Date: January 24, 2018
Location: Center Stage Theater, Atlanta, Georgia
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Percy Watson
It’s the go home show for Takeover: Philadelphia and that means most of the show is already set. There’s always the chance of throwing some stuff in via a backstage segment but odds are we’ve seen the card announced. Tonight is likely going to be heavy on talking, which isn’t a bad thing around here. Let’s get to it.
With his back to the camera and purple smoke filling the room, Velveteen Dream talks about how we all dream. Everyone wants to be NXT Champion, including Johnny Gargano. Sure Johnny is a fine choice, but why would anyone pick him when they can pick Dream? Tonight, a dream will be over. Good stuff here, as Dream knows how to bring the atmosphere.
No Way Jose vs. Cezar Bononi
For once Bononi doesn’t tower over his opponent. Jose shoulders him down to start and hits a quick atomic drop. Bononi fights out of an armbar and hits a pumphandle slam, followed by a chinlock. Back up and Jose scores with some punches to the jaw, followed by a powerslam. The pop up right hand (Toma, which means Take That) ends Bononi at 3:20.
Rating: D. That’s quite the abrupt loss for Bononi, who has been a much bigger deal as of late and not someone you would expect to lose in such short fashion. Also, what’s up with right hands becoming finishers of late? Mojo Rawley uses one and Alexa Bliss has won with them a few times as well. Are they that out of finishers? Either way, it’s nice to see Jose back as I was always a fan.
Video on Adam Cole costing Aleister Black a shot at being #1 contender, setting up their Extreme Rules match at Takeover. As usual, this did a great job of making me buy into the emotion and that’s exactly the point.
Bianca Belair vs. LaToya Alstott
Belair’s tights say Est because she’s the baddest, the best, the toughest, the smartest etc. The LET’S GO JOBBER chants begin as LaToya’s rollup out of the corner is easily blocked. Belair throws her around and shrugs off some kicks to the ribs, setting up a HARD forearm to the jaw. A double chickenwing faceplant puts LaToya down but she gets in a kick to the head for a breather. LaToya goes up though and dives into the hair whip to the ribs. An Alleyoop finishes LaToya at 3:37.
Rating: D+. Belair continues to be impressive with some great athleticism and power (though I still don’t like the hair thing). She’s similar to Shelton Benjamin with the awesome athletic background and that’s a very good thing for her. LaToya was your standard jobber and didn’t show anything of note, but she wasn’t supposed to here.
Earlier today, Shayna Baszler and Ember Moon sat down for an interview. Ember talks about the code of the women’s division and Shayna having no respect. Baszler laughs it off and says that it was never about hurting people but rather the end goal. She saw Moon go up against the undefeated….and lose. Moon kept going and accomplished her dream, but when she wakes up at Takeover, she’ll see Baszler walking away with that dream. The one thing Baszler wants everyone to know: they’ll have to get used to it.
A few things here. First of all, I know this was heavily scripted, but Baszler came off as more natural and that’s because she’s already got the character down. She’s the bully who doesn’t care about anything that came before her and just wants the title. That’s it and she’s nailing that character. Moon doesn’t exactly have a character and that showed here, along with sounding very scripted. Also, this is almost exactly AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe from TNA when Joe disrespected the X-Division and destroyed Christopher Daniels. Not a bad story, but it’s about as copied as you can get.
We get the second part of the TM61 video, this time focusing on Shane Thorn’s knee injury. It’s kept him (and the team) on the shelf for about six months but now they’re back to prove that they’re the best team around. They know their greatness and HARLEY RACE endorses them. Well I’m certainly sold. They’re back in the ring next week.
Authors of Pain vs. Chris Brown/Jason Smith
No match as the Authors destroy the jobbers and promise to do the same to the Undisputed Era. The Super Collider makes things even worse.
Next week: Nikki Cross vs. Lacey Evans.
Velveteen Dream vs. Johnny Gargano
The winner faces Andrade Cien Almas at Takeover and they have A LOT of time here. Dream wears a Johnny Wrestling shirt to the ring to play some mind games. The fans are split as they hit the mat to start with neither being able to get the advantage. Dream throws him away and poses, mocking Gargano for crying before. That earns him a Gargano Escape but Dream gets to the floor, albeit with a sore arm, as we take a break.
Back with Gargano knocking the bad arm into the announcers’ table and cannonballing off the apron to take Dream down. The slingshot spear is countered with a hanging swinging neckbreaker though and Dream uppercuts him in the back. They head outside again with Dream slugging away and we take another break. Back again with Johnny hitting an enziguri but getting superkicked away.
Johnny bounces off the ropes though and clotheslines Dream down for a delayed two. Neither can hit a headscissors so Dream grabs that Sister Abigail DDT for two of his own. Johnny shoves him away again but gets crotched on top to slow things down all over again. A super Death Valley Driver plants Johnny again (and that’s a MAMA MIA from Mauro) for two more with the fans hanging on these kickouts. The Purple Rainmaker hits knees (thanks to Dream’s left arm being so banged up) and it’s the Gargano Escape to make Dream tap at 19:14.
Rating: A-. The arm stuff was a good story and the idea of Johnny never giving up and fighting the whole way through was the perfect way to send him on to the title match. Dream losing again is somewhat questionable as he needs to win a big match, but in this case it fits the story of Johnny needing to eliminate all doubts. It should be a great match and thankfully it was set up by a great match.
Post match Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega come out and drop Gargano with a shot to the head. Johnny gets tossed to the floor but comes back in with the slingshot DDT and poses with the title as Mauro plugs everything on Saturday to end the show.
Overall Rating: B. This show did its job rather well, especially with the NXT Title feud. I want to see that match a lot more now as they sold me on the story they’re trying to tell. They’ve also set it up where Ciampa returning to screw Gargano out of his dream or Ciampa returning later to be the big challenger both work, and that’s a great place to be. The rest of the show wasn’t as strong, but everything else is already set for Saturday anyway.
No Way Jose b. Cezar Bononi – Toma
Bianca Belair b. LaToya Alstott – Alleyoop
Johnny Gargano b. Velveteen Dream – Gargano Escape
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