage of KUSHIDA signing his NXT deal earlier today. He’s at ringside, and gets a big pop live.
NXT United Kingdom Championship: WALTER vs. Pete Dunne (c)
Well, here we go. The “offer match” from NXT UK, and we’ve got Vic Joseph on the commentary crew to add authenticity. This is absolute insanity, seeing WALTER on such a level.
Dunne’s a little over a fortnight away from the magic 700 day mark as champion, and much like the opener, we’ve a measured start as WALTER took Dunne into the ropes before he backed away. Dunne tries to pick the leg of the Austrian, which worked somewhat… only for WALTER to stretch him as Dunne again got free and began to work the leg. Except WALTER got free and back to his feet pretty quickly. WALTER swings for a chop early, but Dunne evaded it as he shrugged somewhat petulantly before the crowd “ooh”’d as WALTER swung and missed again. An arm lift’s used to throw Dunne down to the mat as WALTER looked to assert himself, but Dunne throws a cheapshot forearm before he got dropped with the first chop of the match. Chop two lands snugly as well, before WALTER just ran through a clothesline, leapfrogged Dunne and booted him as if it were nothing.
WALTER takes Dunne into the corner for a big forearm before he chokes him across the turnbuckles, which led to a nasty landing on the floor for the champion. A back suplex is next as Dunne’s dumped on the apron, but Dunne’s able to offer some fight as he threw some kicks from the bottom before he got trapped in a toe hold. Somehow, Dunne picks the leg and trips WALTER into a heel hook as the challenger tried to chop his way free, succeeding before a simple Boston crab had Dunne in trouble. A rope break’s called, as Dunne ends up getting booted off the apron as he thought he’d blocked some crossface punches from the Austrian.
Dunne returned to the ring as WALTER started to put the boots to him, only for Dunne to monster up with some shots, then flip out of a German suplex. A kick took WALTER to the outside, where Dunne followed through with an Orihara moonsault… and there’s some digit manipulation as Dunne ended up landing a Ligerbomb out of the corner for a near-fall. WALTER rolls outside, where he ate a double stomp off the top as Dunne’s offence threatened to run riot. Back inside, Dunne slips up on a moonsault flip as WALTER fought back, cracking him with a chop, a shotgun dropkick and a folding powerbomb for a near-fall. WALTER keeps up the pressure with some chops as he kept hold of Dunne by the wrist, sending Dunne to his knees with another swipe.
Dunne tweaks the wrist of WALTER again, but a test of strength neutralises that as Dunne… got stomped in the throat. Woof. A neck twist and another powerbomb looked to follow, only for Dunne to land an enziguiri to give him some space. A stomp to the hands of WALTER followed as Dunne went back up top, but a chop block dumps him on the turnbuckles as WALTER looked for an avalanche German suplex… instead landing a sleeper suplex off the top for a near-fall! The repeated chops eventually backfire as Dunne wishbones WALTER’s hands, before landing a German suplex and a crucifix bomb… and that almost did it. Dunne followed in with stomps to the side of the head, which WALTER returned from the ground up, only to get caught with more stomps as WALTER got caught in a double armbar with extra finger tweaking until he managed to get a foot to the rope.
WALTER drops Dunne with a shoulder charge before he headed up top… and leapt into a triangle armbar as Dunne rolled him over for some more finger tweaking. Thankfully, WALTER chops free and stomps on him some more, before he almost got caught with a Bitter End… only to deck Dunne with a lariat. A forearm from Dunne, then a clothesline were the receipts, before a Bitter End finds the mark for another close near-fall. Another staredown led to back-and-forth forearm sand chops, ending with Dunne getting his head kicked off as WALTER came out of the ropes. From there, WALTER heads up top, but he’s caught as Dunne goes back to the fingers, before he tried to roll WALTER down off the top rope… except the triangle armbar’s blocked and escaped via chops, as WALTER then powerbombed him off the top like he were a luchador!
