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Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com as prepared by yours truly, Mr. Tito. So…. I had no desire to write tonight, just going to relax and chill before the 7 hour marathon of writing that would occur tomorrow for Wrestlemania 34… Then, I dared to watch NXT Takeover‘s opening Ladder Match for the NXT North American title. OK, I’m here to review that show. Wow…
Now, a few Wrestlemania 34 News & Notes to mention before my review.
(a) I forgot to mention Carmella and her Money in the Bank briefcase. Honestly, I forgot that she had the case! My revised prediction is that Asuka wins the Smackdown Women’s Title AND then defeats Carmella who tries to cash in the briefcase. HOWEVER, I would not be surprised if the WWE somehow lets Carmella cash in during the Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss match. How? Yeah, I know that she won that briefcase on the Money in the Bank match, but the WWE has been sloppy on consistency before.
(b) Brock Lesnar appears to be returning to the UFC. On one end, I could see Dana White (UFC President) releasing that news to sabotage the WWE but I think that both companies are on decent terms right now other than competing for FOX Sports television money. I bet that Vince McMahon told Dana to leak that to create a sympathy cheer for Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 34. Don’t think that works? See Wrestlemania 20 when fans knew that Lesnar was leaving the WWE to join the NFL. Many are suggesting that Paul Heyman will swerve and turn on Lesnar… I don’t see it. Vince refused to turn Cena heel for YEARS and thus won’t turn his pet project heel either.
With Brock Lesnar gone, good luck WWE! He’s been the primary elevator of RAW’s viewership during various pockets of the year. Without Lesnar, WWE has consistently declined during the late Spring to early Summer months and then the last 4 months of the year (unless Lesnar appears at Survivor Series).
(c) I still don’t know what is happening with John Cena vs. Undertaker. I personally want it NOW but I would understand if they pass with Undertaker needing a little more time to get ready.
(d) You are allowed to have shows whenever you can, but I wonder if Ring of Honor coming to New Orleans on Wrestlemania weekend and running opposed to NXT Takeover is going to piss off Vince McMahon. Not that I don’t mind it, but several promotions have challenged him directly and he often retaliates harshly. They have Kenny Omega in for the show, too… It is honestly a shame that Ring of Honor did that as it forces many WRESTLING FANS who would LOVE to see BOTH shows live to choose.
(e) WWE Hall of Fame was fun… Heading into the show, I was honestly just wanting to see the Dudley Boyz getting inducted but then I realized that Mark Henry was also going in. LOVED their speeches, as the Dudleys gave props to many wrestlers who helped him get there whereas Henry’s speech was very personal to his family and childhood. Loved it… I was surprised at how emotional Jeff Jarrett was for his speech, as I wonder if he has some regrets weighing heavily over him from several bridges burned with the WWE. Time heals everything and I hope that he contributes to the WWE in some way or fashion.
Onto the show.
Mr. Tito’s PHAT NXT Takeover: New Orleans Review
OPENING MATCH was ABSURD and FANTASTIC with a Ladder Match to determine the NEW NXT North American Title. One of my criticisms of NXT was its talent depth after the RAW/Smackdown brand extension raided the roster. Then, I wondered “why are they creating another title?”. Well, this match put an end to any of my concerns. First time seeing Ethan Carter III, Lars Sullivan, and Ricochet in NXT and damn are they good additions. All 3 guys fill depth of what the WWE needs. I liked what I saw from Carter in TNA, Lars is a solid hoss guy, and Ricochet is exactly the kind of fun personality and talent that 205 Live needs. Add them to Killian Dain, who is very agile for his size, Adam Cole, who is all around very talented in spite of his smaller size, and Velveteen Dream who has tremendous upside for his age combined with a great look… You’ve got yourself a strong division for that North American Title. But then you put them in a freakin’ Ladder Match where ALL SIX GUYS are willing to take absurd bumps! My jaw dropped repeatedly at that match as I saw multiple spots on Ladders that I had yet to see. And I never knew that ladders could bend like that on impact… My favorite was Dream doing a Death Valley Driver on a ladder platform, although Adam Cole eating a TKO from the ladder was sick as well. From the efforts of ALL SIX GUYS, each were worthy of winning this match. They did brand new stuff in a Ladder Match and kept the drama flowing. WWE officials should be proud of the efforts by ALL SIX MEN from that match, as the future is bright. I’m going there folks and I don’t care what anyone things, [ ***** ], and that is the BAR SET for “Match of the Year”. I’ll watch this match repeatedly for years to come. Wow…
How do you top that? How do you follow that?
