Review: NXT TakeOver New Orleans

It’s going to be very hard to do this PPV justice, conveying brilliance is often hard to do second hand, and the “you had to be there” effect often lessens the impact. But I’m going to do my best, and if you take anything away from this review, let it be that NXT TakeOver: New Orleans is a must watch for ANY wrestling fan.

Money in the Bank 2011, Wrestlemania 17 and now… NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. Remember the date, because last night NXT may have just put on one of, if not the, greatest wrestling shows of all time.

Many PPVs are passed off as being great because they had a main event that stole the show, others because a mid card match came out of no where to steal the spotlight. But rarely are shows remembered for being excellent from start to finish. TakeOver New Orleans will be one of those shows.

Kicking things off with a match of the year contender, and the match of the night in terms of in-ring quality (more on that later), the 6-man ladder match for the NXT North American Championship was everything we had hoped it would be and so much more.

Every wrestler had the chance to shine, and debutant Ricochet truly drove it like he stole it as JBL used to put it, delivering outstanding flip after outstanding flip, all the while selling like an absolute champ when called upon. EC3 will be remembered for taking an absolute battering during the course of the match, going through multiple spots that looked incredibly painful and downright dangerous at times. Velveteen Dream stole the match through charisma, whilst the monsters in Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan showed exactly why “big men” can be so effective in high spot matches like this.

But it was Adam Cole who stood tall above the rest and unhooked the title for the victory. It continues to amaze me how much story Cole can tell just through his facial expressions, but there were multiple moments in this match where he showed why he’s one of NXT’s best and most loved.

The one down side to kicking the show off with a match of such quality was that it burnt the crowd out pretty quickly, causing the next two matches to suffer from a post-5 star match lull in heat.

Ember Moon defending her title against Shayna Baszler was up next, and despite being given the death spot, the two women managed to work a very engaging and effective story throughout the match. Focussing on Ember working over Baszler’s arm as punishment for the reversed roles during the build to this match, but with Shayna finding ways to stay in the match before eventually trapping Ember in a really nice reversal that sealed the win via submission.

Hopefully Ember will be given the call up to the main roster, but given the lack of focus on her post-match I’m starting to have my doubts. Perhaps a third TakeOver match between the pair could be on the cards, whilst Triple H waits and sees who Vince steals from his roster before focussing on the inevitable rebuild of the women’s division in NXT.

The Tag Team Championship Triple Threat match went next, and despite being brutalised during the ladder match earlier in the night Adam Cole was out again to pull double duty. Fortunately he didn’t have to do very much at all, being taken out early on by a double power bomb through the announce table and not reappearing until after the finish.

Speaking of the finish, it was perhaps the one that the least people saw coming throughout the night. Just as it appeared as though Dunne and Roderick Strong had the match won, Roddy turned on Dunne and handed the win to the Undispited Era, joining Adam Cole’s faction in the process.

It was one of those sights that will be hard to forget and was an incredibly interesting moment that should set us up for an exciting storyline to build through the next TakeOver event. Roddy hasn’t really made the cut as a white meat baby face, so to see him aligned with the UE should do wonders for his career.

In an equally surprising moment, the NXT Championship match was announced as being next up, meaning that the unsanctioned match between Gargano and Ciampa was going to main event the show. Unusual, particularly with the unsanctioned match by nature not being a WWE product, but a welcome change.

Black and Almas put on a really strong showing, not as good as Almas’ match with Gargano at the last TakeOver show, but really enthralling never the less. There were moments in this match where it seemed as though Almas had the match won, but to the surprise of virtually no one is was Black who overcame the odds of Vega being ringside and fought his way to victory and the NXT championship.

It will be interesting to see who Black faces at the next TakeOver, given the quality of match these two put on I would be happy to see them go at it again, but something tells me that Almas may not be destined for NXT much longer.

Finally we had what was undoubtedly the match of the night. As I mentioned earlier the 6-man ladder match may have had the best in-ring action, but this match came in at a close second and it doubled down on the instant classic nature by having one of the best stories within a match that I have ever seen. The blood feud between Gargano and Ciampa was played off brilliantly here, with both men fighting like they wanted to kill the other (Quite literally in the final moments). This match had emotion, action, tension and everything else you could possibly want from a wrestling match. I cannot stress to you enough how brilliantly this match was booked, and there were enough nearfalls to give Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker a run for their money. This match was gold and I hope that Vince McMahon sees what a special pair of people he has at his disposal here.

NXT TakeOver New Orleans was without a doubt the best TakeOver yet, but I dare say that it’s probably one of the best WWE shows of all time, regardless of time period or size. If you’re a fan of wrestling, even if you don’t enjoy WWE, then do yourself a favour and watch this show… you won’t regret it.

NXT News Round-Up

Well it was quite the episode of NXT for breaking news!

