The first NXT Takeover event of 2018 is happening one night before the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia with all three NXT Championships on the line.
During the Kickoff Show, they handed out the 2017 NXT Awards as voted by the fans. Here are the results that you can also see on WWE.com:
Overall Competitor of the Year – Asuka
Rivalry of the Year – Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
Male Competitor of the Year – Aleister Black
Breakout Star of the Year – Aleister Black
Female Competitor of the Year – Asuka
Match of the Year – Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne – WWE United Kingdom Championship Match at NXT TakeOver: Chicago
Tag Team of the Year – SAnitY
Future Star of NXT – Cezar Bononi
TakeOver of the Year – NXT TakeOver: WarGames
It's time for the show.
NXT Takeover Philadelphia
From Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 27, 2018
The voiceover for the opening video package featured Paul Heyman talking because they are in the extreme city of Philadelphia. It ended with Heyman saying “we are NXT.” Any time you can get Heyman to do more stuff it’s a good idea.
The announce team is Mauro Ranallo and Percy Watson with no Nigel McGuiness because he’s sick.
The Authors of Pain made their entrance with Paul Ellering.
Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish of the Undisputed Era made their entrance as the NXT Tag Team Champions.
The Authors of Pain attacked the Undisputed Era before the bell, so the champs bailed to the floor and the ref calmed things down. The ref called for the bell.
NXT Tag Team Championships: The Undisputed Era – Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish vs. The Authors of Pain – Akam & Rezar (w/Paul Ellering)
There was some good mat wrestling from O’Reilly early on, but when Rezar got to his feet, O’Reilly bailed to the floor. Akam tagged in, took care of Fish easily and a running shoulder tackle for O’Reilly, who had tagged into the match. When the champs were on the floor, AOP took them out with running shoulder tackles. Akam and Rezar worked over O’Reilly with punches. Fish escaped one AOP guy and the other was there to send him face first onto the barricade. Akam did a move a move off the turnbuckle and he favored his left leg. When Akam was on the apron, Fish kicked the leg and Akam was in a lot of pain, so you could tell it was just a work. Fish tackled Rezar and they went crashing out of the ring. The champs made some quick tags to work on the left leg of Akam. When Akam tried to break free, the champs went back to the left knee of Akam with Fish hitting a splash to the knee. O’Reilly prevented Akam from tagging out by slapping on a leg submission. Fish tagged in with a senton splash onto Akam for a two count. The crowd wasn’t into it much since the heels were in control so much. Fish trash talked Rezar, so Akam hit a back body drop and Rezar tagged in.
Rezar with kicks for both guys and a huge spinebuster to O’Reilly as the crowd came alive. Rezar picked up O’Reilly, Fish was on the back and Rezar hit a fallaway slam/back drop for a two count on O’Reilly. When Rezar went for a power move, Rezar flipped O’Reilly off him. Knee to the shoulder of O’Reilly slowed down Rezar. The champs nailed Rezar with strikes and Fish nailed an Exploder Suplex on Rezar for a two count. That was impressive. Rezar nailed a kick to the face of Fish and a hard clothesline on O’Reilly. Akam tagged in, Fish blocked a double team move and O’Reilly slapped on a leg bar submission on Akam’s weak left knee. Rezar dumped Fish off his back onto O’Reilly to break the submission hold. All four guys are down. Some fans chanted “AOP” while others chanted “Undisputed” for the first dueling chants of the show. O’Reilly kicked Akam’s left leg, kick to the face, but Akam caught him and hit a capture overhead suplex. Punch to the face of Fish to knock him off the apron. Akam with a Buckle Bomb to O’Reilly followed by knees to the face. Rezar back in with a kick to Fish. AOP went for the Super Collider double Powerbomb move, but O’Reilly hit a hurricanrana to get out of it (Rezar did Powerbomb Fish), Akam went into Rezar and O’Reilly did the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! to win the match for the Undisputed Era after 15 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish
Analysis: ***1/2 Good match with the story focusing on Akam’s left knee injury. The way he sold it early made it look like he may have been legit hurt, but it was obviously part of the story of the match and that’s what the heel champs took advantage of. I liked the comeback from AOP when it looked like they were out of it. The finish was okay and I don’t mind the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! in this case because the champs retaining by hitting a quick move protects the Authors of Pain from losing to a bigger move. Plus, there's the story of Akam having the leg injury and not having the power to kick out. It was a smart choice for an opening match.