Well, Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler had to… I personally didn’t like their previous match but my feelings were the complete opposite for this one. Loved it. They told such a perfect story during the match and then had an intense yet very unique ending. During the match, Baszler separated her shoulder and tried to pop it back into place. That’s a problem because she uses that left arm as leverage for her chokeout finisher, the Kirifuda Clutch. That created an immediate weakness for Ember Moon to exploit but it didn’t matter in the end… Ember Moon was YANKING on Shayna’s arm to rip it out of its socket. Yet, Shayna Baszler had a counter to that… You can work on my left arm all you want, I’ll just grab a handful of my own hair with my right arm to keep the Clutch locked. That’s what she did! Shayna held tight to her own hair and eventually choked out Ember. Great story told by Shayna and it goes to show that either she’s being taught well by developmental and/or she’s willing to learn the business. Nice job! [ *** 3/4 ]
The finals of the Dusty Classic was up next and also for the NXT Tag Titles, Kyle O’Reilly/Adam Cole (c) vs. Authors of Pain vs. Pete Dunne/Roderick Strong. Oddly enough, heading into this match, I figured this would be the SHOW STEALER as I figured it would be the car crash that the Ladder Match was. Match was solid although nothing spectacular and I expected more drama within the match… But the true drama came after the match. Roderick Strong turned on Pete Dunne and joined the Undisputed Era to allow Cole/O’Reilly to win the match. Wow, that is quite a loaded Undisputed Era stable. Nothing wrong with a strong heel stable. Ending pulls it up a notch, we’ll go [ *** ].
Aleister Black vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas… I cannot spell the latter guy’s name if I tried. I do like that he has a chick as a manager… I’m amazed at how far he has come, as I did not like much of his work during 2017. I guess with time, Andrade has learned how to work the WWE style while molding his own unique style into his character as well. To me, the match seemed very one-sided with Andrade delivering punishment to Black throughout the match and Black also had the manager on the outside interfering often (as she should). That or Black’s moves just weren’t standing out, unlike Almas who puts a little flare on each and every move that he does. Bunch of near falls on Black towards the end of the match, but again, the match felt like a one-sided extend beatdown by Cien. Then, the manager got involved and jumped off the top rope to hit Black. She missed and Andrade had to catch her… While holding her, Almas ate a kick to the face to cause him to lose. New NXT Champion! [ *** ] Black is the champion but it seemed that Andrade Cien Almas dominated that match and should have won it several times over. Happy for the guy winning the title, though, as I’ve liked several of his other matches.
The MAIN EVENT was Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa in an “Unsanctioned Match” where Gargano’s NXT career is on the line. Honestly, you don’t know what you’ve got until it is gone… I miss them together as #DIY but tag team break-ups, when done right, can create a blood feud that can last a while. Many compare Johnny to a “Younger Daniel Bryan”, although that’s giving him credit for personality and in-ring charisma that Bryan has. Then again, many are holding up that logo in the crowd… Tommaso looks completely ripped tonight. Did I hear a “F**k You Ciampa” chant? Well, I must have because I’m also hearing “F**k him up, Johnny, f**k him up!”. Lots of standard brawling on the outside and then they get near the announcer’s table. Ciampa delivered a sick suplex off of the table that went onto the floor. That THUD… Oh my… Props to Ciampa for selling the pain of executing that move, too. More “F**k you Ciampa” chants, nice! I do like Ciampa is fully embracing the heel character by brutalizing Gargano and acknowledging the crowd with his actions. Gargano would fight off Ciampa on the ropes to deliver a powerbomb on the exposed concrete! OUCH! A crutch from the outside got involved with the match at and one point, Gargano cranked Ciampa over his head (probably meant to hit him in the back). Ouch! Love Gargano’s submission hold but as I saw it, I thought… Why doesn’t he just rake his eyes? More “F**k you Ciampa” chants. How about carrying some of that foul heat for Wrestlemania matches involving “R.R.” wrestlers tomorrow night? Loved when Gargano and Ciampa just traded punches while being held together by part of Ciampa’s wrist tape. I was SHOCKED when Gargano couldn’t beat Ciampa with the kicks combined with the lawn dart into the exposed middle turnbuckle. Then, a Powerbomb off the top by Ciampa that caused Gargana to land on Ciampa’s knee. How is that not the finish? Good lord! Ciampa takes off the knee brace and pulled down the knee pad BUT Gargana hit Ciampa in the knee with the brace. But then, in a babyface moment, Gargana showed mercy on Ciampa and refused to attack him with the broken crutch… However, Ciampa tried to attack him with the knee brace but Gargano was ready and locked in his submission and then flipped around to lock in the knee and use the brace to pull back on Ciampa’s head for additional leverage. Ciampa tapped! Holy cow. [ **** 1/2 ] Those guys gave everything possible in that ring. My only knock are the many near falls that probably should have been legit pins in other matches. They killed each other in that ring. By Gargano winning, he remains with NXT.
LAST WORD: OK, that was one hell of a wrestling show. Started off extremely strong and then bookends with a blood feud that delivered. The stuff in between is pretty good… My faith in NXT has been restored as the talent pool has been rebuilt and the storytelling was top notch tonight. I thought that this show would have no chance of upstaging Wrestlemania 34, but I’ll be damned, it did. That Ladder Match was SICK! The Main Event was heated! A great show overall that gets my score of [ A+ ], as I strongly recommend catching this show ASAP.
HELL YEAH MAN!
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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