The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover: Phoenix (01.26.19)
Live from Phoenix, AZ
Your hosts are Mauro & Nigel & Percy
NXT tag titles: Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong v. The War Raiders
The Raiders get a full Viking entrance, which is pretty awesome. The Era attacks at the bell and tosses Hanson, but Rowe chases them out of the ring. The crowd is SOLIDLY on the side of the heels here for some reason. Hanson slams Rowe onto both guys from the apron, and back in the Raiders beat on Strong by basically hurling each other at him in the corner, and that gets two. Hanson goes up and O’Reilly brings him down and tosses both Raiders out. Back in, they double-team Hanson with strikes in the corner, and Kyle goes to a facelock on the mat. “He’s got a grip like a pistachio nut”, note Mauro, and it turns into a guillotine, but Hanson powers him to the corner and brings in Rowe. Rowe powerbombs Strong into O’Reilly after shrugging off a forearm, but he heads to the floor and UE double-team him out there. Hanson tries to save with a dive and he misses completely, splatting on the floor. Back in, Rowe hits Kyle with a uranage, but a chop block turns the tide and Strong hits the backbreaker on Rowe for two. They suplex Rowe onto the top rope and O’Reilly drops knees on him and works for the armbar, but Rowe slams out of it. And then Strong hits him with another backbreaker for two. The Era cut off the ring and Strong goads Hanson in, which allows some quality cheating back in the heel corner. Rowe fights them off and suplexes O’Reilly into Strong in a crazy spot that sends both heels flying off the apron, but then O’Reilly takes out Hanson to cut off the hot tag. Strong hits Rowe with a dropkick for two as a result. Rowe fights back again and knees O’Reilly down, and it’s hot tag Hanson. Strong goes FLYING off a backdrop and Hanson follows with a crossbody splash and a cartwheel into a lariat on O’Reilly. Well this is definitely turning the crowd around.
Hanson with corner clotheslines on both guys and a Broncobuster on Strong for two. Hanson slugs away in the corner, but Strong fights back on him and gets his own clothesline. Back to Rowe, and the Era takes out his knee AGAIN to cut him off and Strong hits the gutbuster, but Rowe tosses O’Reilly into Hanson’s powerslam for two. Rowe powerbombs Kyle into a flying splash from Hanson for two, but Strong saves. Hanson goes back up and Rowe tosses Strong to get rid of him, but O’Reilly escapes and Strong comes back with a superplex on Hanson into a flying knee from O’Reilly for two. The Era teams up on Hanson with elbows and then Strong gets an Angle Slam for two. High Low gets two on Hanson. They try again and Hanson cartwheels away and hits a handspring elbow, and then Rowe hits a fucking double powerbomb on Strong and O’Reilly by himself and they finish O’Reilly with a flying legdrop from Hanson onto a Rowe slam and win the tag titles at 17:00. Well, I’m sad to see the Era lose the titles, but HOLY SHIT what an opener this was. ****1/2 Talk about non-stop action! You wouldn’t think the dynamic of the small heels against the bully Viking babyfaces would work, but Rowe somehow pulls off a sympathetic babyface role.
Matt Riddle v. Kassius Ohno
Riddle runs off the stairs with a flying elbow outside and then hits Ohno with a senton in the ring, then deadlifts him into a gutwrench. Ohno bails to the apron and Riddle tries to powerbomb him off, but Ohno wraps up his head in the apron and stomps him to take over. Legdrop gets two. Ohno gets an accidental elbow and gets two off that. I wonder if that was lifted from the Ibushi match at Wrestle Kingdom? Ohno pounds him and sends him into the post and the stairs, but Riddle gets fired up again and catches him in a sleeper. Ohno makes the ropes, so Riddle kicks hi min the hand to get him off. And then Ohno STOMPS THE FOOT like an ass, so Riddle deadlifts him into a german suplex for two. Riddle with the Bro Kicks, but Ohno BITES THE TOES in the ickiest spot you’ll see for the year, and hits him with a powerbomb for two. Moonsault gets two. Rolling elbow and senton follow, but Riddle catches him with a choke on the mat and Ohno has to make the ropes again. Ohno decides to ask for a fist bump, but Riddle knees him in the face and follows with a sleeper suplex and an elbow flurry at 9:22 to tap him out. You don’t see a lot of tapout via strikes in wrestling, so that’s a pretty cool finish. Matt Riddle is MONEY and I hope they don’t fuck him up. They couldn’t follow the opener, but it was a different type of match and a good hard-hitting battle. ***1/2
Meanwhile, Velveteen Dream arrives via limo, fully pimped out.
