Saturday, 27 January 2018

WWE NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia Preview

On 27th January 2018, NXT are taking over Philadelphia as they take their show live to the Wells Fargo Center (it still feels wrong to not type 'centre', darn Yanks). As NXT looks to cement its position as not just the developmental brand but more the show that the Royal Rumble has to try, and possibly struggle, to follow. If you're planning to watch live, why not jump onto the Network or YouTube at 7pm (Midnight on the 28th here in Blighty), for the pre-show and find out what the all-star panel of Renee Young, Corey Graves, Charly Caruso, Samoa Joe &, sigh, Sam Roberts think of the evening ahead. Till then, let's enjoy the sounds of our official TakeOver house band, Asking Alexandria.

Kassius Ohno vs Velveteen Dream

At once point, this match was set to be a first round match in the NXT Championship Number One Contender's tournament but Velveteen Dream was so shook by Aleister Black actually saying his name, he couldn't make it to the match. In reality, he had a minor injury but was back in time for the set of January taping. There's not much in the way of story here as it was a match made after this week's NXT went off the air but there's always something at stake as both men have recently had intense battles with current number one contender Johnny Gargano so regardless of the outcome of the main event, you can't help but feel this might have implications in their contendership status. Both of these men have a strong grounding in amateur wrestling but much like Dream's match with Aleister Black, expect this one to quickly go to blows. As to who's going to win, it's hard to call as both men could do with a win but considering Ohno's player-coach role, don't be surprised if Dream walks out with the win. Slightly more contentious prediction, considering Ohno's been losing a lot, he's also been getting more salty about it and people seem to love Dream, a double turn might not be a ridiculous outcome.

NXT Tag Team Championship: Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) (c) vs Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar)

Back at TakeOver: Brooklyn III, SaNItY became the first team to pin the, at the time undefeated, NXT Tag-Team champions Authors of Pain. After that match, they were attacked by Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish, better known on the indies as the team ReDragon but later when they teamed with Adam Cole, now known as The Undisputed Era. Since then, all three teams have battled in various combinations, including all three being in War Games, but as a dramatic capper to 2017, The Era became the NXT Tag Team champions. Now with the SaNItY members 'injured' (maybe really injured, I don't know), Authors of Pain defeated Street Profits to earn the right to try and claim back the titles that made them. From matches the champs have had previously vs Chosen Bros & Death by Elbow for PWG and War Machine for AAW, expect this to be a classic Davids and Goliaths affair with O'Reilly and Fish trying to use their superior grappling acumen (see - Sleeper Holds and Octopus Stretches) to try and knock the bigger men down to size, also, they'll probably kick at the legs and Mauro will say something about 'chopping down tree trunks' and he'll make a clever, timely reference. Who wins: well you have to think that The Undisputed Era is clearly the hot-ticket item at the moment so I can't see them losing the titles after one defence. With SaNItY not on the card currently, don't be too surprised if they get involved in this one.

NXT Women's Championship: Ember Moon (c) vs Shayna Baszler

On 27th December, Ember Moon had her first successful title defence against Sonya Deville, after the match, Kairi Sane would come to the stage indicating her intention to challenge for the title but the woman who she defeated in the last round of the Mae Young Classic, Shayna Baszler, would come out onto the stage and choke her out, then doing the same to Aliyah and Dakota Kai to make her point clear, she wants Ember and more importantly, her title. The interesting element going into this match is that if we just consider what we've seen of Baszler in the WWE, she can brutalise smaller opponents and she is certainly taller than Moon but when it came to her biggest match, she couldn't get the job done. This could be Moon's key to victory as she has worked longer matches and is used to them so might have the stamina advantage, yet Baszler is presented as a force of nature. Expect this to come down to two factors: Ember's Eclipse top-rope twisting stunner and Shayna's Kirufuda Clutch rear naked choke. The smart money here tells me that Moon might be about to lose her title because it's easier to turn a top rope move into a rear submission and Moon, having plied her trade for a while in NXT, could be a strong contender in the Women's Rumble the following evening but at the same time, it took so long for Moon to get to the title, don't expect her to be giving it up easily.