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After first appearing at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia former Impact Wrestling star EC3 made his official debut down at WWE’s developmental brand, NXT.

Coming across like an absolute star EC3 came down to the ring (With some outstanding theme music) following the announcement of a new championship at NXT, the NXT North American Championship. The first champion will be crowned at the upcoming NXT Takeover: New Orleans in a 6-man ladder match that will feature EC3Lars SullivanKillian DainVelveteen DreamAdam Cole and the second man to make his hotly anticipated debut on this week’s episode, Ricochet. 

The third significant announcement to come out of this week’s episode of NXT was the confirmation that Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano will go head to head at NXT Takeover: New Orleans in an Unsanctioned Match, with the stipulation that if Gargano wins he gets his job back at NXT, but if Ciampa wins Gargano is gone for good.

NXT is certainly firing on all cylinders as we head into Wrestlemania weekend, and it’s incredibly likely that NXT Takeover: New Orleans might just end up stealing the show of the entire week.

WWE: Debunking the dual branded PPV rumour

A recent post by WrestleVotes on Twitter has stated that starting with the Backlash PPV, all WWE PPV’s will once again be dual branded. This information is not correct, and here’s why…

The tweet by WrestleVotes (Who previously broke the news that Neville had quit last year) states that Raw and Smackdown will have matches on every PPV going forward after Backlash and that the move is a result of “so-so ticket sales” and “repetitive matches”. The report was backed up by Brad Shepard of bodyslam.net who cited a picture sent in by a ticket holder for Backlash which states that the show will feature superstars from both Raw and Smackdown.

This is where the debunking can begin though. Last year the PPV following Wrestlemania 33 was WWE Payback and was billed as a Raw brand event. However, as a result of the Draft following Wrestlemania, the PPV ended up featuring superstars from both brands. With Kevin Owens (SD) facing Chris Jericho (Raw), and the infamous House of Horrors match between Bray Wyatt (Raw) and Randy Orton (Smackdown).

The same is happening this year, whereby a draft will take place following Wrestlemania and superstars from both brands will be required on the show in order to culminate feuds between superstars who are parting ways. This will not extend beyond WWE Backlash, and WWE Payback emanating from Baltimore, Maryland on May 27th shall be a Smackdown only event.

This will be an evolving story as we draw closer to Wrestlemania and beyond, but as of right now we can categorically say that the current reports are untrue and that whilst the issues with the product/sales highlighted by WrestleVotes are true, it is not resulting in dual branded PPVs.

Predicting the Wrestlemania 34 Card

It’s the Once in a Lifetime, Ultimate thrill-ride that’s All Grown Up and Going to Hollywood… it’s Wrestlemania!

Bad tag-lines aside Wrestlemania remains to this day the most anticipated event in the wrestling calendar. Bringing in thousands of people from across the globe for a weekend full of wrestling, both mainstream and Indy. Even if the show itself fails to live up to the hype, it’s still almost always a weekend to remember.

So as we look forward to Wrestlemania 34, emanating from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, we’ve decided to take a crack at predicting the lineup for what is likely to be a 7 hour extravaganza.

Before I begin though I want to let you in on a little behind the curtains thinking. As I was putting together the likely card for this year’s event, I reached the 12 matches total mark and realised that I still hadn’t jotted down the Raw Tag Titles being defended, a US title defence or a match for Kurt Angle. I know that Wrestlemania (Including the pre-show) is 7 hours long, but I genuinely don’t know where WWE are going to find the time to pay off everything that they’re setting up. Very few of the matches I had written down were ones which you could just cancel, postpone or have take place earlier.

But that won’t stop us! Let’s just assume that the first 3 matches are once again on the pre-show and that some of these matches run short and WWE manage to fit everything in.

Match 1: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

I hate to put this match on the pre-show, but we all know which women the WWE are going to want to be focussing on by the time Wrestlemania rolls around. The seeds have been set for this match for seemingly years now, but the only real evidence that it might happen came at the Royal Rumble and this past week’s episode of Raw where Bayley defiantly claimed she could beat her best friend.

We know the two can put on a great match, as showcased by their time in NXT together, but due to being on the pre-show and due to this card likely being overflowing with matches, I doubt that they get anywhere near their NXT Brooklyn classic.

Match 2: Cruiserweight Championship – Cedric Alexander vs. Drake Maverick

This Cruiserweight Championship tournament is the WWE’s chance to turn the division around. They’ve already started with the introduction of Drake Maverick (The former Rockstar Spud), and with the tournament already showcasing some high quality wrestling I would be surprised if this wasn’t the final match.

Expect some shenanigans from Maverick through which he places himself into the tournament at a late stage and goes on to face Cedric in the finals at Wrestlemania (‘s pre-show).

Match 3: Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Not much needs to be said about this match. It could be used to good effect, but it won’t be. Unfortunately I also expect to see the US champion take part in this match, whomever that may be by the time Wrestlemania rolls around, as well as the Raw Tag Team champions.