North American title: Ricochet v. Johnny Gargano
Johnny’s “heel who thinks he’s a babyface” act is amazing. Also, the storyline of Ciampa using that to play him like a fiddle is also amazing. Finally, Gargano’s X-Men Dark Phoenix tights (now THERE’S foreshadowing!), AMAZING. They trade armdrags on the mat and Gargano rolls through with a facelock and teases the superkick as they’re at a stalemate. Gargano works a headlock on the mat and they do a crazy rolling cradle reversal sequence and Ricochet flips out of it and lands on his feet. Ricochet asks for a handshake and Gargano slugs him down in response. Ricochet with a handspring headscissors to put Johnny on the floor, and he follows with a springboard moonsault from the top rope that looks effortless. Back in, Johnny goes up and Ricochet slugs him down, so Gargano slides underneath and stunguns him on the top turnbuckle to take over. Dropkick to the neck gets two and he goes to work on it with a neck crank, but Ricochet fights out and sweeps the leg.
Johnny takes him down again and works on the arm with a submission hold and slugs away on the ropes, but Ricochet cuts off the slingshot spear and moonsaults the back in a unique spot. They slug it out and Ricochet makes the comeback with a headscissors and 619 in the corner, into a flying uppercut. Northern lights suplex rolls into a brainbuster for two. Ricochet misses a springboard elbow and Gargano catches him with a powerbomb for two, and into a crossface. Ricochet blocks a cradle and gets two, then blocks the slingshot DDT and dumps Gargano to the floor. Gargano’s look of shock when Ricochet caught him was great. Ricochet hits him with a dive and they head back in, where Ricochet hits a standing shooting star and moonsault for two. They fight to the top rope and Gargano tries the rana, but Ricochet reverses to a powerbomb, which Gargano turns into a rana, but Ricochet lands on his feet with a smirk. Gargano has another shocked look and throws knees, but Ricochet this him with a backflip kick, only to handspring into the Gargano Escape, so he has to deadlift out of it and tosses Gargano into the corner. Ricochet goes up and Gargano casually rolls away to escape and then moves away from dive range…only to have Ricochet dive over the ringpost with a somersault dive anyway, and the springboard 450 gets two. Holy shit.
Back up for the shooting star press, but Johnny gets the knees up and gets two. Gargano superkicks him, but Ricochet lands on the floor as a result, so Johnny tries a dive and gets caught. He turns that into a reverse rana on the floor, however, and back in for the slingshot DDT for two, which got the entire arena. Myself included. Johnny gets worked up and decides to pull up the mats outside, but then the ref talks him out of it before he can DDT Ricochet. Back in, Ricochet cradles for two and hits a lariat to block a superkick, but then he goes up and misses the Phoenix splash. Gargano with a superkick, but Ricochet manages to roll into his own Gargano Escape and Johnny has to dive for the ropes. Ricochet follows him to the apron, so Gargano sends him into the post (which is what cost Gargano the NXT title against Andrade Almas) and then hits a brainbuster onto the concrete for good measure. Back in, Gargano gets FULL EVIL and hits another slingshot DDT to win the title at 24:43, his first singles title in WWE. Evil Johnny is the best Johnny. *****
NXT Women’s title: Shayna Baszler v. Bianca Belair
They exchange shoves in the corner and Shayna grabs a headlock, but Bianca bounces around the ring and sends Baszler to the floor. Bianca tries the hair whip, but Shayna grabs the ponytail and uses it to yank Belair into the ringpost. Back in, Shayna goes after the injured arm and pounds her down for two, then wraps up the arm and stomps the elbow. Shayna goes after the arm and beats on it in a variety of nasty ways, and that gets two. Belair escapes the choke, but Shayna wraps her up with her own hair and kicks her down for two. However, she makes the mistake of calling Bianca “Overrated” and that allows Belair to make the comeback with shoulderblocks and a dropkick. Spear gets two as she’s rolling and