NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia Review

That isn’t going to end well. Credit: WWE

The key to a great weekend of WWE is an NXT show. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched the Royal Rumble, but the lowest match on this card had me more excited than Kane vs Lesnar vs Strowman. TakeOvers are the best programming WWE produces and reviewing them is always a pleasure. Let’s dish out some stars.

The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) defeated The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar)

The moment Bobby realises this isn’t going to plan. Credit: WWE

It’s a tale as old as time. Power vs speed. Muscles vs technique. Big vs small. It’s never lost its appeal because it works. It’s a story that we all understand.

And you won’t see many better examples of how to tell that story than this one. The Authors of Pain were menacing wrecking balls. Using their strength to toss Bobby and Kyle around the ring. However, when they were able to establish some distance, it was suddenly The Undisputed Era who would take control. They’d dance around The Authors, dishing out kicks and working over Akem’s leg. They were never going to be able to beat them in a straight-up fight, so they had to be smarter and smarter they were.

It all built to a beautiful display of tag team wrestling. The Authors of Pain are a rare example of wrestlers who have benefitted from being in the WWE system. In the time since they debuted with a good look but not much talent, they have become entirely different wrestlers. They have used the experience of wrestling teams like The Revival and DIY to grow into fantastic workers. In there with guys as experienced and hard-working as Fish and O’Reilly they shine.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Velveteen Dream defeated Kassius Ohno

I never tire of Chris Hero elbows. Credit: WWE

We’re never going to get Chris Hero in WWE. Kassius Ohno is the guy they turn to when they need someone to have great matches (and lose) as they establish talent. They don’t see what everyone else in the world does.

Not that it’s a bad choice by WWE, if you need a guy to make people look good, you can’t do much better than Kassius Ohno. Whether he’s wrestling Zack Sabre Jr in main events or putting over Patrick Clark, he is always exceptional.

So it’s no surprise that this was decent. Ohno did everything he could to make Dream look like a star. From selling those punches to bumping his arse off. Things got a bit sloppy towards the end – Dream seemed to get a bit lost – but it wasn’t enough to stop this being entertaining.

The real miracle is that NXT got a Phillie crowd to cheer the geek from Tough Enough over Chris Hero. Who saw that coming a few years ago?

Verdict: Three Stars

Ember Moon defeated Shayna Baszler to retain the NXT Women’s Title

There was a lot of this. Credit: WWE

I like a lot of things about Baszler. In particular, the way they’ve presented her as an arsehole who is willing to do anything to get to the top. She’s dangerous, which is always fun.

The problem is that she can’t back that up in the ring yet. While she’s not awful, she’s still green, and that became evident here. There were extended portions where she was in control, and not much happened. A bit of smirking and some rolling around on the ground does not make a wrestling match.

NXT has made its name off of exciting back and forth action. Baszler’s not ready for that while like Moon isn’t quite at the stage where she can carry her to it. She’s still a bit sloppy herself. It led to a disjointed and dull performance that didn’t do much for either woman.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Afterwards, Baezler attacked Moon on the ramp choking her out, so we’re going to get this one again. The long-term plan is to get that belt on Shayna.

Aleister Black defeated Adam Cole

Who chooses to take a bump like that? Credit: WWE

It takes a lot to get me into plunder matches in 2018. The opening of this one was a perfect example of why. In among the kendo sticks, there was a lot of rearranging the furniture. People were rummaging under the ring and putting things in place for future use. It was too stop-start to be entertaining.

However, all that set up made for one hell of a second half. From the Electric Chair onto the ladder onwards, this one took off. Adam Cole has never been my favourite wrestler but damn did he take some tough bumps. That one on the ladder was quickly eclipsed by the one onto the chairs. There ain’t no way to land safely on that.

Even the interference was done well, with Sanity being a natural choice to neutralise The Undisputed Era. It was the easily the best singles match Cole has had since stepping into NXT and that at least should be admired.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Andrade Cien Almas defeated Johnny Gargano to retain the NXT Title

Head meet turnbuckle. Credit: WWE

Wow, that is pro wrestling. I didn’t think anything would top Suzuki and Tanahashi this weekend but fuck me. This match. I loved everything about it. The wrestling was outstanding as these two danced around the ring. Gargano all fire and passion and Almas cold aggression. Two men with talent bursting out of every pore pushing each other to be the best that they can be.

And the story they told? Well, that was even better. Gargano is the best pure babyface on the planet. His selling was sublime. You could see him fighting his own body. Going back to that well time after time, finding that little bit of extra energy that little bit of heart to keep going. He couldn’t lose. It was his chance, and he was giving everything he had to take it.

Except, he could lose. He could lose this match because in the brash playboy that is Andrade Almas he is against someone who might just be better than him. Someone who has all the talent he has and also that extra bit of cruelty. That ability to spot an opportunity and take it. Johnny’s purity might just be the thing that holds him back.

Everything about this was perfectly timed. From Johny kicking out of the Hammerlock DDT to Candice leaping the barrier. Then, just when Gargano was at his lowest. A moment when it couldn’t get worse. A demon from his past reappeared. The man he thought he’d banished attacked from behind and reminded him that he was still here.

Fuck me, that’s pro wrestling baby.

Verdict: Four and Three Quarter Stars

Overall Show

Ciampa you bastard. Credit: WWE

NXT TakeOvers always deliver. This was great. A fantastic opening tag, a decent plunder match, an Ohno enhancement and quite possibly the greatest NXT main event in their short history. It was a smidgen off being a five-star match for me, and I think if Gargano had won it would have been because the emotion would have taken over. Watch this show, but make damn sure you watch that main event.

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