WALTER’s back up top for a MONSTROUS BIG SPLASH… and that, my friends, was that! We have a new WWE/NXT UK champion, und sein Name ist WALTER! ****½
I’m not going to wail and say “they hurt WALTER”, but this was far, far too even a match, despite the result. Pete Dunne is somewhat established to fans who watch NXT, whereas this was WALTER’s debut at this level – and while there were plenty who recognised him, the wider audience did not. Going (largely) 50-50 with Dunne helps WALTER in the bigger picture, but I dread to think what’d have happened had he lost.
Edge and Beth Phoenix are in the crowd…
NXT Women’s Championship: Kairi Sane vs. Bianca Belair vs. Io Shirai vs. Shayna Baszler (c)
Baszler got the Goldberg-like entrance from the back, and all four women start a-swinging as we quickly settled down on Belair and Baszler.
A cover from Belair ends with Shirai running in with a Meteora as those two traded pins – and we’re already in the realm of pins being broken up. Shirai and Sane double-team Baszler for a spell, sending her packing with low dropkicks, before they had a crack at each other only to get pulled to the outside by Belair and Baszler.
Shayna stomps on Belair’s elbow,before she tried to use the pigtail to pull Bianca into the ring post… but it’s reversed as the champion ate the post instead. A flying something or other off the top finds its mark as Sane finds a way through Belair, before the Sky Pirates swapped places as Shirai came in to waffle Belair with running knees in the corner. A crossbody off the middle rope from Shirai’s caught and turned into a fallaway slam for a near-fall, before a hanging choke from Baszler had Belair wobbly on the top rope ahead of a tower of doom out of the corner. Dives follow as Sane’s popped up into an elbow on the floor, while Shirai lands an Orihara moonsault for good measure.
Back in the ring, a spear from Belair nearly put away Shirai as nobody was able to maintain any kind of advantage for long. A press slam from Belair sent Shirai into the pile on the outside, before Belair tried to catch Baszler in a double chicken wing… only for the champion to slip out into a Kirifuda clutch. Somehow Belair slips out and hauled up Baszler for a Burning Hammer, only for Shirai to dive in to break it up. Shirai nearly wins with a moonsault… but Sane broke it up as the tag partners took aim on each other, with Shirai dropping Sane onto Baszler with an Alabama slam, before a top rope elbow landed flush for another near-fall. A dropkick from Shirai stops Sane in her tracks, only to get spiked as Sane countered a slam into a DDT.
She tries to go up top, but Belair uses the hair whip to stop her in her tracks, before she stacked up the Sky Pirates for a double Burning Hammer – but Baszler runs in to kick away the cover before it could start, and catch Belair in a Kirifuda clutch for the submission. Once again, Bianca Belair comes close, but gets caught out to Baszler’s submission in a result that parts of Brooklyn were not too struck on. As a match it was more than fine, but Baszler’s dominance continues to leave the rest of the division floundering. ***¾
Best Two Out of Three Falls for NXT Championship: Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole
With Tommaso Ciampa on the shelf, we’ve got to find a new champion… so we’re going best of three falls for it!
We start with duelling chants as the molten-hot Brooklyn crowd kept their voices up, as Gargano started out by taking Cole down in a hammerlock as he looked for an early pin. There’s a lot of strikes and evasions as they looked to stay one step ahead of the other, until Gargano lands an armdrag to try and slow things down. Cole gets the upper hand as he took Gargano into the corner, but a ‘rana and a dropkick led to Cole getting clotheslined to the floor, where he runs away from a PK… prompting Gargano to fly with a dropkick through the ropes instead. A cravat with some knee strikes has Gargano on the back foot next, as his attempt to fight back ended with Cole dropping him with a back elbow for just a one-count.
Duelling crossbodies saw both men crash into each other, but it’s Gargano who hit back first with a slingshot spear for a near-fall as Cole seemed to be prepping for a dive. A tornado DDT/flatliner drops Cole for another near-fall, only for Cole to come back with a backcracker out of the corner as the crowd continued to be not invested for this first fall. We get some ref-trolling pinning attempts from a rolling small package – not helped by the ref assuming they’d keep rolling – before an enziguiri seemed to lead to a knee strike, but there’s more roll-ups before Gargano kicked out he exposed knee, then rolled up Cole for another two-count. Another flurry followed, ending with a Last Shot to claim the first fall.
