As we bask in the Afterglow of yet another fantastic “TakeOver”, my opinion that WWE is shooting for multiple audiences is only further solidified. NXT is for us. You know…the real wrestling fan. It features a fantastic balance of ring action with enough storyline to get us invested in the stories they’re telling in the ring. NXT has its very own vibe – really nothing like either “Raw” or “Smackdown Live”. It makes few concessions to casual fans; it’s just for us. As such, we take ownership of it in a way that we don’t with “Raw” or “Smackdown Live” as they’re marketed to absolutely everyone. They are geared to the casual fan but WWE knows we’re watching too so they do a pretty good job (of late) of giving us enough to keep us watching. You can “come in cold” and still enjoy the shows. I, for one, appreciate this duality and never more than I do than on PPV weekends like this one. “TakeOver: Phoenix” was for us and, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Let’s dive in, shall we? As always, there are no crown grades for “TakeOver”. Why have them, right?
The Undisputed Era (Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. War Raiders (Rowe & Hanson)
This is how you start a PPV. I’m going to quickly run out of superlatives for this whole PPV. Talking about wrestling is usually easy but with matches like this, what’s the point, really? This just has to be seen. Hanson, in particular, was incredibly impressive here. The War Raiders received the “big deal entrance” and it was really fun. If you haven’t seen this match, you need to see this one. The UE had held onto the titles for a very long time so it was time to give the belts to another team to keep building them.
Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno
If you saw my predictions for this match, you’ll know I didn’t care about it one iota. Kassius has been decimated by creative in NXT. He’s already lost twice to Riddle so why would this match be any different? I couldn’t care less about Riddle, no matter how many people tell me I should. He’s not awful in the ring or anything; I just don’t care about him. He’s not remotely original and the bare feet nor “bro” chanting will make him so. Add to that fact that he gives the worst promos in all of pro wrestling and we have ourselves a bit of a problem. The match was merely okay and, as expected, Kassius lost…again.
Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano
Words. Feelings. Emotions. Just watch the match. Superlatives don’t cut it here. This was, without question, my match of the night, though not by a wide margin. Gargano and Ricochet are like hand in glove. Gargano seemingly can meld with anyone in the ring. The only other thing I can say is that I want to see this match again.
Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair
Bianca is overrated, blah, blah, blah. Bianca wasn’t ready, blah, blah, blah. I’ve seen it said by a select very few and it just doesn’t make sense. These empty-headed claims didn’t materialize until this match was proposed anyway so whatever. Both told a great story here. Shayna is fantastic (when isn’t she?) and Bianca absolutely held her own. The submission sequences with Bianca were just incredible. The way Bianca powered out of the first and looked to power out of the second was just spectacular. Heart-stopping stuff.
Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black
This is another one you just have to see. Master storytellers at work. The end of this was just perfection. Further, the after-match sequence with Gargano and Ciampa standing at the top of the ramp holding their respective titles was great with Candice seeming to snap Gargano out of his trance. Just great stuff from start to finish.
Yet again, NXT does what it always does: it makes itself a nearly-impossible act to follow. Gotta love that!