A commercial aired for the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
The duo of Hanson and Ray Rowe were shown on camera. The graphic said “War Machine” so maybe they are keeping their name from the ROH days.
There was a shot of Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega in the locker room talking strategy.
A clip aired of Velveteen Dream saying earlier in the night he’ll win in 30 seconds or less.
Velveteen Dream made his entrance. He had a man and a woman at ringside waiting for him with a special mouthpiece for the match. Good reaction for him.
Kassius Ohno entered to a good reaction. There’s a great video on WWE’s Youtube channel talking about his career.
Analysis: There’s not much of a story for this match, but the crowd likes both guys.
Velveteen Dream vs. Kassius Ohno
The crowd chanted the seconds of the match as Dream nailed punches including a hard punch to the face. Dream told the ref to count him out. Dream celebrated because it was the first 30 seconds of the match. Ohno got back up with a forearm to the face. Ohno nailed a hard kick that knocked Dream out of the ring. Back in the ring, Dream nailed a spinebuster with the fans chanting “Velveteen” for him. Dream with a vertical suplex. Velveteen slapped on an arm submission followed by a chinlock as the fans chanted for both guys. Dream worked over Ohno in the corner and yelled “dream over” at him. Fans chanted “say his name” in support of Dream, who nailed Ohno with kicks to the face and a double axehandle off the top got a two count. Ohno did a spinning suplex to create some space and both guys were down. They exchanged strikes with Ohno nailing some stiff forearms, chop, boot, running elbow, boot to the face and a running senton splash. Ohno with a spinning cyclone kick for a two count. Ohno had a superkick blocked and then another superkick connected. Dream nailed a stiff DDT that didn’t look good for Ohno and it got a two count. Dream up top, he jumped off, Ohno kicked him and Dream went for a Samoan Drop like move, but it didn’t look good. Ohno nailed a spinning elbow smash to the face for a two count as Dream barely kicked out. Fans chanted “Velveteen” again. Dream avoided a forearm and hit a rolling Death Valley Driver. I think that’s what he was going for before. Dream went to the ring post and hit a Rainmaker flying elbow smash for the pinfall win. It went 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Velveteen Dream
Analysis: **3/4 The match was okay, but it’s hard to ignore some of the sloppy moments in there. I don’t know who you want to blame for it. I think Ohno was at fault at one point. They got through it, though. Having Dream win the match was the right call since he’s the younger guy that has a bright future. The finish was good with the rolling DVD and then the elbow drop off the post.
The crowd cheered for Dream for his win.
Analysis: Out of anybody on the NXT roster, Velveteen Dream may have the best potential to be a main eventer on the main roster. He's a young dude in his early 20s, so there's plenty of time. He is money and he’s already winning the crowd over.
There was a shot of TV personality Maria Menounos at ringside. Ranallo said Maria will be the ring announcer for the women’s Royal Rumble on Sunday.
There was a shot of Johnny Gargano in the locker room with some of his family including his wife Candice LeRae in there with him.
The NXT Women’s Championship match between Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler is up next and they ran a video package to set it up. The video is about Shayna being a bully to the other women. Baszler is new to NXT, but she got a title shot early in her run.
Shayna Baszler made her entrance first to not much of a reaction. There was a UFC style entrance for Baszler since they showed her walking from the locker room. Ember Moon was cheered. They stood in the ring as the in-ring intros took place since it’s a championship match.
Analysis: The funny thing about the intro is when they said “Dallas, Texas” for Moon, the fans booed and then chanted “Dallas sucks.” That’s a NFL thing because Eagles fans hate the Cowboys. Good job Philly.
