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Hawke’s NXT TakeOver: Phoenix 2019 Review

January 26, 2019 | Posted by TJ Hawke
Johnny Gargano NXT Takeover: Phoenix
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Hawke’s NXT TakeOver: Phoenix 2019 Review  

My list of Five Star Matches.

My reviews of every G1 Climax Final.

My (ongoing) reviews of all Wrestlemania Main Events


January 26, 2019
Phoenix, Arizona, USA


Commentators: Maura Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness, & Percy Watson


The show kicked off with some Medieval Times action. Presumably flown in from the Medieval Times hotbed of Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Dinner AND Tournament!


The Undisputed ERA (Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong) vs. War Raiders (Hanson & Rowe)

This was for the UNDISPUTED ERA’s NXT Tag Team Championship.

NXT TakeOvers have a long history of laying out tag team title matches in a manner that ensures that they get over no matter what combination of talent is in the ring. The streak continued here, as the semi-unnatural dynamic of babyface War Raiders vs. heel Dojo Bros Undisputed Era really could have been underwhelming with less quality control.

War Raiders took it to the ERA early and often. It seemed like the ERA had no response to the Raiders’ combination of speed and strength. They finally caught a break though when Hanson crashed and burned on a tope suicida attempt. While Rowe continued to fight valiantly immediately after that, the ERA finally managed to cut him off and then work him over for a bit. The heat segment blissfully did not last too long as was appropriate for the dynamic at hand.

The match quickly devolved into an electric back-and-forth contest. It was very well executed and got over big time. The War Raiders win was really well built to and felt very earned by the end. Great stuff!

The only minor nitpick was this clearly should have just been labeled a Texas Tornado as the normal tag rules barely even got a obligatory sequence where they were obeyed. (****)


Kassius Ohno vs. Matt Riddle

In 2016, Chris Hero had one of the greatest in-ring years in the history of professional wrestling. Part of it what made it so great was his excellent trilogy with none other than Matt Riddle.

Time after time after time, these two made magic in the ring, and it was their matches that helped to make Riddle one of the best wrestlers in the world. If you were told then that these two would eventually get to do a multi-match program on NXT TakeOvers, you would assume it would be something to be excited about.

Instead though, NXT has entirely killed off the buzz of Chris Hero in his two years back in the company. From the very beginning, something was very off with the presentation of Kassius Ohno, and he has never been able to recover.

While this match was quite solid (even very good perhaps), it made clear that Kassius Ohno might be too far gone to ever become what he should have been in NXT. All the swagger and confidence is gone. There is zero connection with the crowd despite NXT crowds the world over opening their arms to anyone perceived as an indie star. The magic just isn’t there, and it seems pointless to hope it could ever return.

The contest was at least very well put together to ensure that it compensated for any crowd environment issues. Both men were working as if to win the whole time. Ohno got to look like a crafty and brutal veteran. Riddle got to look resilient and physical. Eventually Riddle managed to win via (delayed) submission after murdering Ohno with the Bryan Danielson elbows. (***1/4)


Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano

A better world is possible.

This was for Ricochet’s Television Championship.

These guys have had some truly wretched matches (big & small) over the years. This was more watchable than their indie battles, but the combination of the super indie style, the flippy show-off match, and Shawn Michaels’ sensibilities is absolutely putrid all the same.

The first half of the contest was absolutely gross as they were doing this square dance routine that looked phony as fuck. The second half of the match at least gave the crowd what *they* wanted which was a bunch of big movez and kickouts. It was if nothing else very notable to see a poison ‘rana on the floor being used for a cheap nearfall on WWE programming.

The match just had no soul and felt like what someone’s misconception of a 2009-2012 PWG match would be. At least Gargano showed off his knowledge of 1973 Dick Murdoch when putting together the finish for his title win. (**)


Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair

This was for Baszler’s NXT Women’s Championship.

As with pretty much every Shayna match ever, this was very well done. Bianca did a bunch of cool shit while HOLDING her hair. Shayna then USED Bianca’s hair to send her into a ring post. That ring post damaged Bianca’s shoulder and Shayna proceeded to target it.

Bianca started to fight back and SLICED open Shayna’s stomach with a hair whip. The Four Horsewomen interfered. Bianca fought it off and survived a choke. Bianca went for the 450 but got caught in the choke. She started to fight out of it again only to pass out in the end.

The in-ring story was so rock-solid that it carried the match and compensated for some less-than-fluid moments throughout the contest. These two clearly have a great dynamic and should have a much better match on the next TakeOver. (***)


Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black

This was for Ciampa’s NXT Championship.

In what should not have been a surprise to anyone, this extended main event with minimal shenanigans between two very mediocre singles wrestlers turned out to be very mediocre!  They tried to do a *serious* match, and it came off as a poor imitation of Actually Good pro wrestling.

In theory of course the layout was not terrible at all. Black was super motivated to finally get back his belt and came out guns blazing. Black (like every wrestler ever despite what all commentators would have you believe) relies on his legs to be a professional wrestler. Ciampa thus went after one of his legs. That setup has all the makings of an interesting and effective pro wrestling match.

They tragically* though did the stupid version of a “leg selling” match. Ciampa went after the leg relentlessly and put all of his effort towards attacking said leg. Black immediately started selling the leg as if it was holding him back from fully performing all the usual offense he relies on.

*Yes, tragedy can be tragic when you know exactly what awful thing will happen – in fact it might be more tragic that way. WWE should go full dramatic irony and have a commentator say “I bet Black’s legs heal fully by the end of the match!” so the audience can hear but Ciampa can still act surprised. If you’re going to go melodrama in NXT, you might as well go full Oedipus.

From here, you still have the option of a good and interesting match in front of you if you’re a professional wrestler. If your usual offense is hampered by a newly injured and worked-over leg, it’s time for you to get desperate and start doing things you would not normally do in a match. For instance, if you are a flipper, just start slapping the fuck out of your opponent’s face once your newly injured leg prevents you** from flipping.

**This was a not-so thinly veiled Heavy Shot at Kota Ibushi and BedxBreakfast Hulk. Don’t worry. They deserved it.

Instead, they did the shitty version of this match. After firmly establishing that Ciampa’s offense on the knee was effective and Black’s offense was now limited, Black by the end was just able to do all of his usual offense as if nothing happened. The pathetic and cynical nature of the work could only be outdone by how boring the predictability of it was.

Yes, Ciampa kicked out the leg he worked over at the very last second to set up his finishing move (that had previously been kicked out of a few times), but by that point it was just a bucket of ice water thrown in the faces of those who actually were paying attention instead of a callback to give something more meaning.

What I am trying to say was this match fucking sucked eggs. (*)

The final score: review Good
The 411
NXT TakeOvers are pretty much always easy and fun to watch due to the format. However, this show clearly illustrated some concerns. The fact that Io Shirai, Kairi Sane, Donovan Dijak, Keith Lee, and Oney Lorcan are not working every TakeOver, and we're forced to sit though Tommaso Ciampa, Aleister Black, and Johnny Gargano matches month after month should confirm that WWE under HHH will still suck. It's also now much more clear for me that NXT wrestlers getting called up and wasted on main roster programming was a tremendous crutch for HHH to position himself as better while also covering his ass on the flaccid booking of the NXT main event scene every year.

article topics :

NXT Takeover: Phoenix, TJ Hawke