Takeover: New Orleans
Date: April 7, 2018
Location: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
Commentators: Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, Percy Watson
As is so often the case with Takeover, the card for this show looks incredible. As isn’t so often the case with Takeover, Wrestlemania looks very good as well. I don’t remember the last time WWE outdid NXT but maybe that can be the case tonight. You know, assuming NXT falls apart at one of these for the first time ever. Let’s get to it.
I was in the arena for this show, sitting in the lower bowl on the hard camera side with the ring on my left.
We open with the lights off and a few glow sticks in the air. There were supposed to be far more as Mike Rome announced that everyone should have gotten some. A WE WANT GLOW STICKS chant broke out and the scene really isn’t as good as it should have been. Anyway, Cane Hill performs a heck of a theme song with It Follows. This was great and a solid way to open the show, especially rather than doing the performance in the middle of the show.
North American Title: Ricochet vs. EC3 vs. Adam Cole vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Velveteen Dream
Ladder match for the inaugural title with Ricochet and EC3 (who is still said to be coming from a rich family) making their in-ring debuts. Cole is the heavy crowd favorite with Ricochet a close second but anyone is a potential winner. The fans declare this awesome before the opening bell, and can you really blame them?
EC3 bails to the floor and it’s Dain/Sullivan clearing the ring for the big showdown. The two of them head outside as well, leaving Ricochet to springboard into a shooting star press to drop them in short order. Now that we’re a minute into the match, it’s time to go for the first ladder but Dream pulls Ricochet down. Back in and Ricochet moonsaults into a headscissors before snapping off a dropkick. He’s already one of the smoothest high fliers you’ll ever see in NXT and this is a heck of a first impression.
Cole pulls Dream off the ladder, setting up the fireman’s carry neckbreaker. EC3 comes in but Sullivan and Dain are right back to clean house. Dain suicide dives onto Sullivan (because a man his size can just do that) and picks up EC3 and Ricochet at the same time. Cole makes the save but Sullivan throws a ladder at everyone else to clear the ring. It’s time to hammer away with said ladder, including the Terry Funk ladder around the head to swing away. I’ve missed that spot.
Dream gets dropped ribs first onto the ladder and it’s time for Sullivan to climb. That’s actually booed out of the building, which really surprised me. Ricochet, EC3 and Dream powerbomb him off the ladder but Dain pulls Cole off the ladder. Dain backdrops Ricochet onto a ladder in the corner and it’s time for EC3 and Cole to team up for some house cleaning. They bridge a ladder from the announcers’ table to the apron and there’s no way this could end well.
Back in and EC3 does Cole’s pose, earning himself a trip into the ladder as well. Superkicks abound and Cole shows us how to really do the pose. Dream comes in with some Purple Rainmakers, including one to Ricochet after the referee moves the ladder. Sullivan and Dream are left alone with Lars charging into a ladder shot….and it’s time to climb the big ladder. In the spot of the match (so far), Dream drops the HUGE Purple Rainmaker (getting ABOVE THE TITLE), possibly breaking everything in the process.
EC3 is up with a powerbomb to put Dream onto the ladder though and it’s time for another climb. This time it’s Cole making the save, earning himself a TK3 (TKO) off the ladder for a huge crash. The fans declare this awesome (perceptive crowd) as Dain gets up and crushes EC3 with a Vader Bomb onto a ladder onto EC3. Dain loads up another one, but this time Cole jumps on his back. That means a DOUBLE VADER BOMB onto the ladder onto EC3. A quick look into EC3’s mind likely sees him screaming “I LEFT IMPACT FOR THIS???”
Ricochet breaks up another Sullivan vs. Dain fight but Sullivan throws him across the ring. Dain picks him up (Fans: “THROW HIM BACK!”) and does just what the fans want, meaning it’s the big slugout at last. Sullivan plants him and goes up with Ricochet making the save. Ricochet goes up but the ladder is shoved over….so he MOONSAULTS OFF AS IT GOES DOWN, taking out Dain and Cole in the process. I don’t even know how you do that but he pulled it off like a good Kentucky boy.