NXT Women’s Championship: Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler
Moon nailed Baszler with several kicks early on, so Baszler bailed to the floor. Moon nailed a suicide dive to take out Baszler. Back in the ring, Baszler blocked a move, Baszler with knee to the face and a hard kick to the head got a two count. Baszler stepped on the left elbow of Moon and Moon was selling it like she was really hurt. That’s a spot that Baszler did to injure Dakota Kai. Baszler worked on the arm with a knee drop. Baszler kicked the back of Moon followed by another armbar. Baszler bent back the hand of Moon. Elbow to the back by Baszler, a kick and she stretched the arm of Moon against the ropes. Moon nailed Baszler with two slaps, a kick, forearm and a springboard cross body block for a two count while Moon was still selling her left arm injury. Clothesline by Moon against the turnbuckle. Moon went up top, she hit the Eclipse (top rope Stunner) and Moon was writing in pain selling the left arm injury. Baszler was out in the ring, but Moon was to hurt to cover. The ref called for medical personnel to check on Moon as the crowd booed and chanted “bullshit.” Those guys are probably indy wrestlers since they don’t even know how to check on the arm. After about two minutes, Baszler slapped on an armbar on the left arm. Moon got her feet on the ropes to break the hold. Baszler slapped on the armbar on the left arm again this time in the middle of the ring. Baszler put more pressure on the hold and pulled Moon away from the ropes. The fans were cheering on Moon, who flipped over to get close to the ropes. With Baszler holding onto the arm, Moon covered her and held on long enough to win the match to retain her title. It went about ten minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Ember Moon
Analysis: *** It was a solid match built around the story of Baszler working on the left arm of Moon for the majority of the match. The spot with Moon hitting the Eclipse and then selling for a couple minutes made me think that Baszler was going to win the title. Instead, Moon was able to come back again by countering the armbar into a pin. I thought it was clever for a finish because of all the drama surrounding the armbar and if Moon was going to tap. You don't see that very often in WWE where a submission is on for that long. It's a cool way to end a match.
After the match was over, Baszler slapped on a choke hold. Referees tried to pull her off. Baszler jumped back on her and slapped on the choke again. Baszler finally left. Moon did a good job of selling and writhing in pain.
Analysis: I thought Baszler would win the title here, but it didn’t happen. It might be at the next tapings. I just feel like it’s going to be soon because they can build around Baszler as a heel champ.
A commercial aired for Mixed Match Challenge. I forgot to review last week’s match after doing the first match. I’ll get to it at some point.
There was a shot of Trevor “Ricochet” Mann at ringside. Huge ovation for him. I’m interested to see if they have him keep the Ricochet name or go with something else. Just because they showed it here doesn’t mean they will when he starts wrestling in NXT.
A video package aired to set up Cole vs. Black in an Extreme Rules Match.
Aleister Black made his entrance, which is one of the coolest in all of WWE. His theme song is cool too. Fits his character perfectly.
Adam Cole entered on his own wearing an Undisputed Era shirt. When Cole entered, he did his “Adam Cole bay-bay” (or baby) pose in the ring and the crowd chanted it with him.
Extreme Rules: Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black
No countout or disqualification in this match. It’s Extreme Rules where anything goes.
The crowd was loud right from the beginning. Cole bailed to the floor and grabbed a steel chair from under the ring. Black just sat in the ring. Black avoided the chair, kick to the gut, the chair was picked up by Black and Cole left the ring. Black sat on the chair in the ring. They brawled outside the ring with Black hitting a forearm. Cole threw some chairs in the ring as well as a trash can. Cole sent Black stomach first into the barricade. Each man grabbed a kendo stick as they battled in the ring. Black threw his kendo stick out of the ring. Cole called him stupid, Black avoided the stick and hit a forearm. Black went for a moonsault off the ropes, but Cole nailed him with a kendo stick to the ribs. Cole nailed Black with a kendo stick to the back. Cole nailed a backstabber using the kendo stick for an assist, which got a two count. The fans chanted for a table, so Cole grabbed a table from under the ring and set it up outside the ring. Cole teased a suplex through the table, but Black fought back and Black slammed Cole onto a garbage can although Cole barely grazed it. Black with a running knee strike. Cole was bleeding, so the ref put the white gloves on. Black grabbed a table from under the ring and set it up beside the other table on the floor. Black also brought a ladder from under the ring, so Cole dropkicked the ladder into Black. The ladder was set up against the turnbuckle. Cole nailed a step up enziguri kick to the head. Cole was bleeding by the right hand. Black put Cole on his shoulders and sent him back/butt first onto the ladder. That was a rough landing for Cole. Black was selling after the move, so there was a delayed two count for him.
