The NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia Report Card

Well friends it’s finally here. NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia has arrived and frankly, I’m very excited about it. Overall this show looks certain to be very good but for once with NXT, I’m not focused on depth here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m confident that the under-card will be entertaining but the real centerpiece of this show is its main event and though this may sound weird, that hasn't always been the case with these shows.

As I said in this week’s NXT Report Card, I expect Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Johnny Gargano to have the finest match in NXT history tonight and I genuinely believe they’ll live up to those lofty expectations. With that being said, let’s get to it!

Raquel Gonzalez: We Wanted To Put Me Being Green In Story Of NXT Women's Title Match

DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.

NXT Tag Team Championship

Authors of Pain vs. The Undisputed Era (c)

In what may be a first (I should research this but then again so should you) in TakeOver history, the tag title match is getting us started. The challengers AOP jumped Fish & O’Reilly immediately here and dominated with power early. Other than fleeting moments, this was all AOP until Akam’s knee gave out mid offense, halting their momentum in the process. Fish soon targeted the now injured knee, illegally blindsiding Akam on the apron. He then ran Rezar out of the ring and the heels isolated the hindered Akam. This was good stuff.

Eventually, Rezar came in for the big hot tag and ran wild, easily throwing around both members of The Undisputed Era. O’Reilly soon cut him off with a big knee though and they built some momentum themselves with Fish even hitting a huge belly to belly suplex. A Last Chapter attempt was halted too and that resulted in dual submissions as Fish went with the Rear Naked Choke and Kyle with a leg-lock on Akam. Rezar powered out of the choke though and broke both holds at once.

After sustaining more damage to the leg, Akam fired up himself and fought back. AOP then hit Super Collider or half of it anyway as Akam’s bad leg made him stumble and he was pushed into Rezar. O’Reilly then rolled him up for the win as The Undisputed Era retained their tag titles. This was a really well done match that probably deserved a little better from the crowd. I liked the old-school approach and with a slightly more intense heat segment, this would’ve been perfection. Great finish regardless.

Grade: B+

The Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno

An amazing entrance for the magnificent Dream got us going here and it’s time for his match with Kassius Ohno. Now the story upfront here was that Dream had predicted a 30 second KO. The crowd were aware of this and began to count as soon as the bell rung. After a flurry of body shots, Dream actually floored Ohno with a big right hand and leaped into the air in jubilation. He was very excited about doing as he predicted but sadly Ohno was now back upright and he elbowed Dream right in the jaw. The crowd booed, this is amazing.

He followed that up with some huge kicks but Dream turned things around in an instant via a huge spinebuster. So far this is the greatest match in wrestling history and these people rightly love them some Velveteen Dream. However, the greatness simply didn't continue and at this point the match stalled somewhat. Dream’s heat segment wasn't all that strong and this portion kind of meandered until Ohno countered to set up his comeback.

His comeback was strong though and came after a nice looking exchange of strikes. Dream rebounded with a superkick and his usually cool looking DDT but this time it didn't look cool, like at all. This took the momentum out of things in a big way and the following absolute mess of a Death Valley Driver catch made it much worse. Ohno’s rolling elbow hooked the people again briefly and Dream soon closed the show, hitting the Death Valley Driver and Purple Rainmaker from atop the ring post (yep).

This match started incredibly and then plateaued for me. The finishing moments were quite messy also. Dream is 22 and perhaps still rushes a little but all of this stuff is irrelevant in the big picture as he still came across like an absolute star. Not just due to this crowd’s love for him either, he was genuinely brilliant for much of the actual match. This is a serious talent and he’ll only improve so honestly, this match may prove pivotal for him in the long term.

Grade: B-

NXT Women’s Championship

Shayna Baszler vs. Ember Moon (c)

The prestigious NXT Women’s Title is on the line up next as Ember Moon defends her crown against Shayna Baszler. Great fire from Ember in the pre-match here as she’s very much fired up and honestly, I am too. However, Ember did receive some boos in the introductions and this now has me very scared. Nonetheless, they got off to an intense start before Shayna had some early grappling success which brought a smug grin to her face. Ember fired back with a handful of dropkicks and then a big dive but was quickly stopped and grounded by Baszler.