EC3 chops Ricochet in the ring but gets kicked down, setting up a shooting star onto the ladder. Dream FINALLY comes back in (after spending a long time being attended to on the floor thanks to being busted open earlier) and is promptly punched in the face. A ladder is bridged between the standing ladder and the corner so Dream hits the rolling Death Valley Driver to drive Ricochet onto but not through the bridge. Egads that was a scary looking one, but compared to everything else in the match it was almost tame. That’s nuts.
We haven’t had carnage in all of ten seconds so Sullivan puts Dream on the bridged ladder outside the ring and gives EC3 a Freak Accident through Dream through the ladder. Mauro absolutely loses his mind (again) and the three of them are dead. I’m not sure why Sullivan is but that’s WWE for you. Dain isn’t about to be outdone and puts Ricochet on another bridged ladder and hits a World’s Strongest Slam on Cole, driving him through Ricochet to put all six down at once.
The fans want them to fight forever but settle for Sullivan and Dain climbing the ladder inside. EC3 slows them down with some ladder shots to the ribs and climbs another with Cole going up the other side. Of course Dream and Ricochet climb their own ladder, putting all six up on ladders at the same time. Cole gets knocked off but climbs back up to grab a Russian legsweep on EC3.
Dream touches the title but Ricochet neckbreakers him down as well. A Freak Accident brings Dain down as well and all six are on the mat again. Sullivan, with blood coming down the side of his face, goes up but Ricochet springboards up and lands on his back, breaking one of the ladders in the process to put everyone down again. Cole turns the ladder over and gets the title for the win at 31:25.
Rating: A+. Like this could possibly get anything else. There are matches where they have a major story going on and all kinds of stories tied in at the same time. Then there are matches with so much carnage and violence with near title grabs and crazy spots. This would be the latter and my goodness it was incredible. These six guys left EVERYTHING they had in the ring and there was so much stuff that made your eyes bug out. It also helps that the match was a complete pick em coming in, making this one of the best ladder matches I’ve ever seen. Watch this as soon as you can.
Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega are in the back. Not exactly noteworthy but this cut off in the arena.
We recap Shayna Baszler vs. Ember Moon. Baszler has run roughshod over the division so far but got caught in a quick fall against Moon. Baszler talked about ignoring the system and getting exactly what she wanted in the process. She got underneath Ember’s skin and Ember challenged her to another match. Tonight is the rematch with Baszler a little more experienced and ready to take the title.
Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke are in the front row (in the same spot as all other guests tonight) to cheer Baszler on.
Women’s Title: Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler
Moon is defending and gets played to the ring. It’s not bad but pales in comparison to the pretty awesome opening song. Moon misses a charge at the bell and gets punched right in the face. They head outside early on with Moon sanding her into the steps, followed by a middle rope Codebreaker for two back inside. Baszler catches a kick from the apron though and sends Moon face first instead.
Back in and the chinlock doesn’t last long, allowing Moon to get in a hard palm strike. They’re certainly going back and forth here and that’s not the worst idea in the world. A knee to the face gives Baszler two but her rear naked choke is countered as Moon drops her down onto the mat for a break. Baszler steps on her hand and loads up a big stomp but Moon switches places (like a magician) and stomps on Baszler’s arm instead.
Shayna is in real trouble as her arm is hanging there but catches Moon on top and kicks her in the face. With Moon down, Baszler RAMS HER OWN SHOULDER INTO THE POST to pop it back into socket. Well that certainly….works? I think? Baszler rolls outside and gets caught with the Eclipse (Moon is going to shatter her tailbone one day) to the floor. Moon can’t follow up so Baszler grabs the Kirafuta Clutch back inside before switching into a triangle choke.
That’s broken up by a powerbomb for two and Moon is either shocked by the pain or the near fall. The second Eclipse is countered into another Kirafuta Clutch (first time it’s been countered) with one arm (didn’t notice that live). Ember goes for the ropes and fights for a very long time, even cranking on the bad arm, before eventually collapsing, giving Baszler the title at 12:55.