Cole hit Black in the ribs with a steel chair. Cole went for a running kick, Black avoided it and nailed a double foot stomp to Cole’s stomach. Black put Cole’s head against a seated chair, but Cole got back, threw the chair at Black and nailed a superkick that sent Black crashing through the two tables on the floor. Fans chanted “holy shit” for that as they should have because it was such a great spot. Cole got back into the ring and got a two count. Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. Cole set up two seated chairs beside eachother. Cole changed his mind and put the chairs back to back. Black recovered with a fireman’s carry into a slam onto the top of the two chairs. That looked nasty. Cole grabbed a chair to help himself get back up, but Black nailed a running knee into the chair. Black covered for the win, but O’Reilly and Fish of the Undisputed Era pulled Black out of the ring to break up the pin. O’Reilly and Fish nailed the Total Elimination on Black on the floor. O’Reilly and Fish wanted to put Black through the table, but Sanity members Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe showed up to brawl with them. Killian Dain of Sanity nailed a suicide dive to take out his Sanity partners as well as O’Reilly and Fish. Fans chanted “Sanity.” Cole tried to put Black through the table, but Black fought out of it. Black jumped off some sort of equipment with double knees through the table! Wow. That was pretty cool. The table broke. I was wondering why that box was there and it’s not a surprise that they used it for the match. They went back in the ring with Cole nailing a superkick while Black was trying to get back into the ring. Cole went for another chair shot, but Black avoided with the Black Mass spin kick to win the match after 21 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Aleister Black
Analysis: ****1/4 That was an awesome brawl. Just over four stars out of five. I loved the weapons they used, they came up with some creative spots and tried some different things. The table bump off the superkick was planned well and it drew a huge reaction. Then there was the second table bump of the match with the double knee attack by Black, which was really cool. The spot with O’Reilly/Fish looked like it was going to lead to Cole winning, but I liked seeing Sanity stop them. It made things even again. There were some nasty bumps by Cole in the match on the ladder and the two chairs. I hope he avoid an injury there. The finish was done where Black didn’t need a weapon to beat Cole because he beat him with a Black Mass kick that really put over Black strong. I thought Cole might get the win, but it looks like Black is going to get that push to the NXT Title level. That’s fine because the crowd sees Black as the biggest or maybe second biggest face on the NXT brand right now.
The crowd celebrated the win for Black. They are very happy about it. Cole was helped to the back by O’Reilly and Fish. Black was selling a lot post match.
There was a commercial for the Royal Rumble on Sunday.
A shot of the Philadelphia Eagles stadium drew cheers from the crowd.
Following Takeover, Triple H will talk about the show on Facebook Live.
There was a shot of EC3 (former Derrick Bateman) in the crowd. He was cheered a lot.
Analysis: I thought he would be in the Royal Rumble. He did an interview saying he's signed with NXT. I guess he's a no for the Rumble match. They can certainly put him in there if they want.
There was a video package for Almas vs. Gargano for the NXT Championship.
Andrade “Cien” Almas, the NXT Champion, made his entrance with his manager, Zelina Vega.
Johnny Gargano got a nice ovation from the crowd.
They stood in the ring for the in-ring intros.
NXT Championship: Andrade “Cien” Almas (w/Zelina Vega) vs. Johnny Gargano
The fans were chanting “Johnny Wrestling” as the bell rang. It started at 9:53pm, so they have plenty of time since the Takeover shows usually go 2.5 hours.