Shayna then did a wacky kick thing that involved her own hair but this doesn't matter as she then made me very happy (I think) by violently stomping on Moon’s arm. Ember immediately sold this to perfection and was sympathetic in an instant. Baszler really focused on the arm now too, torturing Moon in quite enthralling fashion until the champ fought back with defiant slaps and a springboard thingy. She was selling the whole time of course, why? Because she’s the best.

She went up top and hit The Eclipse too but couldn't get the pin as her injured arm completely took her away from the match. Screaming in agony, Moon clutched her arm as the doctors surrounded her and as she returned to the action, she was immediately hooked in an armbar. For the next couple of minutes, Shayna yanked at Moon’s arm and made her scream in agony. Ember’s selling here was so magnificent that she worked this crowd into chanting her name. She just couldn't escape but after a great struggle, Moon brilliantly rolled Shayna up and pinned her to the canvas.

Moon continued to sell after the match and that’d be key as an enraged Baszler attacked, choking the champ unconscious on the ramp. Well, this match was almost perfection considering the two participants/build-up. This couldn't have possibly spotlighted Shayna any better and it accentuated her positives to the highest order. On the other hand Moon was simply masterful here, she sold with such passion and vigor that it made Shayna’s offense look infinitely better in an instant. This was just really well done in my view, good for both in a lot of ways.

Grade: A

Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole

I have to admit this straight away: this isn’t my kind of match so I apologize if that hinders my recap but more importantly, the actual crowd was hot before a punch had even been thrown. Speaking of such, Black’s strikes were impactful immediately as he sent Cole to the floor, encouraging him to grab a chair in doing so. Black quickly took the chair from him though and took a seat in it…makes sense to me. They then brawled on the floor as Cole cut him off and got a kendo stick. Aleister Black got one too but opted to throw it away instead, beating Cole with skill.

However, the kendo paid dividends soon enough as Cole nailed Black in the stomach mid-moonsault. He was now in control and dictated the action whilst also setting up a table. Black then gained an advantage and set up another table, directly next to the last one. See this is my main issue with these kind of matches, too much time is spent laying out the obstacle course for later spots. It’s just not for me. On that topic he also got a ladder but Cole cut him off and set it up in the corner.

This would backfire though as Black countered and slammed Cole onto the ladder in quite horrific fashion. There’s some blood on Cole and this is a brutal moment in an already rough match. Black then headed up top and after a brief back and forth, Cole threw a chair in his direction, superkicked him off the top rope and sent through those two aforementioned tables. Cool spot but it’s all so choreographed looking which upsets me as I know these man are legitimately damaging themselves out there.

Cole’s next attack wouldn’t go so well though as his vile two chair sandwich resulted in Black sending him back first onto both chairs. He then scored a running knee but Fish & O’Reilly made the save. Sanity returned the favor though, collectively fighting the tag champs off and leaving just Cole and Black. The Dutchman then hit a cool looking *checks notes* meteora on the announce table in a tremendous spot that both felt and looked organic. Neat. Black then rolled Cole in and after taking a superkick, closed the show with a chair-assisted Black Mass.

These guys absolutely maximized the situation here and full credit to them for it but I can only give my personal view and sadly, this just wasn't for me. I know that many will have loved it though and that’s indicative of how well they performed.

Grade: B

NXT Championship

Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas (c) vs. Johnny Gargano

It’s finally main event time folks and the presentation begun perfectly, with ‘Cien’ donning the La Sombra mask and soaking it up in all his glory. Oh and guess what, Johnny Wrestling is real over here in Philadelphia guys, there’s a surprise! This seems to have all the ingredients for greatness and here we go! Tight grappling exchanges got us started, including one in which both men attempted their finish. You see, they are trying to win, this is ideal. A flurry of offense from Gargano followed and he’s initially wrestling smart until a missed apron dive had him landing hard on the floor.

Almas was now in control and these two are the kind of wrestlers that actually work both sides of a headlock. Fabulous. Either way, Johnny soon made a comeback and floored ‘Cien’ with a heavy belly to belly into the corner. Gargano had momentum on his side now and scored with some of his signature offense for false finishes. Almas turned things around though and hit a double moonsault after landing on his feet after the first rotation. Amazing. A huge strike exchange came next with both men dramatically flooring the other.