Rating: B. There was a story being told here with Moon being angered to the point of trying to play Baszler’s game instead of going with what brought her to the dance. Baszler had also studied the Eclipse since last time and was ready for it this time around, allowing her to catch Moon and win the title. It was a heck of a fight with Moon trying, but there was no doubt that Baszler was getting the title here. Throw in the spot on the card (this was the only thing that could have followed the ladder match) and this was a rousing success.
Baszler celebrates with Rousey and Duke.
Paige introduces us to a clip from the movie about her family. I saw this so many times over the weekend that I’ve almost memorized Rock’s joke.
Adam Cole isn’t sure he can wrestle the Tag Team Title match. This also cut off early in the arena.
We recap the Tag Team Title match/Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic final. The Undisputed Era interfered in the final so it was turned into a triple threat for both the trophy and the titles. Adam Cole is filling in for the injured Bobby Fish as William Regal continues to stick it to the Undisputed Era.
Tag Team Titles/Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals: Roderick Strong/Pete Dunne vs. Authors of Pain vs. Undisputed Era
The Era is defending (and challenging for the trophy at the same time). The Authors won the tournament two years ago (the most recent edition) and Strong and Dunne have been thrown together. Cole is heavily taped up and the Authors waste no time in slugging away to take over. They send Cole outside for a double powerbomb through the announcers’ table for a huge crash as we’re still not even two minutes in.
O’Reilly dives off the apron with a knee to Razar as reality has struck him very quickly. Back in and Dunne goes for O’Reilly’s arm but Kyle is more than capable of escaping. Strong is up with a backbreaker to Kyle and a running knee to Akum. O’Reilly grabs a guillotine to slow Strong down before switching to a triangle choke. Since that’s not enough, Kyle grabs an ankle lock on Akum at the same time. Razar is back up though and powerbombs Dunne onto the pile for the big break.
Everyone else is cleared out so Razar grabs a choke on Strong as this actually turns into a tag match. I’m as shocked as you are. Kyle comes in but walks into a German suplex. He pops up with a shout….and then collapses to the floor in a funny bit. Strong finally kicks him away and it’s off to Dunne with the hot tag. Dunne flips over Kyle and kicks him in the back (with O’Reilly pretty clearly sitting there waiting on it, even looking over his shoulder for the contact).
Dunne and O’Reilly slug it out until the Authors hit the Last Chapter on O’Reilly. Strong makes the save at two but Dunne breaks Razar’s fingers. A belly to back drops Kyle onto the apron, leaving Razar to take the assisted Bitter End. Back in and the Bitter End plants Kyle….but Strong breaks up the cover at two. End of Heartache plants Dunne and Strong puts Kyle on top to retain the titles at 11:43.
Rating: B. Not the best match in the world but my goodness that was the right call. Strong just was not working on his own and having him join the Undisputed Era is the best fit for him. He won’t have to talk and O’Reilly needs a new partner with Fish out injured. This was another wild brawl and I’m glad they didn’t bother wasting time trying to have a match. Sometimes it’s just not needed and that was the case here.
Post match Strong takes Cole’s armband and puts it on to officially join the group. The trio heads up to the trophy with Fish joining them, meaning they won a tournament they weren’t even in (notice Vince Russo frantically scribbling things down).
Of note, Goldust and Jeff Jarrett were watching this from the front row. Shane McMahon was on the hard camera side (at least from before this match on) and ran over to hug them during a video package.
Nita Strauss is here.
We recap the NXT Title match, meaning Gargano vs. Ciampa is in its rightful main event slot. Aleister Black wants the NXT Title and has yet to be pinned in a singles match. Andrade Cien Almas, with manager Zelina Vega, has rocketed up the charts and become a heck of a champion in his own right. I could see this one going either way, which isn’t often the case in the title matches.
NXT Title: Andrade Cien Almas vs. Aleister Black
Black is challenging and misses a running boot at the bell. Instead he goes with strikes anywhere he can hit them to put Almas on the floor. The moonsault into the seated position doesn’t rotate enough so he lands on his stomach, only to pop up and moonsault onto the floor to take Almas down again. Some right hands have Almas on the run but Vega hits a hurricanrana off the apron to send Black into the steps. I’m not sure how the referee couldn’t see that but wrestling is funny that way.