Match 4: Intercontinental Championship – The Miz (C) w/ The Miztourage vs. Finn Balor w/ The Balor Club

We kick off the main show with The Miz defending his Intercontinental Championship against the first ever Universal Champion, Finn Balor. Now usually I would cry that Finn is being drastically underused by the WWE, but it wouldn’t make any sense for him to be in a main event level feud now, given his year so far, so I think a mid card title match with the best heel in the company is a good shout.

With that being said, the fact that The Miz’s new reality TV series starts filming just prior to Mania, and the fact that his daughter is due to be born the day before doesn’t bode well for Balor’s chances of walking out with the strap.

Match 5: Seth Rollins vs. Jason Jordan

This match feels like a pretty safe bet if Jason Jordan is fit to wrestle come Mania. If he isn’t then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him replaced with 1. Dean Ambrose (Again assuming that he is ready to go) or 2. Samoa Joe. All 3 matches would be very good and suitable for the Mania card, but it’s the Jason Jordan match I want to see the most.

Jordan’s character has been perfect for a number of months now and his work has been more than good enough to earn a match against one of the top guys on the biggest card of the year.

Match 6: Smackdown Tag Team Championships – The USO’s (C) vs. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

Most people expect Sami and Kevin to break up and face each other at Wrestlemania, I do not. WWE just did that angle with Kevin Owens last year when he went up against Chris Jericho, and doing the same storyline two years in a row is just a bit too much. More than that though I think there is still life in the pairing of Sami and Kevin. If they survive the triple threat at Fastlane then there is no reason to break them up.

The Smackdown tag division needs life breathing into it, and the introduction of Sami and Kevin as a pair going after the gold would not only make for golden television, but it would also likely make for a great match.

Match 7: John Cena vs. Elias

I do not think that Cena will be facing The Undertaker this year. I do believe that Taker is done for good and that if anything was going to happen with Cena it would have been set up at Raw 25 or at the very least the Royal Rumble. Any match that Cena takes part in that isn’t with either Elias or Finn Balor now feels forced, and with Finn already having his match against The Miz brewing away Elias is the only option left.

I don’t hate the match, but I don’t love it either. This will be John Cena vs. Rusev/Wyatt all over again.

Match 8: Smackdown Women’s Championship – Charlotte (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Ruby Riott

If reports are correct and Ronda doesn’t end up being in a title match at Mania then 1. The WWE are stupid and 2. They will have no idea what to do with Charlotte. There is no natural rivalry there for Charlotte to transition into, and as much as I would love to see Becky vs Charlotte in a singles match, I fully expect WWE to shove as many women in here for a pay day as possible.

Also expect a Carmella cash-in after the match.

Match 9: WWE Championship – AJ Styles (C) vs. Nakamura

It pains me to put this match in any position other than the main event, but this is the WWE we’re on about and Roman is headlining this show. Expect these two to put an absolute classic match. Enough said.

Match 10: Raw Women’s Championship – Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Asuka

Although it’s possible that Alexa won’t be holding the title by the time Wrestlemania comes around, I don’t think that will be the case. Her character is too good for her not to be brought down a peg or two on the Grandest Stage of them all. Having her lose in the Chamber, whilst perhaps allowing for a better wrestling match to take place at Mania between either Sasha or Bayley vs. Asuka is possible, it would be foolish.

Expect Alexa to keep hold of the title by nefarious means and for Asuka to win the belt at Mania.

Match 11: Braun and Ronda Rousey vs. HHH and Stephanie McMahon

I do not like this match. I do not like this match at all. Braun should be facing HHH in a singles match, but if WWE feel the need to put Ronda in this spotlight against HHH then the big monster makes the most sense to be her partner. Sure it gets Braun a “big fight feel” match, but he could have had that on his own. Let’s just hope that we actually get to see Ronda lay the Smackdown on Stephanie to make this all worth it.

Match 12: Universal Championship – Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns

The Spear vs. The F5. The Beast vs. The Big Dog. The man who ended the Streak vs. The man who ended The Undertaker.

It’s obvious why the WWE have spent a year building this match, the marketing speaks for itself. That doesn’t mean it’s going to appease the fans though. Giving us AJ vs Nakamura was almost certainly done to try and take some of the negativity away from Roman and Brock, and if I had to put money on it I will wager that it will do that to a lesser extent.

Roman no longer gets booed the way that he used to, and if we’re being honest he doesn’t deserve to be booed that much anymore. That, however, doesn’t make it any less annoying that he’s main eventing Wrestlemania for what feels like the 8th time in what is only his first decade in the big leagues.

We know that the two can put on a great match, but there’s no Seth Rollins there to save us this time, so let’s just hope that all involved have something up their sleeves to not let Wrestlemania 34 end on a sour note.