flipping all over the ring with an injured shoulder. Baszler tries to grab an armbar from the mat, and then hits a running knee strike for two. They slug it out and Bianca wins that battle with the hair whip, which gives us the Devo reference from Mauro. Belair with a double chicken wing, but the ref gets bumped while Belair hits her finisher. This brings in the other Horsewomen and they fail as usual, but Baszler wraps Belair up in the choke anyway. Bianca manages to power out and into a suplex, but Duke interferes again and Baszler gets a second choke, which Belair powers out of again, but then fades away at 15:20. Not a fan of the booking here, as they tried to disguise the green women with a ref bump and a bunch of interference, and it never really worked. Belair has the athleticism but I didn’t buy the selling and Baszler isn’t in the position to carry her yet. An OK match, nothing more. **1/2
NXT title: Tomasso Ciampa v. Aleister Black
They trade headlocks with each other on the mat and Black goes for the headgames with the dive tease, so Ciampa kicks him in the face, but bails to the floor and gets hit with a dive from Black. Back in, Black sweeps the leg…
…and follows with a springboard moonsault, and they head to the floor again, where Ciampa runs the leg into the stairs to take over. Suplex into the stairs for good measure and he goes to work on the knee back in the ring. Ciampa wraps the knee around the post and hauls him to the announce tables for a knee crusher there, but he stops for a drink of water and Black kicks it out of his hands. Back in, Ciampa steps on the face and hangs Black in the tree of woe before pounding on the knee again, but Black pops up with a kick to put them on the floor again. Back in, Black comes back with a knee to the head, but hurts himself in the process and Ciampa goes after it again. Black comes back with a high kick, however, and that gets two. Ciampa with a small package for two and a backslide into the double underhook driver, but Black escapes. Another try is blocked by Black with a cradle for two. Black with high kicks and a german suplex for two. Ciampa goes back to the leg with a dragon screw into a half crab, and he holds on through Ciampa’s attempts to escape, but his knee gives out on him again. Ciampa bails and Black tries to go up with a dive, but Ciampa hits him with a cutter onto the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING. Back in, a running knee gets two. Ciampa toys with him and Black responds with a jumping knee, but Ciampa puts him down with his own version. They slug it out and trade high kicks, but Ciampa rolls him up for two. Another rollup is blocked by Black and they trade reversals until Ciampa hits a lariat. Black catches the DIY knee strike and hits him with a double stomp, then follows with a jumping knee to the back and a brainbuster for two. Ciampa bails and Black follows with a moonsault, but he slips on the water from before and Ciampa hits him with the Fairytale Ending for two as a result. So then Ciampa pulls up the mats like Gargano did, but Black hits him with a diving knee off the apron and onto the concrete. Back in, BLACK MASS puts Ciampa’s lights out, but he manages to roll onto his side and Black can’t cover for a proper pin. What a small and yet wonderful touch. So Black stands him up again, but Ciampa hides behind the ref and rolls Black into the draping DDT, and Fairytale Ending for two. Another one looks to finish, but Ciampa decides to go for a fourth one, and Black fights back with one more high kick, but the knee gives out again and Ciampa hits the fourth Ending to retain at 26:40. This was really good, but never really hit another gear until the ending, and I think everyone knows Ciampa isn’t losing the title until they conclude the storyline with Gargano once and for all. ****
Speaking of which, Johnny Wrestling comes out with his new title in the post-credits stinger, giving us the DIY staredown and presumed reunion as a tag team.
The tag title opener was the shit and the North American title was a classic, which makes this yet another incredible thumbs up show that Rumble is gonna have a hard time topping.