Back in and Almas stomps away (Mauro: “Nothing tranquilo about the champion tonight.”) before sending Black shoulder first into the post. The fans are split as Almas gets a backbreaker out of the corner for two and it’s off to a chinlock with an arm crank. Back up and Black knees Almas out of the air and both guys are down. A Lionsault gives Black two more and the fans sounded like they were into the kickout.
Almas avoids a charge though and snaps off a German suplex, only to miss a moonsault….and then land on his feet and moonsault onto Black for two anyway. Cool spot. Almas elbows him in the head for one so Black knees…the air near Almas’ head for two. Thankfully Mauro acknowledges that he didn’t get all of it because that looked rather bad. Stereo kicks to the head means a double knockdown and the referee gets to eight.
Almas kicks him outside for a springboard corkscrew plancha but still can’t put Black away. That means it’s time to bring in the belt as a distraction so Vega can hit another hurricanrana with Black going head first into the mat. Back up and Black Mass hits out of nowhere with Vega putting the foot on the ropes. The heat is strong with this one.
Vega interferes for a FOURTH TIME with a distraction allowing Almas to crotch Black on the ropes. The Alberto Del Rio double stomp connects, thankfully not driving Black down to the apron in the process. Almas scores with the running knees in the corner for a VERY close two and Vega is panicking on the floor.
Black Mass is countered with a dropkick to the back and it’s out to the apron again, this time with the running knees driving Black into the post. Black sends him outside but a quick hammerlock DDT….gets two? Vega has had enough and goes up top, only to get caught by Almas instead. The opening lets Black Mass knock Almas silly for the pin and the title at 18:20.
Rating: A-. I know Johnny Gargano is getting all the praise, but these two deserve some serious consideration for Wrestler of the Year at this point. They just tore the house down and if not for the opener, this would have stolen the show so far. Vega was a great addition here and the ending makes perfect sense: Almas got where he is with Vega’s help and her interference became his downfall. Great match here and I can see why they went with Black, as he’s on fire right now.
We recap Gargano vs. Ciampa, which is nearly a year in the making. They’ve been friends for years and came to NXT as a tag team. After rising all the way to the Tag Team Titles, they came crashing back down, followed by Ciampa tearing his ACL. Ciampa accused Gargano of making the team all about himself even though Ciampa was carrying it. With Ciampa out, Gargano tried to get back to his peak but Ciampa was always in the back of his mind.
Then Ciampa cost him his NXT career, sending Gargano into a rage against Ciampa, stalking him at the Performance Center and even at his house. Ciampa went to William Regal to get rid of Gargano, setting up tonight’s unsanctioned match. If Gargano loses, he’s gone forever. If he wins though, he’s back in NXT. This is an INCREDIBLE build to the point where everyone wants to see Gargano kill Ciampa after everything he’s done but Ciampa looks that dangerous. In other words, this is the main event, full stop.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa
Anything goes and the referee isn’t in his regular gear because this isn’t sanctioned. Ciampa nails the entrance, slowly walking out with no music and just soaking in the utter hatred from the crowd. This is Ciampa’s first match since May and he looks absolutely chiseled. The place goes nuts for Johnny but it’s not as strong as the hatred for Ciampa. His entrance was just great stuff but it’s all working anyway.
They stare each other down to start and it’s time for the slugout with Gargano getting the better of it (of course). The slingshot spear cuts Ciampa in half and more left hands have him in trouble. Gargano stomps away in the corner as this is ALL Johnny to start with the fans loving him more every time he hurts Ciampa. A clothesline puts Ciampa on the floor for a suicide dive, followed by a trip over the barricade. Johnny dives onto him but gets dropped ribs first onto the barricade.
Back at ringside and Ciampa goes VERY old school by pulling back the floor mats. I haven’t seen that one in a long time. Gargano throws him over the announcers’ table and takes Mauro off headset in the process. Don’t worry though as the fans are right there with the MAMA MIA chant to make up for it. Ciampa isn’t done yet though as he grabs a suplex off the table to the floor (SICK thud) and they’re both down again. These guys are beating the heck out of each other and the hatred is awesome so far.