There was some mat wrestling to start with neither guy getting the advantage. They showed Gargano’s wife Candice LeRae with Ranallo noting she was just signed and will be in the women’s division. They did some more grappling going for armbars with neither man able to slap on a hold. Gargano took control with an armbar. Almas avoided an attack off the ropes and nailed a hard chop to the chest. Gargano with a boot to the face, headscissors and a clothesline that sent Almas out of the ring. They battled outside the ring with Gargano nailing a kick to the face, but when Gargano went for a dive off the apron, Almas moved and Gargano went crashing to the floor with a flip bump right in front of his wife. Back in the ring, Almas got a two count. Gargano tried to fight back, but Almas nailed a kick to the back for a two count. Almas slapped on a headlock to wear down Gargano. Gargano got out of it and nailed a rolling kick to the face. Fans chanted “Let’s Go Johnny” as Almas blocked a kick and Almas missed a double stomp out of the corner. Gargano came back with an overhead suplex that sent Almas into the turnbuckle. Gargano worked over Almas with elbows, a clothesline and step up enziguri kick to the head. Forearm in the corner by Gargano followed by a flatliner like move off the ropes for a two count. Almas sent Gargano to the apron, but Gargano came back with a slingshot spear off the apron for a two count. That was a great nearfall. Gargano nailed another enziguri in the corner, but Almas caught him and slammed him face first.
Almas went up top for a moonsault, Gargano moved and Almas hit a standing moonsault onto him for a two count. That was a great spot. Almas got a two count after a knee and Gargano came back with a superkick for a two count. They exchanged clotheslines as well as a punch to the face at the same time leading to both guys crashing to the mat. Almas to the turnbuckle and he hit a knee to the face of Gargano. Almas went for a hammerlock DDT, but Gargano slipped out of it and nailed a superkick. Almas nailed a drive through knee. Almas missed a knee charge in the corner. Gargano went for a DDT off the apron, Almas caught him, forearm to the back sent Almas to the back and Almas hit a spinning reverse DDT. The crowd was going wild for these guys with “NXT” chants. That was an incredible sequence. They battled on the apron leading to Gargano jumping over the top and hitting a slingshot DDT on the ring apron. Gargano rolled Almas into the ring and got a two count. Almas with a jawbreaker, forearms by Gargano and a back elbow sent Gargano back first into the corner. Back to his feet, Gargano hit a clothesline followed by a lawn dart that sent Almas into the middle turnbuckle. Vega grabbed Gargano’s foot and Almas hit a dropkick that sent Gargano into the turnbuckle. Gargano with a small package for a two count. Gargano hit a superkick for a two count. Those two nearfalls for Gargano were very close and the crowd chanted “this is awesome” for them about 20 minutes into it.
Gargano tried to climb to the rope, but Almas tripped him up. Almas to the top and he hit a double stomp on Gargano onto the side of the ring apron. Nasty looking bump. Almas sent Gargano back first into the side of the ring. Gargano looked dazed. Back in the ring, the ref checked on Gargano and Almas hit a running double knee attack against the turnbuckle. Fans chanted “fight forever” for them. Almas slapped Gargano twice. Gargano came back with punches. Almas with a hard chop to the chest, Gargano with a superkick and Gargano nailed a reverse hurricanrana. Gargano slapped on the Gargano Escape submission hold. Almas was close to tapping, but Vega grabbed his hand. That broke the hold because the ref admonished her and Almas raked the eyes of Gargano with the ref not seeing it. Gargano with a back body drop that sent Almas out of the ring. Gargano with a suicide dive that sent Almas into the barricade. Vega nailed a hurricanrana that sent Gargano into the steel steps. Almas nailed a Hammerlock DDT for a two count as Gargano shot his right shoulder up. Fans were going wild and chanted “yes” for Gargano. Gargano went outside the ring, Vega went after him and LeRae jumped the barricade to attack her. The crowd loved that. LeRae sent Vega into the barricade. Vega went running the back with LeRae going after her. I figured that spot was coming. Fans chanted “Thank You Candice” for that. Gargano nailed a kick to the head again followed by a leaping DDT for a two count. Gargano slapped on the Gargano Escape submission again, but Almas got his foot on the bottom rope. The match is around 30 minutes at this point.
They were on the apron with Almas shoving Gargano back first into the ring post with the back of Gargano’s head hitting the post. Brutal! Almas nailed a running double knee attack that sent Gargano into the post again. The ref checked on Gargano again as Gargano looked dazed. Back in the ring, Almas did a draping Hammerlock DDT off the top rope and covered for the pinfall win after 31 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Andrade “Cien” Almas
The crowd was upset with that finish because they really wanted Gargano to win. Vega went into the ring and raised Almas’ hand as the winner of the match.
