The War Raiders def. Kyle O’Reilly (C) and Roderick Strong (C) – NXT Tag Team Championships
The Undisputed Era never ceases to amaze in opening tag team matches. Initially, I was afraid that the clash in formulas would weigh the match down. For a while, that appeared to be the case as there was a very slow pace. However, when things picked it up, it picked up big time.
When big men perform athletic feats, it always gets a pop for obvious reasons. The War Raiders played that up to a tee. I also liked how The Undisputed Era did everything they knew to win their previous title matches, but The War Raiders never died. It was that energy of perseverance that I believed carried this match.
Overall, this match had a fantastic energy to it and both teams adapted to each other’s styles. Took some time to get going, but we had another quality outing from the tag division. ****
Matt Riddle def. Kassius Ohno
I’m not sure I’m a fan of these two having an elongated match when Matt Riddle has handled Kassius Ohno before. However, as the Dolph Ziggler of NXT, it’s quire clear it’s his job to fully establish Matt Riddle on a big stage.
The match was okay and physical, but in recent history, the second match on the NXT TakeOver card tends to be the one that has a bit of a dip in quality. From from bad, but I’m not sure it was needed. The finish was kind of awkward, too. **1/4
Johnny Gargano def. Ricochet (C) – NXT North American Championship
Wow. There is so much to unpack from this spectacle, I am not entirely sure where to begin. If I had to start somewhere, however, it would be how beautiful the overarching story of the match was. That being the internal conflict of Johnny Gargano. We saw it towards the beginning of the match when Ricochet asked which Johnny we are getting, and he soon got his answer.
Johnny Gargano as a character is so intriguing because he stays true to it. He isn’t supposed to be fully good or fully evil, but rather someone who is lost and desperate. Removing the ring padding a la Tommaso Ciampa was something he was forced to do after he realized everything he did to Ricochet was working. The evil was momentarily suppressed when Johnny Gargano decided to leave it aside.
Then, eventually, when Johnny Gargano realized that everything else has been in vain, evil was all he had left. In turn, he won his first singles title, or his “big one”.
It also can’t be understated how incredible a foil Ricochet was, both as a character and performer. Richochet’s high risk offense paid off, but he himself also didn’t make covers when he probably should have, because he started to get equally as frustrated.
Ricochet’s athleticism and ingenuity remain incredible. Johnny’s character and technical prowess are probably unmatched in NXT. The story? Incredible. This match? Perfect. At least almost. Another match of the year contender for Johnny Wrestling. ****3/4
Shayna Baszler (C) def. Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship
I was highly looking forward to seeing how Bianca Belair would handle being on her first NXT TakeOver. Overall, I thought she did good. She has good awareness, she has incredible strength, and based on the series of spots when she was fighting out of Shayna Baszler’s submission attempts, she does a great job gaining sympathy.
I do must say that the follicle of hair dangling from her body was kind of distracting, but if she wants to stand out, then I suppose that’s what people can identify her by. Some of the spots in the match looked kind of awkward, and I do think the expected interference was a bit overdone, but it was solid overall.
There are things that could have been done better, especially on Bianca’s end, but I’ve seen far worse. Decent all things considered. ***1/4
Tomasso Ciampa (C) def. Aliester Black – NXT Championship
Some of the air was taken out of this match for me, because I’ve seen them before, which is a similar reason as to why the series of Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa matches from last year grew on me. That said, this was a very good main event.
I suppose the biggest issue I had with the match was the fact that it went kind of long to get to the point. Tommaso Ciampa’s leg work on Aleister Black was good, but it got kind of dull. I did appreciate the leg being incorporated into the finish, but did we need 26 minutes to get there?
I also thought the constant finisher kick-outs toward the end overstayed it’s welcome, although I just admit that roll-up into a DDT was clever use of the ring. I was semi-expecting Johnny Gargano to come out and help Tommaso Ciampa on his behalf, but I suppose Tomasso Ciampa retaining his credibility be beating Aleister Black straight up was a safe call.
This certainly wasn’t the greatest NXT Title match, as I believe Tommaso Ciampa’s match with Velveteen Dream was heads over tails better than this one, but it was still full of quality. It will be interesting to see where Aleister Black goes from here, and the possibilities with Johnny Gargano as shown by the ending appear to be endless. ***3/4
Takeover has set a ridiculous bar of greatness. While this NXT TakeOver did not have as many “WOW, THAT’S A MUST SEE!” moments at this NXT TakeOver, this is still an easy thumbs up. I’d definitely say Johnny Gargano and Ricochet alone was worth the price of admission.
The opening tag team match was also pretty fun, and everything else was relatively solid. NXT begins 2019 on the right foot.