In a unique spot, Ciampa picks up the top of the table and suplexes Gargano through it, breaking the wood in the process. Back in and Ciampa rips at Johnny’s face before stomping on the hands. The fans aren’t letting up on Ciampa a bit here, even as he sends Gargano hard into the corner. A Texas Cloverleaf starts on Johnny’s leg for a change of pace and the rope break DOESN’T COUNT BECAUSE NXT IS ACTUALLY SMART WITH THIS STUFF. It always drives me crazy when that breaks a hold in a No DQ match and thankfully NXT got it right.
Johnny crawls to the apron for the break so Ciampa stomps him down and applauds the crowd. The fans refer to Ciampa by a rather mean term (in England at least) and he makes it worse by STEALING A FAN’S CRUTCHES. I mean, the fan was placed there before the match but still, great visual. Johnny takes it away though and knocks Ciampa silly, followed by a kick to the head for a double knockdown. The slingshot DDT onto the apron is broken up so Gargano POWERBOMBS HIM ONTO THE CONCRETE. Fans: “YOU DESERVE IT!” I almost lost it at that chant.
Back in (since Ciampa is somehow not dead), they both grab the crutch in the middle of the ring with Gargano coming away with it. Some HARD shots to the ribs and knee set up the slingshot DDT for two. The middle turnbuckle pad is taken off but Ciampa gets two off a torture rack powerbomb. With Johnny on his knees, Ciampa does the DIY pose and hits a running knee to the back of the head for two more. Now the fans want tables, because this brawl isn’t enough for them or something.
They slug it out with neither getting the better of it until a clothesline drops Gargano. A reverse hurricanrana doesn’t quite work as Ciampa lands on Gargano’s back but the Gargano Escape goes on anyway. Ciampa makes the ropes to no avail so he goes to the eyes for the real escape. With wrestling not working, Ciampa takes off the wrist tape but Gargano grabs onto it and they slug it out while joined together by the tape. Nice visual there. Ciampa gets out punched so it’s a low blow and crutch to the back.
Project Ciampa (powerbomb into double knees to the back) gets two more but Gargano is back with two superkicks, followed by the DIY superkick for a red hot near fall. They head up top for a change of pace and a super Project Ciampa….gets two. I had bet on that as the finish, especially with Ciampa banging up his knee even more in the process. Ciampa takes the knee brace off but Gargano picks it up and hits him in the knee with it instead.
Now he picks up the other crutch (which the referee had placed in the ring) but stops as Ciampa begs off (ala what Ciampa did to Gargano in the Cruiserweight Classic). Ciampa grabs the brace and swings away, only to get pulled into the Gargano Escape. Gargano gets the brace and wraps it around Ciampa’s face for an STF and the tap at 37:00.
Rating: A+. Of course that’s what it gets. This match was built up like nothing else has been in NXT and they hit every possible point they could have done here. It was incredibly entertaining and one of the hardest hitting fights I’ve seen in a long time. The symbolism at the end was great and called back to almost every major point that these two have had since coming to WWE. Gargano winning to put Ciampa away (I can’t imagine there won’t be a rematch) for now was the right call, but I really wasn’t sure at times. Incredible match as Gargano’s outstanding runs continues.
Candice LeRae runs out for the celebration. This went on for a long time, even after the show ended. The pair eventually went up the ramp to pose, only to have Johnny look over his shoulder to make sure Ciampa wasn’t back. One more pose ended the night.
Overall Rating: A+. I knew this was going to be great but I didn’t know it was going to be this. We had one of the best pair of opening and closing matches that I’ve ever seen, an any other show stealing classic NXT Title change and two other matches that were very good in their own right. Somehow this topped Dallas as the best show I’ve ever seen and is probably the best Takeover of all time. Incredible night here and something they’re going to have to work hard to top, if they even can (which I would have said about their other top efforts as well, though it happened here too). Watch this as soon as possible.
Adam Cole b. Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, Velveteen Dream, Ricochet and EC3 – Cole pulled down the title
Shayna Baszler b. Ember Moon – Kirafuta Clutch
Undisputed Era b. Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong/Pete Dunne – End of Heartache to Dunne
Aleister Black b. Andrade Cien Almas – Black Mass
Johnny Gargano b. Tommaso Ciampa – STF
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