A quite insane sequence followed as Almas hit the double knees after eating a superkick through his legs. An inverted DDT off the 2nd rope punctuated the flurry but Gargano kicked out and the whole arena suddenly erupted in hope. This is incredible. The fight continued on and Gargano hit his slingshot DDT on the apron. Almas sold this beautifully and it seemed that the champ’s grip on his belt was finally loosening. He still managed to kick out after being rolled back in the ring though and fought back but his double knee attempt was halted by a superkick as Gargano sent Almas flying with the Lawn Dart.

Just as Gargano looked poised for victory, Zelina interfered and Almas pounced exactly as he did in Brooklyn. This time Johnny had an answer though and scored a small package as well as another big superkick for 2. Desperate, Johnny headed up top but ‘Cien’ took his leg out and hit a staggering double foot stomp from the top rope to the floor. He then unleashed absolute violence on Gargano, smashed him into the apron hard and hit double knees in the corner for another false finish. Johnny’s selling here is truly spectacular.

He still had some fight left too and landed some left hands until Almas fired back with a huge slap. One more superkick turned the tide his way though as he put on the Gargano Escape to a huge pop. After a lengthy and engrossing struggle, Zelina grabbed Almas’ arm and distracted the referee which allowed ‘Cien’ to rake Johnny’s eyes and escape. Johnny was still somehow on top regardless and hit his big dive but before he could capitalize, Vega sent him flying into the steel steps with her hurricanrana.

The Hammerlock DDT followed but Johnny still kicked out and oh my lord this may be the greatest match ever. Gargano was struggling but Zelina couldn't get involved anymore as Candice LeRae leaped the barricade and run Vega off in a wild frenzy. This left Gargano and Almas alone and Johnny struck, hitting the slingshot DDT but Andrade once again kicked out. This didn't stop Johnny from catching the Gargano Escape one more time and surely this time that’ll be it right?!

Nope, Almas gets his foot on the rope and the camera work was so good that you’d never even had a chance to factor that in. ‘Cien’ then crawled to the apron and lashed out, sending Johnny into the ring post and hitting the double knees directly onto the post. Absolute insanity. The draping Hammerlock DDT followed and after over 30 minutes of magic, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas had retained his NXT Title.

The Hammerlock DDT followed but Johnny still kicked out and oh my lord this may be the greatest match ever. Gargano was struggling but Zelina couldn't get involved anymore as Candice LeRae leaped the barricade and run Vega off in a wild frenzy. This left Gargano and Almas alone and Johnny struck, hitting the slingshot DDT but Andrade once again kicked out. This didn't stop Johnny from catching the Gargano Escape one more time and surely this time that’ll be it right?!

Nope, Almas gets his foot on the rope and the camera work was so good that you’d never even had a chance to factor that in. ‘Cien’ then crawled to the apron and lashed out, sending Johnny into the ring post and hitting the double knees directly onto the post. Absolute insanity. The draping Hammerlock DDT followed and after over 30 minutes of magic, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas had retained his NXT Title.

Wow. This is not only the greatest match in NXT history for me but more than that one of the most complete matches I’ve ever seen in my life. In fact it may be my absolute favorite of all time…seriously. Amazing athleticism, captivating characters and a story that was genuinely gripping from start to finish. Just beautiful theater and a match that perfectly captured why I love watching this silliness. Incredible.

Before this chapter could end though, that vile meanie Tommaso Ciampa appeared from the darkness to nail Johnny with his crutch…there’s just no need for this mate. It’s one thing being a bit rude after losing a ladder match but this was just nasty. Bang out of order if you ask me.

Grade: A*

Final Thoughts

Before the main event, this felt like a good show that hadn't quite reached the lofty heights we’ve come to expect from TakeOver shows. Then that main event happened and the rest was almost made irrelevant. This show’s identity and legacy will be built on that main event and its absolute, undeniable brilliance. The rest is very good also and I don’t want to slight that but this show was about Almas and Gargano beforehand, let alone now that we’ve seen it with our own eyes. A great show with the perfect main event.

Grade: A*

Please comment your thoughts below or just tweet me abuse @JoeHulbert5 like many others already do. See you all at The Rumble!

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