NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia
January 27, 2018
Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

  • Rich Kraetsch: The face that runs the place. Rich is the owner of Voices of Wrestling, editor, website manager, forum administrator, etc, etc. He’s one-half of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast and he, along with his VOW Flagship co-host, Joe Lanza, recently launched a Patreon. Check it out at patreon.com/voicesofwrestling and follow him and the website at @voiceswrestling
  • Suit Williams: An NXT television stan through-and-through, Suit decided to throw a preview on this show that he will more than likely be watching on Hulu the day after. Follow me on Twitter, @SuitWilliams, for the occasional cold take. You can also hear my thoughts on WWE proper every week on the Smark Sports podcast.

Kassius Ohno vs Velveteen Dream

Rich Kraetsch: Added Wednesday during Triple H’s conference call, this match—likely the opener of TakeOver: Philadelphia—will resemble Ohno’s match with Lars Sullivan at TakeOver: War Games. Ohno will get some hope offense, have the crowd rallying behind him but ultimately he’s taking the loss. I’m not here to argue what NXT should be doing with Ohno or whether or not they are wasting one of the premiere talents in wrestling. They’ve decided on a role for him: veteran gatekeeper. Ohno is so good that he’ll make any role work and this one has fit him well so far. Ohno will undoubtedly make Velveteen Dream look like a million bucks and this should be a fun opener. Dream had a legit NXT MOTY contender at the last TakeOver and an amazing TV match with Johnny Gargano this week. He can go. Ohno can go. This should be an awesome opener, provided it gets the time it needs. Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Suit Williams: After his show-stealing match with Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream disappeared for about six weeks. After returning and losing a #1 contenders match to Johnny Gargano, his match for Takeover was announced on a conference call. Kassius Ohno is in a solid spot on the NXT roster, getting some fun TV matches and putting guys over. That’ll more than likely be what he does here, as the Dream gets back to his winning ways. Prediction: Velveteen Dream

NXT Tag Team Championship
The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs. The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar)

Rich Kraetsch: I’m still having trouble getting into the entire Undisputed Era… thing. Cole is a guy I’ve never quite developed an attachment to whereas Fish and O’Reilly are one of my favorite tag teams of the last decade. As a unit, it hasn’t quite worked, it doesn’t feel right and they don’t seem to serve any real purpose in the company. I’ll give some credit to Fish and O’Reilly who have improved their personas in the build to TakeOver: Philadelphia but something still feels lacking. Lacking is the operative word here as the build to this tag title match seems very thrown together and very last-minute, not what we’re used to with TakeOvers. Narrative-driven “everything is coming to a head” TakeOver matches this is not. The Undisputed Era are definitely moving on here which brings into question the future of AoP on NXT. They’ve probably outlived their usefulness and it’s now time to join the muck on the main roster. Prediction: The Undisputed Era

Suit Williams: Fish and O’Reilly, along with Adam Cole, just feel a little superfluous in NXT. It’s odd, they have been presented as an important act in NXT. However, it feels like everything they do is background noise while the stuff of importance happens elsewhere. That continues this month, as they take on a team with nothing left to do in NXT, the Authors of Pain. Akam and Rezar are good at being monsters, and I’m sure reDRagon can find ways to make this matchup interesting. My money is on the Undisputed Era to keep the titles until the next top babyface tag team is ready, whether they be TM61 or the Street Profits. Prediction: The Undisputed Era

NXT Women’s Championship
Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

Rich Kraetsch: This is the most hyped I’ve been for a TakeOver women’s match since the glory days of Charlotte, Bayley, Becky and Sasha. NXT has nailed the Baszler character thus far and the sit down interview on this week’s NXT TV (minus the ominous music in the background) was perfect. Ember is scared and Baszler is as confident as they come. They’ve built Moon up to a point where you can’t just squash her in a minute but the build with Bazler is begging for it. This will be a real test for both women but particularly Bazler who is still green and still very much in the learning stage of her pro wrestling career. This is arguably her biggest moment and she will have to rise to the occasion. It’s hard to believe Baszler comes in and wins the title right away but I don’t see any other scenario. Baszler wins and wins quickly. Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Suit Williams: I wasn’t high on the announcement of Shayna Baszler joining NXT. I felt her run in the Mae Young Classic tournament was underwhelming, and I hadn’t seen much of her elsewhere. But Baszler on NXT TV has been fantastic, stomping shoulders out of sockets and choking out trainees to cut in line for the NXT Women’s Title. It feels like Ember chased the title for too long for the run to end this soon, which is why I’m picking her, but I can’t say I would be mad at Shayna choking her out in 3 minutes. Prediction: Ember Moon