Extreme Rules Match: Aleister Black vs Adam Cole

Another match that has its beginnings in the Number One Contender's tournament as in the first round, Black defeated Cole but in the final, Cole and his cronies attacked Black, causing him to not only lose but also ending his undefeated streak. On the first NXT of this year, Black and Roderick Strong were also involved in a losing effort at obtaining the NXT Tag-Team titles after Black became too involved in trying to hunt down and murder Cole, leading him to be given the three-on-one treatment post-match with weapons and whatnot. This forced William Regal to come out and declare this rematch to happen and because it's Philidelphia so there had to be a faintly hardcore match on the card, it was made Extreme Rules. Trying to call the outcome here entirely depends on its position on the card (the order of matches in this preview is based on the order of the NXT website), if it's a pure one-on-one encounter, you have to think if Black did it once, he can do it again but if this match occurs before the tag titles, with a fresh trio of assailants and no lousy rules forcing them to not all be constantly in the ring, this might just become a handicap encounter for the former Tommy End. That said, I see Black winning this one, setting him up for a title match at TakeOver: New Orleans either against Gargano, the man that finished his streak or Almas, the man he faced in his first NXT match back at TakeOver: Orlando. Also, not hard to predict, expect a lot of kicks and probably a fair few ref bumps.

NXT Championship: Andrade Almas (c) vs Johnny Gargano

For the last time tonight, cast your mind back to TakeOver:Brooklyn III. Almas and Gargano had a match that was made practically at the last minute, one that seemed like it was saying 'we have nothing for these two, let's just give them each other, fill out the card', so they went out and had the match of the damn night. A match so good, soon after they had to have the rematch on NXT and it was still great but Almas won both of those. In fact, cast your mind back further to TakeOver: Chicago where Gargano watched Authors of Pain walk away with the tag titles they took from him and Tommaso Ciampa, since then, bar a Tino Sabbatelli here and a Riddick Moss there, Gargano didn't really win anything till a first-round match in the Number One Contender's Tournament where he beat Kassius Ohno before going on to win the final and defend his Number One Contender's status against Velveteen Dream, so the question is, has Johnny's luck turned around enough for him to beat the man who's beaten him twice? In any other encounter, I'd say this all comes down to how well Gargano can deal with not only Almas but also his manager Zelina Vega but then, Gargano's wife and MYC competitor, Candice LeRae, just signed with the company, predicting a surprise even-ing of the odds by the Toughest Cupcake. Yet there is another consideration with Gargano and that is the potential involvement of his former tag partner, Ciampa. Part of me thinks that Almas should win this because so much of the story here is about Gargano, he's a babyface performer who has the audience right where he wants them and frankly if Ciampa returns, setting up a match between those two has stakes such that it doesn't require a title to sell it and Almas has been working really hard to make it to where he is, putting on one of the best matches of every card he's on, surely he deserves a more impressive run for all the work he's done? Whatever happens, this is unlikely to be a clean finish with so many additional moving pieces but if the two men in the ring can re-capture the magic of their first two encounters, this could be one of the best NXT Title matches. Yes, even better than Bo Dallas vs Leo Kruger.

Any Other Predictions...

First off, the hottest free agent/s in the crowd segment, it could be Trevor 'Ricochet' Mann, it could be Christopher Dijak, it could be War Machine, for once, it's actually hard to call but it's almost certainly one or two of those four at least. Another potential surprise, there were two other men in the Number One Contender's match: Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain, neither of them are on the card currently. While TakeOvers tend to be five-match affairs these days, they could throw in an extra match with little difficulty. As always, I ask if we can have another UK title match on the card, I know that there's a number one contender's match planned for the post-TakeOver NXT but I need my Bruiserweight fix goddamnit. Finally, a prediction that might come true, probably going to be another superb show. See you on the other side, Yellow rope fans.

Article By Jozef Raczka (@NotJoeRaczka)

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