NXT TAKEOVER PHILADELPHIA
BOBBY FISH and KYLE O’REILLY vs. THE AUTHORS OF PAIN: This seemed like an odd choice for the opener, but was really good. It was also a chance to see a different side of the Authors Of Pain, between Rezar’s MMA exchange with O’Reilly and Akam selling his knee for much of the match. If there were any lingering doubts about the AOP, I think at this point they might be gone. If they do go up to the main roster in the next few months, I think they’ll be just fine. The combination of Fish and O’Reilly’s knee work and their willingness to just get nailed by the AOP made for a great, reverse psychology bigmen/littlemen match. Finish was pretty clever too. Really good stuff.
KASSIUS OHNO vs. VELVETEEN DREAM: Dream made the absolute most of this somewhat thrown together match and it took one promo and one entrance to establish the story. This lost a bit of steam after the hot story start and a couple of things went awry towards the end, but this was still fine, just a bit disappointing. It probably didn’t help that the crowd were more into Dream than Ohno, given how the match was laid out. Still high on the Dream.
EMBER MOON vs. SHAYNA BASZLER: This was very story heavy, with the focus on an Ember arm injury caused by a nasty looking stomp to the elbow. Baszler clearly needs work still. She looks way better on offence than she does on defence at the moment. The armbar stuff might have went on too long at the end of this and maybe they went to this match a bit too soon. I’d expect Baszler to bounce back character-wise between now and next Takeover though.
ALEISTER BLACK vs. ADAM COLE: WWE are so consistent with their presentation, when you see a random production cart by the announce table that’s never usually there, you know something’s up. This was fine for what it was, but didn’t do a tremendous amount for me. Felt like one of those no DQ matches where they had their big weapon spots planned and everything in between was simply them spending a long time teasing and telegraphing those spots. Like a magician who spends more time waving his hands around showing off what he’s going to do than actual doing the magic trick. It was a good match, but it just felt a little more dragged out than it perhaps was.
ANDRADE “CIEN” ALMAS vs. JOHNNY GARGANO: Obviously, as you’ve heard by now, this was awesome. Hopefully, Johnny sticks around on NXT long enough to actually win the title, because at this point calling him up without that would be disappointing to me, even if it means he’s on NXT for the foreseeable future. The Ciampa feud will have to be taken care of first and I’m guessing we might get a couple of champions before any run for Johnny can happen, but that’s okay by me.
NXT JANUARY 31ST 2018
Nikki Cross vs. Lacey Evans
This came about after Evans insulted a number of the NXT women, including Nikki, a couple of weeks ago. This was reasonably quick. Evans had a bit of a control period in the middle of the match, but this ended up being a fairly routine win for Cross by the end of it, with the swinging fisherman’s. The crowd were into Nikki at least.
AOP versus Undisputed Era recap.
Ember versus Baszler recap. Shayna was interviewed backstage afterwards. She claimed Ember didn’t beat her, she barely survived and told Charly to find Ember to see which one of them was acting like a winner. Ember’s participation in the Royal Rumble was also, briefly, covered.
Black and Cole was covered next. O’Reilly and Fish were shown helping Cole to the back post match, with Fish and O’Reily complaining that they had the match where they wanted it and Cole saying Sanity would pay.
Recap of Dream and Ohno. Dream was interviewed, with Charly pointing out he didn’t win in 30 seconds and asking if he underestimated Ohno. Dream told Charly to read his trunks, which said Dream Over.
TM61 vs. The Ealy Brothers
The Ealys made another of their sporadic appearances here, while this was TM61’s return match. You can tell The Ealys look a bit more comfortable each time out. Given where they started at, they’ve progressed a lot in terms of presence. Still a ways to go, but they look far more TV ready now. They busted out some twin magic to get the brief advantage, but this was mostly a showcase for Thorne and Miller on their return. They got the win with Thunder Valley, aka that move Harper and Rowan started using when they came back. I guess that’s not an issue for now. TM61 got a decent reception, which is encouraging.
Weird moment here, as they started talking about the NXT Year End awards and cut away, to go to an in-progress interview with TM61. This came off like Thorne messed up his half of the promo and they just decided to show Miller’s part. Otherwise, I’m not sure why they aired it this way. Very strange. Nothing of note was really said either.
Gargano and Almas was recapped. After the post match Ciampa attack, they showed Ciampa leaving the building, ignoring the attempts to ask him questions on the way by Charly and random media types. Almas’s run in the Rumble was covered, before Almas and Zelina were interviewed by Cathy. Zelina said this wouldn’t have happened to the old Andrade and Almas said it was only the beginning. They also mocked Gargano for not being there and having to watch on TV before they left.
They acknowledged EC3’s appearance in the crowd and it was referenced that he’d been in NXT before, without going into specifics.
Adam Cole’s appearance in the Rumble was also shown.
UK Championship #1 Contendership
Roderick Strong vs. Tyler Bate
Really good match, as you’d expect. This seemed like a bit of a thrown together contendership match, ala Dunne and Gargano, but evidently not, as Roddy actually picked up the win to set up a match with Pete. They were playing up the idea of Roddy potentially being the first American to win the UK Championship, but it was still a surprise that he actually won. Strong would weaken the back throughout the match, leading to Bate being unable to hit the Tyler Driver at the end. Strong would then run through Bate and finish him off with a great looking End Of Heartache. Although they did pick this up at the end, this was pretty consistently paced throughout and certainly didn’t feel like it needed time to get going. Good stuff. In retrospect, doing a fourth Bate/Dunne match so soon probably wouldn’t have made much sense, so Roddy and Dunne it is. He was in Super Strong Style 16 once, it’s fine.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Strong and Bate is worth the watch.
NXT WEEK: Looks like a Sanity versus Undisputed Era show, as Fish and O’Reilly defend the Tag Team Titles against Young and Wolfe, while Cole faces Dain.