Extreme Rules Match
Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole

Rich Kraetsch: I mentioned in the tag titles preview that The Undisputed Era unit hasn’t quite worked for me yet and the main reason is their leader: Adam Cole. I’m not an Adam Cole guy. I’ve spent years at this point trying to see what some others see in him and I just can’t quite make that connection. He’s a guy to me. Never good, never bad, just a guy who wrestles and says his name sometimes…BAY BAY! With that said, the one moment when I did have a connection with Cole came in 2012 when he battled former Future Shock tag partner Kyle O’Reilly in a Hybrid Rules match. Cole can brawl with the best of them and is a better plunder wrestler than he is between-the-ropes guy. So, I’m excited to see what he does here with one of the premiere talents on NXT in Aleister Black. These guys will be in the home of hardcore (Philadelphia) so I’ll expect a fun match with plenty of brutal weapon-related offense. Neither man seems poised for a loss at this moment but Cole’s arrow is definitely pointing farther up so I expect him to come away with the victory. Prediction: Adam Cole

Suit Williams: I can’t find too many words for this one. Adam Cole is nothing more than a pull-string toy brought to life, with awesome catch phrases like “ADAM COLE BAYBAY” and “ADAM COLE BAYBAY”. He’s better with plunder around him, to be fair. Black is a major league superstar, being presented as a silent badass. I feel like Cole will be around in NXT a lot longer than Black, and with this looking like a defacto #1 contender’s match, I see Cole weaseling his way out with a win. Expect a brawl that will elicit the ECW chants that Philly just can’t seem to let go. Prediction: *pulls string* ADAM COLE BAYBAY

NXT Championship
Andrade “Cien” Almas (c) (with Zelina Vega) vs. Johnny Gargano

Rich Kraetsch: Johnny Gargano is a brilliant pro wrestler. For nearly a decade now the man has been one of, if not the, best bell-to-bell storytellers in the game. His match on this week’s NXT TV against Velveteen Dream is among the best NXT TV matches I’ve ever seen and yet another notch on an all-time great resume that’ll only build over the subsequent decade. Gargano’s journey to this match overshadows anything Almas has done in the build. Almas is a conduit to the Garagno redemption story. This match is all about a guy trying to get back to the top of the mountain, trying to work through the disappointment and destruction he suffered at the hands of his former best friend. The story of a man who took a losing streak and learned from it, built off of it and finally after years of struggle, reached the apex. It’s so perfect. It’s also ripe for his former best friend—Tommaso Ciampa—to cut it off again. I have no idea what the status of Ciampa is though reports have him returning in “early 2018”… how perfect would it be for Gargano to be on the verge of winning the title, the Wells Fargo Center going absolutely nuts for Johnny Wrestling, the redemption story to finally reaches its tearful conclusion only for Ciampa to destroy it all. I’ve heard some argue that if and when Ciampa returns he would want Gargano to be champion so that he, eventually, could win the title but that’s not Ciampa’s motivation. Ciampa the character takes more pleasure in ruining Gargano’s moment than he does having his own. Ciampa’s motivation is disappointing Gargano far more than it is rewarding himself. When Kevin Owens debuted and destroyed his friend Sami Zayn after his emotional title win, Owens was a prizefighter. He wanted and needed the title so he could put food on the table. That’s not Ciampa. Ciampa is a man who lives to ruin Gargano. Lives to disappoint and destroy. I may be working myself into a shoot here but to me, that’s the only way this match can end. Almas retains but the story is the returning Ciampa and how he prevented Johnny from having his moment in the sun. Prediction: Andrade “Cien” Almas

Suit Williams: Johnny Gargano has grown into NXT’s biggest babyface star after his stellar 2017, somehow continuing to stoke the flame on his feud with the injured Tomasso Ciampa while growing as a character as well. It also helps that he continues to have stellar matches with the likes of Kassius Ohno, Pete Dunne, and the man he’s facing for NXT’s top prize, Andrade Almas. With the excellent Zelina Vega by his side, Almas has finally found his footing in NXT and has similarly been putting on awesome matches on the big stage. I have little doubt that these two will put on anything less than a brilliant main event, and I think Gargano will get his moment in the sun with the title on this night. How long that moment lasts though is anyone’s guess. Prediction: Johnny Gargano