Analysis: ***** It's five stars out of five. It's as high as my rating scale goes. That's not something I do that often, but this was a fantastic wrestling match with everything looking flawless the entire time. The pacing was just right. I liked how it was more of a back and forth match rather than something where one guy controlled too much of the action. The story was about Gargano taking an ass kicking and finding a way to keep coming back for more. When you saw Gargano's face with him looking concussed you felt bad for the guy, yet he kept going and nearly won multiple times. I urge you to watch the match if you missed it because they told an incredible story. Every time Almas looked like he was going to put him away, Gargano kept coming for more. There were multiple times where I thought Gargano was going to win while using his submission move towards the end, but they planned those spots so well with Almas close to the ropes the one time where Vega helped him and then the other time with Almas getting his foot on the rope. The spot with Candice attacking Zelina made sense too because Zelina interfered a few times, so having Candice there to neutralize her was the right call. Going into the match, I had read about how these guys have wrestled dozens of times at live events, so I figured they would get a lot of time. I didn't expect 31 minutes and then not only that, but the quality of the match was so good. This match was special. I highly recommend checking it out if you missed it.
Analysis x2: Regarding the five-star rating, I don't give it out that often.I believe it's only my third five-star match in NXT history with the first one coming two years ago at NXT Takeover Dallas with Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn as well as The Revival vs. DIY 2 out of 3 Falls in Toronto, which I attended live. I review hundreds of WWE matches per year. It's tough to hit five stars, but they got it because it was special. Last year my only five-star match was Cena vs. Styles at the Royal Rumble. I also gave Omega vs. Jericho five stars at Wrestle Kingdom 12 from earlier this year. That's a New Japan match and I didn't write a review of the show even though I watched it all. It's still pretty rare to see two matches at that level in the same month. We are spoiled as fans, that's for sure.
Replays aired of the finish.
Almas and Vega were on the ramp with the NXT Title while Candice was in the ring checking on her husband Gargano in the ring. Almas went to the back with Vega.
Gargano was shown getting back to his feet in the ring with the fans giving him a huge ovation. When Gargano got to the top of the ramp, he turned around to look at the fans, the copyright logo was on the screen and Tommaso Ciampa was there to hit Gargano in the back with a crutch. The show ended with Gargano selling in pain with Candice checking on him.
Analysis: What's notable about the copyright logo on the screen is that's what happened when Ciampa attacked Gargano back in May when Ciampa turned in the same match where he suffered the knee injury that required surgery that kept Ciampa out of action all this time.
I was expecting that Ciampa appearance all match long and I don't mind seeing it after the match. If Ciampa is good to go by April (I assume he will be) then they can do Almas vs. Black (Black probably wins the title) and Ciampa vs. Gargano during WrestleMania weekend. That would be a strong top of the card, that's for sure.
The show had a run time of 2 hours, 29 minutes.
Great show like usual from NXT. I'll give it a 9 out of 10 on the strength of the last two matches.
I think I said a lot in the review of the main event, so I just want to say if you love wrestling like me then you should spend a half hour to watch Almas vs. Gargano because it's an outstanding match and will be one of the best WWE matches of the year. Good luck to everybody else trying to beat that.
Black's win over Cole was very good and a lot of fun. I think the right guy went over even though I had thought Cole might win since he's fairly new in NXT. The Black win makes sense because it sets him up for a NXT Title shot in the near future and I think he'll be the one to beat Almas.
The first three matches were all pretty good, but some Takeovers have had better undercards in the past.
Good to see EC3, Ricochet and War Machine there. They will all be great additions to the roster although I really want EC3 on the main roster rather than NXT.
It seems like after every Takeover I get people tweeting me saying "it will be tough for the main roster to follow that. I agree, but it also happens nearly every time. A Takeover show is a lot easier to format and execute because five matches in 2.5 hours allows you to give the talent more time. The main roster doesn't operate the same way. I wish main roster PPVs were as good as these Takeover shows.
I'll be back on Sunday night with the Royal Rumble review.