There’s no official rest period, so Cole runs in on Gargano as soon as he got back to his feet, before a second Last Shot almost led to the finish! Cole took Gargano onto the apron, where he’s met with a flying spear, then a cannonball as Gargano was forced to swing for the fences. Back inside, Cole pushes Gargano with an ushigoroshi for a near-fall, before Gargano began to fight back with an avalanche Air Raid Crash as he started to pick up those two-counts. Cole drops to the mat as Gargano prepared to slingshot in with a DDT, but instead Gargano lands it on the apron as Cole snapped down awkwardly to the floor. For some reason, Gargano breaks the count as he was about to win a fall via count-out… and Cole’s right back on him, throwing him into the ring posts, Back inside, Gargano tries to pull Cole into a Gargano escape, only to go for a bridging armbar that he switches into the Gargano Escape for the instant tap. We’re tied, and it’s sudden death now.
We start out with a hockey-like fight, as Gargano ends up in the ropes for a clothesline, before he teased a DIY-like superkick. That’s blocked, as Cole comes right back in with a Blackheart Buster for a near-fall, but Gargano found a way back with a lawndart and a full-nelson facebuster as he came agonisingly close to the win. From their knees, Cole and Gargano fought with forearms as they got back to their feet, where both men caught superkicks, then traded enziguiri. Clotheslines and duelling superkicks leave them both on the mat, but Cole rebounds with a superkick and a strait-jacket German suplex for a near-fall.
A Saito suplex from Cole dumps Gargano awkwardly, as he then set up for a leaping Destroyer… but Gargano avoids it and leaps up for a reverse ‘rana, before a superkick sent Cole rolling to the outside. Out there, a wheelbarrow German suplex from Cole smashed Gargano into the LED boards on the ring apron. Somehow, Gargano had enough left in him to surprise Cole with a DDT through the ropes, then a slingshot DDT, before following outside with a tope… another slingshot spear into the ring’s stopped with a superkick, before the Panama Sunrise led to yet another close call! Cole boots Gargano to the outside, where he got in his face, calling him a failure… and yeah, that lit a fire underneath Gargano, who tossed Cole around the Spanish announce table. You know what’s next… but it’s Gargano who bounced off the table with some Angel’s Wings as the table barely budged. From there, Cole rushed back to the ring as he tried to win via count-out, but Gargano rushed back in in time.
Only to take a thrust kick to the head, for another near-fall, before more superkicks left Gargano prone… except he counters a Last Call into a Gargano Escape, which proved to be the cue for Roderick Strong to run in. He’s taken care of, but Fish and O’Reilly interfere as Gargano reapplied the hold behind the ref’s back. We then go all TNA with a ref bump, and now the mugging ensues, with a wacky High/Low to Gargano, which somehow still didn’t finish it off. Gargano lifts Cole to the outside as he wiped out the rest of Undisputed Era, but then he returned to the ring as more superkicks and a Last Shot to the back of the head… near-fall. The crowd’s going mental as Gargano ducks a second Last Shot, and reapplies the Gargano Escape… rolling Cole back into the middle of the ring as he finally tapped! Cue a monster pop… and a NEW NXT champion as Gargano finally gets the monkey off his back!
For me, this main event didn’t work artistically until the final fall. While “fine” on paper, these matches only tend to work in North America with a strong story behind it… which we didn’t have here. Gargano came in with the millstone around his neck of his past failures, almost to the point where backing him wasn’t “cool”. Still, that final fall would have been a barn burner if that were just the match. ****¼
Post-match, Gargano celebrated with Candice LeRae and their family in the crowd, as we go off the air with… Tommaso Ciampa walking up behind him, wearing a neckbrace as they hugged, and no further incident. What, you were expecting a re-run instead of a happy ending?
As always, Takeover was your proverbial home run. Starting out hot with that insane tag match, the pace and the quality remained high throughout – even with the questionable (for some) decisions behind the WALTER/Dunne match. Once again, Takeover leads the way for WWE – WrestleMania, it’s your move on Sunday.